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The Face of Your Audience: Why Perception Isn’t Always Reality

Jason Barrett




In 2013, Arbitron conducted a study on radio listening which showed that over 92% of American’s over the age of twelve listen to the radio each week. Over 10,000 stations were tested as part of this project, with 1274 of them being listed as sports talk operators.

What really stood out on a positive note in the research was how the format itself was responsible for delivering the best educated and the highest income earning listeners among the top 22 formats. Given that we’re all in business to make money, this is certainly not a bad thing. Where it is however an issue is when it comes to the perception of your audience among the people in your building.

“Humans see what they want to see” 
― Rick RiordanThe Lightning Thief

In most cases, sales folks are treated to some advanced information and the good ones use it to their benefit when dealing with local advertisers and national agencies.

That said, even the work horses in your building who are fighting each day to generate revenue don’t have a visual perception of who the target audience is because most of the time they’re creating presentations, making phone calls to secure dollars or dealing with their sales manager and a pain in the ass Program Director who they’re convinced is only in the building to make their lives more difficult.

Sellers are typically working off of data and selling points from managers, not the feedback that comes from your audience through social media, text lines, callers and on-site appearances. They don’t see, hear and experience your audience as often as those on the programming end do but then again, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing and here’s why.

If you venture down to the programming end, you get a completely opposite picture painted for who your listeners are. While sellers may see data which shows a smarter and more sophisticated listener, in the mind of most hosts, producers and programmers, your listener is sitting in his basement, playing fantasy football, has a low paying job and he listens to your station for 8-10 hours a day.

Ok maybe that sounds brash and isn’t a reflection of how every programming person thinks but trust me, many do see it that way and it’s not accurate.

Let’s face it, today you can see people and who they are and what they do via their Twitter and Facebook profiles so instantly a perception is created in the mind of the personality once they receive some form of feedback. Secondly, if the studio receives ten texts from the same phone number during the course of a talk show then the immediate thinking is “he can’t have much of a life or a job if he’s bugging us this much“.

The need of a talk show host (and those who work on a program) is to feel that the audience is invested in the content that’s been created so when real people provide some type of engagement to the show, it confirms that the path that’s been taken is the right one for the show. That validation courtesy of a response provides fuel to keep moving the show forward except we often lose sight that those who we see, hear and connect with are not the majority of the audience who are consuming our product.

In various markets the numbers are different so feel free to adjust accordingly with where you’re based but in most cases, 85-95% of the audience DOES NOT call into the radio station. With social media exploding the way it has over the past 10 years I expect the numbers for engagement are up but even if they blossomed to 25% of people talking back to the radio station, that would still mean that 75% of your audience doesn’t speak to you.

We operate in a world where instant validation of our opinion is necessary for our own ego so it’s hard to fathom that 3/4 of the listening audience wouldn’t think to connect with us. Yet they do and that’s where the misconception lies. People who listen to you buy tickets to support your local teams, they buy products they’ve heard about during commercial breaks on your radio station and they have conversations each day with their friends, family and co-workers about things you talked about – they’re just not telling you about it.

Think about it for a minute. How could the sports talk radio format be measured and come back with results that show it to deliver the best educated and highest earning listeners if the sample of evidence was the irrational caller in your market who calls up each week to suggest trading three reserves for Mike Trout or that one lunatic on social media who’s only mission in life is to tell you how every hour of every day how bad you are?

The reason why the intelligence and income levels are higher are because the lawyer who’s listening for 45 minutes while on his way into the office isn’t telling you he does. Neither is the Fed Ex driver who considers you his companion while making deliveries throughout your region. Nor is the local police officers who are driving around listening while trying to keep your streets safe. And it’s certainly not going to be conveyed to you from the high ranking executives in your backyard, including the power players inside of your local professional sports teams.

In all of the professions above (and there are many more), the consumer is focused simply on listening and enjoying the experience, not feeling obligated to participate. Sure it’s a great feeling when we form a connection with a listener because it means our content presentation moved them enough to want to respond but not hearing from them doesn’t mean they don’t exist and aren’t engaged in what we do.

Think about yourself for a second. Most of you have some type of TV show you watch on a regular basis and when it’s over you discuss it with your family, friends or co-workers or you post about it on a social page for your followers to respond to. How many times though did you call, email, tweet or facebook a response to NBC, FOX, ESPN, ABC, etc?

Heck, the Super Bowl is the most watched sporting event of the year and the next day every single radio and TV outlet spends considerable time discussing which commercials worked and which one’s didn’t however we don’t go to work that next day and tell ourselves that we better alert Budweiser, Go Daddy or Geico of what we thought of their new creative campaigns.

Once again, consumption, awareness, mental connection and emotional investment in the product may exist even if the public communication does not.

The reality in this line of work is that you will always be relevant to many more people then you ever thought possible so don’t make the mistake of assuming that the reflection of your audience is what you see and hear through public reaction.

Most people will not consume every segment of your show and in most cases they’re not even listening to you every day. When they put on their radio, they’re hoping to mentally escape into your content and be entertained. As Billy Joel once sang in the hit song “Piano Man”, “He knows it’s me they’ve been coming to see to forget about life for a while“.

In a nutshell, that’s our job at the end of the day. We’re the voice on the radio that’s supposed to take people through a mixture of emotions on their journey to and from work. Whether it’s joy, anger, comfort, confusion or something else is to be decided upon by each individual. We become a part of their world and the only bad part is that we may never know it. Then again judging by our own perceptions, maybe that’s not so bad!


  • Identify the age of your target listener in your key demographic
  • Use your data to better understand what type of income level they’re at
  • Make a list of things that appeal to most men in this age/income bracket
  • Position your content/imaging/engagement strategy in line with your target listener
  • Give this listener a face & name & put it on display in your office/studio for all to see

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Rachel Nichols and Baron Davis Headline Final Speaker Announcements For the 2023 BSM Summit

“I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.”

Jason Barrett




The 2023 BSM Summit schedule is set. After months of planning and talking to everyone across the industry, I’m ecstatic to roll out next week’s agenda including making one final announcement involving seven great additions to our conference.

For starters, it is a pleasure to welcome Showtime’s Rachel Nichols to the BSM Summit. I’ve admired her work on television for years, and am thrilled to have her guiding a session which I think many in the room are going to really enjoy.

Rachel’s guest will be former NBA star Baron Davis. Baron runs his own company, Baron Davis Enterprises, and he has been active in investing in media brands, and exploring ways to evolve the industry. Among his areas of passion, athletes taking more control of their brands, and the media industry needing to improve its track record with diversity. I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.

Also joining the Summit are a few longtime industry friends. For starters, VSiN’s program director Jon Goulet is someone who I’ve known and worked with, and he understands the sports betting audio space extremely well. Jon and BetQL VP of Programming Mitch Rosen will spend time with another industry friend, Bryan Curtis of The Ringer. Collectively they’ll examine the state of sports betting audio on Tuesday March 21st from 3:35p-4:10p, and what they look for when it comes to sports betting talent, and how they determine what is and isn’t success in the sports gambling content world.

With Mitch taking part in the sports betting panel, Jeff Rickard of WFNZ in Charlotte steps into The Programmer’s Panel alongside Jimmy Powers, John Mamola and Raj Sharan. The session is scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 9:10a-9:45a PT. Ironically, all four of these programmers work for different companies, so it’ll be interesting to hear how they differ and where they align while navigating through a few sports radio programming topics.

Next, I’m excited to introduce a social media session with Karlo Sy Su of ESPN Los Angeles and Matthew Demeke of AM 570 LA Sports. If you look at the performance of their brands on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook, they’ve each delivered strong audiences and engagement. I’m looking forward to hosting this one and learning about their processes, how they decide which platforms to focus on most, what they consider a social media win when analyzing social statistics, and how they develop their content process. Given our location, we’re calling the session ‘Social Media Goes Hollywood‘. It’s scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 3:35-4:10 PT.

I realize you’re not going to remember all of these session speakers and times off the top of your head, so to make it easier, log on to and scroll down past our speakers. That’s where you’ll find our detailed list of sessions/times and activities planned each day. We have eighteen sessions, two awards ceremonies, and two parties. Our kickoff party is presented by the WWE and takes place Monday March 20th from 7p-9p at the 1880 Founders Room. The ESPN Radio After Party takes place Tuesday March 21st from 6p-8p at the Lab Gastropub. Both party locations are in walking distance of the USC Hotel and our conference venue.

As an added bonus, thanks to the generosity of our friends at WWE, we will be giving away a pair of tickets to the first night of WrestleMania, and a WWE title at our kickoff party. WrestleMania takes place this year in Los Angeles at Sofi Stadium on March 25-26. You must be present at the kickoff party to win either prize.

We’ll have more to share next week including providing an ongoing blog with session news and notes for our readers. We’ll also have a ton of content available on our social media channels so if you’re not following @BSMStaff on Twitter, @BarrettSportsMedia on Facebook or @BarrettMedia on LinkedIn, what are you waiting for?

The focus now shifts to finishing our creative for next week’s show, sending information to our speakers for their sessions, and finalizing our attendees list. For those who are attending, we’ll be sending out an email on Friday or Saturday with a complete list of names of who’s coming so you can plan meetings in advance.

If you forgot to buy your ticket after seeing months of promotion about the event and meant to do so, you can still do that, but it costs more. Students on the other hand can take advantage of a low rate established for college kids at

Putting this event together isn’t easy, but I’m extremely pleased with how it’s come together. We have a lot of smart, talented, and accomplished people making time to be part of this, and I appreciate each and every one of them for doing so. Now, it’s all about the execution. Hope to see you next week in LA.

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Sports Broadcasting Icon Al Michaels To Be Honored at the 2023 BSM Summit

“This is a man who has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer.”

Jason Barrett




If you work in the sports media industry you’ve likely heard someone along the way utter the phrase “don’t bury the lead“. I’m usually good about following that advice but I didn’t do that at our 2022 BSM Summit.

We introduced the greatest tandem in sports radio history, Mike Francesa and Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo and it was a special half hour. Mike and the Mad Dog were reunited after seven years apart and every individual at the event knew they were witnessing something magical on stage. I created a Mike and the Mad Dog Award for the event, which went to Felger and Mazz, who were the absolute right choice to win it. Even Chris remarked ‘that’s the right call‘.

But I learned quickly that although the intention was right in honoring the industry’s current top performing show, when you have legends in the room and they’re in their element, the last thing you want to do is overcrowd them. The connection Mike and Chris had on the air became the gold standard by which we measure successful sports talk shows, and they didn’t need an award created to deliver a special moment, just two mics and 20-30 minutes of stage time.

As I began thinking about the 2023 BSM Summit, I knew there was an opportunity to build on what we started last year with Mike and Chris, and after talking to a few people who I trust and respect, the decision of who we would recognize became crystal clear. I believe it’s important to honor the greats in our business because those who leave a permanent mark on our industry deserve it. The man we’ve selected has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer. He’s worked with the best of the best inside the booth, has helped elevate the presentation and execution of in-game content for ABC, NBC and Amazon, and his call of the Miracle on Ice, the US Olympic hockey team’s 1980 gold medal win over Russia remains one of the best calls in the history of sports.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored and privileged to share that Al Michaels will join us on Wednesday March 22nd at the 2023 BSM Summit for our awards presentation, where we will present him with BSM’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Michaels is one of America’s most respected sports broadcasting voices, known for his exceptional work on Monday Night Football (1986-2005), Sunday Night Football (2006-2022) and Thursday Night Football (2022-Present). He’s called the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, Hagler-Hearns, the Olympics, the Indy 500, Horse Racing’s Triple Crown races, College Football and Basketball games, Golf, and more. He’s even held roles as the voice of the University of Hawaii, the Cincinnati Reds, and the San Francisco Giants, and was in the booth in 1989 when an earthquake rocked the Bay Area during Game 3 of the A’s-Giants world series.

The Brooklyn native turned Los Angeles resident has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and owns a ton of hardware including five sports Emmy’s, three NSMA Sportscaster of the Year honors, the 2013 Pete Rozelle Radio & Television Award distributed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award given out by the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Though his trophy case may be full, we’re excited to add another to his collection to show our appreciation and respect for the impact he’s made on the sports media business.

A quick reminder, the BSM Summit takes place on Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 22nd at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California. Tickets are on-sale at

Be advised, we have started adding sessions and times on the website. As always, the schedule is subject to change. Our final agenda will be posted by the end of next week. In addition, attendees will receive an email by next Friday with details of who will be in attendance. We hope to see you there.

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Rob Parker, Brian Long, Sean Thompson and Matt Fishman Join The BSM Summit Speaker Lineup

“I’m excited to welcome a few folks who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.”

Jason Barrett




As we gear up for our 5th annual BSM Summit on March 21-22, 2023, I’m starting to get a better feel for how the final puzzle may look. When this process starts I have no idea how it’s going to turn out because so much depends on who says yes and no. Many who’ve attended over the years have complimented our lineups, and I appreciate it because I put a lot of time and effort into featuring a strong mix of professionals from different areas of the industry. Though I’m proud of the work we do and the schedule we deliver, there are so many things pursued leading up to the event that I can’t help but wonder ‘what if this or that had worked out?’

One thing that some folks don’t understand if they haven’t been to the show before is that this is not a talent conference. It’s a sports media business conference. That means we feature radio, TV and digital executives, programmers, researchers, sales professionals, and yes, talent. I believe on-air performers are vital to the industry’s success and I want the best of the best sharing their wisdom with everyone in the room, but we’re also not going to do two full days of on-air conversations. Being successful in sports media requires understanding the on-air side and the business side, and we do our best to offer a blend of both.

For today’s announcement, I’m excited to welcome a few sports media pros who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.

First, Rob Parker is someone who has made a name for himself as a radio host, writer, TV commentator, and teacher. He’s currently heard weeknights on FOX Sports Radio, teaches students at USC Annenberg, writes for Deadspin, and is helping MLBBro gain awareness and a bigger mainstream media presence covering Major League Baseball. He’s experienced, smart, and never short on opinion. I’m looking forward to having him join Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score/BetQL, and Scott Shapiro of FOX Sports Radio for a session titled “Aircheck On Campus“. They’ll take the stage together on Wednesday March 22nd from 2:10-2:45.

My next three speakers, all come from the sports radio programming department.

Matt Fishman is the Director of Content for ESPN 850 Cleveland. Fishman has been with the brand since January 2020 following stints at SiriusXM, 610 Sports in Kansas City, and 670 The Score in Chicago. He even wrote for BSM for a few years.

Sean Thompson is responsible for programming decisions at Arizona Sports and ESPN 620 AM. He joined the well respected Phoenix brand after more than a decade in Atlanta at 92.9 The Game. Sean has also worked in affiliate relations for Westwood One, and on the air and as a programmer in music radio for Good Karma Brands in Madison, WI.

Brian Long is the program director of both San Diego Sports 760 and KOGO 600 in San Diego. In addition to guiding two of the top talk brands in his market, he has also managed Seattle Sports 710, and served as the Assistant Program Director for ESPN LA 710.

Matt, Sean, and Brian will be part of one of our final sessions on day two of the Summit. The Last Call which yours truly is hosting, will explore unique revenue opportunities created by local brands, and examine a few new ideas and missed opportunities that brands and managers may want to take advantage of in the future.

As of today, the Summit has more than forty accomplished professionals taking the stage at the Founders Club at USC’s Galen Center on March 21-22, 2023. I’ve got a few others still to announce as well, including a few cool giveaways planned for the WWE’s Kickoff party.

If you haven’t bought a ticket and wish to be in the room, visit The last day for ticket sales will be Monday March 13th. I’m hoping to release our final schedule of sessions on Tuesday March 14th. Hopefully I’ll see you in the city of angels.

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