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The Pros and Cons of Booking Guests

Jason Barrett



Booking guests is an exhausting process which can often challenge and frustrate sports radio producers. Some people love the thrill of the chase and some do not but most agree that when a high profile name appears on a talk show and provides good content, it can make a huge difference. It has also shown to pay dividends for radio stations when it comes to delivering ratings.

During my career I’ve been fortunate to be strong in this department and what I’ve learned is that persistence pays off and thinking big and planning ahead are critical to your success. While at ESPN Radio, I’d sometimes book 48 guests over the span of three six-hour shows and it was intense. Booking 48 guests didn’t mean we had a good show, it just simply meant we booked a lot of people.

wilsongottliebNow for that particular show (GameNight), the format was built around capturing quick post-game conversations and interviews with people all over the country on the biggest sports stories of the day and that’s a lot different than a weekday talk show where the focus is on topic building, connecting with listeners and conducting conversations with people who fit the stories we care most about.

The reason I was able to handle the workload of guest booking on GameNight had a lot to do with my mindset. I spent my first  years in this business working in a smaller market where I had to scratch and claw for every guest I got and I learned fast that if you want big things to happen you better be prepared to out-work and out-think people. Nobody cares about the challenges you have in front of you, only the results you deliver.

Jason On The MicBack then I hosted my own daily talk show about an hour north of NYC and I knew that I would be measured against every station in NYC so if I didn’t have big things in place then I stood no chance. I’d drive to Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Nets, Knicks and Rangers games and personally talk to people before and after games to build relationships. I’d also call team hotels, team PR people, agents, family members, memorabilia dealers, other media members throughout the country and anyone else who I thought could help me with landing people on my talk show.

When you’re in the producers chair, your host is looking to you each day to help them with enhancing the content experience for the audience. Telling a host that they should talk about the local baseball game from the night before is the equivalent of telling them that you know the sun is yellow. It means nothing and is going to be filed away in the filing cabinet of useless bullshit.

danpatrickcharliesheenHowever, I’ve yet to see a host walk in and hear that a well recognized athlete/coach/media personality has been booked for the show and they’re not excited. From local personalities to a high profile talent such as Dan Patrick, they all get excited when they walk in and know you’ve lined something up they perceive to be strong and it makes them feel even more confident in you as a producer.

Instantly their wheels start spinning with what questions they should ask, what subjects will generate the biggest reaction out of the audience and what possible material from the conversation will lead to further promotion for the show after it’s over.

If you’re really good at looking ahead, you can come up with tons of possible guest ideas to advance a story and help your show. Case in point, 8 years ago when I first worked in St. Louis I created The Guests Bible. This was a 16-page document with a list of current St. Louis athletes, former St. Louis athletes and analysts from all sports in different cities throughout the country.

I’d tell my producers to use the information in a timely fashion but to always be looking at it and thinking of when it could come into play and benefit them. If anyone on the list was booked and not good on-air I’d encourage them to alert one another so we don’t make the mistake of booking them again.

ithinkicanI believe so much of what gets accomplished with booking guests starts and ends with your attitude and ability to strategically game plan for success. Anyone can have a ton of numbers but they only matter if you know your contact list and if you’ve got the ability to think fast and use them when they matter.

Being persistent and recognizing the benefit a great guest can provide your show also plays a vital role. Too many people are beaten before they start because they view the responsibility as annoying or frustrating and they hate to have to chase people but whether you enjoy it or not, it gets your hosts and your audience excited and it’s up to you to come thru.

preachingRather than listen to me preach about it though, I’ve reached out to three people I know in the industry to pick their brains on how they view guests and their importance in talk shows and what they’ve done to help land them on their respective program.

What I think is interesting is that all three of these guys have worked in different markets and they each have a different approach and philosophy on why guests do/don’t matter. I hope you’ll find their responses as helpful and informative as I did.

Today’s featured experts are as follows:

  • Ben Boyd – Executive Producer – KMOX in St. Louis
  • Jonathan Libbey – Producer – 95.7 The Game in San Francisco
  • Bernard Bokenyi – Former PD/Producer – 750 The Game/1080 The Fan in Portland; WKNR in Cleveland; Sporting News Radio

prod-libvernonHow much do you love booking guests for your shows? Why or why not?

Libbey: When it works out, I love it! Especially when you land a big fish and you know how much time and effort went into it. The frustration comes when you hit a dry spell, or nothing seems to being going your way. But those periods ebb and flow and you can learn how to mitigate the tougher times as much as possible.

BoydBooking guests can be very rewarding but also very distressing. There is nothing better than landing a huge guest, but it is a what have you done for me lately business. You can’t sit back and enjoy your work for long because you have to book your next show. 

BokenyiFor me personally there is WAY too much of an emphasis put on booking “BIG NAME” guests on shows. There was no enjoyment for me efforting the big names as very rarely did you have results on them. Too often guests are viewed as a necessity to make great radio and that is not the case. You have to put way too much time into it and even when you book some athletes, the interview is awful as they don’t care to be spending the time. I would rather spend time developing unique content and focus on guests that will be good on air, no matter what walk of life they come from.

prod-boydmayweatherHow many calls, e-mails and texts do you send out on a daily/weekly basis in order to land great guests for your shows?

Boyd: I prefer to email and text people whenever possible instead of calling so they can read my pitch about coming on instead of just saying no or hanging up before hearing why they should join us. Whether I call or email though really depends on how far in advance I reach out to them. It’s hard to quantify how many times I reach out to people per day/week because it’s really a non-stop process because there is always another show coming up the next day/week.

Libbey: Depending how many guests I need for the upcoming week and how much I am able to look further down the road, I know I’ll roughly need to get out at least 7-8 requests per 1 guest spot I need to fill. More if I am aiming for guests I have no contact info on / haven’t had on before.

BokenyiI would send out well over 100 messages a week between emails, phone calls and other methods. You have to find multiple ways to connect to people. Twitter had yet to take off when I was booking guests but now that is another method of reaching out to people. You can’t just leave it at a phone call or two for a specific guest. Do they have a family member you can track down? Can you connect with that family member? Does the athlete have a charitable organization or foundation? There are so many ways you can make connections.

prod-bernardcalineodWhen pursuing A-List guests for your show, what are some of the avenues you explore to try and book someone?

Bokenyi: For current players/coaches, the first route will always be PR or the SID. As noted above, finding foundations is a great way to get an interview. You can go the agent route but from my experience, the results there are scarce. If you can’t get anywhere with PR, I would look at personal web pages, foundations, charities and social media. Something as simples as “Kobe Bryant Charity” as a Google search can get you plenty of options to look at. Find out what they’ve been involved with. For retired players/coaches, things are much easier. You can follow a lot of the same methods. Another route to look at is books. A-List guests will do media tours for books and that can be a great route to pursue. Get on mailing lists, the more the merrier. Any sports agency, publishing house, PR firm and beyond.

Libbey: Look for outlets who have interviewed the guest I want, and see if they can offer me insight into how they got them. i.e. is there another producer out there who has already done the leg work who I can get in contact with to help me? Look at the guest’s personal twitter, facebook, website, business, foundation, or charity for contact info or for something they might want to promote. Look for business / endorsement  partnerships the guest has that they could be persuaded to come on to promote. Any other reasons they may be interested in publicity? (upcoming events, charities, autograph signings, products)

BoydPublicists, Team PR people, Agents, previous coaches, media in the local market

prod-libreddickWhat are the biggest benefits of landing top flight guests on your show? 

Libbey: It energizes everyone associated with the show. It can drive excitement and energy for an entire day or even more, among producer, hosts, audience, execs, and others. It can deliver more of an impact than almost anything else the show can do. It can drive tune-ins, but also create buzz that makes people want to tune in. It also builds a lasting sense of importance, relevance, and cache for the show.

Boyd: One of the biggest benefits is the reputation your show can get — listeners who want to hear big guests will tune into your show. It also helps your relationship with your host because of how much pride your host has in his/her show. You are helping them to put out the best product they can, and they know you are working hard and want to be the best. Big time guests can boost the reputation of your station and yourself, and obviously can increase your ratings if you are able to publicize the appearance.

BokenyiI always wanted to challenge talent to be engaging and have fun and landing a quality interview can do that very effectively. In this day and age of digital media, the on-air interview is just the first step. That audio now lives forever through podcasting and social media. Get legs out of the interview. Make sure that it’s available for download as soon as possible. First of all you can encode audio to have PPM available for a window of time which can help with ratings. Second, you want people to know what they missed and to keep seeking it out. If somebody is not able to listen to your show live but can through podcast, what’s the difference? Yes you want to promote content, but keep in mind people have jobs, lives, commitments and your schedule does not always fit in to their lives. Allow them to fit your content into their lives and you will find success. 

prod-boydriceOnce a guest is booked, what else do you do as a Producer to take advantage of the opportunity?

BoydI like to promote guests on Facebook, Twitter, online message boards, etc. It is great if you can get a pro team to tweet out the appearance by their player, and it is always nice when a guest retweets your tweet to their followers.

Libbey: Publicize it as much as possible via on-air mentions, twitter, facebook, text alerts, etc. Try to generate as much buzz going into it as possible. Make sure hosts and producer are on the same page with what we want the spot to sound like and what we want it to deliver. Publicize and re-purpose any relevant clips from the interview on twitter, facebook, on-air, or via distribution to other pertinent persons / outlets.

BokenyiThe bottom line with guest booking is to know your hosts. Some are good at handling the young athlete that doesn’t really want to talk. Others have different strengths. To me, any interview you book must add something of depth to the show. There are plenty of A-list guests that won’t add depth if the interview itself is not engaging. The only time you should ever send out a press release on an interview is when it is regarding a hot topic that is current and will truly get people to say “WOW”. Test it out around the office. Grab a sales rep, intern, production person, traffic or promotions staffer. See if they give the reaction to something you want ESPN to get. You have to pick and choose however because you don’t want to overdo it. 

prod-bernardhulkHow often do you work in advance on guest booking? What’s your strategy when it comes to booking ahead?

Bokenyi: You have to always look at the upcoming opponents and games. For athletes and coaches, that is the only way to go, especially in season. You always however want to have a stable of interviews you are working on that are not necessarily time sensitive so you can have things to supplement what you are doing on a daily/weekly basis. During football season, you have to work at least a month ahead for your planning purposes. Depending on the guest, you may have to work even farther out. For example, if you want Richard Sherman during the 49ers/Seahawks week, you sure as heck better have been working on it for six months to make it happen during the week of the game.

Libbey: The day-to-day grind of short-term guest booking takes up the majority of the time, but I always want to have at least some long-term ideas / requests in the works. Always have some targets that are “evergreen” because they are relevant no matter what time of year. And also look ahead to upcoming games / series and target guests that are very difficult to get but would deliver a huge impact. When free(er) time presents itself, working ahead usually pays off, though it may take a long time for benefits to materialize.

BoydI always try to book ahead. I think most guests like when they are booked in advance instead of feeling like last minute additions. I always see what events are coming up on the calendar and try to reach out to people a few days to a week in advance. 

prod-libharrisonWhat is the biggest misconception of having a big rolodex or e-mail distribution list?

Libbey: That having a phone number or contact info for a guest means you can easily book that guest. The farther up the guest ladder you go, the less people want to be contacted directly. It’s a great feeling to get the direct number for a big fish, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they will ever let you book them directly. You will still probably have to go through proper channels to get them to agree to come on. )But in a push-comes-to-shove or breaking news situation, it can come in extremely handy.)

BoydPeople think if you have everyone’s number, you will have no problem getting great guests, but it doesn’t matter what numbers you have if you can’t get people to respond. The biggest benefit to having a big rolodex is for breaking news. Big name guests are typically easier to get on when there is breaking news or when there is a big event like Hall of Fame inductions. 

Bokenyi: The term rolodex is a joke. In 2001, I worked at Sporting News Radio when we had Barry Bonds on. He originally called on his agent’s cell phone but the connection dropped. We had caller ID and I grabbed the first phone number. When the call cut off he called back from a different number, his personal cell phone. So as a good producer I grabbed that number. I now had Barry Bonds’ cell phone as a part of my “rolodex”. I gave the number to all of the guest booking crew so I could boost my ego and get a few “that a boys” from everyone. A few months later, a fellow producer tried to call Bobby Bonds and of course made the mistake of calling Barry. Needless to say he was a little unpleasant. The phone was on speaker and I heard the exact result of having Barry Bonds’ cell phone in your rolodex. Bonds managed to get about ten F-Bombs in during 20 seconds or so. Needless to say that phone number was changed within minutes. Point of the story – having a rolodex is silly antiquated thinking from years gone by. What you NEED is the ability to get the guest booked. Many current players, not even A-listers will tell PR that they got called directly so if you’re going to call someone directly, you better be sure it won’t jeopardize relationships that your station has.  

prod-boydjamesWhat advice do you want to pass along on guest booking to fellow producers who struggle at it or to someone who’s breaking into the industry and looking to learn it?

BoydThere are many different avenues of tracking someone down. I see too many interns/producers give up too easily when trying to find someone. Keep reaching out to other people who can help you connect. You can find out so much information online about friends/family members/high school or college coaches, and those people are usually willing to help set something up.

Libbey: Persistence is huge, don’t let yourself get discouraged, working ahead is your best friend, and creativity is massively beneficial. Creativity with guest ideas and also in terms of abstract / unconventional ways to contact people. Save the contact info of every person you ever have on or who helps you in any way. Don’t get lazy, always stay in the mindset of challenging yourself to keep expanding your rolodex and getting on people you’ve never had before. Build contacts with other producers and always be open to trading info with them, and in that way you can essentially double / triple your rolodex.

Bokenyi: Learn patience quickly! While you are working hard on big name guests, you have to find other content on a daily basis that will enhance your show. Being a producer is SO MUCH more than booking guests. That is just one part of the equation. You will have days when you land two great interviews in a day because it just works that way sometimes. You then may go weeks before your next A-list interview. To me, booking guests should be about 10% or so of what makes a good show. Now I know there will be plenty that disagree with me on that, but I speak from experience. As a young producer, find out more about your talent than the audience knows and find ways to get that out of them on the air. Push their buttons and be confident. Always do it with a smile and you will succeed.

The Key Takeaways:

  • Be persistent and be patient
  • Be active with a ton of requests and follow up
  • Know your contact list and use it in a timely fashion
  • Podcast and promote the interview even after it’s over
  • Know your hosts and what type of guests fit them best
  • Whether it’s annoying or frustrating, recognize its value to helping your show
  • Explore various avenues to book guests; there are tons of ways to book people
  • Don’t book people who just fill up segments, make the segment opportunities count

You can correspond with our three featured experts by reaching out to them on Twitter. Make sure to add @BenjaminHBoyd @BernardBokenyi and @Jlib21.

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The 2024 BSM Summit is Coming To New York City

“The 2024 BSM Summit, will take place March 13-14, 2024 at the Ailey Citigroup Theater in New York City.”

Jason Barrett



During today’s Barrett News Media Summit in Nashville, Barrett Media President Jason Barrett announced plans for the company’s next sports media conference. The 2024 BSM Summit, the Sports Media industry’s premiere annual conference for broadcasting professionals, is returning to New York City. The Summit will take place on Wednesday, March 13th and Thursday, March 14th, 2024, at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, 405 W. 55th Street, New York, NY. This will be the company’s sixth BSM Summit and the third time the popular destination event for sports broadcasters originates from the big apple.

Tickets to the 2024 BSM Summit in New York will go on sale on Monday, October 16, 2023, on the event website: The full lineup of speakers, panels, and special events will be announced later this year.

Prior all-star speakers at the BSM Summit have included industry executives Jimmy Pitaro of ESPN, Eric Shanks of FOX Sports, Meadowlark Media’s John Skipper, and Barstool Sports’ Erika Ayers Badan, popular on-air personalities Pat McAfee, Mina Kimes and Paul Finebaum of ESPN, Colin Cowherd, Joy Taylor, Jay Glazer, and Craig Carton of FOX Sports, Al Michaels of Amazon Prime Video, Jim Rome of CBS Sports, WWE’s Shawn Michaels, and Sports Radio icons Mike Francesa and Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo, best known as ‘Mike and The Mad Dog’, plus Sports Radio’s sharpest programming minds including Spike Eskin of WFAN, Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket, FOX Sports Radio’s Don Martin and Scott Shapiro, Cumulus Media and Westwood One’s Bruce Gilbert, 670 The Score and BetQL’s Mitch Rosen, and many more.

Jason Barrett, President, Barrett Media, said: “What started as a small gathering in Chicago in 2018 has blossomed into one of sports media’s most fun, insightful, and professionally beneficial events. We pour our heart and soul into this show to help industry professionals stay in tune with where the industry is going, and to unite and celebrate folks who help make the Sports Media business one of the best, most passionate, and professionally important spaces in all of media.”

Barrett noted: “I’m excited to return to NYC and operate on the large stage at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, treating our attendees to the best-in-class speakers and presentations they’ve become accustomed to seeing and interacting with at our shows. Last year’s BSM Summit in Los Angeles delivered a homerun, and I’m eager to see if NYC can help us raise the bar again when we return to the Big Apple for a third time in March 2024.”

To stay up to date on speakers, tickets, sponsorship opportunities, and other event surprises, visit

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Cheers to 8 Years of Barrett Media, and a Look Ahead to 2024

“To be here after 8 years, still able to share my passion for sports and news broadcasting with you, and earn your time and attention is an honor..”

Jason Barrett



Each September, I look forward to writing this column. Not because I need a pat on the back but because it signifies another year in business. When I launched this company in September 2015, I didn’t expect to cover every layer of sports and news media. I knew the radio business well, built a lot of relationships, and enjoyed writing and speaking my mind. I just thought it would be cool for sports radio folks to have a website focused on it. If it led to a consulting client or two, even better.

I wasn’t planning to hire website editors, writers, social media and newsletter directors or create annual conferences, a member directory and advertising packages. Fortunately, we did good work and it caught on with industry professionals. As interest grew and opportunities presented themselves, I was wise enough to seize them. It’s why we’re here today celebrating 8 years in business.

Creating a brand that people like, respect, learn from, and enjoy spending time with is one of the best things I’ve ever been a part of. It’s even more special because we built this without corporate funding. When I entered the consulting and publishing space, I believed this could be my last job. I still feel that way today. This consumes my life M-F from 7am to 11pm. I’ll take a break to eat, talk to family or maybe watch a game or TV show but aside from that and a weekend timeout or vacation, I don’t shut off much. I wish I could at times but it’s how I’m wired. To run a successful business, you’ve got to be all-in and willing to sacrifice, and I do whatever it takes to keep us moving forward.

Growth also requires having a good staff, and supportive clients, advertising partners, and members. It’s easy to run websites with minimal content and low expectations but if the goal is to grow an audience and revenue, generate nationwide respect, and expand into new areas, then you’ve got to have support, a strong team, short and long-term vision, and an ability to consistently deliver. That means recruiting, investing, pitching, and knowing when to pivot.

During our 8 year run, we’ve produced larger monthly and annual traffic than some trade sites that I read and admire. We’ve also established a valuable industry event, and are about to make it two when we host our news summit next week. We’ve earned respect by breaking news, creating original content, helping partners, and refusing to value clicks over people. We may write things sometimes that folks don’t like or agree with. That comes with the territory. Just as long as we’re fair and accurate, I’ll manage the rest. I’m obviously biased but when it comes to sports and news media coverage, I’ll put our team up against anyone. For those who ask, ‘how can we help?’ The answer is simple, RT or share our content, advertise with BSM or BNM, retain us for consulting work or buy a membership or ticket to a summit.

I’ve always tried to be transparent with our readers and clients, so if I’m being honest, this year has been harder than others. The good news is that we’ve grown a lot. We’re busier than ever, and our reach and influence keeps rising. I absolutely love the clients I work with but with more work comes a need for more staff. With more staff comes increased conversations, and it isn’t always easy for me to find time for my crew when I’ve got to listen to and help stations, build conferences, sell sponsorships, and manage websites and newsletters. It’s why having good editors in place is important.

If all I had to do was help clients, the job would be easy. But I don’t just consult. I oversee our websites, newsletters, social media, events and 20+ people. It can be exhausting sometimes. Then there are the unexpected situations that arise. Case in point, having to navigate web hosting issues, social media platforms restricting reach, Google impacting BNM after it split off of BSM, restrictions on 1-2 writers, plus new hires not panning out, and veteran contributors signing off. It’s what you have to deal with when running a company.

On the positive side, the BNM and BSM writing teams continue to kick ass, Alex, Andy, Garrett and Demetri are working well together, and our first news/talk summit has been well received. Stephanie Eads has also gotten more involved on the sales end, and after the BNM Summit, she and I will be holding meetings with groups regarding our 2024 plans.

On that note, we reach a lot of people each day with our two brands. Many are high earners and key decision makers. Most of our partners benefit by advertising with BSM and BNM but there are some in marketing departments who haven’t invested in us nor taken the time to learn about us or respond to an introduction. The last thing I want to do is have to make a tough call one day like Joel Denver did earlier this year with All Access but breaking news, telling stories, running events, and helping partners grow their business takes time and resources. I’m comfortable sharing our story and results. I just hope more will take a closer look at working with us because I know we can help.

Looking ahead to 2024, I can confirm we will host another BSM and BNM Summit. We’ll reveal our host city and location for the 2024 BSM Summit on September 14th. Our plans for the 2024 BNM Summit will be made public in the months ahead. We’ll also release the BNM Top 20 of 2023 on December 11-15 and December 18. The BSM Top 20 of 2023 comes out February 5-9 and February 12th.

In addition, I’ll be posting a column tomorrow on BNM laying out the entire BNM Summit schedule. I’ll also be hiring an Executive Editor in Q4. More on that shortly.

As far as future goals are concerned, I’d like to eventually increase our newsletter distribution to AM and PM delivery, add a few new features writers and columnists, hire a second seller, introduce a new content series for BSM and BNM, and rework our social media strategy. I’m also planning to return to the podcast space next year although not with 5-6 programs per week.

At some point I’ve got to review our member directory and make it valuable for both sports and news/talk professionals. I’m also hoping to dig through our summit video content and eventually create a super ticket for folks to consume any session they want from the past 6 years of conferences. There’s a few more possibilities being explored too but I’m not ready to dive into those details yet. When I am, I’ll share it here on the website.

One situation I am comfortable addressing involves an important upcoming change. When September ends, Demetri Ravanos will be transitioning from FT editor of Barrett Sports Media to a weekly columnist and features writer for BSM. This is something that has been planned for months, and I know Demetri is excited about it.

Demetri joined BSM in August 2017, and has been a valuable member of our team. He’s been a great help to me and our staff, but if you ask him he’ll tell you that being an editor was never what he really wanted to do. He’s done it because he’s a team guy, loves the brand, enjoys sharing ideas with our writers, and likes staying busy but cleaning up columns, editing features, writing headlines and news stories, and listening to stations was not his dream gig. He’s going to be working with Joe Ovies, Joe Giglio, Lauren Brownlow and their Raleigh based podcasting network, which will give him a chance to host and produce close to home. You’ve likely seen some of his work already on social media.

Having spent 6 years together, I can’t say enough good things about Demetri. He’s worked hard for BSM, listened and learned when I educated him on stuff, and he’s become a great friend. He’s someone I’ve put a lot of trust in, and that’s not something I hand out to everyone. It has to be earned through time and consistent effort. We’ve talked a lot the past few years about this scenario being likely at some point, and when the topic came up in May, we both knew it was the right time to start the process. I’d write more about him if he were vacating BSM but you’ll still be able to read him on Monday and Wednesday. In fact, he’s launching a new series here tomorrow called Meet The Podcasters presented by Point to Point Marketing.

When we created this transition plan in May, I moved fast to get the word out that we’d be hiring an Executive Editor. I did so because I knew it’d take time to lure the right candidates, and between running a news/talk event on September 13-14, and Demetri stepping away two weeks later, I wanted to get ahead on it. I conducted 60+ interviews in May-August, and talked to many well respected, highly accomplished people, but as the summit drew closer, I started to realize that this hire was way too important to rush into. This is someone who I have to have complete trust and confidence in to run and grow our company’s digital brands. I didn’t like the idea of hiring someone and having limited time to train them, brainstorm big ideas, and develop a 2024 strategy due to needing to focus on building a big event.

So I told a few candidates that we’d resume discussions after the Summit, and if it means having to take longer to hire the right person, then so be it. I care about making the right hire, not a fast hire.

To make sure we don’t miss a beat, I’ll be diving in with Garrett Searight on October 2nd to make sure BSM and BNM’s content remains strong each day. We’re fortunate to have Garrett, Derek, Ryan, Jordan, Ricky and Eduardo contributing news stories and Alex handling our social media so it’ll be business as usual. My goal is to make a hire during the 4th quarter and set up the company for stronger success in 2024.

One thing I’ve learned during the editor interview process is that there are a lot of people who know our brands, love sports and news, and enjoy writing and broadcasting but don’t have the knowledge about sports radio or television beyond a few markets or shows. Many see the word ‘sports’ or ‘news’ and assume we’re going to write about those issues. I tell them all ‘we don’t do sports and news, we do sports media and news media‘. It’s important to know the difference. We’re more in line with a Sports Business Journal, Front Office Sports or All Access than we are ESPN, Yahoo Sports or Sports Illustrated.

What matters most here is a passion for writing, a nose for news, industry knowledge and relationships, and a desire to educate the industry. I live and breathe the broadcasting business and need others around me who share that same passion for the industry. I know there are talented writers and editors out there, so since this process isn’t resolved yet my email is open if you want to send a resume and cover letter. Be advised that this is a FT salaried, remote position.

There will always be obstacles to overcome, successes to celebrate, people coming and going, and new opportunities and difficulties to navigate when running a business. To be here after 8 years, still able to share my passion for sports and news broadcasting with you, and earn your time and attention is an honor. I’m grateful for your support and look forward to seeing where we are when I write this column next September and raise a glass to 9 years of excellence.

Thanks for taking the ride with us. Here’s to finishing 2023 strong, and making 2024 even better.

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The New York Times Sports Saga is About Dollars and Cents, Not a Lack of Interest in Coverage and Reading

“You can take issue with the vision and how the situation was managed but an investment in The Athletic makes no sense if the Times doesn’t prioritize its importance.”

Jason Barrett



Photo Credit: New York Times

Call me asleep at the wheel, out of touch or an aging broadcaster who has it all wrong, but I firmly believe that people still like to read. I know the popular thing is to talk up video, audio, streaming, etc., and I love all of those options, but I don’t buy that people don’t have time or interest in reading.

For many, especially in the media business, it’s how you start and end your day. I’ve heard people pronounce last rites for print for well over a decade, only to see social platforms and media outlets thrive off the written word, newsletters rapidly rise, and text become the main form of communicating. Clearly, written content still matters.

It’s ironic that I’m telling you this in print as you read it on the BSM website. In fact, more than nine million visitors have stopped by this site over the past three years, reinforcing why I remain convinced people value learning and enjoying a mental distraction.

As much as I love audio and video, there’s something therapeutic about reading a story. There are thousands of shows flooding the daily content cycle, many discussing the same topics and issues. Some could say the same exists in print, but there are countless examples of in-depth storytelling and reporting that can’t be duplicated on radio, TV or even in a podcast.

Think for a second about the majority of sports information that people react to each day. It comes in written form. If you’re an NBA fan, you rely on tweets from Woj and Shams. If you crave the NFL, Schefty and Rapoport keep you informed. Even those seeking sports media news get it from Marchand, McCarthy, Ourand, and BSM. Whether it’s delivered in a tweet or an online article, the bottom line, you’re reading it.

Though I remain bullish on the power of print, I’m not naive to the fact that the business has been challenged. If the revenue or costs don’t produce positive results for a company, they are going to do whatever is necessary to strengthen their business.

Recently, the New York Times chose to throw in the towel on its local sports department, relying instead on The Athletic for its local sports coverage needs. It was a decision undoubtedly influenced by dollars and cents. As expected, many in the media took exception.

In a statement issued to the Times’s newsroom, the newspaper’s executive editor, and deputy managing editor emphasized that the changes would result in more direct focus on distinctive, high-impact news and enterprise journalism about how sports intersect with money, power, culture, politics and society at large. What they felt no longer needed attention was coverage of games, players, teams and leagues.

Interesting. This follows the Los Angeles Times recent decision to remove box scores, game stories, standings, and TV listings. These are things that sports fans have cared about and paid attention to for decades.

These two newspapers believe your interest in knowing the details of a game, and how your favorite team is performing compared to others, no longer matter. Either that’s the viewpoint or they’ve waved the white flag and determined people would rather go to ESPN, Yahoo and other online destination for that information. It’s easy to see why these decisions drew the ire of Adam Schein on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio and Jessica Benson on Grind City Media.

I don’t believe people who love sports don’t care about the things the Times is eliminating. Maybe interest in those items is lower when compared to news and in-depth storytelling but sports fans have always had interest in statistics, schedules, transactions, and standings. To suggest they don’t matter anymore is foolish.

You can debate if the newspaper’s vision for covering sports is right for the future or not but what made this situation worse is the way their executive team managed the situation with the sports staff.

It was reported that employees sent a letter to management the day prior, asking for clarity on the future of their department. Though the Times said in a letter to staff that no plans existed for layoffs, they ignored the fact that The Athletic had 20 staff members eliminated last month, and 20 more transferred to other roles. The transfer approach was also their solution for the sports department, hoping moving staffers to another department would help avoid the wrath and a bigger fight with their union.

But when news trickles in from the outside that plans are in the works to eliminate a department, and those skilled at covering sports are offered roles that remove them from what they enjoy doing, why would they stay? If someone took away your sports job and told you you’d continue being paid but now have to write obituaries, what would you do? Some will see this as creating a structure that encourages people to quit. That’s one way to eliminate costs without being on the hook for breaking a promise to not eliminate jobs.

Though I think the management team at the Times has royally screwed up their handling of this situation, let’s remove emotion for a second, and look at this from a business perspective.

The New York Times’s parent company started this process in January 2022 when it invested five hundred and fifty million dollars in The Athletic. Were they not supposed to prioritize the sports brand they purchased? Were they supposed to continue funding two operations with the same content focus even if it meant losing money?

One could argue that the newspaper could’ve moved its best sports writers to The Athletic, but to expect both to operate as is isn’t realistic. You can also criticize the decision to stick with The Athletic after the brand lost $7.8 million last quarter, $12.6 million in the second quarter last year, and $6.8 million in February and March of 2022 despite having 3.3 million subscribers. By the way, that information was shared by the New York Times in public filings.

Love it or hate it, when a company has resources tied up in two places for the same thing, you can rest assured they’re going to eliminate or reduce one of them. The changes don’t happen right away either, they usually come a year or two later.

This isn’t exclusive to the print industry. Look at what happened to the pro wrestling business when Vince McMahon acquired WCW from Turner. He didn’t run two companies long term. He kept who he wanted, dropped the others, and a lot of people in that business were left without work. It happens in radio too when a station eliminates local shows for national programming or companies take over a new market or entire organization. You may not love hearing executives talk about finding ‘synergies’ to operate more efficiently, but they’re not going to pay twice for something that requires one investment.

When cuts are made and a department is weakened, it’s hard to express enthusiasm. Why would one be optimistic about the Times’s ability to cover the world of sports when they have less of a presence, and are minimizing coverage of games, players, teams, and leagues? If you’re at the New York Daily News, New York Post or Newsday you’re using the moment to remind New Yorkers that you remain committed to local sports coverage with a locally focused staff.

It’s more than fair to question if this the Times is making a smart decision, but for anyone to suggest this confirms a lack of interest in reading and sports coverage is foolish. These decisions are always about one thing, and one thing only, money.

The bigger issue with print isn’t a lack of interest. It’s the cost to employ and retain a talented staff while grappling with the challenges of generating advertising and subscription revenue. Think the fact that the sports desk at the Times was unionized, and The Athletic was not might’ve mattered in this case? You’re nuts if you think it didn’t.

In May of this year, the New York Times missed estimates for quarterly revenue. That led to a 6% drop in their stock price at the time. The Times said they expected digital ad revenue to decline by low-to mid-single digits, which was confirmed when they revealed they were nearly 9% down in digital ad revenue for the first quarter, and off by 11 million dollars for total annual revenue.

Photo Credit Reuters

As a publisher myself, I know how hard it is. We are fortunate to have some excellent, loyal advertising partners on this website but truth be told, we don’t have enough of them. More months than most we spend more than we take in to run our websites, and newsletters. Consulting remains our top source for revenue, leaving me to ask many times if modifying our content approach is needed or if we’d be wiser running a business without an online focus.

We put a ton of time and effort into educating the industry. I take great pride covering brands and people, telling their stories, trying to help folks learn about each other and the daily happenings across the media landscape. We pump out 30-40 stories each day between our two websites, promote them across social media, and deliver them to more than 10,000 inboxes via our BSM 8@8 and BNM Rundown. And that’s just the content side.

We also spend countless hours creating packages, pursuing new business, and taking meetings to demonstrate our reach and value in order to gain advertising support. We build conferences across the country, and risk a lot financially to do them, hoping to earn enough to cover the expenses and get many of the right industry people in the room. But even that can be difficult. For every partner we gain, there are many who don’t come on board. Most who do have seen the benefits, but I understand that a weakened economy makes decision makers nervous.

That said, if this site disappeared tomorrow, many would be upset. We’ve earned trust, respect, and appreciation for the work we do from a lot of important people. But in every business, if the support isn’t there, the publisher, brand or company has to choose what is and isn’t vital to operating. Folks may not like change, but it’s simply about the math. If the dollars and cents don’t add up, you’ve got to adjust or you risk being broke or out of business.

That’s what I believe this decision at the New York Times is about. You can take issue with their vision and the way they managed the situation but understand that an investment in The Athletic makes no sense if the Times isn’t prepared to prioritize its importance. You can question if they should’ve purchased The Athletic in the first place, but once that move was made, it was only a matter of time until something this drastic occurred.

But those who flocked to social media to suggest this is proof of people not being interested in reading are wrong. Each time I hear nonsense uttered about print being dead, I think of how often the same has been said about radio and television. I think about the film industry, which relies on written scripts, and in many cases, published books to create box office hits. I think of Canada pulling its advertising support from Facebook and Instagram over parent company Meta’s decision to restrict news content being available to Canadians. I think of our own growth at BSM and BNM, which is a result of people consuming our written content either online, on social media or in newsletters.

Interest in reading, learning, and mentally escaping from the world for a few is as strong as ever. We live on social media apps and our phones because we want to read what others say, and join the conversation. It all reinforces the notion that consuming written content matters, whether it’s on a website, on social media, in a text, in a newspaper, newsletter or magazine.

The only questions anyone should be asking is what must digital/print brands do to attract stronger advertising dollars, how much investment must a company make to deliver quality journalism and a large audience, and how much consolidation awaits the media world in the near and distant future? We can scream from the mountaintops all day about the decline of journalism and rip the New York Times for decimating its local sports department, but if the dough don’t show, someone or something is going to go.

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