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Rome Deserves Call From The National Radio Hall of Fame

Jason Barrett

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As sports fans, we often rely on the eye test to tell us if someone is a hall of famer. Stats provide evidence of an individual’s greatness. So too does being excellent in a sport for a lengthy period of time. If you can include a few championships, that’s usually enough to end the conversation and earn permanent recognition among the game’s elite.

In the sports radio business, it’s much tougher to depend on evidence because ratings and revenue can fluctuate, employers can change, and a host’s ability to deliver an entertaining show is viewed differently by each listener. One might point to a host’s longevity and use that as a barometer of being worthy of hall of fame consideration, but being able to last is far different than making a consistent impact.

If you were to look at the list of sports broadcasters who have made the National Radio Hall of Fame you’d find that most have been play by play announcers. To date, there haven’t been any modern day sports talk show hosts recognized who have been part of the sports format’s explosion over the past thirty years. Not Mike Francesa. Not Mike and Mike. Not Dan Patrick. Nobody.

Now before you take aim at the Hall of Fame for that, pump the brakes. Being nominated is supposed to be special, and the selection committee takes their responsibility very seriously. Sports may allow stats compilers to get in, and other players to earn consideration after local media members have continued making a case for why they deserve an extra look, but earning a place among the best in any profession is supposed to be difficult.

To illustrate that point, the National Radio Hall of Fame takes the best of the best from all formats, and puts them up for nomination. You may immediately think “Mike Francesa is a Hall of Famer” and you might be right, but if for example he was on the ballot at the same time as Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, Don Imus and Scott Shannon, and you could only vote once or twice, that would make it a much harder decision.

One of the cool things the National Radio Hall of Fame does is they allow people to be involved in their voting process. Fans are given a chance to vote twice, and it benefits each nominee to make their audience aware of their being considered for the prestigious honor of joining broadcasting’s finest. This year fans can vote by logging on to RadioVote.com or texting 800 to 9600 to show their support for specific nominees.

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As far as the sports format is concerned, one man is on this year’s ballot and it’s well deserved. Jim Rome has been one of the most successful and respected personalities to operate in this business, and during his three decades of excellence he’s created a legion of fans (The Clones) and fictional sports combat zone (The Jungle), introduced a different style of sports lingo, elevated national syndication for sports radio shows, and demonstrated what a multi-platform approach looks like before it became the trendy way to describe being involved in different areas of the industry.

I learned while taping a podcast with Jim in California last year that despite his success, he’s not someone to pat himself on the back. He’s still driven to do great work, appreciates where he is in today’s radio climate, and doesn’t lose sight of where it all started and what lies ahead.

Jim is not going to climb to the top of the mountain and shout to the masses that he deserves entry into the hall of fame. That’s not his style. But he’s also not the one writing this column, I am. Therefore I’m going to share my two cents and I know many will agree, Jim Rome deserves to be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.

To make that happen, members of the sports radio community have to get involved. All you have to do is log on to the website or send in a text to cast your vote. Whether you’ve been a lifelong fan of Jim’s or considered his program not in line with your personal tastes, it’s impossible to deny his impact on the sports format. It’s time one of the best in our format becomes the first modern day sports talk show host to be recognized for his accomplishments and contributions to our business.

I reached out last week to Jim to get a sense of how he was feeling about the process and what it’s felt like being included in conversation for one of our industry’s highest honors, and below are the results of that conversation.

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BSM: Having done this as long as you have, when did the idea of your life’s work being recognized first enter your mind?

Rome: It really hasn’t, Jason. I really don’t look at this Hall of Fame nomination as a recognition of my life’s work. It’s a tremendous honor and its humbling but I’m still in the fight. And I’m about the grind. Every single day. And I love it. I’m looking to stay as competitive and relevant as long as I possibly can. I’m not looking for any off-ramp. I’m looking to continue to improve, evolve, re-invent and continue crushing it for years to come. I want to win for the people I work for, the sponsors I work with and for the people who dial in every day to listen and/or watch our shows. I’ll probably take the time to recognize my life’s work when I put the mic down or they come and rip it out of my hands, but for now, I have way too much work to do to stop and think about it!

BSM: In sports, many look at numbers to decide if someone’s Hall of Fame worthy. In radio we can see how long you’ve hosted a show but we don’t always know your ratings and revenue numbers. When you think of an individual or team show in radio being hall of fame caliber, what do you feel they should’ve accomplished in order to earn that honor?

Rome: I think you’re right. I’m not really sure what the criteria should be or what makes someone a Radio Hall of Famer. But I think you have to start with your audience. Do you have a large and loyal, if not rabid, audience? Obviously, market share plays into this but so does longevity and cultural relevance. Have you left any mark on the genre? Have you opened any doors for others to enter the space and experience success on their own? Have you given back? And paid it forward. I’d like to think I’ve done all those things. And if it’s good enough to warrant an induction into something as prestigious an institution as the National Radio Hall of Fame, then that’s one of the best things ever. If not, I’m just going to keep banging away, loving and respecting the opportunity. It’s an amazing industry and I’ve never loved and appreciated it more than I do right now.

BSM: In terms of your legacy and impact on the sports radio format, what do you feel are your most memorable accomplishments and lasting marks on our business?

Rome: I appreciate the suggestion that I may have made a lasting mark on the business. If so, I think the thing that might make me different is that I was different. And honestly, that was by design. I always knew I wanted to do this. I just didn’t know how I was going to do this. Why would anyone ever consider giving me a radio show? Or a TV show? I wasn’t a professional athlete. No one knew who I was. I was just a guy. So I formulated a plan that I committed too. A contract with myself, if you will. I would try to get in and get on by being different. Instead of spewing stats and box scores, I was going crack open the mic and just let it rip. The show would be opinion based. It would have a distinct point of view. And it would be aggressive. And at that time, that was unusual. Athletes and non-athletes alike have told me in the years since they either loved it or hated it, but they had never really heard anything like it. In terms of accomplishments, I always been proud of the first time we busted out, took the show on the road, and created the Jungle World Tour. We hit places like Detroit, Houston, Tampa, Cleveland, Kansas City, Buffalo, Arizona, and packed arenas and to feel that kind of love nationwide blew my mind. And again, I take great pride in the people who have worked for me, called the program or appeared on the program who have gone on to kill it in the industry as well. That has been nothing short of awesome to watch.

BSM: Aside from yourself, who’s the one sports radio talent in America not currently in the Hall of Fame who you believe should be in it?

Rome: That’s easy. My man, Boomer Esiason. I’ve never seen athlete make the transition as seamlessly from the field to the broadcast booth. I’m not sure how Boomer would feel about what I’m about to say, but I think his career off the field compares favorably or better to it on the field. And he was a damn good player. A league MVP. But I’m talking about a guy who has been a morning KILLER in the most important radio market in the world for years. And a television personality to match. And the guy is an absolute animal in the way he attacks the grind. NO. DAYS. OFF. And he’s not just talking football. He’s everywhere. Not to mention everything he’s giving back with the work he does with his foundation. Boomer Esiason is a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word.

BSM: How do you think the evaluation of sports radio hosts will change over the next 10-20 years when the HOF considers whether or not a host or show is worthy of being inducted?

Rome: That’s a very interesting question because the industry is changing every single day. More and more people are entering the space in more and more different ways. The National Radio Hall of Fame will probably have to consider podcasters in the near future because there are so many people putting out quality content on a daily basis and drawing huge, tangible numbers from it. Crushing the iTunes charts is just as impressive as crushing the ratings book and the affiliate lists. And most young, hungry broadcasters who can bring something different to it aren’t going to wait to work their way up from a call screener to a host when they can open up the microphone app on their iPhone and start knocking out shows immediately. So I think the evaluation over the next decade or two will start to broaden. Difference makers always get noticed. No matter where they are.

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BSM: On a personal level, what would earning a spot in the National Radio Hall of Fame mean to you?

Rome: You have to understand, my first paid radio gig was for 30 days. THIRTY. At the time, I was selling telephone systems, or trying to, in and around Los Angeles and just getting my head handed to me. And this was after I tried to sell dictation equipment and did even worse. Desperate, I called a guy I worked for while in college, John Palminteri back in Santa Barbara and said, “I’m getting my ass kicked down here. I can’t sell a thing. Is there ANYTHING you have for me to do?!” He said, “The guy who does our traffic reports is going home for Christmas break. I’ve got 30 hours a week, $5 bucks an hour, no benefits.” I said, “I’ll take it. See you Monday.” And left Los Angeles, moved back to Santa Barbara and put my head down. 30 years later, here we are and I’m talking to you about a nomination to the National Radio Hall of Fame?! The whole thing is unbelievably surreal to me. Truth is, getting in would mean a helluva lot to me. Especially because my category is decided by a vote of the listener. Nothing would be more fitting than if the Jungle Clones somehow pulled this off. Nothing would make me more proud if we all went in together.

BSM: How can fans and industry professionals help you spread the word to earn a place among radio’s elite?

Rome: Thanks so much for asking. The best way to spread the word is to go to my Twitter profile where I have pinned all the information on how to vote. I’m not totally comfortable stumping for the vote but I want to make it as easy as possible. It’s right there and I’d encourage anyone to retweet it if they’re so inclined. There are two ways to vote and you are allowed to vote twice. First, you can text 800 to 96000. And then you can go to RadioVote.com and vote there as well. I can’t tell you how much all the support I have already received and will continue to receive, means to me. Induction or no induction, it’s been an incredibly humbling experience. Something I’ll never forget. Thanks a million for the time, Jason.

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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