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5 Tips From Rocky Which Can Help Your Talk Show

Jason Barrett

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If you were born in the seventies and are a child of the eighties, chances are you’re familiar with some iconic movies. Star Wars, E.T, Back To The Future and countless others have stood the test of time and earned our respect and appreciation but there’s one particular series that I hold in high regard.

I’m talking about Rocky, which has now added a new twist with the recent release of “Creed”.

Creed06467.dngI had a chance last weekend to see the movie and I thought the writing, production, and story created by Ryan Coogler was brilliant. There was a connection between the past and the present and the general public seemed to agree because the film has produced nearly 70 million dollars in 2 weeks.

After watching “Creed” with my son Dylan, I realized that he hadn’t been exposed to the Rocky series. I felt he’d enjoy it and connect to it the way I once did, so I picked up the Rocky 1-4 DVD set and this past week we started watching them one by one. As I expected, he loved them too.

I began thinking about the reasons why I felt a connection to those films and why my son who’s nearly thirty years younger felt the same. For a film to span generations and deliver the same reaction, it has to have certain ingredients. Consider that Rocky 1-3 each generated over 200 million dollars, and Rocky 4 produced 300 million. If the formula leads to that type of success, I’m interested in understanding it better.

What I discovered was that the same reasons my son and I love Rocky, are the same reasons the best sports talk shows stand out. There are many components in a show that help it resonate with an audience which is constantly being bombarded with distractions. I think you’ll agree as you sort through this piece, that the similarities between the two are very similar.

rocky3aEvery Talk Show Needs A Villain – In Rocky you get some of the best of all-time, Apollo Creed, Mr. T, Ivan Drago, etc. Whether it’s Apollo’s insults towards Rocky and painting him as a hopeless bum, Mr. T verbally attacking Rocky’s wife and sending his trainer Mick to his death, or Drago killing Apollo inside the ring, all of those characters evoke an emotion of anger and frustration and make us more sympathetic and emotionally attached to the Rocky character. When you hear Drago say “If he dies, he dies“, it’s impossible to not want to jump through the screen and hit him yourself. That’s what a villain brings to the content experience.

If you look at it from a talk show perspective, the villain usually comes in the form of a central figure on the day’s biggest topics. For example, “The NFL Referees blew the call and screwed us“, “Greg Hardy should be cut by the Dallas Cowboys but Jerry Jones is asleep at the wheel“, “Dave Stewart and Tony LaRussa got fleeced by the Braves and have damaged our future“, “Jed York’s ego caused the 49ers to lose Jim Harbaugh and become mediocre“.

Whichever example you use, when we highlight a topic that is timely and built around a polarizing figure or questionable decision, it puts the host in the hero position. This makes the audience pull for you and it keeps them engaged in your content. Most people in the world root for good over evil and they want the underdog or blue collar guy to knock off the favorite or white collar individual.

The one exception to this is when you have a talk show that is built around a controversial figure. Love and hate are two big reasons why audiences tune in and a big part of why shows like First Take and Bill O’Reilly generate the buzz and success that they do. Regardless of your personal feelings towards them, they embrace the role of the villain and in doing so, they grab your attention.

If you paint an effective picture of a character and outline why they deserve our wrath or attention, you place yourself inside the crowd and 99 times out of 100, they’re going to stand right by your side. Even if they don’t though, they’re still invested in what’s being said and that’s what matters most in measuring success.

rocky1aEvery Talk Show Needs Laughter – Rocky delivers some memorable one-liners that are still remembered forty years later. Classics such as “Women weaken legs“, “You’re going to eat lightning and crap thunder”, “I feel like a Kentucky Fried idiot” and “Why do I want to fight? Because I can’t sing or dance” stay with us because they’re timely, well executed and offer a nice change of pace. By creating moments that allow us to laugh, it breaks things up and makes the dramatic scenes stand out more.

In a talk show, the same challenge exists. Every host can hit hard with opinions, interact with or take on a caller, and ask a good question of a guest, but when the intensity is building, do you have the clock in your head and the wit and creativity to mix it up by offering a strong one-liner? If not, do you have a go-to drop to help emphasize your points in a funny fashion? Can you keep the audience on the edge of their seat wondering if today will be the day you have them emotionally angry, happy, sad, or laughing?

Being naturally funny and self-deprecating goes a long way with people. Those who can pull it off will find the audience sees them as being human, relatable and capable of not taking themselves too seriously. Those who can’t are usually perceived as being unapproachable, out of touch or even worse, a complete asshole. We can all be on a quest to find the truth in sports and seek to deliver opinions that rattle a person’s bones, but when you allow and invite light hearted moments to become part of your daily experience, you benefit a lot more from it.

rockycastEvery Talk Show Needs a Great Supporting Cast – In Rocky, Sylvester Stallone plays the lead role and as great as he is, he earns legendary status because he’s surrounded by great villains (Creed, Drago, T) and a memorable supporting cast (Adrian, Paulie, Mick, Thunderlips, etc.). These people play a vital role in helping introduce love, sadness, drama, anger and doubt into the story and without them the movie would miss the mark. Every twist and turn in the Rocky series, revolves around those words and every key moment includes those people.

Now think about it from a talk show perspective. Do you have an update anchor involved in your program? Does the producer play a role? Do you use your voice guy or callers to add to the content? Are there set guests who are with you daily or weekly and have become a part of the show’s dysfunctional family? Maybe the Program Director or General Manager is brought into the show as “The man” trying to hold you back. You can use created voices/characters too.

Regardless of the approach, all of these things contribute to the show’s entertainment value. Rather than going it alone and focusing on yourself, think about how you can use others to further lift the show and help you showcase the multiple sides of your personality. The more you offer to the audience, the harder it is for them to change the dial.

rocky2aEvery Talk Show Needs Authenticity – One of the real beauties of the Rocky character is that he represents everyone in the world who’s trying to make ends meet to survive and prove they’re not a failure. He’s a normal guy from the streets of Philadelphia who was given an opportunity and took advantage of it, even when the whole world doubted him. He may not be the sharpest tool in the shed but he’s kind, respectful, funny, genuine and honest. We see a man who might not be the best in his sport, but has heart and courage and is willing to try. Those qualities make us root for him. He’s the real life version of David overcoming Goliath.

As a personality, you have to be yourself and put yourself on display. Every positive attribute and every flaw should be showcased every single day. When people know who you are and what you represent and can count on you to be consistent, it makes it easier to listen to you. People tune in for hosts for multiple reasons but if they feel like you’re putting on an act or holding back, they’ll sniff it out and stop listening.

Who you are on the air should be reflected by who you are off the air. What we see on social media or when a camera is on, should be consistent with the person we listen to through the speakers. Sometimes people feel the need to try and change their voice to sound stronger or play a character on the air to generate bigger buzz and it may work for a little while but it can’t be sustained. Being yourself, embracing your strengths and weaknesses, and not being afraid to invite the audience in, are things you can do until the day you retire.

rocky4Every Talk Show Needs Drama – If there’s one quality that separates a Rocky movie from many others, it’s the film’s consistent ability to produce high level drama. From Balboa’s quest to connect with Adrian, to his troubles with Paulie, to his issues with Mick, to the loss of people close to him, to the fight’s themselves, each movie provides twists and turns which leave you emotionally spent.

If you’ve watched these films and didn’t feel a sense of nervousness or excitement when Apollo slid down at the count of 9 and Rocky won the title, or when Mr. T says “My prediction? Pain!“, or when Ivan Drago utters “I must break you”, then get your pulse checked immediately. Each movie delivers a powerful story that is easy to connect with and the journey through that story is what makes it important to us.

It’s no different than what you deal with each day when building topics on a talk show. Any host can hit the airwaves and ask “How confident are you that this team can make the playoffs“. It’s low hanging fruit. You give an opinion on a timely issue, relay a few stats, build some hope, generate calls and tweets, and then sign off and go home.

rocky4aBut is that memorable? Will it leave your audience confused, excited, nervous, angry and talking with their friends and families about what they heard on your show? No!

What works is when you can dig deeper into a topic and find a creative and compelling way to tell the story. That stirs emotion.

Think about some of the items I’ve mentioned above. Does the story include a villain? Does it include laughter? Are their others in the show adding something different to the discussion? Is there conflict? What parts offer me hope and which ones have me concerned?

Once you have those elements, then it comes down to the headline you create, the way you frame the story, and your ability to extend the conversation in a compelling way.

Close your eyes for a second and envision one listener in a car listening to you. Can you hold their attention for five minutes? Ten minutes? If you can’t, you’ve got no ratings.

The way to invade someone’s mind is by being authentic, offering a firm position, using facts to support your stance, and delivering the story creatively.

colinThe reason Colin Cowherd stands out to so many in our industry is because he’s an amazing storyteller. He doesn’t go into a show reliant on phone calls and he doesn’t take the bait on simple topic points. He also puts time into writing some of his opinions and analogies and he understands when to stick to the script and when to toss it aside.

For example, if Colin was hosting a local show in Arizona today, I doubt you’d hear him build a segment by asking “Did the Diamondbacks give up too much for Shelby Miller“. The obvious answer is yes and with that response comes little drama, suspense or unpredictability. If the audience can figure out the answer without having to think too much about it, then why would they stick around to listen to you?

While I’m no nostradamus and not inside Colin’s brain, I do think that if he was hosting locally in Arizona today, he’d offer something different on the subject. I’d expect him to use the topic as a starting point for explaining why in life you sometimes pay more for things than what they’re worth, and how a short-term benefit can often be worth the long-term pain.

That’s what a great storyteller does. They look beyond the headline and search for ways to make it interesting, making sure that drama is a part of every single conversation.

By taking this path, it makes the local listener forget about how much the team gave up and gives them a chance to see the story from another perspective. You think they’ll care as much about Miller’s asking price next October if it results in a World Series title? No!

By approaching it differently and more creatively, it lends itself to becoming content that lives in the mind of the audience well beyond the show. And that’s what counts.

rocky3Think for a second about the Rocky story and picture it as a real life topic today. Some hosts would hit the airwaves asking “Do you think this underdog can shock the world and knock off the champion? Your calls and tweets next“. They’d give their opinion, field the audience’s reaction, maybe invite a guest or two on the show, and then blame the subject matter if the ratings for the segment were low.

But if you took a great storyteller like Sylvester Stallone or Ryan Coogler (writer and director for “Creed”) and gave them the microphone, you’d be taken through a very different emotional experience with the content. Based on the results their films have produced, I think they’d do ok in the ratings!

Because they concentrate on telling a powerful story that can move an audience and they incorporate all of these qualities above, we’re still discussing these movies forty years later. The only question now is, when will there be a Creed 2? And will it be as successful as the first one?

Ask yourself, “Is my show selling out the theatre on a daily basis“? “Do I leave people wanting more like “Creed” has? Am I incorporating these qualities into my show? If not, you may want to consider it. Who knows, they could help you stay relevant for the next forty years!

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Erika Ayers and Spike Eskin Led Barstool Sports and WFAN to Success But Their Exits Raise Questions

“Rod and Spike understand the business. They know people are going to ask these questions.”

Jason Barrett

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There were two big management moves last week that have sports media folks talking. First was Erika Ayers Badan announcing her exit from Barstool Sports as the brand’s CEO. Second was the news of Spike Eskin returning to Sportsradio WIP and exiting his role as the VP of Programming for WFAN and CBS Sports Radio.

Let’s start with Erika. What she did for Barstool was spectacular. In 2016, I thought Barstool had a strong understanding of social media, unique talent and voices, podcasts that were cutting through, and a connection with younger fans that traditional outlets couldn’t deliver. They also produced events that drew a lot of public attention. But I didn’t view Barstool as a buttoned up business capable of generating hundreds of millions of dollars. Erika Nardini aka Erika Ayers Badan and Dave Portnoy deserve credit for making it one.

Erika told me at our 2020 BSM Summit that Barstool didn’t have a P&L sheet when she joined. She had to build systems, hire staff, grow the sales arm of Barstool, and help Dave Portnoy find investors. What followed were marketing deals with major brands, content partnerships with different media outlets, a massive investment from Penn National, and a changed perception of Barstool as a mainstream player. They were no longer just the cool, rebellious brand on social media and the internet that gave no f’s and generated attention. They became game changers in the sports content space.

So why leave?

If Barstool is now clear of restrictions and able to operate without investor influence, that should be enticing, right? In her farewell video Erika said that she felt she accomplished what she set out to do. I understand and appreciate that. But I can’t help but wonder if less structure and investor involvement made it less appealing to stay. She did join the brand after The Chernin Group got involved not before it.

I have no inside knowledge on this, and I’m not suggesting Barstool won’t continue growing and dominating. They likely will. It just raises questions about how the brand will manage sales, PR, critical internal and external issues, and battles with suitors when they try to lure away Barstool’s on-air and sales talent.

The business end of Barstool appears weaker today than it did a week ago. That’s more of a testament to what Erika did than a knock on anyone still there. To grow revenue the way she did the past 8 years speaks volumes about her skill as an executive. Wherever she lands next, it’s likely she’ll make a difference.

Will it be easier to do business with Barstool moving forward? Time will tell. I don’t expect they’ll make it easier for media outlets like ours to cover them. But if I’ve learned anything in eight years of following them it’s don’t ever bet against Dave Portnoy. Too often people have. Each time he’s proven them wrong. Portnoy has built a powerhouse brand, and grown the business by zigging when others zagged. But how Barstool moves forward without Erika will be of great interest to many in 2024.

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Spike Eskin will be leaving WFAN and his position as the VP of Programming for Audacy to return to WIP and co-host the afternoon show. On paper this is a great move for WIP. Spike understands Philadelphia and WIP’s audience, he lives and breathes Philly sports, and has a great rapport with the entire lineup. He’s maintained an on-air presence through his Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast, and I believe that moving into a host role alongside Ike Reese and Jack Fritz will be a seamless transition for all involved. Being in his mid to late 40’s, he’s also got plenty years ahead of him to cement his spot as an on-air talent. I expect Spike, Ike and Jack to do well together.

But to exit WFAN and the top programming role at Audacy in less than three years, raises a few questions. Why is this opportunity better for Spike than the programming role he just held? Was he happy at WFAN? Were folks happy with him at WFAN? Many have opinions about WFAN’s changes the past few years. Some love the fresher approach. Others don’t. That’s what makes sports radio in New York fun, people care.

As a follower of WFAN for over thirty years, it’s a different brand than the one I grew up on. That’s not a bad thing by the way. I’m almost 50. If Spike and Chris Oliviero programmed to please the Mike and the Mad Dog crowd that’d be a mistake. Attention spans are shorter, content options are larger, digital is more important and the days of a city flocking to the radio at 1pm to hear a host’s first words are gone. Judging from the ratings, revenue, and turnout for Boomer and Gio’s last live event, the station is doing well. They’ve got a lot of talent, a stronger digital game, and they’ll continue thriving. Spike deserves credit for the brand’s progress.

But why is a hosting role and less influence over a brand better for Eskin? Spike has been a part of WIP’s afternoon show before. Though leading the show vs. being the third mic is a different animal. He also programmed the station really well. In fact, Spike did such a good job at WIP that it landed him the top programming position in sports radio. Is there a personal part to this given that his father made afternoons in Philly must-listen for 25 years? Or is it about the personal relationship he has with Ike and Jack?

And how does this work from a financial standpoint? It’s likely that Spike was paid more to lead Audacy New York than Jon Marks was to host WIP’s afternoon show. If that’s the case, and nothing changes for Eskin, and WIP just adds payroll, does it affect what Chris Oliviero can spend on Audacy New York’s next brand leader? I can’t see that happening at all. Chris is going to make sure he has what he needs to land the right leader in New York.

Finances only come up because it’s known that Audacy is going through a bankruptcy process. Adding expenses right now seems unlikely. However, to add someone with Eskin’s skill and track record at a station where he previously shined is smart business, especially when you consider that he can win as a host and programmer if needed. That’s going to naturally lead to folks asking ‘will Spike eventually host PM drive and program WIP? If so, what does that mean for current PD Rod Lakin?’ ‘What happens when talent at WIP that Spike had a hand in hiring don’t like what Lakin suggests or if WIP’s ratings decline?’

Spike told Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie that’s not on his radar and the idea of joining the afternoon show was raised by PD Rod Lakin. Some of you may read that and be surprised that Lakin would suggest it. But Rod stepped into the role that Eskin previously held. I’m sure they’ve talked plenty the past few years. If their relationship is strong that should help. I don’t know it well enough to say if it is or isn’t. This move suggests Lakin’s more concerned with strengthening WIP than worrying about himself or industry chatter.

If anyone can navigate the situation and make it work, it’s Rod Lakin. He’s calm, cool, collected, smart and doesn’t get flustered by noise and pressure. I know this because we’ve known each other for over a decade, and I introduced him to folks years ago, which led to him landing the Philly role. If you read Derek Futterman’s piece on Angelo Cataldi last month, the Philly icon shared a small example of what makes Rod a great leader.

But Rod and Spike understand the business. They know people are going to ask these questions. The flurry of texts and emails I received about this last week was insane. I’m sure it was even louder on the local level. Many will suggest that Audacy will use this as an opportunity to eventually reduce expenses and stay strong by having Eskin handle two roles. Only those involved know the answers but one thing I know is that Rod Lakin knows how to program. If he’s not supported there, he’ll have plenty of interest elsewhere.

In a perfect world, Spike excels in afternoons, Rod leads WIP to greater success, and WFAN finds a great leader to move the brand forward. But until the smoke clears, noise will fill the air in the big apple and city of brotherly love.

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Thumbs Up:

Colin Dunlap, 93.7 The Fan: While on the air last week, Dunlap received a call from a 65-year old woman named Colette. She told the Pittsburgh host that she and her husband were disabled and after undergoing 28 surgeries, she was physically struggling to clear her walkway of snow. Hearing her story moved Dunlap to react. He then called on the audience to step up and help. Shortly thereafter, one of 93.7 The Fan’s listeners, a gentleman named Tom, phoned in, and made the drive over to help out a fellow listener. That’s the power of live radio at its best, all possible by Dunlap reading and reacting to the situation perfectly.

Clay Travis, Outkick: Whether you love him or hate him, Clay delivers strong opinions and commands your attention. A perfect example was his Friday night reaction video to the demise of Sports Illustrated. If you haven’t watched it, it’s worth checking out. It’s nearing one million views at the time of my writing this.

VSiN: The sports betting network based out of Las Vegas recently redesigned its website and the new look and feel of it is excellent. Clean throughout, easy to navigate, and rich of content. Nice work by Bill Adee all involved.

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Thumbs Down:

Sports Illustrated: Laying off the majority of its staff was bad enough, but to notify people by email or have them find out on social media shows a lack of class and a disgusting approach to running a business. All of those traits by the way are the exact opposite of what SI once stood for – RESPECT.

During SI’s glory days, the content was must read. But in recent years, the outlet landed in the hands of operators who valued clicks over quality. Many predicted and expected this once storied brand to crumble. Unfortunately, the naysayers were proven right.

To those affected, I’m sorry for the crummy news. Some will rebound and help other established brands. Some will launch their own platforms or exit the industry. Anyone looking to do future freelancing work is invited to email [email protected].

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BSM Summit Update:

I’m happy to share that Good Karma Brands president Steve Politziner, Edison Research co-founder and president Larry Rosin and ESPN Chicago program director Danny Zederman have been added to our lineup. We’ve also finalized two of our four awards recipients and are working on a third. I’m hoping to share those details soon along with a few other high profile additions to this year’s show. I’ll be heading to Las Vegas during Super Bowl week, which is when we reveal our BSM Top 20 of 2023, and after that I’m hoping to finalize our schedule so it can be released by the end of February.

I know everyone likes waiting until the last minute to buy tickets and reserve hotel rooms. If you want to avoid being left out though, the time to act is now. Everything you need is posted on BSMSummit.com. Our deadline for hotel room reservations is February 13th. We’ve also sent out free ticket contests by email to the advertising community and tri-state area colleges. We’ll have two more this week for executives and programmers. Be sure to check your spam folder just in case it doesn’t arrive in your inbox.

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2-Seconds to Vent:

Jimmy Pitaro, Eric Shanks, John Skipper, Nick Khan, Colin Cowherd, Paul Finebaum, Clay Travis, Craig Carton, Adam Schein, Michael Kay, and Fred Toucher all have something in common with many others across the industry. They’re accomplished professionals with plenty on their plate yet when contacted, they always respond. Most of the time, they do so quickly. That’s greatly appreciated.

If those tasked with running the largest media companies in America, and hosting shows with content, advertising, and audience commitments can find time to respond, why is it so hard for other professionals to do the same? If you don’t want to be featured on BSM, speak at a Summit, market with us or answer a question, just say ‘not interested‘. It takes two seconds. The best in the business understand the value of relationships and promotion. Unfortunately, many do not. I don’t use this platform to draw attention to these issues but sometimes I wonder, should I?

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Original Projects:

On BNM this week we’re doing five days of features on NPR professionals as part of ‘Public Radio Week‘. It’s not easy pulling it off but we’re trying some different stuff. Next week we launch ‘Where Are They Now‘ on BSM. Peter Schwartz will have the first feature next Tuesday. Coming up in February, we drop the BSM Top 20, Derek Futterman’s ‘Day Spent With‘ series which includes spending a day with professionals across different areas of the industry, and we’ll profile a number of black voices on BNM as part of the brand’s focus on Black History month. I hope you’ll check them out whenever time allows.

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Recommended Viewing:

If you’re looking for a movie to watch during the week, check out Blackberry if you haven’t already done so. The film is about the rise and fall of the Blackberry phone, and I thought it was excellent. It had a similar feel to the movie Jobs, and the series Super Pumped: The Battle For Uber. Worth your time if you’ve got two hours available to watch something different than live games or sports programming.

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If you have a question or comment you’d like addressed in a future column, please send it to [email protected]. That same email address can be used to pass along press releases, interview requests or news tips. Thanks for reading!

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Justin Craig, Chris Kinard, Mary Menna Added to 2024 BSM Summit Lineup

“What I’ve always enjoyed about the BSM Summit is that it showcases speakers from many different areas of the industry.”

Jason Barrett

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To kick off 2024, we’re announcing the additions of three more talented broadcasters to our 2024 BSM Summit. More on that shortly. The Summit takes place March 13-14 at the Ailey Theater in New York City. For tickets, hotel rooms, and additional details, visit BSMSummit.com. Those interested in sponsorship opportunities, contact Stephanie Eads. A number of items are already claimed but she can tell you what’s left. Reach her by email at [email protected] or by phone at 415-312-5553.

What I’ve always enjoyed about the Summit is that it showcases speakers from different areas of the industry. We’ve featured top talent, researchers, agents, digital leaders, podcasting experts, ratings analysts, tech builders, play by play voices, and of course, program directors and market managers. There’s many ways to succeed, and no better way to learn than to hear from folks who consistently win.

In the sports audio world, 98.5 The Sports Hub, 106.7 The Fan, and ESPN Radio are highly respected brands. The Hub and The Fan are dominant in Boston and Washington D.C.. ESPN Radio meanwhile maintains a strong position as one of the top national audio brands. All feature strong leaders, and we’re fortunate to have all of them represented in NYC.

It’s a pleasure to welcome Beasley Boston Market Manager Mary Menna to the Summit. This is her first appearance at the conference. Mary is responsible for managing The Hub’s business, currently the top revenue generating brand in all of sports radio. I’m excited to have her offer her insights on a panel with Chris Oliviero and Scott Sutherland. More details on the session, date/time closer to the show.

On the programming side, it’s great to welcome back Chris Kinard of 106.7 The Fan, and Justin Craig of ESPN Radio. Both will be involved in programming panels at the show.

CK has helped lead The Fan and Team 980 to consistent growth in the nation’s capital. He’s a forward thinking type of leader with a great feel for the current and future challenges facing the business. I’m looking forward to having him share a few lessons he’s learned with the rest of the room.

For my friend JC, he’s seen ESPN Radio evolve for the better part of two decades. Liked and respected by most, he’s valued and trusted to guide ESPN Radio’s day-to-day operations. Given the network’s change in focus, talent, and structure, he’ll have great insights to share on where national sports audio is moving.

Our speaker list now sits at twenty. It will grow much more over the next two months as we reveal other additions to the show. We’ll also be announcing our award winners, and a few other surprises. This is a fun and informative two-day event for sports media professionals. If you haven’t joined us before, I hope you’ll do so this time. Everything you need to know prior to the event will be available at BSMSummit.com.

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The Media Business Must Reset Its Message and Market Its Stars in 2024

“The only way to change perception is to remind people what makes radio/TV special, and how well it works.”

Jason Barrett

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The end of the year is upon us, and I hope you’re happy, healthy, and excited about what lies ahead in 2024. The older I get, and the more I work with different companies and people, I’m reminded that the relationships and results are what makes this all worthwhile. In my thirties, I wanted to stomp competitors into the ground, and own the space in the cities I worked in. I even did it a few times. But as happy as I was for my crew and seeing our strategy work, the more I learned it was about growing a business, and enjoying the ride with colleagues, not seeing others unemployed. If there’s only one game in town, the game itself becomes less fun. The professional benefits shrink too for those on the winning side.

It’s no secret that 2023 has been a roller coaster ride for the media industry. Take for instance this recent Forbes article. If their math is correct, more than 20,000 people lost media jobs in 2023. That can’t make you feel good about the state of our business. It doesn’t inspire confidence in advertisers to invest in us either. With 2024 approaching, there’s optimism, pessimism, and focus on what may change. The common belief is that revenues will rise due to a political year, but we can’t just look at dollars and cents when it comes to evaluating our industry. If we do, we’ll be back here in 2025 when political advertising shrinks.

I started covering sports media in 2015. News media coverage was added in 2020. During that time, radio and TV revenues haven’t risen like a Phoenix and headlines about both mediums have been mostly negative. Do a quick google search and look at how many stories focus on low stock prices, headwinds/layoffs, revenue projections missed, bankruptcy, executive’s on shaky ground, brands losing their identity and purpose, AM radio becoming extinct, etc.. This is what investors and advertisers see every day. It creates a negative perception of our business. You’d see it that way too if you were in their shoes.

Now combine that with the way media sells the next big thing. Meta told us virtual reality was the future but bailed on that idea in favor of artificial intelligence. Spotify dove into podcasting with its foot on the gas but is now driving under the speed limit. Elon Musk bought X to be the everything app yet can’t inspire confidence in the advertising community.

Radio’s issues are more self inflicted. Groups have been saddled with so much debt that even a good year in local markets gets ignored due to larger corporate problems. Judging from what gets printed you’d think no radio station grew revenue this year, which is false. TV isn’t immune either. All too often the focus is on viewers aging or watching less, and young people streaming yet the biggest point gets missed – people are still watching content, most of it produced by the TV industry. They just do it in different ways.

I’m sure there are exceptions but those I know who work in radio, TV, podcasting or social media do so for the access, content, creativity and fun. If you do the job well enough and long enough, the pay can be pretty good too. Most don’t enter the business to discuss plans to boost a stock, raise quarterly revenue or frame a press release to soften the blow when laying people off.

Our industry is attractive because we create programming that excites viewers/listeners and is led by people who are passionate about the content featured on their brands. When that content is supported by data that shows people enjoy it, it attracts advertisers. If those paying clients invest in a brand, and it increases sales, that creates a healthy business. This isn’t rocket science, folks.

My hope for 2024 is that the media industry puts greater focus on resetting its messaging and marketing its stars. Podcasting and streaming get discussed with high enthusiasm. Marketers are made to feel that they are growing spaces they have to be in. Radio and TV, which are both larger, and have delivered results for decades, are seen as less attractive. But they shouldn’t be. We’ve allowed that to happen. The only way to change it is to remind people what makes radio/TV special, and how well it works. It starts with marketing the right people and message. Otherwise perception becomes reality.

Too often I see narratives shaped for advertisers and investors instead of the public. If you want the business world’s money and attention, don’t bore them with business headlines. Create a party with your stars, attract a passionate audience, and generate results. Do that consistently and watch how fast the money follows. Given how our industry has been portrayed the past decade, we’re not inspiring many with hype about revenue projections, profitability, and staff reductions.

An Important Year For Barrett Media

We enter 2024 with a lot of promise. Dave Greene was recently announced as our new Chief Media Officer. I also revealed a few additions, and shared that I’d write a weekly column and host a podcast in April. But we’re not done. We’re adding two more columnists, who I’m very excited about.

Mark Kreidler joins BSM to write a weekly column on Wednesday’s. Mark is an award winning author who previously wrote for ESPN, the San Diego Union-Tribune, and Sacramento Bee. He has also worked in radio for 95.7 The Game, Sactown Sports 1140, and ESPN 1320.

Dave Williams is also joining us to write a weekly column each Friday on BNM. Dave has spent over four decades in news/talk working for top brands such as WBAP/KLIF in Dallas, KNX in Los Angeles, and KFBK in Sacramento. He announced his retirement from radio in early November.

Cementing our position and value as a media outlet is a priority. We root for the industry, support it, and try to educate, celebrate, inform, and challenge those inside of it. But with that comes a responsibility to offer opinions and cover the news. We prioritize 4 key things on our websites: features on industry people, expert opinions from columnists, daily news about brands/people changes or performance, and industry reactions. The occasional 5th area of focus is original projects like the BSM Top 20.

Our editors and news writers watch, listen and read daily. If it’s said on the air or social, it may end up on our sites. You’ll agree with some, and disagree with others, but it’s no different than how athletes react to hosts talking about sports. The difference is we highlight discussions about media brands, people, and the industry not local teams.

If you see something you don’t like, Garrett and Dave manage our websites. Both are accessible – [email protected] or [email protected]. Just understand that if brands make decisions, results are bad or public comments are offered, we are going to cover it.

We’ve spent 8 years building two respected brands and working hard to attract industry professionals. With two websites, newsletters, social media brands, and conferences, I feel good about our progress. The web traffic, social media impressions, and newsletter data shows that we’re on the right track.

Consulting clients and executing top notch events remain my top priority but growing our marketing partnerships is vital too. Stephanie Eads has worked hard on this and we are excited to welcome Ramsey Solutions, JJ Surma Voiceovers, Harker Bos Group, Doug Stephan’s Good Day Networks, and the Motor Racing Network as 2024 partners. We’re also thrilled to extend relationships with our friends at Point to Point Marketing, Backbone, Steve Stone Voiceovers, Core Image Studio, Jim Cutler, and Premiere Networks. If you’d like to work with us too, contact Stephanie by email at [email protected].

To continue building BSM and BNM, we are launching two new newsletters next week. BSM will deliver the 8@8 weekdays at 8am, and the Press Pass at 5pm. BNM will distribute the Rundown weekday mornings at 9am, and the Wrap Up at 6pm. Our afternoon editions will feature a different content approach so I look forward to your feedback on it. To sign up for BSM’s newsletters, click here. For BNM, go here.

Sticking with BNM, we will have a special announcement on Tuesday January 2nd at 9am. I’ll be announcing the dates, host city, and venue that day for our 2024 BNM Summit. Our 2023 event in Nashville was excellent but I think this next one could be even bigger and better. The Rundown and BNM’s website and social media accounts will relay the details. Also, BNM is launching a special series the week of January 22-26. Public Radio Week will feature NPR folks all week long.

Before I wrap up the column, I want to address a few BSM items. First, the BSM Top 20 of 2023 drops February 5-9 and February 12. Voting opens next week (January 2nd) and emails will go out to all PDs and executives invited to participate in the process. We’ll also have two new original projects in January starting with Social Studies written by Alex Reynolds on Wednesday January 3rd. Peter Schwartz’s monthly feature Where Are They Now debuts Tuesday January 30th.

We have other things in motion for February including a cool project titled “A Day Spent With.” Derek Futterman will run point on that series. I’ll share more in my next column on January 8th.

Last but not least, the 2024 BSM Summit takes place March 13-14, 2024 in New York City. We’ve already announced a number of people and I’ll have another announcement next week. If you plan to attend, don’t wait until the last minute to buy a ticket and reserve your room. Go to BSMSummit.com to take advantage of our holiday sale. It expires Sunday December 31st.

I want to thank you for continuing to read our work, following our brands, attending our events, and considering the different ideas and opinions offered by our writers. Covering this business is complex. It has its fair share of warts but it also provides a ton of value, massive creativity, incredible content, and a path full of untapped potential. More importantly, it’s full of quality people. I look forward to watching each of you build stronger businesses in 2024, and helping those who I’m fortunate to work with.

Cheers to 2024!

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