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The Talkers’ Heavy Hundred Misses The Mark

Jason Barrett

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On Thursday, Talker’s released its 4th annual Heavy Hundred of Sports Talk Radio, and as you’d expect it’s creating a lot of noise. Lists are very effective in terms of generating debate and discussion. When the focus becomes sports radio personalities and radio stations, that stirs even more emotion. Having created a few pieces like this myself, I know how subjective these things can be. So I recognize how difficult this project can be for the Talkers crew.

talkersTo assemble a piece like this and generate buzz is very easy. It’s the evidence though that supports each decision that determines if the list carries any weight. The outlet behind the piece also is important. There’s no question that Talkers has been a reputable source for talk radio for a long time. That’s why the “Heavy Hundred” creates interest throughout our industry. People in radio want to feel like their work is being recognized and measured by those who understand the challenges of doing it. Not by those who are uninformed or wearing rose colored glasses.

When I clicked on the link yesterday to review the list, I hoped to be pleased with the final result. I wanted to believe that quality research was done to showcase the industry’s best but once again I was left with more questions than answers. There also seems to be a bias directed towards certain shows, stations, and cities.

On Wednesday, Talkers posted on their website what some of their criteria was for the “Heavy Hundred”. They stressed that the final results are admittedly subjective and a number of factors determine who makes the cut. Which qualities mattered most though was not clear.

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I thought it was worth researching to find out which criteria was most important and if the decision making was done in collaboration with different radio companies and programmers or if it was done independently. Many stations and industry professionals have been led to believe that there is a group of industry executives determining these results.

I started my investigation by reaching out to more than 50 Program Directors and Corporate Executives. I asked them how involved they were in sharing feedback with Talkers for their process. Only one Program Director said they had shared their input with the company. Whether Talkers asked for it or even considered it is unknown.

Next, I reached out to Talkers to get an idea of how they handle the process. The three questions I posed were:

  • Who takes part in the selection committee for deciding the Top 100? (Are they strictly folks from the magazine/website or are managers from different radio groups included)
  • Which factors matter the most in determining where you slot a show? (Ex: Ratings, Revenue, Market size, Longevity, etc.)
  • If ratings are taken into account, are you looking at 6+, 12+ or the format’s key demo Men 25-54?

harrisonMichael Harrison, the company’s Editor and Publisher, didn’t address the questions directly but he did offer the publication’s perspective. He said “putting this list together is based on as much art and subjectivity as it is objective and empirical. In other words, this is not an “official” PPM-style ratings project based on a hard methodology – but rather, an impression based on a combination of information and opinions and that’s the way we want it to stay. Lists like this are thought-stimulators and not to be taken TOO seriously.”

What Michael said in his last line is very important to be aware of. The list is meant to be a fun, thought provoking piece, that highlights the best in the format through the eyes and ears of the editors at Talkers Magazine. It’s not industry involved by design and whether a show finishes 1st or 100th, simply earning recognition from an industry resource like Talkers should make a talent and radio station feel good.

But therein lies the issue. Talkers has done a great job at building a brand that the radio industry values. They have a larger responsibility to showcase the industry properly. A fun subjective list that’s not to be taken seriously is something we should expect from our friends on Facebook. Not from one of the radio industry’s leading publications.

Yesterday after the list was released, I received five different press releases from radio stations pumping up their people who were on the “Heavy Hundred”. That tells me that the industry takes this list very seriously. One particular quote stood out. David Dickey with 680 The Fan in Atlanta said “We are thrilled that experts in the sports industry recognize The Fan as the most credible and most consumed sports station in Atlanta, airing some of the best sports-talk shows in the country”.

There’s one problem with that quote. Experts in the sports industry did NOT participate in this project. It was done independently by the editors at Talkers.

Being a former Program Director who studies this format as intently as I do, there are a couple of issues I believe need to be addressed. Most of the Talkers group are based on the East Coast. Call me cynical but I don’t believe they are listening to sports stations in the South, Midwest, or West Coast on a regular basis. Nor do I believe they are in tune with how impactful, successful or not successful, some of those brands and personalities are.

nielsenI also know that gaining access to a station’s ratings and revenue is very difficult. Especially when you take into account that the key demo for the format (Men 25-54) isn’t made available to the public. You can dissect 6+ and 12+ numbers but those are not what accurately reflect a sports station’s performance. You can also see total revenue for a brand but that doesn’t tell you which personalities bring in the dough and which ones don’t.

As I analyzed the list, my initial impression is that many of the shows selected were chosen based on reputation of brand and longevity of show. I don’t believe ratings and revenue factored heavily into the equation as previously suggested. It feels more to me like “The Reputation 100” than a review of the best of 2015.

One other thing that I noticed that is very troublesome is that this list rarely changes. There’s no way in the world of radio ratings and revenue (where things change constantly) that you’re going to convince me that these shows have produced the same for the past 3 years. The only time you’ll see major changes are when shows no longer exist or guys who recently started with a station are lower one year and higher the next. Take some time and look at the lists for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. You’ll see a lot of the same results. Here is some photo evidence.

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A few years ago one of my shows made this list and at that time the program had been on the air less than six months and was rated 17th in the market. Another show on my station which didn’t make the list, had spent 2-3 years together and was consistently rated in the Top 5. They were also our highest generating revenue program. I wasn’t asked nor was my General Manager for any information about our station or personalities ratings or revenue.

While that was then, let’s take a look at now.

damonbruceIn San Francisco, Damon Bruce not only generates revenue for 95.7 The Game, but he’s been a Top 5 rated program throughout the past year. If you’re a Top 5 performer in the 4th largest market in America, how can you not be included as one of the industry’s Top 100?

Talkers also said that in addition to ratings and revenue, a few other criteria were important. They included “effort, courage, uniqueness, recognition, impact and doing a show at the time of the list’s release”. Once again, Damon checks all of those boxes. So does Greg Papa and John Lund who work at the same station and have been in the Top 5 for the past 3 years and just finished #1 in October.

But that’s my former radio station so clearly I’m biased right? Well let’s switch coasts then.

Mark Madden does afternoons on 105.9 The X in Pittsburgh. He’s not on a full-time sports station, but he hosts a sports talk show for 4 hours a day in afternoon drive and delivers HUGE double digit ratings and revenue. He also possesses many of the attributes that Talkers said were important. He too though is not on the list. Three of the market’s shows on 93.7 The Fan made the list (deservingly so) so that eliminates any argument about the market being smaller.

innes12Staying in Pennsylvania, Josh Innes hosts afternoon drive on WIP in Philadelphia. He started in that slot in February with Tony Bruno and quickly the show was leading the afternoon ratings battle against Mike Missanelli who’s ranked 15th on the Talkers list. Bruno left the show in July which many thought would hurt the show. But WIP never lost momentum. Innes continued to win afternoons with a new crew.

If I were to ask Andy Bloom who runs WIP, I’m sure he’d tell me their station is making a lot of money by finishing in the top spot in Philadelphia. If Innes is winning in afternoons, and doing so with two different versions of his program during the past calendar year, that should only further help his standing right? Nope. He’s rated 49th.

Missanelli is an exceptional talent and deserves to be in the Top 15. That’s not the issue. A host who’s on a heritage brand and in the same conversation for afternoon ratings and providing many of the qualities that the publication said were necessary shouldn’t be 34 spots away.

That same issue exists in Chicago where Waddle & Silvy (58th) on ESPN 1000 have won multiple months against Boers and Bernstein (18th) on The Score and in Kansas City where “The Drive” with Danny Parkins and Carrington “CDot” Harrison aren’t even on the list, despite doing a great show and leading the ratings against Kevin Keitzman (42nd) from WHB. How Michael Kay of 98.7 ESPN New York is relegated to 56th (third year in a row 55th or 56th) is another head scratcher.

1053Moving south to Dallas, G-Bag Nation airs on 105.3 The Fan and is an incredible program. It beats The Ticket and ESPN 103.3 in middays and is often The Fan’s highest rated show. But once again, the show isn’t on the list. Their competitors who they beat consistently each month are. Norm Hitzges and Donovan Lewis from The Ticket are 79th and Steve Dennis and Mark Friedman are 83rd.

Ben & Skin (who are a really good show) work on the same station as G-Bag Nation and they finished 43rd despite delivering the same or lower numbers than the midday show. If G-Bag Nation produces the top ratings on their station, and beats the two shows (Hitzges & Lewis and Dennis & Friedo) that they line up against, then how are they left out?

Finally, I don’t need ratings evidence, only a good set of ears to know that Bomani Jones, Adam Schein and Dan Dakich are three of America’s best on-air talents. There’s no defense for them not being included. They are way too good to be left off.

In the grand scheme of things, this is only a list. We’re not dealing with a life threatening illness. But shouldn’t we expect some transparency when it involves voting on our entire industry? Is that too much to expect?

aiI remember when sports media people voted for MVP awards and made terrible decisions but couldn’t be held accountable because we didn’t know how they voted. Then two specific situations occurred and it’s been very different since. Fred Hickman voted for Allen Iverson as MVP over Shaq in 2000 and Keith Law placed Javier Vasquez above Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter in the 2009 NL Cy Young voting. Both men received a ton of backlash for their selections and with social media a major part of people’s lives now and accountability being important to the general public, it’s much harder to place a vote and hide.

What frustrates me most is that people in our format really do care about this. They want to be measured fairly and some checks and balances would go a long way towards getting it right. Furthermore, there are stations using this information in local marketplaces to create confusion and present a false narrative for their brands and personalities. It’s similar to when a radio station runs a promo touting itself as America’s #1 sports station, when the truth is that they’re not even rated #1 in their own market. Just because you say something is factual doesn’t mean that it actually is.

The last part I want to draw attention to is SiriusXM. I recognize that the focus of this type of list is going to be on ‘terrestrial’ radio but if we’re identifying the Top 100 sports hosts in America, then shouldn’t they be included? Stephen A. Smith, Evan Cohen and Mark Packer aren’t good enough to make the Top 100? Chris Russo, despite having an entire channel named after him is only the 35th most important? Really?

JBRadioInkIn talking to a number of Program Directors, they’re disappointed because they’re not asked about their shows and stations and they feel that Talkers aren’t privy to key information. I’ve often wondered why Program Directors weren’t interviewed as part of this process. Why consultants like Rick Scott, Tom Bigby and myself who follow the format nationwide and interact with stations and personalities aren’t asked to share a perspective. Why executives like Bruce Gilbert and Scott Masteller weren’t asked for feedback when they operated ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio and had regular communication with local stations across the country.

I’d think that Program Directors, Consultants, and Executives like Bruce, Mark Chernoff and Mike Thomas at CBS, Steve Cohen with SiriusXM, and Don Martin with Premiere/Fox Sports could lend some extra insight and information that would be beneficial. Some will say that by talking to them they’ll be biased towards their own people and while that’s probably true, they still have information that’s important. I’m not suggesting they be part of the final decision making process. That should absolutely belong to Talkers. But without knowing key details about many of these stations, it leaves a lot of industry people feeling like the list is very skewed and not well researched.

hiremeIf you’re an On-Air talent and you made the list, be appreciative towards the folks at Talkers who have highlighted your show and clearly value your work. However, just because you made the list, doesn’t mean you deserve a raise or that you should start bombarding other Program Director’s for bigger jobs because you’ve clearly established yourself.

I had one talent reach out to me two years ago and explain why I needed to hire them. They told me that based on their ranking on the Talkers Top 100, it was clear that the entire industry knew they were a difference maker. This individual didn’t finish in the Top 30 so when I responded by asking them “why should I hire you over all of the other shows that finished ahead of you” they didn’t take too kindly to my sarcasm. Now knowing that the survey is done independently by Talkers and without the involvement of the top radio minds in America, that same person may want to craft their wording a little differently.

I’m glad Talkers does this piece each year to give our format and our people some exposure. I know it’s a very hard list to assemble and everyone involved at the publication has to view this project as a love/hate assignment. No matter what they put out, there’s going to be some disagreement with it. By not providing transparency though with their process it leaves them open to additional criticisms.

wfanFrom where I sit, I don’t think you can find much room to argue with the Top 15-20. Personalities like Mike Francesa, Boomer & Carton, Jim Rome, Colin Cowherd and Dan Patrick deserve to be high on the list. In many ways this list reminds me of the NFL Draft. You can identify who the top prospects are but after Round 1 it’s a crapshoot and the great organizations do their homework and strike gold, while others miss the mark and ultimately pay the price for it.

To those that made the list, congratulations. Whether you take it seriously or with a grain of salt, it’s a nice honor. The last thing I wanted to do was rain on Talkers parade but the process and research that goes into this should matter and industry people deserve to know who determines the results and what criteria matters most. Many assumed that top executives and programmers were involved in this process. But they’re not. They’ve also not been spoken to. If some additional conversation takes place, this list could become excellent and one that all groups look forward to being a part of.

For now though, the Talkers Heavy Hundred has become our Santa Claus. It started as a good idea that made us feel good inside, but the more we choose to believe in it, the more disappointed we become.

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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