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Are You Willing To Break The Rules?

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Last week I was introduced to a new television program. The show is called “Startup U” and it features a number of students and young entrepreneurs who spend 7-weeks at a place in the Silicon Valley called Draper University. Each person introduces an idea for their own business, and is then tasked with developing their product and skills, working with instructors on ways to pitch themselves and their company, and enduring the wrath of many highly successful business leaders. At the end of the season, each person pitches their idea to billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper, who chooses one person to invest in and help launch their product.

Similar to every other reality show, the cast are put through various challenges, forced to live together, and with each passing week you see the best and worst in people emerge. What made this show different though was that many of the ideas, strategies, reactions and coaching techniques were very similar to what I’ve endured during my career in radio. Even the final goal (winning Draper’s confidence and money) is no different than what broadcasters and radio companies must do each day (win over listeners and advertisers).

One particular challenge got the juices in my brain flowing. Two teams were asked to take part in a game of Volleyball, except Draper wanted them to change the game and make it better. Many involved in the game immediately questioned the purpose of the challenge, and others seemed unsure what to do because the concept of the original game had been permanently planted inside their heads. When new ideas were introduced, they included serving with both hands, serving multiple balls at once, and serving with your head.

While certain ideas were better than others, it got me to thinking “isn’t this the same exact challenge we face with radio“? I quickly recalled driving across the country in June from California to New York, and each time I reached another major city and flipped on a sports station, I heard a lot of the same things. Break times nearly identical. Voice talent, imaging and sports updates in sync with the companies who were running the format. Callers and Guests filling up each hour around a Host’s opinion on the local teams in the market. In a nutshell, there wasn’t much different between one station and the next, besides the personalities.

changeDraper challenged the people involved in the volleyball game that day to “break the rules, and make things better” and it got me thinking about whether or not enough of us in radio today care to do the same. There seems to be a lot of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” thinking and that’s the type of mindset that eventually gets you caught. You can’t operate a winning brand with a narrow view of the present. If you’re not willing to embrace new ideas, take calculated risks and introduce new voices, styles, and concepts into your presentation, eventually it becomes stale, and when the audience tires of it, and drifts away, good luck getting them back.

I look around and I see an entire industry worrying about earning credit from a PPM meter, more than focusing on the importance of creating killer content that can’t be missed. I know, I’ve been guilty of it myself. But what about the world that awaits us? Are you prepared for the challenge that awaits from podcasting platforms? What about when digital dashboards overtake cars and many of the transplants in your market start listening to their favorite stations back home? How about when the age of your audience changes, and you find that today’s youth between the ages of 12-24 care about brands like YouTube, Spotify, Instagram, SnapChat, and Twitter and don’t even listen to radio?

Sure we have to keep our eyes on the current marketplace too and not be irresponsible, but those who develop great brands and hire talented people, can afford to break the rules, think different and challenge themselves to do things better. If you’ve earned the audience’s trust, they will stand by you while you introduce a few new ideas. If we’ve learned anything over the course of history it’s that people like new things.

I started racking my brain about the numerous things I hear on sports radio today, and what crazy ideas I would’ve come up with if Tim Draper had issued that challenge to me about improving sports radio instead of a game of volleyball. While I can’t say they’d all generate ratings, make more money, or even make sense, I know I wouldn’t have to be asked twice to break the rules to try and make things better. And after all, isn’t that why we do this job in the first place?

Here are some crazy things to think about. We can agree or disagree on their viability, but if you’re not thinking about what you’re going to do to make your product better and challenging yourself to do it, don’t be surprised when the day comes when your employer is looking for someone who does.

Commercial Breaks:

commercialsScan any sports station and you’re going to find the majority of them running 3 or 4 breaks per hour and the commercial inventory usually between 12 and 20 minutes per hour. That doesn’t include sports updates, traffic reports, weather reports, station promos, or recorded liners that lead a show in and out of a break. This is done because stations want to spread out the amount of minutes in a commercial break to not overload the audience, and because they’re trying to gain as much content time inside of a quarter hour to try and gain credit for listening from Nielsen.

However, Nielsen also recommends that stations take as few breaks as possible, as disruptions can often lead to tune outs which don’t return. So what would happen if a station ran one break during an hour during the quarter hour that produced the least amount of listening? For example, if listening was less between :45-:00, is a station better served trying to win the first 45 minutes of the hour and concede the final quarter hour or stick with it’s current formula?

What if the station went with two breaks per hour? Maybe 15 minutes of spots in a row is insane, but what if it’s 7 minutes instead? Is there much of a difference to the audience between a 5 minute break and a 7 minute break? Are you better served with 2 long breaks or 3 semi-long breaks?

If you’re not a fan of long breaks, what about shorter ones? Is it more beneficial to hit the audience over the head with 3 breaks that are 4 minutes long apiece, or give them 6 breaks that are each 2 minutes long? You can also argue, is your talent better delivering focused content for 6 segments which are shorter in length, or 3 which are a lot longer.

I recognize that radio stations want to sell all the commercials they can, but reducing the total amount of minutes per hour and charging premium dollars for ads is where the world is going. I’m sure doing that would lead to a short-term loss in revenue, and no operator or company wants to hear that, but I can watch a YouTube video or listen to a few songs on Spotify with only a :15-:30 second distraction. I can listen to a podcast with a few verbal plugs in content and no disruptions, and I can watch a show on HBO without commercials because I pay for the channel (SiriusXM). You can only force the audience to stomach long commercial breaks for so long. Once they go, then what are you going to tell your advertisers?

Not to mention, if people are coming to you for sports, why are you bombarding them with weather reports, stock reports and traffic reports? Are those items sports related? When was the last time you put on SportsCenter, NFL Live, Baseball Tonight or any other sports show and said “damn, I really want to know the weather”? If it’s strictly about attaching a client to a benchmark, create something different – maybe a team related report, a host commentary, a :60 debate between two personalities, or attach them to your products through social media or website. Your air time is precious and shouldn’t be cluttered.

Imaging Voices and Presentations:

I love Jim Cutler and Paul Turner, and think they are the very best voice talents in our industry today. What I wish we had though were more Jim Cutler’s and Paul Turner’s. Too many stations sound the same, and that’s because a lot of us do what others do, and we seek out those who we already know. If the format looked for on-air talent that way, we’d all be screwed.

I hired Steve Stone to be my voice guy in San Francisco, and I think the work he’s done in making 95.7 The Game sound unique is excellent. I also know how incredible Dawn Cutler is and I wonder “why aren’t more stations utilizing her full-time“?

tvIt raises the question about creating unique brand identities. What I love about television is how so many brands are different. I can turn on ESPN, Fox Sports 1, CBS, NBC or my local sports channels and I won’t hear the same thing. I can watch HBO, FX, TNT, USA and Showtime and the graphics, writing, imaging and voice talent will all be original. If it can be done on that level, then why can’t it be that way in radio?

Must every ESPN sports station and CBS sports station have the same uniformed sound and layout beyond the personalities? And it’s not just the voices, the bells and whistles with much of the imaging are laid out similarly too. I understand the reasons why certain brands do it, but I can equally call into question how it makes them predictable, and we can debate all day about whether or not it generates ratings.

Maybe I’m naive, but I believe there are some outstanding imaging directors and program directors out there who have the ability to make their brands sound distinctive. Each market and group of people are different, yet the same company formula exists. If a connection is made with the audience, and the brand name isn’t compromised, then does it matter if the people on the front lines take a different approach? Why must hundreds of sports stations have the same look, feel and sound, and stifle creativity?

Sports Updates:

While they were important to the audience 10-15 years ago, today many of them are filled with the same stories you hear the talent talking about. They also are often behind the pace of social media, which is where sports fans are seeking out their content first. I’ve always enjoyed them for one reason, it introduces another voice into the show, which provides room for extra creativity, but the update itself has become white noise in many cases.

scOnce again, if you turn on an ESPN or CBS sports station though, you’ll hear the same exact approach. ESPN brands will give you SportsCenter updates 2-3x per hour, and CBS brands provide 20/20 Sports Flashes 3x per hour. Does the listening audience really seek out this content and value it?

I believe the update is beneficial if it’s going to feature audio in it from other points of the broadcast day to try and engage the listener and give them reasons to listen more, or seek out the content later on the station’s website. I also believe it has value to advertisers since they can get a :10 tag included in them, and when done multiple times per hour, that can lead to numerous messages for the client. But what about the listener?

If we really value the audience, I’m not sure this content is vital. I’d rather see a radio station take their update anchor and put them into a position where they’re writing more content for the website, producing videos on the website, engaging more thru the station and their own personal social media pages, and sending them out to appearances and games to help the station gain something of larger value. I believe the anchor who has the ability to interact with a talk show host and take on more of a personality role in a show is a great thing, but I don’t believe that 3-6 minutes per hour of content time rehashing scores, game times, injury updates, and other lesser news, has great importance to the audience.

Show Lengths:

Based on economics, companies today will usually put a personality on the air for 3-4 hours per day. Hosts like it because they get to talk a lot and try out a number of things, and overall the approach makes sense because there are only so many hours in a day and you can’t employ 40 personalities per day or expect a host to be sharp doing a 6-8 hour daily show.

The one problem though is when it comes to judging its effectiveness. How many personalities really evaluate each of their hours, their content selections, their interview performances, the gains/decreases in caller activity, and whether or not they were better skilled at providing a 1-2 hour show versus a 3-4 hour show?

Most of sports radio today functions with people doing what they think and feel, and there’s no reason for them not to do that. But that’s because there’s not a lot of analysis being done on what does and doesn’t work. We usually give a personality their ratings, tell them if they gained or decreased month to month, and give them a pat on the back and tell them to keep moving forward. Rarely is the focus placed on “why” the numbers grew or dipped, or how to best take advantage of each hour of broadcasting time.

fallonIf you look at the best televison programs that deliver massive audiences, they usually involve a large cast, and are either 30 or 60 minutes in length. They maximize every single second of those programs with incredible content, and put hours upon hours into the presentation, including a lot of writing. For example, Jimmy Fallon delivers a 1-hour nightly show, yet he and his writing team will spend all day and night, making sure the product is crisp before it hits the air.

If radio employed Jimmy Fallon, it would expect him to deliver the same quality bits, interviews, punchlines and storytelling, yet throw him on the air for 4 hours per day with minimal preparation time, let alone surround him with a cast of 1 to 2 people. When the performance suffers, the blame shifts on the individual, the audience or the meters, not the process or support towards producing dynamic content.

I’m not sure it makes financial sense for radio stations to deliver 30-minute shows or 1-hour shows versus 3-4 hour shows but podcasters are doing this and growing larger and larger because they provide content which is often polished and shorter in length. People don’t have 3-4 hours of time to give to us, and they’d rather hear 1 great hour, instead of 3-4 good ones.

Show Styles:

routineLook at the rundown for most sports shows across the country and you’ll see the following hourly layout: 2-3 topics discussed, 1 guest, calls and tweets from the audience. Even when personalities promote their shows, it’s usually the same way – “Can’t wait to discuss last night’s game + guest A at ___ time and guest B at ____ time.”

If the show is built around the personality tweeting out the promotional message, shouldn’t it start with what they care about? If it’s a big guest I get that (EX: Podcast One last week had an exclusive sitdown with Shaq and Kobe – that you promote all day and night), but if you don’t provide some suspense in what you’re going to discuss, and just rely on the appointment times of a guest, you’re not leading the show.

That said, there are better ways to lay out a show too. If a host is great at taking calls but bad at interviews, why book guests on their show in the first place? If the situation is reversed, maybe it’s better to feature 6-7 guests and keep the host away from engaging with callers. The key is concentrating on their strengths and keeping each day interesting, not formulaic.

Have you ever considered making one day of your week only a football day? Only a baseball day? Only a day where interactions come from Facebook, Twitter, Email, Text or Calls? Maybe you create a day where you’re offering a series of 1-hour in-studio panels on themed subjects (EX: hour 1 = the host and 2 guests talking non-stop NFL, hour 2  the host and 2 guests talking non-stop baseball, etc.).

Some of this may work, some of it may not. Much of that depends on the host, producer, program director, and audience habits, but the point is that different things can be done, if you’re willing to open your mind to them. Not every day needs to feature the same layout, with the only difference being your topics.

Promos:

A good friend of mine Scott Masteller refers to promos as “content advancers“. While the word “promo” is seen as a commercial given to the station’s programming team to tout messages of their brand’s greatness, “content advancers” portray a message that the best content will be highlighted and discussed throughout the broadcast day. That makes sense to me.

However, if you listen to a lot of CBS sports stations, they put less stock in promos. While you can question why they wouldn’t use their time to promote things more, I recall attending a sports radio conference and hearing Jim Cutler say it best “A promo to the listener is a commercial disruption“. If the goal is to stay in content and eliminate interruptions, you can make the case that promos aren’t necessary.

sbIf they’re going to be utilized, then shouldn’t the writing, imaging, and frequency of them be analyzed? Some stations try to promote 10-15 things during a given week rather than concentrating on 3-4. Think about this, if you were running CBS Television during the week of the Super Bowl, you’d promote the game again and again. Sure you may have other shows on the air, and they’ll be promoted through other channels (social media, email, newsletter, website, text clubs, etc.) but priority #1 on the air would be the promotion of the Super Bowl.

Look at your radio station and ask yourself “which of my brand items is my Super Bowl“? Do you have 3-4 of them? If you’re not creating promos that stand out, offer something of value, and sound big, then ask yourself if they really need to occupy :30 seconds of air time.

Additionally, do you need 1 promo per hour? 2 per hour? 10 per hour? If a message is pushed enough and carries with it something of substance, it can be branded into the listener’s brain. The question is, how much is enough?

Often station programmers implement clocks and in them come set times for promos, usually a few times per hour. The only problem with that is predictability. While it may be a pain in the ass, mixing it up isn’t a bad thing. If you have higher audiences during two hours of morning and afternoon drive, you may want to push the messaging hard, and not run anything during the lighter times. It’s all about getting the most value, and utilizing your time wisely.

Liners:

linersI hear some stations go in and out of breaks with music beds. Some do it without any music or production. Others meanwhile have produced liners voiced by the station’s voice talent or a local athlete, which identify the name of the show, station, a slogan, etc.

There’s no right or wrong, but if you look at it from the standpoint of “is this worth airing 3-4x per hour, and taking up :30-:60 seconds of my broadcast time” then you should have a better grasp of whether or not it’s valuable. If you’re not going to use the liner to reinforce your brand position or offer something creative or memorable, get it off the air. They’re denying your best asset (your on-air talent) more content time, which could make a stronger impact with the audience. If you can’t put some time into the writing and imaging, and use them effectively, then save yourself the extra minute. It will only hurt you if it’s not done well.

The only question I have here is whether or not they serve a purpose even when they are done well. I can watch a show without liners leading into segments and it never takes away from my experience of enjoying it. Secondly, does a station need to have them in place every segment? Can you use them 1x per hour leading in or 1x per hour bumping out? Why must it be “always leading into segments“, “always bumping out of segments” or “not at all“. Once again, unpredictability keeps an audience engaged, and maximizing our seconds is necessary for having success.

Conclusion:

There are a number of things about sports radio that could easily be better. The most important one in my opinion is eliminating its predictability. The point of this article wasn’t to suggest that everything we’re doing needs an overhaul because that’s not the case at all. However, we should be thinking about whether or not we’re taking advantage of everything we have at our disposal, and if we’re testing ourselves as best we can. If we’re doing things because they’re simple and it’s how they’ve always been done, then that’s a bad reason to do it. Especially when the future depends on our ability to adapt and create.

suWhen I watched “Startup U”, I found myself thinking of the sports radio format, where it ranks, how it operates, what challenges it faces from other media platforms, and whether or not we have enough operators with the skill necessary to reinvent and make the format cooler. If our industry’s future was on the line, and we had to deliver a winning pitch to a room full of investors, how do you think we’d do? I’d like to believe we’d emerge victorious, but I’m not so sure we would. I guess that answer was predictable though.

 

Barrett Blogs

Where Are The Sports Radio Programmers of Tomorrow?

“As someone who’s helped many aspiring programmers over the years, I’ve seen less new people seeking out advice the past few years than they did from 2011-2019.”

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Photo Credit: Roman Gorielov

I don’t get the opportunity to write as often as I’d like to. Consulting projects make that harder these days but I do miss it. Fortunately I’ve been able to assemble a quality team to deliver news and industry opinions to your inbox and social media platforms each day. If you receive our emails, then you should notice one of those improvements today with our BSM 8@8 Newsletter. If you aren’t receiving our emails and would like to, click here to sign up.

The reason I chose to write today is because there’s one specific area of our industry that I’m concerned about and need to draw attention to. That’s the emergence of tomorrow’s sports radio program directors.

If you work in or follow this business, can you recall a year during the past decade where we saw more programming changes in sports radio than this one? I can’t. WFAN in New York, WEEI in Boston, KNBR in San Francisco, WIP in Philadelphia, Arizona Sports 98.7 in Phoenix, ESPN 97.5 in Houston, 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, 750 The Game in Portland, ESPN 94.5 in Milwaukee, The Fan in Indianapolis, 107.5 The Game in Columbia, ESPN Las Vegas, 1620 The Zone in Omaha, and 98.1 The Sports Animal in Oklahoma City have or are soon to undergo PD changes. This follows a year where 101 ESPN in St. Louis, 104.5 The Zone in Nashville, WFNZ in Charlotte, and 680 The Fan and 92.9 The Game in Atlanta changed programming leaders. 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, ESPN 1000 in Chicago, 710 ESPN in Seattle, and ESPN LA 710 went thru changes too in the fall of 2019.

Twenty three brands undergoing change at the top of a station’s programming department in that short period of a time is an eye opener. But what really stands out are the lack of new faces to arrive on the PD scene let alone even come up during the interviewing process.

For every Rick Radzik, Amanda Brown, Kyle Brown and Qiant Myers who were elevated to PD positions over the past two years, there are proven leaders like Kevin Graham, Jeff Rickard, Tommy Mattern, and Terry Foxx who’ve landed in new situations. Those folks absolutely deserve those positions, so let me be clear, proven PD’s should always be valued. As I’ve told many decision makers before, a great PD is a difference maker. The film industry pays big money for Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorcese and Quintin Tarrantino because their track record highlights their abilities to deliver box office hits. Proven PD’s who can do the same for a radio station deserve similar respect.

But if you’re a younger person looking to advance your career into a programming role today, how do you take that next step let alone earn the nod when more experienced people want the same gig? Who’s advocating on your behalf? How would a corporate executive or market manager know that a producer, board op, promotions director or part-time host is capable of becoming the next great programmer?

Better yet, how does any corporate executive or market manager running a local brand know anything about your management style, vision, multi-platform skills, ability to lead people and work with multiple departments, and create exciting content, events and promotions if you’re working for another company in a different city? Here’s the answer, most times, they don’t. You apply for the job, your resume and email arrives in their inbox, which leads to them asking others about you. If someone you’ve crossed paths with says something good about you, you might get a call. If not, your materials go on file should the station have future needs.

Having led PD searches for a number of brands the past few years, I think the first step is finding out who’s interested in growing. Does anyone know of your desire to one day lead a brand besides the host you work with and the programmer you work for? Who have you sought out to gain knowledge and mentorship from outside of your building? Are you counting on an internal promotion to become a leader or assuming your PD will hype you up to potential employers? What are you doing to make sure the right people know you’re hungry to take the next step and you’re ready to go wherever an opportunity exists?

As someone who’s helped many aspiring programmers over the years, I’ve seen less new people seeking out advice the past few years than they did from 2011-2019. Maybe folks don’t think to come my way as much. Maybe they assume the company they’re working for will take care of them when the time comes. Maybe they don’t have the motivation to relocate or upset their current situation. Maybe the pandemic forced folks to press pause on pursuing advancement. Or maybe the role of a program director isn’t as appealing as it was to leaders from my era.

Some assume that because they’ve been successful at producing, and have done it for a long enough time, it means they’re ready for the next step. But programming is much more than managing a show. Not everyone is built to handle a verbal lashing from a market manager, balance a budget, negotiate deals, coach high profile talent, understand and examine PPM ratings, and unify departments. Let’s not forget interactions with corporate, being multi-platform skilled, knowing how to study and attack the competition, dealing with negative PR, and being the brand leader who keeps play by play partnerships in a healthy state.

If you’re behind the scenes in the sports radio industry, your path will most likely lead to becoming either a host, PD, moving into sales/marketing/imaging/digital/corporate or leaving the business. Top 10 markets and national networks are an exception as there are some very talented producers who’ve continued to work with top shows/stations for a long time. Both invest more in off-air positions. In many other cases, the financial upside for behind the scenes help is limited so eventually you reach a fork in the road when you have to decide the best path forward to make a decent living.

But those looking to take the next step don’t often think about positioning themselves to land the next big opportunity. They don’t take time to build relationships with key executives who they’ll one day interview with for a top job. Instead they think about that day’s show and the immediate tasks at hand. You can be the most creative, multiplatform savvy, best guest booker and strongest talent coach in America as a producer but if nobody else knows it outside your building, it’s going to be hard to take the next step. Which is why you have to make time to help yourself. You can start by emailing me. That can’t hurt.

Program directors have a responsibility here too. They should be making time to teach and push their behind the scenes people to want to advance their careers. They should also be telling anyone who will listen why one of their own is ready for the next step. Not enough do that. I can count on one hand the number of PD’s who’ve come to me championing one of their own for a top programming job over the past six years since I began helping stations find PD’s. Just going thru the interview process can be huge for an off-air professional who dreams one day of leading a brand. It helps them learn what to expect, how to present themselves, which areas they need to improve on in order to make the jump and most importantly, it shows them you care about them and their professional development.

I know that the job is busier today than ever for a PD and finding time is a pain in the ass. But coaching people is one of your biggest strengths. It’s why why you’ve been trusted to lead your brand. When twenty three positions open up and more than half require hiring elsewhere in the country and turning to folks inside different companies, that should raise eyebrows. Have you told others to consider someone on your staff? Did you push for them to be interviewed, even if they weren’t the right fit because you knew it’d serve them well later? Did you invest time in them to to make sure they were ready for the next step? And that doesn’t mean just giving them the crap you hate like filling out affidavits, building clocks, and corresponding with the traffic department.

Have you conducted 1 on 1’s with all of your off-air crew and learned who aspires to one day do what you do? Have you taught them how to analyze ratings and content? Sit in on show meetings? Critique talent? Recruit future staff? Participate in creative brainstorms or sales meetings? Have you told your GM or other high ranking executives or PD’s in your company about their passion to lead?

It should go without saying that if you’re in a position to lead and develop people, that it applies to more than just on-air talent. It should include grooming future programmers too. Any executive with oversight of your brand should be asking “who on your staff is ready to take a step?” If the answer is no one, they should be asking what your plan is to change that so the answer is different the next time they ask. If you’re skilled enough to lead a brand for years or even decades, those above you should want to protect the future by having you develop the next crop of programmers too. Your report card as a PD isn’t complete if all you can point to are good quarterly ratings. There are plenty of brands who’ve won in spite of their PD and others who have lost despite having an elite program director.

By the way, shouldn’t a PD want to see people inside their operations get called upon to take the next step? As hard as I pushed my crew to perform in St. Louis and San Francisco, when one got an opportunity to become a PD, APD or EP I was proud as hell. There’s nothing more fulfilling than seeing someone you have mentored, challenged and cared about take their career to a higher level. If you spend years in the position and have producers and assistant programmers not landing opportunities, let alone receiving calls to be interviewed for openings, you should be asking yourself ‘what haven’t I done to get them to that next level’ and ‘do I have the right people here who want to grow?’.

Lastly, I recognize everyone is under pressure to add good help. A station operating without a leader in the programming department creates a lot of problems, especially when it lingers for months. But you also need to find the right people or you end up with bigger problems later, most notably, others questioning your ability to hire the right people. If there’s one thing I’ve learned going thru these processes with different companies is that often times, decision makers want to move fast and find people who are referred by others they know and respect. If they hear a few good things said in conversation by a candidate that match what they value, they’re ready to move forward. Some get caught up in resumes or similar experiences/interests but not all ask the right questions and research people well. It’s amazing what you’ll learn if you investigate properly and ask questions that make folks uncomfortable. If you’re going to trust someone to lead your brand and staff, and set the tone for your operation, spending the extra time to be sure about those you hire is absolutely necessary.

Taking a chance on the APD or smaller market PD isn’t as safe as hiring a veteran leader. If you have a proven winner interested in your opening and feel confident that they fit your needs, I’m all for them being hired. But don’t make the mistake of assuming someone with less experience can’t make a greater difference. Imagine if we were back in 2004 and you passed on Jack Dorsey or Mark Zuckerberg in favor of a proven Newspaper editor to lead your brand’s digital strategy. How would you look today? That could be your radio station in five years if you overlook those with an ability to see the future better than the present when future openings arise.

To grow this format we need a mixture of new blood, new ideas, people who view the audio business differently from those in the present or past, and proven performers who’ve helped turn this format into a very successful one. We have to ask the right questions, fully research candidates, challenge our executives and programmers to take a greater interest in developing the next crop of sports radio executives, and consider new roads rather than the ones we’re most familiar with. We also need to hear from people who haven’t told us of their interest in taking the next step. We need to encourage them to want to grow and show them the path to do so. If we each do those things better, our format is going to spend a lot more time thriving and less time surviving in the years ahead.

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Barrett Blogs

John Skipper To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit

“In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured key talent to join the brand, and in April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.

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Putting on a two-day industry conference comes with a fair share of challenges. Months are spent building sessions, selling sponsorships, and talking to so many people that by the time the event rolls around, all I can think about is reaching the finish line and avoiding major issues.

But then the event happens, and there are moments where I’m able to block out the noise for 30-40 minutes and just be present in conversation. It’s what I enjoy most. Being able to sit across from an industry leader who’s been successful in business, and pick their brain on the past, present and future of our industry is both personally and professionally fulfilling. Not only does it provide me with an education, but it helps everyone in attendance too. That’s my motivation for running this conference.

When we return to New York City on March 2-3, 2022, I’m thrilled to share that I’ll have a chance to do that once again with someone I’ve professionally respected and admired for a long time. It is an honor to announce that Meadowlark Media CEO John Skipper will join us for a special on stage conversation at the 2022 BSM Summit.

If you’ve worked in this industry or aspire to, then you’re likely aware of what John has accomplished. He’s seen the business from many different points of view and remains very much involved in helping shape its future. But before we discuss his present involvement, let’s revisit the past.

During his tenure with ESPN, John spent five years serving as company president where he secured a series of long-term, multiplatform agreements with key rightsholders such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, Major College Conferences, US Open Tennis, FIFA, the Masters Tournament and British Open, the College Football Playoff, and the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls. He also oversaw the evolution of several brands including The Undefeated, Grantland, five thirty eight, and espnW among others.

Prior to becoming company president, John held the position as EVP of Content, which he earned after helping create and introduce one of the most successful magazine launches of the 1990’s with ESPN The Magazine. His understanding and belief in digital helped ESPN move ESPN. com forward in 2000, adding a paid section, ESPN Insider, and delivering a revamped site approach to generate more advertising. His foresight also spurred the launch of ESPN3, a television network producing more than 4,000 live events on the web and through mobile devices. If that wasn’t enough, John also supported the creation of the Watch ESPN app, played a key role in elevating the careers of many of the industry’s top sports media stars today, and oversaw the growth of ESPN Films, ESPN Radio, and many of ESPN’s key television programs.

After exiting the worldwide leader, John signed on as the Executive Chairman of DAZN. In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured a number of key talent to become part of the brand, and established a strong presence in podcasting and on YouTube. In April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.

What I’ve appreciated about John is that he’s never been afraid to roll the dice and take risks. Some of his moves have worked out, others haven’t. The wins have been recognized across the industry, but so too have the losses. He’s had to lead a company thru high profile talent controversies, cord cutting challenges, understand the world of video, audio, print, digital, advertising, subscriptions, talent, and rights deals both domestic and internationally, all while keeping his finger on the pulse of the present state of the media business while turning an eye towards the future and knowing which areas the company should make significant investments in.

John has been thru all of it as a media executive, and he’s still doing it while building the Meadowlark brand. A recent story in Bloomberg captured some of his views on growing the Le Batard empire and navigating various parts of the industry. I highly recommend taking time to read it. You can do that by clicking here.

We have five and a half months until we’re inside the Anne Bernstein Theater in New York City, so who knows where the industry will shift during that time. One thing is for certain, John Skipper will be ready for whatever lands on his doorstep. I’m eager to spend time with him in New York treating industry professionals to his insights, opinions and leadership lessons. I’m confident those in attendance will gain value from hearing his perspectives on the industry.

I invite you to join us either in person or virtually for the 2022 BSM Summit. Tickets to the event can be purchased by clicking here. For information on sponsorship opportunities, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

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2022 BSM Summit Adds Pablo Torre, Joe Fortenbaugh, Kazeem Famuyide & John Jastremski

“By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day Summit.”

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The announcements continue for the 2022 BSM Summit. After recently sharing the news that former ESPN Radio executive Traug Keller would join us in the big apple to accept the Jeff Smulyan Award, and previously revealing the first fourteen participants scheduled to appear, it’s time to inform you of a few key talent who will participate in sessions at March’s show.

I’m thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Pablo Torre to the 2022 BSM Summit. Pablo’s been with the worldwide leader since 2012. During that time he’s served as a senior writer for ESPN.com, the host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and has appeared on shows such as Around The Horn, Highly Questionable, and The Dan Le Batard Show. He also previously co-hosted High Noon with Bomani Jones. Prior to joining ESPN he spent five years writing for Sports Illustrated. Having worked with a mixture of talent from various backgrounds, I’m looking forward to having him share his insight and opinions on the value of it at the show.

Pablo isn’t the only ESPN personality joining us in New York for the conference. I’m excited to welcome back a great friend and one of the smartest sports betting analysts on television, Joe Fortenbaugh. Joe is regularly featured on ESPN’s sports betting program Daily Wager. He also appears on other ESPN programs and segments on television, radio and digital platforms. Prior to joining the network he hosted 95.7 The Game’s morning show in San Francisco, and hosted “The Sharp 600″ sports betting podcast. He’ll moderate a conversation with sports betting executives at the show.

Given that this two-day sports media conference is taking place in the heart of New York City, it’d be silly to not include someone who’s passion, energy, sound, and content embody what New York is all about. The Ringer’s John Jastremski will make his BSM Summit debut in 2022. The ‘New York, New York’ host is known to many for his years of contributions on WFAN. It’ll be fun picking JJ’s brain on the differences between performing on a traditional platform and the digital stage.

Jastremski isn’t the only one with a connection to The Ringer who will participate at our 2022 event. My next guest is someone who I’ve followed on YouTube and Twitter for years, has infectious energy and likeability, and has taken his life experiences and sports passions and turned them into opportunities with MSG Network, SNY, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, WWE, The Source and various other outlets. Kazeem Famuyide will join us to shed light on his journey and offer his perspective on the value of traditional vs. non-traditional paths.

By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day event. I’ll be announcing the addition of a very special executive in mid-October, as well as a few high profile speakers and awards recipients in the weeks and months ahead. I’m appreciative of so many expressing interest in speaking at the conference, and as much as I’d like to include everyone on stage, I can’t. Keeping the Summit informative, fresh and focused on the right issues is important, and to do that, I’ve got to introduce different people, perspectives and subjects so our attendees gain value to further improve the industry.

A reminder, the 2022 BSM Summit is strictly for members of the sports media industry and college students aspiring to work in the business. It brings together people from more than thirty different media companies and focuses on issues of relevance and importance to media industry professionals. The show takes place March 2-3, 2022 in New York at the Anne Bernstein Theater on West 50th Street. Tickets and hotel rooms can be secured by visiting BSMSummit.com. For those unable to attend in person, the Summit will also be available to view online. Virtual tickets can be purchased by clicking here. Hope you’ll join us!

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