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If You Invite Them In, They Just Might Stay Awhile

Jason Barrett

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When was the last time you truly showed your appreciation to your audience? I’m not talking about fielding a phone call, responding to a tweet, or saying hello and posing for a photo at a remote. I’m talking about taking the time to make a personal connection, listening to what your listeners had to say, and making sure they know how valuable they are to you.

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I read a few stories this past December about a broadcaster in Washington DC named Ken Beatrice. He had just passed away at the age of 72 and a few notable personalities were remembering him and what made him special. I had never heard him on the air but what I read about him instantly made me a fan.

In one article, Beatrice was quoted as saying “I don’t have a show without callers, and I treat each one just as if I’d invited them into my house as my guests — really, they are my guests.”

Truth be told, quotes like that often sound great but aren’t always backed up. But then I read something that Kevin Sheehan shared which simply blew me away. He said “As a kid listening to him, if you called in and you were on hold when the show ended, he would actually call you at your house when the show was over. You’re sitting at the house after the show and the phone rings and it’s Ken Beatrice on the line saying, ‘Hey, Kev! Sorry you didn’t get on, but I just wanted to call.’ And he would sit there and talk to you forever.”

Beatrice was known for his deep sports knowledge and kindness to child callers and he’d give out his office phone number on the air and field additional phone calls after his show. Some may think that’s crazy but you can also say it’s pure genius. If a personality is willing to invest their time to form a deeper bond with the audience, they’re going to be rewarded for it. And when Ken Beatrice passed, the tributes that were presented in print, radio and television proved that his approach made an impact.

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Scott Van Pelt of ESPN was one of those people who remembered him fondly. He told the Washington Post “He called my house. I didn’t make it on the show, but he called me up. And it was the craziest thing. You picked up the phone and there’s this incredibly distinctive voice on the other end, and you just can’t believe that he would do that. He was a giant.”

When people can vividly recall the influence a person had on them 20-30 years later, that speaks volumes about the connection that’s been formed. You may not always agree with the opinion of a host on the air, but few listeners tune out a broadcaster who does everything possible to connect with the audience and show them they’re appreciated.

I thought back to the past 10 years of operating stations all across the country and the numerous great personalities I’ve had a chance to work with and asked myself “how many broadcasters would actually call back their listeners afterwards?” I could only think of a few who would have gone to such lengths.

And that doesn’t mean they’re wrong for not wanting to do that. Many on-air hosts like to cut the chord when the show is done and save the rest for the following day. There’s nothing wrong with that. But in a world where your success is measured by 20-30 meters in a major market, it pays dividends to have as many relationships as possible. If all it costs you is your time, then it’s worth building listener loyalty after the on-air light goes off.

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But when will you have the time? After all, you host a 4-hour show, and have prep work, a commute, side projects and a family to spend time with.

Well, those who succeed in this industry treat it as a career, not a job. It’s what they live for and wake up and go to sleep thinking about. If you want to do it for a long time, and make enough money to feed your family and treat them to a good life, then it pays to put the time in to grow your bond with the audience. Few operators part ways with broadcasters who possess a large loyal following.

Secondly, this is your full time career. You get out of it what you put into it. If you want to work 20-30 hours at your craft, be prepared to be compensated long-term as an individual who invests 20-30 hours per week into it. Most bosses won’t watch the clock to see how much time you put in, but it’s easy to see who’s going the extra mile to make a difference.

The next time you’re complaining about the hours you put in, think about the workload of the professional athletes you’re talking about on your program. In the case of a football player, they easily invest 70-80 hours per week over the span of 6 days (they have off on Tuesday’s during the season) and take a heavy physical beating. The last time I checked, radio hosts don’t get physically assaulted talking into a microphone. The battles they face are mostly mental.

Football players though have to study film, practice, work out, get treatments, and somewhere in between all of it, find time for other commitments such as meeting with the media, helping the team’s marketing projects, getting involved in local community charities and events, and interacting with fans.

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JJ Watt USA Today Sports

One player in particular who really impresses me with the way he conducts himself on and off the field is Houston Texans Defensive End J.J Watt. He’s a guy many kids look up to, and for good reason, because he sets a great example. It’s one I felt was worthy enough of educating my son about and he’s now a proud owner of a #99 jersey.

I was reading last year about how J.J responded after being given a contract extension which would pay him $100 million dollars. Some players who have been in that situation have let the money and their new found fame change them. But not J.J. After he signed his record-breaking deal, he woke up the next morning at 3:05 a.m. and drove to the Texans facility so he could work out in the Texans’ weight room.

When asked if he was worried that his franchise player would be affected by the big money contract, Texans Owner Bob McNair said “He’s going to do nothing but get better. We normally wouldn’t do this at this stage but we felt that his performance had been so outstanding, his attitude and work ethic so great, and he’s become such a role model for everyone on our team that we felt that he deserves special consideration.”

While his performance on the gridiron is elite and worthy enough of large compensation, it’s the extra effort he gives off the field that makes it easy for the Texans to want to step up to the plate and reward him, even when they don’t have to. Check out this video that Watt filmed with a young fan who was having trouble with kids in his school.

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JJ Watt Credit Troy Taormina USA TODAY Sports

Then there’s the sign of respect and admiration that he has for the men in uniform. This goes back to his upbringing and not losing sight of who he was before he became a world famous NFL superstar. When a team’s best player carries himself this way, it’s special. It paints the organization in a classy way and makes it hard to not root for a guy who reaches out to his fans to show them he appreciates their support.

So you’re asking “what does JJ Watt’s good standing in the community have to do with my radio show?” A lot actually.

He works a full time career that is physically demanding and constantly under the microscope. He gets paid a lot of money to do it and deals with pressures that are much larger than anything we face in the radio industry. It’d be easy to direct his entire focus to the football field and ignore the numerous outside requests for his time, but because he’s grounded, and recognizes the importance of connecting with the people who show up to support him each Sunday, the extra effort is made without resistance.

Because J.J Watt accepts being a role model and showing through his actions that he’s more than just an exceptional football player, it’s helped the Texans become more valuable and it’s resulted in Watt’s own brand growing as well. In 2015 he had the top selling jersey among all defensive players, and his star has blossomed in the endorsement arena too, landing opportunities with Verizon Wireless and Papa John’s among others.

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Jan 9 2016 Houston TX USA Houston Texans defensive end JJ Watt warms up before an AFC Wild Card playoff football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Texans at NRG Stadium Mandatory Credit Troy Taormina USA TODAY Sports

The lesson to be learned here is that despite having a job which occupies the majority of his time, J.J Watt makes it a point to connect with his fans and give back. And because he takes that approach, it’s led to bigger paydays and a reputation he and his family can be proud of. Fans may get upset with him if he misses a tackle or fails to sack a quarterback, but they’ll never stop cheering him on because they know he’s a genuine guy who values his supporters.

I’m not going to tell you that you should call your audience after the show like Ken Beatrice did, or follow J.J Watt’s lead and send pizza’s to the local firehouse and police department. Those were decisions each of them made and that’s what makes them unique. The key is to find your own way to form a deeper connection with your audience.

For some, it might be in the form of scheduling a weekly Twitter chat. To others it may mean spending an hour after each remote to have face to face conversations with the audience. One host (Chad Doing) I worked with in San Francisco would give out his personal cell phone number On-Air and on Twitter and welcome his listeners to text or call him about anything on the show. That type of gesture sends a powerful message to the audience. Even if they want to root against you, they can’t help but put down their guard when you invite them in.

Maybe this isn’t something you feel comfortable doing, and if you don’t, that’s fine. Everyone has a different approach and comfort zone. But as I stated earlier, you can’t go wrong when you develop deeper loyalty with your audience, and when that day comes when the ratings aren’t as high, it never hurts to have a legion of supporters in your corner. It could be the difference in continuing this career or having to go find a job.

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California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett

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With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit BSMSummit.com to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit BSMsummit.com.

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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Barrett News Media To Gather The Industry in Nashville in September 2023

“I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.”

Jason Barrett

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One of the best parts about working in the media business is that you’re afforded an opportunity to use your creativity, take risks, and learn if an audience or advertisers will support your ideas. Sometimes you hit a homerun, other times you strike out, but regardless of the outcome, you keep on swinging.

I’ve tried to do that since launching a digital publishing and radio consulting company in 2015. Fortunately, we’ve delivered more hits than misses.

When I added news media industry coverage to our brand in September 2020, I knew it’d be a huge undertaking. The news/talk format is two and a half times larger than sports, many of its brands are powered by national shows, and the content itself is more personal and divisive. I wanted our focus and attention on news media stories, not politics and news, and though there have been times when the lines got blurred, we’ve tried to be consistent in serving industry professionals relevant content .

What made the move into news media more challenging was that I’d spent less time in it. That meant it’d take longer to find the right writers, and it required putting more time into building relationships, trust, respect, and support. Though we still have more ground to cover, we’ve made nice strides. That was reflected by the participation we received when we rolled out the BNM Top 20 of 2022 the past two weeks. Hopefully you checked out the lists. Demetri Ravanos and I will be hosting a video chat today at 1pm ET on BNM’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and through Barrett Media’s YouTube page discussing the series, as well as this article.

It’s because of that growing support, trust, and confidence in what we’re doing that I’m taking a risk yet again. I’ve been lucky enough to play a key role in bringing the sports media industry together on an annual basis, and in 2023 we’re going to attempt to do the same for news/talk media professionals.

I am excited to share the news that Barrett News Media will host its first ever BNM Summit on Thursday September 14, 2023 in Nashville, TN. Our one-day conference will take place at Vanderbilt University’s Student Life Center Ballroom. The venue we’ve selected is tremendous and I’m eager to spend a day with news/talk professionals to examine ways to further grow the format and industry.

If you’re wondering why we chose Nashville, here’s why.

First, the city itself is awesome. The access to great restaurants, bars, entertainment, hotels, and famous landmarks is unlimited, and when you’re traveling to a city for a business conference, those things matter. Being in a city that’s easy for folks across the country to get to also doesn’t hurt.

Secondly, a conference is harder to pull off if you can’t involve successful on-air people in it. If you look at Nashville’s growth in the talk media space over the past decade, it’s remarkable. Many notable talents now live and broadcast locally, major brands have created a local footprint in the area, and that opens the door to future possibilities. I have no idea who we’ll include in the show, and I haven’t sent out one request yet because I wanted to keep this quiet until we were sure it made sense. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of interest in participating and I can’t promise we’ll be able to accommodate all requests but if you have interest in being involved, send an email to Jason@BarrettNewsMedia.com.

Third, finding the right venue is always difficult. We looked at a bunch of great venues in Nashville during our vacation this past summer, and when we stepped on to the campus at Vanderbilt University and walked through the SLC Ballroom, we knew it was the right fit. It had the space we needed, the right tech support, access to private parking, a green room for guests, and it was within walking distance of a few hotels, restaurants, and the Parthenon.

As I went through the process of deciding if this event was right for BNM, a few folks I trust mentioned that by creating a Summit for news/media folks, it could create a competitive situation. I don’t see it that way. I view it as a responsibility. I think we need more people coming together to grow the industry rather than trying to tear each other down. I hear this far too often in radio. We worry about what one station is doing rather than strengthening our own brand and preparing to compete with all audio options.

For years I’ve attended conferences hosted by Radio Ink, NAB, Talkers, and Conclave. I’ve even spoken at a few and welcomed folks who operate in the consulting space to speak at my shows. I’ll continue to support those events, read various trade sites, and invite speakers who work in a similar field because they’re good people who care about helping the industry. I believe BNM and BSM add value to the media business through its websites and conferences, and though there may be a detractor or two, I’ll focus on why we’re doing this and who it’s for, and let the chips fall where they may.

I know juggling two conferences in one year is likely going to make me crazy at times, but I welcome the challenge. In the months ahead I’ll start lining up speakers, sponsors, building the conference website, and analyzing every detail to make sure we hold up our end of the bargain and deliver an informative and professionally beneficial event. The news/talk media industry is massive and making sure it stays healthy is critically important. I think we can play a small role in helping the business grow, and I look forward to finding out on September 14th in Nashville at Vanderbilt University.

Hope to see you there!

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Jimmy Powers, Raj Sharan, Matt Berger and John Goforth Added to 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

“BSM is having a special Holiday SALE this week. Individual tickets are reduced to $224.99 until Friday night December 23rd at 11:59pm ET.

Jason Barrett

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In less than a hundred days, the BSM Summit will return to Los Angeles for two-days of networking, learning, laughing, and celebrating. The conference hasn’t been held on the west coast since 2019, and we’re looking forward to returning to the city of angels on March 21-22, 2023, and bringing together sports media professionals at the Founders Club, located inside the Galen Center at the University of Southern California.

For those of you who haven’t purchased your ticket(s) yet, BSM is having a special Holiday SALE this week. From today (Monday) through Friday 11:59pm ET, individual tickets are reduced to $224.99. If you’re planning to come, and want to make sure you’re in the room, take advantage of the extra savings and secure your seat. To buy tickets, reserve your hotel room, and learn more about the Summit’s speakers, click here.

We’ve previously announced twenty one (21) participants who will join us on stage at the 2023 BSM Summit. Today, we’re excited to expand our lineup by welcoming four (4) more additions to March’s industry spectacular.

First, BSM is thrilled to have two accomplished sports radio programmers contributing to the event. Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit will make his Summit debut in L.A.. Fresh off of a Marconi victory earlier this fall, The Ticket’s brand manager will share his insights on the present and future of sports radio on one of our programming panels. Also taking part in that panel will be the leader of 104.3 The Fan in Denver, Raj Sharan. Raj appeared on stage at the 2022 BSM Summit in NYC, and we look forward to having him return to lend his voice to an important sports radio programming discussion.

But programming won’t be the only thing we invest time in out west. Growing a business, more specifically, a digital business will be part of our conference agenda as well.

When it comes to maximizing digital revenue, few brands understand the space better than Barstool Sports. Charged with growing the brand’s revenue is Senior Vice President and Head of Sales Matt Berger, and we’re looking forward to having Matt join us for a conversation that will focus on monetizing digital opportunities. Before joining Barstool, Matt sold for Bleacher Report/House of Highlights. He’s also worked for Warner Brothers and the Walt Disney Company. We’re excited to have him share his wisdom with the room.

Also taking part in our digital sales panel will be John Goforth of Magellan AI. John knows the radio business well from having served previously as a sales manager and salesperson. Since leaving traditional media and joining Magellan AI, John has studied the podcasting advertising space and learned who the top spenders are, who’s making big moves with their podcast advertising budgets, and which publishers are best positioned to benefit. Having his expertise on stage will help many in the room with trying to better understand the digital sales space.

There are other speaker announcements still to come. We have some big things planned, which I’m hoping to reveal in January and February. I want to thank ESPN Radio, FOX Sports, Showtime, and Point to Point Marketing for coming on board as partners of the 2023 BSM Summit. The support we’ve received heading into Los Angeles has been tremendous, and we greatly appreciate it. If you’re looking to be associated with the Summit as an event partner, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

That’s all for now, but be sure to take advantage of the Summit Holiday Sale. You have until Friday night December 23rd at 11:59pm ET to take advantage of discounted tickets. Happy Holidays!

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