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What Goes Into Producing a National Sports Talk Show?

Jason Barrett

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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.

zaslouI 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.

blankI 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.

  1. Do the hosts focus a majority of their content on subjects that appeal to the local audience?
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?

lnAs 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” GuerreraProducer 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.

statsGuerrera: 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.

necci3Necci: 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.

goulet3Goulet: 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.

necci2Necci: 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.

gouletGoulet: 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.

stats2Guerrera: 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.

necci4Necci: 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.

goulet2Goulet: 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”.

stats4Guerrera: 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.

necci5Necci: 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.

Barrett Blogs

Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, Don Martin, Sam Pines and Amanda Brown to Speak at the 2023 BSM Summit

“All six of these media professionals have enjoyed success throughout their careers and bring different perspectives, styles, and experiences to the room.”

Jason Barrett

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I announced last week that the 2023 BSM Summit will be returning to Los Angeles. We had a fantastic experience in LA in 2019, and I expect our next conference on March 21-22, 2023 to be even bigger and better. But to do that, we need the right people on stage, and I’m excited today to reveal the first six additions to the show.

The 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles is proud to welcome FOX Sports Radio and FOX Sports 1 host Colin Cowherd, FOX Sports 1 co-host of the new weekday program SPEAK, Joy Taylor, CBS Sports Radio and CBS Sports Network superstar Jim Rome, FOX Sports Radio and iHeart Sports SVP of Programming, Don Martin, and the brain trust of ESPN LA 710, Senior Vice President Sam Pines and program director Amanda Brown.

All six of these media professionals have enjoyed success throughout their careers. They bring different perspectives, styles, and experiences to the room, and I’m sure those in attendance at The Founders Club at the Galen Center at USC will enjoy and appreciate learning from them.

We will have more announcements in the future about additional speakers to the 2023 BSM Summit. A reminder that if you work in the media industry and would like to attend the conference, you can purchase tickets and secure your hotel room by visiting BSMSummit.com.

I’d also like to thank last year’s sponsors who have already confirmed participation in our 2023 event. The Summit isn’t possible without their support. For folks interested in sponsorship details for the conference, please email Stephanie at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now here’s some press information about each of our six participants.

Colin Cowherd: He is one of the most thought-provoking and successful sports talk show hosts in the country, and has been a key part of FOX Sports Radio and FOX Sports 1 since September 2015. He is also the founder of The Volume, a digital-first sports media brand which has created an immediate impact in podcasting and on YouTube.

Cowherd’s three-hour sports talk program, THE HERD WITH COLIN COWHERD, airs simultaneously on FS1 and the FOX Sports Radio Network weekdays from Noon to 3pm ET. It is also available on www.FOXSportsRadio.comwww.FOXSports.com and has a dedicated iHeartRadio station, available live and throughout the day. The Herd has been chosen by industry programmers and executives as the top national sports talk radio show an unprecedented six times in seven years as part of BSM’s annual Top 20 series.

Jim Rome: Jim Rome is heard nationwide hosting ‘The Jim Rome Show‘ weekdays from Noon to 3pm ET on CBS Sports Radio. The program can also be watched on the CBS Sports Network. The show delivers three hours of aggressive, informed sports opinions, rapid-fire dialogue, tons of sports smack, and is consistently supported by Rome’s legions of fans otherwise known as the clones.

Rome also delivers his unique take on the day’s sports headlines via the CBS Sports Minute, 60-second commentaries which can be heard hourly on CBS Sports Radio affiliate stations. He also hosts his own podcast, The Reinvention Project, contributes to CBS Sports television, and has previously been seen on ESPN, FOX Sports, and in numerous movies and TV shows.

Joy Taylor: Joy Taylor co-hosts FS1’s new weekday program SPEAK alongside Emmanuel Acho and former NFL running back LeSean McCoy. She has previously worked as a co-host on THE HERD, as the moderator of SKIP AND SHANNON: UNDISPUTED, and as the host of her own podcast, “Maybe I’m Crazy”. She has also hosted programs for FOX Sports Radio.

Prior to joining FOX Sports, Taylor spent five years in Miami radio, including a successful three-year stint at 790 AM The Ticket, where she was co-host for the station’s top-rated morning-drive program, “Zaslow and Joy Show,” after starting with the station as the show’s executive producer. Taylor also served as the host of “Thursday Night Live” and “Fantasy Football Today” on CBSSports.com. She is a Pittsburgh native and the younger sister of former Miami Dolphins star Jason Taylor.

Don Martin: A 27-year veteran of iHeartMedia, Don is currently the SVP of Programming for FOX Sports Radio, the EVP for iHeartMedia Sports, and the SVP of KLAC-AM 570 LA Sports. Additionally, he provides oversight of the iHeartPodcast Network, which includes more than 40 national and 100 local sports podcasts and exclusive podcast agreements with the NFL and NBA. Don has been a featured speaker at prior BSM Summit’s and was recently a guest on The Jason Barrett Podcast. To hear it, click here.

Sam Pines: A fixture with Good Karma Brands since 2000, Pines is now charged with leading ESPN LA 710 since GKB assumed control of local operations. Prior to taking over the Los Angeles sports brand, Pines served as the GM and Sales Manager of ESPN Cleveland from 2006-2022. He has written a sales and leadership series, “Time to Win”, which focuses on coaching relationship-based selling and marketing, and is also involved with numerous boards and nonprofits.

Amanda Brown: Amanda has spent her entire twenty year career in sports radio working for the worldwide leader in sports. Currently responsible for creating and implementing the programming strategy for ESPN LA 710, Amanda has enjoyed nearly twelve years with the LA based brand after spending nearly six years in Bristol, CT producing national shows for the ESPN Radio network. Her career started behind the scenes in Dallas, TX where she worked as a producer at ESPN 103.3.

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Barrett Blogs

7 Years of BSM and The Official Announcement For The 2023 BSM Summit

“Fast forward to now, and where this thing has advanced to is far beyond my expectations.”

Jason Barrett

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Apologies in advance if some of this column feels like I’m giving myself and our brand a pat on the back. I am. When this company launched, many assumed I was just writing a few articles and biding my time until another programming job popped up. I had a number of friends say ‘there’s no future in sports radio consulting‘ and after putting my programming career in the rear view mirror to go home to NY, I wasn’t sure what was in store for me.

What I did know is that my interest in doing the same thing that I just did for the past decade in three different cities was gone, but my interest in working with brands and individuals was still very much alive. I loved creating and programming 95.7 The Game but my choice to come home was driven by personal reasons, not professional. I wrote in great detail about it back in February 2015 so if you’re not aware of my story and want to know more, click the link.

Some of you do know these details already so I’m not going to repeat myself. I also don’t like talking on this website about personal issues because that’s not what brings us together each day. Media news, insight, and opinion does. But when this day rolls around each year, I hope you can understand why I take a moment to celebrate it. I moved home with no job, no plan, and no business but 7 years later, here we are are still ticking.

Launching this company has been the best professional decision I’ve ever made. Erika Nardini just had this conversation recently with Mark Cuban and he said taking a leap when you have nothing is the best time to do so. As crazy as that sounds, he couldn’t have been more right. That said, it’s pretty humbling going from successfully managing a top 4 market brand and earning six figures to being unemployed with no income and not being sure what you want to do. There were many days where I wondered ‘what was this all for?’. I hadn’t been without a job for a long time but I didn’t want to rush into something I wasn’t excited about especially since I knew I had to take care of my son and wanted to set a good example for him.

When I announced I was leaving San Francisco, I said I’d consider staying with the company if a position could be created that would allow me to work from NY and travel to help brands. Entercom back then wasn’t as big as Audacy is now, so that wasn’t an option. That led to small talk about consulting but quite frankly, I had no interest in doing that. I thought consulting was something folks did at the end of their careers or others used as a temporary excuse to explain what they were up to after leaving a job. I was 41 at the time and felt I had two decades left to give to the business, and if I was going to go down that road, I’d do it differently.

As I began to clear my head and think about what was next, I decided I was going to create the position that Entercom didn’t have available except rather than being exclusive to one group, I’d be accessible to all of them. I wanted to make a difference in multiple cities and expand my reach beyond radio. Now I work with brands involved in radio, TV, podcasting, social media, sales, sports betting, etc..

I’m also very entrepreneurial, so the idea of building a digital company that focused on covering the sports media business had great appeal to me. I built my radio career by doing everything early on and saw that as an advantage. Back in 2015, there were outlets covering the radio business, but none dedicated to sports radio. Even the newspapers that wrote about sports TV and other media issues, often examined them with folks who hadn’t been on the inside for quite some time. I had recent experiences programming brands in three different parts of the country, I learned how to build a website, I didn’t mind selling myself, and I wasn’t restricted from writing and sharing my honest and candid opinions. That helped me give BSM life and a voice. I also had one other advantage. I was talking weekly with industry people, going to different cities to work with multiple groups and seeing up close why certain things worked and others didn’t. That helped me tell better stories, build deeper relationships, and assist clients with greater knowledge.

Fast forward to now, and where this thing has advanced to is far beyond my expectations. I’ve been presented with opportunities to work with groups I never expected. I’ve had people reach out to present opportunities, including purchasing the company, that others would be shocked were considered (Btw I’m not looking to sell). Our brand now generates hundreds of thousands in traffic per month thanks to an exceptional team of 20 writers which produces 35-40 pieces of content per day on the sports and news media industry. In fact, August was our best month of traffic this year. We were up 30% year over year. We create 5 podcasts per week, distribute multiple newsletters, consult a strong amount of media brands, sell and work with advertising partners to help grow their businesses, deliver content through social media channels that are followed by thousands of people, and host an annual conference, which is well attended and supported by industry professionals and broadcast companies.

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Which brings me to the next part of this column – the 2023 BSM Summit.

After hosting our last two shows in New York City, I told all in attendance that our next event would return to the west coast. Finding the right city and venue takes time, and this one was tough because there were great options in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, but after reviewing the possibilities, I’m thrilled to share that the 2023 BSM Summit will take place in Los Angeles, California at The Founders Club at the Galen Center at the University of Southern California. The dates will be Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 22nd (we didn’t want to do dates that conflicted with the NCAA Tournament). Show time both days will once again be 9a-5p PT.

I couldn’t be happier with this location. The space we have to work with is fantastic, the people involved with USC have been great, and to bring a room full of sports media professionals to the USC campus will be awesome. We’ve also partnered with the USC Hotel which is within walking distance of our venue. Room rates and ticket prices for the Summit can now be found on BSMSummit.com.

I know everyone will start texting, emailing, calling, and DM’ing to ask about tickets, speakers, sponsorships, the after-party and awards show, etc.. I’ll have follow up announcements coming soon about the first few speakers we’ve lined up. Most people attended the 2022 show live, but some checked out the show virtually too. I’m not sure yet if we’re going to make this one available virtually. If we do, we’ll announce it on the site at a later time. Like anything, if enough people want it we’ll find a way to get it done. In the meantime, Stephanie Eads is setting up conversations with former and future conference partners so if you have a sponsorship question, hit her up by email at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

One thing I do want to ask of those who are planning to attend the Summit, email me to let me know what you’re interested in learning about at the show. We’ve been blessed to have some incredibly smart, successful people in the room, but as cool as that may be, I want to make sure folks return to their buildings afterwards with information to improve their operations. This only works if you take the knowledge and use it to help your brands and people. If anything in particular is of interest, please let me know by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

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As I look ahead to year 8, I’m extremely bullish on continuing our momentum on the sports media side. We’ve just added Eddie Moran as a new features writer, and if it makes business sense to add more writers or create additional podcasts down the line, we’ll examine those opportunities as they arise. A few years ago it was just Demetri and I running the day to day business. Now we have Stephanie, Andy, Garrett Searight, Arky Shea, Alex Reynolds, and Eduardo Razo involved, and though having a larger staff doesn’t guarantee success, I like how we’re positioned. If anything, our focus now is on doing impactful work not busy work. As much as I’d love to keep everyone and never stop adding, running a business effectively requires regularly examining what is and isn’t working. Having people involved who are passionate and consistently reliable is vital. If they can’t be then it means the fit isn’t right.

Having said that, I believe we can always get better. As we move ahead, I’m counting on my team to find and create more original content, strengthen and increase relationships, gain a stronger grasp of SEO, and collectively, we’ll work on improving our digital marketing to promote our content and develop better affiliate partnerships. One way the industry can help us in return, let us know when you create something on-air that might fit the site. Most of what we gather comes from finding it ourselves yet content gets created daily on sports TV and radio. We’re not going to write stories about sports opinions but if it’s media-centric, a heads up helps. So too does sharing our content on social media.

Though BSM is an integral part of our company’s future growth, I am equally as bullish on building Barrett News Media. We started BNM on September 14, 2020 and our first year was slow. We needed to dip our toe in rather than dive in head first, but over the past 9 months we’ve increased our relationships and our readers are now starting to see what we’re capable of. We’ve assembled a strong cast of news writers, reporters, and columnists, and just added to our team last week with the addition of Joe Salzone. Adding writers and consulting clients remains an ongoing process, and make no mistake about this, I want to help news/talk stations just as I have helped sports brands. Maybe down the line we’ll add a few news media podcasts too, but we have other things to focus on first.

For starters, if you’ve read this website over the years then you’re likely familiar with the BSM Top 20. It’s a series we produce recognizing the best in the sports media industry. It’s voted on by a large number of sports radio programmers and executives, and for 6 years in a row it has been our website’s largest traffic driver. I thought previously about doing a series for the news media industry, but because we had less help, little time, and an unfamiliar brand, I held off.

But that’s about to change.

Later this year, we will introduce the very first BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will include voting participation from news media programmers and executives, with the goal being to showcase the best national radio shows and podcasts, and the top local stations, shows, and PD’s from both the major and mid markets.

It will be a giant undertaking but it’s long overdue for our brand. Though I’m sure the process will be exhausting, I’m looking forward to sharing the results and shining a brighter light on the news/talk media business. When I’m ready to announce the dates and schedule for the series, we’ll reveal it here on the site and across our BNM social media channels. Stay tuned.

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As I bring this column to an end, I’ll end by sharing a few things that have surprised me over the years. First, I’m seeing less interest the past 3 years from younger people becoming programmers than I did between 2015-2019. Is that because of the pandemic? The rise of sports gambling? A lack of confidence in the radio industry? As someone who’s helped 15-20 brands find and hire brand leaders, and talks to more people than most, that’s concerning.

I think sports radio also needs to do a better job of grooming people for these roles and showing them a path to long-term success. PD’s should be more actively championing their people for growth too than they do. If you value someone and want to see him or her reap the rewards for their hard work, you have to look beyond how it’ll affect your day to day duties. Focus on the big picture, not just what makes your life easier.

What should concern executives is the fact that in the past five years, sports radio has lost Armen Williams, Jeremiah Crowe, Joe Zarbano, Adam Delevitt, Tony DiGiacomo, Terry Foxx, Brad Willis, Chris Baker, Tom Parker, Jay Taylor, Kyle Engelhart, Hoss Neupert, and John Hanson. I’m sure I’m missing a few too. That’s a lot of programming experience out the door including some with decades left to give to the industry. Maybe some weren’t built for the job long-term or others were kicking down the door and ready to lead but in most businesses, if you saw that type of change in key management roles, you’d be questioning if it’s an industry you want to be a part of. If the veterans don’t stay or become too expensive, and the leaders of tomorrow aren’t sticking around, where does that leave us?

From the talent end, how are you helping yourself when there isn’t a job to chase? If the only time you contact a PD is to ask about a gig, don’t be surprised when your calls go straight to voicemail. Relationships are a two-way street. Build them when there’s nothing to be gained and you’ll be amazed at how it pays off later. By the way, that goes for me too. I get asked by a lot of people to find time when there’s trouble in paradise but when life is good, crickets. Those who keep in touch and support BSM/BNM whether that’s through a monthly membership or buying a Summit ticket have more success getting a hold of me. I’m not trying to be a hard ass but I’m not an agent, so building your career isn’t my priority. Taking care of my family and business partners is. However, I do help people and make time for many, but it’s got to work both ways. My members and clients know they can ask for something and receive an answer. Others I’ve built and maintained relationships with receive the same. But if you’re counting on me to help you find work and gossip about the business with you, I’m not your guy.

If there’s been a winner the past 7 years it’s been the growth of sports betting. As other categories have produced less, sports betting has emerged as an important growth driver for the sports format. And this has happened with most of the country not even legal yet. As more states give the green light to legalize sports gambling, revenues and content opportunities should follow. We will likely reach a point where consolidation comes into play and certain brands and companies overload their content in a way that makes them insufferable to listen to but for every few setbacks there are far greater reasons to be optimistic. In the past 7 years we’ve seen Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and YouTube become big players in sports television. Might FanDuel, DraftKings, BetRivers, Fanatics, Barstool and others do the same in the sports media space? That’s going to be an interesting follow for sure.

Knowing how everything can change in an instant, I take nothing for granted with BSM and BNM. This could all end tomorrow, and if it did, I’d look back on it as the best days of my professional life. I want to keep growing as a professional, while remaining an asset to my current partners, and finding ways to work with new brands and companies in both sports and news media. I’m also enjoying hosting a podcast again, and if you haven’t checked out The Jason Barrett Podcast, the latest episode with Colin Cowherd is a good one to start with.

The future for sports and news media may change but both will remain viable and important. I love that we’ve been able to be a small part of this business each day for the past 7 years, and I hope to make the next 7 years as fulfilling as the past 7. If I’m able to do that, it’ll mean the 20 years I spent in studios were needed to make a nationwide impact from a home office.

So on behalf of our entire team, past and present, thank you for reading the twenty thousand pieces of content we’ve produced since 2015. None of this is possible without an army of BSM/BNM supporters. I hope to see you in Los Angeles this March for the 2023 BSM Summit.

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The Podcast Movement Conference Made a Mistake Rejecting Ben Shapiro

“If this is a conference about podcasting, and you have someone in attendance who excels at it, has a massive following, and their company is supporting your event as a sponsor, why are you treating them like a disease?”

Jason Barrett

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I’ve had the pleasure of attending multiple Podcast Movement Conferences over the years. Those involved in putting the event together do a fantastic job creating an action packed agenda full of accomplished speakers, and the visual displays and access to different brands and industry professionals have always been nothing but positive. It’s why I was disappointed this year when my schedule didn’t allow for me to make the trip to Dallas.

So imagine my surprise late last week when I learned the conference took a stance against Westwood One radio host and co-founder of The Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro

Shapiro’s company was a sponsor of this year’s show, and according to reports, the well known podcaster and radio host wasn’t registered for the event. He made a brief appearance at his company’s booth, shaking hands and taking photos with fans who stopped by to say hi, and his mere presence at the show led to some protesting his involvement on social media.

After learning Shapiro had stopped by, the Podcast Movement Conference posted a series of tweets which said “Hi folks, we owe you an apology before sessions kick off for the day. Yesterday afternoon, Ben Shapiro briefly visited the PM22 expo area near The Daily Wire booth. Though he was not registered or expected, we take full responsibility for the harm done by his presence.”

The conference added, “Those of you who called this “unacceptable” are right. In 9 wonderful years growing and celebrating this medium, PM has made mistakes. The pain caused by this one will always stick with us. We promise that sponsors will be more carefully considered moving forward. No TDW representatives were scheduled to appear on panels, and Shapiro remained in the common space and did not have a badge. If you have questions, we’re here to talk. Thank you for reading, and we hope you’ll continue to join us from here on out.”

A quick search shows that Shapiro has one of the top performing podcasts on the charts. According to Westwood One, it is downloaded over fifteen million times per month. In addition, his radio program is carried on hundreds of radio stations, he has 13 million followers combined between Facebook and Twitter, and his company, The Daily Wire, adds another 5.5 million supporters to the mix. They also showed they were supportive of the conference by making a financial commitment to sponsor a booth.

Having explained all of that I was stunned that the Podcast Movement Conference took this position. Let me be clear, it was a mistake. Their stance has led to a flood of negative attention over the past 72 hours, and it all could’ve easily been avoided. Though their next event is still a year away, given how much attention this story has received, it could have a carry over effect on future sponsorships and attendance. Only time will tell.

As someone who runs an annual conference, albeit much smaller, I know how hard it is to put an event together. What the Podcast Movement organizers put together each year requires a herculean effort, which is why I’m baffled that they picked sides in this situation. The media industry is large and full of people, brands and companies with different views and approaches to business and everyday life. The second you start judging and making decisions based on personal beliefs and/or social media activity, you’re in trouble.

I’ve long maintained that if someone works in the sports media industry and wishes to learn and share information to help improve the business, they’re welcome at our BSM Summit. We make changes to our schedule each year based on what we feel is topical for the attendees but we don’t discriminate, support one brand over another or allow personal views to dictate if someone can or can’t be present.

Case in point, at our March conference, I had a few people privately upset that I asked Craig Carton to speak. Craig’s prior arrest and time served in jail is well documented. First, I have a ton of respect for what Craig has accomplished, and I believe in second chances, but personal views aside, he’s the afternoon host in the nation’s largest market working for WFAN, a top rated sports radio brand. History has shown that he’s damn good and successful, and more than qualified to speak on the subjects we cover at our event. When a few folks expressed their displeasure with my decision I told them ‘If you’re not a fan of Craig, don’t attend that session. If it bothers you beyond that, I understand if you can’t attend the show.’

Quieting the noise gets easier when you focus strictly on the business. Making everyone happy is impossible when you organize an event, but if you allow multiple viewpoints to be present in the room, you end up in a decent place more times than not.

You also have to remember that social media can make things appear worse than they are. Is the issue you’re dealing with being raised by conference partners and supporters who attend the event each year or from someone who’s not in the building and thrives on creating a social media firestorm for the causes they oppose and fight against?

Some may recall that I dealt with a few headaches in 2019 prior to our LA Summit after folks involved with groups that had no interest or desire to attend our show started trying to create a controversy out of nothing. Though it was frustrating playing defense on Christmas night when individuals from the New York Times, Deadspin and WNBA teams started poking holes in our conference’s flyer, I learned an important lesson. As long as you do the right thing and have the support and trust of your friends, family, attendees, and partners, who cares what others think or say who don’t know you and aren’t in the room for your event.

That’s what I don’t understand here. Is Shapiro not one of the most successful podcasters out there? Was his company not a paying partner of the event? If this is a conference about podcasting, and you have someone in attendance who excels at it, has a massive following, and their company is supporting your event as a sponsor, why are you treating them like a disease? Most would roll out a red carpet for someone with Shapiro’s track record of success not publicly condemn them for showing up and sponsoring the show. I know I would. I’d also do the same for someone who’s equally successful and views the world the exact opposite way.

I can’t help but wonder how folks at Westwood One feel about this incident. Don’t they promote and support this conference and include their people in the event? Think they might object to one of their top personalities being treated this way? Furthermore, how about the talk radio format? It’s no secret that most of the programming on news/talk radio stations leans right. A number of top performing podcasts follow a similar path. It’s safe to say that most in the format are going to support Shapiro, and I don’t think that helps the conference with attracting future business and participation.

To be clear, I don’t listen to Ben Shapiro’s podcast or radio show, and I don’t read The Daily Wire. I only point that out because I don’t want anyone to assume that I’m supporting him because of personal interests or a professional relationship. We’ve never spoke or crossed paths. My opinion is based solely on the facts surrounding this situation, nothing else.

That said, I understand Ben has shared opinions that some take offense to and I don’t blame those folks for not wanting to be around him. But there’s a simple solution, don’t go near him or his booth. It’s the same thing I tell people who don’t like a particular radio station’s hosts or a piece of content on our website; if you don’t like it, don’t read or listen to it. The Podcast Movement Conference takes place in a large convention center. There’s more than enough room to keep everyone separated and happy. Last time I checked, there were attendees in the room who stopped by to meet Ben at his booth. Do they not count?

Look, you don’t have to agree with Shapiro, but this is a podcasting business conference, and it’s something he’s done at a higher level than most. That qualifies him to be there. You can’t get in the middle and start determining who is and isn’t allowed in based on personal beliefs or trying to please agenda driven people on social media. Would Podcast Movement tell Joe Rogan, one of the most successful podcasters out there, that he couldn’t attend if people who didn’t like his views on Covid-19 protested? What’s next, not giving out industry awards to stations and individuals who we don’t like or agree with? When does the insanity end?

Here’s the reality, there are likely other sponsors and attendees in the room who have views that some may consider offensive. Our content and advertisers aren’t just supported by good, honest people. There are thousands, if not millions, who listen and support us who are shady, sick, and morally bankrupt. That’s beyond our control. Our job is to inform and entertain, and make people care enough to come back regularly. If we do that well, sponsors will follow. Keep those things happening, and everyone remains satisfied.

Moving forward, the Podcast Movement Conference has to decide if it wants to be open to all or only to some. I root for the conference to do well. I’ve enjoyed attending previous shows and hope to attend future ones. But if they expect to maintain support and enjoy future growth, learning from this situation is important. There’s much more money in staying neutral than alienating one side of the room.

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