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Do You Know Who You’re Hiring?

Jason Barrett

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If you’ve ever watched the show “Shark Tank” or “The Voice“, you’ve watched people present themselves in front of the coaches or sharks, hoping to get them excited about what they do. If they perform well, multiple people on the show could be vying for their services and within a matter of seconds, they’re forced to make a decision on who they wish to partner with. If they make the right choice, it could pay huge dividends. If they choose poorly, they’re back to square one and kicking themselves for not reading the room differently.

Well it’s no different in our business. One of the toughest decisions we face is the decision to accept or reject an opportunity of employment. If you’re in a manager’s shoes, you also have to decide whether or not someone is a good or bad fit for your brand. On a personal level, people want to make a good living so they can take care of their families and they want to be surrounded by people who they respect and like working with. They want to perform for a company with a good track record and be seen as a valuable member of the organization but too often during the process, they allow personal friendships and large sums of money to cloud their decisions. They stop doing their homework on the people and companies they may work for because a few good pieces of feedback and a high salary number that meets or exceeds expectation, is enough to turn a blind eye to some potential warning signs.

reputationEqually in danger is the employer. They’re the ones having to decide whether or not you’re worthy of leading the organization, being the face of the brand or an individual worth attaching a client’s message to. They have to be sure that an employee is a reflection of what their company represents and they’re the ones on the hook for large sums of money. They also have to endure battles and have their ducks in a row when explaining the brand’s results and personnel choices. If they don’t pan out or fail to meet expectation, they then have to address those same subjects internally and externally and figure out solutions to get things fixed.

I’ve learned over the past 9 years of programming that the process for hiring someone is much harder than anything you might imagine. I’ve hired people who walked in the door with baggage and I’ve been rewarded strongly for it and I’ve hired people who appeared to be clean as a whistle, yet ended up being dirty. That said, one thing I take pride in and consider extremely important is doing my homework on anyone I hire. I may not end up being right all the time but it won’t be for a lack of due diligence. In numerous cases I’ve spent months evaluating someone before pulling the trigger on hiring them and usually when I’ve operated that way I’ve made smart choices.

ignore2In my opinion, this is a big part of every manager’s job. Not being privy to what every building and company does, I’m not sure if every programmer, personality or radio executive values this the same. Often personalities get blinded by the lure of a bigger time slot and paycheck which feeds their ego and makes them feel more important. General Managers, Sales Managers and Corporate Executives will sometimes look at a person’s track record of ratings, market size and industry reputation and move forward with that person quickly out of fear of losing them rather than dig through the weeds to find out what that person’s background is like.

One of my favorite situations during my career took place in April 2011. I was brought into San Francisco by Entercom to discuss the PD position for what is now known as 95.7 The Game. The discussions and meetings I had been involved in up to that point had been fantastic and I was excited by the possibility of competing in market #4. I knew the company’s reputation and commitment towards doing local sports talk throughout the county was strong and I felt the offer to join them in San Francisco would be to my liking.

SAMSUNGOn Friday night, my girlfriend Stephanie and I headed to a Sharks playoff game with my former General Manager Dwight Walker and on Saturday we were given time to scout the area and make sure it was a good personal fit. I was blown away by the market and knew I wanted to live and work here for the next 4 years. I also was excited about the possibility of working for Dwight and I sensed he felt the same way about having me lead his operation.

Then on Sunday morning, Stephanie and I joined Dwight for breakfast to put the finishing touches on a deal which would bring me to San Francisco. Before we could get to the end of the process though, my girlfriend asked if she could ask a question. I was sitting there thinking “don’t screw this up for me Steph” and after Dwight gave her the nod to ask away, she asked him “why do you want to hire Jason“? It was a simple question but yet very important because it would tell me a lot about what Dwight really knew about me and the way I work.

jbstephTo his credit, he responded by talking about my passion, leadership qualities, track record and values and I could tell he had done a good job of reading me. However, he wasn’t aware of how I operated on a daily basis. My girlfriend then asked “Are you prepared to receive a 6 paragraph email at 2am telling you what needs to be fixed with the radio station to make it perform better? Can you handle it when people in other departments start complaining to you because he has a vision and won’t let them get in the way of it, especially if it relates to the on-air product? What will you do when you hear him passionately getting into it with an on-air personality because he expects stronger preparation and better performance out of them“?

I sat there both stunned and impressed because she knew what my style was like and how much I put into my work and she wanted him to be sure he knew what he was getting into. To Dwight’s credit, he handled it perfectly and said “I guess I’ll have to read more, ask him to keep it down a little from time to time and I’m not interested in hiring someone who can win popularity contests, I want someone who can lead us to the top and stop at nothing to get there. If Jason comes here he will have my full support to do what we need to do to win“.

dwightTo his credit, he lived up to every part of that during our time working together! Because we both did our homework on one another and felt comfortable with what we were each getting, the radio station was built and put in a position to succeed. Anyone who worked inside those walls during the time Dwight and I worked together knew that he and I were on the same page and the expectations were to work hard, continue to grow and not stop until we were a success.

Often when people interview for a job, we react to what they did previously and it’s easy to get caught up in how good they look on paper. We’ll point to their track record and say “He was in the top 3 in market X, sold a ton of endorsements and his style is perfect for this place“. While success in other places is important, it doesn’t always mean it will translate to another market.

IMG_2771For example, I under performed and socially did not connect in St. Louis during my first 2 years there. I spent a ton of time feeling like a fish out of water and was counting the days until I could exit 590 The Fan KFNS and go someplace else. I walked into a situation where my employer was struggling, the morale inside the building was low and I wasn’t completely locked in the way I needed to be. It was a difficult situation for all involved. Here I was, as an East Coast guy living for the first time in the Midwest, going through a divorce and being separated from my son, and all I wanted to do was have enough success to get the heck out of here. I was emotionally drained and unsure if my east coast style was a good fit in St. Louis.

Then one of the best things and turning points of my career happened. I reached an agreement one year later to leave KFNS and spend 6 months on the sidelines clearing my head. Being unemployed for the first time in 10+ years wasn’t easy but I needed to hit the reset button and find out what I was about and what I wanted. It was also the first time in a while that I had failed at something and I had to either pick myself up off the ground and learn from it or continue blaming everyone and everything else for what transpired.

jbrandybernieI was positive I would leave St. Louis and put it in my rear view mirror and I thought for sure I was going to go to Detroit or Houston but as luck would have it, my next opportunity would be less than 5 minutes away. When I accepted my next job working for Bonneville as the first programmer of 101 ESPN, I went into it mentally focused, appreciative of a second chance and excited about where I was living and much more confident in my abilities to perform there. I learned from the mistakes I made during my first run with KFNS and built a special culture inside the walls of 101 ESPN which continues there today. I also learned that there were a lot of good people in St. Louis who loved radio like I did and I was thrilled that I didn’t allow one bad situation to define my opinion of the market. After going thru that experience, St. Louis became very special to me and when I was faced with a decision to leave, it was really hard to say goodbye.

When I reflect back on those two experiences, there’s one valuable lesson that I learned – doing your homework is vital! When I accepted 590 The Fan’s offer I did so while knowing that my family were unhappy in Philadelphia, they felt more comfortable in St. Louis and there weren’t any other PD jobs available. I was also blown away by the company’s performance in Atlanta but I didn’t consider that just because they were performing strong in one place didn’t mean they would succeed somewhere else. Both markets were very different. I was also a big baseball fan and I loved how passionate St. Louis fans were towards the Cardinals and I figured I’d fit right in and have a chance to succeed if I could tap into that connection. Altogether it took me less than 3 weeks to complete the process going to KFNS and my lack of research on what I was getting into put me in a bad spot. That’s nobody else’s fault but my own.

JB and JKOn the other hand, when I went to work for Bonneville in St. Louis we spent nearly 3 months talking and going over various scenarios before the job was offered. I encouraged my former General Manager John Kijowski to do his homework on me and he did. He talked to people who knew what I was about professionally and I asked him to talk to people who weren’t fans of mine too. I wanted him to know what he was getting if he brought me in. I also did my homework on the company, John and the entire market to make sure I could create a plan that would work. There was no hesitation on either end when we reached the finish line together and by going through an exhausting hiring process, Bonneville got my very best and I benefited by working for a great company which supported, trusted and helped me.

If you’re a programmer, sales manager, corporate executive or GM, think back on some of the decisions you’ve made on talent, producers, board operators, reporters, anchors or any other member of your organization. When you’ve hired people to work for you, have you truly done your due diligence? The ratings story can be deceiving and your former co-worker may have great things to say about an individual but do you really know the ins and outs and critical pieces of information that you need to know about who you’re hiring? If a situation hasn’t worked out, why didn’t it? Did you go against your gut and ignore the signs or were you under pressure to get something completed that you rushed to judgment? If you’ve gone through a failed experiment (we all do), how have you learned from those situations and how are you more prepared now when you make hiring decisions than you were 2-3 years ago?

jbdamonToo often in this industry people read press clippings and form opinions off of them and while I understand the importance of researching information based on what’s been written, there’s always more to a story than what you read. If you’re going to hire someone great who moves the needle, don’t be surprised if they produce a few unpopular opinions online when you google their name. If the job is to generate an audience and create buzz for a show, those with strong opinions who toe the line and sometimes step over it are going to be on your list of targets.

For example, I am glad that I didn’t allow a few articles and media critics to influence my decision to hire Damon Bruce in San Francisco. Most great talent have their legion of fans and critics and Damon is no exception. At times he’ll say some things that ruffle a few feathers and we’ve had a few passionate disagreements along the way but I also know him as a person off the air and how much he puts into his work. When I did my homework on him I asked numerous people for feedback and I spent months examining whether or not the fit would make sense. When I reached my decision I felt very comfortable with bringing him on to our team and without question it’s been paid dividends and benefited all involved.

I’ve also nearly hired Tony Bruno and Sean Salisbury during my career and if you google their names you’ll find an unflattering story or two but if you got to know them, what they’re about, how they work and how they perform, you wouldn’t even question whether or not they can help improve your product. All you need to do is look in Philadelphia and Houston and you’ll see them having success and being valuable members of their respective organizations.

kaplan9The same can be said for other top personalities such as Scott Kaplan, Mike Missanelli, Chris Dimino, Stephen A. Smith, Dan McNeil and Sid Rosenberg. All of them possess outstanding talent and strong track records but all have a blemish or two on their resume. Some of them I know well and I wouldn’t hesitate to hire tomorrow if I had a need and they fit my market and brand, and some of them I don’t know and would need to do more homework on. That said, that’s why you go through an extensive hiring process to make sure you’ve given yourself, your company and the candidate the best chance to have a successful relationship together.

While it’s easy to shine the light on this situation from a programmer’s point of view, if you’re an on-air talent there are things you should be examining too before accepting an opportunity.

  • Do you analyze how the company operates and performs in other markets?
  • Do you talk to people involved with those stations to find out how they like working for the company?
  • Do you talk to current or former employees who’ve worked for your potential PD to see how they feel about them?
  • Do you ask advertisers what their perspective is on the company and why they do/don’t buy the product?
  • Do you talk to the local teams or the networks that the radio station partners with to see how they perceive the brand?
  • Have you directly asked the PD or GM what their long-term plans are with the operation?
  • Have you checked into whether or not the company may be looking to sell?

That’s a lot of questions but each one is critical in helping you make a decision about whether or not to explore working for someone.

peteg2If you’re accepting an opportunity based on money and a higher profile time slot you’re setting yourself up for disappointment down the road. An employee-company relationship is a two way street and I remember my friend Pete Gianesini at ESPN Radio once telling me “you’re interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you” and that’s so true. This is your life and your career and this next move could be the catalyst to something big for you professionally or it could be the start of a downward spiral. While the best of intentions may exist today, that’s not always the case tomorrow and both sides need to know what they’re getting into. If you don’t, then it’s going to eat at you again and again if it doesn’t work out!

I stress this not only to the on-air people but to the folks on the company side as well. Whether you’re a GM, Sales Manager, Corporate Programmer or CEO, every sales person, engineer, traffic person, programmer or on-air personality hired, is a reflection of what the company stands for. These people represent you and your brand and that should matter a great deal because you earn or lose respect with every decision that’s made.

Ask The Right Questions on a cork notice boardHere’s a few questions to consider.

  • Are you trusting your managers to hire people independently or are you talking to the candidate as well?
  • Do you know why a person who’s had success or failure in their career had those experiences? Was it a result of their performance or the company’s decisions?
  • Do you know which people inside your building are future leaders and why they’re capable of stepping up or are you just listening to someone who you like/dislike and allowing it to influence how you think?
  • Do you talk to people inside your building to get a read on how they’re connecting with their manager or do you just assume everything is fine and rely on the manager’s feedback to impact your thoughts?

Managing is not easy and nothing puts a bulls eye on your reputation more than the decisions you make. Company’s who are generating millions of dollars are trusting their hosts, programmers, sales executives, GM’s and support staffs to create products that will help them make even more money and you need the right people to implement the plan. No company is in business to not be profitable and one wrong decision can cost you millions if you miss! If you’re going to risk a few million dollars on your next decision, don’t you want to know everything you can possibly know before you act on it?

Do you know what really stings? Having to go to sleep at night, not being able to do the job you love anymore because you skipped a few steps, made mistakes and damaged the brand you represented. Take it from someone who’s been to both ends of the spectrum, the view is much better from up top! So be smart and do your homework. Regardless of how it turns out, you’ll sleep much better at night knowing you did everything in your power to get it right.

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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