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Takeaways From The 2016 BSM Top 20 Series

Jason Barrett

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Now that the madness has subsided from this year’s BSM Top 20, I thought I’d weigh in with a few final thoughts and takeaways from this year’s process. Overall it was a huge success again. I want to thank everyone who stopped by to see the results, share it on social media, and participate in the voting process.

One thing I’ve learned from running point on this process the past two years is that it’s extremely subjective and will never please everyone. That said, there are many in the radio industry who appreciate the recognition, and positive acknowledgement for a job well done never looks bad to a station’s audience or advertisers.

I also think it’s important for industry members to contribute to the voting process since they see the inner workings and the truth behind the numbers more than anyone else. Will they be biased at times? Of course. But I’d rather have executives with a favorable view of their brands contributing rather than relying on people who are outside the business and lack the information and personal insight to know whether or not a show, station or individual is experiencing success.

If you didn’t read the articles and fast forwarded to the results, I want to reiterate one key part that I often worry might be misconstrued. I do NOT vote in this process. I simply present the industry’s findings. I have opinions just like anyone else, and one of the toughest parts of this project is seeing particular votes come in that I disagree with, yet knowing that my role is to remain true to the votes and let the panel present their collective opinions without interference.

I recognize that a few observers and readers know that I work with some stations, and have friendships all across the nation. I can’t tell each individual what to think, but one thing I will not do with this annual representation of the format is have the final results determined by personal preference or economic influence.

I started this project and turned to executives at more than fifteen media companies to get involved because I heard from a large number of folks that they were frustrated by having the success of their brands and people determined by outlets which made their ranking decisions based on relationships and advertising buys. They also didn’t include industry members in the voting process. After doing this for two years, I can proudly say that I have not accepted a dime for it. I could easily do that and treat my family to a few more vacations and expensive dinners, but my credibility and respect for this business will not allow money to influence how I treat this process.

Trust me, it isn’t easy when you’re in my shoes presenting these findings, and a client I work with, finishes behind a competitor. It can be challenging and frustrating and puts me in an awkward spot. I could easily twist the results to favor my clients, but then I have to ask myself “why am I even doing this project if I’m not going to treat the votes of the industry panel with the respect it deserves”?

Last week for example during the process, I had one particular station take aim at me because they felt I was lifting up the profile of a competitor. Rather than giving credit where it was due to a station which was the top spoken word brand in the market, and ranked 3rd overall with a 9 share, and instead of conducting a self analysis given that their own performance was below a 1 share, the easy excuse was to blame yours truly.

If it helps a station’s staff sleep better at night to create excuses then that’s fine by me. The bottom line, industry people know which brands win and which ones don’t, and if you want to gain a stronger reputation and earn a higher place on the chart, you’re going to have to back it up with evidence that shows your performance is among the best. If not, it’ll be a similar story next year. I don’t play favorites, I just present the information.

Aside from that senseless drama, there were some results I agreed and disagreed with but that’s the beauty of life in America in 2017. You can have an opinion and choose to ignore anything you wish. I felt better about this year’s panel given the addition of a few more folks in smaller regions, which was especially helpful in determining the mid-market categories. I put a lot of time and thought into the voting process and aim to include people from all companies so it doesn’t become a one group celebration. It’s not perfect, but it’s as fair and balanced as it can be.

As far as this year’s results are concerned, I do have a few takeaways I want to share. These were things that stood out to me during the process. If you have some you’d like to discuss, you can always email me at JBarrett@hvy.tcp.mybluehost.me.

  • The decision to split up the Major and Mid Markets felt right, and I’m glad we did it. Too often smaller regions get ignored and stand little chance of making noise against brands with outstanding heritage. This year they were able to get a better sense of how they’re viewed, and the major market shows received votes without the voters feeling obliged to ignore 1 or 2 of them just to make sure they offered some recognition to smaller market brands.
  • Boomer and Carton, Mike Francesa, and Colin Cowherd were repeat winners, and reaffirmed that they’ve become the local and national shows which executives compare all others to. Next year will be very different if Mike Francesa fulfills his promise to leave WFAN, but for now, all three of these shows are a huge hit with high ranking members of the industry.
  • FOX Sports Radio has done a magnificent job of rebuilding its image. After Jim Rome left for CBS, there was a period of time where industry folks I spoke to weren’t convinced the network was trending upward. Over the past two years though that perception has been changed. FSR had 6 shows in the Top 20 including 3 in the Top 10, signaling that they’re on their way to a strong resurgence.
  • ESPN Radio remains in strong shape but if the rumors of a Mike and Mike split hold true, it could be an interesting time for the network. As great as the brand is and has been, they’re vulnerable for the first time in a long time. That said, no company has done a better job over the past three decades of replacing top talent and maintaining its relationships and stellar image than ESPN. It was interesting to see Paul Finebaum continue to gain momentum with voters. Bomani Jones also increased year to year and is now viewed slightly higher than Russillo and Kanell. ESPN has an opportunity to breathe some new life into its brand if it chooses to do so. If it stands pat with Mike and Mike, that too has large upside. This will be an interesting story to follow in 2017.
  • Voters are very aware of what’s been taking place in Boston and rewarded both 98.5 The Sports Hub and WEEI for their performances. Without question, Boston is the hottest rated sports radio market in the country, and the competition between the two brands is as intense as ever. To see each station earn respect for the contributions they’re making to the format was a welcomed sight.
  • The same story was true for 104.5 The Zone in Nashville, 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. All three stations ranked high with our panel in the mid-market categories which speaks to each of their abilities to penetrate their markets and create a dominant presence with local sports radio enthusiasts.
  • If there’s an area I’d like to see improve from the voters it’s to reward more shows for the current year’s actual performance instead of its reputation. I can’t speak for each voter but the goal is to recognize those who performed best during the previous calendar year. It’s no different than MLB or the NFL picking an MVP who had the best season. In some instances I see brands and shows receive high voting placement based on market size, brand reputation or length of service, and I think we collectively can do a better job of familiarizing ourselves with those who have performed best.
  • That last section is important for on-air talent to remember. There were a few hosts who reached out to express displeasure about not being on the list or eligible for consideration, but as I stated numerous times, this wasn’t a sports radio draft, and it wasn’t a case of who’d get hired if executives had to make a business decision for their brands. This was simply about 2016’s performance. You can’t be mentioned as one of the best 25-35 shows during the year if you only spent 3-4 months on the air. For example, Gary Sanchez had a hot summer for the NY Yankees, but he wasn’t part of the MVP conversation, nor did he deserve to be. Same rules apply here.
  • There were a few situations where key talent were gone for extended periods of time yet that didn’t hurt them in the voting which surprised me. Case in point, Terry Boers and Terry Foster missed time on the air in Detroit and Chicago, and the same was true for Greg Papa in San Francisco. Each of those hosts and shows deserve to be featured high but one can make a case that they deserve to go down a notch or two if they’re not at full strength for a significant period of time, especially if another show/brand behind them performed in similar fashion.
  • In the mid-markets I was pleasantly surprised to see Bernie Miklasz, Dan Dakich and 3HL get recognized for their exceptional work. I’m familiar with all three shows and think they do an outstanding job and I felt the panel got each of those decisions right. There were a few other shows in their respective categories that I could also make a case for but you won’t get an argument from me when it comes to acknowledging those programs for doing an outstanding job.
  • In the major-markets, I was happy to see G-Bag Nation and Paul Allen earn some recognition for what they bring to the airwaves. Both shows are very good and rate well. I also felt Mike Missanelli was rewarded for having an incredible year in Philadelphia, and the same was true for The Musers in Dallas, and OMF in Boston. Each deserved to be in the top 3 and you can make a case that they could’ve been ranked higher. I also thought Chris Mannix and the Morning Men sneaking into the National section was a pleasant surprise.
  • A few programs were rated lower than I expected. Among them were the Michael Kay Show, Kap and Company, and Dan Barreiro. All three have generated better performance than where they were placed, but if they continue their momentum I suspect they’ll climb the ladder next year. When we conduct this process again next year I also won’t be surprised if Clay Travis, Dale and Holley with Rich Keefe, and Stephen A. Smith gain ground as all three are positioned to make a bigger splash.
  • I’ll be interested to see how a couple of changes in January factor into next year’s results. Jay Mohr is gone from FOX Sports Radio, Danny Parkins has left 610 Sports in KC for 670 The Score in Chicago, Terry Boers’ retirement opened the door for Jason Goff to move into afternoons with Dan Bernstein, and a few other brands have made tweaks too. How they’re received by next year’s panel will be an interesting follow.
  • Last but not least, Sports Radio WIP will have a full year under their belts with their new midday and afternoon shows which should put them back in the mix. Josh Innes will have developed a longer body of work in Houston putting him back on the radar. And Jorge Sedano, Keyshawn Johnson, and LZ Granderson will be up for consideration if they continue hosting mornings in Los Angeles and producing results. Where each of those shows finish is anyone’s guess, but clearly there’s a lot of talent there and the voters will have some difficult decisions to make.

To bring this to a close, it’s a fun exercise, and it allows many in our format to gain a sense of where they’re seen by high ranking industry officials. If you’re ranked high, you clearly are going to enjoy it and let the whole world know. You may even try to use it to your economic benefit with advertisers. If you’re not, you’ll likely find fault with the system and let everyone know that industry executives are asleep at the wheel.

It may not be perfect but it’s the best we can do. So until next time, thanks for reading, voting, sharing, and debating. Now keep those ratings and revenues high so we can explore this conversation again in 2018.

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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Barrett Blogs

Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

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Barrett Blogs

Barrett Media is Making Changes To Better Serve Our Sports and News Media Readers

“We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future.”

Jason Barrett

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When I launched this website all I wanted to do was share news, insight and stories about broadcasters and brands. My love, passion and respect for this business is strong, and I know many of you reading this feel similar. I spent two great decades in radio watching how little attention was paid to those who played a big part in their audiences lives. The occasional clickbait story and contract drama would find their way into the newspapers but rarely did you learn about the twists and turns of a broadcaster’s career, their approach to content or the tactics and strategies needed to succeed in the industry. When personal reasons led me home to NY in 2015, I decided I was going to try my best to change that.

Since launching this brand, we’ve done a good job informing and entertaining media industry professionals, while also helping consulting clients and advertising partners improve their businesses. We’ve earned respect from the industry’s top stars, programming minds and mainstream media outlets, growing traffic from 50K per month to 500K and monthly social impressions from a few thousand to a few million. Along the way we’ve added conferences, rankings, podcasts, a member directory, and as I’ve said before, this is the best and most important work I’ve ever done, and I’m not interested in doing anything else.

If I’ve learned anything over seven years of operating a digital content company it’s that you need skill, strategy, passion, differentiating content, and good people to create impact. You also need luck, support, curiosity and an understanding of when to double down, cut bait or pivot. It’s why I added Stephanie Eads as our Director of Sales and hired additional editors, columnists and features reporters earlier this year. To run a brand like ours properly, time and investment are needed. We’ve consistently grown and continue to invest in our future, and it’s my hope that more groups will recognize the value we provide, and give greater consideration to marketing with us in the future.

But with growth comes challenges. Sometimes you can have the right idea but bad timing. I learned that when we launched Barrett News Media.

We introduced BNM in September 2020, two months before the election when emotions were high and COVID was a daily discussion. I wasn’t comfortable then of blending BNM and BSM content because I knew we’d built a trusted sports media resource, and I didn’t want to shrink one audience while trying to grow another. Given how personal the election and COVID became for folks, I knew the content mix would look and feel awkward on our site.

So we made the decision to start BNM with its own website. We ran the two brands independently and had the right plan of attack, but discovered that our timing wasn’t great.

The first nine months readership was light, which I expected since we were new and trying to build an audience from scratch. I believed in the long-term mission, which was why I stuck with it through all of the growing pains, but I also felt a responsibility to make sure our BNM writing team and the advertising partners we forged relationships with were being seen by as many people as possible. We continued with the original plan until May 2021 when after a number of back and forth debates, I finally agreed to merge the two sites. I figured if WFAN could thrive with Imus in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon, and the NY Times, LA Times, KOA, KMOX and numerous other newspaper and radio brands could find a way to blend sports and news/talk, then so could we.

And it worked.

We dove in and started to showcase both formats, building social channels and groups for each, growing newsletter databases, and with the addition of a few top notch writers, BNM began making bigger strides. Now featured under the BSM roof, the site looked bigger, the supply of daily content became massive, and our people were enjoying the increased attention.

Except now we had other issues. Too many stories meant many weren’t being read and more mistakes were slipping through the cracks. None of our crew strive to misspell a word or write a sloppy headline but when the staff and workload doubles and you’re trying to focus on two different formats, things can get missed. Hey, we’re all human.

Then a few other things happened that forced a larger discussion with my editors.

First, I thought about how much original material we were creating for BSM from our podcast network, Summit, Countdown to Coverage series, Meet the Market Managers, BSM Top 20, and began to ask myself ‘if we’re doing all of this for sports readers, what does that tell folks who read us for news?’ We then ran a survey to learn what people valued about our brand and though most of the feedback was excellent, I saw how strong the response was to our sports content, and how news had grown but felt second fiddle to those offering feedback.

Then, Andy Bloom wrote an interesting column explaining why radio hosts would be wise to stop talking about Donald Trump. It was the type of piece that should’ve been front and center on a news site all day but with 3 featured slots on the site and 7 original columns coming in that day, they couldn’t all be highlighted the way they sometimes should be. We’re actually going through that again today. That said, Andy’s column cut through. A few sports media folks didn’t like seeing it on the site, which wasn’t a surprise since Trump is a polarizing personality, but the content resonated well with the news/talk crowd.

National talk radio host Mike Gallagher was among the folks to see Andy’s piece, and he spent time on his show talking about the column. Mike’s segment was excellent, and when he referenced the article, he did the professional thing and credited our website – Barrett SPORTS Media. I was appreciative of Mike spending time on his program discussing our content but it was a reminder that we had news living under a sports roof and it deserved better than that.

I then read some of Pete Mundo, Doug Pucci and Rick Schultz’s columns and Jim Cryns’ features on Chris Ruddy, Phil Boyce, and David Santrella, and knew we were doing a lot of quality work but each time we produced stories, folks were reminded that it lived on a SPORTS site. I met a few folks who valued the site, recognized the increased focus we put on our news/talk coverage, and hoped we had plans to do more. Jim also received feedback along the lines of “good to see you guys finally in the news space, hope there’s more to come.”

Wanting to better understand our opportunities and challenges, I reviewed our workflow, looked at which content was hitting and missing the mark, thought about the increased relationships we’d worked hard to develop, and the short-term and long-term goals for BNM. I knew it was time to choose a path. Did I want to think short-term and keep everything under one roof to protect our current traffic and avoid disrupting people or was it smarter to look at the big picture and create a destination where news/talk media content could be prioritized rather than treated as BSM’s step-child?

Though I spent most of my career in sports media and established BSM first, it’s important to me to serve the news/talk media industry our very best. I want every news/talk executive, host, programmer, market manager, agent, producer, seller and advertiser to know this format matters to us. Hopefully you’ve seen that in the content we’ve created over the past two years. My goal is to deliver for news media professionals what we have for sports media folks and though that may be a tall order, we’re going to bust our asses to make it happen. To prove that this isn’t just lip service, here’s what we’re going to do.

Starting next Monday November 28th, we are relaunching BarrettNewsMedia.com. ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will be available daily under that URL. For the first 70-days we will display news media columns from our BNM writers on both sites and support them with promotion across both of our brands social channels. The goal is to have the two sites running independent of each other by February 6, 2023.

Also starting on Monday November 28th, we will begin distributing the BNM Rundown newsletter 5 days per week. We’ve been sending out the Rundown every M-W-F since October 2021, but the time has come for us to send it out daily. With increased distribution comes two small adjustments. We will reduce our daily story count from 10 to 8 and make it a goal to deliver it to your inbox each day by 3pm ET. If you haven’t signed up to receive the Rundown, please do. You can click here to register. Be sure to scroll down past the 8@8 area.

Additionally, Barrett News Media is going to release its first edition of the BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will come out December 12-16 and 19-20. The category winners will be decided by more than 50 news/talk radio program directors and executives. Among the categories to be featured will be best Major/Mid Market Local morning, midday, and afternoon show, best Local News/Talk PD, best Local News/Talk Station, best National Talk Radio Show, and best Original Digital Show. The voting process with format decision makers begins today and will continue for two weeks. I’ve already got a number of people involved but if you work in an executive or programming role in the news/talk format and wish to be part of it, send an email to me at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

We have one other big thing coming to Barrett News Media in 2023, which I will announce right after the BNM Top 20 on Wednesday December 21st. I’m sure news/talk professionals will like what we have planned but for now, it’ll have to be a month long tease. I promise though to pay it off.

Additionally, I’m always looking for industry folks who know and love the business and enjoy writing about it. If you’ve programmed, hosted, sold or reported in the news/talk world and have something to offer, email me. Also, if you’re a host, producer, programmer, executive, promotions or PR person and think something from your brand warrants coverage on our site, send it along. Most of what we write comes from listening to stations and digging across the web and social media. Receiving your press releases and getting a heads up on things you’re doing always helps.

If you’re a fan of BSM, this won’t affect you much. The only difference you’ll notice in the coming months is a gradual reduction of news media content on the BSM website and our social accounts sharing a little about both formats over the next two months until we’re officially split in February. We are also going to dabble a little more in marketing, research and tech content that serves both formats. If you’re a reader who enjoys both forms of our content, you’ll soon have BarrettSportsMedia.com for sports, and BarrettNewsMedia.com for news.

Our first two years in the news/talk space have been very productive but we’ve only scratched the surface. Starting November 28th, news takes center stage on BarrettNewsMedia.com and sports gets less crowded on BarrettSportsMedia.com. We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future. If we can count on you to remember two URL’s (add them to your bookmarks) and sign up for our newsletters, then you can count on us to continue delivering exceptional coverage of the industry you love. As always, thanks for the continued support. It makes everything we do worthwhile.

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