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Sports Radio Is Thinking Social But Not Acting It

Jason Barrett

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Satisfying the wants and needs of the audience is a daily priority for every sports radio executive, host and employee. But when advancing the station-listener relationship beyond the airwaves comes into play, things become much more difficult.

One quote which I’ve grown fond of over the years is from Henry Ford, who said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Ford was making the point that people fear change, but when you have a vision, you can’t be afraid to take risks and introduce new ideas which might make things better.

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In 2017, most sports stations operate over the air, online and on mobile. They also have a Twitter and Facebook account, with some even extending their presence on Instagram and/or Snapchat. Social media platforms are where the audience reside each day, and where brands can further extend their relationships with their most passionate fans.

When you dig into a radio station’s social media account, you often find they post photos or links to stories, and occasionally a piece of audio or video from the station’s shows or hosts. You also discover just how inconsistent and far behind many brands are when it comes to using these platforms effectively.

These issues aren’t any one person’s fault. They’re a reflection of the industry not providing enough manpower or defined strategy to help their brands and people excel in a foreign space. Other companies outside of the radio business not only understand these areas much better, but they’re dedicating people, time, and resources to them, because they see the long-term benefits.

This is a big problem in our industry. When new opportunities arise, we assume that it’s a simple task, and try to solve it by tacking on more responsibility to the people inside our operations. If the audience seeks more written or video content, we just ask the talent to do more. If advertisers want a campaign built around the radio station’s digital and social media assets and our sales team doesn’t grasp the difference of the space, we just arm them with a presentation, and trust that they’ll get in the room and close the deal just as they would any other radio buy.

Except some of our top radio hosts aren’t great writers or equipped to perform on camera. And many salespeople who have spent years, and in some cases decades, selling traditional radio, don’t understand the complexities of selling digital and social media. Some also don’t see the financial upside in selling it. I’ve been in multiple places where it becomes a value added item for a client, or the account executive closes a radio deal and then shifts part of the total earnings towards social and digital so they can satisfy their budgets in those areas and keep their managers happy.

But if this is a space where people are investing most of their time, and advertiser dollars are shifting to it, then that should be enough cause for concern for the radio industry to invest more resources to becoming experts in it.

Here’s a sobering statistic from Edison Research’s 2017 Infinite Dial study. Did you know that 81% of all american’s use social media? That number has grown nearly 30% in the last 5 years, and 57% in less than 10 years. Altogether, an estimated 226 million people currently use social media.

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Here’s some other data to digest. According to Michelle Klein, Head of Marketing for North America at Facebook, adults check their phones 30 times per day. The average millennial checks it 157 times per day. Most of each person’s phone time is spent checking their social media accounts.

If you consider that the average person sleeps 8.8 hours per day, that makes them accessible for 15.2 hours per day. This means that your brand has an opportunity to connect with the audience every 30.4 minutes, and a total of 30 different times per day on social media. More than a third of a person’s time is spent on social media, and each time they log on to check their account, your radio station is given an opening to present your content, personalities, promotions, and client messages to them (assuming they’re following your brand).

But now let’s look at the other side of this equation.

Inside most radio stations, people are consumed with the over the air product. They focus on ratings and revenue, and the thought of changing anything makes many uncomfortable, because it could disrupt the brands chances of earning a quarter hour of listening.

But once again, let’s look at some evidence.

First, the average person’s commute time in the United States is 26 minutes per day. This means that if they drive to and from work listening to your station, they will spend a total of 52 minutes per day consuming your content. That’s assuming of course that they never leave their car, make a phone call, play a CD or change the dial to sample another radio station.

Maybe they’ll also listen to your station while at lunch or at at work, but if we’re being realistic, most brands rely on in-car listening, which means that at best, you’ll earn 4 quarter hours of listening during a 52 minute drive. Even if I doubled that number of commute time for larger cities where traffic is heavier, that still only gives the radio station access to the audience for up to 2 hours a day, a total of eight quarter hours.

Meanwhile, the average person spends 50 minutes per day on Facebook, 25-30 minutes on Snapchat, 21 minutes daily on Instagram, and 17 minutes on Twitter. When you look at the younger demographic (18-29), the numbers are even higher. Most people now use a minimum of two social media accounts, and they’re investing more time before, during, and after work on these platforms.

Why should that concern you? Because soon these will be the people you’re trying to reach, except getting them to use your radio station will be as easy as convincing Donald Trump to stop tweeting.

Their parents may have grown up on radio, but they haven’t. That means you’ve got to play by their rules. Your entry point to them exists, except it’s not inside of a vehicle on a dashboard. It’s a place where they’re already established, and you too have a solid foundation. The big difference is that it dominates their life, while you consider it to be an afterthought – social media.

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Remember when I wrote the piece last week about the sports format needing to consider eliminating sports updates? Traditionalists took exception because it’s different than what they’ve been used to for the past thirty years. But in this case, change is necessary, and here’s why.

If the average person only hears 2-4 updates per day due to spending 52 minutes of total time in their car, and the reports themselves offer minimal original content and unique value (not to mention they’re often tied to a commercial break which causes further tune out), and we have key areas of our business performing poorly which require greater maintenance and focus, then what are we debating about? We’ve got to take a collective look in the mirror and ask ourselves, why we’re resisting efforts to serve the audience in the places where they’re most available.

We focus our time and energy resisting change to an antiquated update structure, which has a maximum potential of reaching our listeners 2-4 times per day, while the same listeners are engaged and accessible on social platforms 30 times daily and for the same amount of time as their daily commute. If you’re a gambler, would you bet on people spending more time on the radio and less time on social media over the next 5 years? If you answered yes, please email me. I have a bucket of steam, a left handed screwdriver and a wall stretcher that I’d like to sell you.

One of the biggest issues I see is that most sports radio brands don’t have dedicated digital and social media strategists inside of their buildings. Nor do they have a game plan or the knowledge of how to maximize the station’s relationship with the audience and advertisers in that space. They may receive corporate support from time to time, but even those corporate teams with great insights and strategies, are at the mercy of what each brand does on its own. That becomes increasingly difficult when overseeing the strategic efforts of more than one hundred radio stations, many of which broadcast different formats.

To excel in the social space, companies have to be willing to make larger investments to help their brands. This is vital to every station’s existence, relevance, and future growth. Before the company dedicates funds though, they have a right to question each operator about the dollars they’re already spending towards their on-air products. If resources are being used in areas that deliver minimal impact, then it’s worth exploring redirecting those dollars to further improve the brand’s social and digital media strategy and execution.

As it relates to the social picture, I did a study recently of twelve local sports stations to see how active and engaged their brands were on Facebook. The brands I chose for this project were WFAN and ESPN New York 98.7FM in New York, ESPN LA 710 and AM 570 L.A. Sports in Los Angeles, 790 The Ticket in Miami, 620 WDAE in Tampa, 1500 ESPN in Minneapolis, Arizona Sports 98.7FM in Phoenix, Sports Radio 94 WIP in Philadelphia, ESPN 97.5 in Houston, the Mighty 1090 in San Diego and Sports Radio 810 WHB.

I selected these stations for a few reasons.

  • I wanted to feature a number of different corporate groups. For this project, CBS, Entercom, ESPN, iHeart, Hubbard, and Bonneville were all represented.
  • I wanted to examine a few locally operated brands. Gow Media, Union Broadcasting, and Broadcast Company of the Americas all fit that description.
  • I wanted to see how stations executed on both coasts, in the north and south, and in the middle of the country.
  • I wanted to analyze a few stations with strong leaders who I know have thick skin, and who know that I don’t take personal shots and am only interested in helping our business improve.
  • I wanted to profile a few brands that I don’t have deep relationships with because it’s a little uncomfortable and forces me to be thorough and honest.

Over a period of 24-48 hours, I examined how often these stations posted, what time of the day their material went up, which content they featured, and the amount of response they provided to the audience’s feedback. I chose Facebook over the other platforms because it is the most utilized social network on the planet. The others aren’t even close. If you’re unsure about that, check out slides 1, 2, 3 and 4 courtesy of the 2017 Infinite Dial study done last week by Edison Research.

To see my full report for all 12 sports stations, click here.

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Something that’s important to understand is that each platform requires different tactics. What you do on Twitter won’t work on Facebook, and what you do on Facebook won’t register on Instagram. You also need to understand which days and times the audience is most available, and capitalize on those opportunities. Fast Company conducted a study to share best practices and I recommend clicking the link to familiarize yourself with it.

An area of frustration for many radio stations is how Facebook uses sophisticated algorithms to limit a brand’s ability to reach their entire audience. But while it may fuel your desires to share a few expletive laced commentaries with Mark Zuckerberg, it’s the platform that delivers the biggest impact, and you can’t afford not to make this your brand’s top social media priority.

One thing you can do to help yourself, is make sure you’re posting material that doesn’t read as an ad. If it comes across as shareworthy content that’s even better. Anytime you attach a video or photograph to your posts, your odds increase of the content being viewed by a larger part of your fan base.

I noticed while researching this story that many stations tend to follow a similar pattern when posting material. They often update social media content during the weekday business hours when everyone is inside the building. However, when people are home from work at night or on the weekend, and actively engaging with a sports brand during a popular sporting event, the content dramatically decreases. They also tend to post content in off peak hours that isn’t as topical, which does little to help the brand.

Another area of concern, one which I consider the worst sin of them all, is the lack of engagement that most sports radio stations provide to their fans on Facebook. This is true for radio stations outside of the sports format too. Tons of comments are being sent to your brand each day, but they rarely get answered. Imagine if your audience kept calling your phone line to talk to your hosts, and sent in a flurry of texts to the air studio, but nobody ever acknowledged them. Eventually the audience would stop engaging. Well, this is the expectation you’ve created in the mind of your audience as a result of being absent on social media.

What happens in most cases on these pages is a one sided conversation. The radio station pushes out the content, hopes the audience clicks a link or gives the brand a like or comment, but rarely do they take the time to acknowledge the listener’s existence. What this tells the audience is that there’s limited upside for engaging with the brand, and they’re better off instead sending a text to the studio, an email to the program director or a tweet to the host. Why? Because in each of those three cases they have a much better chance of receiving a response.

Ask yourself this question, why would my audience engage with my radio station account? What is the upside in the relationship for the listener? Do they gain access to information they can’t get elsewhere by following the page? Are they earning any rewards for liking and commenting on your material? If they never gain a response or benefit, why would you expect them to continue supporting you in the future?

Here’s a few others to think about. If I asked you what your engagement percentage was on your social media accounts, would you know it? Do you know how many posts your band delivers each day? If your CEO called and asked, “how do we grow our Facebook likes by 10,000 over the next 12 months”, do you have a strategy to do so?

The term “social media” implies that you’re entering a public community where others will interact and share ideas, content and information. Except most sports stations aren’t doing that. The term that best describes our approach is “one sided media” because we focus solely on pushing content at people and not participating in the experience with them.

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So how do we fix it?

It starts with each company, market manager, and program director taking a good hard look at the way they’re executing, and admitting that it’s a space they need help in. Most brand managers lack superior knowledge and vision in the social space because it’s unfamiliar territory, and still relatively new. But if this is where your listeners are most available, and advertisers continue to spend more on digital and social assets, then that should serve as a motivator to get it right.

Then what follows is exploring deeper ways to educate everyone inside each building. Whether that’s attending a social media conference to learn tricks of the trade, bringing a social media strategist into your building from a company unrelated to radio to share best practices with your crew or studying on your own time how to best use and monetize these spaces, it requires sustained effort and a lot of learning.

After that, each station has to review its internal structure, and figure out who inside their operation can help the brand improve its social media relevance, reputation, and response time. This may require reassigning people to new positions that provide a much bigger payoff for them and the company, and/or hiring non-radio people who are experts in the space to help lead the radio station’s digital and social media efforts.

But to those of you who would be tasked with hiring someone to lead the brand’s digital and social strategy, I want you to consider something. If this is an area you’re not skilled in, how do you know if you’re crafting the right job description, targeting the right candidates, and asking the right questions?

Too often in radio we assume that just because someone designed a website, wrote a newspaper column, or worked inside another media company’s digital department that they’ll be qualified to create the brand’s digital and social media identity and execute the vision to make it matter. But we learn afterwards that they’re not versatile enough. It’s easy to blame the individual for not doing the job, but the process also reveals a lack of strategy in our hiring, and an unwillingness on our end to go outside the box and look in different places for digital/social brand leaders.

When a radio station is hiring a program director, the market manager and corporate team work together to make sure they find a person capable of managing and leading the radio station’s on-air staff, strategy, and execution. In this case, the same line of thinking is necessary. You have to think of this person as the digital/social media programmer of your brand, and that requires a special set of skills. It’s not a job for the person with the least amount of hours in the promotions department or the handful of producers on your shows who are already spread way too thin.

Far too often in our business, there’s a lack of urgency for becoming masters in new areas. There’s this mentality that it’s simply enough to be strong on the air and present in the social space, rather than add people who are experts in it. Well guess what? It’s not enough.

Do yourself a favor today and take a few minutes to read this piece from Lori Lewis, who lists the various things that happen inside of an internet minute. This is what you’re up against every day if you’re not cutting thru the clutter and forming deeper relationships with your audience.

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There’s no excuse to be invisible to the audience on your own page. If the audience is taking the time to like or follow your account, and they’re reading your posts, promoting it to their friends, responding to topics, and supporting your advertisers, the least you can do is acknowledge them. This will especially come back to haunt you with younger people who won’t be as patient or as loyal as your current P1’s might be.

If you saw the movie “Moneyball” you may remember the scene when Brad Pitt (playing the role of Billy Beane) tells his entire scouting department they need to think and act differently when replacing a few superstars who were leaving via free agency. Beane understood that the Athletics couldn’t match up against larger market clubs when economics entered the equation, and if they planned to compete, they were going to have to adjust their strategy. His message to the group was that they had a choice, either adapt or die.

Well, we’ve got to do the same if we want to take advantage of the social space.

Sports radio’s social media strategy may not be on the verge of extinction, but if we keep ignoring our fans, bombarding them with irrelevant material at the wrong times, and treating social platforms like an afterthought instead of a critical part of our business, we could miss out on significant opportunities to strengthen our relationships with our audiences and advertisers. Before we end up like dinosaurs, let’s educate ourselves, and make sure we’re positioned to ride this gravy train as far as it will take us.

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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