It was one year ago when I wrote a lengthy piece on the challenges associated with broadcasting live on radio row during the week of the Super Bowl. I tapped into a few program directors and top salespeople to gain their perspectives on why the week on the road for their brands does/doesn’t matter.
As insightful as last year’s column was, I realized that one key part was missing from the conversation. The viewpoint of the people who it matters most to – the on-air talent.
It’s easy to sit in a conference room and debate the merits of sending your shows on the road or crunch numbers in an office during budgeting sessions and eliminate travel and remote broadcast expenses because it’ll make your bottom line look better but there are certain things in business that you do because it’s important to your people, your brand image and your audience.
For example, how would your perception of a NewsTalk brand change if their key programs weren’t live at the Republican and Democrat national conventions? To make those events work, extra dollars must be spent and sometimes sponsors don’t want to get involved because they don’t want to be branded as supporting one side over the other. If the NewsTalk outlet you receive your information and opinion from though wasn’t there, your perception of the brand and its shows would be altered.
Imagine if a massive rock concert like Lollapalooza was recreated and your favorite rock station wasn’t involved in it. Or if a rap festival was produced and your hometown hip hop station didn’t have a connection to it. You’d wonder why those brands were detached from something significant to the audience and their image would take a hit as a result of it.
Well, the same applies in sports talk radio.
There is no greater event from an audience attention standpoint than the Super Bowl. The NFL is king and responsible for stealing the majority of our free time during the fall. The final game represents the last chapter of the season, and the week leading up to it is when fans become consumed by the storylines surrounding the NFL’s season finale.
From a talk show host’s perspective, this is the nail in the coffin on a year’s worth of conversations. Hours upon hours are dedicated to analyzing, debating and reporting on the NFL each season, and the most hosts view the week of the Super Bowl as one of the most important to their annual schedule. It’s an opportunity to get access to high profile people, uncover interesting stories, receive exclusive access to events they’d otherwise not experience, and it affords them the chance to spend time on the road with their peers and colleagues. That alone leads to strengthening bonds, increasing contacts, gathering information, and enjoying time away from the normal grind. The audience is invited to live vicariously thru the eyes and ears of the talent during the NFL’s biggest week, and in doing so, a deeper bond is developed between the brand and each listener.
What makes topics like this fun to discuss is that there really is no right answer. If your business is hemorrhaging money and lacks interest from sponsors, it’s understandable why you’d pass on sending your hosts and shows on the road. But if every decision you make is tied to whether or not you generate an immediate return on investment, be prepared to be disappointed.
It’s ironic that the radio industry depends on selling advertising to clients, stressing to them the importance of branding. We encourage sponsors to implement a long term strategy and remind them of the need to spend money to make money. We preach how vital it is to stand out from a crowded field and why presenting a powerful image and influencing perception are key in reaching people when it’s time to make a purchase.
What we don’t do is walk in the door with pixie dust promising to sprinkle it on their ads and double their business. That’d be ridiculous. Effective marketing requires consistency and building a strong brand image. If done properly, brands will absolutely benefit from it.
Yet when the shoe is on the other foot, do we follow our own advice? To borrow Hertz’s slogan, not exactly!
There are a myriad of factors that need to be considered when deciding whether or not to send your radio station and staff on the road to the Super Bowl. From the ratings impact, to the perception of the brand, to the economic affect on your company’s balance sheet, everything must be examined. However, just don’t lose sight during that process of how those decisions register with two of the most important components of your business – your staff – and your audience.
To provide a little more perspective I called upon six talented hosts from different parts of the country who have experienced the good and bad of radio row. Making the conversation even more interesting is the fact that they collectively represent five different companies.
For those of you who are scheduled to broadcast next week on radio row in Minneapolis, I recommend checking out this list of restaurant/bar suggestions from 1500 ESPN Twin Cities midday host Phil Mackey. You can thank him in person next week for steering you to the right locations.
Why is broadcasting live from radio row during the week of the Super Bowl important to you?
McKee: I have been to 14 Super Bowls. So, I’ve had plenty of radio row experience. In the mid 90’s it seemed like a pretty exciting deal. We would get a cool collection of guests that we wouldn’t get any other way. However, as the years move along, the quality of guests seems to have leveled off. Also, getting interesting guests is complicated because there is such a strict schedule. Then of course there is the question of whether listeners even care about hearing from any of these people. In addition, we haven’t seen a specific spike in ratings during that week. BUT – if you are a sports station in America and you aren’t there how serious are you? The trick is to use radio row as a home base and actually go out and do the work which means getting off your ass and going to the pressers and the other available sessions. The access to players, coaches and other folks in the sports world is off the charts. If you stay anchored on radio row, you better hope you have a world class producer who can do some pretty extraordinary things or you’re going to be talking to Bill Romanowski about his neuro lean 1 pills. So broadcasting from radio row means almost nothing to me, but being at the Super Bowl feels like it’s very important!
Kaplan: This is my 22nd radio row which is crazy! I look forward to the week of the Super Bowl because I like to be in the middle of the action. If I didn’t go, I would be watching on TV wishing I was there. It’s the sports radio convention, like the Senior Bowl of sports radio. It’s something I feel is important to be in the middle of.
Dawson: It’s important primarily because we are the home of the Cowboys. The NFL is the most significant sports entity in our market and not being there would feel off brand in a big way. Our competition will be there and to my knowledge, I’m not aware of a regular weekday 6a-7p show in my market that hasn’t gone.
Innes: It’s not. I thought it was important to broadcast from radio row when it was in Houston. I host a morning show, so I won’t be getting a ton of guests, and the building will be largely empty. I don’t believe it adds a ton to my actual show. Hosts love to say that they can get more out of guests and that it’s all about the questions. Trust me, when Adam Sandler is on station #20 and has been up for 25 hours, he’s not gonna be excited.
Dougherty: Broadcasting live from radio row is important to me because we want to provide Zone listeners with the best content possible, every day. Radio row at the Super Bowl allows us to do that by gaining access to compelling guests who we normally wouldn’t have an opportunity to connect with. Being there helps us deliver a stream of interesting content all week.
Tierney: Very early in my career, it was probably good for the ego, a self-validation of my place in the business. However, as my platforms have grown, it’s become much more of a bridge…a tool…a continuation of the coverage and insight we’ve provided throughout the season. Although I don’t believe in being guest-heavy day to day, we take great pride in being able to secure “A” list guests throughout the season. This is not only a continuation of that, but in essence, a culmination of a season/sport that we dedicate a lot of time, energy and resources to. I want to be there, I expect to be there.
If you didn’t do shows on radio row during SB week, how would it impact your show?
McKee: If I wasn’t there we would still have a table and a set up to put a guest on headphones but that’s pretty weak. I suppose I’d feel left out. It’s an interesting question though and I’m not sure I have the answer because this will be my 9th straight radio row. I have 6 others sprinkled in over the years. What makes this year particularly interesting is that I pushed hard for our station to go to the Senior Bowl. We have great ownership and management and they made an extremely quick pivot so we could be in Mobile, Alabama this week! The reasoning was simple. The Broncos need a QB, and Mayfield, Allen, Falk and Rudolph will all be there along with the Broncos coaching staff which includes a bunch of new guys who are coaching the north team. The STORY for us is clearly in Mobile not Minneapolis. That always should come first. So I’m proud of my station that we’re doing what’s best for our listeners. We were ready to give up going to the Super Bowl but because Minnesota is such an awful place to go to in February, the hotel costs have plummeted! At the end of the day, we can do both and stay under budget. So, I’m going to both! Guys often bitch about having to spend the time and effort away from home but that couldn’t possibly match how much they’d complain about NOT going! We are a messed up crew of individuals.
Kaplan: I’m not sure broadcasting from the Super Bowl is a ratings winner per se, but from a perception standpoint, listeners believe their favorite show is big time by being on radio row. They enjoy hearing the show talk to people that they wouldn’t normally have face to face access to. It leads to good content and it’s where new relationships are formed!
Dawson: I’m not sure what the impact would be since we do make the trip each year. Listeners would question though why we weren’t there.
Innes: We may miss out on the opportunity to do a few memorable bits, but all in all I don’t think the show would suffer greatly. The idea of going to radio row is so much greater than actually going to radio row. I mean, how many times can I interview a member of the 70’s Steelers?
Dougherty: If we didn’t do live shows from radio row, we would do our normal daily show. The difference would be that we’d have less coverage dedicated to the Super Bowl.
Tierney: No interesting/successful show should lean solely on the backdrop of the SB to create a compelling show. That’s lazy, especially when each interview is going to contain a minute or so of the guest pushing product that quite frankly, our audience doesn’t care much about. It’s still about strong content, diverse and interesting topics and having fun and I have confidence that we would deliver that from our studio. However, there’s an energy that is tough to replicate that comes with being in the middle of the mayhem for a week. The ambiance creates a different urgency and makes it feel bigger, because it is. Also, personally, the week is a great avenue to collect off-the-record information from friends and colleagues around the league. I always look forward to that aspect.
How important do you think the week of shows on radio row are to your audience?
McKee: We’ve been lucky because the Broncos have actually played in a couple of recent Super Bowls and won one of them. Our ratings during that time period went through the roof. However, when the Broncos lost in dramatic fashion to the Ravens a few years ago and we still went to New Orleans AND then the Ravens WON the Super Bowl, we had our lowest ratings dip in years! Our listeners just didn’t want to hear anything because the loss stung so much. We probably would’ve been better off not going that year! I think the audience wants to live vicariously through you but they don’t want you to rub it in their face. It’s a weird balance. At this point, our audience just expects us to be there so being there isn’t really a big deal but not being there would raise questions. It’s a bit of a no win situation. That being said, your team going to and winning the super bowl is ratings gold for a long long time! You better be there because those stories and that experience lasts forever.
Kaplan: When I listen, I love the background noise, the buzz, it sounds so alive! As a listener, I want to be there! If you track engagement on social platforms, we provide so much more content and create so much more activity by being live on radio row. That’s how I measure it.
Dawson: I don’t think it’s important to them in a conscious way. I think we benefit from a credibility standpoint of the audience knowing that we’re on top of things and committing resources to make sure they’re informed and entertained. I think what they value most are the words being said by particular people when they tune in. Our being there doesn’t provide much of an advantage in creating compelling content. Factor in the disruption to the clock, unpredictably mediocre guests, and general chaos, and there are pros and cons to the conversation.
Innes: My audience only cares about being entertained. I can do a good show whether I’m on radio row or Mars.
Dougherty: We get tremendous feedback from our listeners through social media channels when we broadcast from special event settings like radio row at the Super Bowl. We see the same engagement when USAA brings us on the road to broadcast prior to the Army-Navy game.
Tierney: I’m sure on some level we tend to overrate that aspect of it, but it is a core belief of mine that if you have a successful show, the expectation from listeners is that during the biggest week of the year, you will be right in the middle of it.
What do you do to make sure your program stays consistent and doesn’t get overtaken by guests/advertiser pitches?
McKee: There is almost no escape from that! You do your best but it’s almost unavoidable. One thing you can do is record segments ahead of time. Other than that, you are a bit screwed. It’s a good rule of thumb to do every show on the road the same way you would do it in the studio but that’s easier said than done. Try and treat the day on the road schedule wise same as at home.
Kaplan: We don’t obsess over the guests any longer. I used to consider the best guests the metric for success. Now I think more about all forms of media at my disposal. So it’s not just what A-list guests I can get on the air but rather how can I engage my audience on and off the air?
Dawson: We do our best to keep a similar show going but here’s the funny thing. In order to get an A-list guest you have to take others from their stable quite often. We have 3 segments an hour and scheduling into that without disruption is not possible.
Innes: It’s difficult because you are at the mercy of the celebrities. They may show up a minute before break time. What do you do? In that case, you blow up the clock. Then you end up with 5 minutes of Franco Harris peddling an insurance company with his handler starting a countdown 2 minutes in.
Dougherty: We make it a point to re-set our show at the top of the hour with the day’s top headlines and keep a watchful eye on what is happening in our local market. As much fun as the week on radio row is, local comes first.
Tierney: We don’t allow that to happen. It’s our show and Tiki and I both recognize that while good guests can enhance our show, we will not change the DNA of what we do. You still need time to let things breathe, to react to stories outside of the NFL, to react to interviews we just conducted, and to deliver built-in sponsored segments just as we would if we were back in studio. We also have great synergy with our producer, so we’re all on the same page. As far as advertiser pitches are concerned, you have to maintain control of the car. I’m driving the show, not the guest. If you’re not alert, it’s very easy for a 7-8 minute spot to be overtaken by product push, which equates to a painfully boring interview. Trust your internal clock, like a QB. If you’re getting bored, the audience has either left or is on the brink of leaving. If you allow that to happen, as a host, that’s on you. Be better at your job.
What’s one thing that you do during the week that’s unique from the other 50-100 stations on radio row?
McKee: I participate in the actual press opportunities! I always try and get a question in to the commissioner. I ask questions of the coaches. I go to stuff and ask questions. Mostly that’s the realm of the print media. I have been amazed over the years of the laziness of most talk show hosts. Get out there. Participate. It’s great to say on the air, “ I asked Goodell this question”. “ I asked Bill Belichick this” stuff like that. I promise you I’ve done more stuff like that than ANY talk show host in America over the years. It has been a huge separator and gives us unique content.
Kaplan: My approach is to deliver a show which matters to my market. I look for local ties. For example, we have enlisted a player from the Patriots and the Eagles, both from San Diego, to be our weekly reporters. The goal is to talk to our home market, from an international event. That helps us form a stronger local connection.
Dawson: One fun thing that we do is create a compliment contest throughout the week that our guests are not aware of. It’s awesome because it butters them up and gets the positive energy flowing. It may even deliver a few horizontal tune ins. We produce an audio compli-montage at the end of the week along with a King of Compliments for the year and this adds to the fun.
Innes: We have a wireless mic and roam around. We had my producer dressed as Mike Ditka and he would sit down with random radio shows, while they were on air. He would then talk back to me via wireless. One guy wanted to fight him. My producer wore an “Assweiler” garbage can around the Houston radio row. That made national news. I think the wireless mic adds a lot. It allows for constant content during slow times.
Dougherty: Our focus is on doing the best job we can to put our audience in the room. We do that on air and through the use of our social media platforms. It isn’t about being unique as much as it is delivering quality content that satisfies our listeners.
Tierney: The most obvious difference is that we deliver a TV presence with a national simulcast. We bring you a visual. You get to see what we see. There’s great value in that.
If you owned your radio station or a local business and a team from your city was not playing in the game, would you spend the $ to be part of this week of shows?
McKee: My advice would be to send as many people as makes sense for your budget. Don’t stretch but don’t be cheap. Keep in mind that the more people you send from the station the more crazy stories that can come from it. Hopefully you have a good crew that likes hanging out. Bonding wise it’s fantastic. Great memories for years and years. Monday night is now media night. Tuesday is the media party. We have established Wednesday as our staff dinner. It’s been my favorite tradition year after year. Whatever you do if you send a group don’t skimp on the staff dinner. It’s what connects you with one another. Thursday night, all of our ex NFL guys have Super Bowl rings. Mark Schlereth, Brandon Stokely and Alfred Williams, which means they wear their suits and rings and go to parties that the rest of us nerds can’t get into! Friday night we basically leave open. If you do Super Bowl week the right way it will translate to the audience. But know this, if you don’t make an effort at all, you aren’t a real sports talk station.
Kaplan: Well, we are no longer an NFL market in San Diego, but our signal reaches LA and many LA sports fans have found us over the course of the three year relocation drama. I think radio row can be a very sell-able product to sponsors if packaged creatively.
Dawson: Absolutely. I believe there’s great value in it.
Innes: Well, there are some factors at play. Is my competition going? What market am I in? Does my audience back home really care? I’ve seen plenty of data to show that my competition doesn’t see any tangible bump from being there. Basically, it’s a way to get a sponsor to pump a few bucks into the station. If a sponsor wants to add to the bottom line, that’s hard to say no to. I’d refrain from sending morning shows. Middays and afternoons have the best chance of excelling. I do think there is an opportunity to create web content that can be sold. Gavin Spittle did and has done a great job of monetizing the digital aspect of the week.
Dougherty: We’re fortunate to have a great sales staff which sells sponsorship’s to off-set the costs of taking two shows on the road to the Super Bowl city. That provides us with a great opportunity to deliver good content for our audience and attach our clients to the station’s Super Bowl coverage. There’s a lot of value in being associated with the week.
Tierney: In all likelihood, yes, but it would hinge somewhat on the financial climate of the industry and our own ability to monetize the week. If we were able to offset some of the costs, perceptually, I believe it is worth it. It also tends to galvanize talent and is a nice way to put the finishing touch on a 5 month grind. I find that it boosts morale, and it’s fun! Who the hell doesn’t like to have fun? If it’s done right, it can be GREAT.
Angiolet, Borod, Craig & Sottolano Added To 2022 BSM Summit
“If you’re planning to attend, please buy your tickets as soon as possible. We have limited room and it’s first come, first serve.”
We promised we had more great news to share regarding the 2022 BSM Summit. Just four days after revealing the addition of ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro to this year’s show, we’ve added four more heavyweights to March’s sports media industry conference.
First, it’s a pleasure to welcome for the first time, DraftKings Chief Media Officer Brian Angiolet to the BSM Summit. Brian joined DraftKings in April 2021 after two decades with Verizon where he helped the company strike a number of multi-billion dollar broadcasting, sports and entertainment content and advertising deals. Some of the key groups to do business with Verizon during Brian’s tenure included the NFL, NBA, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM. DK has been a large advertiser and supporter of the sports media industry for many years, in addition to becoming a larger content provider following the acquisition of VSiN. We look forward to having Brian join our sports betting executive panel (hosted by ESPN’s host Joe Fortenbaugh) to share his insights on how he sees sports betting groups participating now and in the future in the sports media content world.
Second, it’s an honor to add Fanatics Chief Commercial Officer Ari Borod to the sports betting executive panel for his first appearance at the BSM Summit. Ari’s fingerprints have been all over the sports betting business for years, first with FanDuel, then with the Action Network. He joined Fanatics in June 2021, reuniting with former FanDuel CEO Matt King, and in less than a year, the company became the official trading cards partner of MLB, purchased the Topps Trading Company, and applied for a sports betting license in New York. Possessing a massive customer base, deep executive knowledge of the sports betting business, and a desire to make a larger dent in the sports betting arena, we’re thrilled to have Ari lend his perspective on how Fanatics views the future of sports betting and the evolution of the sports media industry.
Next, I am thrilled to have Audacy’s EVP of Programming Jeff Sottolano appear on stage for the first time at the Summit. In his current role, Jeff is responsible for the content strategy and performance of Audacy’s local brands in all formats across all broadcast and digital platforms. Jeff has played a key role in the launch, development and growth of the BetQL Network, while also helping Audacy evolve its position as one of America’s top audio companies. Jeff will be part of one of my favorite sessions, The Power Panel, which includes SVP of Premiere Sports and EVP of iHeart Sports Don Martin, Cumulus and Westwood One SVP Bruce Gilbert, and SiriusXM SVP of Sports Programming Steve Cohen. All four men will participate in a lengthy discussion on sports talk programming and the various challenges facing brands, talent, and programmers today.
A BSM Summit can’t just feature new faces though, especially when familiar ones add valuable knowledge to important programming conversations. ESPN Radio Program Director, former colleague and longtime friend Justin Craig will join us for our Programmers Masterclass alongside a few other notable leaders. The group will examine what does and doesn’t work from a content standpoint when trying to capture ratings. They’ll also share which ingredients are essential in successful talent/shows, and provide an on-site review of a piece of audio content. Those interested in learning how great programmer’s think will want to be present for this panel.
If you haven’t purchased a ticket to the Summit but are planning to attend, please do so before seats are no longer available. We have limited room inside the theater and it’s first come, first serve. Additionally, all attendees in New York will receive an online registration to be able to watch the show on-demand afterwards. This can be helpful when looking to share insight with local staffs who aren’t able to attend.
For those not able to travel but interested in enjoying the Summit, we do have virtual tickets available. Details on tickets, speakers, and hotel rooms can be found on BSMSummit.com. I hope to see you there!
ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit
“Having Jimmy with us will allow our attendees to learn how ESPN views the current sports media landscape in order to better understand where the business is headed in the future.”
The largest player in the sports content business today is ESPN. From television to radio to streaming, social, podcasts, websites and more, the network remains a force in satisfying the appetites of sports fans around the globe.
But creating sustainable global success isn’t easy. It requires investing billions of dollars in key programming partnerships, holding off competitors who seek to elevate their own standing, and hiring and retaining talented professionals and providing an environment for them to thrive in. If that wasn’t difficult enough, a company must also embrace new technology, and accept that certain things will fail while pursuing a path to excellence.
The man charged with making sure ESPN thrives in each of these areas is Chairman Jimmy Pitaro, and I’m excited to share that he’ll be joining us in March in New York City for the 2022 BSM Summit.
I’ll have the pleasure of spending 35 minutes on stage with Jimmy discussing the state of the sports media industry, the opportunities and challenges facing operators in 2022 and beyond, the growth of sports betting, network radio, podcasts, subscriptions, social, and many other issues. No matter what space we’re talking about, ESPN has held a dominant position among all media brands. Having Jimmy with us will allow our attendees to learn how ESPN views the current sports media landscape in order to better understand where the business is headed in the future.
Jimmy has been with the Walt Disney Company since 2010. He became ESPN President in 2018 and was elevated two years later to his current role as Chairman of ESPN and Sports Content. You can learn more about his professional background by clicking here.
A reminder that the 2022 BSM Summit is an industry-only event. You must work in the media business in order to attend the show. This includes sales, public relations, advertising agency professionals and agents, as well as programming folks. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet of attending the Summit, feel free to visit our YouTube page to see some clips from past shows. It’ll give you an idea of what you can expect. You can also see the full list of speakers scheduled to appear at our 2022 show by visiting BSMSummit.com. We’ll announce a few more executive additions to March’s event later this week.
For those who manage brands and have joined us before in New York, Los Angeles and/or Chicago and are planning to come but haven’t bought a ticket yet, please do so asap. Seating is limited and once we’re full, we can’t add seats inside the room. You can also take advantage of a great hotel deal ($109 per night) with our partner Hotel Edison by clicking here.
One additional note, for those who are concerned about traveling, there is an opportunity to buy a virtual ticket. This year’s show is available both online and in person. For those planning to join us in NYC, in addition to receiving your live ticket, you’ll also get an online account so you can view the event on-demand afterwards. This can be especially helpful if you wish to replay a session or use any information afterwards to help members of your team. A big thanks to our virtual partner Nuvoodoo Media for helping make it happen.
We’re just 49 days away from putting on a spectacular show for industry folks in the big apple. We hope to see you there!
BSM, BNM Ready To Grow In 2022
“We’ve ended 2021 with record high’s for monthly traffic and social impressions, and our client and advertiser base the best its ever been thanks to the support of outstanding partners.”
It’s commonplace in our business to self-reflect when a new year full of possibilities arrives. We should probably do it more often rather than reserving it for the final day of the year or the first day of the next, but in the media business, finding time isn’t always easy.
As I look back at 2021, and the obstacles, adversity, accomplishments, enlightenment, and unpredictability that awaits BSM and BNM in 2022, I’m grateful to be able to do work that many enjoy and benefit from. Since I left the programming world in 2015 not a day has passed where I thought ‘I need to get back to running a radio station‘. That may sound crazy considering I spent two decades inside of buildings, loving the job, and living and breathing it 24/7, but from the second I moved into this space, I knew it was where I needed to be.
I had my fun building brands, chasing ratings, leading corporate programming calls, and making good money, but that restricted me to working in one city for one company with one brand and one staff. Now, I get to wake up each day and help clients in multiple cities, and run my own brand, collaborating with a great group of people to tell stories about the business we love. Combine that with hosting an annual conference, working with advertising partners and industry friends to create cool content and examine ways to grow their businesses, and connecting with folks to stay plugged in on details that others won’t know about until weeks or months later, and I consider myself very lucky. The added bonus, I get to do it in running pants and t-shirts inside the comfort of my home office/studio.
But with operating a business comes a different set of challenges. In 2020, we ended the BSM Summit on a high only to watch the entire world spin out of control weeks later due to the Covid-19 pandemic. That created a bunch of short-term issues, which fortunately we were able to overcome. Fast forward to this year, and we’ve ended 2021 with record high’s for monthly traffic and social impressions, and our client and advertiser base the best its ever been thanks to the support of outstanding partners. I never assume we’re in the clear because things can change quickly, but the support we’ve received is appreciated. It fuels me to reinvest in others to continue growing our operation and helping the industry.
So let’s talk a little bit about how we’re doing that in 2022.
First, we merged Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media in May 2021 to bring news and opinion from both the sports/talk and news/talk worlds under one roof. We tried running them independently initially but that wasn’t the best strategy for a new brand. Since bringing them together, BNM’s exposure has increased, the content has been read more regularly, and though we have more to do to get the brand on par with BSM, we’re making progress. BSM had a 5+ year head start on BNM, and though I know at times it may seem weird to read a sports media and news media story on the same website or social media account, as I tell those who ask, sports and news have mixed together since the invention of television, radio and newspapers.
Boosting BNM’s awareness and content is a goal for 2022, and to do that I want to share two things we’re creating to help us make progress.
I’m excited to share that we are launching The BNM Rundown. This will be a newsletter we distribute 3x per week (Monday-Wednesday-Friday) via email similar to what we’ve done with the BSM 8@8. The Rundown will go out around 5pm ET on each of those three days, and it’ll contain ten (10) news media stories, five (5) advertising slots, and the latest stock prices for radio groups. There will be additional content and advertising added in the future, and we may increase delivery to five days per week down the line. I’m happy with the layout and think you’ll enjoy it. If you’d like to receive the BNM Rundown or discuss advertising opportunities inside of it, click here to sign up. A big thanks to Ryan Jaster for all the work he’s done getting it ready for distribution.
In addition to the newsletter, 2022 will become the first year where we roll out BNM’s Top 20 of 2022. Similar to how we’ve produced the BSM Top 20, we are going to do the same for the News/Talk format. Categories will be announced at a later time, and we’re expecting to present our results towards years end. There’s a lot to be done to make it a success, but if we’re able to do for News/Talk what we’ve done for Sports/Talk during the past 6 years, I’m confident folks will appreciate it.
When I look at BNM right now, I see a number of excellent writers on the site. If you’re not reading Pete Mundo, Jerry Barmash, Douglas Pucci, Rick Schultz, McGraw Milhaven, Ryan Hedrick and Eduardo Razo, you really should. Each of those guys have been rock stars for the brand, but we need more help, especially another columnist or two. If you work in news radio or TV, love writing, and live and breathe the business, email: JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Though we do need to add columnists, a bigger hole has been a dedicated Assistant Content Editor. I’ve poured my heart and soul into BSM over the years, Demetri Ravanos has as well, and that’s helped us build a strong connection with sports radio folks. For BNM, that love, interest, and unwavering passion for telling stories about news radio and news television has been missing in the editor role. Though frustrating at times, it’s all part of building a brand. You have to go thru a few things before it all starts to click. Now after talking to a bunch of talented people over the past two months, and thinking about the brand’s need for TLC, I’m happy to announce the internal promotion of Eduardo Razo.
Since joining us Eduardo has been a steady fixture on the site, writing news, scheduling social posts, and putting an extra set of eyes on the content that comes in from our team. He cares about the site being clean, conducts himself neutrally and professionally when adding news, and he believes in the brand. If hours go by and the site doesn’t have new content, he’s the one who points it out. When Eduardo first joined us he was just learning the ropes. Over the past fifteen months he’s been consistently excellent, and I have no doubt he’ll make even more progress in his new role as BNM’s Assistant Content Editor.
Making sure Eduardo has support to help him though is also important. I’d love to be that person myself, but client projects require much of my focus, so having a strong #2 is key. I’ve been lucky to have a great one in Demetri Ravanos who I’m excited to share is being elevated to the new role of Director of Content. In his new position, Demetri will continue producing columns, creating original feature stories, and hosting a weekly podcast. He’ll also be responsible for daily social creation and scheduling, working with yours truly on client projects and Barrett Media events, recruitment of writers, growth of the BSM Member Directory, BSM merchandising, additional BSM audio projects, and oversight of BSM and BNM’s Assistant Content Editors.
That last line implies that there will be multiple editors involved in shaping BSM and BNM’s content, and with Demetri and Eduardo promoted, that means we’re adding someone to help grow BSM. I’m thrilled to welcome Ian Casselberry to our team as BSM’s new Assistant Content Editor. Ian is familiar to many in the sports media universe for his work with Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He’s also contributed to Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports, SB Nation Detroit, and MLive.com among others.
I’ve read Ian’s work for years and have always appreciated his passion for sports radio and sports television. Adding someone with his experience, creativity, and attention to detail has been a huge priority for me. I’m looking forward to turning him loose on January 17th when he officially begins working with us. Under his direction, and in tandem with Demetri and I, we’re going to aim to produce more quality sports media content, and continue expanding BSM’s footprint across the industry.
As awesome as all of these moves are for creating interest in reading the site, if you don’t have someone in position to help sell it, the upside is going to be limited. For the past six years I’ve been the one making those sales myself. But I’ve also had to be a consultant, social scheduler, content creator, summit organizer-creator-host, finder of new clients, and the one in charge of billing and payroll. I love being busy, but a brand’s potential can’t be maximized without help.
Placing the company’s sales efforts in someone else’s hands though requires trust. I’ve learned the past few years that unless you’re inside my world and understand everything that goes on with BSM and BNM, it’s not an easy brand to sell. Media sellers are used to working with more assets, bigger dollars, and they expect things to move faster. They’re also used to corporate environments where a crew provides support from the beginning to the end of a sale. That’s not how it works here. This is more of a family business. Our success depends on one on one relationships, accessibility, being a self-starter, and patience. It means keeping in touch with industry friends and partners even when there isn’t a sale to be made. Nobody knows this brand, business, and who we serve better than the person who’s lived it with me for the past six and a half years, Stephanie Eads, my new Director of Strategic Partnerships.
Not only has Stephanie worked in sales and customer service most of her adult life, she’s honest, organized, and outstanding with people. She’s been exposed to every aspect of my radio life for the past sixteen years, and if you’ve been to a BSM Summit before then you already know how on the ball she is at making sure things get done. This is something we’ve talked about for years, but the timing was never right. Now it is, and I’m excited to watch her blossom. Having her add extra support to help me with billing and payroll is an added bonus.
The BSM brand will also welcome a few additional writers starting this week. First, I’m glad to have Danny O’Neil joining us as a weekly columnist. I got to know Danny in Seattle at 710 ESPN Seattle over the past six years, and he’s always been smart, passionate about media, and an exceptional writer. He’s now based in NYC and his debut column will hit the site this Friday. Also joining us in a daily news writer role is Will Dundon. Will is based in Nashville where he works as a producer for 102.5 The Game. Having him involved will help us stay on top of day to day news stories.
In terms of upcoming content, the BSM Top 20 of 2021 will be released February 7-11 and 14-15. The series moves back a week this year in accordance with a later Super Bowl date. During the seven day span we will highlight the best local sports radio stations, program directors, and morning, midday, and afternoon shows. We will also recognize the best national sports talk shows and original sports podcasts. To do that, we will once again involve more than 50 program directors and executives in the voting process.
One thing we will do differently this year is create an extra piece which recognizes the top performer in twenty smaller categories. These will be determined by a combination of BSM staff and select experts for specific fields. Some of these categories will include Best Sports Betting Content Brand, Best Wrestling Audio Show, Best Sports Radio Social Brand, and more.
After the Top 20 concludes, we’ll turn our attention to the 2022 BSM Summit, which is scheduled for March 2-3, 2022 in New York City at the Anne Bernstein Theater. The show will also be available virtually for those who can’t attend in person. I’m excited about the guest speakers we’ve lined up for this year’s event, and have more tremendous additions to announce later this week and next week. I realize the Omicron/Covid-19 situation has created some concern over the past month, and we continue to monitor the situation closely. As of today, we’re planning to host the event. If the situation were to worsen and we couldn’t keep people safe and comfortable, we’d reschedule the show. I’m hopeful of seeing familiar faces and many of sports media’s best and brightest in sixty days. If you haven’t bought your ticket, log on to BSMSummit.com and do so before you’re on the outside looking in. In the meantime, stay tuned to this website and the BSM 8@8 for details. We should all know more January 15th when New York State updates everyone on their mask ordinance.
Other content projects are in the works as well for March-December. We’ve got a number of ideas we’ve talked about for March Madness, and the NFL Draft. Items like last year’s Meet The Market Managers or a programmer’s version of it may also land on the content calendar. Not to be forgotten is the importance of continuing to improve the BSM Member Directory to help people stay informed, ready, and land in front of the right decision makers when job openings arise. Seeing a few of our members earn gigs the last 4-5 months of 2021 was very cool, and we hope to see more of that in 2022. Last but not least, I’m hopeful of giving the website a new layout in either quarter 2 or 3.
As I bring this column to a close, I’d like to remind you that BSM and BNM exists because we love the business and advocate for it daily. Since 2015, I’ve prioritized professional storytelling, research, industry news, relationship building, social media marketing, and consulting. Inside information and building relationships are important, and sure, it’s occasionally fun being first, but I’ve never worried about clicks, scoops, cash grabs or ruining reputations to elevate my own. I try to think about the big picture, even if it means missing out in the short-term. That applies to who I work with in a consulting capacity as well as how I operate the site. There’s no better example of it than last week. Most of our crew had the week off. It was tough missing out on stories when we were taking a mental timeout, but people come first. If you want long-term productivity and a staff to stick with you, support and sacrifice are essential.
If there’s one thing I know, this outlet has been a great resource for industry professionals. I wasn’t as fortunate during my studio days to have a site this rich in content to learn from, debate with, and stay connected to. We’ve hired 20+ contributors to help serve the industry, and I’m honored to have each one of them here. The additions we’ve made to improve the brand in 2022 will make us even better. We’re not perfect by any stretch, but we try to be fair and accurate. I also try to be accessible, especially when difficult situations arise. There are going to be times when our crew deliver strong opinions or tackle sensitive issues, and when those instances occur, I hope you’ll remember what I said about accuracy and fairness. We won’t operate as shills for the industry but we’re also not going scorched earth on folks.
Our goal here is simple, help folks stay informed about the sports and news radio/television formats, overdeliver for clients who place their trust in us, connect our advertising partners and members to others who can benefit from their services, and give industry people access to content from other professionals so they can do their jobs better.
If we can do these things consistently we’ll be in great shape. If we miss along the way, we’ll clean up the mess, and try to learn from it. We’re nine months away from celebrating seven years in operation, and we couldn’t have made it this far without your full support. Thanks for riding with us, now let’s make 2022 a year to remember.
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