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A Mixed Bag of Sports Media Subjects

Jason Barrett

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There have been a number of things happening in sports and media that have captured my attention lately. Rather than writing a normal column which focuses on one particular issue, I’m going to use my platform today to cover a few topics in rapid fire fashion. Fasten your seat belt.

FACING THE MUSIC AFTER A MISTAKE IS ALWAYS A WISE DECISION

Like many of you, I screamed my head off at the television when watching the final play in the Minnesota Vikings-New Orleans playoff game. I was shocked by what happened and questioned Saints safety Marcus Williams’ judgment along with the rest of the nation.

But it’s what happened afterwards that gained my attention and respect.

Rather than ignoring the media, which most would’ve done in that moment and for good reason, Williams stood tall handling the heat. He knew he screwed up and let down every fan of the Who Dat nation, and felt a responsibility to acknowledge his mistake and pledge to learn from it. As furious as fans were and as emotional as we become over wins and losses, it’s harder to want to kick a guy when he’s down when he has the decency to look you in the eye and say “I’m sorry. I screwed up. This is my fault.”

Why does that matter? Because it applies to many of us in the sports radio business.

If you’re a host or program director and your ratings are down, your market manager and corporate bosses don’t want to hear excuses. They want to know that you’re accountable and prepared with an informed explanation of what happened and a solution to avoid future missteps. If they sense that you care, have a game plan, and understand the situation, they’re more likely to support you during the tough times.

If you’re producing a show and the topic you pitched falls flat or the guest you booked doesn’t show up, own it. It’s live radio. Things don’t always go according to plan. All you can do is develop the angle, talk to the guest, confirm that they’re on schedule, and have a backup plan ready in case something doesn’t work. Your show unit and program director are going to ask questions when something you promised doesn’t come to fruition. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be doing their job, keeping you honest, and letting you know they expect better.

There are many daily situations that take place in our business which put us in position to either fall flat on our face or rise above the tide. Remember, everyone has a bad moment. It’s how you respond that determines whether people remain confident in your abilities or not. Judging from Marcus Williams’ performance throughout the season and how he conducted himself after the lowest moment of his professional career, I’m sure many in New Orleans are going to have his back going forward.

THE VIKINGS RADIO FINAL CALL PLEASED FANS, NOT MEDIA FOLKS

From that same Vikings-Saints game came another issue. The final call heard on KFAN in Minneapolis by the voice of the Vikings, Paul Allen.

Nobody expected the Vikings to walk off the field with a victory on the final play. It was something that had never happened during the course of NFL playoff history. So when Stefon Diggs took a Case Keenum pass 61 yards into the end zone to send the Vikings past the Saints and into the NFC title game versus the Philadelphia Eagles, the entire broadcast team got caught up in the moment.

If you were listening to the final play and judging the execution of Allen and Vikings color analyst Pete Bercich by normal broadcasting standards, you’d probably tear it to shreds. It was not the way broadcasting schools instruct you to call a play. In fact, Bercich stepped all over Allen and the excitement felt by both men contributed to them becoming fans with microphones for a few minutes.

But here’s the thing about local sports that makes it different. A local team’s broadcast crew is there to be the eyes and ears of the fan who isn’t. They’re invested in the team’s success and they live the highs and convey the lows of each developing situation. In Allen’s case he’s called Vikings games for 16 seasons. Bercich on the other hand has spent 11 years in the booth after spending years wearing the purple as a player and coach. Given the team’s track record of being on the wrong side of history, what Allen and Bercich experienced Sunday was unfamiliar and they let their true emotions pour onto the radio airwaves.

Depending on your preference for a sports broadcast, you may have hated the final radio call of the Vikings game, or played it ten times. My guess is that many who didn’t like the execution, are probably not living in Minneapolis or rooting for the Vikings.

Whether you enjoyed the call or not, I think it’s important to remember that the real art of broadcasting a game is having the ability to paint a picture with words and let the audience feel and hear the moment in its purest form. Maybe it wasn’t what the radio gods would have preferred or executed the way broadcast trainers have taught it but it was exactly what Minnesota sports fans needed during that moment in time. Taking that into account, Allen and Bercich increased their hero status with Vikings fans this past Sunday.

WOULDN’T BARSTOOL SPORTS HAVE MADE SENSE FOR TERRESTRIAL RADIO?

On Wednesday, Barstool Sports launches a 24-hour radio channel on SiriusXM. To sports radio traditionalists that might not mean much. After all, there are many channels on SiriusXM, so who cares about another one right?

Well, you may want to pay attention. Barstool has built an army of fans. They’ve also earned their fair share of critics. The company’s content isn’t for everyone, but for those who do enjoy it, they are rabid, loyal and invested in the company’s success. Given the company’s impact online and on social, they’re throwing punches with the heavyweights and proving they’re a force to be reckoned with. They’ve also struck a chord with younger fans, an audience which terrestrial radio has a tougher time reaching.

For the past two decades, the national sports radio space has been dominated by ESPN and FOX. Others such as CBS, NBC and SB Nation have operated networks too, but they’re far behind the top two networks. One could easily make the case that SiriusXM has created much more buzz and interest in its national programming than those other brands, despite not being on terrestrial channels and requiring a fee to listen.

What’s interesting to me about this partnership is why a brand like Barstool was not pursued more aggressively and given a bigger national platform by one of those terrestrial networks. One would assume the Barstool brand and personalities working for the company would have created a lot more interest. A few sources I spoke to mentioned that Barstool’s use of foul language and the negative press received over the years provided some concern. I get that they’re not squeaky clean but if the ultimate goal is to increase ratings, revenue and brand relevance, then just as ESPN figured out how to create a TV show with the company, I’m sure the same could have been done by a terrestrial radio partner.

What I find ironic is that some of the issues that concerned traditional broadcasters about Barstool were the same ones they embraced when giving Howard Stern a larger platform a few decades earlier. All Stern did for them was produce big ratings and revenue, despite creating edgy content and negative headlines.

It’s also interesting that SiriusXM is the company which took the plunge. That would be the same group which was smart enough to recognize Stern’s power and lure him away to satellite radio thus building a thriving company in the process. That left a moon sized crater in morning drive on FM radio stations and now SiriusXM is taking a page out of the same playbook by pledging their support to Dave Portnoy’s band of misfits.

I believe that Barstool will help Sirius increase subscribers but I can’t imagine the company having a Stern like effect on business. However, if they produce even a tenth or twentieth of the impact that Stern did, that would be a huge victory for the suits at SiriusXM. That leaves me to wonder, why wasn’t that enough to excite even one terrestrial radio group?

FACEBOOK SENDS THE MEDIA INDUSTRY BACK TO PANIC STATION

Last week’s announcement from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg that the world’s largest social media platform would soon begin favoring posts from friends and family and decreasing the material you see from media outlets, has created a tidal wave of concern among broadcasters. As many inside offices throw darts at the Facebook czar’s image and offer four-letter expletives to describe how they feel about his recent decision, that won’t change the fact that Facebook is adjusting its strategy and execution.

Although the impact has yet to be seen or felt, many media brands anticipate being forced to spend more money to have their content reach audiences which use Facebook for daily reading and conversation. The social company feels its platform has become a playground for fake news, even contributing to the outcome of the prior election. Zuckerberg said Facebook feels a responsibility to make sure its services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being, and he’s willing to accept that people will spend less time on the platform if it means it their time spent on it becomes more valuable.

Take off your business cap for a second and listen closely to what I’m about to tell you. Facebook has ZERO obligation to help your brand create or sustain success. King Zuckerberg didn’t make his fortune by looking out for everyone else’s interests. He did it by building a must-have brand with worldwide appeal and utilized it to increase his own company’s worth and bottom line.

We forget that our brands have little control over the audience developed on Facebook. We use our airwaves, email newsletters, text alerts, billboards, live events and marketing campaigns to promote our product’s benefits and remind the audience of how they can learn more by following us on Facebook, but lose sight of the fact that while we may be able to target our content to specific audiences on the platform, those people actually belong to Facebook, not us.

Some will say that it feels like a one-sided relationship. There’s some truth to that. But, the reality is that Facebook has the audience that our brands need to drive ratings, web traffic, increase brand awareness, attend events, and support advertisers. You can label them as evil, but they’re a necessary evil.

In sports radio, we often preach about the importance of staying fresh, relevant and ahead of the curve. That’s what Facebook is doing. We may not like it because we’ve become creatures of comfort with a preference to continue with ‘business as usual’, but the reason they’ve become a global entity is because they continue to take risks, evolve, lead the charge and react when necessary.

It reminds me of that scene in Moneyball when the scouts are all in the room telling Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) that the problem they need to solve is finding a way to replace Giambi, Damon and Isringhausen who are leaving via free agency. Beane counters that they’re not looking at the big picture which shows that the A’s are a low budget team faced with a competitive disadvantage and unless they reinvent their approach they’ll wind up in the exact same position in the future.

I cautioned folks 10 months ago about a lack of social activity and why being invisible to our most passionate fans was a bad recipe. “Social Media” is meant to be a form of communication where two sides engage in dialogue. It’s not meant to be a place where brands push content at engaged audiences who express their points of view about the material they’re receiving only to not even earn a response from the brand which created it.

Ironically, that’s what radio, television and print have done to audiences for decades. Some of that approach is warranted, but building a relationship with an audience requires time, effort, interest and forming a personal relationship. To expect three industries to execute differently when the way they know is different than how social companies think and operate is asking a lot. Except these social groups are making the rules now. Not traditional media.

It’s too late to blame ourselves for breathing too much life into Facebook. My fear is that some groups will take this news and run now towards Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, assuming they’ll solve the problem. But, they won’t. They reach smaller audiences and want the same thing that Zuckerberg has. If you think they won’t do to your brand what Facebook has, you’re extremely naive. These platforms are led by sharks who want to use their access to the audience and their personal information to take a much bigger bite out of your corporate bank account. It’s that simple.

Allow me to leave you with six takeaways which I hope will serve you well going forward.

  1. Educate yourself on Facebook’s adjustments to best take advantage of reaching your audience
  2. Further invest in additional ways to gain more access and control of your audience’s information
  3. Develop a plan for engaging more with your fans on social media and analyze what is/isn’t working
  4. Create a brand that’s so important/successful that you too can make major changes and not miss a beat
  5. Understand that the rules will continue to change in social spaces and you either adapt or risk extinction
  6. Stay alert, informed and open minded about emerging social channels which may look to challenge Facebook

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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