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Pivoting and Being Bold Helped BSM Survive 2020

“It’s easy to wait for the stars to align perfectly to make decisions or stand pat because things are fine at the moment, but changing tomorrow’s outcome requires having a feel for what’s coming, and the conviction to act decisively. Not doing so can hurt your brand or crush your business.”

Jason Barrett

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From the Desk of Jason Barrett

Most people will likely remember 2020 as a year they’d like to forget. Between worrying about the health and safety of family and friends as a result of the coronavirus, watching the lights go out on the sports world for months, colleagues forced to work remotely and feel out of touch with society, and seeing businesses suffer the wrath of the pandemic, including the sports media industry, it’s been a year full of bad news. 2021 holds no promises of a bounce back year either, but given what we just endured over the past ten months, I think it’s safe to say that anything else is welcomed at this point.

I’m going to produce a column next week which will look back on some of the standout performers and moments from sports media in 2020, but I want to use this space today to share a few lessons I learned from operating a company during a challenging year, and pass along a few updates and thoughts related to our 2021 plans.

For starters, I discovered that there’s nothing more important than understanding how critical it is to pivot in business and not be afraid to be bold. So many in our business use these words in conversation and they look good when printed on a website but how many have actually followed thru and done it? It’s easy to wait for the stars to align perfectly to make decisions or stand pat because things are fine at the moment, but changing tomorrow’s outcome requires having a feel for what’s coming, and the conviction to act decisively. Not doing so can hurt your brand or crush your business. I wrote a story about this earlier this year, highlighting how a local florist reacted. If you didn’t have a chance to read it, you should.

Being completely candid, I wasn’t sure if BSM was going to survive in its current form back in early April. When the shutdown hit in March, I knew it could be bad. In late February we hosted a successful BSM Summit in New York City. One month later I was preparing for likely cancelations to my consulting business. I never assume that any of my client relationships will last forever. I know I’ve got to prove my worth every year. I also know that the cost for my services don’t appear on the first page of the budget, the sheet which identifies essential staff. That means I can deliver great value and have management’s complete support, but if a station loses 50-60% of their revenue, my phone may ring with bad news.

BSM Staff

Sensing that the worst could be headed our way, I knew we had to make a bold move and go all-in on original content. In May, we did that by adding six writers to the staff including Jay Mariotti who has been a tremendous addition to our team. Though nobody gets rich here from contributing, the collective expenses do add up. Adding all of those folks made no economic sense whatsoever at the time, but I felt this website mattered to industry people, and I knew that if we were going to continue to serve the sports media industry that I’d have to look past the short-term financial setbacks and focus on building a stronger staff to help us elevate our content, and display strength during a critical time.

We began ramping up our content, launching the BSM Member Directory to help broadcasters seeking opportunities, debuted the ‘Managing The Crisis’ podcast to share insights with executives dealing with the downward spiral caused by the pandemic, placed a greater focus on selling advertising opportunities on our website, and tightened up our SEO strategy to have our content appear better in search. We also added a new layer to the company, announcing our entry into news radio consulting in September, and added the website Barrett News Media to begin serving the news media industry. We wrap up 2020 with fourteen people contributing and earning compensation from BSM and eleven being paid to help us on BNM.

By making those decisions, we were able to triple our website traffic, grow memberships to thirty plus people, add new advertising business from multiple partners, and kick off BNM with monthly activity similar to where BSM was two years into its existence. Keep in mind, BNM has only been a brand for 90-days. I dodged a bullet and only lost two clients during the pandemic. Though it stunk to end working relationships with some great brands and people, the hard work we invested paid off as months later we added three new clients.

As proud as I am of our ability to maneuver the business thru a difficult year, I endured a personal challenge in 2020 which I didn’t talk publicly about. I went thru a struggle with my voice from September to December. I kicked off Season 5 of the BSM Podcast with a few killer episodes (Sam Savage, Mike Greenberg and Chris Oliviero) but had to halt the show because I had days where I could barely talk. Though I hate starting and stopping projects, I knew that if I couldn’t rely on my voice being strong, I’d have to stop the podcast in order to save my energy for client calls. I learned I had a cyst on my vocal chords, which thankfully isn’t cancerous and is common among folks who speak a lot. My voice has been stronger over the past few weeks but I’m planning to get the issue addressed during the first quarter of 2021. For those of you who have enjoyed the conversations I conduct with industry leaders on the BSM Podcast and wondered why the shows stopped, now you know the reason. I’m hoping to dive back in sometime in 2021.

The news wasn’t all bad though on the personal front. Despite having to delay a wedding, cancel a WrestleMania trip with my son, miss out on opportunities to work with staffs in local markets, and battle vocal chord problems, I did finally buy a home. Having rented 16 different homes or apartments in 15 towns over a 22 year stretch, it’s nice to finally be settled in. If there’s any advice I wish I had been given early in my career it’s to expect to move around a lot and rent more than you buy. Now that I’m living where I want to be and running my own company, I’m not worried about where I may have to move to chase the next opportunity. One great perk of my new residence is that it has a large finished basement area. That will soon become the working office for BSM, and in time I will build out a video room and production studio for podcasting in order to create more content in the future.

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I don’t have all the answers on how to survive a pandemic. A shutdown could hit in early 2021 and cause more damage, and I may be writing a different story then. I just did what any small business operator would, I tried to analyze the situation, examine which paths would and wouldn’t make sense to explore, and create new ways to keep the business alive. I also understood how vital it is to use my platform and relationships to help people. As a consultant (I still hate that title) I do everything from helping brands improve content, branding, imaging, structure and ratings, recruiting, social/digital planning and execution, conducting research, and making recommendations or introductions. What most don’t see though is how I can help on the sales end. A few brands who I think highly of earned advertising buys from agency friends of mine in 2020 as a result of my recommending them. These things don’t happen all the time and they may not always show up in a consulting contract but during a pandemic year when profits were evaporating, it helps having people in your corner who care about helping your business grow. BSM closes 2020 in good shape and is positioned well entering 2021. That doesn’t happen without great loyal clients. To all who stuck with us thru a challenging year, it’s sincerely appreciated.

Entering 2021, I’ve been asked a few times about the BSM Summit. Due to the uncertainty in the country, it’s on pause until further notice. Once America is back to normal we’ll begin planning for it because we know it is enjoyed, appreciated, and well attended by the industry, but to lay the groundwork for it without an idea of when things will be stable again would be a bad business decision. When we do start putting together the next event I can share that it will be hosted again in either New York City or Los Angeles. Moving it around will have to wait a bit. Until then, we’ll sit tight and wait until it’s safe to assemble a large group of people.

While we wait for the green light to gather and assemble another star studded conference, we are planning to host a virtual event in 2021. We have a few ideas in mind that we’re excited about. The key is making sure we can find the right video provider who can deliver a strong technical experience without bankrupting the company. I’ve had a few productive interactions so far and once we’re ready to make an announcement you’ll learn on the BSM website what’s coming and how to be part of it.

Additionally, the BSM Top 20 of 2020 will be released February 1-5 and February 7-8. We will reveal the Top 20 local morning, midday, and afternoon shows in both Major and Mid-sized markets. We’ll also unveil the Top 20 sports stations, program directors, national sports talk shows, and original podcasts. Similar to prior years, more than 50 executives will be involved in the voting process to determine the winners. Altogether 240 shows, stations and/or personalities will be recognized. We’ve asked our voters this year to rely on the ear test, and take into account originality, and a show/hosts ability to entertain and connect across multiple platforms when making their selections. If an executive wants to factor in ratings success when casting their vote, that’s fine too. The only thing that we insist on is a show finishing the year in the timeslot it’s up for consideration in. We do have one sponsorship opportunity available for the BSM Top 20. If interested, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. This is the biggest thing we do each year on the BSM website.

Barrett News Media

Among my list of priorities for BSM heading into 2021 is finding more sales support to help us grow our online business. We reach a lot of decision makers and influential talent on this website, and our visitors and page views are higher than the monthly cume on some top sports radio stations. Our social media impressions are also consistently between four and five million per month. We’ve earned the industry’s trust and respect as a content outlet over the past five years, and I know we can help brands benefit from promoting their products on our websites. If you need a recommendation, ask Justin Dove of Core Image Studio how advertising with BSM has paid off for him.

Two other areas I’d like to dedicate time to in 2021 are developing our BSM merchandising strategy, and growing the BNM website. We will launch an official online store in the new year on BSM, and I’m also going to explore utilizing some talent for paid marketing to help us increase the awareness of the brand. I’ll also be looking to increase editorial support and add more writers to BNM to help us grow our presence in the news media space. If you or someone you know is involved in news radio and has a passion to write about it, email Jason@BarrettNewsMedia.com.

In closing, I want to thank each of our writers for consistently producing great content, but I especially want to recognize Demetri Ravanos for not only doing a great job as our editor, but for being a great partner and friend thru some difficult times. We have an outstanding crew at BSM, and though the faces and names may change when folks land opportunities, we keep finding ways to move forward with new talented people because Demetri and I never stop recruiting people who love this business as much as we do. If we can help our readers stay informed about the business, improve at their craft, develop relationships, or position themselves or their brand for future success, that’s what makes the work we do rewarding. It’s cool to see so many people interested in reading our content, and I could write a few more paragraphs about it but this column is long enough. Instead I’ll end it by simply saying, Thank You, Merry Christmas.

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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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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