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Creating Personal Connections Through Life and Sports

Jason Barrett



Building a bond with an audience takes a lot of hard work. Listeners tune into sports talk shows for different reasons, but anytime I’ve done research on an audience’s tastes, and the personalities I’ve managed, one thing has shown up in the results time and time again – listeners want to know everything they can about the individual they spend time listening to.

That means, they want to know what beer you drink, where you hang out, which movie you went to see this weekend, what your favorite restaurant is, who your family is and how you interact with them, and of course, what you think of the local teams and its best players.

Sports is the common denominator that brings a host and an audience together, but when real life gets sprinkled on top of it, that helps make a relationship special.

rickscottOne line often used by my good friend Rick Scott is “you want to be a guy on the radio talking sports, not a sports talk radio guy”. Simply put, sports may be the conversation starter and the focus of the show, but you’ve got to be willing to venture into other areas and share the life you live with those who listen to you.

If you’ve ever had the chance to tune in to a show like The Musers in Dallas, Toucher and Rich in Boston, the Sports Junkies in Washington D.C, or Papa and Lund in San Francisco, they all do that. When it’s time to talk sports, they can do it, but they also have no fear of sharing the intimate details of their lives. Those real life stories help the audience get to know them on a much deeper level, and when you can go beyond the box score and the latest news involving your local teams, it makes a bigger impact.

demetri2To add another perspective on this topic, I turned to Demetri Ravanos who is a part of the morning show with Mike Maniscalco and Lauren Brownlow on The Buzz in Raleigh, North Carolina. Demetri has worked in multiple formats, and taken notice of sports radio’s transformation from being a format led by X’s and O’s conversation, to personality driven stories and hard hitting opinions.

If you turn back twenty years ago, morning zoo shows on music stations were the big personality players in most local markets. Sports talk was a niche format with hosts who showcased their knowledge, and screamed about bad on the field decisions. Many of these programs talked at the audience not with them.

Fast forward to today, and while loud opinions are still a big focus, content often revolves around the lives of the on-air talent, and the stories in sports that occur outside the lines rather than inside of them. Demetri now explains why that’s a good thing for the audience, and those who are hosting sports talk radio shows today.

Creating Personal Connections Through Life and Sports

Every good host – no matter the format – thinks of himself as an entertainer. You’re not there to talk at people. You’re in front of that microphone to lead a conversation. The days of lecture based sports radio are, for the most part, over and it happens to coincide with an interesting time in rock radio.

ipodStations in male-skewing music demos are cutting back on talk time for their talented hosts in favor of getting in one more track from AC/DC or The Rolling Stones or Pearl Jam that we have all heard a million times. In my rock radio days, I had a PD that used to tell us “tell people the station sounds like their iPod” to which I would always answer “except with songs they hate too!”

Let’s face it. When it comes to music alone, radio will never be able to compete with an MP3 player or a streaming music service that offers the user total control.

That attitude and approach has created an opportunity for local sports talk hosts. Are you capable of replacing the local morning zoo show for men in their 30s and 40s? There is a balance you have to find between being funny and not losing credibility, between staying on the biggest news of the day and letting people into your personal life. The opportunity is definitely there for the host or team that understands their market.

kbThe goal of any show is to develop a relationship with your audience. If your show is just “what I listen to on the way to work” for the audience, you’re not doing enough. Social media and podcasting make it possible to become an integral part of the listener’s day. That’s what Howard Stern did. It’s what Kevin and Bean did. They did it before tools like Twitter and Facebook were available to them, so Lord knows it should be easier for you.

The Howard Stern’s and Kevin and Bean’s of the world are harder and harder to find in local radio. The initial overreaction to PPM technology resulted in ten to twelve minutes of talk time spread across three or four breaks an hour for most shows. Sure, a skilled broadcaster only needs about four minutes to tell a complete story, but it will never feel like a hang.

And that is where talk radio has the advantage. You have to hit hard outs for stop sets and at the top of the hour, but a talk radio host isn’t constrained by hitting the post on Def Leppard’s “Armageddon It.”

So what separates a sports talk host from other talk radio hosts?

rushListeners go to Rush Limbaugh (or the literally thousands of impersonators he has spawned) to talk politics. They want their political views reinforced or opposing views mocked.

Sports radio has the advantage of being friendlier in nature. A good segment should sound like a conversation at a bar or around a buddy’s grill. If you’re a host or a listener, you like sports. That’s safe to assume. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here.

So where do you go next?

The next step is to make them comfortable with you. Let them into your personal life. It doesn’t have to be intrusive. Mention what kind of beer you drink when you watch a game. If the listener shares your appreciation for that beer or despises it, you’ve caused an emotional reaction. Complain about the idiot buddy that texted you during halftime with what he thought was the perfect play to break the game wide open. That guy exists in your listener’s life too.

Using sports to create the small personal connections opens the door for the bigger ones. Opening up your life in a way that doesn’t burden the listener, but instead “invites them into your home” is how you go from “what I listen to on the way to work” to “a part of my daily routine.”

trump2How much “other stuff” can a sports show get away with? Well, I always tell my hosts that you have to remember people don’t just watch a game anymore. They watch a game while checking out movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, reading jokes on Twitter or reading relatives’ views on Donald Trump on Facebook. Clearly there’s room for you to talk about this stuff.

Now just figure out how much of that stuff is too much.

Easy right?

There are plenty of examples of hosts who have found a balance of sports and “other stuff” that works for them. Dan Le Batard, Petros and Money, and Toucher and Rich are the first shows that spring to mind. It not only fits, but has become a part of their brand. Others sound a little more awkward working in pop culture and personal stories. The key is knowing the boundaries of your element.

tmz2For instance, a visit with a TMZ staffer may work for a show on the West Coast, but won’t play the same in the South or the Midwest. A movie review segment may work the week Batman vs. Superman is released but have no impact at all the week Zootopia leads the new releases at the box office.

Follow the trends of pop culture in the market and never fake it. If you aren’t a drinker (and no one is paying you to do it), there is no reason to ever have a beer guy on the air. Listeners may not always know what a good radio show sounds like, but they can spot a phony from a mile away.

Howard Stern didn’t become Howard Stern by faking it. He didn’t gain legions of fans by pretending to be an expert on subjects he wasn’t interested in. That’s not how any sports talk host has made their name either.

On his first day on ESPN Radio Colin Cowherd told listeners “If you like football, you’re gonna love the show. If you like baseball, you may like the show a little less.” Honesty matters. Here was a guy taking his first steps onto a national stage and he laid out where his interests lie and how they would guide his show.

“Guys” are the listener’s friends. They have relationships with guys. “Sports guys” are just who they listen to talk about the game on the way to work. Think about your interests outside of the sports world. Talk openly and honestly about them when appropriate and listeners will start to think of you as a guy.

Barrett Blogs

California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett




With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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Barrett News Media To Gather The Industry in Nashville in September 2023

“I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.”

Jason Barrett




One of the best parts about working in the media business is that you’re afforded an opportunity to use your creativity, take risks, and learn if an audience or advertisers will support your ideas. Sometimes you hit a homerun, other times you strike out, but regardless of the outcome, you keep on swinging.

I’ve tried to do that since launching a digital publishing and radio consulting company in 2015. Fortunately, we’ve delivered more hits than misses.

When I added news media industry coverage to our brand in September 2020, I knew it’d be a huge undertaking. The news/talk format is two and a half times larger than sports, many of its brands are powered by national shows, and the content itself is more personal and divisive. I wanted our focus and attention on news media stories, not politics and news, and though there have been times when the lines got blurred, we’ve tried to be consistent in serving industry professionals relevant content .

What made the move into news media more challenging was that I’d spent less time in it. That meant it’d take longer to find the right writers, and it required putting more time into building relationships, trust, respect, and support. Though we still have more ground to cover, we’ve made nice strides. That was reflected by the participation we received when we rolled out the BNM Top 20 of 2022 the past two weeks. Hopefully you checked out the lists. Demetri Ravanos and I will be hosting a video chat today at 1pm ET on BNM’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and through Barrett Media’s YouTube page discussing the series, as well as this article.

It’s because of that growing support, trust, and confidence in what we’re doing that I’m taking a risk yet again. I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.

I am excited to share the news that Barrett News Media will host its first ever BNM Summit on Thursday September 14, 2023 in Nashville, TN. Our one-day conference will take place at Vanderbilt University’s Student Life Center Ballroom. The venue we’ve selected is tremendous and I’m eager to spend a day with news/talk professionals to examine ways to further grow the format and industry.

If you’re wondering why we chose Nashville, here’s why.

First, the city itself is awesome. The access to great restaurants, bars, entertainment, hotels, and famous landmarks is unlimited, and when you’re traveling to a city for a business conference, those things matter. Being in a city that’s easy for folks across the country to get to also doesn’t hurt.

Secondly, a conference is harder to pull off if you can’t involve successful on-air people in it. If you look at Nashville’s growth in the talk media space over the past decade, it’s remarkable. Many notable talents now live and broadcast locally, major brands have created a local footprint in the area, and that opens the door to future possibilities. I have no idea who we’ll include in the show, and I haven’t sent out one request yet because I wanted to keep this quiet until we were sure it made sense. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of interest in participating and I can’t promise we’ll be able to accommodate all requests but if you have interest in being involved, send an email to

Third, finding the right venue is always difficult. We looked at a bunch of great venues in Nashville during our vacation this past summer, and when we stepped on to the campus at Vanderbilt University and walked through the SLC Ballroom, we knew it was the right fit. It had the space we needed, the right tech support, access to private parking, a green room for guests, and it was within walking distance of a few hotels, restaurants, and the Parthenon.

As I went through the process of deciding if this event was right for BNM, a few folks I trust mentioned that by creating a Summit for news/media folks, it could create a competitive situation. I don’t see it that way. I view it as a responsibility. I think we need more people coming together to grow the industry rather than trying to tear each other down. I hear this far too often in radio. We worry about what one station is doing rather than strengthening our own brand and preparing to compete with all audio options.

For years I’ve attended conferences hosted by Radio Ink, NAB, Talkers, and Conclave. I’ve even spoken at a few and welcomed folks who operate in the consulting space to speak at my shows. I’ll continue to support those events, read various trade sites, and invite speakers who work in a similar field because they’re good people who care about helping the industry. I believe BNM and BSM add value to the media business through its websites and conferences, and though there may be a detractor or two, I’ll focus on why we’re doing this and who it’s for, and let the chips fall where they may.

I know juggling two conferences in one year is likely going to make me crazy at times, but I welcome the challenge. In the months ahead I’ll start lining up speakers, sponsors, building the conference website, and analyzing every detail to make sure we hold up our end of the bargain and deliver an informative and professionally beneficial event. The news/talk media industry is massive and making sure it stays healthy is critically important. I think we can play a small role in helping the business grow, and I look forward to finding out on September 14th in Nashville at Vanderbilt University.

Hope to see you there!

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Jimmy Powers, Raj Sharan, Matt Berger and John Goforth Added to 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

“BSM is having a special Holiday SALE this week. Individual tickets are reduced to $224.99 until Friday night December 23rd at 11:59pm ET.

Jason Barrett




In less than a hundred days, the BSM Summit will return to Los Angeles for two-days of networking, learning, laughing, and celebrating. The conference hasn’t been held on the west coast since 2019, and we’re looking forward to returning to the city of angels on March 21-22, 2023, and bringing together sports media professionals at the Founders Club, located inside the Galen Center at the University of Southern California.

For those of you who haven’t purchased your ticket(s) yet, BSM is having a special Holiday SALE this week. From today (Monday) through Friday 11:59pm ET, individual tickets are reduced to $224.99. If you’re planning to come, and want to make sure you’re in the room, take advantage of the extra savings and secure your seat. To buy tickets, reserve your hotel room, and learn more about the Summit’s speakers, click here.

We’ve previously announced twenty one (21) participants who will join us on stage at the 2023 BSM Summit. Today, we’re excited to expand our lineup by welcoming four (4) more additions to March’s industry spectacular.

First, BSM is thrilled to have two accomplished sports radio programmers contributing to the event. Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit will make his Summit debut in L.A.. Fresh off of a Marconi victory earlier this fall, The Ticket’s brand manager will share his insights on the present and future of sports radio on one of our programming panels. Also taking part in that panel will be the leader of 104.3 The Fan in Denver, Raj Sharan. Raj appeared on stage at the 2022 BSM Summit in NYC, and we look forward to having him return to lend his voice to an important sports radio programming discussion.

But programming won’t be the only thing we invest time in out west. Growing a business, more specifically, a digital business will be part of our conference agenda as well.

When it comes to maximizing digital revenue, few brands understand the space better than Barstool Sports. Charged with growing the brand’s revenue is Senior Vice President and Head of Sales Matt Berger, and we’re looking forward to having Matt join us for a conversation that will focus on monetizing digital opportunities. Before joining Barstool, Matt sold for Bleacher Report/House of Highlights. He’s also worked for Warner Brothers and the Walt Disney Company. We’re excited to have him share his wisdom with the room.

Also taking part in our digital sales panel will be John Goforth of Magellan AI. John knows the radio business well from having served previously as a sales manager and salesperson. Since leaving traditional media and joining Magellan AI, John has studied the podcasting advertising space and learned who the top spenders are, who’s making big moves with their podcast advertising budgets, and which publishers are best positioned to benefit. Having his expertise on stage will help many in the room with trying to better understand the digital sales space.

There are other speaker announcements still to come. We have some big things planned, which I’m hoping to reveal in January and February. I want to thank ESPN Radio, FOX Sports, Showtime, and Point to Point Marketing for coming on board as partners of the 2023 BSM Summit. The support we’ve received heading into Los Angeles has been tremendous, and we greatly appreciate it. If you’re looking to be associated with the Summit as an event partner, email Stephanie Eads at

That’s all for now, but be sure to take advantage of the Summit Holiday Sale. You have until Friday night December 23rd at 11:59pm ET to take advantage of discounted tickets. Happy Holidays!

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