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The Dark Side of Social Media

“With mental health being an important issue today, I wonder how many talent are affected by their exposure to harmful social media content without us knowing.”

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For most folks in the sports media business, December-February is a time when things slow down. Holidays hit, vacations get used, and aside from a few bowl games, NFL playoff games, and the Super Bowl, sports viewing becomes more manageable.

But for yours truly, this is the most chaotic three month stretch of the year. I rarely travel during this 90-day period because so much has to be done in a short amount of time. The one exception I make is a 2-3 day visit to radio row during the week of the Super Bowl. Yes I’ll be there this year even if one radio group has less of a presence. It’s just my opinion, but the biggest event in sports deserves to be covered live on-site by local sports stations, especially in cities where NFL teams reside.

But I digress.

It’s this time of year when I finalize the BSM Top 20. The process involves gathering feedback from industry executives, creating custom images of the people/shows that earned votes, writing press releases and columns, and developing a social posting schedule so the series reaches the most amount of eyeballs. Somewhere in there I also have to make time to listen to and talk with clients, manage the content flow on the website, and find time for my family.

But that’s not all that’s on my plate.

The remaining details for the 2020 BSM Summit have to be figured out in January and February too. That means hunting down speakers for specific subjects, creating visual presentations, meeting with building officials, securing the cocktail reception location, creating and producing programs, determining the award winners with a small circle of industry executives, having the custom awards made, hiring the videographer, laying out the conference schedule, writing press releases, developing a promotional content strategy ahead of the show, and selling sponsorships. It’s why at this time of year I start looking ahead to February 28th (the day after the Summit is over).

Speaking of sponsors, I want to extend my appreciation to ESPN Radio, Compass Media Networks, Harker Bos Group, and Steve Stone Voiceovers for signing on as partners of the 2020 BSM Summit. Putting on this event isn’t cheap, and without their support I wouldn’t be able to continue doing it. With that in mind, we do still have a few sponsor opportunities available. If your company would like to be involved as an event partner please send me an email here. Your participation makes a big difference.

Also, if you’re planning to attend the conference, we’ll be having a special holiday sale December 16-24 on BSMSummit.com. Ticket prices will be lowered to $224.99. This will be our final sale so take advantage of it if you’re planning to come.

I’ve had a few industry friends say to me ‘you must make a killing on that event‘ and I laugh when I hear it because the amount of resources and time that goes into executing this event makes it impossible to feel like I’m walking away in the plus column. But that’s not why I do it. I built the Summit to bring the sports media industry together, and help people learn and improve their business. If in the process I can gain a few fans and earn future business, that’s icing on the cake.

If you’re reading this and not familiar with me on a personal level, I hope you’ll remember what I said in the last paragraph about why I created this conference. Sometimes we have good intentions, and try to do good for others, yet folks on social media who we don’t know take aim at us because they see an opportunity to make noise at our expense.

Last year on Christmas night, I was doing what most people do, enjoying the evening with my family. I dropped off my son at his grandparents house, and took my fiance to dinner at a casino when my Twitter timeline started blowing up. I assumed a talent with a large social following retweeted a BSM story, but soon discovered I was under attack for the 2019 BSM Summit not being diverse. The comments caught me off guard because I hadn’t finalized the conference schedule, and I’m the same guy who wrote pieces calling for more women and minorities to be given opportunities in the industry. In fact, the year prior in Chicago, I had Jason Goff and Sarah Spain participate in one of our best and most honest discussions on that very topic.

Even more frustrating was that I had talked to a few women about being part of the show but wasn’t going to announce new additions until January. I knew that releasing speaker announcements during the holiday week would receive little attention so I figured I’d wait until the first week of January when more people would take notice. As a matter of fact, I’m actually going to release some additional names to this year’s show next week just to avoid a similar headache during the upcoming holidays.

But none of that mattered.

All it took was one motivated uninformed person with a cell phone to cause chaos. Once it starts, others pile on, and soon you’re stuck defending yourself to people you have no connection to.

I learned firsthand on that night how ruthless people can be. Thankfully I developed thick skin a long time ago and don’t let negativity deter me from getting to where I want to go. I trusted that my industry friends and clients would see thru the BS and not overreact, but more importantly, I knew who I was as a person, and what my plans were for the show. Once February rolled around, we had a great event in Los Angeles with many different people involved, and I’m proud of what we created.

When I put the Summit schedule together each year, I choose people to participate based on merit and their fit with specific topics. I welcome people from all backgrounds, and give them a platform to present issues and solutions at the show that will help those in attendance. If the idiots surfing the mean streets of Twitter who don’t know me don’t like my approach, that’s OK. They’re not my audience, and they’re not going to define who I am.

Although that experience was disheartening, it opened up my eyes to the darker side of social media. I learned that night that some people browse social media looking for a reason to be offended. Some want to be activists and push for change when they’re not even aware of the facts behind the thing they’re trying to change. They also don’t reappear afterwards when you’ve done a good job to tell you they’re sorry or that they were wrong about your intentions.

Keep in mind, I’m just a consultant. The avalanche of hate that on-air talent deal with is much worse. Most of the time managers don’t even know the extent of it. If they do, most aren’t trained on how to manage it. It’s easy to tell a host ‘ignore it, he/she is a jerk’ but we’re all human and affected differently.

I remember talking to Colin Dunlap of 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh on Season 3 of the BSM Podcast and he shared how some trolls on Twitter took aim at his daughter who was going thru a battle with cancer. How is that not supposed to affect someone? If you were in his shoes wouldn’t you be thinking about tracking down the individual who said it to inflict some pain on them? If you did, you’d be human.

With mental health being an important issue in the country today, I can’t help but wonder how many air talent are affected by their exposure to harmful social media content without us knowing it. We’re conditioned in the media industry to be mentally tough and absorb criticism, but if someone in your building isn’t strong enough to handle it, what’s the solution for helping them? Do you have support available in house for your employees? Do you know the first call to make outside of the building?

You may not have thought about this before because so much of the job is focused on creating content, chasing ratings, and generating revenue, but the words our people see each day get baked into their brains and can have a lasting affect. Imagine if you were under constant scrutiny the way Mike Francesa has been with the Funhouse account on Twitter. Though some of the clips are funny, what if it were you in Francesa’s shoes. Could you endure that daily criticism? How would you respond when friends, family, listeners, and media outlets constantly bring it up? I don’t care how thick your skin is, you’d be affected. The only question is how much.

If you watched the HBO documentary this week with Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, you heard Belichick mention how much he hates social media. He’s right when he says ‘who cares if you get 2,000 likes from people you don’t know‘ but we’re in a business where we seek constant validation of our content and opinions. To expect talent to disappear from the space when it has many positives and offers them the fix they need is impossible.

Everywhere you turn, brands are promoting social platforms in order to build deeper relationships with the audience. These channels are necessary to push content to our fans, but more importantly, they’re also a pathway to revenue. Yet the same pathway we wish to monetize is littered with people seeking to mentally damage our talent.

As I gear up for the third BSM Summit in NYC this February, this is a topic I’m interested in hearing discussed by some of our on-air talent and PD’s. How do we navigate hate on social media? What can we do to help those who use these platforms for professional purposes yet are mentally abused in the process? We may not have the answer today or by the Summit, but if we stay alert and continue working on it, those we care most about will be less damaged.

Barrett Blogs

John Skipper To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit

“In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured key talent to join the brand, and in April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.

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Putting on a two-day industry conference comes with a fair share of challenges. Months are spent building sessions, selling sponsorships, and talking to so many people that by the time the event rolls around, all I can think about is reaching the finish line and avoiding major issues.

But then the event happens, and there are moments where I’m able to block out the noise for 30-40 minutes and just be present in conversation. It’s what I enjoy most. Being able to sit across from an industry leader who’s been successful in business, and pick their brain on the past, present and future of our industry is both personally and professionally fulfilling. Not only does it provide me with an education, but it helps everyone in attendance too. That’s my motivation for running this conference.

When we return to New York City on March 2-3, 2022, I’m thrilled to share that I’ll have a chance to do that once again with someone I’ve professionally respected and admired for a long time. It is an honor to announce that Meadowlark Media CEO John Skipper will join us for a special on stage conversation at the 2022 BSM Summit.

If you’ve worked in this industry or aspire to, then you’re likely aware of what John has accomplished. He’s seen the business from many different points of view and remains very much involved in helping shape its future. But before we discuss his present involvement, let’s revisit the past.

During his tenure with ESPN, John spent five years serving as company president where he secured a series of long-term, multiplatform agreements with key rightsholders such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, Major College Conferences, US Open Tennis, FIFA, the Masters Tournament and British Open, the College Football Playoff, and the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls. He also oversaw the evolution of several brands including The Undefeated, Grantland, five thirty eight, and espnW among others.

Prior to becoming company president, John held the position as EVP of Content, which he earned after helping create and introduce one of the most successful magazine launches of the 1990’s with ESPN The Magazine. His understanding and belief in digital helped ESPN move ESPN. com forward in 2000, adding a paid section, ESPN Insider, and delivering a revamped site approach to generate more advertising. His foresight also spurred the launch of ESPN3, a television network producing more than 4,000 live events on the web and through mobile devices. If that wasn’t enough, John also supported the creation of the Watch ESPN app, played a key role in elevating the careers of many of the industry’s top sports media stars today, and oversaw the growth of ESPN Films, ESPN Radio, and many of ESPN’s key television programs.

After exiting the worldwide leader, John signed on as the Executive Chairman of DAZN. In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured a number of key talent to become part of the brand, and established a strong presence in podcasting and on YouTube. In April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.

What I’ve appreciated about John is that he’s never been afraid to roll the dice and take risks. Some of his moves have worked out, others haven’t. The wins have been recognized across the industry, but so too have the losses. He’s had to lead a company thru high profile talent controversies, cord cutting challenges, understand the world of video, audio, print, digital, advertising, subscriptions, talent, and rights deals both domestic and internationally, all while keeping his finger on the pulse of the present state of the media business while turning an eye towards the future and knowing which areas the company should make significant investments in.

John has been thru all of it as a media executive, and he’s still doing it while building the Meadowlark brand. A recent story in Bloomberg captured some of his views on growing the Le Batard empire and navigating various parts of the industry. I highly recommend taking time to read it. You can do that by clicking here.

We have five and a half months until we’re inside the Anne Bernstein Theater in New York City, so who knows where the industry will shift during that time. One thing is for certain, John Skipper will be ready for whatever lands on his doorstep. I’m eager to spend time with him in New York treating industry professionals to his insights, opinions and leadership lessons. I’m confident those in attendance will gain value from hearing his perspectives on the industry.

I invite you to join us either in person or virtually for the 2022 BSM Summit. Tickets to the event can be purchased by clicking here. For information on sponsorship opportunities, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

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Barrett Blogs

2022 BSM Summit Adds Pablo Torre, Joe Fortenbaugh, Kazeem Famuyide & John Jastremski

“By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day Summit.”

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The announcements continue for the 2022 BSM Summit. After recently sharing the news that former ESPN Radio executive Traug Keller would join us in the big apple to accept the Jeff Smulyan Award, and previously revealing the first fourteen participants scheduled to appear, it’s time to inform you of a few key talent who will participate in sessions at March’s show.

I’m thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Pablo Torre to the 2022 BSM Summit. Pablo’s been with the worldwide leader since 2012. During that time he’s served as a senior writer for ESPN.com, the host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and has appeared on shows such as Around The Horn, Highly Questionable, and The Dan Le Batard Show. He also previously co-hosted High Noon with Bomani Jones. Prior to joining ESPN he spent five years writing for Sports Illustrated. Having worked with a mixture of talent from various backgrounds, I’m looking forward to having him share his insight and opinions on the value of it at the show.

Pablo isn’t the only ESPN personality joining us in New York for the conference. I’m excited to welcome back a great friend and one of the smartest sports betting analysts on television, Joe Fortenbaugh. Joe is regularly featured on ESPN’s sports betting program Daily Wager. He also appears on other ESPN programs and segments on television, radio and digital platforms. Prior to joining the network he hosted 95.7 The Game’s morning show in San Francisco, and hosted “The Sharp 600″ sports betting podcast. He’ll moderate a conversation with sports betting executives at the show.

Given that this two-day sports media conference is taking place in the heart of New York City, it’d be silly to not include someone who’s passion, energy, sound, and content embody what New York is all about. The Ringer’s John Jastremski will make his BSM Summit debut in 2022. The ‘New York, New York’ host is known to many for his years of contributions on WFAN. It’ll be fun picking JJ’s brain on the differences between performing on a traditional platform and the digital stage.

Jastremski isn’t the only one with a connection to The Ringer who will participate at our 2022 event. My next guest is someone who I’ve followed on YouTube and Twitter for years, has infectious energy and likeability, and has taken his life experiences and sports passions and turned them into opportunities with MSG Network, SNY, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, WWE, The Source and various other outlets. Kazeem Famuyide will join us to shed light on his journey and offer his perspective on the value of traditional vs. non-traditional paths.

By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day event. I’ll be announcing the addition of a very special executive in mid-October, as well as a few high profile speakers and awards recipients in the weeks and months ahead. I’m appreciative of so many expressing interest in speaking at the conference, and as much as I’d like to include everyone on stage, I can’t. Keeping the Summit informative, fresh and focused on the right issues is important, and to do that, I’ve got to introduce different people, perspectives and subjects so our attendees gain value to further improve the industry.

A reminder, the 2022 BSM Summit is strictly for members of the sports media industry and college students aspiring to work in the business. It brings together people from more than thirty different media companies and focuses on issues of relevance and importance to media industry professionals. The show takes place March 2-3, 2022 in New York at the Anne Bernstein Theater on West 50th Street. Tickets and hotel rooms can be secured by visiting BSMSummit.com. For those unable to attend in person, the Summit will also be available to view online. Virtual tickets can be purchased by clicking here. Hope you’ll join us!

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Traug Keller Named 2022 Recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award

“Former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award.”

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Photo Credit: ESPN Images

Sometimes decisions are difficult. Other times they’re not. This was one of the easiest ones I’ve made since launching the BSM Summit in 2018.

If you haven’t attended the Summit before, one of the cool parts of the conference each year is that we take time to honor people who have left a permanent mark on the industry we love. Awards ceremonies are held both days to recognize difference makers who have made positive contributions to the sports radio business. At our 2022 BSM Summit, I am pleased to share that a great man will be celebrated for his life’s work.

It is my honor to announce that former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award. Keller becomes the third industry executive to earn the honor. Kraig Kitchin and Dan Mason were the first two to be recognized at the 2019 and 2020 BSM Summit’s.

Upon learning that Traug had been selected as the next Jeff Smulyan Award winner, Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan said, “Traug Keller has left an indelible imprint on not only sports radio, but on all of broadcasting through his remarkable career. I’m proud to call him my friend, but I’m just one of the legions of people who have loved every minute of their time with him. He’s a broadcaster’s broadcaster, but more than that he’s one of the best people I’ve ever known.”

“I am humbled for sure but thrilled to be receiving an award with the name of my good friend on it, Jeff Smulyan,” added Traug Keller, now the EVP and COO of American Media. “Jeff did what all too few leaders in business do, he took risk and action against all kinds of headwinds and the rest of us in the great business of Sports Audio were the beneficiaries of it. Thanks to BSM for this great honor and I look forward to seeing a bunch of old friends in March!”

Anyone who has crossed paths with Traug over the past three decades knows how important he was to the success of ESPN Radio. He’s been a friend to many, a great partner to hundreds of radio affiliates, and a champion for talent. His support for BSM has also meant a lot.

Perhaps even more impressive was Traug’s ability to connect with his affiliates, clients and colleagues, offering steady leadership and on-air stability for ESPN Radio. No executive leaves with a perfect record, but Keller had a knack for landing on the right side of many decisions. None as impressive though as retiring from sports radio in February 2020, one month before the sports world came to a screeching halt and a global pandemic rocked the entire advertising industry. Talk about timing Traug, haha.

In all seriousness, having Traug and Jeff together on the same stage in front of the industry to give folks an opportunity to show their appreciation for their accomplishments is a real treat. So many enjoy professional success today due to bold and smart decisions made by each of these men, and I couldn’t be happier to spend time with both in New York City this March.

For tickets, hotel and additional details regarding the 2022 BSM Summit visit BSMSummit.com.

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