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Lessons Learned at the BSM Chicago Programming Summit

Jason Barrett

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When I’m in the moment it can be difficult to enjoy and appreciate the wins. My mind is always thinking about the next challenge or the previous one and what I could have done differently to be more effective. But this week, I’ve allowed myself a little bit of time to reflect back on the BSM Chicago programming summit because this was a brand new experience.

The idea first entered my mind two and a half years ago when I traveled to Chicago for the Podcast Movement Conference. Anytime I’m on the road, I try to find a few local sports radio people to connect with in person. I believe that’s an important part of keeping relationships strong.

During that trip, I dropped by to see Mitch Rosen and Adam Delevitt at each of their offices. When Mitch showed off the Blue Cross Blue Shield Performance Stage area and said “if you do a future conference, keep Chicago in mind” my mind started racing.

I liked Chicago because it’s not only an incredible city, but it’s centrally located. I felt that would make it easier for all who were traveling. I also knew Mitch and Adam were friends despite competing for local ratings bragging rights, and that’s a positive because when you’re considering putting on an event, you want both local brands to be part of it. The event may occur in one company’s building, but having local balance is important.

What stood out most from last week’s summit was how many smart, talented and passionate radio programmers made the trip to share thoughts and ideas on how to evolve our format. We had 20-30 brand leaders in the room, along with a number of exceptional speakers with experiences in a variety of areas related to our business. I wasn’t sure going into the summit if the room would welcome straight-talk on real issues facing our business, but much of the pre-conference feedback suggested that another rah-rah speech on the radio business wasn’t necessary and having honest discussions about ways to improve was important.

I could feel the passion and candor for the topics we explored. That energy grew from session to session. Given that the room consisted of executives from Entercom, Bonneville, Hubbard, iHeart, Cumulus, Beasley, Emmis, Tribune, NRG Media, ESPN Radio, Fox Sports Radio, SiriusXM, VSiN, and the Chernin Group, it allowed us to spread our wings and have more meaningful conversations rather than just echoing one point of view.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you can see some of the videos that were recorded during the two-day summit, but I also want to pass along a few things that stood out while listening and conducting on-stage conversations.

  • Sarah Spain and Jason Goff (along with Dan Zampillo) were tremendous on the subject of diversity in sports radio. It’s not easy to be open and honest on a topic like this, especially in front of a number of people who could potentially impact a future paycheck, but they were. I’ve written about this subject before, and have called on our format leaders to step up their efforts to expand the audience and showcase more personalities from various backgrounds. The US population is nearly 50% female and 40% minority yet the representation on sports radio stations is far below that. 13% of M-F hosting jobs belong to minorities and only 12 women are installed as M-F show hosts. Making that even more perplexing is that the overall listening audience is 92% “Other” (white) and 8% minority. One may say “if it’s 92% then you have to superserve them” but I submit that the ceiling has been reached doing it that way, and the real growth is in bringing more minority and female listeners into the sports radio tent.
  • Jon Miller of Nielsen and Larry Rosin of Edison Research provided deep dives into the sports radio ratings picture, and growth opportunities in podcasting and smart speakers. PD’s know that digital/social content is a vital part of their present and future, but challenges remain for getting full ratings credit for it. Nielsen is trying to find permanent solutions to satisfy their clients and although that may frustrate programmers in the short-term, a long-term mindset is needed when connecting with an audience. Seeing the data of how podcasting and smart speaker consumption has grown, it makes business sense to continue creating content in those spaces. The questions every programmer should be asking are “How is my brand standing out in those spaces” and “How easy is it to find my station and on-air content on smart speakers and podcasting platforms?”
  • I loved the spirited discussion on social media benefits and pitfalls with Danny Parkins, Scott Shapiro and sports agent Barry Meister. I showed a few social media examples involving sports media members, some which may have raised an eyebrow or two in the room. Given that the panel included perspectives from a host, agent and executive, it allowed everyone to better understand how each person thinks and operates when grey areas are reached. Between debating which examples warranted punishment and whether or not social media provided enough of a financial reward for the amount of risks it involves, we couldn’t have had three better people weighing in on an important yet imperfect subject.
  • If there was a moment which made every PD stop in their tracks, it was when Laurel Cline of Wintrust Financial said “Until today I don’t think I’ve ever met a sports radio program director.” Unfortunately that’s pretty common in our format. It served as a great reminder that account executives and market managers must do a better job of involving their PD’s in bigger sales discussions. Not to be excused, programmers must also make it a higher priority to help their sales teams. I showed examples in one of my sessions of how certain brands miss the mark with branded content. It’s because social platforms are used as a dumping ground for ads and PD’s turn a blind eye because they’re focused on the radio airwaves. When you look at the lack of reach and engagement on those sales posts, put yourself in the client’s shoes and ask, “Why would I spend more money with a brand when the evidence shows that they can’t deliver one like or share for my business?” Look at how Barstool, Bleacher Report, Vice, Whistle Sports, etc. produce branded content. They weave clients seamlessly into programming, and that’s something we must do better too. It starts by getting reps, clients and PD’s into the room together and thinking beyond the speaker.
  • Hearing Tim Spence of KHOW and Orange & Blue 760 moderate a discussion with Todd Manley of WGN, Brian Long of XTRA 1360/Newsradio 600 KOGO and Chris Kinard of 106.7 The Fan on The Trump Effect and sports radio’s challenges with choosing whether to embrace or ignore topics involving the President and life/social issues was really interesting. I thought John Hanson of 610 Sports summed it up best at the conclusion of the summit when he said “No matter how experienced you are in this business, you’re not experienced in this. I’ve made mistakes. My talent have called me out on them, and they were right. It’s something we’re all trying to figure out together.”
  • Anytime David Kaplan and Laurence Holmes share a stage together you’re in for a real treat. Hearing them share their insights with Jeff Rickard on the business, how they prepare and use social media, what they need most/least from a program director, etc. was excellent. The passion these Chicago hosts have for our format was evident, and if you have 50-minutes to spare, watch their session. It was very entertaining.
  • Sports stations struggle to give their brands a social media voice. Personalities are popular on their own accounts, but future ad dollars in the social space will be reduced if you can’t create impact. I thought Dan Moriarty of the Chicago Bulls, Jen Tulicki of the Chicago Bears and Brad Boron of the Chicago White Sox gave great insight on the way teams operate. They face the same challenges, except they’ve done a better job of using personality and strategy with their approach. Jen pointed out that any post made by the Bears takes into account the words “tough and humble.” Dan’s mention of the Bulls six pillars (Human, Iconic, Timely, Thumb Stopping, Inclusive and Differentiating) and how no piece of content should be published unless it checks at least three of those boxes and never wanders beyond those areas was eye opening. He also noted that the Bulls employ 2-3 FT digital content creators and 2-3 seasonal employees, and their challenge is to take one piece of content and find 10-12 ways to promote that material across multiple platforms in different ways. Jen’s insights on being comfortable with infrequent activity on Snapchat and placing a larger emphasis on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram made a ton of sense given that the audience size is smaller. Perhaps the biggest takeaway for radio folks though was when the subject of sports stations posting 50x per day on Facebook came up. Jen said it best “Nobody likes that annoying friend who won’t shut up.” Dan followed with “That sounds like a disaster waiting to happen….posting that much only makes sense if you’re using video where the numbers are huge. Otherwise, it’ll cost you followers.”
  • Jim Cutler‘s speech on ways to image your radio station successfully was inspiring. He showed samples of ways to help or hurt your brand, and his airing of thirty seconds of “Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah” reinforced the point of just how long that amount of time is and why it’s critical to make good use of it or risk losing your audience. I also thought his input on not boasting you’re great but letting your audience say it for you was smart. Perhaps his most memorable quote during the session was “a line draws a line” and that’s something every programmer should take into account when trying to reinforce the position of being a dominant performer in their local markets.
  • We were also fortunate to hear from Mitch Rosen, Ryan Maguire and Chris “Hoss” Neupert on winning with/without play by play. Justin Craig offered valuable insights on satisfying the fan experience and across multiple platforms. Mike Thomas shared his wisdom on how to make your sports radio station rock thru imaging. Chad Millman of the Action Network and Bill Adee of VSiN chatted with Joe Ostrowski about the future of sports betting and why it’s a huge category for sports radio folks. Dave Zaslowsky conducted an engaging conversation with three millennials, Bernie Goin, Julio Rausseo and Joey Alexander about the way they use and view sports media brands. And I scared the heck out of a few folks by offering some input on the future of the PD role, the missed opportunity with merchandising and other areas of the business we should be looking at in my Sports Radio Re-imagined and BSM Blitz sessions.

Altogether the event was a great success. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Entercom Chicago for providing a great room and a professional staff which helped us deliver a positive experience for all in attendance. Now that the summit is in the rear view mirror, I’ve got a few things in mind that I’d tweak if I chose to hold a second one. For those who weren’t there but have kept up via the website or social media, should this be done again in the future? I’ll take your feedback at JBarrett@hvy.tcp.mybluehost.me.

I do believe that independent conferences like this are important. Many companies do a great job of bringing their employees together for annual learning, but that just reinforces your internal beliefs and opinions. It doesn’t expose you to different ideas, strategies and people, and there are certainly many other ways to grow ratings and revenue.

It took months of hard work to make this a reality. I didn’t charge a dime for it even though many said I should. In fact, I spent money doing it, but I believe it’s a worthwhile investment. I don’t go into things like this with my hands out or an expectation that it’ll lead to follow up business. I obviously hope it does, but I trust that if I produce good content, bring people together, and teach the business to those in positions to grow it, then companies will find ways to utilize me to help them. That doesn’t always happen, and sometimes it can be frustrating and make me question if industry people value outside support, but I quickly get past those moments of doubt, and return my focus and energy to doing what I love, trying to make our business better.

One thing I’d like to see improve down the road should we do this again is the attendance from market managers. I realize sales are vital and getting out of the building isn’t always easy, but the reason every brand holds a significant place in the hearts and minds of the audience is because of the programming. We have some incredible station managers in this format, and when big decisions have to be made to a programming lineup or an adjustment is needed for a brand’s digital, social or on-air strategy, it helps to be as informed as one can be. Given that there are people involved in the two-day affair beyond the terrestrial radio space, there’s no shortage of information or ideas to help people grow.

Think of it like this, if the PD of your radio station is Steven Spielberg, and your talent are Tom Hanks or Al Pacino, the more you know about the creation, execution and promotion of the film, the better it will perform at the box office. And in that case, you’ll still be helping the bottom line!

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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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