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Another 10 Talents You May Not Know, But Should!

Jason Barrett

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One of the rewarding parts of being a sports radio strategist and consultant, is having the time to observe different brands, markets and individuals. Finding the next diamond in the rough or highlighting the work of a talent who makes an impact in their region yet may not earn national attention based on their geographic location is something I enjoy doing.

Last year I scoured the nation listening to numerous sports radio brands and profiled 15 on-air talents who I thought were worthy of some additional exposure. There are hundreds of stations and on-air hosts occupying air time each day who I could easily draw attention to, but the goal with this annual column is to identify a few personalities who you might not be familiar with and explain what they do well, and why they are worthy of your time.

One thing I’ve learned since leaving the day to day grind inside of a radio station is how subjective this business is. Program directors, corporate executives, and on-air hosts have very different beliefs in what qualifies as “good radio”, and what may be appealing to me, may not be as interesting to someone else. The one difference is that I have this online forum to present my views, whereas many conversations of this magnitude are often discussed privately inside the walls of each radio station.

When it comes to the sports format, audiences know who the heavy hitters are. That’s due either to reputation, press coverage, market size or national platforms. Many of these hosts, whether it’s Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Mike and Mike, or Mike Francesa, deserve the attention because they not only perform on major outlets, but they bring a unique style and tremendous skill to the airwaves, which is essential in delivering positive results for their employers.

As you familiarize yourself with some of the individuals I profiled, I remind you that this column isn’t designed to suggest that they are better or stronger performers than those they compete against. These selections also aren’t influenced by any broadcast company. It’s simply a subjective exercise in recognizing a few people who I feel bring different qualities to the airwaves each day, and use those skills to connect with their listeners. Some of them I have previous familiarity with, others I’ve grown to enjoy and appreciate after listening to them perform in recent weeks and months.

When you tune into a sports radio station, it’s usually because you want to be entertained, informed, and emotionally moved. Some shows build their presentation around strong opinions and uncomfortable positions. Others use self-deprecation and humor. The rest may rely on smart analysis, relatable storytelling or a unique attribute that can’t be duplicated by anyone else. In each case, authenticity, relatability, content selection and a willingness to share one’s life on the air comes into play. Those are common threads in the success of most sports talk shows.

In listening to the 10 on-air personalities I’ve highlighted in this column, they possess many of those qualities. I encourage you to give them a listen when time allows to see if they suit your listening tastes too. Most of them provide fifteen to twenty hours of on-air content each week, and their ability to be the sports fan’s companion and tug on their emotions each day are a big reason why they’re enjoying success.

mdr-babchikcohenMike Babchik – SiriusXM Mad Dog Sports Radio – He may not be the headline act on Mad Dog Sports Radio, but make no mistake about it, Mike Babchik is one of the most interesting and important personalities on the channel. He’s the train that’s gone off the track, lost it’s brakes, and you can’t help but watch to see where it ends up.

On a daily basis, you’ll discover that Babchik is a combination of funny, crazy, unafraid, and unfiltered. Everything in his life is fair game for the radio show. What I especially enjoy is how well the show connects to things that are topical and buzzworthy.

For example, the day after Draymond Green kicked Steven Adams in the groin during the Western Conference Finals, Babchik took a kick to the jewels on-air from update anchor Maria Marino. The morning after Laremy Tunsil and Ken Bone became the talk of the nation, the show was not only discussing it, but viral tweets were going out showing Babchik in a red sweater and the Tunsil gas mask.

During other shows, Babchik has been spanked by his personal trainer, shown off his underwhelming physique for attractive in-studio female guests, and shared the embarrassment of being crapped on by a bird. The best praise I can give the show is that it doesn’t matter if you listen in February, the dog days of summer, or on a Monday after the first NFL weekend, when the light goes on, Mike and his partner Evan Cohen are going to have fun and entertain you.

If you’re tuning into “The Morning Men” on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio, and expecting a hardcore sports conversation though, prepare to be disappointed. That’s not what they do. This is a morning show that blends sports, lifestyle, and real life events, while making their callers feel like they’re part of the family. They’ve even branded their hardcore fans as “FALS”, a term they adopted after Chris Russo uttered the word accidentally when attempting to refer to a caller as a pal.

One of Babchik’s other strong skills is the way he uses social media. He shares his most vulnerable moments with the audience and does a great job of being interactive, including retweeting their feedback. The show also films a number of funny short videos, most of them revolving around Babchik or something topical. For example, the day after David Ross homered for the Cubs in the World Series and celebrated by giving his teammates a cup bump, Babchik produced a quick video of what the post-show celebration would be like if the Morning Men adopted the same strategy.

In a nutshell, Mike Babchik is an entertainer. Nothing on-air or on social is off limits or too serious for him. But when he and Evan Cohen team up to host their show, the audience is going to be treated to a whole lot of laughter and disorganized chaos. That’s the secret sauce that makes “The Morning Men” a great listen and the type of show you want to start your day with. To hear the show click here.

bradthompsonBrad Thompson – 101 ESPN, St. Louis, MO – When athletes make the initial conversion to the broadcast business, they’re often utilized in a reactors role. They’re encouraged to share clubhouse stories, on the field experiences, and focus on the sport they’ve played. Many avoid venturing into discussions on other sports due to a lack of depth in those other areas.

In Brad’s case, he’s an exception. When you listen to him weekday afternoons on 101 ESPN, you hear a ton of energy, smart informed analysis, an ability to laugh and bust balls with his partner Randy Karraker, and it doesn’t matter if the conversation revolves around the St. Louis Cardinals (his former team) or the NFL, NHL or a mainstream national story. Regardless of the conversation, he’s invested in it. In many cases, he becomes an even better listen when the topic is not built around St. Louis baseball.

What impresses me even more is that Brad has also learned how to drive a show. Randy has been one of the market’s best drivers of a talk show for the past few decades. His clock management, interviewing, teasing, and topic setting are strong, and Brad has paid close attention because when Randy misses a day or takes a vacation, the show doesn’t miss a beat with Brad in the driver’s chair. That’s rare. In many cases, station’s have a glaring hole when a lead host is out and the number two guy has to move up to the number one position.

When I first heard Brad drive the show I thought it might impact his ability to provide analysis and opinion, the traits which he’s best known for. But to his credit, he’s learned how to use his positions to spark conversation and given his credibility as a former player, and his comfortability with sharing an opinion and providing evidence to support it, he’s become a destination listen for St. Louis sports fans during the afternoon commute home from work.

As of last check, the Fast Lane (101 ESPN’s afternoon show), was the highest rated spoken word program in the market. Listeners have responded favorably to Brad and Randy, and program director Chris “Hoss” Neupert has done an excellent job by surrounding them with a good cast, and giving them the freedom to explore new territory and challenge themselves as on-air personalities. To hear the show click here.

sparkySteve “Sparky” Fifer – 105.7 The Fan, Milwaukee, WI – He’s been described as an igniter, and in observing “The Big Show” on 105.7 The Fan in Milwaukee, that description perfectly suits him. “Sparky” as listeners know him, is outspoken and firm in his beliefs, and his connection to the local market, combined with his energy, opinions, and willingness to tackle all subjects is what helps drive a lot of the conversation between himself, former Packer and Badger Gary Ellerson, and Ramie Makhlouf. Former Packer Leroy Butler also joins the mix a few times per week.

What I enjoy most about Steve’s presentation is his ability to deliver strong informed opinions. He doesn’t say things just to make the audience react. He thinks out his positions, explains them concisely and uses examples to validate his stances. Ellerson and Makhlouf aren’t afraid to challenge him, and their on-air show position of “keeping it 100” means that regardless of how they feel, they’re committed to being real, honest, and open to tackle any topic, regardless of its comfort level.

Most of the conversations on the show revolve around local or national subjects that are of importance to Milwaukee sports fans. While football dominates much of the fall discussion, Steve’s passion for the Milwaukee Bucks also is on display from time to time. As of last check, the ratings for Steve’s show were a full point higher year to year, and ahead of other spoken word stations in the market, including both sports stations and the powerful news talker WTMJ.

Collectively, The Big Show has a full sound. But what makes it work is the chemistry, comfortability and passionate discussions that take place between the group. In many instances, the spark that ignites the room comes from Steve, and when a host has an ability to cut through the clutter and penetrate the mind of a listener with strong provoking commentaries, that’s a quality you can’t teach. To get a feel for Sparky and his contributions to The Big Show on The Fan in Milwaukee, click here to listen.

rosenbergPeter Rosenberg – 98.7 ESPN NY, New York, NY – When I first learned that Peter would be joining the Michael Kay Show on 98.7FM ESPN NY I applauded the station for taking a risk. I enjoyed listening to Michael Kay and Don LaGreca but recognized that a younger perspective with some bite and personality could add a new dimension to the program.

Not many on-air personalities with a track record of success on a hip-hop station make a successful transition to a sports talk show, especially one which includes a talent like Kay who was already established and well respected. It’s also difficult to develop chemistry when you’re joining a show that’s been in existence for over a decade, and offers a strong two-man nucleus.

To Rosenberg’s credit, he found his niche, and has become an attraction to the show. I compare it to a new character joining an already successful TV show (EX: Negan joining the Walking Dead). His success on the show is also a testament to Kay and LaGreca, who kept an open mind, welcomed his arrival, and worked hard to find a new energy for their program.

What I enjoy about Peter is that he’s a natural ball buster. His energy, snarkiness, cockiness, and comfortability with sharing his opinions, often generate good reactions out of Kay and LaGreca. If he flubs on the air, it gets addressed and often becomes funny. If he delivers a strong take, Kay and LaGreca pounce on it. He’s also not afraid to call them out either. As a trio they share different styles and views, but they present themselves as a family that you want to be part of.

One particular quality that helps Rosenberg stand out, especially with younger listeners, is that he’s relatable, funny, and sees the world through their eyes. His ENN (Evening Nightly News) segment has become a staple of the show, and because of his passion for professional wrestling (Rosenberg also hosts a popular podcast called “Cheap Heat”) it’s gotten the program to explore new territory that it may not have in year’s past. One specific example that jumps to mind is when Shane McMahon of the WWE appeared on the Kay show the day after he returned to Monday Night Raw after a seven year hiatus.

It’s no coincidence that since Rosenberg arrived on the show, the response among Men 18-34 has spiked significantly. The show has even beaten Mike Francesa head to head in that demographic, something that didn’t happen in the past. That’s a credit to all three hosts working together to find their collective voice, develop their timing, forming chemistry, and presenting a fun and informative program that’s different in approach from what New Yorkers are treated to elsewhere on the dial. To hear Peter’s contributions to the Michael Kay Show click here.

childersChris Childers – SiriusXM College Sports Nation – When I think of the term “smile with your voice”, I can’t help but think of Chris. Although he can certainly have his moments on the air when he’s being analytical or offering a strong opinion, he also has a natural enthusiasm and genuine love for hosting a sports talk show. His charisma, energy, and joy for talking about sports topics is hard to ignore.

Paired daily with former college football head coach Rick Neuhiesel, Chris does a great job running point on SiriusXM College Sports Nation’s “The Full Ride”. He speaks from a fan’s point of view and understands and embraces his role on the show. He knows that he represents the voice of the fan when sharing opinions and talking to newsmakers from the world of college sports, but also has the responsibility of pulling out quality information, analysis and opinion from Coach Neuheisel, which is important given the experience he’s gained from years of leading multiple college sports programs.

Equally as impressive is Chris’ commitment to the craft of hosting. He tries to frame his topics and make them easy to play along with. He puts work into his teasing and interviewing, listens and follows up off of audio cuts and production, and dives into topics with a serious purpose but also recognizes when a moment has entertainment value and is willing to let it happen.

As an example, two weeks ago after the show bumped in with a song about the Bayou, which was being used to set up a discussion on whether or not Ed Orgeron deserved strong consideration to become the permanent head coach for LSU, Childers said that if Gumbo had a voice, it would sound like the guy singing the song. It was not only a fitting comment but it lightened the mood for a minute before the conversation turned serious about LSU’s future leadership.

Chris and Coach Neuheisel offer different life experience and perspectives, and their contrasting styles naturally make their conversations more interesting. If you haven’t had an opportunity to hear their show and enjoy listening to sports talk built around college sports, I recommend checking them out. You can hear a sample of their program by clicking here.

jaredJared Stillman – 102.5 The Game, Nashville, TN – When you draw the ire of many of the market’s local talents, it’s usually because you’ve tapped into something. In Jared Stillman’s case, he has a ton to say, and it isn’t often comfortable or popular, but it’s what makes him unique to Nashville sports listeners.

Every market has a villain, but not every talent is comfortable in that position. In listening from afar, Stillman seems at peace with his presentation and style, and it’s served him well, helping him make the transition from hosting middays solo on 102.5 The Game, to now teaming up with former Titans GM Floyd Reese in afternoon drive.

Some local folks who I’ve talked to have compared Stillman’s style to a Nashville version of Colin Cowherd. He uses analogies to shape some of his opinions. He welcomes conflict and doesn’t mind being the most unpopular man in the room. And despite being a homegrown talent, he speaks his mind and doesn’t drink the local Kool-Aid even if it might help him generate a few more fans.

As a broadcaster I can appreciate that skillset. Sports radio is a business that’s driven largely by strong opinion, supported evidence, and an ability to strike an emotional chord with an audience. Stillman checks many of those boxes. He may not be invited over to every local host and listener’s home for a Christmas party, but when the group gets together, it won’t be a surprise if the first words uttered are “can you believe what Stillman said today”. To hear Jared’s show click here.

richohrnberger2Rich Ohrnberger – XTRA Sports 1360, San Diego, CA – Six years of NFL experience prepares most players to speak from an expert point of view on the sport they played professionally, but in Rich’s case there’s so much more to his daily performance. After being added to middays alongside radio veteran Mark Willard, the two men have not only formed immediate chemistry, but Ohrnberger’s natural personality has come to life. The show has been in existence for only 4+ months but it sounds like it’s been together for a lot longer.

On most days, you’re likely to be served a heavy dose of self-deprecation and laughter. The former Offensive Lineman and Willard strike the right balance in knowing when to extend the content and when to pull it back. I’ve listened to recent examples of Ohrnberger ad libbing his way into proclaiming himself as the “host with the most”, which then turned into a great back and forth good natured ribbing between the morning and midday shows. I’ve also heard Willard and Ohrnberger spontaneously roleplay as members of the Joey Bosa mob family, which was also great on-air content. That’s in addition to the serious conversations the two men have about the San Diego Chargers and other topical sports subjects which are also excellent.

Considering his playing experience, you’d expect Ohrnberger to speak intelligently and passionately on the NFL. He’s a good storyteller, who is open with his personal and professional life, and isn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers with his opinions. But while all of those traits are part of his presentation, it’s his large personality and sense of humor that makes him a required daily listen.

At just thirty years old, Rich is relatively new to the sports radio world. He has a ton of upside and has already hit the ground running, but also has plenty of room to grow. What I noticed immediately is how comfortable he is on the air, regardless of the subject. He’s got great energy, an infectious attitude, and quick wit. Those are natural skills that most personalities need to be successful. I also like how he shapes and supports his positions and delivers them in a confident and precise manner. That tells me that he’s putting time into his preparation. But rather than take my word for it, click here and take a listen for yourself.

drewhoffar2Drew Hoffar – KNBR 1050, San Francisco, CA – There are some voices you listen to that you instantly gravitate to or wish you could duplicate. For example, when sports radio fans hear Paul Turner on CBS Sports stations, his sound instantly grabs you. Well in Drew Hoffar’s case, he’s been blessed with a set of pipes that most personalities in their early thirties would kill for.

Although his voice jumps through the speakers, it’s the personality that goes with it that makes Hoffar a rising star in this format. He delivers his opinions with conviction and passion. He busts balls in a way that instantly gets your attention, and he utilizes descriptive and colorful vocabulary that sticks in the head of an audience (one of his old classic lines was “They’re going loco for Coco at Oco).

But while those are natural traits that he’s always possessed, it’s his maturation of growing into his the position as lead host of “The Audible” on KNBR 1050 that is making the biggest difference. His chemistry with on-air partners Kevin Frandsen (former MLB player) and Rudy Ortiz (Bay Area comedian) has been instant. I also hear a growing confidence in trusting his content decision making, and he’s searching for ways to get the group involved, rather than worrying about his own strengths and insecurities. That growth should not only give Hoffar reason to feel encouraged, but it should have folks at Cumulus San Francisco very optimistic about his future potential.

One area that I’ve especially been impressed with since Hoffar made the conversion from being a FT update anchor and PT host to the leader of KNBR 1050’s morning show is how he’s introduced lifestyle discussion into the daily plan. The show has the ability to debate and discuss sports topics, but it’s their ability to talk about movies, relationship issues, and real life experiences that makes them relatable to local listeners. To get familiar with Drew and his show The Audible, click here to listen.

dannyoneillDanny O’Neill – 710 ESPN, Seattle, WA – Running point on a three man show can be challenging but Danny makes it sound easy each day on the Seattle airwaves. He has a great sense of what’s relevant to the local audience, which is reflected in the show’s heavy focus on NFL and College Football conversation, and is an exceptional listener who’s focused on setting up his teammates and putting the group in position to succeed, rather than satisfying his own ego.

Another strength of Danny’s is his timing. He keeps the pace of the show moving and has a knack for knowing when to advance a conversation or stick with a subject that has deeper content potential. His positive and engaging demeanor is well received by his partners, and there’s a sense from listening that the boys in the room trust his decision making, and know that they’ll be consistently put in position to inform and entertain the audience.

If you tune into “Danny, Dave and Moore” on 710 ESPN Seattle, one thing that probably goes unnoticed by the audience, but is necessary for any good show to enjoy success, is solid execution of the show’s formatics, which Danny does well. He resets, teases, keeps the show’s benchmarks on track, and while those little things may not stand out as much as a brain jarring opinion, they often make a big difference on a talk show’s results.

If a Seattle sports radio listener driving home from work puts on Danny’s afternoon show, they’re likely to hear a good blend of laughs, information, opinion and locally focused content. That combination is a solid formula for success. To hear Danny, Dave and Moore, click here.

lzLance Zierlein – SportsTalk 790, Houston, TX – I’ve long admired Lance’s work because he has an ability to make you think, react and laugh. Each day on his morning show “The Proper Gentlemen of Sports” where he works opposite Matt Thomas, Houston sports fans are treated to a blend of local sports topics, real life discussions, strong informed opinions, and spontaneous laughter.

From a content standpoint, the show places a strong emphasis on NFL conversation. Lance comes from a football family so it’s a sport he has natural interest in. He presents himself in an authoritative manner, and his preparation outside of the show and connections inside the game contribute to his ability to be seen as an informed source and opinion leader. One thing Lance is notorious for is watching a ton of football film. He shares his findings with his audience regularly, and the extra time he invests in studying players has earned him additional exposure on NFL.com and the NFL Network.

In addition to the serious side of his presentation, Lance is also gifted at creating characters. His Phillip Rivers, Stephen A. Smith and Jon Gruden, and original characters Bernie “The Wolf” Wolfson and SEC Guy Karol Kenton Kogslotter are laugh out loud funny. When introduced into a show, they’re impossible to turn off. He nails the cadence and personality of each person he imitates, yet brings a new dimension to each character which leaves you scratching your head and contemplating “is that really him”?

Although he’s been a mainstay on the Houston airwaves for the past two decades, Lance’s profile isn’t as familiar to industry folks outside of his market. However, it’s certainly not due to a lack of talent. He’s well rounded, opinionated, funny, and spontaneous, and those are the type of qualities most stations look for in a morning drive personality.

To hear his morning show on SportsTalk 790 click here. You can also watch a sample of one of his characters (SEC Guy) by clicking here.

OTHER HOSTS WORTH CHECKING OUT:

  • Mike Taylor – The Ticket 760, San Antonio, TX
  • Andrew Walker – 590 The Fan, Toronto, ON
  • Brett Kane – 93.7 The Ticket, Lincoln, NE
  • Mike Evans – 104.3 The Fan, Denver, CO
  • Joe Raineri – 640 Sports, Miami, FL
  • Andi Petrillo – TSN 1050, Toronto, ON
  • Zach Gelb – 920 The Jersey, Trenton, NJ
  • Beanie Wells – 97.1 The Fan, Columbus, OH
  • Josh Cohen – ESPN 106.3, West Palm Beach, FL
  • Nick Cattles – ESPN Radio 94.1, Virginia Beach, VA

Barrett Blogs

Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, Don Martin, Sam Pines and Amanda Brown to Speak at the 2023 BSM Summit

“All six of these media professionals have enjoyed success throughout their careers and bring different perspectives, styles, and experiences to the room.”

Jason Barrett

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I announced last week that the 2023 BSM Summit will be returning to Los Angeles. We had a fantastic experience in LA in 2019, and I expect our next conference on March 21-22, 2023 to be even bigger and better. But to do that, we need the right people on stage, and I’m excited today to reveal the first six additions to the show.

The 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles is proud to welcome FOX Sports Radio and FOX Sports 1 host Colin Cowherd, FOX Sports 1 co-host of the new weekday program SPEAK, Joy Taylor, CBS Sports Radio and CBS Sports Network superstar Jim Rome, FOX Sports Radio and iHeart Sports SVP of Programming, Don Martin, and the brain trust of ESPN LA 710, Senior Vice President Sam Pines and program director Amanda Brown.

All six of these media professionals have enjoyed success throughout their careers. They bring different perspectives, styles, and experiences to the room, and I’m sure those in attendance at The Founders Club at the Galen Center at USC will enjoy and appreciate learning from them.

We will have more announcements in the future about additional speakers to the 2023 BSM Summit. A reminder that if you work in the media industry and would like to attend the conference, you can purchase tickets and secure your hotel room by visiting BSMSummit.com.

I’d also like to thank last year’s sponsors who have already confirmed participation in our 2023 event. The Summit isn’t possible without their support. For folks interested in sponsorship details for the conference, please email Stephanie at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now here’s some press information about each of our six participants.

Colin Cowherd: He is one of the most thought-provoking and successful sports talk show hosts in the country, and has been a key part of FOX Sports Radio and FOX Sports 1 since September 2015. He is also the founder of The Volume, a digital-first sports media brand which has created an immediate impact in podcasting and on YouTube.

Cowherd’s three-hour sports talk program, THE HERD WITH COLIN COWHERD, airs simultaneously on FS1 and the FOX Sports Radio Network weekdays from Noon to 3pm ET. It is also available on www.FOXSportsRadio.comwww.FOXSports.com and has a dedicated iHeartRadio station, available live and throughout the day. The Herd has been chosen by industry programmers and executives as the top national sports talk radio show an unprecedented six times in seven years as part of BSM’s annual Top 20 series.

Jim Rome: Jim Rome is heard nationwide hosting ‘The Jim Rome Show‘ weekdays from Noon to 3pm ET on CBS Sports Radio. The program can also be watched on the CBS Sports Network. The show delivers three hours of aggressive, informed sports opinions, rapid-fire dialogue, tons of sports smack, and is consistently supported by Rome’s legions of fans otherwise known as the clones.

Rome also delivers his unique take on the day’s sports headlines via the CBS Sports Minute, 60-second commentaries which can be heard hourly on CBS Sports Radio affiliate stations. He also hosts his own podcast, The Reinvention Project, contributes to CBS Sports television, and has previously been seen on ESPN, FOX Sports, and in numerous movies and TV shows.

Joy Taylor: Joy Taylor co-hosts FS1’s new weekday program SPEAK alongside Emmanuel Acho and former NFL running back LeSean McCoy. She has previously worked as a co-host on THE HERD, as the moderator of SKIP AND SHANNON: UNDISPUTED, and as the host of her own podcast, “Maybe I’m Crazy”. She has also hosted programs for FOX Sports Radio.

Prior to joining FOX Sports, Taylor spent five years in Miami radio, including a successful three-year stint at 790 AM The Ticket, where she was co-host for the station’s top-rated morning-drive program, “Zaslow and Joy Show,” after starting with the station as the show’s executive producer. Taylor also served as the host of “Thursday Night Live” and “Fantasy Football Today” on CBSSports.com. She is a Pittsburgh native and the younger sister of former Miami Dolphins star Jason Taylor.

Don Martin: A 27-year veteran of iHeartMedia, Don is currently the SVP of Programming for FOX Sports Radio, the EVP for iHeartMedia Sports, and the SVP of KLAC-AM 570 LA Sports. Additionally, he provides oversight of the iHeartPodcast Network, which includes more than 40 national and 100 local sports podcasts and exclusive podcast agreements with the NFL and NBA. Don has been a featured speaker at prior BSM Summit’s and was recently a guest on The Jason Barrett Podcast. To hear it, click here.

Sam Pines: A fixture with Good Karma Brands since 2000, Pines is now charged with leading ESPN LA 710 since GKB assumed control of local operations. Prior to taking over the Los Angeles sports brand, Pines served as the GM and Sales Manager of ESPN Cleveland from 2006-2022. He has written a sales and leadership series, “Time to Win”, which focuses on coaching relationship-based selling and marketing, and is also involved with numerous boards and nonprofits.

Amanda Brown: Amanda has spent her entire twenty year career in sports radio working for the worldwide leader in sports. Currently responsible for creating and implementing the programming strategy for ESPN LA 710, Amanda has enjoyed nearly twelve years with the LA based brand after spending nearly six years in Bristol, CT producing national shows for the ESPN Radio network. Her career started behind the scenes in Dallas, TX where she worked as a producer at ESPN 103.3.

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Barrett Blogs

7 Years of BSM and The Official Announcement For The 2023 BSM Summit

“Fast forward to now, and where this thing has advanced to is far beyond my expectations.”

Jason Barrett

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Apologies in advance if some of this column feels like I’m giving myself and our brand a pat on the back. I am. When this company launched, many assumed I was just writing a few articles and biding my time until another programming job popped up. I had a number of friends say ‘there’s no future in sports radio consulting‘ and after putting my programming career in the rear view mirror to go home to NY, I wasn’t sure what was in store for me.

What I did know is that my interest in doing the same thing that I just did for the past decade in three different cities was gone, but my interest in working with brands and individuals was still very much alive. I loved creating and programming 95.7 The Game but my choice to come home was driven by personal reasons, not professional. I wrote in great detail about it back in February 2015 so if you’re not aware of my story and want to know more, click the link.

Some of you do know these details already so I’m not going to repeat myself. I also don’t like talking on this website about personal issues because that’s not what brings us together each day. Media news, insight, and opinion does. But when this day rolls around each year, I hope you can understand why I take a moment to celebrate it. I moved home with no job, no plan, and no business but 7 years later, here we are are still ticking.

Launching this company has been the best professional decision I’ve ever made. Erika Nardini just had this conversation recently with Mark Cuban and he said taking a leap when you have nothing is the best time to do so. As crazy as that sounds, he couldn’t have been more right. That said, it’s pretty humbling going from successfully managing a top 4 market brand and earning six figures to being unemployed with no income and not being sure what you want to do. There were many days where I wondered ‘what was this all for?’. I hadn’t been without a job for a long time but I didn’t want to rush into something I wasn’t excited about especially since I knew I had to take care of my son and wanted to set a good example for him.

When I announced I was leaving San Francisco, I said I’d consider staying with the company if a position could be created that would allow me to work from NY and travel to help brands. Entercom back then wasn’t as big as Audacy is now, so that wasn’t an option. That led to small talk about consulting but quite frankly, I had no interest in doing that. I thought consulting was something folks did at the end of their careers or others used as a temporary excuse to explain what they were up to after leaving a job. I was 41 at the time and felt I had two decades left to give to the business, and if I was going to go down that road, I’d do it differently.

As I began to clear my head and think about what was next, I decided I was going to create the position that Entercom didn’t have available except rather than being exclusive to one group, I’d be accessible to all of them. I wanted to make a difference in multiple cities and expand my reach beyond radio. Now I work with brands involved in radio, TV, podcasting, social media, sales, sports betting, etc..

I’m also very entrepreneurial, so the idea of building a digital company that focused on covering the sports media business had great appeal to me. I built my radio career by doing everything early on and saw that as an advantage. Back in 2015, there were outlets covering the radio business, but none dedicated to sports radio. Even the newspapers that wrote about sports TV and other media issues, often examined them with folks who hadn’t been on the inside for quite some time. I had recent experiences programming brands in three different parts of the country, I learned how to build a website, I didn’t mind selling myself, and I wasn’t restricted from writing and sharing my honest and candid opinions. That helped me give BSM life and a voice. I also had one other advantage. I was talking weekly with industry people, going to different cities to work with multiple groups and seeing up close why certain things worked and others didn’t. That helped me tell better stories, build deeper relationships, and assist clients with greater knowledge.

Fast forward to now, and where this thing has advanced to is far beyond my expectations. I’ve been presented with opportunities to work with groups I never expected. I’ve had people reach out to present opportunities, including purchasing the company, that others would be shocked were considered (Btw I’m not looking to sell). Our brand now generates hundreds of thousands in traffic per month thanks to an exceptional team of 20 writers which produces 35-40 pieces of content per day on the sports and news media industry. In fact, August was our best month of traffic this year. We were up 30% year over year. We create 5 podcasts per week, distribute multiple newsletters, consult a strong amount of media brands, sell and work with advertising partners to help grow their businesses, deliver content through social media channels that are followed by thousands of people, and host an annual conference, which is well attended and supported by industry professionals and broadcast companies.

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Which brings me to the next part of this column – the 2023 BSM Summit.

After hosting our last two shows in New York City, I told all in attendance that our next event would return to the west coast. Finding the right city and venue takes time, and this one was tough because there were great options in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, but after reviewing the possibilities, I’m thrilled to share that the 2023 BSM Summit will take place in Los Angeles, California at The Founders Club at the Galen Center at the University of Southern California. The dates will be Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 22nd (we didn’t want to do dates that conflicted with the NCAA Tournament). Show time both days will once again be 9a-5p PT.

I couldn’t be happier with this location. The space we have to work with is fantastic, the people involved with USC have been great, and to bring a room full of sports media professionals to the USC campus will be awesome. We’ve also partnered with the USC Hotel which is within walking distance of our venue. Room rates and ticket prices for the Summit can now be found on BSMSummit.com.

I know everyone will start texting, emailing, calling, and DM’ing to ask about tickets, speakers, sponsorships, the after-party and awards show, etc.. I’ll have follow up announcements coming soon about the first few speakers we’ve lined up. Most people attended the 2022 show live, but some checked out the show virtually too. I’m not sure yet if we’re going to make this one available virtually. If we do, we’ll announce it on the site at a later time. Like anything, if enough people want it we’ll find a way to get it done. In the meantime, Stephanie Eads is setting up conversations with former and future conference partners so if you have a sponsorship question, hit her up by email at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

One thing I do want to ask of those who are planning to attend the Summit, email me to let me know what you’re interested in learning about at the show. We’ve been blessed to have some incredibly smart, successful people in the room, but as cool as that may be, I want to make sure folks return to their buildings afterwards with information to improve their operations. This only works if you take the knowledge and use it to help your brands and people. If anything in particular is of interest, please let me know by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

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As I look ahead to year 8, I’m extremely bullish on continuing our momentum on the sports media side. We’ve just added Eddie Moran as a new features writer, and if it makes business sense to add more writers or create additional podcasts down the line, we’ll examine those opportunities as they arise. A few years ago it was just Demetri and I running the day to day business. Now we have Stephanie, Andy, Garrett Searight, Arky Shea, Alex Reynolds, and Eduardo Razo involved, and though having a larger staff doesn’t guarantee success, I like how we’re positioned. If anything, our focus now is on doing impactful work not busy work. As much as I’d love to keep everyone and never stop adding, running a business effectively requires regularly examining what is and isn’t working. Having people involved who are passionate and consistently reliable is vital. If they can’t be then it means the fit isn’t right.

Having said that, I believe we can always get better. As we move ahead, I’m counting on my team to find and create more original content, strengthen and increase relationships, gain a stronger grasp of SEO, and collectively, we’ll work on improving our digital marketing to promote our content and develop better affiliate partnerships. One way the industry can help us in return, let us know when you create something on-air that might fit the site. Most of what we gather comes from finding it ourselves yet content gets created daily on sports TV and radio. We’re not going to write stories about sports opinions but if it’s media-centric, a heads up helps. So too does sharing our content on social media.

Though BSM is an integral part of our company’s future growth, I am equally as bullish on building Barrett News Media. We started BNM on September 14, 2020 and our first year was slow. We needed to dip our toe in rather than dive in head first, but over the past 9 months we’ve increased our relationships and our readers are now starting to see what we’re capable of. We’ve assembled a strong cast of news writers, reporters, and columnists, and just added to our team last week with the addition of Joe Salzone. Adding writers and consulting clients remains an ongoing process, and make no mistake about this, I want to help news/talk stations just as I have helped sports brands. Maybe down the line we’ll add a few news media podcasts too, but we have other things to focus on first.

For starters, if you’ve read this website over the years then you’re likely familiar with the BSM Top 20. It’s a series we produce recognizing the best in the sports media industry. It’s voted on by a large number of sports radio programmers and executives, and for 6 years in a row it has been our website’s largest traffic driver. I thought previously about doing a series for the news media industry, but because we had less help, little time, and an unfamiliar brand, I held off.

But that’s about to change.

Later this year, we will introduce the very first BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will include voting participation from news media programmers and executives, with the goal being to showcase the best national radio shows and podcasts, and the top local stations, shows, and PD’s from both the major and mid markets.

It will be a giant undertaking but it’s long overdue for our brand. Though I’m sure the process will be exhausting, I’m looking forward to sharing the results and shining a brighter light on the news/talk media business. When I’m ready to announce the dates and schedule for the series, we’ll reveal it here on the site and across our BNM social media channels. Stay tuned.

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As I bring this column to an end, I’ll end by sharing a few things that have surprised me over the years. First, I’m seeing less interest the past 3 years from younger people becoming programmers than I did between 2015-2019. Is that because of the pandemic? The rise of sports gambling? A lack of confidence in the radio industry? As someone who’s helped 15-20 brands find and hire brand leaders, and talks to more people than most, that’s concerning.

I think sports radio also needs to do a better job of grooming people for these roles and showing them a path to long-term success. PD’s should be more actively championing their people for growth too than they do. If you value someone and want to see him or her reap the rewards for their hard work, you have to look beyond how it’ll affect your day to day duties. Focus on the big picture, not just what makes your life easier.

What should concern executives is the fact that in the past five years, sports radio has lost Armen Williams, Jeremiah Crowe, Joe Zarbano, Adam Delevitt, Tony DiGiacomo, Terry Foxx, Brad Willis, Chris Baker, Tom Parker, Jay Taylor, Kyle Engelhart, Hoss Neupert, and John Hanson. I’m sure I’m missing a few too. That’s a lot of programming experience out the door including some with decades left to give to the industry. Maybe some weren’t built for the job long-term or others were kicking down the door and ready to lead but in most businesses, if you saw that type of change in key management roles, you’d be questioning if it’s an industry you want to be a part of. If the veterans don’t stay or become too expensive, and the leaders of tomorrow aren’t sticking around, where does that leave us?

From the talent end, how are you helping yourself when there isn’t a job to chase? If the only time you contact a PD is to ask about a gig, don’t be surprised when your calls go straight to voicemail. Relationships are a two-way street. Build them when there’s nothing to be gained and you’ll be amazed at how it pays off later. By the way, that goes for me too. I get asked by a lot of people to find time when there’s trouble in paradise but when life is good, crickets. Those who keep in touch and support BSM/BNM whether that’s through a monthly membership or buying a Summit ticket have more success getting a hold of me. I’m not trying to be a hard ass but I’m not an agent, so building your career isn’t my priority. Taking care of my family and business partners is. However, I do help people and make time for many, but it’s got to work both ways. My members and clients know they can ask for something and receive an answer. Others I’ve built and maintained relationships with receive the same. But if you’re counting on me to help you find work and gossip about the business with you, I’m not your guy.

If there’s been a winner the past 7 years it’s been the growth of sports betting. As other categories have produced less, sports betting has emerged as an important growth driver for the sports format. And this has happened with most of the country not even legal yet. As more states give the green light to legalize sports gambling, revenues and content opportunities should follow. We will likely reach a point where consolidation comes into play and certain brands and companies overload their content in a way that makes them insufferable to listen to but for every few setbacks there are far greater reasons to be optimistic. In the past 7 years we’ve seen Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and YouTube become big players in sports television. Might FanDuel, DraftKings, BetRivers, Fanatics, Barstool and others do the same in the sports media space? That’s going to be an interesting follow for sure.

Knowing how everything can change in an instant, I take nothing for granted with BSM and BNM. This could all end tomorrow, and if it did, I’d look back on it as the best days of my professional life. I want to keep growing as a professional, while remaining an asset to my current partners, and finding ways to work with new brands and companies in both sports and news media. I’m also enjoying hosting a podcast again, and if you haven’t checked out The Jason Barrett Podcast, the latest episode with Colin Cowherd is a good one to start with.

The future for sports and news media may change but both will remain viable and important. I love that we’ve been able to be a small part of this business each day for the past 7 years, and I hope to make the next 7 years as fulfilling as the past 7. If I’m able to do that, it’ll mean the 20 years I spent in studios were needed to make a nationwide impact from a home office.

So on behalf of our entire team, past and present, thank you for reading the twenty thousand pieces of content we’ve produced since 2015. None of this is possible without an army of BSM/BNM supporters. I hope to see you in Los Angeles this March for the 2023 BSM Summit.

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The Podcast Movement Conference Made a Mistake Rejecting Ben Shapiro

“If this is a conference about podcasting, and you have someone in attendance who excels at it, has a massive following, and their company is supporting your event as a sponsor, why are you treating them like a disease?”

Jason Barrett

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I’ve had the pleasure of attending multiple Podcast Movement Conferences over the years. Those involved in putting the event together do a fantastic job creating an action packed agenda full of accomplished speakers, and the visual displays and access to different brands and industry professionals have always been nothing but positive. It’s why I was disappointed this year when my schedule didn’t allow for me to make the trip to Dallas.

So imagine my surprise late last week when I learned the conference took a stance against Westwood One radio host and co-founder of The Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro

Shapiro’s company was a sponsor of this year’s show, and according to reports, the well known podcaster and radio host wasn’t registered for the event. He made a brief appearance at his company’s booth, shaking hands and taking photos with fans who stopped by to say hi, and his mere presence at the show led to some protesting his involvement on social media.

After learning Shapiro had stopped by, the Podcast Movement Conference posted a series of tweets which said “Hi folks, we owe you an apology before sessions kick off for the day. Yesterday afternoon, Ben Shapiro briefly visited the PM22 expo area near The Daily Wire booth. Though he was not registered or expected, we take full responsibility for the harm done by his presence.”

The conference added, “Those of you who called this “unacceptable” are right. In 9 wonderful years growing and celebrating this medium, PM has made mistakes. The pain caused by this one will always stick with us. We promise that sponsors will be more carefully considered moving forward. No TDW representatives were scheduled to appear on panels, and Shapiro remained in the common space and did not have a badge. If you have questions, we’re here to talk. Thank you for reading, and we hope you’ll continue to join us from here on out.”

A quick search shows that Shapiro has one of the top performing podcasts on the charts. According to Westwood One, it is downloaded over fifteen million times per month. In addition, his radio program is carried on hundreds of radio stations, he has 13 million followers combined between Facebook and Twitter, and his company, The Daily Wire, adds another 5.5 million supporters to the mix. They also showed they were supportive of the conference by making a financial commitment to sponsor a booth.

Having explained all of that I was stunned that the Podcast Movement Conference took this position. Let me be clear, it was a mistake. Their stance has led to a flood of negative attention over the past 72 hours, and it all could’ve easily been avoided. Though their next event is still a year away, given how much attention this story has received, it could have a carry over effect on future sponsorships and attendance. Only time will tell.

As someone who runs an annual conference, albeit much smaller, I know how hard it is to put an event together. What the Podcast Movement organizers put together each year requires a herculean effort, which is why I’m baffled that they picked sides in this situation. The media industry is large and full of people, brands and companies with different views and approaches to business and everyday life. The second you start judging and making decisions based on personal beliefs and/or social media activity, you’re in trouble.

I’ve long maintained that if someone works in the sports media industry and wishes to learn and share information to help improve the business, they’re welcome at our BSM Summit. We make changes to our schedule each year based on what we feel is topical for the attendees but we don’t discriminate, support one brand over another or allow personal views to dictate if someone can or can’t be present.

Case in point, at our March conference, I had a few people privately upset that I asked Craig Carton to speak. Craig’s prior arrest and time served in jail is well documented. First, I have a ton of respect for what Craig has accomplished, and I believe in second chances, but personal views aside, he’s the afternoon host in the nation’s largest market working for WFAN, a top rated sports radio brand. History has shown that he’s damn good and successful, and more than qualified to speak on the subjects we cover at our event. When a few folks expressed their displeasure with my decision I told them ‘If you’re not a fan of Craig, don’t attend that session. If it bothers you beyond that, I understand if you can’t attend the show.’

Quieting the noise gets easier when you focus strictly on the business. Making everyone happy is impossible when you organize an event, but if you allow multiple viewpoints to be present in the room, you end up in a decent place more times than not.

You also have to remember that social media can make things appear worse than they are. Is the issue you’re dealing with being raised by conference partners and supporters who attend the event each year or from someone who’s not in the building and thrives on creating a social media firestorm for the causes they oppose and fight against?

Some may recall that I dealt with a few headaches in 2019 prior to our LA Summit after folks involved with groups that had no interest or desire to attend our show started trying to create a controversy out of nothing. Though it was frustrating playing defense on Christmas night when individuals from the New York Times, Deadspin and WNBA teams started poking holes in our conference’s flyer, I learned an important lesson. As long as you do the right thing and have the support and trust of your friends, family, attendees, and partners, who cares what others think or say who don’t know you and aren’t in the room for your event.

That’s what I don’t understand here. Is Shapiro not one of the most successful podcasters out there? Was his company not a paying partner of the event? If this is a conference about podcasting, and you have someone in attendance who excels at it, has a massive following, and their company is supporting your event as a sponsor, why are you treating them like a disease? Most would roll out a red carpet for someone with Shapiro’s track record of success not publicly condemn them for showing up and sponsoring the show. I know I would. I’d also do the same for someone who’s equally successful and views the world the exact opposite way.

I can’t help but wonder how folks at Westwood One feel about this incident. Don’t they promote and support this conference and include their people in the event? Think they might object to one of their top personalities being treated this way? Furthermore, how about the talk radio format? It’s no secret that most of the programming on news/talk radio stations leans right. A number of top performing podcasts follow a similar path. It’s safe to say that most in the format are going to support Shapiro, and I don’t think that helps the conference with attracting future business and participation.

To be clear, I don’t listen to Ben Shapiro’s podcast or radio show, and I don’t read The Daily Wire. I only point that out because I don’t want anyone to assume that I’m supporting him because of personal interests or a professional relationship. We’ve never spoke or crossed paths. My opinion is based solely on the facts surrounding this situation, nothing else.

That said, I understand Ben has shared opinions that some take offense to and I don’t blame those folks for not wanting to be around him. But there’s a simple solution, don’t go near him or his booth. It’s the same thing I tell people who don’t like a particular radio station’s hosts or a piece of content on our website; if you don’t like it, don’t read or listen to it. The Podcast Movement Conference takes place in a large convention center. There’s more than enough room to keep everyone separated and happy. Last time I checked, there were attendees in the room who stopped by to meet Ben at his booth. Do they not count?

Look, you don’t have to agree with Shapiro, but this is a podcasting business conference, and it’s something he’s done at a higher level than most. That qualifies him to be there. You can’t get in the middle and start determining who is and isn’t allowed in based on personal beliefs or trying to please agenda driven people on social media. Would Podcast Movement tell Joe Rogan, one of the most successful podcasters out there, that he couldn’t attend if people who didn’t like his views on Covid-19 protested? What’s next, not giving out industry awards to stations and individuals who we don’t like or agree with? When does the insanity end?

Here’s the reality, there are likely other sponsors and attendees in the room who have views that some may consider offensive. Our content and advertisers aren’t just supported by good, honest people. There are thousands, if not millions, who listen and support us who are shady, sick, and morally bankrupt. That’s beyond our control. Our job is to inform and entertain, and make people care enough to come back regularly. If we do that well, sponsors will follow. Keep those things happening, and everyone remains satisfied.

Moving forward, the Podcast Movement Conference has to decide if it wants to be open to all or only to some. I root for the conference to do well. I’ve enjoyed attending previous shows and hope to attend future ones. But if they expect to maintain support and enjoy future growth, learning from this situation is important. There’s much more money in staying neutral than alienating one side of the room.

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