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The Intersection of Content and Advertising

Jason Barrett

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In today’s rapidly changing world, sports media consumers are making it known that they want less interruptions during their programming experiences. The problem though, is that media companies make a large portion of their revenues in between the content.

For sports radio stations, commercials occupy 20-25% of an hour’s time. The only other format with similar numbers is News/Talk. And this doesn’t take into account the extra service elements, on-air mentions, and content sponsorships that invade the programming space.

businessBut despite heavy spot loads, and consistent complaints from listeners, sports talkers continue to enjoy successful ratings. Many deliver high revenues too. So it can’t be all that bad right?

Well, the question isn’t whether or not it’s a problem now, it’s “what will be acceptable in the future?”

Look at the issues that have plagued television over the past few years. Everyone thought it was impossible for TV to feel the sting but then the DVR was introduced. Companies then began to witness their commercials being bypassed in favor of content, making their investments in the programming less valuable and necessary.

Then came the boom of YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other viewing services which put an emphasis on ad-free content. You can watch a short video or full show with minimal interruption on these platforms. For people who are constantly on the go and searching for ways to buy back some of their free time, these type of products are very attractive.

cordNow television faces yet another obstacle as cord cutting has become the new trend. People have started switching to streaming services to watch programming because they can control which channels they receive and drastically reduce their costs. What was thought to be an unbreakable business, is now starting to show chinks in its armor.

For radio, the threat isn’t as scary because the medium itself isn’t as large as television. However, when you consider the way the inside of vehicles are being altered to support heavier digital listening, and you add in how people are listening more to audio through their phones, tablets and other supported devices, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that the future isn’t going to include five to six minute stop sets that fail to deliver audience or results.

Add to that the emergence of SiriusXM, who over the past decade have assembled a strong roster of high profile personalities, and present a very rich content experience with minimal disruptions. That approach combined with increased availability inside automobiles has helped the company grow its customer base to nearly 30 million, earning 510 million on 4.6 billion in revenue in 2015. SiriusXM’s stock price has also grown from $.12 cents in January 2009 to $3.70 in January 2016. It currently sits at $3.86.

podWhen you analyze the radio business, one of its more interesting dilemmas comes from the success of the podcasting platform. Although most in the industry agree that podcasts are beneficial for the listener and important for radio’s future, if you’re an advertiser paying to be on the radio station’s airwaves, how exactly does it benefit you when the show you sponsor over the air, eliminates your commercials during its digital presentation?

Let’s take that one step further. If you’re a listener who’s working an 8-10 hour day at your place of employment, why would you listen to a radio show for a full hour and sit through its sixteen minutes of commercials and another three to four minutes of forced service elements, when you could just download that exact hour of the show later when you get home and listen to it in only forty minutes?

The main reason they sit through it is because they’re confined inside their vehicles for a long duration of time and have limited digital listening opportunities. As the dashboard changes, the options will increase, and the pressure to adapt over the air will be magnified.

Radio station’s may be helping the user by providing excellent podcast broadcasts, but they’re also placing themselves at risk with clients by eliminating their commercials.

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But which one is right?

The answer is both.

The radio operator’s challenge is to get the audience to listen to their product and consume as much of it as humanly possible. The client’s responsibility is to create a message worth remembering, and air it during the radio station’s programming to try and create sales and awareness for their brand.

If the station is creative, they’ll develop programs which give the advertiser an opportunity to tap into the audience without getting in the way of the content. Whether that’s through ownership of the podcast player, owning the podcasting web page, live reads by the talent, or through some other digital element. If the goal of the client is to increase business and be viewed favorably by the audience, then they’ve got to trust the radio station to create situations that allow them to benefit.

However, podcasting does make it harder to infiltrate the area they’re most interested in being in. With opportunities inside the content very limited, the question becomes, can radio make enough money with limited sponsorship opportunities or will it bastardize the podcasting platform and hurt its own growth?

futureThis all boils down to the future and where sports media consumption is headed. We all recognize that digital is booming, television is facing its first setback in quite some time, and radio is stuck in neutral. This is why playing in digital circles is so vital for radio. If the opportunities for sponsorship in these locations are small, then what’s the real economic upside?

Despite those facts and challenges, the question that is going to continue to surface is, “how much will the audience pay to eliminate the distractions of advertisers from the content?” We see it happening with Netflix, Amazon and YouTube. The WWE also created their own network and I made the investment for my son who loves the product. If someone enjoys pro wrestling, the $10 per month is well worth it because the content value is exceptional and ad-free.

If you use Facebook (which the majority of the world does) and tomorrow Mark Zuckerberg decided he was going to charge $5 per month to use the service, are you going to tell me that you wouldn’t pay for it? Maybe you’re one of the people who won’t, but I bet you a large number of their users would. Why? Because they see value in the product.

rovellEarlier this week, Darren Rovell of ESPN spoke out about this very issue as it pertains to Twitter. Here’s what Rovell said about the platform and the idea of paying to use it.

Over the last couple of months, it has been extremely frustrating to watch Wall Street destroy Twitter. In dollars and cents, Twitter isn’t producing what Facebook and, Instagram, are doing at the cash register. So tonight, I’m going to start it all off.  I am going to agree to pay Twitter $100 a year. If I can get a bank account to put it in, I will do it right now. While the majority of Twitter users will not be willing to do the same, there are people who are in my camp and there are greater numbers who are at least willing to pay SOMETHING.

Rovell took a poll on the issue and received 15,000 responses. Of the responses, 64% said they wouldn’t pay. But, 36% were willing to. That’s with Twitter operating in its current form. Do you think that number might increase with a few upgrades? I think so.

When you have the user base that Twitter does, and 4 out of 10 people are willing to pay for your service, that’s what allows you to limit ads and keep your product content focused.

Which brings us back to radio.

adsThe reality is that advertising isn’t going to vanish anytime soon. But, the world is shifting and paying for ad-free content. That means radio has an opportunity to open itself up to other revenue possibilities. I’ve said this numerous times, few formats generate the amount of live content that sports talk does. It has mass appeal, can be consumed 24 hours per day, and is real time focused and locally driven.

What I see taking place all too often, is radio operating the same way it has for the past twenty to thirty years. If conversations aren’t happening right now to get out in front of where the world is headed, then once again our beloved business will be licking its wounds after taking another steel boot to the face.

I can’t tell you whether the world will accept five, ten or fifteen minutes of spots per hour in the future, but everything I see happening in other businesses shows me that the consumer wants more control and is willing to pay to eliminate disruptions to earn back some of their time.

Did you know, ad blocking services cost the ad industry 21.8 billion dollars in 2015? A report from PageFair and Adobe stated that 200 million monthly internet users used ad blockers on their browsers. That figure is expected to jump even higher due to Apple introducing ad blocking software for its Safari browser.

Why is that relevant? Because it shows you that people will go to great lengths to block out advertisers which interfere with their content experience.

abIncorporating sponsors into content is going to have to be done in organic fashion, much like the way Bill Simmons weaves them into his podcasts. That’s no different than Coca Cola paying Jimmy Fallon to put a can of soda on his desk during the Tonight Show, or Applebees forking over large dollars to be included in a scene of Will Ferrell’s “Talladega Nights”.

The approach is highly effective because it doesn’t halt the content for an extended period of time, the talent are more invested in the way the message is presented, and it makes the advertiser feel connected to the show. The audience also doesn’t consider it a big disruption and are more likely to support the client because they’re part of the program they enjoy.

If we think a successful future for radio is going to include fifteen to eighteen minutes of spots, two to three minutes of service elements, and additional content inclusion for advertisers who seek non-traditional revenue opportunities, then get ready for a future that involves a steep decline in listening and ad spending. If seven million people were willing to cut ties with the #1 sports brand in the world (ESPN) over the past three years, then don’t be surprised when they do the same to your brand if you fail to adjust.

researchI could go on a further tangent about the future, but let’s turn our attention to the present. To get a sense of how things are working in the current marketplace, I reached out to twenty two Program Directors across the country. I wanted to understand what they were providing in terms of total commercial minutes, unit counts, service elements, and over the air spots vs. online streaming commercials.

Keep in mind, some of these brands are having great success despite being saddled with a ton of inventory. That makes it a lot tougher of an argument for any station executive who’s bitching and moaning about the inventory time on their radio station. The measure of a brand’s success isn’t just reflected by ratings, it’s the bottom line too. Heck, the bottom line is what determines whether or not you’ll even be showing up to the office to try and achieve ratings. So I understand why some of these brands are operating the way they are presently.

What I don’t understand though, are why so many stations continue to clutter the airwaves with service elements. If your station is already stuck with 20-25 units and fifteen or more minutes of spots, and the audience is tuning in for your talent, then what’s the reason for adding extra roadblocks to deny them from your hosts? Are you running updates, traffic, weather, and stock reports because it’s what you’ve always done? Or because it was sponsored?

At what point, does the listener’s wishes get taken into account?

customerI’m a firm believer in answering one key question when it comes to adding sponsored elements – “what’s in it for the listener?” If the only response is that it’s good for the client, then that’s the wrong reason to put it on the radio station. In that case, find a way to redirect the client to something on the air where they’ll be more included without making it harder for the audience to continue listening.

Those who don’t know any better will tell you “we have to have this service element, it’s what the client wants” but as Steve Jobs once said, and I’ve used numerous times in previous columns, “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them“.

A good idea that can deliver results will always be attractive to a client. You have the product, and the platform where thousands are stopping by each day. It’s your job to use it to keep people listening longer, and take that increased listening to direct them to your business partners. Those who find a way to excel at content with limited interruptions, while satisfying the demands of the advertiser, will enjoy great success today, tomorrow and beyond.

growthBefore I jump into my research, I want to ask one question to those who are running companies and see the way the world is changing just as I do – what’s your plan to keep revenues high and your listenership growing while the demand for less commercial interruptions increases?”

YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes have figured out how to generate revenue by adopting a limited ad model, ESPN is jumping into the skinny bundle business to try to recoup some of the money it’s losing, and radio needs a remedy as well. I look forward to seeing how each group answers this challenge in the future.

Now, here are the questions I presented to twenty two sports radio Program Directors and the results of the study I conducted.

Commercial Minutes Per Hour on Your Radio Station:

  • Less Than 14 Minutes Per Hour = 2 (The lowest was 13 minutes)
  • 14 to 16 Minutes Per Hour = 19 (Twelve had 15 to 15:30 and Three of them expand to 17 when sales needs arise)
  • More than 16 Minutes Per Hour = 1 (One runs 18 minutes)

Commercial Unit Count Per Hour on Your Radio Station:

  • Under 20 = 1 (Fifteen was the number)
  • Between 20-25 = 6
  • Between 26-30 = 6
  • No Limit = 9

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*** I asked former CBS Radio CEO Dan Mason for his perspective on unit counts during a back and forth chat on Linkedin and he made a great point. He said “I’ve never believed in a unit count because I don’t think it’s possible that a listener will sit through all of the commercials. I’ve taken it as a time out of content is time out of content!”

I agree 100% with what Dan is saying. I used to get all caught up worrying whether or not the radio station was running twenty spots instead of twenty five, but when you step back and think about it, four minutes is four minutes, and no matter what you do during that time, a commercial is still a commercial to the listener. Chances are, they’re going to leave your radio station. The real question is, has your host put something in their head to think about during the break that makes them want to come back. If not, that’s your issue, not whether five or seven spots ran during the stopset. Even promos with better creative, count as commercials to the audience.

Number of Commercial Breaks Per Hour on Your Radio Station:

  • Three Breaks Per Hour = 11
  • Four Breaks Per Hour = 6
  • Mix of 3 to 4 Breaks based on different show clocks = 5

fan590*** If you listen to the advice of Nielsen, they suggest taking as few breaks as possible. In Toronto for example, The Fan 590 takes two breaks per hour. That means the audience is getting a lot more uninterrupted content. While The Fan does very well with that strategy, so do other stations in the states which use three to four breaks per hour. At one point Mike and Mike took five breaks per hour, and when I carried their show in St. Louis, they were in the Top 3 with that approach.

There is no perfect formula for how often a station should break. I can make a case to start an hour with forty five minutes of content and take one fifteen minute break but let’s be honest, is an advertiser going to spend their money to be heard during the eighth minute of a fifteen minute commercial break? Not a chance.

Whether you run three or four breaks per hour should come down to a myriad of factors.

First, who is the host and what type of pace do they provide? Are they slower and better at keeping the audience hanging on their every word? Or are they quick paced and tougher to endure for longer stretches? Some talent are built to deliver ten great minutes but when pushed to twenty minutes they become repetitive and start searching for direction. Others need time to set the scene and tell compelling stories, and when rushed through quick segments, it takes away their ability to do what they’re good at.

nielsenI believe you have to also consider how many meters are active each hour, when they’re using your radio station the most, and where you stand your best chances of keeping them on your airwaves for an extra quarter hour or two. Once you have those answers and you’ve analyzed the strengths of your talent, then you can make an informed decision on whether or not two, three, or four breaks per hour best fits your show.

One last suggestion on this subject, don’t be afraid to create different clocks for different shows. Some folks in your traffic and sales department may bitch because it makes their jobs more difficult, but the reality is this, you’re paid to drive ratings, and satisfy the audience. Whether Billy in Sales or Suzy in traffic like it or not, the listener comes first. Whatever has to be done to make their listening experience more enjoyable and longer, that’s what is best for the radio station. Decisions can’t be made because of objections down the hall. That’s the type of short sighted thinking that hurts your brand.

What Runs During Breaks on The Stream (Same Spots/Promos or Something Different):

  • Same Spots as Over The Air = 8
  • Different Spots and Created Pieces = 14

*** If we see digital dollars increasing, and streaming listening providing stronger returns for sports radio stations, then why not take advantage of it by offering it separately to advertisers? I understand it’s easier to run a full simulcast of the on-air product, but we are in the business of making money right? If sales has two options to sell, that’s certainly better than one, and it allows stations to set different price points for groups who wish to invest in their over the air product vs. their online product.

capI stumbled upon one group that I think is doing some great things in this space. Capitol Broadcasting in Raleigh allows only two clients to exclusively sponsor their stream on three of their properties (WCMC/WDNC/WCLY). They’ll give each client a :30 second produced spot, and a two-minute window to talk about their business, and then they complete their breaks with other local show promos, play by play promotion or classic moments sports vignettes. 

This strategy enables them to keep the stream cleaner, highlight two important businesses who have recognized the value of owning the radio station’s stream, and eliminate poorly produced PSA’s which almost always end up on radio station streams. They charge a premium for the sponsorship and that makes it easier for the sales team since they’re not under the gun to sell out fifteen to sixteen minutes of on-air and digital spots per hour. That said, whether a station allows two exclusive clients, three, or four, the point is, there’s money to be made online, and this is a smart way of doing it.

Created Elements That Air During Programming (Traffic, Weather, Stock, Ski, Sports Updates):

  • Sports Updates = 19
  • Traffic Reports = 10
  • Weather Reports = 7
  • Stock Reports = 3
  • Ski Reports = 1
  • Fishing Reports = 1
  • Trending Now = 2 (two more stations are switching soon from updates to trending now reports)
  • Team Reports = 1
  • CBS Sports Minutes = 3

*** Dan Mason who I mentioned earlier, wrote a great article on Linkedin about a small station he discovered in White Plains, NY. During the piece he praised the brand (107.1 The Peak in White Plains, NY) for their commitment to providing service elements. Mason said “the jocks ACTUALLY give the local weather and temperature. Imagine that. Major Market PD’s say listeners can get that from an app. Well, you better get that back on the radio or the listener will get it from an app permanently.”

masonThat makes a lot of sense to me. However, I also think that applies differently per format. In this particular example, Mason was talking about a music station and I agree that music brands should have more service elements and community focused benchmarks because the only way they can connect with local listeners is in between the songs.

But when it comes to sports talk, my opinion differs. First, sports talkers air A LOT more commercials than music brands. Secondly, they talk forty to forty-five minutes per hour. A sports listener tunes in for insight, information, entertainment value, opinion, interaction, interviews, etc. They’re not coming to a sports station for the endless amount of forced interruptions that get tossed their way during the course of a one hour commute.

I do understand the decision to provide traffic, especially in big markets. Most listeners deal with it daily and they’d rather not leave the radio station to find out which roadways to avoid. But even if I give you that one as a freebie, does the listener really need to know the weather, skiing conditions, and stock prices on a sports talker? They’re coming to you for sports talk, not those other elements.

scAsk yourself this, how has SportsCenter survived all of this time without them? Don’t tell me it’s different because it’s television. I built 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis without any of them and both prospered. As a matter of fact, we even imaged each station with liners that said “No Traffic and Weather Together, We Do Sports”. 

Taking that approach doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t mean it will work for your brand. But I’ve found that the audience is comfortable being fed sports content and they won’t object to receiving more of it. The only way they’re leaving is if they don’t like the personality who’s providing the content.

There are a number of things I’ve covered in this article and I hope much of it gets your wheels spinning. I think about the future of this industry daily, and I try to approach it with the understanding that ratings and revenue matter, but without brand loyalty and adapting to the needs of the audience, you’re left searching for water in the middle of the desert.

It’s clear that listeners wants more control and are going to further lengths to remove interruptions from their programming experiences. We’ve seen it evolve with SiriusXM, WWE Network, Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, and others. There’s no question that the model works IF you provide content and a platform worth investing in.

chargeBut let me be crystal clear, I’m not advocating that radio should start charging listeners for content. This platform isn’t built that way and if we started doing it tomorrow, I think we’d be in terrible shape.

However, if we’re going to dive deeper into podcasting, and look to limit and reduce the disruptions that exist on our airwaves in order to increase listener activity, then we’ve got to be a step ahead on how we’re going to monetize things better. It’s easy to suggest increasing rates, but unless we’re promising advertisers a higher return on investments, that’s going to be an uphill climb.

If there’s one big question that should be on the mind of everyone in this format and industry it’s, “how do we provide a heavier content experience, grow our bottom line, and still reduce our interruptions to better satisfy the needs of the audience“? The ones who figure that out, are going to be very successful in the future.

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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