Connect with us
blank

Barrett Blogs

Has Sports Media Content Become Too Serious?

Jason Barrett

Published

on

blank

Growing up in Brooklyn, sports were a huge part of my childhood. My first memory involved the New York Yankees winning the World Series in 1977, when my entire house erupted after Reggie Jackson crushed three home runs in Game 6 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. I wasn’t old enough to vividly recall any particular part of that series, but the jubilation inside my home, told me something good was happening.

Soon thereafter I became fascinated with Reggie, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Goose Gossage and my personal favorite, Thurman Munson. The Yankees were atop the baseball mountain and their success produced great benefits for an adolescent including new shirts, baseball caps and trips to The House That Ruth Built.

But in the summer of 1979 I experienced my first taste of sadness. My five year old heart was crushed as I sat in the living room watching television with my grandfather and learned that Munson, the Yankees captain, had been killed in a plane crash. Reggie may have been the straw that stirred the drink, but it was Munson who was the team’s heartbeat. Needless to say, tears flowed like a waterfall that night.blank

At the age of five, I was given my first baseball glove. I would head outside to toss my blue rubber ball off of the wall of the auto body shop across the street, and let my imagination run wild thinking of different scenarios involving my beloved Yankees. As my passion for exerting energy outside grew, so did my interest in participating. I convinced my father to sign me up for little league, and for the next eight years I’d play every season, winning two MVP’s and being voted an All-Star six times.

The passion I developed for baseball stretched beyond playing too. I discovered the joy of collecting baseball cards, and each week would hit up my father for a quarter to run up the street and buy a new pack. Over the next thirteen years, I purchased every single Topps set, and that was followed by gaining interest in meeting players and acquiring autographs, many of which remain in my personal collection today.

When I reached my teenage years, the passion to play subsided but watching games still consumed me. Much like many teenage New York Yankees fans, I had Don Mattingly’s “Hit Man” poster on my wall. I experienced every joyless moment watching the New York Knicks get their collective throats stepped on by Michael Jordan, and I suffered thru every New York Rangers season, hearing the chants grow louder about the franchise not winning a Stanley Cup since 1940. The only saving grace were the New York Giants who produced multiple Super Bowl championships.blank

It was during my teenage years that I began to dabble in listening to sports radio. The format was new and unproven, and AM radio wasn’t appealing to listen to beyond the games, but because I loved the New York teams, I took a liking to hearing other people talk about it. My listening early on was very sporadic, but as the years passed by it became a bigger part of my life, especially once I started driving.

After completing high school, and entering the real world, I found myself in the car quite often. That increased my connection to my local sports radio station WFAN, particularly the Mike and the Mad Dog program. Mike Francesa had built a reputation on being smart and forceful with his opinions, but it was Chris Russo’s energy and passion which I connected to most. That was odd for me because Mike loved the Yankees, and Chris carried a huge disdain for them.

As I performed dead end jobs to pay bills, the fan in me remained alive and well. I continued to watch Yankees, Knicks, Rangers and Giants games, suffering thru a number of heartbreaks, when the tide finally turned in 1994. That year I witnessed the Rangers end a fifty four year drought, eliminating the Vancouver Canucks to bring the Stanley Cup back to New York. It’s why Mark Messier will go down in my book as the most important player in franchise history. If you wish to debate it, save your energy, you’re not going to change my mind.blank

Even more important to me were the Yankees championship teams of the late 1990’s. Derek Jeter’s arrival pumped new blood into an organization which had desperately needed it. After being named the team’s opening day starting shortstop in 1996, the fortunes of the Bronx Bombers began to change, and the euphoria surrounding the team became so contagious it was impossible not to get caught up in it.

In fact, when the Yankees knocked off the Texas Rangers to advance to the 1996 World Series, I was working a 10p-6a part-time job as a security guard at a local infirmary. I relied on my radio that night to hear the game. When the final out was recorded, and John Sterling announced tickets for the World Series would go on sale the following morning, I made a decision to abandon my post, and get into the car and drive to the Bronx. I had suffered thru enough bad seasons that I wasn’t going to miss out on an opportunity to be in the building when something special was taking place.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived in the Bronx a little after 1am and discovered thousands of people already in line. I was ready to give up hope and drive back home, but a fight broke out on the line, leaving a big hole in the middle. Myself and two others who were sitting on a patch of grass quickly took advantage of the situation, and eased our way in. The reward the next morning was purchasing 4 tickets to Game 2 of the fall classic, a game which left every Yankee fan miserable thanks to an October gem from Braves pitcher Greg Maddux.blank

As we left the stadium and made our sixty mile trek home, WFAN provided much needed noise. My father bitched and moaned the entire time about how pathetic the team had played, and wrote off any possibility of the Yankees battling back to win the series. It was hard to argue, given that they had been outscored 16-1 in the first two games, but the optimist in me held out hope that David Cone could save the season in Game 3.

Luck was on the Yankees side in Game 3, giving fans a renewed energy and confidence, but the euphoria started to dissipate when Kenny Rogers laid an egg in Game 4. The Yankees trailed 6-0 at the end of five innings, and every New York baseball fan was mentally preparing to hear the fat lady sing later that night.

But then the baseball gods decided to intervene.

Jim Leyritz, who had been a hero in the 1995 playoffs against the Seattle Mariners, stepped to the plate and delivered one of the most clutch home runs in franchise history, sending a Mark Wohlers slider over the left field wall, just beyond the reach of Braves left fielder Andruw Jones. That tied things up at 6-6. Quickly the momentum had shifted, and when Wade Boggs battled Steve Avery to earn a bases loaded walk in the 10th inning, Yankees fans lost their minds, and began to believe that destiny was on their side.

The next two games would be close and intense, but fortunately the Yankees prevailed. Their 4-2 series win brought a world championship back to the Bronx for the first time since 1978, and a ticker tape parade down the canyon of heroes, one which I was in attendance for.blank

By now you’re either asking yourself, what exactly does Jason’s recollection of New York sports moments have to do with this article? Or you’re screaming at your computer or phone, “I don’t give a damn about the Yankees or any other New York team.”

Allow me to explain why I took you down my personal memory lane.

Each of us have these kind of sports memories stained in our minds. They evoke emotions that run thru us and are part of what makes sports special. For many of us who choose to pursue sports media work professionally, these celebratory and devastating moments fuel our desire to tell stories, connect with fans, and experience excitement in each venue.

But as you distance yourself from high school and college, and settle into a career, joy and fandom start to wane. The pressures of paying bills, raising families, battling everyday issues, and tackling work responsibilities become your priority and the time you spend in front of a television or radio decreases. Suddenly the little kid in you who lived each day to throw a ball outside or open up a new pack of baseball cards is pushed aside, and the new adult version of yourself takes over.

Many in our audience work a full-time job that they don’t enjoy. They do it to put a roof over their families heads and food on the table. They’d prefer to make a living like us playing in the toy department of life, but being broke, living longer at home with mom and dad, and feasting on ramen noodles and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches doesn’t have great appeal.blank

For those of us in the sports media business who have paid our dues and been fortunate to escape low paying jobs and earn opportunities on larger stages, what’s our excuse? We’re not digging ditches, operating on patients, selling insurance or welding metal. We are talking sports, on radio, on television, on social media, and in print, and part of our job description includes watching games, reading stories, and conveying our honest thoughts to form a deeper bond with an audience. That should elicit excitement, passion, curiosity and fun in each of us.

But sadly when you look around the industry that isn’t always felt or presented on the air.

It’d be unfair of me to suggest that every sports media personality has silenced their inner fan. There are exceptions. Play by play announcers would be one of them. But, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out that a large majority of talk show personalities have distanced themselves from the teams and players they once loved.

In many cities and buildings, show units work together to identify topics and angles, and line up callers and guests who can fuel conversation and provide additional entertainment value. The host opinions are delivered from a neutral or antagonistic position, and the thought of being labeled a professional fan with access and a microphone is quickly rejected.blank

And the teams don’t make it any easier.

Inside every press box, media members are encouraged to cut the chord to their teams. If a player makes a great play or the team you’re covering rallies to win an important game, you’re reminded to avoid cheering or expressing yourself in a positive manner.

It’s easy to see why many in the media become jaded. After spending years developing a deep love and passion for sports and those who cover them, you’re immediately met by neutrality and negativity once you start covering them. It was OK to root, love, and support players and teams when you were younger and not a working professional, but once you earn a paycheck from a media outlet and enter an arena or stadium, a burial for your fandom is scheduled.

Another  problem which causes broadcasters to disconnect is the way they’re treated by those they cover. Many players are cynical of the media, and at times, even disrespectful. They view writers, reporters and personalities as potential enemies, and although the good ones may squeeze out solid information from time to time, the willingness of players, coaches, and executives to be candid, conversational, and unguarded is rare at best.

It’s no excuse, but when you’re treated poorly or disrespected, it’s going to show up at some point in your work. Rather than giving a player or coach the benefit of the doubt after a tough game or offering praise for a particular feat, the media gravitate to pointing out flaws, selling concern, and pouring gasoline on the fire. It becomes the one way they can fight back against individuals who play the game and think they’re invincible. It also reminds those players, coaches and executives just how powerful the media can be in shaping public opinion.blank

If you read a sports website, listen to sports radio, or watch sports television, you may notice that the majority of content is supplied by media members who are over 35 years old. Coincidentally, the content appeals better to the older part of the audience (35-64) than it does the younger demo (18-34). If a media member is mature, experienced, and able to reduce their fandom and handle egotistical, sensitive and guarded sports personalities, then it allows the outlet they’re working for to maintain a more neutral position.

But is that really what drew us to wanting to work in sports? Didn’t we become interested in doing this line of work because we appreciated great players with unmatched skill and larger than life personalities? Weren’t we enamored watching two teams or individuals compete to find out who was better? If they failed to execute or made bad decisions, we held them accountable, but we attached ourselves to teams and players and emotionally invested in their success.

That connection enabled us to invite conversation with others who shared similar interests. It allowed us to be kids again, and forget about life’s responsibilities and pressures for a while.blank

Which is why I wonder if the sports media business is hurting itself by becoming too serious. I see a lot of parallels today between the presentation of sports/talk and news/talk, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.

News is about reality. It’s our wake up call. It’s serious conversation, and what we need to hear, even when we don’t necessarily want to hear it. It’s often negative in tone, but helps to put life and its day to day challenges into perspective.

Sports is supposed to pull us away from that reality and negativity. We rely on it to make us feel good. It becomes a conversation starter, and the link between childhood and adulthood. Whether we’re with our families or complete strangers, it brings us together and gives us hope, joy, and something positive to look forward to.

But we don’t always hear, see or feel that from those who lead the sports conversation across the airwaves. Instead, there’s a strong journalistic approach, and the intent is often to dissect stories, provoke thought, and generate emotional responses, rather than share any genuine semblance of joy, passion, love or appreciation.blank

Are audiences really clamoring for neutrality and cynicism? Have they demanded broadcasters possess black hearts and icy veins and shun the idea of expressing their true passions and love for the teams that inspired them to want to earn a living in sports media?

The last time I checked, they had not.

Didn’t America’s best broadcasters grow up watching sports, loving them, playing them, and wanting to be around them? Then why have we silenced that part of our personalities now that we’ve become adults?

It’s OK to be excited to talk to a guest who you once cheered for and display that vulnerability to the audience. Expressing joy when your favorite team wins makes you human and more relatable. Sharing your personal memories and feelings, opens the door for further discussion and deeper attachments with your listeners or viewers. If we can’t take these qualities with us to the air, then we’re robbing the audience of half of who we are.

Many in sports media have become so disenchanted with the organizations and people they cover, that it’s rubbed off on areas of their presentation. Maybe the travel, long work hours, and interactions with delusional listeners and arrogant players can be a drain, but talking about sports and watching them for a living should lift us up, not bring us down.blank

A question we should all be asking ourselves is, how does being jaded, angry, detached and emotionless help us? Certainly there are times when tough conversations and negative stances are warranted, but is it to much to ask that our best on-air voices also display a little bit of love, joy, excitement and vulnerability?

It’s been said before that the sports media cares more about what takes place outside the lines than what occurs inside of them. I think that’s true. If you watched or listened to 60-minutes of any show last week, you heard much more discussion about Kyrie Irving demanding a trade, Colin Kaepernick not being signed, Tim Tebow deserving a call up from the Mets and the selling of hate between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, then you heard about athletic performances or any team’s progress.

But is that really good for our business? Does sports programming need to continue being served in a similar way to news?blank

If one of the few joys we share in life (sports) is presented in a neutral or negative fashion, and the personalities discussing them aren’t personally excited or invested in a team or individual’s success, it becomes harder to connect with the audience. I don’t think the airwaves need to be full of cheerleaders and apologists, but having fun, showing you care, and experiencing the same euphoria and agony with an audience shouldn’t require a sales pitch.

In life, people turn to sports because it makes them happy. They believe in its power to unite. I just wonder if the direction we’ve headed in is doing more to divide.

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.