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15 Talents You May Not Know, But Should!

Jason Barrett

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When you think of the biggest names in sports radio, Colin Cowherd, Dan Patrick, Mike and Mike, Jim Rome, and Mike Francesa are names that come to mind. There’s a good reason for that, they’ve all been successful, and have performed on brands that are well known to listeners and industry professionals.

While many of these personalities are outstanding, and have received their due for the great work they’ve produced during the course of their careers, there are many others who fly under the radar. Identifying great talent on familiar brands isn’t exactly rocket science, but discovering authentic, unique and entertaining personalities across the country, in unfamiliar territory can be quite the challenge.

For a programmer, the job is similar to that of a professional scout. Anyone can recognize LeBron James in high school and determine that he’ll make an impact on the next level. If you don’t, you should probably stop scouting. But not every scout travels to Baxter Springs, Kansas and discovers Mickey Mantle while initially looking at one of his teammates.

I thought it’d be fun to to shine the light on some deserving personalities who I’ve had a chance to listen to and are worthy of some praise. Some of these hosts are well established in their existing markets, but not necessarily familiar beyond their local regions.

To make sure we’re on the same page, let me state that this is not a Top 15 list. It’s a piece that offers insight into the styles and attributes of fifteen different radio hosts across the country.

Also, if a personality I chose to highlight is involved in a program that includes one or multiple partners, this doesn’t mean that the others on the show aren’t good or don’t play a critical role. This is a subjective analysis based on my own personal tastes, and the objective is to make them and their work more familiar to anyone who enjoys listening to sports radio.

I hope you enjoy the column, and if you follow me on Twitter and wouldn’t mind retweeting it, I’d greatly appreciate it.

20-CoryCCory “Sludge” Cove – KFAN Minneapolis – Few brands have delivered better than KFAN in Minneapolis. Paul Allen, Dan Barreiro and The Common Man receive most of the credit for it, however discounting Cory and the morning show’s contributions would be a big mistake. Afterall, the program just hit #1 in the market last week!

“Sludge” as he’s affectionately known to Minneapolis listeners, has a great sound, and is a big part of the popular morning show “The Power Trip“. For listeners who prefer a heavy sports focus, and deep level of discussion and analysis, this show won’t likely meet your expectations. In my opinion, it’s a program that wanders through the desert without a compass, and embraces every part of the journey.

The ingredients that make it special, are a heavy dose of guy-talk, laughter, unscripted conversations, and a little bit of sports. The show skews younger, incorporates a lot of funny audio clips, and offers a similar production value to what you’ll hear on top performing FM music morning shows.

Case in point, last week during the span of one hour, the show discussed the Minnesota Wild’s home opener, Madonna and Lady Gaga, Fantasy Football, the new Steve Jobs movie, the upcoming Vikings game, and the different styles of Republicans and Democrats.

You may read that last paragraph and ask “where is this show going“, and if you’re a person who’s used to listening to heavily formatted talk shows, this one may take some time to warm up to. I’m a big believer though in creating content that feels loose, and showcases what personalities do best, and the formula this show uses has registered with the audience, while putting the talent in position to showcase their best attributes.

From an individual standpoint, you can hear how much fun Cory has guiding the morning show. He interacts well with his crew, enjoys discussing all aspects of pop culture, politics, music, sports, and everyday issues, and has a strong ability to shift gears and keep the audience on their toes. He also has no problem presenting an opinion or generating a reaction.

A natural entertainer who’s been a big part of KFAN’s success, Cory earns my praise for the way he conducts the show, and for helping it establish its own identity in the Minneapolis market. To hear Cory’s show click here.

20-AJHAJ Hoffman – 97.5 ESPN Houston – One of the first things I noticed when listening to AJ’s show with Fred Faour was the production value. It’s excellent. Tons of sound, actualities, current and high energy rock music beds, and it all compliments AJ’s style perfectly. With the show on FM (ESPN 97.5) and competing against two familiar AM brands, there’s a big commitment to the presentation and it works. You often hear the term “Old School Meets New School” in the sports radio format, and Fred and AJ are a great example of that dynamic working well.

What I like about AJ as a talent is that he’s very authoritative, energetic, and unfiltered. His background as an MMA fighter probably factors into that. Last week for example he questioned whether or not Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien was good at his job, and if he deserved the same type of venom from Texas sports fans that Charlie Strong was receiving.

I’ve also heard AJ call out other media personalities who he believes mail in their performance. He’s gone on record and stated that he feels Jim Rome relies on the same tired shtick and needs to modify his material, and whether you agree with him or not, there’s no disputing where he stands, and he doesn’t back down.

AJ also brings a good sense of humor to the airwaves, and looks for opportunities to create laughter on the show. His chemistry with his partner is very strong too. I find myself immersed in the content when he’s delivering his opinions because they’re easy to follow, and delivered with conviction. To hear some of AJ’s work on ESPN 97.5 click here.

20-AnthonySAnthony Stalter – 101 ESPN St. Louis – When you’re working for a successful brand that features Bernie Miklasz, Chris Duncan, Randy Karraker, D’Marco Farr, and Kevin Wheeler, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Make no mistake about it though, Anthony is an intracle part of the station’s success.

Having started with the station as a Producer of the afternoon show, Program Director Chris “Hoss” Neupert saw on-air ability in Anthony early on. When the station lost midday host Bernie Miklasz in 2013 (he’s since returned to host morning drive), filling his void was no easy task. Neupert took a gamble, and moved Duncan off of the afternoon show, and gave Stalter his on-air shot as his partner, and two years later the pairing has paid off.

When you listen to Anthony, you take away a number of things. First, he has an excellent voice, and sets the tone for the program. Second, he has a great sense of what the local audience is interested in, and he leads Chris into good situations.

You’ll also hear someone who takes his preparation seriously. That serves him well when discussing baseball topics with Chris. Sometimes it can be difficult for a radio guy to feel confident when they’re sitting across from a partner who’s played the game at the highest level, but Chris values Anthony’s assessments, and that helps build his credibility with the audience.

Anthony understands when to start the content with his own opinion, and push Dunc to respond, but also when to sit back, and let Chris take over. The energy on the show is high, and there’s no shortage of self-deprecation when they screw something up. Because they share a mutual love and interest talking about sports, and their ages aren’t far apart, they connect as a team, and have a lot of fun on the air. To hear Anthony’s show click here.

20-ChrisKChris Kroeger – 610 The Fan Charlotte – When you listen to Chris, you may come away with the opinion that he’s a homer for his local teams, and that’s ok because he admits that he is. The word “we” comes up often when he’s discussing his local teams, and quite frankly, I like that. If you listen to him, you’ll recognize quickly how invested he is in the market’s local teams.

At only 28 years old, Chris is still coming into his own as a personality, but what he’s put together so far is extremely impressive. His energy, enthusiasm, and relatability are easy to detect, and with the show’s format featuring different contributors, he shows he can be a chameleon and adapt to any situation.

In listening to the banter last week between Chris and Mushin Muhammad, you can tell he appreciates the position he’s in, and works hard to pull out great material from those who contribute to the program.

If you’re looking for a talk show host fueled by negativity, Chris won’t be your cup of tea. He looks to present an informative conversation built around finding solutions, and a show that highlights the connection between the host, its guests, and the audience. The pace is fast, his command of the program is strong and easy to follow, and his discussions with his guests are extended and provide great engaged listening.

I also hear a lot of sound utilized during the show. One particular skill Chris possesses is an ability to react well off of it. He uses audio to set up his points and create emotional responses, and when executed that way, it can pay great dividends. To hear Chris’ show click here.

20-JonathanZJonathan Zaslow – 790 The Ticket Miami – If I could only use one word to describe Jonathan, it would be entertaining! His pairing with Joy Taylor on 790 The Ticket makes for a great listen, and one of the best parts of their show is how willing and comfortable each of them are with putting their lives on display for the audience.

Zaslow will attempt voices when the moment calls for it, he’s been hypnotized on the air, and one of the show’s staples, “The wheel of humiliation” puts members of the show in a position to pay the price if they pick NFL games poorly. A few weeks ago Dan Le Batard and Stugotz asked for permission to steal the bit and use it with their national audience, and Jonathan demonstrated in that moment that he can deliver some bite too.

What I like most about his style is that he has fun, great energy, a strong rapport with his crew, and there are no restrictions on what he’ll discuss. He can get into a detailed conversation about the problems with the Heat, or venture into an area that causes your jaw to drop.

For example, yesterday morning he talked about his preference for candle wax over a tickle feather inside the dungeon at his home. Does he really have one? Is he saying something for effect? Perhaps, but it led to some very funny conversation between himself, Joy, and Brett Romberg, and that ability to keep the audience guessing is a real strength.

If you’re commuting to work in Miami, and looking to laugh and learn a little about sports and the characters involved on the morning show, you’ll love what Jonathan brings to the table. The show cares about the local teams, is comfortable in any setting, lets creative content evolve organically, and each member of the show cares about connecting with the audience. To hear Jonathan’s show click here.

20-AaronGAaron Goldhammer – ESPN 850 WKNR Cleveland – Aaron has been a fixture of the Cleveland sports scene for close to ten years, and his passion, sense of humor, and sarcasm, serve him well in connecting with his audience on WKNR.

He got his start, and developed his personality by working with one of Cleveland’s best personalities Tony Rizzo, and since leaving Rizzo’s show, he’s more than held his own as host of “The Golden Boyz” with Emmett Golden.

It won’t take you long to notice Aaron taking command of the room when he hosts his program. He’s a high volume, and high energy type of talent, and that’s a great fit in a passionate market such as Cleveland. He’ll intertwine sports and pop culture when opportunities arise, and Aaron won’t hesitate to take the audience behind the curtain and give them a sense of the chaos that unfolds with the staff each day.

The music on the program skews younger, and there’s a heavy content focus on Cleveland sports, which is presented with a “pray for the best, but prepare for the worst” type of mindset. That plays right into the emotional spirit of the local fan base and who he is as a local talent. To hear Aaron’s show click here.

20-DougFDoug Franz – Arizona Sports 98.7FM – There are few local market shows that have enjoyed the longevity, and success that “Doug and Wolf” have in Phoenix. While Ron Wolfley possesses a big personality, and is one of the most entertaining people I’ve listened to in the format, Doug is an exceptional broadcaster who’s skill can be overlooked if you don’t pay attention.

There’s an art to pulling out the best material from an authentic talent like Wolfley, and Franz does it very well. He’s shown over the years that he’s not afraid to stand up and assert his own voice, but he also realizes that getting Wolf going is critical to the show’s success.

I’ve noticed over the years a growing confidence in Doug to assert himself, and start conversations with his own opinion and put Wolf in the reactor position. Early on in the show’s history, there was a bigger focus in getting Wolf’s opinion first, and reacting off of him. That shows growth, trust and understanding in Doug and Wolf’s relationship.

Another area where I’ve seen Doug improve is with his ability to present himself as the expert. He’s done a great job sharing the insight he gains from working on the sidelines during football games, and there was no better example than this past Monday when the show discussed Steve Sarkisian’s alcohol issues. Hearing Doug offer a firsthand account of what he witnessed during the game while working on the sidelines was must listen radio.

Equally deserving credit are his topic selection, pacing, and preparation. On Monday’s show for example, I listened for a full hour and during that period, three quarters of the content revolved around the Arizona Cardinals. There were plenty of other selections to choose from, but instead they played the hits and provided the content that had the largest audience appeal. When hosts approach their segments with the listener’s best interest in mind, they usually win, and Doug and Wolf have done a lot of it. To hear Doug’s show click here.

20-ChrisVChris Vernon – 92.9 ESPN Memphis – Originally from St. Louis, Chris has been a fixture on the Memphis airwaves since 2004. I became aware of him when I started working in Missouri in 2006. Three years later when I was building 101 ESPN, he was one of the first people I reached out to about possibly joining the radio station.

While that situation didn’t materialize, one of the biggest reasons I was interested is because he always sounds like he’s having fun. Chris has an infectious energy, genuine interest in sports, presents himself as the voice of the local sports fan, and his interviews with high profile guests often sound like conversations between two friends.

A good example of this is when Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace appears on his program. While some shows spend 10-12 minutes with a guest, hit the important stuff and then move on, Chris won’t hesitate to keep a guest for 30-40 minutes if they’re interesting. His chats with Wallace often run longer, and never feel fatiguing.

If there’s another area of his game that stands out, it’s his understanding and willingness to embrace the responsibility of working with clients and helping them earn business. This comes from having worn multiple hats and performed as an on-air talent, and sales person. Personalities who’ve done both jobs develop an appreciation for how difficult it is, and they usually do a better job on the air with helping clients experience success.

I find that Chris is more likely to inform and entertain than divide an audience with his opinions, and he likes to use music throughout the show to add flavor to it. You’ll also hear produced pieces utilized when guests appear, which I think adds a nice touch. To hear Chris’ show on 92.9 ESPN click here.

20-GrantPGrant Paulsen – 106.7 The Fan Washington DC – In sports radio circles outside of Washington DC, Grant is still an unknown commodity, but he might be familiar to you if you were a viewer of the David Letterman Show. As a child, Grant contributed to the late night program, and while that made him familiar to national audiences, it’s the work he’s doing now with Danny Rouhier on 106.7 The Fan that I’m most impressed by.

First, he comes across on the air as a very likeable personality. He’s emotionally invested in the local market’s teams, and his preparation and ability to provide you with something you didn’t know is very strong. As the point guard of the show, he navigates the program smoothly, and keeps a good steady pace. I also enjoy the chemistry that exists between him and Danny.

What I’m even more impressed by is how easy he makes it for the audience to tune in and follow along. His teasing is fantastic, but his ability to pay it off is even stronger. Nothing frustrates audiences more, than sitting through commercials to hear a host provide an answer to something they teased, only to not receive what they were promised.

On Tuesday for example Grant referenced the situation in NY where a caller cried on Mike Francesa’s show. He promised to play the audio, and offer his and Danny’s thoughts on the last time sports made them cry. When the show returned from break, Grant immediately reset the story, played the audio, and discussed the Jeffrey Maier incident during the Yankees-Orioles playoff game in 1996, and how it made them both emotional. They then gave a few more examples, and asked the audience to share their stories, and the result was ten good minutes of radio. The following segment led in with Faith Hill’s “Cry” which demonstrated that the production team is in sync with the hosts, and have a great sense of how to use music, and sound to compliment the content.

While these things may not seem like a big deal to some, it’s that type of execution, and entertainment value that keeps shows winning. When great ability and chemistry are combined with a smart approach to creating good radio, good results follow. To hear Grant’s show click here.

20-ChrisMChris Mueller – 93.7 The Fan Pittsburgh – In 2008 Chris won a competition called “Top Fan” on the now defunct “ESPN 1250” which gave him his radio break. 7 years later, he’s taken hold of afternoon drive on 93.7 The Fan with Joe Starkey, and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Don’t let the youthful photo fool you. While Chris still has his best years ahead of him, when you tune into his program, he sounds like an experienced pro. He’s got a very strong delivery, and presence, and is well spoken. He lives and breathes Pittsburgh sports, and puts a heavy emphasis on Steelers content which shows he’s in tune with what moves the audience most.

The Starkey and Mueller show comes across as a program which has been together for years, yet has only been in place since February 2013. When you single out Chris, you hear a confident personality who is quick on his feet, brash, unapologetic, and asks the questions that local fans are thinking about. While Starkey may be one of the best and most respected sports figures in the market, Chris doesn’t let that stop him from establishing his own voice.

His opinions often produce the largest response, his energy is excellent, and his emotional connection to the local teams serve him well and are a big reason why The Fan’s future remains very bright. To hear Chris’ show click here.

brentBrent Dougherty – 104.5 The Zone Nashville – A little known fact is that The Zone in Nashville is one of the highest rated sports stations in the country. The afternoon show 3HL (Three Hour Lunch) which is hosted by Brent Dougherty, Mickey Ryan, and former NFL defensive back Blaine Bishop, is a big reason for it.

What makes it work is the comradery that exists between the three personalities. Ryan joined the mix only thirteen months ago, and prior to his arrival, the multi-talented Clay Travis was part of the program for five years. Regardless of the talent mix, the show has moved along like a freight train and continued to dominate the market.

Although he could pat himself on the back for what the show has accomplished, that’s not how Brent operates. On one of his profiles he states that the daily goal for 3HL is to make sure it is the most fun, fast paced, highly interactive, opinion driven and creative sports talk radio show possible. If you listen to it, you can hear it check those boxes pretty frequently.

Despite the program offering three distinct personalities, Brent does a few specific things to stand out. First, he’s been blessed with an incredible set of pipes. His voice is full and helps him distinguish himself on the show.

Second, he does a really good job of interacting with his partners, and callers, and his warm personality makes him easy to listen to. He presents subjects that suit the audience’s interests, and Blaine and Mickey trust, and follow his lead, especially during interviews.

As it relates to conversations with guests, he asks good questions, and treats those who appear on the show with respect, and makes them feel comfortable. They in turn provide him with good information. I heard three different examples of this working to perfection.

He had Michelle Beadle explain why she wanted to appear on Sharknado. He led Ernest Byner into talking like a pirate, and he got Charissa Thompson to fire a few friendly jabs at former partner Clay Travis, and express her appreciation for Eddie George’s male model looks.

While the show performs well because of the trio, it’s clear that Brent is the engine that moves it along. His influence and ability to direct the show expertly are a big reason for its success. To hear Brent’s show click here.

20-DannyPDanny Parkins – 610 Sports Kansas City – I first became aware of Danny when he was hosting his own program in Syracuse, NY and I describe him as one of those talents who is wise beyond his years. Paired with Carrington “CDot” Harrison on 610 Sports in Kansas City, the duo have an infectious energy and passion that has catapulted their program to the top of the ratings in afternoon drive.

When you listen to him, you can hear a talent who has a great handle on how to run a show. He’s focused with his opinions, and delivers them with confidence, but doesn’t belabor his points. He presents content that has the largest appeal to the local audience, and finds different ways to approach topics and keep himself and his partner engaged. He’ll use additional evidence to help defend his positions, but isn’t afraid to acknowledge when he’s wrong, and make fun of himself.

For example, I caught the opening thirty minutes of the show yesterday to hear how local fans were reacting the day after the Royals knocked off the Astros and advanced to the ALCS. From the opening production piece (which was absolutely brilliant) assembled by producer Ben Heisler, to the opening conversation between Danny and Carrington about how wrong they were about Johnny Cueto, it was some of the best content available in the format, period! If you have fifteen minutes to spare, go take a listen for yourself. Here’s the link.

What I enjoy and appreciate about Danny is how seriously he treats his position. I hear resets inside the content, teases to leave the audience pondering the answer, and a solid understanding of how to get the best out his partner, while still getting his own touches. When you add in the fact that he’s originally from Chicago but has embraced the local market, and made it his own, you can see why he’s had success. To hear Danny’s show click here.

20-MichaelGMichael Grady – The Fan Indianapolis – He’s the public-address announcer for the Indiana Pacers, but his soothing tones on Emmis’ Indianapolis sports station “The Fan”, are where he’s making his biggest impact.

What’s impressive about Michael, is that he’s still under thirty years old, yet sounds mature beyond his years. He’s a guy who has paid his dues behind the scenes before getting his on-air shot alongside former NFL player Joe Staysniak, but if you listen to him host his show, you’ll recognize quickly that he was born to be on a microphone.

What I love about Michael is how smooth and upbeat he sounds when hosting his program. He has this certain swagger with his delivery that jumps through the speakers, and he comes across as a likeable and approachable human being. He’s respectful when interacting with his partner and high profile sports figures, but firm when necessary. That approach carries over to the way he interacts with his callers too

One of my favorite segments is when former NFL and College Football Coach Rick Venturi stops by. Rick is a savant when it comes to the subject of football, and Michael does an excellent job of asking good questions, and knowing when to push for more. Their rapport is strong, and I’m sure it leads to an increase in local listening.

When you combine those traits with strong knowledge and a deep passion for Indianapolis sports, you have a winning combination. To hear Michael’s show click here.

20-GuyHGuy Haberman – 95.7 The Game San Francisco – I may be a little biased here because I discovered Guy in Fresno, and hired him at 95.7 The Game, but I believe he’s an incredible talent who’s just starting to hit the prime of his career.

When I scouted him in Fresno I was drawn in by his preparation, maturity, likeability, and polished presentation. My initial reaction was that I was listening to a young Dan Patrick. At that time, Guy was 27, and had only been on the air as a host for a few years, but he sounded as if he’d been doing the job for 10-12 years. I brought him into San Francisco to host evenings, and his skill and work ethic have since led him into middays, pre/post on Sacramento Kings games on Comcast television, play by play for the Pac-12 Network, and play by play duties on Oakland Athletics broadcasts.

What I think makes Guy a special talent on the air, is that he doesn’t talk down to the audience, and his love for sports is genuine and comes across in everything he does. It doesn’t matter what sport is on television and which team’s are playing. If an athletic competition is taking place, he’s likely to watch it and take something away from the experience.

His chemistry and friendship with his on-air partner John Middlekauff also can’t be taught. Their connection off the air is even stronger than the one they share on the air, and that friendship, and understanding of each other is a big reason why the show has gone as high as #1 in the ratings.

Overall you’ll find excellent content selection, good interviews, a smart and informed sports conversation, and a good positive vibe when you listen to him. To hear Guy’s show click here.

gbag2015Gavin Dawson – 105.3 The Fan – Without a doubt, Gavin is one of the most polished and smooth lead hosts anywhere in the country. He carries the moniker “The General” which perfectly describes his role on the show. You can listen minute by minute and feel the program moving into interesting content areas, and that’s often the result of Gavin’s decision making.

Keep in mind, he drives this show for five hours, and has to control it while working with a large cast. The show includes Chris Arnold, Mike Bacsik, and Jeff Cavanaugh, and Gavin won’t hesitate to pull in other cast members if he feels they can add something of value to the show.

I think the crew do an incredible job of picking their spots, avoiding stepping on each other, and allowing the flow of the conversation to develop. There seems to be a mindset of “we” rather than “me” which is important. I noticed that each host gets their touches, and when they do, the interjections are delivered in short bursts. This keeps the content moving, and prevents the program from becoming fatiguing.

One of Gavin’s best attributes is his ability to decipher when the show needs an in-depth discussion on a serious sports issue, and when a couple of laughs are necessary. As a radio lifer, I respect how committed he is to executing the formatics, and how prepared he is heading in and out of his breaks. For example, I listened on October 1st, and during the final hour of the show, these were his teases:

  • Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t want one of “those” when he retires…we’ll explain next!
  • It’s been a couple of weeks but next it’s time for letters from prison with Jeff Cavanaugh
  • There’s a TMZ story about Dez Bryan’t finances that you’re going to want to hear about

In each situation, he never gave away the answer and kept the audience curious. Then when the program returned from its commercial breaks, they dove into the story within 2-3 seconds. The only time it didn’t occur was during the last segment when Gavin explained that the Dez Bryant story would be covered, but first they needed to call an audible and deal with a breaking news story surrounding a mass shooting at a college in Oregon.

In listening to Gavin’s approach, topic selections, and mixture of proving serious sports talk and light hearted entertainment, it’s no surprise the show has taken the lead in middays in the Dallas market. To hear Gavin’s show click here.

OTHER HOSTS WORTH SAMPLING:

  • Ronnie Lane – 620 WDAE, Tampa, FL
  • Nick Bahe – 1620 The Zone, Omaha, NE
  • Cecil Lammey – 105.5 ESPN, Denver, CO
  • Rob Long – 105.7 The Fan, Baltimore, MD
  • Brent Axe – ESPN Syracuse, Syracuse, NY
  • Mark Zinno – 92.9 The Game, Atlanta, GA
  • Cam Cleeland – 1080 The Fan, Portland, OR
  • Phil Mackey – 1500 ESPN, Minneapolis, MN
  • Matt Moscona – 104.5 ESPN, Baton Rouge, LA
  • Anthony Rothman – 97.1 The Fan, Columbus, OH
  • Matt Jones – Kentucky Sports Radio, Lexington, KY
  • Mike Meltser – Sports Radio 610 KILT, Houston, TX
  • Carrington Harrison – 610 Sports, Kansas City, MO
  • Gordon Monson – 1280 The Zone, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Joe Fortenbaugh – 95.7 The Game, San Francisco, CA

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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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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