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A Time For Reflecting Back and Looking Forward

Jason Barrett

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With each passing year, it’s customary for many to introduce new goals and promise holding themselves accountable to them over the next twelve months. I’ve personally never been a big New Year’s resolution guy because I’ve always thought that it was silly to declare yourself ready to chase a higher standard on January 1st when you could’ve already been doing it. However, I am a proponent of reflecting on where you’ve been the prior twelve months, sharing what you learned and explaining how the experiences of the past will guide your brand and yourself to better times in the future.

Some of you may feel it’s a waste of time to recap your brand’s prior year of wins and losses because the members inside your operation should all be aware of what took place. I used to make that mistake myself. But, as you gain more understanding in this business you discover that not everyone inside your organization recalls every detail as vividly as the brand leader. That doesn’t mean they care less than you do about the brand. It just means your attention to detail is stronger (which is supposed to be the case when you oversee a brand) and if you can re-energize your team and arm them with evidence to have greater success in 2018 then that certainly isn’t time poorly spent.

As I reflect back on my own share of experiences during the past year, I’ve been reminded of a great number of professional victories. I also endured a personal scare which I’ll cover first since the majority of this piece will focus on professional matters.

blankPrior to 2017, I never needed to rush to a hospital for a shortage of breath. But that changed on Saturday May 13, 2017. I only remember the date because despite a scare that day, I was at MetLife Stadium the next day rocking out to Metallica. In hindsight that probably wasn’t the best decision but if I was going to spend a few days on the sidelines, then I was going to enjoy myself and finally catch the band live after never having seen them perform before.

On that morning, I woke up with severe tightening in my chest. I called my father and told him what was happening and he told me to get over to a hospital immediately. I got in the car with my son and drove to the Emergency Room, grasping for air as I drove. I then spent close to ten hours inside the hospital with tubes in my arms and fluids being pumped into my body. As I laid on the hospital bed I wondered to myself “How the heck is this happening when I’m not even 50?” Then when the doctors returned and told me I may need my Gallbladder removed in the future, that added another layer of concern.

Being a dad to a fifteen year old and an independent business owner who had never gone thru a health scare before, I began thinking “What if something happened to me, how would it impact him? How would I operate my business if I couldn’t get around?” Fortunately everything turned out OK, but when that unexpected moment happens and you’re twisting in the wind waiting for feedback from doctors it leaves your mind to wander. I hadn’t been doing anything different in my day to day life to trigger the issue but what that taught me is that you never know when the unexpected can pop up and quickly alter your plans. If 2018 passes without any of those type of situations rearing their ugly heads again then the year will be seen as a personal success.

Although there were other obstacles to overcome personally in 2017, the year served as a confirmation that I was on the right track professionally. When I launched BSM in September 2015 I had no idea if this was the right path but I was determined to try. I felt I could be an independent asset to many in the format given my knowledge, relationships and passion for the industry, but the radio business isn’t one that moves quickly and sometimes talks out of both sides of its mouth. On one hand it preaches the importance of investing in support, knowledge, ideas, mentoring and promotion yet as soon as an investment is required to gain those assets it becomes a tougher sell since most managers are under corporate pressure to keep expenses down.

blankMy mindset entering the year was to not only retain and strengthen the relationships I had established, but to expand my professional partnerships and relationships, especially with new groups and people who I had previously not worked with. I also wanted to create more web content and elevate the reputation of the BSM brand. That was a big reason for the creation of the BSM Podcast and the decision to add five industry columnists and a news contributor. You guys reading this are ultimately the judge of whether or not we’ve hit the mark but partnerships doubled this year and the web traffic, social media engagement, podcast downloads, emails, texts, calls and direct messages give me reason to believe that we’re on the right track in 2018.

What I’m most proud of is that the clients which I’ve been working with for an extended period of time, are all enjoying consistent success. Two are consistently rated in the top 2 in their markets and another just cracked the Top 10 after being ranked 13th-17th the prior year. Three others who I added late in 2017 are primed for bigger things in 2018 especially as we’ve now gotten a better understanding of talent, roles, systems, trends and opportunities.

If my clients don’t succeed I don’t eat. I’ve never lost sight of the fact that I’m the additional line item on someone’s budget. It’s my job to make sure the programmers I collaborate and work with feel they’re gaining from the experience and the market managers and corporate people I come in contact with know they have someone in their corner who champions their cause and can be trusted. I’ve enjoyed playing a small role in the development of some talented programmers and personalities and hope to work with many more in 2018.

One thing that began to change this year was the reduction in speculation about my return to programming from industry folks. Throughout 2016 I’d often hear, “Where do you think you’ll program next?” “How long are you going to do this side gig until going back into a building“? Each time I heard those remarks I smiled because they knew my resume, not my motivation. They had a built in perception of consultants, not an understanding of my approach, strategy or value. More than anything, they underestimated the power and influence of a website, social media, and podcast and why it was important for sports radio stories to be told by someone who understood the inside of the business, could sell its benefits to industry professionals and advertisers yet wasn’t a mouthpiece for one particular company. Many assumed the lure of a title and paycheck would draw me back into a building, not knowing that I had received multiple inquires to program stations and politely declined.

blankThe year wouldn’t have been complete if it didn’t involve a ton of travel. That part of consulting is both exciting and exhausting. 2017 took me to San Antonio, Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Charlotte, St. Louis and Las Vegas. I attended three conferences, spoke to aspiring sports broadcasters in college and broadcast schools and was either asked to contribute or had my work featured in respected publications such as Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, Radio Ink, Inside Radio, All Access, Talkers, Jacobs Media, The Ringer, The Big Lead, Awful Announcing, the Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Houston Chronicle, the Tennessean and NJ.com. I also appeared on sports radio programs and industry podcasts all across the country, voted on a number of awards and hope to be even more involved in 2018.

One part of the role which I don’t enjoy but is necessary when writing opinionated columns is knowing that your words are going to generate mixed reactions. I try to practice what I preach and express my views on the issues at hand and without malice towards any particular individual but not everyone sees it that way. When stories pop up and involve people that I know, like or respect, the subject becomes even harder to discuss but I think it’s important to remain objective. I take that same approach when producing the annual Top 20 in sports radio, even though it can create additional headaches with clients, and those not working with me will feel I favor those I work with anyway.

When I conducted research earlier this year on ESPN’s public image, Scott Van Pelt wasn’t thrilled with the results. The same occurred when I wrote my piece on Jemele Hill’s social media commentary towards President Trump. Stan Verett was not a fan. Those stories were tough to write because there are a lot of people I like at ESPN but I also felt they were important to discuss. I felt similar when writing other stories such as Entercom building a sports radio empire, Good Karma selling local digital content, CBS Las Vegas blackballing the Golden Knights, and columns on the challenges of sexual harassment and diversity in the sports media business. Regardless of my position on each topic, I hope you learned something from the columns and felt they were worth your time.

The one thing I try to avoid when producing content is creating material simply because it’ll produce the most traffic. That’s a different approach then the one I took when running stations and chasing ratings. If I was going to use that approach running this website I’d just produce lists and columns on controversial issues. 2017’s Top 20 in sports radio represented six of the top 10 stories on the BSM website this year. The same was true in 2016. The other four stories that produced a large amount of attention this year were Mitch Levy’s arrest in Seattle, my columns on Mike and Mike splitting up and Jemele Hill’s remarks creating problems for ESPN and the in-depth conversation I conducted with Mike Francesa.

I saw the same thing with this year’s podcast episodes. The top three episodes were Jim Rome, Doug Gottlieb and Colin Cowherd. Given their national exposure and large social media followings, that didn’t surprise me. Fortunately each of those discussions were very good and gave those who listened something to take away from them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that people enjoy the lists and each of those episodes because I put a lot of time and effort into them and am proud of how they turned out. But not everything I do is for the sake of traffic. Maybe that should be the only goal that matters but I believe that informing, analyzing and discovering are also necessary, even if the activity for those pieces is smaller.

blankAlthough I wish I had a crystal ball and could see what’s in store for the sports radio space during the next twelve months, I learned long ago that this format is rapidly changing and you’ve got to prepare and adjust frequently. Just look at how conversations about sports audio content have been amplified thru print, television and social media in recent years. It shows there’s a huge appetite for what’s being produced, talk show hosts are now among the most influential in the industry and the focus for each brand and staff needs to be on finding ways to create compelling content which is easy to access, visually enticing and unique in presentation. If you take care of those things consistently you’ll find yourself in a position to succeed.

Personally I’m looking forward to producing the 2017 BSM Top 20 in sports radio. This year’s lists will be released January 29-February 5. I’m also hashing out ideas for the 3rd season of the BSM Podcast and plan to launch the first episode in mid-February. In March I’ll be holding the first BSM Programming Summit for programmers, executives and select market managers. If all goes well, I may consider doing a public event down the line. I’m also hoping to increase my Twitter following this year from 5800+ to 8000+. Any help on that front is greatly appreciated.

Another focus of mine right now is reviewing the feedback I’ve received to determine which areas of the website should be expanded and which material is less important. I think Brian, Demetri, Dave, Tyler, Kevin and Brandon have done a nice job on the website and am looking forward to adding some additional support in the future. I also have a few new ideas that I plan to develop and introduce this year to help future broadcasters and hiring managers. If that’s not enough, I’m already booked for a few speaking engagements and market visits and look forward to adding more to make 2018 as productive as possible.

If there’s one professional wish I have for 2018 it’s for industry folks to support one another more. There are times where I literally have to hunt down my fellow peers and friends to share a quote, job listing, piece of information or hit the Re-Tweet button and it shouldn’t be that hard. Most of the time it’s something that benefits the individual, their brand or their audience. We too often in this format get tunnel vision and get so consumed by our work that we forget how important it is to let people near and far know what we’re up to. I’m happy to help advance the sports radio conversation if you’re willing to share your feedback and help promote the stories that inform folks of your success.

To bring this column to a close, 2017 wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but it offered some valuable lessons which I plan to carry over to 2018. I’m optimistic about the future of our business and hopeful of working with many more people and brands over the next twelve months. To those who have frequently visited the website, listened to the podcasts and supported my work, I appreciate your loyalty. Here’s to another year of health, happiness, growth, and success!

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Jeff Catlin, John Mamola, Gordy Rush & Maggie Clifton Join The 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

Jason Barrett

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We’re less than two months away from the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles. This year’s conference takes place on March 21-22, 2023 at the Founders Room inside of the Galen Center at USC. Many industry professionals are set to attend but sports media folks tend to be a last minute crowd whether it’s buying a ticket, reserving a room or committing to be a sponsor. Yes, tickets, rooms, and a select few sponsorships are still available, but the longer you wait, the more you risk not being in the room, featured as a partner, and paying higher prices for travel. To make sure you have a seat and a place to stay, log on to BSMSummit.com. For sponsorship inquiries, email Stephanie at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

I am really excited about this year’s Summit. The venue is tremendous, the agenda is coming together nicely, and there’s no doubt we’ll have great weather when we gather in LA. Some have asked me why I don’t reveal the full schedule of sessions months in advance, and it’s because I believe in swinging for the fences and trying to do big things. To do that, you’ve got to be willing to invest time and explore every opportunity that can be impactful. It’d be much easier to fill the schedule and be done with everything but if it’s going to take a little longer to deliver the best speakers, discussions and experiences for all in the room, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Those involved in the creation of this conference know that I set a very high standard for it. We’ve run some great events over the years, and it’s because we put everything we have into making sure each session is valuable to a different segment of the industry. My goal each year is to present an action packed agenda that helps people learn, gain access to information to improve themselves and/or their brands, and create a few connections and memorable moments to justify it being worth a few days away out of the office or studio. If we can do that, it makes the sacrifices worthwhile. If we can’t execute at a high level, then I’d probably pass on doing it.

Before I tell you about the four people we’re adding to our speaker lineup, I do want to remind you that we recently announced a contest for California college students. We’re giving away ten (10) FREE tickets to the show courtesy of Steve Kamer Voiceovers. If you know a student in California please let them know about this. If they’re not in California but want to attend the event, we’ve created a special college rate to make it affordable for young people. Everything is listed on BSMSummit.com.

Now, for the new additions to the lineup.

I’m excited to welcome Jeff Catlin of The Ticket in Dallas to the Summit. This will be Jeff’s first Summit visit, and I appreciate him making time to share his programming wisdom with the rest of the room. Jeff will be part of a programming panel that kicks off day #2. That panel will include Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Raj Sharan of Denver’s Sports Station 104.3 The Fan, and our next addition, John Mamola of WDAE. John has been at all of our events dating back to our first test event in Chicago. I’m looking forward to giving him an opportunity to offer his programming insights alongside this talented group.

Also joining the Summit lineup is Maggie Clifton, Blue Wire’s Senior Vice President of Business Development. Maggie has played a vital role in growing Blue Wire’s revenue, and I’m looking forward to having her join Barstool Sports’ SVP, Head of Sales Matt Berger, and Magellan AI’s Chief Revenue Officer John Goforth on a panel that focuses on digital monetization.

Guiding that conversation will be Guaranty Media’s Gordy Rush. The Baton Rouge Vice President and General Manager who doubles as LSU’s sideline reporter on football broadcasts is well versed in monetizing content, and understanding the opportunities and challenges broadcasters face. I’m confident those in the room charged with maximizing digital revenue for their brands will gain great value from these four professionals.

There’s much more in the works that I’m looking forward to announcing in the coming weeks. Whether you own a company, manage a cluster as a GM, lead a sales team, host or produce a podcast or radio/TV show, buy advertising, oversee a brand’s social media strategy or program a network or local outlet, there’s something for every sports media professional at the BSM Summit. I invite you to come see for yourself. To do so, visit BSMSummit.com.

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Jimmy Powers to Receive The Mark Chernoff Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award.”

Jason Barrett

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As a former programmer turned consultant, I pay more attention than most to those who lead brands, manage talent, and create consistent success. When you look across the country at the hundreds of stations delivering sports radio content, and analyze who operates at a high level, there’s maybe ten to twenty who are changing the game, and others who are rising and hoping to become a bigger part of the conversation.

What makes this annual award special in addition to having Mark Chernoff’s name on it, is that it’s voted on by eighteen industry heavyweights. These are folks tasked with overseeing radio companies, major networks, and having exceptional track records of broadcasting success. So when they vote and an individual earns an honor, it means a little more.

If you’re in the business and follow sports radio, then you’re aware of Mark Chernoff’s accomplishments as a program director. He was one of the true architects and consistent winners, and his ability to excel as a sports radio manager has influenced and shaped many careers. Mark graciously agreed to be part of our awards ceremony a few years ago when I approached him with the idea in New York City. I’m thrilled to share that although he doesn’t attend many industry conferences on the west coast, he will be with us at the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles for the ceremony.

Which brings me to this year’s winner.

It is my honor to congratulate the leader of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Jimmy Powers. Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award. He follows Rick Radzik of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, and Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score in Chicago. Jimmy will be in attendance at the Summit to pick up the award, and will take part in a program director panel at the show. Further details on that to be shared next week.

“It’s such a great honor not only to be mentioned in the same breath with Mark Chernoff, but to receive the ‘Mark Chernoff Award’ is really, really cool” shared 97.1 The Ticket Program Director Jimmy Powers. “With so many great program directors across the country who are deserving of this award, I truly appreciate the recognition.”

Since late 2009, Powers has led the Detroit sports radio station to unmatched local success. Brought in to build upon what was created by the late great Tom Bigby, he’s helped The Ticket become one of the format’s best examples of success. The station has consistently dominated the Male 25-54 demo, while also becoming a ratings force with Persons 12+ and Adults 25-54.

“Jimmy has done an amazing job over the years running 97.1 the Ticket,” said legendary sports radio programmer Mark Chernoff. “He knows how to work with talent, and maintain balance while managing relationships with the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons, which is not an easy job. The ratings remain high, and the Ticket continues to be one of America’s top sports stations, which reflects the great work Jimmy has done as the station’s program director.”

In addition to delivering double digit shares, quarterly ratings wins, and presenting a star studded lineup and Michigan’s top sports franchises, The Ticket has taken home plenty of hardware too. The station has won the Marconi award for best sports station in 2016 and 2022. And now, they can add the 2023 Mark Chernoff Award to their trophy case.

“2022 was another big year for The Ticket, and many in Detroit deserve credit for the brand’s consistent success, but none more so than their exceptional brand leader, Jimmy Powers,” added BSM President Jason Barrett. “Jimmy has been a staple of consistency, guiding one of the crown jewels of sports radio, managing top personalities, important play by play partnerships, and helping the brand generate large revenues. I’m thrilled that our industry voters took notice of the fantastic work Jimmy has done and look forward to celebrating his career and accomplishments in Los Angeles this March.”

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

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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