Connect with us
blank

Barrett Blogs

Does It Pay To Broadcast Live From Radio Row?

Jason Barrett

Published

on

In ten days, sports radio stations across the nation will invade Houston, Texas to broadcast live from radio row, during the NFL’s annual week long celebration of their biggest game, the Super Bowl. But while the sheer mass of stations may enhance the NFL’s image, and the on-air personalities may gain personal satisfaction from making a road trip to host their programs on location, the question of whether or not it’s a necessary expense creates division among many broadcast executives.

From the programmers point of view, there are a myriad of reasons to be there. It is the biggest event in sports, and the Super Bowl has mass appeal in every local market. Some people subscribe to the theory that a sports station should only make the trip if its local team is playing in the game, but I don’t agree with that point of view.

In most cities, the NFL is king. Ratings for national games are among the most watched programs on television, and they often outperform the performance of a local market’s baseball, basketball, hockey and college teams. Audiences keep tabs on all teams and players, and when you include gambling, fantasy football, and transplants living in each community into the mix, it’s easy to see why interest is high. If a local team is in the big game, it becomes a bigger deal, but it’s a must-watch event regardless of who participates.

While this may be the biggest event of the sports calendar, every station in America is going to talk about it whether they’re live inside of a convention center in the host city, or sitting in the air conditioned studio from which they operate on a daily basis.

So why go?

Many programmers argue that it’s vital to strengthening the brand’s image in the eyes and ears of the audience. Being there reinforces your position of being a major league brand, and if that’s the way your station has been built and sustained, then there shouldn’t be internal debate about whether it’s important or not to make this trip. It’s the same reason why a news/talk station broadcasts live on location from the cities where presidential debates take place.

But if perception isn’t enough of a reason to justify sending your station on the road for Super Bowl week, then what about the ratings? In years past, the brands I managed often saw a minimal bump during the week of radio row broadcasts. The difficult question though was whether or not a minimal ratings increase was worth spending thousands of dollars. It could be argued that the station could generate the same ratings staying in the building and covering the event rather than sending five to ten people on the road for one week.

From a talent’s perspective, they share less concern about the brand’s financial challenges. Their primary interest is to put on the best show possible, and gaining access to high profile athletes and celebrities, and the sites and sounds leading up to the Super Bowl helps them do that. Many on-air people look forward to the week long festivities created by the NFL and its partners, and they value increasing their stature and relationships with others in the media space. Although those relationships may benefit their show in the future, you could once again argue whether or not this is enough of a reason to justify sending a show on location.

What many personalities don’t realize is how costly this week is to the brand they work for. Some talent do appreciate it and recognize the commitment their employer is making, but others just assume it’s part of doing business.

Except it isn’t.

For a Program Director, General Manager, President, and CEO, to sign off on spending ten to twenty thousand dollars to send their people on the road to broadcast for three to five days from a remote location, which won’t provide a huge return on investment from advertisers or the ratings, is a tall order. I’ve heard hosts over the years say, “it’s the Super Bowl, if our sales team can’t sell this then we’re screwed”. That may sound right, but what many talent lack an understanding of is how much value advertisers place on this one to two week promotion.

If you’re a client, the debate becomes whether or not it’s beneficial to spend thousands of dollars on this promotion instead of on a sustained campaign on the same radio station. Many hosts think that by reading the sponsor’s name and five second tag prior to each interview that they’ve fulfilled their obligation, but what they haven’t taken into consideration is whether or not those name mentions and tags help the client grow their business. Giving a client a web banner on your Super Bowl page, a name mention on your social media posts, and on-air plugs prior to interviews may fulfill what was presented, but if the client loses money, they won’t support future promotions.

Ask yourself this question, would you spend thousands of dollars to promote your business during a week of shows from the Super Bowl? If the answer is yes, would you select this opportunity over others available on the same radio station? If your decision had a lasting impact on your company’s bottom line, would you make the call to sponsor this week?

One way hosts and programmers can help themselves is to work with the sales team to gain a better understanding of how a success or failure will be measured by the client who sponsors this week. Have you met with the client to personally thank them for supporting this promotion? Have you brainstormed with them prior to the promotion to gain a sense of what their hot buttons are? Are there other things you’re willing to do beyond the traditional buy to help make the client feel special?

For example, are you sending out a daily tweet and Facebook post to thank the sponsor and encouraging your fans to support them? Have you created an on-site banner with the client’s logo and had every guest who visits the table sign it so you can bring it back to them to display inside their place of business? If the client is also making the trip, have you helped them gain access to a credential to visit your setup or include them on a guest list to attend some of the parties taking place in the host city? Maybe it means making future appearances at the client’s location, speaking on one of their spots, taking the client out to dinner, getting them tickets to a future game or event in your city, or supporting one of their charities to show that you’re equally invested in them.

Certain things can be measured in this business, and some can’t. The value of an on-air mention and web/social sponsorship during this week might not be enough to justify the costs, but when you tug on a client’s heartstrings and give them things that money can’t buy, that has personal value. Don’t discount how important that is.

John Goforth, who previously served as sales manger of 670 The Score in Chicago, and as an account executive for ESPN 1000, 101 ESPN and 590 The Fan, explained how the perception of Super Bowl week was received in multiple sales departments he worked in.

“We always sold it, but it felt like something we were doing to help cover programming costs”, said Goforth.

“In years past we included live video streaming of the shows from radio row, which was cool because it provided other opportunities. For example, if you sold a sponsorship to Dunkin Donuts, and gave the guests who stopped by a coupon for a year’s supply of coffee, it helped extend the brand presence. You could show the client how you were helping put their band in front of notable people. But the extra nonsense added via billboards and bumpers was always overpriced.”

Noel Wax, former VP of sports sales and director of sales for CBS’ Radio brands in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, said much of the value depends on the involvement of a local team and unique assets.

“If we were lucky enough to have one of the teams in our markets represent us in the Superbowl, then it was a big deal for revenue” said Wax.

“What it really came down to was how creative the station was in generating great ideas to sell around its coverage. Just selling audio billboards of the station’s coverage was not exciting or lucrative. If the sales team had access to trips or tickets, that made it more attractive. I found that the best successes came from approaching marketers who were also fans.”

Those assets certainly help drive larger revenues for the station, but the programming department can’t be placed on standby waiting for the company to acquire them. Instead they have to make a simple decision, are we invested in being live on location for this event or not?

One side of the argument that warrants further examination is the role that corporate executives and market managers play in it. If a sports station being live from the Super Bowl is going to be contested, then how else are you providing reinforcements to help your brand cement its position in the local listener’s mind? Is the station reinvesting its funding in marketing to help the brand gain more fans? Are you moving the money from the Super Bowl trip to create a bigger impact at spring training? Is the station holding back the funding because it plans to make a bigger play to snag a local team’s radio rights?

In each of those scenarios, most programmers will be flexible. Their end goal is to grow the brand. Whether it’s done through the Super Bowl or spring training, additional radio rights or a heavy marketing campaign, the bottom line is growing the audience and brand perception. It’s when executives frown upon making necessary sacrifices to help the station, and offer no alternatives, that programmers become frustrated and question the company’s commitment.

When I ran stations, I felt there was value in broadcasting live from big events. It may not have always been favorable on the spreadsheet, but it absolutely made an impression. And sometimes you have to make financial sacrifices to grow your company.

Case in point, during my first year in San Francisco, we sent our entire staff at 95.7 The Game to Indianapolis to broadcast from radio row. The crew had only been working together for a few months, and this trip allowed them to form deeper bonds outside of the building. That’s something that you can’t measure. It was expensive, but we knew that our competitor would have a minimal presence at the event, and that would serve us well in strengthened our identity in the market.

We also felt that it would send a message to the local teams that we meant business. We knew it may not provide an immediate financial return, but the long-term goal was to entice those teams to work with us. By utilizing that approach, we became serious contenders for the radio rights to the Oakland Raiders and Golden State Warriors, with the Silver and Black signing on two years later to become the station’s flagship NFL partner. The Warriors didn’t immediately switch over, but a few years later they too followed suit.

The San Francisco Giants and 49ers, and a few notable sports agents also took notice. Over the next year, players who had previously been unavailable or not interested in pursuing weekly call-in deals with the station, started to adjust their line of thinking. When we signed Buster Posey and Matt Cain the following season to an exclusive agreement, it put everyone in the market on notice.

The final piece of this puzzle that I want to shed light on is the value it presents to the NFL, and their role in making it a better experience for radio operators.

In recent years, radio row has become a bigger hassle. The process to being approved for credentials takes a long time, and that impacts stations who are trying to determine what they can or can’t spend to cover the event. If you’re applying in November, you shouldn’t have to wait until the second or third week of January to find out if all of your people and the hotel rooms you’ve requested have been approved. That puts stations in a tough financial position because booking last minute rooms, cars and flights requires additional expense, inconvenience and in some instances, less manpower.

The next issue that creates a problem are the increasing technical costs. Some stations have to absorb two thousand dollars in fees for ISDN lines and internet, and then either send an engineer on the road or hire a local engineer as an independent contractor. That’s a lot of money to spend just to get on the air. The alternative is accepting lower broadcast quality which would defeat the purpose of broadcasting there.

Then there’s the lack of information of who’s going to be available on radio row. Most hosts and producers have no idea who’s available to be booked for their shows until the day of, and then it becomes a mad scramble to chase down PR people, and team officials. This makes it chaotic for hosts, producers, guests, and handlers, who are trying to foster relationships with one another yet have a limited time to do so.

Lastly, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of TLC displayed by NFL officials towards radio stations and their employees. These brands offering up countless hours of their programming time to help the NFL sell its biggest game of the season, and spending thousands of dollars to do so. Many also invest additional millions of dollars on the radio rights of the NFL’s local teams. You’d think that would provide for better treatment, but I’ve run stations that did and didn’t have NFL play by play relationships, and neither was treated any differently.

Whether the league offered better placement inside the venue, access to guests who other brands couldn’t get, priority access inside the building, or something as simple as a few more hotel rooms and advanced approval, every little bit sends a message that the NFL values its radio partners.

Let me remind you, these stations broadcast from a place called RADIO Row. If the costs and challenges become more hassle than they’re worth, it could make brands reconsider attending. A lack of on-site support and reduced air time for the league’s biggest game could have an affect on viewing. Given the current climate of television, and the growing economic challenges for broadcast companies, it wouldn’t be wise for the league to continue making their loyal partners feel neglected during the week of their biggest annual event.

I was curious how a number of programmers across the country felt about the importance of broadcasting live on radio row. Each of these guys work for different companies, and are sending their stations to broadcast in Houston this year. Here are their perspective on the pros and cons of Super Bowl week.

  • Mike Sheppard – Mighty 1090, San Diego, CA
  • Rich Moore – Sports Radio 950 KJR, Seattle, WA
  • Dan Zampillo – ESPN LA 710, Los Angeles, CA
  • Chris Kinard – 106.7 The Fan, Washington D.C.
  • Joe Zarbano – WEEI, Boston, MA

Why do you believe it’s necessary for your station to broadcast from radio row during the week of the Super Bowl?
Moore: It’s the payoff week to the biggest draw in our format on the biggest media stage. Super Bowl week is an overdose of sports talk content gold. When the format was growing and earning credibility, being at the biggest events was vital. The key now is not just being there, but maximizing the content.

Super Bowl week also used to be about getting big names on that you couldn’t usually get on any other time. That’s still there but now it’s also about the news and content, and being there gives you an advantage. It probably is more necessary nowadays to the stations in markets where the NFL is present and strong.

Zampillo: Two things come into play for us at ESPN LA 710. One, we just got the Rams this year, and given the attention around the NFL returning to LA, and now with the Chargers coming, I think it helps us cement ourselves as the football station in town. Plus, we launched a new morning show with Keyshawn Johnson involved, and given his status and ability to draw big guests, it makes sense to have our morning show there.

Sheppard: It’s a strategic brand decision. Part of our content and event filter is whether or not a listener would expect a particular element from “San Diego’s Sports Leader”. In our opinion, a Super Bowl week broadcast is in sync with the audience expectations of the Mighty 1090 brand. More importantly (and based on audience research we have done), NOT having a presence there would erode our leadership position in the mind of the audience.

Kinard: If done right, it can make your station sound big and create an impression that you own the most important sporting event of the year. But I think whether you make the decision to send a show depends on several factors, including your market’s competitive situation, budget, strengths and weaknesses of your hosts and producers, and what kind of market you are in. In our case, we have a midday show with 2 talented interviewers and some great connections, and I am confident they will produce content worthy of the expense we are incurring to send them.

Zarbano: It’s necessary because our audience is captivated by the Patriots and the NFL. This is the biggest event of the year, and our listeners want to feel like they’re there even if they can’t be. When the Patriots are in the Super Bowl, New Englanders are obsessed with Patriots related content. Broadcasting live from radio row affords us the opportunity to deliver the very best possible radio.

How much of an impact does it have on your station’s ratings?

Moore: It’s a pretty strong week for us. We gain strong AQH. With a natural bigger audience available that week, booking the week on radio row allows us to set good appointments and create great social media and digital content as well.

Zampillo: I think it will have a small impact on ratings if done right. If we get the right guests and handle the show in the spirit of the way it was meant to be executed it will give us a bump.

Sheppard: Minimal. That’s not why we do this. It’s a strategic brand decision rather than a topical or tactical ratings play.

Kinard: These shows can create some must-listen to moments, which has the potential to move the ratings needle. But I think it’s more of an overall branding benefit than anything.

Zarbano: We see quite a noticeable increase, particularly in cume, when the Patriots are in the Super Bowl and we’re broadcasting live from radio row. The interest level in our market is huge.

Why do you think this week of programming matters to the audience?
Moore: It’s the biggest topic, and the hype of the Super Bowl coverage attacks the majority of the cume. If your team is in it, it’s a can’t miss event. If not, it’s a newsy week that helps listeners at the water cooler.

Zampillo: The Super Bowl is the biggest event in sports. And even casual sports fans are interested in the game.

Sheppard: Based on our content and topic matrix, coverage of the NFL is far and away the # 1 audience need. Given that the Super Bowl is the NFL’s most important event each year, it would be foolish of us not to capitalize on the buzz and content of this week.

Kinard: The Super Bowl is not just the biggest sporting event of the year, it’s a spectacle. The game is huge, but the commercials and the halftime show are highly anticipated as well. The stars come out, and it’s a great opportunity to hear from the legends of sports, but it also provides your station with an opportunity to crossover into the worlds of entertainment and pop culture.

Zarbano: WEEI’s audience is very emotionally invested in the Patriots and football content. If the Pats are playing in the Super Bowl, the interest level rises. These rabid fans want to be at the game and taking in the week’s events, but since they can’t, they rely on our presence and ability to deliver to make them feel closer to the action.

If you weren’t there, what type of affect do you think it would have on your brand?
Moore: It’s not the end of the world anymore, but the KJR brand has been built with the expectation that we will be live from the big events and deliver those experiences to our audience. With our station located in a great football market like Seattle, and KJR a proud partner of Westwood One, we try to make sure we are there.

Zampillo: I don’t think it would hurt us. If we were not going and still hitting the hottest topics that matter to our audience, we would be in good shape.

Sheppard: It would negatively impact our leadership branding.

Kinard: I think you can certainly cover the game from afar just as you would any of the other major sporting events. As long as the shows continue to spend a majority of their time talking about the game and doing the blocking and tackling of PPM strategy, this should be a great week regardless.

Zarbano: It’s a perception battle. Many of our P1’s also listen to our competitor. If the competition broadcasts from radio row and your station is not there, it can make your brand look second rate. Our audience is going to be more interested in listening to the shows that are on the ground with the team in Houston (Super Bowl City) rather than the show which is sitting inside of a studio back in Boston during the week of the biggest game in sports.

Some industry folks feel that it’s not worth the expense to broadcast from there. How do you respond to that?
Moore: It’s certainly going that way. It is really hard to commit to it each year in advance, but if you work with your sales team, and can justify great value and frequency to see your coverage, it can be done. It’s RADIO row, and yet the NFL is pricing radio stations out of being there. $2000 for ISDN and internet is almost impossible to justify.

Zampillo: I understand that point of view. The problem is, Radio Row used to be special. Now, everyone has the same guests on, and most of those guests are low quality guests who are pushing products that do not connect with our audience. If you can do the best version of your show while working in important aspects of being on Radio Row like BIG name guests, it makes sense. If you can’t do that, then I understand staying home.

Sheppard: It’s not cheap, but we send all of our shows, and make it a priority to not only cover our expenses, but actually make money with our Super Bowl week sponsorships. Many of our hosts will ad-lib sponsors who are more than willing to support these broadcasts financially.

Kinard: For some stations, it may not be worth the cost. It depends on your competitive situation, and what else you would spend that money on.

Zarbano: We are blessed to have a great sales staff. The revenue they bring in always greatly outweighs our expenses.

Since the majority of the week consists of interviews with big named athletes and celebrities, what does your brand do differently to standout from the rest of the crowd?
Moore: We form relationships with NFL guests and contributors all season long, and use this week to extend them and have longer conversations in person that pay off our audience. We also have regular contributors who have established relationships with players, coaches, etc. and we send them too because it helps increase our access to other high profile guests, plus their continued presence assures that our programming will remain top notch.

Zampillo: We are only going to talk to guests who the audience is excited to hear from. We are not putting on a guest to just put on a guest. It has to be someone where the audience says Wow! This is cool or interesting!

Sheppard: First, we want our broadcasters to have good shows. Although I see stations still doing it, pimping non-relevant athletes, celebrities or products is not what we do. Content is the # 1 primary objective with an emphasis on Super Bowl content or guests that really deliver.

The second thing we reinforce is that we are a multi-platform media company, and as such, we are sending two content contributors and videographers to file photographic, video and written content from the festivities.

Kinard: We try be very selective about the guests we book, and make sure the show doesn’t sit around waiting for guests to arrive. The content should still be about the game, and we try to make sure our shows continue to break down the game, talk to listeners, etc.

Zarbano: We are very picky about who we put on the air and what we promote. We will only put on guests that we feel can move the needle.

What is one thing the NFL could do better during the week of radio row shows to keep stations wanting to return and support their biggest game of the year?
Moore: They could help radio stations by managing the inflating technical costs for sure.

Zampillo: It would be nice if it was better organized. Too often it feels like a free for all. I understand it is on each station to book guests, but it would be great if you had a better idea of who will be there and when.

Sheppard: The hotel process could be improved. The longer we have to wait for accommodations, the more expensive air travel becomes. For example, this year we requested seven rooms but were only granted two. That makes it more challenging.

Kinard: I think they generally do a great job with the event. More availability of guests from the league and the NFL Network would be beneficial.

Zarbano: The credential process can be confusing and time consuming. It’d be helpful if there was a clearer process when requesting conditional and regular Super Bowl credentials.

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

Published

on

blank

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.

Continue Reading

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

Published

on

blank

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.

———-

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.

———-

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.

———-

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.

Continue Reading

Barrett Blogs

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

Published

on

blank

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement blank
Advertisement blank

Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2021 Barrett Media.