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”.
I 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.
Every 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.
Every 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.
Every 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.
Every 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.
Every 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.
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.
The 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.
Think 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!
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
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.”
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.com, www.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.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.