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Growing Sports Radio’s Bottom Line!

Jason Barrett

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For the past 19 years I’ve made my living in the radio industry. Most of that time has been spent in the sports talk radio format, a format which I love and believe strongly in. I’ve been fortunate to be trusted by various companies to manage their brands, create the vision of their radio stations and make personnel decisions to elevate the brand’s ratings so I have a high opinion of what type of connection can be built in this format between talk show host’s and listening audiences.

Nielsen Pic 1I equally believe that advertisers who invest in this format gain significant advantages by being associated with it.

For years I’ve listened to critics label this format as niche and take shots at whether or not sports talk radio could deliver real results for clients and it’s been frustrating to hear at times because I’ve personally witnessed many success stories. Conversely, sports television rarely has received the same venom or disrespect yet they target much of the same audience. While the numbers are certainly higher for television, the traits of the targeted consumer are no different.Nielsen Pic 4

I can personally recall running a promotion in San Francisco titled “Lucky Break” where we rewarded one undiscovered talent with a contract to work for the radio station for 1 year and while doing auditions, some contestants would weave in the words “reach us on the McDonald’s Text Line” without even being prompted to. That’s the type of connection this format delivers for advertisers better than any other.

When you look at the entertainment options available to people today, radio’s best chance to remain a priority is to offer content that is unique, people who stand out and brand associations that make your product cool. Fortunately for those of us who work in the format, sports talk radio possesses many of those ingredients.

sportsradioprofileThis format also targets an attractive demographic (Men 25-54) and that’s important to advertisers because this audience has something they want – money! The bottom line is that we’re all in business to grow business while additionally looking to raise the profile of our brands in a positive light so when a company forms an association with a sports radio station, there is an unspoken value and image benefit that comes with it.

When you look at how radio has evolved, in many markets now, the personalities on sports radio stations are seen by the audience as local rock stars, much like the local music DJ’s were viewed on radio and television in the 1980’s.newspaper

While 20 years ago the local newspaper was your source for information and opinion, today you get your information from social media and popular websites and you learn what that information means by tuning into your local sports talk radio personalities. It’s the exact reason why newspapers started creating podcasts, video commentaries and even full-time sports talk on their websites.

In 2013 BIA/Kelsey conducted their annual study on which station’s delivered the highest revenue in the nation and of the top 10 performers, 4 had some form of sports marketing involved with their product. WFAN in NY was the lone full-time sports talker in in the group and the other 3 (WBBM, WGN and WCBS) carried the Yankees, Cubs and Bears respectively.money

While one could suggest that the information in that study shows that the format has made progress, I could equally question why only 1 of the top 10 billing stations in the country was an all-sports station and why play-by-play is seen as attractive to clients yet the content created by personalities during the work week with audiences who are engaged in it isn’t viewed as important.

I was curious to get some insight on the challenges sports radio sellers face today and what they perceive as the format’s biggest advantages so I reached out to 5 different people who I respect in this industry to obtain their expertise.

In assembling this piece, I wanted to target 5 different markets and folks who have been involved in different organizations in order to illustrate some of the differences and similarities that exist in our industry. I think you’ll find the feedback provided by some of these great business leaders to be extremely helpful especially if you work on the programming side of the business.

PicMonkey CollageThe 5 featured panelists in today’s conversation are listed below. You can find out more about each of them by clicking the link on their names to be redirected to their LinkedIn profiles.

  • Paul Blake – Philadelphia – VP of Sales for Greater Media
  • Jessica Webb – Phoenix – VP of Sales for Bonneville Arizona
  • John Goforth – Chicago – Sports Sales Manager for 670 The Score
  • Payton Raymond – San Francisco – Director of National Sales for Entercom
  • Jim Heilman – Atlanta – Former Director of National Sales for 790 The Zone & GSM of WKNR Cleveland

misconceptionsWhat is the biggest misconception of the sports talk radio format in the advertising community?

Raymond: I believe the biggest misconception is how valuable the audience is. If you’re not a sports fan or listener to sports radio then there’s a big chance that you don’t see the marketing benefits of being associated with it. Sports fans are passionate and loyal supporters of the format. They always have an opinion and want to discuss the good and bad of their favorite teams. Listeners of sports talk also tend to have great qualitative profiles like employed full time, home ownership and college degrees. I believe that sports programming is not being measured properly by Nielsen and that puts us in a bad situation on paper when being evaluated by the agencies.

Webb: That it is super niche – all X’s and O’s. We refer to it as highly targeted, totally engaging (mostly) guy talk.

Blake: Agencies require ratings yet this format delivers results without needing to be a “top rated” station in the market.

Goforth: That our listeners are our callers. Agencies, and to a lesser degree, clients sometimes think of the sports talk listener as a 35 year old meatball who still lives at home and spends his disposable income on cheap beer and replica jerseys. The reality is that sports talk radio has the most affluent and most educated listener of any format in radio (according to Nielsen).

Heilman: That it’s limited to a very small audience. There are two places that people come to each week in mass regardless of the economy/weather/mood etc…Church and Sporting events. Everyone is a sports fan and the incomplete nature of the current audience measurement tools that exist today misconstrue the power of sports radio. While it is no doubt predominately a male audience, there are many female listeners. Also, I would argue that the audience is much larger and much more engaged than what is currently reflected in the ratings. Sports talk and play by play are the last remaining segment that people want to listen to or watch live, not record or DVR or passively participate with. A very underrated medium for sure!ratings2

How much do the ratings of your radio station impact your ability to continue driving rates and increasing your revenue?

Raymond: On a national level, ratings make or break a stations ability to drive revenue. In national sales there’s really no personal emotion unlike working with a local business who may love the format and its personalities and listen to it every day. Everything nationally must be justified with ratings and cost per points. There’s less focus on that locally.

Webb: This question fires me up like no other. I don’t believe that Nielsen gives fair and accurate credit to spoken word formats, not just Sports. That being said, our lives would definitely be easier with ratings. In spite of the lack of ratings, we will still post top 2 local and digital revenue in the market. But it’s a constant grind. There’s no easy money.

Blake: It can depend on competition. If you’re competing against another sports station then you need to be ahead of or within striking distance of that station. However, the ratings are not compared as much to music-based stations. It’s a great local direct results format.

Goforth: Minimally – rarely do you see a M25-54 avail come down from agencies, so as long as our ratings keep us in the agency fight, we’ll be fine. The direct conversation rarely involves ratings…it’s about results.

Heilman: Again it’s an old way to value and position. Create value propositions based on goals and objectives of the client and their target audience. Ratings to me are irrelevant. If a campaign meets my objectives (sales goals/drives in store/brand awareness) who gives a shit about the ratings…it works!scully

What type of importance do you place on having play by play on your station? 

Raymond: Play by play (pxp) is all upside for national sales. It gives you an asset to incorporate into media sales pitches that no one else can offer. Would you like to be the sports station with no play-by-play going into a client meeting following your local competitor and their pitch of being associated with a popular local team? PXP brings more audience to the station and also gives an exclusive product offering to clients.

Webb: Very important. We love the brand association and our team partnerships. We carry MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL and NCAA football and basketball. It’s nice having that feather in your cap but it’s tough keeping sales people focused on selling all of it.

Blake: It’s great for branding but it also has to be a profitable venture.

Goforth: In my opinion, it’s the number one marketing tool we have. People tune in for the game on a Monday night and on Tuesday morning they’re listening to the station. Also, it’s great for credibility in the marketplace and client entertainment. From a revenue standpoint it helps with ancillary programming such as sponsorships of team-centric shows, play by play host appearances, and access to players, not to mention merchandising.

Heilman: Play by Play can be a major driver but again it varies by team, market and local audience interest.localnational

In your market, what is the split between local and national advertising? Do you see that split continuing in the future?

Raymond: National spot advertising is about 38% of the revenue in San Francisco which has remained consistent over the years.

Webb: National accounts for less than 10% of the billing in our building. I see it flat to down in the future.

Blake: 15% national and I don’t see that changing. It’s different by market though. For us we’re very close in proximity to NYC which is a factor.

Goforth: That’s an extremely tough question to answer as every company defines “national” differently. However, I think it’s fair to say that if “national” were an AE – they’d have the highest billing. As far as the future is concerned – I don’t know that I see it changing a ton (towards more national). Many clients enjoy the ideation and creativity that is spurred by having local reps.

Heilman: During my time selling sports radio in Atlanta, the split was roughly 40% national 60% local but every market is different.Value

How do you decide what your assets are worth? What do you do to make sure you’re receiving fair market value for them?

Raymond: Based on feedback and demand from advertisers. Our sales manager’s set the pricing for our assets.

Webb: All depends on the asset. Each situation is unique.

Blake: We continue to assess supply and demand of our assets and price accordingly per the needs of our clients.

Goforth: No matter where I’ve worked, the answer to this question doesn’t change. Assets are worth every penny a client will spend and nothing more. If something isn’t selling or gaining traction for whatever reason, the price either needs to lower or go away (this is assuming it’s being pitched enough and the value is being correctly demonstrated). Sometimes it’s best to punt on an idea so you don’t devalue the station. We sell a quickly expiring commodity and, like a hotel, once the day is gone…it’s gone. So sell it or move on.

Heilman: It’s driven by perceived value. It is what you make it. Often times stations and radio groups get too caught up in the numbers. It’s up to the station to create the hype and sizzle and position and develop the right program to make it valuable to the customer. If the customer does not value the idea or the station they will not pay for it.results

When talking to advertisers what is the #1 thing they seek more of from your brand? 

Raymond: Brand integration and ROI (return on investment). Advertisers not only want commercials but they want some sort of special integration into programming and play by play that will help drive ROI. Endorsements, features, ownership of assets are hot areas of ownership that can help accelerate sales and launches of brands. Digital programs would be a close 2nd.

Webb: Higher level association with our brand and on-air talent.

Blake: Engagement, custom ideas, great results.

Goforth: Passion – the passion of our listening audience helps sell their good or service. This comes from not only the passion for the teams, but for the hosts and the station as well. We’re originators of content. People can hear the latest Foster the People song anywhere – they can’t get their local guys’ reaction to the big win (or loss) ANYWHERE else.

Heilman: Results, partnership and perceived value would make up my top 3.future

Where do you see the sports radio format having its best opportunity to grow its business in the future?

Raymond: Unique programming, digital engagement and endorsements.

Webb: Continue to deliver amazing unique local content, hire sales people that are marketers not just sales people, and give them the internal support to succeed.

Blake: Much more of the same great things we already provide. This is an incredible results format.

Goforth: Digital – The digital space will account for 25% of all paid media spending this year and will be up another 15% from last year.  The buzz words you hear in the digital space all relate to brand integration and content origination.  We already do that!  Sports radio just needs to continue to evolve and expand the conversation digitally – opening up opportunity and different revenue streams as we do so.

Heilman: Embracing technology and getting out of the 1970’s. The last ones to the web and the last ones to integrated programming. Be proactive and not reactive. There needs to be cooperation and coordination at the agency and client level as well. Create the demand don’t react to it!

To learn more information about some of the great brands that our 5 featured panelists are associated with, visit their stations websites below.

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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