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Matt Fishman and ESPN Cleveland Are Creating Content Everywhere

“Podcasts may get all the headlines, but live radio drives all the revenue.”

Derek Futterman




You get the news that you have been cut from the high school baseball team. Sure, there’s disappointment, but that innate love of the game never genuinely wavers. For Matt Fishman, he was able to revitalize his aspirations between the foul lines with a RadioShack tape recorder just outside of them as his team’s play-by-play announcer.

“I’m sure my voice hadn’t changed yet,” reminisced Fishman, “so [it] was probably nice and high-pitched to go along with the ping of the aluminum bats.”

Matt Fishman Named Dir./Content At WKNR (850 ESPN Cleveland) |

Since his junior year of high school, Fishman’s radio journey has taken him from Chicago to Cleveland, terrestrial to digital and from inside the batter’s box to out on the racetrack. Throughout his journey, Fishman has seen sports radio evolve from an avant-garde sector of talk to a well-established radio format, and has observed existential similarities in programming across different markets.

“It’s the ability to take some of the things that are the same everywhere, which is having a great team that’s motivated, interested in having a great product and interested in doing the work that goes into that,” said Fishman. “The actual programming part of it is different in each place because of different fanbases, and what they’re interested in. It’s common for programmers to go into a market and want to change a lot of things, but I think they should really understand the audience in the market before making any changes.”

After spending nearly a decade at 670 The Score Chicago, Fishman spent a year as the program director of 610 KCSP Kansas City, where he oversaw day-to-day operations and hired CBS Sports Radio personality Damon Amendolara from a nationwide talent search. Then in 2005, Fishman was hired to oversee the MLB Channel, part of the SiriusXM satellite radio network, with a completely different business model than that of 850 ESPN Cleveland, where he works today.

“SiriusXM didn’t have ratings when I was there, so you really weren’t ever concerned about the current rating book, the next rating book, etc.,” explained Fishman. “You really were interested in maintaining the subscriber. The primary source of money for SiriusXM is in the subscriptions, while for us [at 850 ESPN Cleveland], if we don’t have advertising partners, we don’t have jobs.”

The ratings are something that 850 ESPN Cleveland currently forbears utilizing to guide it in making programming decisions, a decision that Fishman explains is due to the established system’s inability to depict the entire story.

“There are a million stories about every radio station, and the question is if the value of the Nielsen ratings, which have become extremely expensive, [are] worth the cost you are putting in to it, or [if you] would rather put that money in making your content better by adding different staff, technology, shows, etc.,” said Fishman. “I think for Good Karma Brands as a company, we’re not overly interested in what the ratings are in the sense that we do everything for fans, for our partners and for our teammates. If it doesn’t fit into one or multiple of those buckets, it’s not important to us and we’re not going to do it.”

Based on this triumvirate of stakeholders, Fishman has operated with several principles at the forefront, indicative of what is in their best interests. These include the development of a strategy, ensuring everyone on the team understands and has the ability to execute that strategy and to steadily improve in all areas of sports radio. By adhering to these core principles, he hopes to position the station to realize sustained levels of success.

“[Success] is sustained by the ability to develop younger, less-experienced talent on your team so you don’t end up with a radio station where, on any day, all of your main hosts could retire and you’re stuck building it back up from scratch,” said Fishman. “I think it’s two-fold; number one — it’s supporting the team and the shows we have now and making them as strong as possible; and also knowing that the less-experienced on-air people need to continuously get reps and be developed so that when their day comes, they’ll be ready.”

In finding talent, Fishman serves in a role akin to a baseball scout in that he seeks and helps to develop budding broadcasters into sustainable, on-air personalities. While he does not see distinct differences in on-air talent from when he began in radio in the mid-90s to today, he realizes the value that lies in versatility, and the ability to perform multiple roles at a high level. However, he also warns of the precarious mistakes younger, naïve broadcasters have and continue to make by not thinking about what they post on social media, ultimately costing some their jobs.

“Being digitally savvy is probably the biggest difference [in talent] between [from when I started] to now,” expressed Fishman. “The other issue is people having to be careful about what they say because it doesn’t just go out on the radio and go away forever — someone can pick it up on social media where they live forever. With a microphone in front of them, hosts know not to say stupid or offensive things, but on Twitter, I’m not sure everyone has learned that yet.”

The digital space is a place Fishman has continued to pioneer, as the Twitter account for 850 ESPN Cleveland currently holds the most followers among all local sports radio stations on the platform. It’s a whole lot more than just the 206,000-strong that follow the station on Twitter constituting the digital space for sports on the radio in Cleveland though; they also own and operate their own on-demand subscription platform.

Known as “The Land on Demand,” patrons can subscribe to the website to receive not just aural, but also visual and written content pertaining to Cleveland sports. In fact, Tony Grossi, a multi-faceted radio personality and on-air host covering the Cleveland Browns for the last 35 years, writes exclusive columns and frequently contributes his knowledge and expertise to various podcasts within the medium.

The Land on Demand header - Awful Announcing

“It’s great to have Twitter followers, but I don’t know what that means financially,” said Fishman. “If I have ‘X’ numbers of subscribers at $85 a year, I can tell you what that amounts to [in terms of] return on investment. From a digital [perspective], that’s where we are.”

Prior to joining 850 ESPN Cleveland, Fishman wrote a weekly column for Barrett Sports Media containing insights and advice into sports radio, an emancipatory period in his professional career that he fondly looks back upon and uses to help guide him in his present role.

“It was the only time in my career that I wasn’t working in radio,” said Fishman, “so it gave me freedom to write about anything and not worry [if I was] going to piss my bosses off. [Writing] allowed me to take on different subjects and tackle them by myself or through interviews with people in the business. I built some relationships with people just by having conversations with them about different topics, ideas or things that I was writing about.”

While reminiscing about his time with Barrett Sports Media, Fishman remembered conversations he had with various sports radio personnel, including Paul Finnebaum, Dan Bernstein, Terry Boers, and, one of his favorites, Mark Packer, radio host on SiriusXM and television host on the ACC Network.

“Mark is the best storyteller that I’ve ever heard in sports radio,” said Fishman. “He can tell any story about anything and make it entertaining and interesting, and it always has a little twist to it at some point. I loved everyone I talked to and really enjoyed getting to know a lot of people who I’d maybe heard of or knew things about; how they are unique is what makes them successful.”

Cleveland sports, undoubtedly, is full of stories with twists and turns that would surely captivate any willing listener. “The Decision,” when LeBron James left Cleveland to play for the Miami Heat; Kyrie Irving’s debut in 2011; the infamous Johnny Manziel pick by the Browns in 2014; the Cleveland Indians’ game seven World Series loss to the Chicago Cubs; the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, bringing a championship to the city for the first time in 52 years; the Indians’ 22-game winning streak in 2017; the Cleveland Browns’ winless 2017 season and 19-game overall losing streak; Baker Mayfield being drafted by the Browns; LeBron James’ departure of Cleveland again for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now though, with the Cleveland Browns snapping an 18-year playoff drought in 2020-21 and winning a first-round game against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, professional football is once again on the rise in the Forest City. Conversely, the Cavaliers and Indians (soon to be renamed “Cleveland Guardians”) are in a rebuilding period, developing young talent in a quest to reign as champions. So, after one protracted trip down memory lane, how does sports radio in Cleveland continue to draw an audience despite the differing status of these teams? Just like a professional baseball scout, it lies in empirical observation.

“You reflect what the audience’s interest is,” answered Fishman. “Most of the interest is around the Browns right now because there are high expectations. We think the Cavaliers and Indians both have very bright futures ahead of them [but] the Browns’ time is now.”

Despite teams in different stages of their championship trajectories, Fishman has always remembered that what makes the sports talk radio format distinct from other formats and other platforms is in its nascent spirit of conviviality.

“I think the one thing that gets lost on some sports radio stations is that our job is to have fun and make people laugh and smile,” said Fishman. “The ability to tie in the sports with fun interesting topics, guests, bits, contests, etc. is just a great way to keep people engaged.”

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Remember, Matt Fishman’s radio journey began as a result of being cut from his high school baseball team. In a crowded media landscape with new, contemporary platforms for the purposes of gathering information and being entertained, Fishman says that sports radio needs to stay true to itself in order to continue to stand out, while also finding ways to stay ahead of the pack. Namely, he is helping to prevent it, as a format, from being cut away from the consumer’s metaphorical sports media ‘field of dreams.’

“Sports radio has so many advantages that it shouldn’t run away from: embracing play-by-play; embracing unique talent; embracing live; embracing local,” opined Fishman. “Podcasts may get all the headlines, but live radio drives all the revenue. [By being] true to itself and true to its fans, sports radio can be just fine.”

BSM Writers

Amanda Brown Has Embraced The Bright Lights of Hollywood

“My whole goal was that I didn’t need people to like me; I needed people to respect me.”

Derek Futterman




The tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and eight others aboard a helicopter, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, sent shockwaves around the world of sports, entertainment, and culture. People traveled to Los Angeles following the devastating news and left flowers outside the then-named STAPLES Center, the arena which Bryant called home for much of his career, demonstrating the magnitude of the loss. Just across the street from the arena, Amanda Brown and the staff at ESPN Los Angeles 710 had embarked in ongoing breaking news coverage, lamentation, and reflection.

It included coverage of a sellout celebration of life for Kobe and his daughter and teams around the NBA opting to take 8-second and 24-second violations to honor Bryant, who wore both numbers throughout his 20-year NBA career. They currently hang in the rafters at Arena, making Bryant the only player in franchise history to have two numbers retired.

During this tumultuous time, Bryant’s philosophy served as a viable guiding force, something that Brown quickly ascertained in her first month as the station’s new program director.

“I had people that were in Northern California hopping on planes to get here,” Brown said. “You didn’t even have to ask people [to] go to the station; people were like, ‘I’m on my way.’ It was the way that everybody really came together to do really great radio, and we did it that day and we did it the next day and we did it for several days.”

The 2023 BSM Summit is quickly approaching, and Brown will be attending the event for the first time since 2020. During her first experience at the BSM Summit in New York, Brown had just become a program director and was trying to assimilate into her role. Because of this, she prioritized networking, building contacts, and expressing her ideas to others in the space. This year, she looks forward to connecting with other program directors and media professionals around the country while also seeking to learn more about the nuances of the industry.

“The Summit is kind of like a meeting of the minds,” Brown said. “It’s people throughout the country and the business…. More than anything, [the first time] wasn’t so much about the panels as it was about the people.”

Growing up in Orange County, Brown had an interest in the Los Angeles Lakers from a young age, being drawn to play-by-play broadcaster Chick Hearn. Brown refers to Hearn as inspiration to explore a career in broadcasting. After studying communications at California State University in Fullerton, she was afforded an opportunity to work as a producer at ESPN Radio Dallas 103.3 FM by program director Scott Masteller, who she still speaks to on a regular basis. It was through Masteller’s confidence in her, in addition to support from operations manager Dave Schorr, that helped make Brown feel more comfortable working in sports media.

“I never felt like I was a woman in a male-dominated industry,” Brown said. “I always just felt like I was a part of the industry. For me, I’ve kind of always made it my goal to be like, ‘I deserve to be here; I deserve a seat at the table.’”

Brown quickly rose up the ranks when she began working on ESPN Radio in Bristol, Conn., working as a producer for a national radio show hosted by Mike Tirico and Scott Van Pelt, along with The Sports Bash with Erik Kuselias. Following five-and-a-half years in Bristol, Brown requested a move back to California and has worked at ESPN Los Angeles 710 ever since. She began her tenure at the station serving as a producer for shows such as Max and Marcellus and Mason and Ireland.

Through her persistence, work ethic and congeniality, Brown was promoted to assistant program director in July 2016. In this role, she helped oversee the station’s content while helping the entity maintain live game broadcast rights and explore new opportunities to augment its foothold, including becoming the flagship radio home of the Los Angeles Rams.

“Don’t sit back and wait for your managers or your bosses to come to you and ask what you want to do,” Brown advised. “Go after what you want, and that’s what I’ve always done. I always went to my managers and was like, ‘Hey, I want to do this. Give me a chance; let me do that.’ For the most part, my managers have been receptive and given me those opportunities.”

When executive producer Dan Zampillo left the station to join Spotify to work as a sports producer, Brown was subsequently promoted to program director where she has helped shape the future direction of the entity. From helping lead the brand amid its sale to Good Karma Brands in the first quarter of 2022; to revamping the daily lineup with compelling local programs, Brown has gained invaluable experience and remains keenly aware of the challenges the industry faces down the road. For sports media outlets in Los Angeles, some of the challenge is merely by virtue of its geography.

“We’re in sunny Southern California where there’s a lot of things happening,” Brown said. “We’re in the middle of Hollywood. People have a lot of opportunities – you can go to the mountains; you can go to the beach. I think [our market] is more about entertainment than it is about actual hard-core sports. Yes, obviously you have hard-core Lakers fans; you have hard-core Dodgers fans, but a majority of the fans are pretty average sports fans.”

Because of favorable weather conditions and an endless supply of distractions, Brown knows that the way to attract people to sports talk radio is through its entertainment value. With this principle in mind, she has advised her hosts not to worry so much about the specific topics they are discussing, but rather to ensure they are entertaining listeners throughout the process.

“People know the four letters E-S-P-N mean sports, but really our focus is more on entertainment more than anything,” Brown said. “I think the [talent] that stick out the most are the ones that are the most entertaining.”

Entertaining listeners, however, comes through determining what they are discussing and thinking about and providing relevant coverage about those topics. Even though it has not yet been legalized in the state of California, sports gambling content has been steadily on the rise since the Supreme Court made a decision that overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act established in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (2018). Nonetheless, Brown and ESPN Los Angeles 710 have remained proactive, launching a sports gambling show on Thursday nights to try to adjust to the growing niche of the industry.

Even though she has worked in producing and programming for most of her career, Brown is eager to learn about the effect sports gambling has on audio sales departments. At the same time, she hopes to be able to more clearly determine how the station can effectuate its coverage if and when it becomes legal in their locale.

“I know that a lot of other markets have that,” Brown said regarding the legalization of sports gambling. “For me, I’m interested to hear from people who have that in their markets and how they’ve monetized that and the opportunity.”

No matter the content, though, dedicated sports radio listeners are genuinely consuming shows largely to hear certain talent. Brown recalls receiving a compliment on Twitter earlier this quarter where a listener commented that he listens to ESPN Los Angeles 710 specifically for Sedano and Kap. Evidently, it acted as a tangible sign that her philosophy centered around keeping people engrossed in the content is working, and that providing the audience what it wants to hear is conducive to success.

At this year’s BSM Summit, Brown will be participating on The Wheel of Content panel, presented by Core Image Studio, featuring ESPN analyst Mina Kimes and FOX Sports host Joy Taylor. Through their discussion, she intends to showcase a different perspective of what goes into content creation and the interaction that takes place between involved parties.

“A lot of times in the past, all the talent were on one panel; all the programmers were on one panel,” Brown said. “To put talent and a programmer together, I think it’s an opportunity for people to hear both sides on certain issues.”

According to the most recent Nielsen Total Audience Report, AM/FM (terrestrial) radio among persons 18-34 has a greater average audience than television. The statistical anomaly, which was forecast several years earlier, came to fruition most likely due to emerging technologies and concomitant shifts in usage patterns.

Simultaneously, good content is required to captivate consumers, and radio, through quantifiable and qualifiable metrics, has been able to tailor its content to the listening audience and integrate it across multiple platforms of dissemination. The panel will give Brown a chance to speak in front of her peers and other industry professionals about changes in audio consumption, effectuated by emerging technologies and concomitant shifts in usage patterns.

Yet when it comes to radio as a whole, the patterns clearly point towards the proliferation of digital content – whether those be traditional radio programs or modernized podcasts. Moreover, utilizing various elements of presentation provides consumers a greater opportunity of finding and potentially engaging with the content.

“We do YouTube streaming; obviously, we stream on our app,” Brown said. “We’ve even created, at times, stream-only shows whether it’s stream-only video or stream-only on our app. We all know that people want content on-demand when they want it. I think it’s about giving them what they want.”

As a woman in sports media, Brown is cognizant about having to combat misogyny from those inside and outside of the industry, and is grateful to have had the support of many colleagues. In holding a management position in the second-largest media market in the United States, she strives to set a positive example to aspiring broadcasters. Additionally, she aims to be a trusted and accessible voice to help empower and give other women chances to work in the industry – even if she is not universally lauded.

“I’ve kind of always made it my goal to be like, ‘I’m no different than anyone else – yes, I’m a female – but I’m no different than anyone else,’” Brown expressed. “My whole goal was that I didn’t need people to like me; I needed people to respect me.”

Through attending events such as the BSM Summit and remaining immersed in sports media and the conversation at large about the future of sports media, Brown can roughly delineate how she can perform her job at a high level.

Although the genuine future of this business is always subject to change, she and her team at ESPN Los Angeles 710 are trying to come up with new ideas to keep the content timely, accurate, informative, and entertaining. She is content in her role as program director with no aspirations to become a general manager; however, remaining in her current role requires consistent effort and a penchant for learning.

“Relationships are very important overall in this business whether you’re a programmer or not,” Brown said. “Relationships with your talent; relationships with your staff. If you invest in your people, then they’re going to be willing to work hard for you and do what you ask them to do.”

The 2023 BSM Summit is mere days away, and those from Los Angeles and numerous other marketplaces will make the trip to The Founder’s Club at the Galen Center at the University of Southern California (USC).

Aside from Brown, Kimes and Taylor, there will be other voices from across the industry sharing their thoughts on aspects of the industry and how to best shape it going forward, including Colin Cowherd, Rachel Nichols, Al Michaels and Eric Shanks. More details about the industry’s premiere media conference can be found at

“I’m excited to be a female program director amongst male program directors for the first time and get a seat at the table and represent that there can be diversity in this position,” Brown said. “We don’t see a lot of it, but… there is an opportunity, and I hope I can be an example for other people out there [to show] that it’s possible.”

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BSM Writers

Pat McAfee Has Thrown Our Business Into a Tailspin

Yet even with all the accomplishments he’s been able to achieve, McAfee is still anxious and unsatisfied with the state of his show and his career.

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When you have one of the hottest talk shows in America, you’re always up to something. That’s the case for the most popular sports talk show host in America – Pat McAfee. 

The former Pro Bowl punter was on top of the world on Wednesday. With over 496,000 concurrent viewers watching at one point, McAfee was able to garner an exclusive interview with frequent guest Aaron Rodgers who announced his intention to play for the Jets.

Yet even with all the accomplishments he’s been able to achieve — a new studio, consistent high viewership, a syndication deal with SportsGrid TV, a four-year, $120 million deal with FanDuel — McAfee is still anxious and unsatisfied with the state of his show and his career.

At the end of the day, he is human and he’s admitted that balancing his show, his ESPN gig with “College Gameday,” and his WWE obligations has taken a toll on him.

McAfee and his wife are expecting their first child soon and he recently told The New York Post he might step away from his deal with FanDuel. Operating his own company has come with the responsibility of making sure his studio is up and running, finding people to operate the technology that puts his show on the air, negotiating with huge behemoths like the NFL for game footage rights, booking guests, booking hotels, implementing marketing plans and other tasks that most on-air personalities rarely have to worry about.

McAfee says he’s looking for a network that would be able to take control of those duties while getting more rest and space to spend time with family while focusing strictly on hosting duties. FanDuel has its own network and has the money to fund such endeavors but is just getting started in the content game. McAfee needs a well-known entity to work with who can take his show to the next level while also honoring his wishes of keeping the show free on YouTube.

The question of how he’s going to be able to do it is something everyone in sports media will be watching. As The Post pointed out in their story, McAfee hasn’t frequently stayed with networks he’s been associated with in the past for too long. He’s worked with Westwood One, DAZN, and Barstool but hasn’t stayed for more than a year or two.

There’s an argument to be made that the latter two companies weren’t as experienced as a network when McAfee signed on with them compared to where they are today which could’ve pushed the host to leave. But at the end of the day, networks want to put money into long-term investments and it’s easy to see a network passing on working with McAfee for fear that he’ll leave them astray when he’s bored. 

It’ll also be difficult for McAfee to find a network that doesn’t put him behind a paywall. Amazon and Google are rumored to be potential new homes. But both are trying to increase subscribers for their respective streaming services.

It will be difficult to sell Amazon on investing money to build a channel on YouTube – a rival platform. For Google, they may have the tech infrastructure to create television-like programming but they aren’t an experienced producer, they’ve never produced its own live, daily talk show, and investing in McAfee’s show doesn’t necessarily help increase the number of subscribers watching YouTube TV.

Networks like ESPN, CBS, NBC, and Fox might make sense to partner with. But McAfee faces the possibility of being censored due to corporate interests. Each of these networks also operates its networks or streaming channels that air talk programming of their own. Investing in McAfee could cannibalize the programming they already own.

And if McAfee works with a traditional network that isn’t ESPN, it could jeopardize his ability to host game casts for Omaha or analyze games on Gameday. It’s not impossible but would definitely be awkward on days that McAfee does his show remotely from locations of ESPN games with ESPN banners and signage that is visible in the background.

If SportsGrid has the money to invest in McAfee, they might be his best bet. They have all the attributes McAfee needs and they already have a relationship with him. It is probably unlikely that he’ll be censored and he would even be able to maintain a relationship with FanDuel – a company SportsGrid also works alongside.  

Roku is another option — they already work with Rich Eisen — but they would move his show away from YouTube, something McAfee should resist since the majority of smart TV users use YT more than any other app.

If the NFL gave McAfee editorial independence, they would make the perfect partner but the likelihood of that happening is slim to none. NFL Media has independence but it was clear during the night of the Damar Hamlin incident that they will do whatever is necessary to stay away from serious topics that make the league look bad until it’s totally unavoidable. 

It’s hard to think of a partner that matches up perfectly with McAfee’s aspirations. But once again, at the moment, he’s on top of the world so anything is possible. The talk show host’s next move will be even more interesting to watch than the other fascinating moves he’s already made that have put the sports media industry in a swivel.

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BSM Writers

5 Tips For Networking At the BSM Summit

“Have a plan and don’t leave home without it.”

Jeff Caves




Bring your game plan if you attend the BSM Summit in LA next Tuesday and Wednesday. No matter your purpose for attending: to learn, get a job, speak, or sell an idea, you must be able to read the room. To do that, it helps to know who will be there and how you can cure their pain. 

Have a plan and don’t leave home without it. If you have time, buy How to Work a Room by Susan Roane. If you don’t, just follow these five tips:

  1. INTRODUCE YOURSELF: Before you arrive at The Summit, figure out what you want, who you want to meet, and what you will say. Once you get there, scout out the room and see if anyone of those people are available. Talk to speakers after they have spoken- don’t worry if you miss what the next speaker says. You are there to meet new people! Most speakers do not stick around for the entire schedule, and you don’t know if they will attend any after-parties, so don’t risk it. Refine your elevator pitch and break the ice with something you have in common. Make sure you introduce yourself to Stephanie, Demetri and Jason from BSM. They know everybody and will help you if they can.  
  2. GET A NAME TAG: Don’t assume that name tags will be provided. Bring your own if you and make your name clear to read. If you are looking to move to LA or want to sell a system to book better guests, put it briefly under your name. Study this to get better at remembering names.
  3. LOSE THE NOTEBOOK: When you meet folks, ensure your hands are free. Have a business card handy and ask for one of theirs. Remember to look people in the eye and notice what they are doing. If they are scanning the room, pause until they realize they are blowing you off. Do whatever it takes to sound upbeat and open. Don’t let their clothes, hair, or piercings distract from your message. You don’t need to wear a suit and tie but do bring your best business casual wear. A blazer isn’t a bad idea either. 
  4. SHUT UP FIRST! The art of knowing when to end the convo is something you will have to practice. You can tell when the other person’s eye starts darting or they are not using body language that tells you the convo will continue. You end it by telling them you appreciate meeting them and want to connect via email. Ask for a business card. Email is more challenging to ignore than a LinkedIn request, and you can be more detailed in what you want via email. 
  5. WORK THE SCHEDULE: Know who speaks when. That is when you will find the speakers hanging around. Plan your lunch outing to include a few fellow attendees. Be open and conversational with those around you. I am a huge USC fan, so I would walk to McKays– a good spot with plenty of USC football memorabilia on the walls. Sometimes you can find the next day’s speakers at the Day 1 after party. Need a bar? Hit the 901 Club for cheap beer, drinks, and food. 

You’re welcome. 

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Barrett Media Writers

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