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Twelve Likes, Observations and Beliefs About Sports Media in 2020 and Beyond

“There were so many examples of great content, touching stories, head scratching decisions, and personality rants, but I’m going to focus on twelve things I liked, observed and remain bullish on heading into 2021.”

Jason Barrett

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2020 Review

When we look back at 2020 years down the road, chances are most of us will remember it as the year we were rocked by Covid-19. The pandemic caused death, economic pain, a surge in unemployment, shut downs across the country, and even a Presidential change. Although each of the issues we’ve dealt with are much more significant than news created in sports media circles, this is after all a media site, and 2020 was a year full of activity.

During the past twelve months, Joe Rogan and Bill Simmons got paid big by Spotify. Outkick became a bigger brand due to Jason Whitlock and Clay Travis teaming up to form a strong 1-2 punch. Mike Francesa stepped away from the daily sports radio chaos in New York City after three decades on top. Sports radio stations 98.5 The Sports Hub, 97.1 The Ticket, and KFAN proved they could deliver monster ratings without sports, while top notch talent such as John Kincade, Steak Shapiro, and Bernie Miklasz learned that even a strong body of work wasn’t enough to survive the havoc created by Covid-19 on the sports media industry.

The coronavirus also taught the sports television industry a valuable lesson about storing quality programming, as networks aired content of little value due to the sports world shutting down. The national sports radio scene saw Mike Greenberg return to ESPN Radio while Mike Golic, Trey Wingo and the Dan Le Batard crew exited. Damon Amendolara even showed how a national sports radio show can bring together a host, listener and community by introducing the world to ‘Lil’ Mo Gaba and continuing to honor him after his passing.

There were many examples of great content, touching stories, head scratching decisions, and personality rants, but I’m going to focus on twelve things I liked, observed and remain bullish on heading into 2021. This list is not in any particular order. It’s just a series of things that have either caught my attention or are floating thru my brain as we brace ourselves for a brand new year.

#1Layoffs were unfortunately a frequent part of the 2020 conversation. ESPN, iHeart, Entercom and others all went thru it. Personnel were cut and in some cases temporary salary reductions, hiring freezes, and mandatory furloughs were installed. Entering 2021, there are a lot of talented people sitting on the sidelines. Though some decisions were necessary as a result of unexpected economic pain caused by the pandemic, cutting jobs isn’t a path to long-term prosperity. Brands become weaker, retained employees become bitter as their responsibilities increase, and competitors get stronger due to skilled people being available. With another stimulus package expected to give more relief to media groups and a vaccine on the way to help society in its fight with Covid-19, better days should be coming our way. If though future cuts become necessary again, executives should learn from the mistakes they made in 2020. Introducing poorly thought out terms such as ‘employee dislocation‘ and ‘excellence centers‘, and failing to be open and honest with media professionals who were being let go after investing decades of time to help brands succeed leaves a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. It paints a picture of a company and its leadership team lacking awareness and compassion during difficult times. In the long run that’s never a good omen for growing a business. Professionals understand the realities of the world. They can handle bad news. Treat them with respect rather than worrying about how your message might resonate in the trades and press. Trust me, no fancy quote or created term is going to make your company look better when you’re eliminating hundreds of salaries.

#2 – You can have the best talent on earth, a sales team that can sell ice to an Eskimo and a loyal audience that will listen to anything you present thru their speakers but it’s all irrelevant if you can’t actually get on the air. 2020 was The Year of the Engineer. Brands learned how fortunate or screwed they were this year based on who was in charge of their engineering department. Engineers usually fly under the radar inside most stations, only being called upon when something goes wrong. Well, given how many challenges there were to deal with in 2020, few departments earned their money more than these folks. So when you’re enjoying an adult beverage celebrating the arrival of 2021 and putting 2020 in your rear view mirror, feel free to raise a toast to the men and women in these departments across the country because without them, the damage our industry felt in 2020 would have been much more severe.

#3 – No brand had a better 2020 than Barstool Sports. Regardless of whether you love or loathe Dave Portnoy and Erika Nardini, Barstool was acquired as part of a $450 million dollar deal with Penn National. They then rewarded their new ownership group by continuing to dominate social media, introducing new apps, podcasts, and personalities (Deion Sanders, Joey Mulinaro, Ben Mintz), monetizing commentaries and social moments thru a mixture of strong advertising and merchandising strategies, explored new territory (Coach Duggs on Twitch), and they’re positioned well to enjoy a strong share of the sports betting market. Portnoy in particular continues to evolve by diving deeper into the stock market, moving to Philadelphia to grow the brand’s sports betting opportunities and fan base, and by being more active in the political arena. He weighed in frequently on decisions made by politicians during the pandemic, offered video commentaries on the presidential election, and has appeared on CNBC and FOX News, even traveling to the White House for a face to face conversation with President Trump. Don’t worry he didn’t change everything though. Pizza reviews remained a hit, and feuds with former HBO exec Peter Nelson and media critics remained alive. The brand’s best effort though came at the end of the year with the creation of The Barstool Fund to help small businesses impacted by the pandemic. The idea was an instant success, generating over 11 million dollars in donations, and helping more than 45 small businesses. The videos submitted by local businesses have been powerful, and the calls made by Portnoy to each owner informing them that help is on the way have been uplifting, proving to the world that Barstool can do amazing things with its platform when it rallies around a cause. Barstool has taken a lot of hits over the years for its prior actions and commentaries but their ability to make an impact is undeniable, and they’re unlikely to slow down anytime soon, even with a pandemic causing all sorts of pain and disruption.

#4 – Some were pissed that Craig Carton had a seat waiting for him in New York at WFAN following his exit from prison. I’m not one of those people. Hearing Carton back on the air, doing what he does best, entertaining sports radio listeners, was a smart programming and business move for FAN. Craig is gifted at what he does and added instant star power to the radio station, but finding chemistry with Evan Roberts and beating 98.7 ESPN NY’s The Michael Kay Show is going to be a lot harder than teaming with Boomer Esiason and beating a national morning show featuring Mike & Mike and/or Golic & Wingo. Whether Carton & Roberts win or not though in the future is besides the point. Sports radio is better with Craig Carton on the air. If you want to pout about him getting the job without serving a life sentence for his prior transgressions that’s fine. But I think it comes down to four simple things; Results, Relationships, Talent and Timing. Like it or not, Carton had all four on his side and now it’s up to him to make the most of his second chance. I’m rooting for him to do just that.

#5 – Timing is everything when it comes to creating an impact, and for ESPN, the decision to move up the release of The Last Dance was both smart and necessary. With sports shut down and networks relying on old games and programming that looked and felt different and unimportant, the arrival of the ten part series directed by Jason Hehir, highlighting Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls of the 1990’s, gave people a sense of normalcy and something to look forward to on a weekly basis. It was the most tweeted about show in 2020 and a heavy part of conversation on sports radio as hosts took to it like moths to a flame. Though the series had Jordan’s influence all over it and generated mixed reactions among former Bulls and sports media members, I enjoyed it. It gave people a reason to watch sports on television during a time when they were desperate for good content. Sometimes that’s more important than the facts themselves.

#6 – Four individuals earned my respect and appreciation for their social media creativity in 2020….Barstool’s Kevin ‘KFC’ Clancy created two digital hits with his social video series One-Minute Man and The Goddamn Jets. The Jets series delivered what you’d expect, the rantings and ravings of a pissed off Jets fan. As a Giants fan, I’m used to Jets fans being upset so that didn’t move me as much, but One-Minute Man was an absolute gem. The series features Clancy looking at trending sports and pop culture topics, it’s well edited, cleverly produced, and laughter is provided throughout each episode. Few talent understand how to reach and connect with younger audiences while still serving traditionalists like myself better than Clancy……another sports media star who created a social media impact was ESPN’s Katie Nolan who turned a Zoom call with ESPN friends into one of the coolest moments of the year. With the country locked down and looking for positive things to latch on to, Nolan used her creativity, connections, and media guests to turn a normal video chat into a special piece of content that was better than most of what aired on ESPN television during the same week…….since we’re on the subject of Zoom, Annie Agar arrived on the scene and used her creativity to show how certain scenarios would play out if the key parties involved were to take part in a Zoom call together. The originality of Agar’s work got the attention of ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown producers and landed her an appearance on the show. If Agar was able to make this quickly of an impression on social media in 2020, I’m curious to see what she has in store for us in 2021….but the best social video content I saw this year was more serious in nature. FOX Sports’ Emmanuel Acho tackled the issue of race in America with the introduction of Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man. The series was an instant success and has since been turned into a best selling book. Considering all we witnessed on our phone and television screens as city’s across America dealt with public unrest following controversial deaths involving police and black men, Acho leaned in to an important issue, and invited notable guests such as Matthew McConaughey, Roger Goodell and the Petaluma police department to explore ways to improve racial tensions in society. The all white backdrop to each episode made an immediate impression, and Acho’s ability to guide and advance serious discussions showed why he’s rapidly becoming a sports media sensation.

#7 – We heard mixed reactions initially when news broke that Pat McAfee was leaving CBS Sports Radio for SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio. I was surprised because I couldn’t understand how Entercom and Westwood One could let a rising star like McAfee get away less than a year into a deal or why anyone would think McAfee wouldn’t fit in on the Chris Russo branded channel. From the start I thought it was a no-brainer decision for SiriusXM’s management team and am even more convinced now that Steve Cohen and his leadership group hit a homerun. McAfee is a star in every sense of the word. His style is better presented on satellite radio than on terrestrial, and his placement in the lineup between Adam Schein and Mad Dog is perfect. Does he deliver a traditional sports talk show? No. The great ones usually have their own style and ability to generate interest and McAfee does plenty of that whether it’s on television, radio, social media or inside of a wrestling ring. With his arrival on the channel, McAfee has added more star power, appointment conversations, and another reason to continue listening to one of sports radio’s best national channels.

#8 – I said it three years ago and believe it even more now at the end of 2020. Stations are going to use Virtual Program Directors in the near future. The majority of communication is done thru email and the phone. A good leader with creative ideas, strong technical skills, an ability to coach talent, industry relationships, and accessibility doesn’t need to be in an office to be effective. Most groups learned this during the pandemic. If talent can perform from their kitchen tables, so too can a PD inside a home office, whether living locally or elsewhere in the country. With brands looking for ways to reduce costs and maintain efficiency, and professionals seeking flexibility if asked to adjust their economic situations, don’t be surprised if this becomes a more popular trend down the line.

#9ESPN Radio ends 2020 in an unfamiliar position, having to regain trust and confidence from a large number of affiliates. Longtime executive Traug Keller departed in February, and months later a few other prominent execs, most notably Connor Schell, also exited. Since then the Bristol run network has made two major lineup changes, losing key people such as Mike Golic, Trey Wingo, Dan Le Batard, and Jon ‘Stugotz’ Weiner. The loss of those high profile talents and the reports in the press surrounding their departures, has left decision makers questioning if staying in business with ESPN Radio is in their best interests. ESPN executive David Roberts tried to alleviate some of those concerns during a conversation with yours truly, but if ESPN wants to retain a firm grasp on the successful business its built then it’s going to have to deliver results, offer more executive access to radio leaders, and provide lineup stability. Radio operators don’t do well with frequent change, especially on a national level where one tweak can affect hundreds of radio stations. It’s too early to say whether or not the changes made will make ESPN Radio stronger but most industry folks we spoke with aren’t optimistic about the network’s direction and feel FOX Sports Radio has become the strongest national product. It’s up to Roberts, Justin Craig, Norby Williamson, Tim McCarthy, Amanda Gifford and everyone else involved to prove the new path can be just as successful as the old one.

#10 – Since we’re on the topic of national sports radio, one brand I’m going to be keeping an eye on in 2021 is VSIN. The brand established itself well over the past few years, added to its talent roster in 2020, and has its sights set on expanding its terrestrial footprint in the new year after announcing its exit from SiriusXM. To help them do that they’ve expanded their partnership with IHeart and will soon announce the hiring of a Director of Audio. With sports betting gaining more political support across the country, the Las Vegas based audio/video brand is built to capitalize on it. The category itself is red hot in advertising circles, and given some of the changes and uncertainty surrounding some of the national sports radio networks, it’ll be interesting to see if a growing market and new relationships can help Brian Musburger’s brand ascend to a higher level. Based on what I see and hear, I’d bet on them making strides in 2021.

#11 – A position that doesn’t exist inside most sports radio stations which absolutely should is a Director of Merchandising. GM’s and Execs don’t like to pay off-air folks because they can’t attach dollars to their roles, but this is one position that absolutely can. Brands have 168 hours per week to use their airwaves, and unlimited opportunities on social platforms to market their products and generate revenue. Heck, stations use these hours to sell thousands of minutes of commercials to clients, stressing the value of the medium and its ability to drive sales. Maybe it’s time to take our own medicine and use the air time to move our own products. To do that, programmers are going to need to reevaluate the importance of a promo and work closely with the Director of Merchandising to better use promo time to grow business. This should easily be an annual six figure business for sports radio brands. WWE, Barstool Sports, ProWrestlingTees and others are making a fortune on merchandise, and sports radio should be doing the same. Before you bitch about the expenses associated with creating merch, save it. Ordering in bulk cuts costs and in this 2020 economy I’m sure local t-shirt shops would love to work with radio stations to stay busy and keep their doors open. You don’t make money without spending money and companies can’t afford to say no to adding six figures worth of revenues to their bottom lines. At this stage of the game, radio must rethink how it’s growing NTR and merchandise should be at the center of the discussion.

#12 – Why radio groups and advertising agencies throw large sums of money in the direction of Nielsen is beyond my understanding. 2020 should have been a wakeup call that when business survival is on the line, spending big for a flawed ratings service makes little economic sense. Yet most radio groups kept feeding the monster while absorbing financial losses and staff reductions. Kudos to Saga Communications, Midwest Communications and Townsquare Media who realized there are other ways to grow a company without relying on the service. I have nothing against Nielsen. I love research, examining listening trends, analyzing meter counts, and studying the game within the game. I also like a few people in the company who try to lend insight whenever I have questions. My problem is the information. First, streaming has been poorly captured. The company just finally started measuring headphone listening. Think that could be a problem when a pandemic hits, shutdowns create record unemployment, and less people are on the road? Now add to that consistently low meter counts which can see a market’s results affected by one individual. When a business is hurting, your ratings won’t be enough to convince them to buy advertising. The only thing that might save it is a relationship between the client and a salesperson or manager. I also didn’t like the way Nielsen announced their new ‘Subscribers First‘ policy. Although I can see why they’d want to stop providing information on brands that don’t use their service, they’re also providing less full market information to companies who are paying for the service. As expected, it produced reactions from a few media professionals. Click here, here and here to read some of them. Maybe one day radio’s measurement service will produce statistics and evidence that help executives trust and understand the listening patterns of their audience, but that day has yet to arrive. In the meantime, executives keep throwing money at the problem, worrying more about what they could lose rather than what they might gain by pursuing a different path.

Barrett Blogs

Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, Don Martin, Sam Pines and Amanda Brown to Speak at the 2023 BSM Summit

“All six of these media professionals have enjoyed success throughout their careers and bring different perspectives, styles, and experiences to the room.”

Jason Barrett

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I announced last week that the 2023 BSM Summit will be returning to Los Angeles. We had a fantastic experience in LA in 2019, and I expect our next conference on March 21-22, 2023 to be even bigger and better. But to do that, we need the right people on stage, and I’m excited today to reveal the first six additions to the show.

The 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles is proud to welcome FOX Sports Radio and FOX Sports 1 host Colin Cowherd, FOX Sports 1 co-host of the new weekday program SPEAK, Joy Taylor, CBS Sports Radio and CBS Sports Network superstar Jim Rome, FOX Sports Radio and iHeart Sports SVP of Programming, Don Martin, and the brain trust of ESPN LA 710, Senior Vice President Sam Pines and program director Amanda Brown.

All six of these media professionals have enjoyed success throughout their careers. They bring different perspectives, styles, and experiences to the room, and I’m sure those in attendance at The Founders Club at the Galen Center at USC will enjoy and appreciate learning from them.

We will have more announcements in the future about additional speakers to the 2023 BSM Summit. A reminder that if you work in the media industry and would like to attend the conference, you can purchase tickets and secure your hotel room by visiting BSMSummit.com.

I’d also like to thank last year’s sponsors who have already confirmed participation in our 2023 event. The Summit isn’t possible without their support. For folks interested in sponsorship details for the conference, please email Stephanie at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now here’s some press information about each of our six participants.

Colin Cowherd: He is one of the most thought-provoking and successful sports talk show hosts in the country, and has been a key part of FOX Sports Radio and FOX Sports 1 since September 2015. He is also the founder of The Volume, a digital-first sports media brand which has created an immediate impact in podcasting and on YouTube.

Cowherd’s three-hour sports talk program, THE HERD WITH COLIN COWHERD, airs simultaneously on FS1 and the FOX Sports Radio Network weekdays from Noon to 3pm ET. It is also available on www.FOXSportsRadio.comwww.FOXSports.com and has a dedicated iHeartRadio station, available live and throughout the day. The Herd has been chosen by industry programmers and executives as the top national sports talk radio show an unprecedented six times in seven years as part of BSM’s annual Top 20 series.

Jim Rome: Jim Rome is heard nationwide hosting ‘The Jim Rome Show‘ weekdays from Noon to 3pm ET on CBS Sports Radio. The program can also be watched on the CBS Sports Network. The show delivers three hours of aggressive, informed sports opinions, rapid-fire dialogue, tons of sports smack, and is consistently supported by Rome’s legions of fans otherwise known as the clones.

Rome also delivers his unique take on the day’s sports headlines via the CBS Sports Minute, 60-second commentaries which can be heard hourly on CBS Sports Radio affiliate stations. He also hosts his own podcast, The Reinvention Project, contributes to CBS Sports television, and has previously been seen on ESPN, FOX Sports, and in numerous movies and TV shows.

Joy Taylor: Joy Taylor co-hosts FS1’s new weekday program SPEAK alongside Emmanuel Acho and former NFL running back LeSean McCoy. She has previously worked as a co-host on THE HERD, as the moderator of SKIP AND SHANNON: UNDISPUTED, and as the host of her own podcast, “Maybe I’m Crazy”. She has also hosted programs for FOX Sports Radio.

Prior to joining FOX Sports, Taylor spent five years in Miami radio, including a successful three-year stint at 790 AM The Ticket, where she was co-host for the station’s top-rated morning-drive program, “Zaslow and Joy Show,” after starting with the station as the show’s executive producer. Taylor also served as the host of “Thursday Night Live” and “Fantasy Football Today” on CBSSports.com. She is a Pittsburgh native and the younger sister of former Miami Dolphins star Jason Taylor.

Don Martin: A 27-year veteran of iHeartMedia, Don is currently the SVP of Programming for FOX Sports Radio, the EVP for iHeartMedia Sports, and the SVP of KLAC-AM 570 LA Sports. Additionally, he provides oversight of the iHeartPodcast Network, which includes more than 40 national and 100 local sports podcasts and exclusive podcast agreements with the NFL and NBA. Don has been a featured speaker at prior BSM Summit’s and was recently a guest on The Jason Barrett Podcast. To hear it, click here.

Sam Pines: A fixture with Good Karma Brands since 2000, Pines is now charged with leading ESPN LA 710 since GKB assumed control of local operations. Prior to taking over the Los Angeles sports brand, Pines served as the GM and Sales Manager of ESPN Cleveland from 2006-2022. He has written a sales and leadership series, “Time to Win”, which focuses on coaching relationship-based selling and marketing, and is also involved with numerous boards and nonprofits.

Amanda Brown: Amanda has spent her entire twenty year career in sports radio working for the worldwide leader in sports. Currently responsible for creating and implementing the programming strategy for ESPN LA 710, Amanda has enjoyed nearly twelve years with the LA based brand after spending nearly six years in Bristol, CT producing national shows for the ESPN Radio network. Her career started behind the scenes in Dallas, TX where she worked as a producer at ESPN 103.3.

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Barrett Blogs

7 Years of BSM and The Official Announcement For The 2023 BSM Summit

“Fast forward to now, and where this thing has advanced to is far beyond my expectations.”

Jason Barrett

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Apologies in advance if some of this column feels like I’m giving myself and our brand a pat on the back. I am. When this company launched, many assumed I was just writing a few articles and biding my time until another programming job popped up. I had a number of friends say ‘there’s no future in sports radio consulting‘ and after putting my programming career in the rear view mirror to go home to NY, I wasn’t sure what was in store for me.

What I did know is that my interest in doing the same thing that I just did for the past decade in three different cities was gone, but my interest in working with brands and individuals was still very much alive. I loved creating and programming 95.7 The Game but my choice to come home was driven by personal reasons, not professional. I wrote in great detail about it back in February 2015 so if you’re not aware of my story and want to know more, click the link.

Some of you do know these details already so I’m not going to repeat myself. I also don’t like talking on this website about personal issues because that’s not what brings us together each day. Media news, insight, and opinion does. But when this day rolls around each year, I hope you can understand why I take a moment to celebrate it. I moved home with no job, no plan, and no business but 7 years later, here we are are still ticking.

Launching this company has been the best professional decision I’ve ever made. Erika Nardini just had this conversation recently with Mark Cuban and he said taking a leap when you have nothing is the best time to do so. As crazy as that sounds, he couldn’t have been more right. That said, it’s pretty humbling going from successfully managing a top 4 market brand and earning six figures to being unemployed with no income and not being sure what you want to do. There were many days where I wondered ‘what was this all for?’. I hadn’t been without a job for a long time but I didn’t want to rush into something I wasn’t excited about especially since I knew I had to take care of my son and wanted to set a good example for him.

When I announced I was leaving San Francisco, I said I’d consider staying with the company if a position could be created that would allow me to work from NY and travel to help brands. Entercom back then wasn’t as big as Audacy is now, so that wasn’t an option. That led to small talk about consulting but quite frankly, I had no interest in doing that. I thought consulting was something folks did at the end of their careers or others used as a temporary excuse to explain what they were up to after leaving a job. I was 41 at the time and felt I had two decades left to give to the business, and if I was going to go down that road, I’d do it differently.

As I began to clear my head and think about what was next, I decided I was going to create the position that Entercom didn’t have available except rather than being exclusive to one group, I’d be accessible to all of them. I wanted to make a difference in multiple cities and expand my reach beyond radio. Now I work with brands involved in radio, TV, podcasting, social media, sales, sports betting, etc..

I’m also very entrepreneurial, so the idea of building a digital company that focused on covering the sports media business had great appeal to me. I built my radio career by doing everything early on and saw that as an advantage. Back in 2015, there were outlets covering the radio business, but none dedicated to sports radio. Even the newspapers that wrote about sports TV and other media issues, often examined them with folks who hadn’t been on the inside for quite some time. I had recent experiences programming brands in three different parts of the country, I learned how to build a website, I didn’t mind selling myself, and I wasn’t restricted from writing and sharing my honest and candid opinions. That helped me give BSM life and a voice. I also had one other advantage. I was talking weekly with industry people, going to different cities to work with multiple groups and seeing up close why certain things worked and others didn’t. That helped me tell better stories, build deeper relationships, and assist clients with greater knowledge.

Fast forward to now, and where this thing has advanced to is far beyond my expectations. I’ve been presented with opportunities to work with groups I never expected. I’ve had people reach out to present opportunities, including purchasing the company, that others would be shocked were considered (Btw I’m not looking to sell). Our brand now generates hundreds of thousands in traffic per month thanks to an exceptional team of 20 writers which produces 35-40 pieces of content per day on the sports and news media industry. In fact, August was our best month of traffic this year. We were up 30% year over year. We create 5 podcasts per week, distribute multiple newsletters, consult a strong amount of media brands, sell and work with advertising partners to help grow their businesses, deliver content through social media channels that are followed by thousands of people, and host an annual conference, which is well attended and supported by industry professionals and broadcast companies.

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Which brings me to the next part of this column – the 2023 BSM Summit.

After hosting our last two shows in New York City, I told all in attendance that our next event would return to the west coast. Finding the right city and venue takes time, and this one was tough because there were great options in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, but after reviewing the possibilities, I’m thrilled to share that the 2023 BSM Summit will take place in Los Angeles, California at The Founders Club at the Galen Center at the University of Southern California. The dates will be Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 22nd (we didn’t want to do dates that conflicted with the NCAA Tournament). Show time both days will once again be 9a-5p PT.

I couldn’t be happier with this location. The space we have to work with is fantastic, the people involved with USC have been great, and to bring a room full of sports media professionals to the USC campus will be awesome. We’ve also partnered with the USC Hotel which is within walking distance of our venue. Room rates and ticket prices for the Summit can now be found on BSMSummit.com.

I know everyone will start texting, emailing, calling, and DM’ing to ask about tickets, speakers, sponsorships, the after-party and awards show, etc.. I’ll have follow up announcements coming soon about the first few speakers we’ve lined up. Most people attended the 2022 show live, but some checked out the show virtually too. I’m not sure yet if we’re going to make this one available virtually. If we do, we’ll announce it on the site at a later time. Like anything, if enough people want it we’ll find a way to get it done. In the meantime, Stephanie Eads is setting up conversations with former and future conference partners so if you have a sponsorship question, hit her up by email at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

One thing I do want to ask of those who are planning to attend the Summit, email me to let me know what you’re interested in learning about at the show. We’ve been blessed to have some incredibly smart, successful people in the room, but as cool as that may be, I want to make sure folks return to their buildings afterwards with information to improve their operations. This only works if you take the knowledge and use it to help your brands and people. If anything in particular is of interest, please let me know by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

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As I look ahead to year 8, I’m extremely bullish on continuing our momentum on the sports media side. We’ve just added Eddie Moran as a new features writer, and if it makes business sense to add more writers or create additional podcasts down the line, we’ll examine those opportunities as they arise. A few years ago it was just Demetri and I running the day to day business. Now we have Stephanie, Andy, Garrett Searight, Arky Shea, Alex Reynolds, and Eduardo Razo involved, and though having a larger staff doesn’t guarantee success, I like how we’re positioned. If anything, our focus now is on doing impactful work not busy work. As much as I’d love to keep everyone and never stop adding, running a business effectively requires regularly examining what is and isn’t working. Having people involved who are passionate and consistently reliable is vital. If they can’t be then it means the fit isn’t right.

Having said that, I believe we can always get better. As we move ahead, I’m counting on my team to find and create more original content, strengthen and increase relationships, gain a stronger grasp of SEO, and collectively, we’ll work on improving our digital marketing to promote our content and develop better affiliate partnerships. One way the industry can help us in return, let us know when you create something on-air that might fit the site. Most of what we gather comes from finding it ourselves yet content gets created daily on sports TV and radio. We’re not going to write stories about sports opinions but if it’s media-centric, a heads up helps. So too does sharing our content on social media.

Though BSM is an integral part of our company’s future growth, I am equally as bullish on building Barrett News Media. We started BNM on September 14, 2020 and our first year was slow. We needed to dip our toe in rather than dive in head first, but over the past 9 months we’ve increased our relationships and our readers are now starting to see what we’re capable of. We’ve assembled a strong cast of news writers, reporters, and columnists, and just added to our team last week with the addition of Joe Salzone. Adding writers and consulting clients remains an ongoing process, and make no mistake about this, I want to help news/talk stations just as I have helped sports brands. Maybe down the line we’ll add a few news media podcasts too, but we have other things to focus on first.

For starters, if you’ve read this website over the years then you’re likely familiar with the BSM Top 20. It’s a series we produce recognizing the best in the sports media industry. It’s voted on by a large number of sports radio programmers and executives, and for 6 years in a row it has been our website’s largest traffic driver. I thought previously about doing a series for the news media industry, but because we had less help, little time, and an unfamiliar brand, I held off.

But that’s about to change.

Later this year, we will introduce the very first BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will include voting participation from news media programmers and executives, with the goal being to showcase the best national radio shows and podcasts, and the top local stations, shows, and PD’s from both the major and mid markets.

It will be a giant undertaking but it’s long overdue for our brand. Though I’m sure the process will be exhausting, I’m looking forward to sharing the results and shining a brighter light on the news/talk media business. When I’m ready to announce the dates and schedule for the series, we’ll reveal it here on the site and across our BNM social media channels. Stay tuned.

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As I bring this column to an end, I’ll end by sharing a few things that have surprised me over the years. First, I’m seeing less interest the past 3 years from younger people becoming programmers than I did between 2015-2019. Is that because of the pandemic? The rise of sports gambling? A lack of confidence in the radio industry? As someone who’s helped 15-20 brands find and hire brand leaders, and talks to more people than most, that’s concerning.

I think sports radio also needs to do a better job of grooming people for these roles and showing them a path to long-term success. PD’s should be more actively championing their people for growth too than they do. If you value someone and want to see him or her reap the rewards for their hard work, you have to look beyond how it’ll affect your day to day duties. Focus on the big picture, not just what makes your life easier.

What should concern executives is the fact that in the past five years, sports radio has lost Armen Williams, Jeremiah Crowe, Joe Zarbano, Adam Delevitt, Tony DiGiacomo, Terry Foxx, Brad Willis, Chris Baker, Tom Parker, Jay Taylor, Kyle Engelhart, Hoss Neupert, and John Hanson. I’m sure I’m missing a few too. That’s a lot of programming experience out the door including some with decades left to give to the industry. Maybe some weren’t built for the job long-term or others were kicking down the door and ready to lead but in most businesses, if you saw that type of change in key management roles, you’d be questioning if it’s an industry you want to be a part of. If the veterans don’t stay or become too expensive, and the leaders of tomorrow aren’t sticking around, where does that leave us?

From the talent end, how are you helping yourself when there isn’t a job to chase? If the only time you contact a PD is to ask about a gig, don’t be surprised when your calls go straight to voicemail. Relationships are a two-way street. Build them when there’s nothing to be gained and you’ll be amazed at how it pays off later. By the way, that goes for me too. I get asked by a lot of people to find time when there’s trouble in paradise but when life is good, crickets. Those who keep in touch and support BSM/BNM whether that’s through a monthly membership or buying a Summit ticket have more success getting a hold of me. I’m not trying to be a hard ass but I’m not an agent, so building your career isn’t my priority. Taking care of my family and business partners is. However, I do help people and make time for many, but it’s got to work both ways. My members and clients know they can ask for something and receive an answer. Others I’ve built and maintained relationships with receive the same. But if you’re counting on me to help you find work and gossip about the business with you, I’m not your guy.

If there’s been a winner the past 7 years it’s been the growth of sports betting. As other categories have produced less, sports betting has emerged as an important growth driver for the sports format. And this has happened with most of the country not even legal yet. As more states give the green light to legalize sports gambling, revenues and content opportunities should follow. We will likely reach a point where consolidation comes into play and certain brands and companies overload their content in a way that makes them insufferable to listen to but for every few setbacks there are far greater reasons to be optimistic. In the past 7 years we’ve seen Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and YouTube become big players in sports television. Might FanDuel, DraftKings, BetRivers, Fanatics, Barstool and others do the same in the sports media space? That’s going to be an interesting follow for sure.

Knowing how everything can change in an instant, I take nothing for granted with BSM and BNM. This could all end tomorrow, and if it did, I’d look back on it as the best days of my professional life. I want to keep growing as a professional, while remaining an asset to my current partners, and finding ways to work with new brands and companies in both sports and news media. I’m also enjoying hosting a podcast again, and if you haven’t checked out The Jason Barrett Podcast, the latest episode with Colin Cowherd is a good one to start with.

The future for sports and news media may change but both will remain viable and important. I love that we’ve been able to be a small part of this business each day for the past 7 years, and I hope to make the next 7 years as fulfilling as the past 7. If I’m able to do that, it’ll mean the 20 years I spent in studios were needed to make a nationwide impact from a home office.

So on behalf of our entire team, past and present, thank you for reading the twenty thousand pieces of content we’ve produced since 2015. None of this is possible without an army of BSM/BNM supporters. I hope to see you in Los Angeles this March for the 2023 BSM Summit.

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The Podcast Movement Conference Made a Mistake Rejecting Ben Shapiro

“If this is a conference about podcasting, and you have someone in attendance who excels at it, has a massive following, and their company is supporting your event as a sponsor, why are you treating them like a disease?”

Jason Barrett

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I’ve had the pleasure of attending multiple Podcast Movement Conferences over the years. Those involved in putting the event together do a fantastic job creating an action packed agenda full of accomplished speakers, and the visual displays and access to different brands and industry professionals have always been nothing but positive. It’s why I was disappointed this year when my schedule didn’t allow for me to make the trip to Dallas.

So imagine my surprise late last week when I learned the conference took a stance against Westwood One radio host and co-founder of The Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro

Shapiro’s company was a sponsor of this year’s show, and according to reports, the well known podcaster and radio host wasn’t registered for the event. He made a brief appearance at his company’s booth, shaking hands and taking photos with fans who stopped by to say hi, and his mere presence at the show led to some protesting his involvement on social media.

After learning Shapiro had stopped by, the Podcast Movement Conference posted a series of tweets which said “Hi folks, we owe you an apology before sessions kick off for the day. Yesterday afternoon, Ben Shapiro briefly visited the PM22 expo area near The Daily Wire booth. Though he was not registered or expected, we take full responsibility for the harm done by his presence.”

The conference added, “Those of you who called this “unacceptable” are right. In 9 wonderful years growing and celebrating this medium, PM has made mistakes. The pain caused by this one will always stick with us. We promise that sponsors will be more carefully considered moving forward. No TDW representatives were scheduled to appear on panels, and Shapiro remained in the common space and did not have a badge. If you have questions, we’re here to talk. Thank you for reading, and we hope you’ll continue to join us from here on out.”

A quick search shows that Shapiro has one of the top performing podcasts on the charts. According to Westwood One, it is downloaded over fifteen million times per month. In addition, his radio program is carried on hundreds of radio stations, he has 13 million followers combined between Facebook and Twitter, and his company, The Daily Wire, adds another 5.5 million supporters to the mix. They also showed they were supportive of the conference by making a financial commitment to sponsor a booth.

Having explained all of that I was stunned that the Podcast Movement Conference took this position. Let me be clear, it was a mistake. Their stance has led to a flood of negative attention over the past 72 hours, and it all could’ve easily been avoided. Though their next event is still a year away, given how much attention this story has received, it could have a carry over effect on future sponsorships and attendance. Only time will tell.

As someone who runs an annual conference, albeit much smaller, I know how hard it is to put an event together. What the Podcast Movement organizers put together each year requires a herculean effort, which is why I’m baffled that they picked sides in this situation. The media industry is large and full of people, brands and companies with different views and approaches to business and everyday life. The second you start judging and making decisions based on personal beliefs and/or social media activity, you’re in trouble.

I’ve long maintained that if someone works in the sports media industry and wishes to learn and share information to help improve the business, they’re welcome at our BSM Summit. We make changes to our schedule each year based on what we feel is topical for the attendees but we don’t discriminate, support one brand over another or allow personal views to dictate if someone can or can’t be present.

Case in point, at our March conference, I had a few people privately upset that I asked Craig Carton to speak. Craig’s prior arrest and time served in jail is well documented. First, I have a ton of respect for what Craig has accomplished, and I believe in second chances, but personal views aside, he’s the afternoon host in the nation’s largest market working for WFAN, a top rated sports radio brand. History has shown that he’s damn good and successful, and more than qualified to speak on the subjects we cover at our event. When a few folks expressed their displeasure with my decision I told them ‘If you’re not a fan of Craig, don’t attend that session. If it bothers you beyond that, I understand if you can’t attend the show.’

Quieting the noise gets easier when you focus strictly on the business. Making everyone happy is impossible when you organize an event, but if you allow multiple viewpoints to be present in the room, you end up in a decent place more times than not.

You also have to remember that social media can make things appear worse than they are. Is the issue you’re dealing with being raised by conference partners and supporters who attend the event each year or from someone who’s not in the building and thrives on creating a social media firestorm for the causes they oppose and fight against?

Some may recall that I dealt with a few headaches in 2019 prior to our LA Summit after folks involved with groups that had no interest or desire to attend our show started trying to create a controversy out of nothing. Though it was frustrating playing defense on Christmas night when individuals from the New York Times, Deadspin and WNBA teams started poking holes in our conference’s flyer, I learned an important lesson. As long as you do the right thing and have the support and trust of your friends, family, attendees, and partners, who cares what others think or say who don’t know you and aren’t in the room for your event.

That’s what I don’t understand here. Is Shapiro not one of the most successful podcasters out there? Was his company not a paying partner of the event? If this is a conference about podcasting, and you have someone in attendance who excels at it, has a massive following, and their company is supporting your event as a sponsor, why are you treating them like a disease? Most would roll out a red carpet for someone with Shapiro’s track record of success not publicly condemn them for showing up and sponsoring the show. I know I would. I’d also do the same for someone who’s equally successful and views the world the exact opposite way.

I can’t help but wonder how folks at Westwood One feel about this incident. Don’t they promote and support this conference and include their people in the event? Think they might object to one of their top personalities being treated this way? Furthermore, how about the talk radio format? It’s no secret that most of the programming on news/talk radio stations leans right. A number of top performing podcasts follow a similar path. It’s safe to say that most in the format are going to support Shapiro, and I don’t think that helps the conference with attracting future business and participation.

To be clear, I don’t listen to Ben Shapiro’s podcast or radio show, and I don’t read The Daily Wire. I only point that out because I don’t want anyone to assume that I’m supporting him because of personal interests or a professional relationship. We’ve never spoke or crossed paths. My opinion is based solely on the facts surrounding this situation, nothing else.

That said, I understand Ben has shared opinions that some take offense to and I don’t blame those folks for not wanting to be around him. But there’s a simple solution, don’t go near him or his booth. It’s the same thing I tell people who don’t like a particular radio station’s hosts or a piece of content on our website; if you don’t like it, don’t read or listen to it. The Podcast Movement Conference takes place in a large convention center. There’s more than enough room to keep everyone separated and happy. Last time I checked, there were attendees in the room who stopped by to meet Ben at his booth. Do they not count?

Look, you don’t have to agree with Shapiro, but this is a podcasting business conference, and it’s something he’s done at a higher level than most. That qualifies him to be there. You can’t get in the middle and start determining who is and isn’t allowed in based on personal beliefs or trying to please agenda driven people on social media. Would Podcast Movement tell Joe Rogan, one of the most successful podcasters out there, that he couldn’t attend if people who didn’t like his views on Covid-19 protested? What’s next, not giving out industry awards to stations and individuals who we don’t like or agree with? When does the insanity end?

Here’s the reality, there are likely other sponsors and attendees in the room who have views that some may consider offensive. Our content and advertisers aren’t just supported by good, honest people. There are thousands, if not millions, who listen and support us who are shady, sick, and morally bankrupt. That’s beyond our control. Our job is to inform and entertain, and make people care enough to come back regularly. If we do that well, sponsors will follow. Keep those things happening, and everyone remains satisfied.

Moving forward, the Podcast Movement Conference has to decide if it wants to be open to all or only to some. I root for the conference to do well. I’ve enjoyed attending previous shows and hope to attend future ones. But if they expect to maintain support and enjoy future growth, learning from this situation is important. There’s much more money in staying neutral than alienating one side of the room.

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