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Observations of the BSM 2017 Top 20

Jason Barrett

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Six days of BSM 2017 Top 20 lists are in the books and I’m thrilled to have it in my rear view mirror. The interest in this series continues to outperform my expectations and for that I’m extremely grateful, but, the process takes nearly three months to complete and by the time it’s over, I’m mentally exhausted and in need of a break. This year I’ve set aside three days for a quick getaway to Miami but as soon as I return, it’s on to the next two projects, Season 3 of the Barrett Sports Media Podcast, and finalizing plans for the Barrett Sports Media Programming Summit in Chicago in March.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t equal to digging ditches. It’s a labor of love, and I appreciate that sports radio listeners get invested in the lists and use the information to learn more about some of our format’s great shows and stations in other cities. I’m beyond thankful to each industry member who retweets my work or shares their own posts on social media or an internal email to colleagues expressing their gratitude for the recognition. It’s a great feeling when I see a wife post something about her husband or a co-worker share something about a teammate or boss, appreciating them for their hard work and accomplishments.

I spent a decade programming a few successful sports stations, working with some incredible people, and I wish this type of series existed when I was managing brands. I often wondered if my efforts and contributions were noticed by my peers or not. Unfortunately, the only opportunities to be recognized came in the form of on-air shows earning exposure on lists which were often influenced by advertising dollars, partnerships and professional relationships. Although that frustrated my format friends, it’s all we had, which was why I decided to do something about it when I went into business for myself.

I don’t claim this process is perfect or better than anyone else’s, but the BSM platform has gained credibility. That’s helped in gaining the trust and respect of forty seven radio executives from different cities and companies. Without their help this project would be incomplete. The only thing I’ll take credit for is being smart enough to release the six day series during a time when the majority of the sports media industry broadcasts live from the Super Bowl host city. That puts peers, friends and competitors in the same space, which leads to additional awareness and chatter about the lists.

Throughout my time in the business, I’ve heard people frequently mention at radio conferences that the radio business needs to do a better job of telling its story, highlighting its people and successes, and lending their support to those who recognize the good work they’re doing. It sounds like great advice, but unfortunately not many follow thru on it.

I can proudly say though that I do. There is no promotional series for the sports talk format more extensive than the BSM Top 20.

Over the span of six days, 140 shows, 40 stations and 40 programmers in the sports radio format are recognized for their work. That information makes Market Managers look good to their bosses. It becomes information passed along by salespeople to their clients. It’s content which gets pushed thru a brand’s social media channels and airwaves to activate their listeners. More importantly though, it gives each person on the list a reason to feel good about their work and to know that what they do is appreciated and valued by their employer and those who pay attention up above.

Is the process perfect? No. I’m not sure how it could be. An East Coast executive will probably value a show or station in their city or region higher than they do a West Coast brand and vice versa. A person working at Entercom or iHeart will likely vote for people they know, respect and care about instead of a competitor. Some individuals will also place shows or people higher based on ratings or reputation rather than what comes thru the speakers.

Because of all of those factors, I stress that the results are a representation of the collective opinions of industry executives and they’re subjective. In organizing it, I go thru each company and region to try and make sure there’s good balance. I’ll even switch up a few panel members each year to keep it fresh.

What I’ve learned since starting this is that there are a lot of smart and informed executives who take it seriously. There are also some who don’t know the format as well as they should. BSM doesn’t vote because it would be unfair to clients and competitors. As I’ve stated before, it doesn’t make sense to ask forty seven executives to contribute only to disregard their feedback and play favorites.

What I will offer my opinion on though are some of the results that stood out from this year’s Top 20.

10 OBSERVATIONS:

  • Kirk and Callahan of WEEI in Boston were named Major Market sports radio morning show, the only local Major Market award not won by WFAN or one of their shows. K&C had a tremendous 2017 and deserved the award, but I was surprised they won because The Fan had a stranglehold on nearly every category and voters tend to have strong opinions of WEEI and its shows. What the results told me, industry leaders have taken notice of what’s been happening in Boston sports radio circles.
  • I was stunned to see Boomer Esiason finish 7th in the Major Market morning show category considering that he won the award the past 2 years with Craig Carton. I understand if voters felt Carton’s exit weakened or stained WFAN for a brief period, but the morning show rated 1st in the fall with Men 25-54 in mornings without Carton. I’m not sure what else Esiason could have done.
  • Sticking with WFAN, Mike Francesa became the first and only three time winner, taking home the honor of 2017 Major Market Afternoon Show. Since the New York Sports Pope is no longer on the air, next year’s results figure to be very different. That puts pressure on Chris Carlin, Bart Scott and Maggie Gray but that shouldn’t phase them because they’ve dealt with intense scrutiny since accepting the job. On the other hand, every Major Market afternoon show now has an opening. It’ll be interesting to see who breaks thru in the next 12 months.
  • Waddle & Silvy and The Michael Kay Show exceeded expectations in the voting which was a pleasant surprise. Usually the ESPN local shows don’t generate as much traction as others. Not only do both programs deserve that respect because of their on-air execution, but their ratings, reputation and visibility are being noticed too. That’s good news for all involved.
  • I was surprised to see Felger & Mazz dip to 4th considering they remain the dominant duo in afternoons in Boston. Did a voter or two lower their opinion of the show based on Felger’s comments about Roy Halladay? That’s all I can come up with because they continued to deliver exceptional results.
  • Barstool Radio debuted on the National Shows list which shows that industry folks are curious, interested and expecting bigger things from the show/brand. With a full channel dedicated to Barstool’s content, I don’t think it’s a question if the brand will appear on the National list in the future. I think the question is, how many of their shows earn spots down the line?
  • Colin Cowherd’s reign atop the National’s list was overtaken by Dan Patrick. Given how much respect exists for Colin in executive circles I was surprised by that. It shows that industry folks place equal value on DP’s program and appreciate its consistency. In analyzing the voting, Dan and Colin are on a much higher level than the rest of the national pack.
  • For one reason or another, 790 The Ticket in Miami, and sports stations in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Houston seem to get overlooked a lot when compared to other Major Market brands. It’s likely because they don’t rate as high as other cities but there are a few quality shows on those stations which I think deserve a closer look.
  • I would’ve included 92.9 The Game in that previous paragraph but the Atlanta sports station finally broke thru in the Major Market Afternoon and Station categories. Is that a sign of bigger things to come for the brand or are they a one-hit wonder? Next year’s results will tell us, but at least now they’re on the radar.
  • It was neat to see The Deener Show, Erik Ainge, Bo Mattingly, The Huge Show, Garcia & Bailey, Bruce Hooley, Decamara & Ritchie, Dukes & Bell and Hochman & Crowder all debut on the lists. The same was true for PD’s Jeremiah Crowe, Joe Zarbano, Armen Williams, Dan Zampillo, Jeff Rickard, Tony DiGiacomo and Drew Anderssen. Good job by the panel voting for a few new faces who were deserving.

CLOSING COMMENTS:

The web traffic this year surpassed the previous two, confirming that interest in the Top 20 remains strong. Our panel was excellent, and I thought the winners and results provided many correct calls. Maybe a few things here or there deserved better or worse placement but overall it was a good reflection of the format’s best.

In the next few months I’ll examine everything from the schedule of each category release, to the images (I thought this year’s graphics were the best ones yet, do you agree or disagree?), to the executive panel members, to the press releases and emails that promote each list. Should this be done in 5 days or 6? Would it be better if it was rolled out in one day? Does it make more sense to do it online or at a live event? Is it worth adding a title sponsor to the series? These are questions I ask myself each year as I strive to make it better.

What I don’t spend much time worrying about are the handful of listeners who complain about stations in their markets deserving a top spot when the brand they’re trying to hype up barely rates. Sorry guys, industry executives pay attention to results. I appreciate the passion but yearly performance counts in this process.

I also don’t waste a lot of energy worrying about folks who complain about my clients earning favoritism or being placed behind their competitors. If you want the sports format to be fairly presented, you have to involve the right people, add up their feedback, and let the collective results speak for themselves. As I told an executive last week who disliked the winner of one category, you contributed to the process along with your peers. If you want to blame someone, blame them or yourself.

I do have one pet peeve. There are some people who like to add up the number of female and black hosts on the lists and create some type of racial or gender war. I’ve stated before that the format needs to do a much better job hiring people from different backgrounds. I’ve done the research and presented it. But, that is a separate issue. To not recognize hosts or PD’s who are doing great work for quality brands is discounting their contributions to the industry too. In my opinion, that doesn’t solve the problem.

As far as talk show hosts are concerned, I love competitive people and understand why they feel they deserve a spot on the list. If it didn’t happen though, rather than getting frustrated, ask yourself, why am I not on there? Is it ratings related? Is it because the market or brand I’m part of flies below the radar? Am I working for the second station in a city with a well known and respected competitor? Are the other 20 options simply better at what they do? Or are executives not as big of a fan of my work as I might have thought they were?

Ratings, revenue, reputation and relevance are all part of your success story. If you possess all four, you may have a legitimate gripe. If not, get to work on them because what you contribute today and tomorrow could impact where you stand next year. Congratulations to all who earned a spot on the 2017 BSM Top 20. Until next year, thanks for checking out the lists and supporting BSM.

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 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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