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Key Takeaways From Talkers 2018

Jason Barrett



The Talkers 2018 conference in New York City is over but a few things remain in my mind after attending the event. Michael Harrison and his team put together an excellent full day schedule which was well attended and supported by industry leaders. Altogether 71 people from a variety of backgrounds in the media business spoke, and finding an open seat in the Helen Mills Theater was not easy.

Having spent countless hours at conferences during my career, and especially over the past three years since launching BSM, I’ve viewed each of these events as a chance to expand my knowledge and grow my network. I realize some things we hear are repeated year after year but there’s also new information and opinions shared which can go a long way in helping you grow as an industry professional. I also think there are many similarities between sports and news/talk so if I can pick up a few tips to benefit my clients, I’m glad to make the trip to attend.

Before I dive into some of my takeaways, I want to address one item which came up last week. I learned that there were a number of people upset that Alex Jones was listed on the conference schedule. As it turns out, his appearance was cancelled. I’m not here to tell you that you should or shouldn’t attend an event based on your feelings towards someone who’s views you strongly reject, but I refuse to let my personal beliefs get in the way of an opportunity to learn and strengthen professional relationships. I’d rather walk out of the room, make a phone call or grab a bite to eat during a session which I’m opposed to, instead of punishing 70 other talented speakers. But hey, that’s just me.

As far as the sessions were concerned, there were 15 jammed into the 8-hour day. Some flowed smoothly and delivered tremendous information. Some were tougher due to an overcrowding of guest speakers and a short period of time to explore subjects. Overall though it was a productive and beneficial experience.

For starters, I thought Karen Hunter of SiriusXM did a nice job when accepting the Freedom of Speech Award. She reminded the audience that the microphone has an ability to destroy people if you’re not responsible with it. Her points on aiming to bring people together to create a coalition, and discuss issues and ideas in an honest manner was refreshing. I also loved her commentary on challenging hosts to find a way to add to people’s peaks rather than their pain.

Michael Harrison also provided a few gems, starting with a reminder that the only thing holding back the radio industry is the radio industry itself. He mentioned that we’ve got to be open and willing to share our experiences with others because it allows us to learn and build a better industry. This is something I’ve challenged sports radio people time and time again to do a better job of. If you don’t tell your brand’s story, you can’t bitch when it’s told poorly by someone else.

In his fireside chat with FOX News television and radio personality Brian Kilmeade, Harrison asked about the challenge of conducting real interviews with high profile people without kissing their ass. In Kilmeade’s case, he’s had a rapport with Donald Trump prior to his becoming President, so now when conversations take place, there’s an even bigger focus placed on whether the FOX News host is being fair or lobbing softballs.

Kilmeade said his approach to those situations is to lead with a fact, ask a question and avoid sensationalizing. He said President Trump isn’t unwilling to hear criticism but he expects to be treated fairly.

One great example shared by Kilmeade was when he interviewed WWE Chairman Vince McMahon during his steroids trial. Brian began by trying to boost him up before the discussion by pointing out how he enjoyed the product to which McMahon replied “I don’t need a fan. Just ask the questions. I have the answers.” It showed Kilmeade that if a person has the truth on their side, they’re less worried about facing the music.

After Kilmeade’s appearace, Beasley Radio CEO Caroline Beasley spoke with Harrison and shared how much she believes in the sports talk space, proclaiming 98.5 The Sports Hub to be the best sports radio brand in the nation. Beasley then offered some thoughts on the digital space, and pointed out that the company launched 63 of their stations on Alexa, and now receives 12% of their listening on the platform. Among her biggest concerns was the lack of real numbers due to on-air and online listening not receiving true measurement.

Following Beasley was Salem Media Group’s SVP of the Spoken Word format Phil Boyce. The former WABC programmer presented some outstanding data to show what NewsTalk listeners want most, and explained how that data should be applied when hosting shows. The reason why Sean Hannity mentions the words “Breaking News” within the first 30 seconds of his show is because data shows it to be the number one thing people take an interest in. He said it’s the understanding of an audience which has allowed FOX News to continue winning despite losing 3/4 of their stars.

Boyce labeled Donald Trump “the gift that keeps on giving” and talked about how his ascension to the highest office has been the biggest boom for NewsTalk since Monica Lewinsky’s infamous encounter with Bill Clinton. Boyce read a great quote from the Washington Examiner which said “The President is one of the wildest, most exciting things to ever happen to this industry, and if you think there’s a chance that the national media will dial back their 24-hour Trump coverage in 2020, willingly passing up the financial benefits that come with covering this circus, then you don’t know media.”

Insights were then shared by Boyce from Salem’s research which highlighted what people value most and least on talk radio. He pointed out how some hosts and stations have spent time talking about nonsense and how it’s come back to bite them in the ass. If time allows, I encourage you to log on to and watch the video presentation. It’s on the top right of the page and about an hour and fifteen minutes in. It’s well worth your time it if you’re a fan of research and how it shapes a programming strategy.

A Talkers conference wouldn’t be complete without a visit from WFAN afternoon host Mike Francesa. The New York sports radio icon mentioned that we are on a collision course between content and platforms. He offered a few thoughts on the demand for live play by play and why he expects sports to deliver more suitors and dollars in the future. One note which Francesa shared which won’t make programmers happy is when he pointed out that he does a self-sufficient show and receives minimal involvement from his PD. Given his length of time and success in the business, Mike doesn’t believe he needs to be regularly coached. He closed up by challenging on-air talent to take a stronger interest in learning the business, especially the ratings and revenue portion of their jobs, adding how Don Imus and Brent Musburger were influential on his development as an industry professional.

After hearing about the values of sports and news/talk radio, the conversation shifted to the podcasting space. Podcast One Chairman and CEO Norm Pattiz took the stage and touted the various ways brands can use metrics to satisfy advertisers. Pattiz pointed out how uniques are similar to cume and don’t often tell the whole story of a program/brand’s success. Among the biggest issues Pattiz notices is how podcasting has been sold as value added rather than programming with unique value. He believes the most important sale is a host read commercial, and it has increased value in podcasting due to limited commercial availability.

In closing, the Podcast One CEO cautioned that we haven’t reached the golden age of podcasting yet. In fact he feels we’re not even close to it yet. When exploring talent to add to his platform he said if someone can generate an audience, then they’re attractive, because anyone with an audience, has an ability to sell something to them. He shared that someone with 50K in social media followers won’t have the door shut on them but if they walk in with a few million that’s going to immediately get the company’s attention because podcasting recognizes and builds influencers.

One of my favorite sessions of the day was hearing Steven Goldstein of Amplifi Media present his findings on the growth of smart speakers. Goldestein, who is in business with Fred Jacobs of Jacobs Media, noted that smart speakers are growing faster than smart phones did. He said we’re moving to a post-text world where voice becomes the number one way to communicate, and shared that by the year 2020 it’s expected that 50% of all searches will be done thru voice. Goldstein presented some great numbers to further illustrate the importance of the smart speaker space, mentioning that 20% of Americans now one one, Google AdWords revenue has soared to $95 billion, and Amazon has built a 5000 person staff to work on Alexa.

How that applies to radio is pretty simple according to Goldstein. He said smart speakers have put radio back in the home, but it’s critical for stations to develop skills so they can be easily found. He cautioned that the first time a listener searches for the brand and can’t find it, is the last time they search for it. Another valuable reminder was that when it involves the voice space, there is no AM/FM button. Currently there is an abundance of choice including 5 streaming services, one hundred thousand radio stations and five hundred fifty thousand podcasts. If ever there was a time to analyze your brand, people, and programming and consider the ways they can be received on smart speaker devices, this is the time.

The final session which I found interesting was The Big Picture discussion which featured Mike McVay of Cumulus Media, Justin Chase of Beasley, Chris Berry of iHeartMedia, Julie Talbott of Premiere Radio Networks, and EVP of the Weiss Agency, Heather Cohen. Over the course of thirty minutes the panel answered questions from ABC News Radio VP/GM Steve Jones on the present state of the business and expected changes. Chase specifically raised some valuable points on radio’s relationship with the auto industry and how it’s in a good place and important to the future of our business. McVay announced that Cumulus has begun reworking incentives for their people, taking into account digital impact, not just ratings. The sense among all involved was that podcasting is certainly important, and a big part of each group’s future plans, but the optimism for radio has not wavered.

Other notable speakers included Westwood One President Suzanne Grimes, AM 970 The Answer host and known comedian Joe Piscopo, WABC morning host Sid Rosenberg, and program directors Craig Schwalb, Scott Masteller, Grace Blazer and Mike Bendixen. Bendixen in particular won the day for most swear words used during a session. Before you judge him, let me point out that it was entertaining. It not only showcased Mike’s true passion for the business, but the reality is that many of us talk this way on a regular basis, so I appreciated the authenticity.

If there was one thing to point out that I found concerning it’s that these conferences continue to be supported and attended by an aging demographic. This isn’t just a Talkers issue, it’s an industry issue. To make it even more depressing, rarely do you find personalities in the room looking to learn.

That leaves me to wonder, are industry members in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s interested where we are and where we’re headed? With the world changing as rapidly as it is, and companies investing time and resources every day to get an edge, do we honestly believe the answers to progress are going to come by just doing the job in front of us inside our own hallways? I continue to see an issue with reaching younger professionals, and I question what these conferences will look like in 10-15 years. If we don’t take advantage of the opportunities to learn while they exist, we may not have that option in the future. I don’t think that helps any of us.

Barrett Blogs

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




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 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 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

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

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Barrett News Media To Gather The Industry in Nashville in September 2023

“I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.”

Jason Barrett




One of the best parts about working in the media business is that you’re afforded an opportunity to use your creativity, take risks, and learn if an audience or advertisers will support your ideas. Sometimes you hit a homerun, other times you strike out, but regardless of the outcome, you keep on swinging.

I’ve tried to do that since launching a digital publishing and radio consulting company in 2015. Fortunately, we’ve delivered more hits than misses.

When I added news media industry coverage to our brand in September 2020, I knew it’d be a huge undertaking. The news/talk format is two and a half times larger than sports, many of its brands are powered by national shows, and the content itself is more personal and divisive. I wanted our focus and attention on news media stories, not politics and news, and though there have been times when the lines got blurred, we’ve tried to be consistent in serving industry professionals relevant content .

What made the move into news media more challenging was that I’d spent less time in it. That meant it’d take longer to find the right writers, and it required putting more time into building relationships, trust, respect, and support. Though we still have more ground to cover, we’ve made nice strides. That was reflected by the participation we received when we rolled out the BNM Top 20 of 2022 the past two weeks. Hopefully you checked out the lists. Demetri Ravanos and I will be hosting a video chat today at 1pm ET on BNM’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and through Barrett Media’s YouTube page discussing the series, as well as this article.

It’s because of that growing support, trust, and confidence in what we’re doing that I’m taking a risk yet again. I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.

I am excited to share the news that Barrett News Media will host its first ever BNM Summit on Thursday September 14, 2023 in Nashville, TN. Our one-day conference will take place at Vanderbilt University’s Student Life Center Ballroom. The venue we’ve selected is tremendous and I’m eager to spend a day with news/talk professionals to examine ways to further grow the format and industry.

If you’re wondering why we chose Nashville, here’s why.

First, the city itself is awesome. The access to great restaurants, bars, entertainment, hotels, and famous landmarks is unlimited, and when you’re traveling to a city for a business conference, those things matter. Being in a city that’s easy for folks across the country to get to also doesn’t hurt.

Secondly, a conference is harder to pull off if you can’t involve successful on-air people in it. If you look at Nashville’s growth in the talk media space over the past decade, it’s remarkable. Many notable talents now live and broadcast locally, major brands have created a local footprint in the area, and that opens the door to future possibilities. I have no idea who we’ll include in the show, and I haven’t sent out one request yet because I wanted to keep this quiet until we were sure it made sense. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of interest in participating and I can’t promise we’ll be able to accommodate all requests but if you have interest in being involved, send an email to

Third, finding the right venue is always difficult. We looked at a bunch of great venues in Nashville during our vacation this past summer, and when we stepped on to the campus at Vanderbilt University and walked through the SLC Ballroom, we knew it was the right fit. It had the space we needed, the right tech support, access to private parking, a green room for guests, and it was within walking distance of a few hotels, restaurants, and the Parthenon.

As I went through the process of deciding if this event was right for BNM, a few folks I trust mentioned that by creating a Summit for news/media folks, it could create a competitive situation. I don’t see it that way. I view it as a responsibility. I think we need more people coming together to grow the industry rather than trying to tear each other down. I hear this far too often in radio. We worry about what one station is doing rather than strengthening our own brand and preparing to compete with all audio options.

For years I’ve attended conferences hosted by Radio Ink, NAB, Talkers, and Conclave. I’ve even spoken at a few and welcomed folks who operate in the consulting space to speak at my shows. I’ll continue to support those events, read various trade sites, and invite speakers who work in a similar field because they’re good people who care about helping the industry. I believe BNM and BSM add value to the media business through its websites and conferences, and though there may be a detractor or two, I’ll focus on why we’re doing this and who it’s for, and let the chips fall where they may.

I know juggling two conferences in one year is likely going to make me crazy at times, but I welcome the challenge. In the months ahead I’ll start lining up speakers, sponsors, building the conference website, and analyzing every detail to make sure we hold up our end of the bargain and deliver an informative and professionally beneficial event. The news/talk media industry is massive and making sure it stays healthy is critically important. I think we can play a small role in helping the business grow, and I look forward to finding out on September 14th in Nashville at Vanderbilt University.

Hope to see you there!

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Jimmy Powers, Raj Sharan, Matt Berger and John Goforth Added to 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

“BSM is having a special Holiday SALE this week. Individual tickets are reduced to $224.99 until Friday night December 23rd at 11:59pm ET.

Jason Barrett




In less than a hundred days, the BSM Summit will return to Los Angeles for two-days of networking, learning, laughing, and celebrating. The conference hasn’t been held on the west coast since 2019, and we’re looking forward to returning to the city of angels on March 21-22, 2023, and bringing together sports media professionals at the Founders Club, located inside the Galen Center at the University of Southern California.

For those of you who haven’t purchased your ticket(s) yet, BSM is having a special Holiday SALE this week. From today (Monday) through Friday 11:59pm ET, individual tickets are reduced to $224.99. If you’re planning to come, and want to make sure you’re in the room, take advantage of the extra savings and secure your seat. To buy tickets, reserve your hotel room, and learn more about the Summit’s speakers, click here.

We’ve previously announced twenty one (21) participants who will join us on stage at the 2023 BSM Summit. Today, we’re excited to expand our lineup by welcoming four (4) more additions to March’s industry spectacular.

First, BSM is thrilled to have two accomplished sports radio programmers contributing to the event. Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit will make his Summit debut in L.A.. Fresh off of a Marconi victory earlier this fall, The Ticket’s brand manager will share his insights on the present and future of sports radio on one of our programming panels. Also taking part in that panel will be the leader of 104.3 The Fan in Denver, Raj Sharan. Raj appeared on stage at the 2022 BSM Summit in NYC, and we look forward to having him return to lend his voice to an important sports radio programming discussion.

But programming won’t be the only thing we invest time in out west. Growing a business, more specifically, a digital business will be part of our conference agenda as well.

When it comes to maximizing digital revenue, few brands understand the space better than Barstool Sports. Charged with growing the brand’s revenue is Senior Vice President and Head of Sales Matt Berger, and we’re looking forward to having Matt join us for a conversation that will focus on monetizing digital opportunities. Before joining Barstool, Matt sold for Bleacher Report/House of Highlights. He’s also worked for Warner Brothers and the Walt Disney Company. We’re excited to have him share his wisdom with the room.

Also taking part in our digital sales panel will be John Goforth of Magellan AI. John knows the radio business well from having served previously as a sales manager and salesperson. Since leaving traditional media and joining Magellan AI, John has studied the podcasting advertising space and learned who the top spenders are, who’s making big moves with their podcast advertising budgets, and which publishers are best positioned to benefit. Having his expertise on stage will help many in the room with trying to better understand the digital sales space.

There are other speaker announcements still to come. We have some big things planned, which I’m hoping to reveal in January and February. I want to thank ESPN Radio, FOX Sports, Showtime, and Point to Point Marketing for coming on board as partners of the 2023 BSM Summit. The support we’ve received heading into Los Angeles has been tremendous, and we greatly appreciate it. If you’re looking to be associated with the Summit as an event partner, email Stephanie Eads at

That’s all for now, but be sure to take advantage of the Summit Holiday Sale. You have until Friday night December 23rd at 11:59pm ET to take advantage of discounted tickets. Happy Holidays!

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