There are a lot of people in the sports radio industry who assume that creating a national sports talk show is simple. How could it not be right?
After all, you can talk about anything you want, you work for a major network and receive tons of promotion, every team and agent gives you every guest you want, your hosts know everything there is to know about sports and need little guidance, and the show is carried all over the country by hundreds of radio stations. and the audience is so large that there’s never any danger of the program failing.
While there are many benefits that come from working on a national program, putting it together, and making it great is a lot harder than you think.
One thing I learned quickly when I worked in network radio between 2004-2006 is that having knowledge of how to do a lot of things in radio is nice, but truly being GREAT at one or two of them is much more important.
I remember arriving at ESPN Radio and when my bosses Louise Cornetta and Dave Zaslowsky wanted me to work with my hosts on creating strong topics, and writing teases, I thought “that’s all you want me to do“?
I had worked in local radio prior to that for 6 years, and during that time I had hosted, booked guests, screened calls, ran boards, cut audio, reported, delivered updates, programmed a station and coached a small staff, and even sold advertising. Heck, there were times when I had to host my show and run the board while also screening phone calls.
I was so used to doing so many things (this occurs in a lot of local radio stations still today) that I felt I could pick up more slack. What I didn’t realize though, was that although I knew how to do many of those things, I hadn’t perfected many of them.
Being honest with myself, I realized that if I was a phenomenal talk show host, I’d be hosting on the network, not producing. I also knew my sound and ability to do updates were nowhere near the quality of incredible anchors like Jay Reynolds, Marc Kestecher, “The Duke” Dan Davis, and John Stashower.
When it came to producing, although I felt I had great instincts, a bulldog mentality to land guests, and a good idea of how to build a show and be creative, I still had yet to figure out what my strengths and weaknesses were.
I followed the advice of Dave and Louise, and started working alongside Ray Necci (who’s featured in this story), and concentrated a lot on improving my topic development, and teases. Ray was a tremendous teacher, and challenged me often, and I enjoyed it because we worked well together, and I could feel myself getting better.
I discovered during this time that I had a knack for landing top notch guests, and I felt it was one way I could make a strong impression on my hosts and bosses. Anytime I produced a show, I wanted to create one moment in the program that was good enough to appear on SportsCenter or be the front page story on ESPN.com. While that didn’t happen every time, it was the goal each time I went to work.
I was also lucky enough to work with some great personalities such as Dan Patrick, John Seibel, Chuck Wilson, Doug Gottlieb, Freddie Coleman, John Rooke and Amy Lawrence who trusted my instincts on guest booking, worked with me on building good topics, and either relied on my teases or took what I gave them and spun it into their own words to make it sound good.
I learned that to produce a national show successfully, you’ve got to be versatile, a great leader, and a manager who’s willing to delegate. Most national shows have a staff assigned to them, and everyone behind the scenes has a role. The producer works closely with the talent to strategize the program, and the support staff report to the producer to make sure they have what they need for the program to succeed.
Unlike local radio where some show plans get thrown together quickly and segments are built off of the audience’s reaction to a host’s monologue, most national programs have a very structured layout that has been created off of hours of discussion and preparation.
There’s conscious thought given to how often a major story gets discussed during a 3-4 hour show, guests are lined up based on what matters most that day, not who is available, and teases are written in advance to support the content and keep listeners engaged. Interviews may even be taped and edited to sound as tight as possible, and everyone is focused on the content and ready to change gears if something develops that warrants attention.
The challenges that many national shows face are something often beyond their control – changing the mindset of local sports radio operators, finding a way to become part of the local station instead of being seen as the show that originates from another part of the country, and having ratings success in certain markets while not performing as high in others.
Nobody has a playbook that can promise success, but when a national show is being added to a local sports radio station, I believe there are a few critical things that have to be analyzed to make sure it’s a good fit.
- Do the hosts focus a majority of their content on subjects that appeal to the local audience?
- How will the radio station localize the show so it sounds connected, not removed from the rest of the programming? This means using the liners wisely inside the show, having your talent talk about content from the show as if it was created by another local host on the radio station, creating promos that highlight the show’s coverage of local topics, and utilizing the same voice talent on the station that you’d hear during the national content.
- What are the national hosts willing to do to strengthen the bond with the station? Will they customize liners? Make client calls? Commit to a local appearance? Call-in to the other local shows? Conduct social media chats with local fans?
- How much salary is being saved by using a national program vs. local hosts, and is the ratings/sales end of the business going to benefit or suffer by going this route?
- Who is the local market sports radio competitor, where do they rank, and what mix of programming will give the radio station the best chance to win versus the competition?
As someone who’s programmed stations with and without national programs, I can tell you that all of those factors play into decision making. While each station and market has its own unique challenges, network folks are trying to appeal to hundreds of stations, and they have to make calls based on what has mass appeal.
I felt it’d be helpful to gain an understanding of how some top national shows think and operate, and what their challenges are in creating a program that delivers content for the masses, but depends on distribution from local radio stations.
Each of these guys I’ve had the privilege of knowing for quite some time, and they’ve all had experience working with multiple high profile shows and personalities. They’re very good at what they do, and I believe you’ll gain some insight from their feedback below.
- Ray Necci – Multi-Platform Content Program Director at ESPN Radio – Also produced Mike and Mike, Tony Kornheiser, Dan Patrick, SVP & Russillo, and many other ESPN Radio shows during his sixteen year tenure with the network.
- Jon Goulet – Producer of “The Herd” with Colin Cowherd on FS1 and Fox Sports Radio – Previously worked with Colin at ESPN Radio plus served as Executive Producer of 95.7 The Game in San Francisco.
- Rob “Stats” Guerrera – Producer of “Pro Football Talk LIVE with Mike Florio” on NBC Sports Radio – Also served as Producer of “The Erik Kuselias Show” for NBC Sports Radio and spent close to seven years at ESPN Radio, including working with Mike and Mike.
What is the most fun part of producing a national sports talk show?
Goulet: I think it’s working with some of the most talented people in the industry. Host, producers, production people and management. They’re all people who bring incredible experience and talent to the show. It makes the show great and allows me to learn from them.
Guerrera: The most fun part of producing a national show is the chance to shape the national conversation about the stories of the day. That isn’t to say that local shows don’t do that as well, but the bigger platform gives national shows a better chance to do that more consistently. I also like the freedom to discuss a wider range of topics rather than being obligated to concentrate on what is going on in any particular area of the country.
Necci: The variety. You’ve got the entire world of sports to choose from, and it’s almost impossible to get bored.
What goes into producing your show each day and how many hours do you spend on it?
Guerrera: Nothing takes up a bigger portion of my day than communication. My host, Mike Florio, broadcasts from his home studio in West Virginia, so it’s like we’re doing a remote broadcast every day. Mike is also working on his website, ProFootballTalk.com, during the day, so we have to make the extra effort to make sure we’re on the same page for the day’s show.
Apart from that, for me it’s topic development. There’s nothing else more important. What are the angles to a story? How does it impact other people? What questions should we be asking the people in power? How does this mesh with what happened or what was said before? Our biggest determinate of success will always be how many people we can get on the end of that line, and how long we can keep them there. Compelling topics are how we do that.
Necci: Putting an amount of time into producing a national show is almost impossible to answer. Part of this depends on the size of the staff involved. Working with Tony Kornheiser, there were two of us on the production team working on topic generation, production, bits, guest booking, sales obligations, etc. Working with Mike & Mike, we have more resources, but also many more obligations. Personally, I believe that you’re always working in some way towards the show. Whether it’s directly related to sports or if it’s elements of your life that could make good conversation on-air, you always have to keep the show in mind.
Most recently with Mike & Mike, I would be in the office 8-10 hours a day. This included prep, show execution, post show meetings, sales obligations, and preparation for future shows. Then in the afternoon/evening, everyone involved with the show would start exchanging guest ideas, stories and possible topics. This continued into the night as games were played. The specific responsibilities are divided between the producer, AP, PA, booker, etc. but it’s the responsibility of the producer to make sure everyone is meeting expectations.
Goulet: My main focus on The Herd is content. Since making the move to FOX, we have a much larger staff so I don’t have to worry about social media or promos. For the three hours leading up to the show I’m more of a writer than anything else. While I do produce some bits, cut audio, get music and do some podcasting, most of my time is focused on content.
How do you determine if a topic has broad enough appeal to a nationwide audience?
Necci: We usually start with what interests the hosts and the people on the show. Your passion will come across, and if your audience knows you’re interested, they may be willing to come along for the ride on something that doesn’t directly play in their backyard. There is also consideration placed on our key markets, and if you’re truly a national show, then that means being aware of the news in major cities across the different timezones.
Goulet: The key is to find things that involve macro issues or teams. Things like major college football, the NFL, or LeBron work wherever you are. In the end it still comes down to how passionate your host is about a topic. If that passion involves something smaller or a less popular team, then we need to broaden that topic out so other fans can relate to it.
Guerrera: To me, there aren’t two separate categories of stories. Most of the time I don’t ask if a topic is broad enough for a national audience. I ask, “How do we make this topic broad enough for a national audience”? I have the luxury of working on an NFL show, which makes this part of the job easier. Fantasy football makes almost anything we do relevant nationally. Odell Beckham Jr.’s health last week wouldn’t have played outside of NY and Philadelphia years ago, but now it’s of great national interest because he’s on fantasy teams from sea to shining sea. That doesn’t mean we spend an entire segment on it, but it does mean the rules are a little different for us.
When creating the rundown for your show, how much of a focus do you place on targeting material that will appeal to your larger markets?
Goulet: It plays a big factor in determining what we discuss. Los Angeles is our biggest affiliate so we will look to find topics that appeal to that audience. You can’t force it though. If nothing is happening in a market you can’t pretend that it’s compelling.
Guerrera: Because we’re less than a year old, our markets are changing a lot throughout the the year. Right now my goal is to always appeal to the broadest part of the audience. If those stories interest the bigger markets, great, but I won’t force feed anything because it wouldn’t be authentic. A wise man once told me, you can’t out-local the locals.
Necci: I like to think it’s something we consider, but we don’t let dictate our content. When the Mets & Cubs faced off in the NLCS, we may have slightly increased the time spent talking baseball, but the action on the field needs to be compelling. A better example may be when the Rangers & Kings met in the Stanley Cup Final. We don’t spend much time on the NHL during the long regular season, but when it’s important for our affiliates and the stakes are raised, we incorporate it into our plans. If there’s a conversation you plan to hit once and it involves the West Coast, we may try to do it later in the show to reach the most people. Also, as with most national shows, not every market takes the full four hour show, so that’s also something to consider.
As it pertains to the creative process, who makes the final decision on what will be discussed and when?
Guerrera: Most of the time, what your talent is interested in is what’s good for the show. People respond to genuine passion. That said, if they’re really in love with a topic that’s out there, the producer must step in. You have to explain why doing, or not doing, a certain topic is good for the audience, and ultimately, good for the show. The hardest thing to get talent to buy into is submission to the listeners. We don’t do the show for our bosses, or our friends in the industry, and especially not for ourselves. We do it for the audience. When you put them first, the rest is easy.
Necci: I’m sure this is very different for every show. If a host’s name is on the show, they obviously feel that they’re putting themselves out there and should have the last word in the process. The most successful shows make those decisions together. I don’t believe in forcing a talent to discuss a topic, because that almost always comes across in the presentation, but there are times when you ask them to trust you and recognize your reasoning. Building that trust is essential. It takes time and often means taking risks. Every time you’re right, you take on more of the responsibility. Equally, when you’re wrong, you have to take the blame, and understand that the next time will be a bigger challenge.
Goulet: Colin will always have final say on topics. He’s very open to suggestions and ideas, but in the end he’s the one who is doing them on the air. He is unique in that he doesn’t have teams of his own that he ends up circling back to, so we don’t have to try and steer him away from topics. He is generally interested in what the majority of the audience is interested in.
With television heavily involved in the reach, branding, and strategy of most programs and personalities, how do you separate what will be best for the radio show vs. what’s best for TV? When conflicts arise, how do you settle them?
Necci: In the past, the simulcasts I worked with were radio content first and TV followed along as much as they were able to. With Mike & Mike, we have made a major transition over the last 18 months towards merging the presentation. This is probably best reflected in my current position, Multi-Platform Content Director. With everything we do, we consider how it will play on all formats. We’ve increased communication, look to merge resources, and try to evolve the daily process to improve the overall brand. Obviously, that means compromise and not everyone involved will be thrilled by the decisions made, but we’re all working towards the same goal.
Goulet: As a radio producer I have to focus on radio. While I’ll make suggestions for TV or try and help with ideas, its not my main focus. There is an entire staff of more qualified people for that. Colin considers his show a radio show first, so radio always has the priority. I look at the TV side as a great way to reach other people. Since our show is new to FOX, we don’t have as many affiliates, so FS1 provides a great way for people in other markets to hear us.
Guerrera: My host has both a popular website and a TV show on NBCSN, so he is definitely stretched pretty thin. I am lucky that most of the content translates across platforms fairly easily. If I start to notice that his focus is taking him too far away from radio, I have always found the best thing to do is have an honest conversation about it. I make sure to offer up a couple of different things that I can do to make radio easier, but it’s important to let your talent know when they need concentrate on the task at hand.
How difficult is it to measure the success of the show when certain local markets respond strongly and others don’t?
Goulet: The best way to figure out if your show is working is if you think it sounds good. On a national show there is no definitive rating that tells you everything. If we talk Lakers our ratings will go up in LA, but might go down in Portland because Blazer fans don’t like the Lakers. If we know the show sounds good, has interesting topics, and is getting a reaction, then that means we’re doing something right. The numbers we get are more indicative of the fundamentals like teasing and clock management.
Guerrera: Our show is so new (less than a year old) that we’re focusing on ourselves more right now. Are we doing things the right way? That said, I do try and check in with the PDs at the bigger stations at least once a month to get their take on the show. I’m always looking for smart people that disagree with me.
Necci: This is obviously difficult because every affiliate you work with (understandably) is only worried about their most recent results. I’ve worked on national shows in the past where one hour in a key market dictated success or failure. It’s infuriating and insane. Few Program Directors are willing to invest time in growing an audience locally for a national show.
Currently we mark our progress with overall impressions. How are we doing on terrestrial radio, television, and various digital medias. I’m still very interested in how we’re doing in individual markets, and want to help and try to assist when I can (communication, localization, TSL contests, affiliate calls, etc.), but the success of a program shouldn’t be decided by a guy who goes on vacation for a week or two and turns off his meter.
How big of a role do guests play in the daily creation of your show? Why is your strategy with guests set up the way that it is?
Guerrera: We operate under a very simple guest philosophy: Having no guest is better than a bad guest, or a guest for guest’s sake. Anyone we bring on has to add something to the conversation. If all they are is simply another person to talk to about a particular topic, you’re wasting everyone’s time.
Necci: I think guests are important for our show because people have come to expect “the biggest names” on ESPN and specifically Mike & Mike. That said, you should always be prepared to do a show with no guests, and many of the best/funniest/compelling moments come directly from the hosts. With our reach, and with the respect our hosts have earned, we offer a unique platform.
Goulet: Guests are an important part of the show. Because we’re national that means bigger name guests are willing to come on. That also raises the bar. We have to think big when we book people because they have to appeal to a national audience. Local writers or analysts don’t always work nationally because rarely do we talk about just one team. In the end guests are still only 25% of a show.
Why do most national shows avoid taking calls? Should there be more/less or the same amount of caller interaction in shows going forward?
Necci: There isn’t one answer here. I’ve always wanted to avoid “opening up the phones” and turning the show over to the audience. To me, it feels lazy. Speaking in a very general sense, I think many feel that they’re paying a national host, and expect him to carry a segment without needing to rack a scripted 3-minute take.
I do though appreciate the value in well screened calls on a specific topic. When I worked with Tony Kornheiser, the audience consisted of regular characters/contributors to the show. With SVP & Russillo, we exploited the idea of “open calls” in a feature called “WHAT?!?” and encouraged intelligent chaos. Currently on Mike & Mike, our calls generally come through our “Chatter Line” where we ask a question and play back the best answers.
Goulet: Calls work much better locally than nationally. They’re great during controversy or a huge news story, but other than that they should be used sparingly. Nationally there are more topics to get into which means we don’t have to drag things out and we can just move on to other topics. I think callers from local markets get defensive about their teams when a national host criticizes them. This apparently causes them to call hosts morons, explain how little they know, and then scream “roll tide”.
Guerrera: Calls are like umpires: You only notice the bad ones. Even if the person screening them does everything right, the caller could still be terrible on the air. More than that, though, when sports talk radio began phone calls were how we interacted with people who weren’t in the same room. Now, with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, texts, etc., that isn’t the case anymore. We can interact faster and with more people now than we ever could over the phone. Basically, today’s technology has made calls obsolete.
From where you sit, what can local stations do better to make a national program a heavier part of the radio station’s identity? What can your talent do better to make sure local stations succeed?
Goulet: Locals need to treat national programming as an asset not a detriment. They should talk about what the national host said just like they would another local host. Most importantly, don’t cut into national programming when a big local story breaks. A few years ago, “The Herd” got taken off the air in LA when a local team fired a coach. They decided to go with local programming. All that did was tell the audience that Colin wasn’t local. He was covering the story almost wall to wall anyway but nobody in LA heard it.
Guerrera: It takes buy-in from everyone. Stations need to actively make the shows and talent a part of their brand (including their website). The producer has to work with the local PD to create imaging and promos that are authentic to both sides (if you leave that up to the local market you won’t get truly authentic imaging). Finally, the talent has to do their part with liners, customized promos, and even guest appearances on that station’s local shows.
Necci: In general, I don’t think people embrace what they have. Too often, I hear stations (on and off air) talk about their national & local shows. They are ALL your shows. Work with the show unit and the network to increase communication.
Are you willing to work in localization with liners and production? Is there an event that the show should broadcast from? Would calls from the hosts to local shows or important clients help? I’m not saying every national host can do every request, but are you asking those questions?
Also, don’t assume you know a show because you sampled it when it launched several years ago. The best shows are always evolving. The Mike and Mike show you hear now is very different from what the show was 5, 10 or 15 years ago. The Scott Van Pelt Show that grew out of his work with Mike Tirico wasn’t the same show as SVP & Russillo (which was a very different show in its first few years than it was in the final few). The point is, be open to all your options.
Angiolet, Borod, Craig & Sottolano Added To 2022 BSM Summit
“If you’re planning to attend, please buy your tickets as soon as possible. We have limited room and it’s first come, first serve.”
We promised we had more great news to share regarding the 2022 BSM Summit. Just four days after revealing the addition of ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro to this year’s show, we’ve added four more heavyweights to March’s sports media industry conference.
First, it’s a pleasure to welcome for the first time, DraftKings Chief Media Officer Brian Angiolet to the BSM Summit. Brian joined DraftKings in April 2021 after two decades with Verizon where he helped the company strike a number of multi-billion dollar broadcasting, sports and entertainment content and advertising deals. Some of the key groups to do business with Verizon during Brian’s tenure included the NFL, NBA, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM. DK has been a large advertiser and supporter of the sports media industry for many years, in addition to becoming a larger content provider following the acquisition of VSiN. We look forward to having Brian join our sports betting executive panel (hosted by ESPN’s host Joe Fortenbaugh) to share his insights on how he sees sports betting groups participating now and in the future in the sports media content world.
Second, it’s an honor to add Fanatics Chief Commercial Officer Ari Borod to the sports betting executive panel for his first appearance at the BSM Summit. Ari’s fingerprints have been all over the sports betting business for years, first with FanDuel, then with the Action Network. He joined Fanatics in June 2021, reuniting with former FanDuel CEO Matt King, and in less than a year, the company became the official trading cards partner of MLB, purchased the Topps Trading Company, and applied for a sports betting license in New York. Possessing a massive customer base, deep executive knowledge of the sports betting business, and a desire to make a larger dent in the sports betting arena, we’re thrilled to have Ari lend his perspective on how Fanatics views the future of sports betting and the evolution of the sports media industry.
Next, I am thrilled to have Audacy’s EVP of Programming Jeff Sottolano appear on stage for the first time at the Summit. In his current role, Jeff is responsible for the content strategy and performance of Audacy’s local brands in all formats across all broadcast and digital platforms. Jeff has played a key role in the launch, development and growth of the BetQL Network, while also helping Audacy evolve its position as one of America’s top audio companies. Jeff will be part of one of my favorite sessions, The Power Panel, which includes SVP of Premiere Sports and EVP of iHeart Sports Don Martin, Cumulus and Westwood One SVP Bruce Gilbert, and SiriusXM SVP of Sports Programming Steve Cohen. All four men will participate in a lengthy discussion on sports talk programming and the various challenges facing brands, talent, and programmers today.
A BSM Summit can’t just feature new faces though, especially when familiar ones add valuable knowledge to important programming conversations. ESPN Radio Program Director, former colleague and longtime friend Justin Craig will join us for our Programmers Masterclass alongside a few other notable leaders. The group will examine what does and doesn’t work from a content standpoint when trying to capture ratings. They’ll also share which ingredients are essential in successful talent/shows, and provide an on-site review of a piece of audio content. Those interested in learning how great programmer’s think will want to be present for this panel.
If you haven’t purchased a ticket to the Summit but are planning to attend, please do so before seats are no longer available. We have limited room inside the theater and it’s first come, first serve. Additionally, all attendees in New York will receive an online registration to be able to watch the show on-demand afterwards. This can be helpful when looking to share insight with local staffs who aren’t able to attend.
For those not able to travel but interested in enjoying the Summit, we do have virtual tickets available. Details on tickets, speakers, and hotel rooms can be found on BSMSummit.com. I hope to see you there!
ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit
“Having Jimmy with us will allow our attendees to learn how ESPN views the current sports media landscape in order to better understand where the business is headed in the future.”
The largest player in the sports content business today is ESPN. From television to radio to streaming, social, podcasts, websites and more, the network remains a force in satisfying the appetites of sports fans around the globe.
But creating sustainable global success isn’t easy. It requires investing billions of dollars in key programming partnerships, holding off competitors who seek to elevate their own standing, and hiring and retaining talented professionals and providing an environment for them to thrive in. If that wasn’t difficult enough, a company must also embrace new technology, and accept that certain things will fail while pursuing a path to excellence.
The man charged with making sure ESPN thrives in each of these areas is Chairman Jimmy Pitaro, and I’m excited to share that he’ll be joining us in March in New York City for the 2022 BSM Summit.
I’ll have the pleasure of spending 35 minutes on stage with Jimmy discussing the state of the sports media industry, the opportunities and challenges facing operators in 2022 and beyond, the growth of sports betting, network radio, podcasts, subscriptions, social, and many other issues. No matter what space we’re talking about, ESPN has held a dominant position among all media brands. Having Jimmy with us will allow our attendees to learn how ESPN views the current sports media landscape in order to better understand where the business is headed in the future.
Jimmy has been with the Walt Disney Company since 2010. He became ESPN President in 2018 and was elevated two years later to his current role as Chairman of ESPN and Sports Content. You can learn more about his professional background by clicking here.
A reminder that the 2022 BSM Summit is an industry-only event. You must work in the media business in order to attend the show. This includes sales, public relations, advertising agency professionals and agents, as well as programming folks. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet of attending the Summit, feel free to visit our YouTube page to see some clips from past shows. It’ll give you an idea of what you can expect. You can also see the full list of speakers scheduled to appear at our 2022 show by visiting BSMSummit.com. We’ll announce a few more executive additions to March’s event later this week.
For those who manage brands and have joined us before in New York, Los Angeles and/or Chicago and are planning to come but haven’t bought a ticket yet, please do so asap. Seating is limited and once we’re full, we can’t add seats inside the room. You can also take advantage of a great hotel deal ($109 per night) with our partner Hotel Edison by clicking here.
One additional note, for those who are concerned about traveling, there is an opportunity to buy a virtual ticket. This year’s show is available both online and in person. For those planning to join us in NYC, in addition to receiving your live ticket, you’ll also get an online account so you can view the event on-demand afterwards. This can be especially helpful if you wish to replay a session or use any information afterwards to help members of your team. A big thanks to our virtual partner Nuvoodoo Media for helping make it happen.
We’re just 49 days away from putting on a spectacular show for industry folks in the big apple. We hope to see you there!
BSM, BNM Ready To Grow In 2022
“We’ve ended 2021 with record high’s for monthly traffic and social impressions, and our client and advertiser base the best its ever been thanks to the support of outstanding partners.”
It’s commonplace in our business to self-reflect when a new year full of possibilities arrives. We should probably do it more often rather than reserving it for the final day of the year or the first day of the next, but in the media business, finding time isn’t always easy.
As I look back at 2021, and the obstacles, adversity, accomplishments, enlightenment, and unpredictability that awaits BSM and BNM in 2022, I’m grateful to be able to do work that many enjoy and benefit from. Since I left the programming world in 2015 not a day has passed where I thought ‘I need to get back to running a radio station‘. That may sound crazy considering I spent two decades inside of buildings, loving the job, and living and breathing it 24/7, but from the second I moved into this space, I knew it was where I needed to be.
I had my fun building brands, chasing ratings, leading corporate programming calls, and making good money, but that restricted me to working in one city for one company with one brand and one staff. Now, I get to wake up each day and help clients in multiple cities, and run my own brand, collaborating with a great group of people to tell stories about the business we love. Combine that with hosting an annual conference, working with advertising partners and industry friends to create cool content and examine ways to grow their businesses, and connecting with folks to stay plugged in on details that others won’t know about until weeks or months later, and I consider myself very lucky. The added bonus, I get to do it in running pants and t-shirts inside the comfort of my home office/studio.
But with operating a business comes a different set of challenges. In 2020, we ended the BSM Summit on a high only to watch the entire world spin out of control weeks later due to the Covid-19 pandemic. That created a bunch of short-term issues, which fortunately we were able to overcome. Fast forward to this year, and we’ve ended 2021 with record high’s for monthly traffic and social impressions, and our client and advertiser base the best its ever been thanks to the support of outstanding partners. I never assume we’re in the clear because things can change quickly, but the support we’ve received is appreciated. It fuels me to reinvest in others to continue growing our operation and helping the industry.
So let’s talk a little bit about how we’re doing that in 2022.
First, we merged Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media in May 2021 to bring news and opinion from both the sports/talk and news/talk worlds under one roof. We tried running them independently initially but that wasn’t the best strategy for a new brand. Since bringing them together, BNM’s exposure has increased, the content has been read more regularly, and though we have more to do to get the brand on par with BSM, we’re making progress. BSM had a 5+ year head start on BNM, and though I know at times it may seem weird to read a sports media and news media story on the same website or social media account, as I tell those who ask, sports and news have mixed together since the invention of television, radio and newspapers.
Boosting BNM’s awareness and content is a goal for 2022, and to do that I want to share two things we’re creating to help us make progress.
I’m excited to share that we are launching The BNM Rundown. This will be a newsletter we distribute 3x per week (Monday-Wednesday-Friday) via email similar to what we’ve done with the BSM 8@8. The Rundown will go out around 5pm ET on each of those three days, and it’ll contain ten (10) news media stories, five (5) advertising slots, and the latest stock prices for radio groups. There will be additional content and advertising added in the future, and we may increase delivery to five days per week down the line. I’m happy with the layout and think you’ll enjoy it. If you’d like to receive the BNM Rundown or discuss advertising opportunities inside of it, click here to sign up. A big thanks to Ryan Jaster for all the work he’s done getting it ready for distribution.
In addition to the newsletter, 2022 will become the first year where we roll out BNM’s Top 20 of 2022. Similar to how we’ve produced the BSM Top 20, we are going to do the same for the News/Talk format. Categories will be announced at a later time, and we’re expecting to present our results towards years end. There’s a lot to be done to make it a success, but if we’re able to do for News/Talk what we’ve done for Sports/Talk during the past 6 years, I’m confident folks will appreciate it.
When I look at BNM right now, I see a number of excellent writers on the site. If you’re not reading Pete Mundo, Jerry Barmash, Douglas Pucci, Rick Schultz, McGraw Milhaven, Ryan Hedrick and Eduardo Razo, you really should. Each of those guys have been rock stars for the brand, but we need more help, especially another columnist or two. If you work in news radio or TV, love writing, and live and breathe the business, email: JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Though we do need to add columnists, a bigger hole has been a dedicated Assistant Content Editor. I’ve poured my heart and soul into BSM over the years, Demetri Ravanos has as well, and that’s helped us build a strong connection with sports radio folks. For BNM, that love, interest, and unwavering passion for telling stories about news radio and news television has been missing in the editor role. Though frustrating at times, it’s all part of building a brand. You have to go thru a few things before it all starts to click. Now after talking to a bunch of talented people over the past two months, and thinking about the brand’s need for TLC, I’m happy to announce the internal promotion of Eduardo Razo.
Since joining us Eduardo has been a steady fixture on the site, writing news, scheduling social posts, and putting an extra set of eyes on the content that comes in from our team. He cares about the site being clean, conducts himself neutrally and professionally when adding news, and he believes in the brand. If hours go by and the site doesn’t have new content, he’s the one who points it out. When Eduardo first joined us he was just learning the ropes. Over the past fifteen months he’s been consistently excellent, and I have no doubt he’ll make even more progress in his new role as BNM’s Assistant Content Editor.
Making sure Eduardo has support to help him though is also important. I’d love to be that person myself, but client projects require much of my focus, so having a strong #2 is key. I’ve been lucky to have a great one in Demetri Ravanos who I’m excited to share is being elevated to the new role of Director of Content. In his new position, Demetri will continue producing columns, creating original feature stories, and hosting a weekly podcast. He’ll also be responsible for daily social creation and scheduling, working with yours truly on client projects and Barrett Media events, recruitment of writers, growth of the BSM Member Directory, BSM merchandising, additional BSM audio projects, and oversight of BSM and BNM’s Assistant Content Editors.
That last line implies that there will be multiple editors involved in shaping BSM and BNM’s content, and with Demetri and Eduardo promoted, that means we’re adding someone to help grow BSM. I’m thrilled to welcome Ian Casselberry to our team as BSM’s new Assistant Content Editor. Ian is familiar to many in the sports media universe for his work with Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He’s also contributed to Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports, SB Nation Detroit, and MLive.com among others.
I’ve read Ian’s work for years and have always appreciated his passion for sports radio and sports television. Adding someone with his experience, creativity, and attention to detail has been a huge priority for me. I’m looking forward to turning him loose on January 17th when he officially begins working with us. Under his direction, and in tandem with Demetri and I, we’re going to aim to produce more quality sports media content, and continue expanding BSM’s footprint across the industry.
As awesome as all of these moves are for creating interest in reading the site, if you don’t have someone in position to help sell it, the upside is going to be limited. For the past six years I’ve been the one making those sales myself. But I’ve also had to be a consultant, social scheduler, content creator, summit organizer-creator-host, finder of new clients, and the one in charge of billing and payroll. I love being busy, but a brand’s potential can’t be maximized without help.
Placing the company’s sales efforts in someone else’s hands though requires trust. I’ve learned the past few years that unless you’re inside my world and understand everything that goes on with BSM and BNM, it’s not an easy brand to sell. Media sellers are used to working with more assets, bigger dollars, and they expect things to move faster. They’re also used to corporate environments where a crew provides support from the beginning to the end of a sale. That’s not how it works here. This is more of a family business. Our success depends on one on one relationships, accessibility, being a self-starter, and patience. It means keeping in touch with industry friends and partners even when there isn’t a sale to be made. Nobody knows this brand, business, and who we serve better than the person who’s lived it with me for the past six and a half years, Stephanie Eads, my new Director of Strategic Partnerships.
Not only has Stephanie worked in sales and customer service most of her adult life, she’s honest, organized, and outstanding with people. She’s been exposed to every aspect of my radio life for the past sixteen years, and if you’ve been to a BSM Summit before then you already know how on the ball she is at making sure things get done. This is something we’ve talked about for years, but the timing was never right. Now it is, and I’m excited to watch her blossom. Having her add extra support to help me with billing and payroll is an added bonus.
The BSM brand will also welcome a few additional writers starting this week. First, I’m glad to have Danny O’Neil joining us as a weekly columnist. I got to know Danny in Seattle at 710 ESPN Seattle over the past six years, and he’s always been smart, passionate about media, and an exceptional writer. He’s now based in NYC and his debut column will hit the site this Friday. Also joining us in a daily news writer role is Will Dundon. Will is based in Nashville where he works as a producer for 102.5 The Game. Having him involved will help us stay on top of day to day news stories.
In terms of upcoming content, the BSM Top 20 of 2021 will be released February 7-11 and 14-15. The series moves back a week this year in accordance with a later Super Bowl date. During the seven day span we will highlight the best local sports radio stations, program directors, and morning, midday, and afternoon shows. We will also recognize the best national sports talk shows and original sports podcasts. To do that, we will once again involve more than 50 program directors and executives in the voting process.
One thing we will do differently this year is create an extra piece which recognizes the top performer in twenty smaller categories. These will be determined by a combination of BSM staff and select experts for specific fields. Some of these categories will include Best Sports Betting Content Brand, Best Wrestling Audio Show, Best Sports Radio Social Brand, and more.
After the Top 20 concludes, we’ll turn our attention to the 2022 BSM Summit, which is scheduled for March 2-3, 2022 in New York City at the Anne Bernstein Theater. The show will also be available virtually for those who can’t attend in person. I’m excited about the guest speakers we’ve lined up for this year’s event, and have more tremendous additions to announce later this week and next week. I realize the Omicron/Covid-19 situation has created some concern over the past month, and we continue to monitor the situation closely. As of today, we’re planning to host the event. If the situation were to worsen and we couldn’t keep people safe and comfortable, we’d reschedule the show. I’m hopeful of seeing familiar faces and many of sports media’s best and brightest in sixty days. If you haven’t bought your ticket, log on to BSMSummit.com and do so before you’re on the outside looking in. In the meantime, stay tuned to this website and the BSM 8@8 for details. We should all know more January 15th when New York State updates everyone on their mask ordinance.
Other content projects are in the works as well for March-December. We’ve got a number of ideas we’ve talked about for March Madness, and the NFL Draft. Items like last year’s Meet The Market Managers or a programmer’s version of it may also land on the content calendar. Not to be forgotten is the importance of continuing to improve the BSM Member Directory to help people stay informed, ready, and land in front of the right decision makers when job openings arise. Seeing a few of our members earn gigs the last 4-5 months of 2021 was very cool, and we hope to see more of that in 2022. Last but not least, I’m hopeful of giving the website a new layout in either quarter 2 or 3.
As I bring this column to a close, I’d like to remind you that BSM and BNM exists because we love the business and advocate for it daily. Since 2015, I’ve prioritized professional storytelling, research, industry news, relationship building, social media marketing, and consulting. Inside information and building relationships are important, and sure, it’s occasionally fun being first, but I’ve never worried about clicks, scoops, cash grabs or ruining reputations to elevate my own. I try to think about the big picture, even if it means missing out in the short-term. That applies to who I work with in a consulting capacity as well as how I operate the site. There’s no better example of it than last week. Most of our crew had the week off. It was tough missing out on stories when we were taking a mental timeout, but people come first. If you want long-term productivity and a staff to stick with you, support and sacrifice are essential.
If there’s one thing I know, this outlet has been a great resource for industry professionals. I wasn’t as fortunate during my studio days to have a site this rich in content to learn from, debate with, and stay connected to. We’ve hired 20+ contributors to help serve the industry, and I’m honored to have each one of them here. The additions we’ve made to improve the brand in 2022 will make us even better. We’re not perfect by any stretch, but we try to be fair and accurate. I also try to be accessible, especially when difficult situations arise. There are going to be times when our crew deliver strong opinions or tackle sensitive issues, and when those instances occur, I hope you’ll remember what I said about accuracy and fairness. We won’t operate as shills for the industry but we’re also not going scorched earth on folks.
Our goal here is simple, help folks stay informed about the sports and news radio/television formats, overdeliver for clients who place their trust in us, connect our advertising partners and members to others who can benefit from their services, and give industry people access to content from other professionals so they can do their jobs better.
If we can do these things consistently we’ll be in great shape. If we miss along the way, we’ll clean up the mess, and try to learn from it. We’re nine months away from celebrating seven years in operation, and we couldn’t have made it this far without your full support. Thanks for riding with us, now let’s make 2022 a year to remember.
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