Connect with us
BSM Summit
blank

Barrett Blogs

What Is The Secret of Sports Talk?

Jason Barrett

Published

on

The headline of this article poses a question that we have all wondered or been asked about many times. How do you craft the perfect show? How do you balance pleasing yourself as well as the audience? How do you land an opportunity and make more money? How do you build a dominant brand and become a seven figure talent?

The questions that exist in our industry are endless but so is the journey to discover those answers. There is no one-size fits all formula to make great sports radio, and everyone’s path presents different trials and tribulations that get dealt with differently.

espn1250Ari Temkin is someone I have known for a few years, and he wears two hats at his current place of employment, ESPN 1250 in San Antonio. He hosts “The Hardline” from 11a-2p CT with News 4’s David Chancellor, and he also serves as the radio station’s Assistant Program Director. He’s been with the station for four years, after spending nearly a year and a half in Austin working for 104.9 The Horn.

What I’ve enjoyed about Ari is how inquisitive he is about the business. While we’ve not worked together directly, he’s always asked questions and struck me as someone who’s hungry to learn, and continue improving as a host and programmer. I’m sure those traits have served him well in his climb up the ladder the past few years.

ari1What I didn’t know about Ari before today, is how gifted of a writer he is. The piece you’re about to read is thought provoking, informative, factual, honest, and real. It ventures into a few areas that may make some people uncomfortable, but these are important issues that require further dialogue if we want to make progress. I hope that you’ll remember that as you consume the content and think about what Ari has brought to the surface.

WHAT IS THE SECRET OF SPORTS TALK?

Most of us have been there.

We’re sitting behind a desk as a young, fresh faced, aspiring sportscaster stares blankly across back at us.

You speak, providing insight, advice, and words of encouragement. Sometimes they internalize it. Sometimes they hear you.

easywayMost times though, the person staring back at you has no inclination of listening. Their goal is to get a job with an immediate payoff. They want the easy answer – the one they’ve already reached – and are simply looking for you to reinforce.

What’s the secret? They’re always looking for the secret. The secret is a surrogate for the easy answer. The reason this person has found you, the reason they are sitting across from you at this exact moment is that you can tell them the easy answer.

Never mind the reality that there are more people looking to work in sports radio with less jobs available. Never mind that the industry has never been tougher, and more unforgiving to more qualified applicants.

We want to reach across the desk and shake that ignorance by the collar. Hard work and determination are merely just factors for success; if you’re looking for the easy answer you’ve got no shot.

jobInevitably, the person staring back at you across the desk wonders how you ended up on that side. The funny truth is it’s a façade, because I’m not entirely sure how I ended up on this side. If I trace my steps back, I’m not even sure I could end up in the same spot.

Each unique path we’ve all taken to get to where we are today was filled with many factors…luck perhaps the most common of all.

There are two questions people always ask me when I tell them what I do. They always wonder how to get a job in sports radio, and they always wonder if the end goal is television.

The first question is somewhat puzzling. It’s almost as if they expect my answer to be that I just showed up at a station telling the programmers I could talk sports. Getting a job in sports talk is similar to other highly competitive fields. You have to work really hard, make as many contacts as possible, take jobs in small markets, move cities, and make significantly less than you’d care to make. And if you are lucky and catch a break, you might end up in a top 50 market.

The television question is insulting, even condescending. Radio, and specifically the spoken word format, is art. It’s an open forum. Its hours of conversation, debate, compelling storylines, and perhaps the only true medium to capture the breadth necessary to discuss in depth topics. There’s no pretense, no window dressing, just personality and a microphone.

deathThe future of radio is inevitable death, but the spoken word sports format will always remain. The question that needs to be asked, whether by inquiring minds or the aspiring sportscaster is not how, but what?

What is needed for the future of sports talk?

Sports talk as a whole lacks nuance. Time is the greatest asset for a sports talk host and yet we do not utilize it to the best of our ability. Every storyline devolves into surface level discussions. The spoken word format affords time to lay out varying factors with multiple levels of payoffs, and yet we still lack perspective. Disagreements are germane to the format, but life does not exist on polar ends of the spectrum.

The Cam Newton discussion has been very surface level. When unraveled it’s about race, expectations, overcoming adversity, and success. In all of the screaming and bellyaching over arrogance and race baiting, there were very few hosts that mentioned the context needed for the entire story like where he came from or his intentions and motivations or what he does in the community.

romoWe would never want any one single act to define our entire lives, but we are constantly defining athletes by one, perhaps false, move. Tony Romo has been one of the most productive passers in the league over the last decade and yet his entire career has been defined by a botched snap in his first season as a starter.

With hours of content at our disposal we choose to peel only a few layers of the onion, which sets in motion an echo chamber of moral outrage and fast judgement. The best and most productive commentaries do not reinforce conventional wisdom, or widely held beliefs. Rather, they challenge them.

The most powerful tool of spoken word sports is the captive audience. Political radio placates to the right wing, music galvanizes specific cultures, but sports radio invites all kinds of people to the discussion.

Challenging someone’s beliefs has become taboo; people view it as an affront on their intelligence, but it’s the most profound way to learn and evolve. We are afraid to disagree because people condescend and belittle. Social media was established as a means of exchanging ideas, but instead it serves to reinforce our ideas and silence dissenting opinions. Sports radio is a reflection of that phenomenon.

Access to information has changed. Professional athletes are not engaging in more illicit behavior than in the past, we just have more means to gather that information. Sports, morality, politics and life are in constant cohesion and we should not be scared to address these complex issues. Life is not easy. It’s problematic, and it’s filled with conflict and adversity. This is not new today; it’s become a major focal point of the sports discourse, and the issue is we’ve been caught unprepared.

We are ill-equipped to handle these complex issues so we either avoid them, or deal with them on a surface level.

The most important factor for the future of the format is depth of voice.

Invite disagreement. Exchange ideas. Involve varying perspectives.

riceWhen the Ray Rice video was released outrage was packaged and sold a dime a dozen. How could you not be absolutely outraged by the unadulterated violence? And when the outrage subsided questions arose. Why would Janay stay with Ray and even worse get married to him? Was it a money grab?

Throw them out of the league we all said clutching our pitchforks. But we never acknowledged the unintended consequences.

Sexual assault is even worse. Victims of sexual assault rarely come forward when it’s in the case of high profile athletes, and when they do their entire existence is analyzed and often destroyed.

We were all outraged when a Cleveland radio host recently opined on why women do not belong in football, and yet we’ve all made similar deliberations in questioning motives in highly physiological crimes when having the above discussions.

We are ill-prepared for these complex issues because we have no depth of voice.

We need to be talking issues of race and sex in sports radio because they are commonplace. We need more female voices and African-American voices to help add varying perspectives absent from the current sports radio landscape.

Diversity in hiring practices is a major issue in sports as a whole. There is one African-American majority owner in all of professional sports. There are only a handful of high level executives and coaches and there are even fewer women.

BISRAOver the last few weeks, Jason Barrett did a tremendous job breaking down the top sports radio hosts, shows and stations…but it was lilywhite. That is not an indictment on Jason; it’s an indictment on the industry. Does a morning show with three white hosts think the Cam Newton criticism is steeped in racism? Does the afternoon drive show with two males think that girl who was “all over” Patrick Kane at a bar was sexually assaulted? “Well, why was she going back to his place,” an actual sports talk host said.

We need diversity because we lack the proper perspective to have these conversations. It’s not as much about accepting the need for diversity and perspective as much as it is understanding the need for it.

When I was growing up, I wanted to be as close to sports as I could possibly get. But the closer I got the further away I realized I wanted to be. It’s easy to become jaded.  Working in sports radio is a grind, and it never stops. There’s never a market size big enough, never an audience as wide reaching and never a perfect job. The most ambitious chase the mirage of perfection.

storiesThe business of sport is booming and one byproduct is the continued growth of our industry. There are more sports radio stations sprouting up across the country and with the proliferation of podcasts the landscape is changing. Because access to information is so easy, sports fans aren’t listening to you on the radio because you are on the radio; they are listening to you because you have something meaningful and compelling to say. The more saturated it becomes the more important the latter.

It’s funny, without fail that kid staring back at you across the desk will tell you how they’re glued to ESPN, how they follow stats and know everything about sports.

I can’t help but think of Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball, which is based upon the idea from Isiah Thomas that the secret to basketball has nothing to do with basketball.

Well, the same is true for sports talk. What’s the secret the kid staring back at you desperately wants to know?

The secret has nothing to do with sports.

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

Published

on

blank

Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

Continue Reading

Barrett Blogs

Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

Published

on

blank

The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

Continue Reading

Barrett Blogs

Barrett Media is Making Changes To Better Serve Our Sports and News Media Readers

“We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future.”

Jason Barrett

Published

on

blank

When I launched this website all I wanted to do was share news, insight and stories about broadcasters and brands. My love, passion and respect for this business is strong, and I know many of you reading this feel similar. I spent two great decades in radio watching how little attention was paid to those who played a big part in their audiences lives. The occasional clickbait story and contract drama would find their way into the newspapers but rarely did you learn about the twists and turns of a broadcaster’s career, their approach to content or the tactics and strategies needed to succeed in the industry. When personal reasons led me home to NY in 2015, I decided I was going to try my best to change that.

Since launching this brand, we’ve done a good job informing and entertaining media industry professionals, while also helping consulting clients and advertising partners improve their businesses. We’ve earned respect from the industry’s top stars, programming minds and mainstream media outlets, growing traffic from 50K per month to 500K and monthly social impressions from a few thousand to a few million. Along the way we’ve added conferences, rankings, podcasts, a member directory, and as I’ve said before, this is the best and most important work I’ve ever done, and I’m not interested in doing anything else.

If I’ve learned anything over seven years of operating a digital content company it’s that you need skill, strategy, passion, differentiating content, and good people to create impact. You also need luck, support, curiosity and an understanding of when to double down, cut bait or pivot. It’s why I added Stephanie Eads as our Director of Sales and hired additional editors, columnists and features reporters earlier this year. To run a brand like ours properly, time and investment are needed. We’ve consistently grown and continue to invest in our future, and it’s my hope that more groups will recognize the value we provide, and give greater consideration to marketing with us in the future.

But with growth comes challenges. Sometimes you can have the right idea but bad timing. I learned that when we launched Barrett News Media.

We introduced BNM in September 2020, two months before the election when emotions were high and COVID was a daily discussion. I wasn’t comfortable then of blending BNM and BSM content because I knew we’d built a trusted sports media resource, and I didn’t want to shrink one audience while trying to grow another. Given how personal the election and COVID became for folks, I knew the content mix would look and feel awkward on our site.

So we made the decision to start BNM with its own website. We ran the two brands independently and had the right plan of attack, but discovered that our timing wasn’t great.

The first nine months readership was light, which I expected since we were new and trying to build an audience from scratch. I believed in the long-term mission, which was why I stuck with it through all of the growing pains, but I also felt a responsibility to make sure our BNM writing team and the advertising partners we forged relationships with were being seen by as many people as possible. We continued with the original plan until May 2021 when after a number of back and forth debates, I finally agreed to merge the two sites. I figured if WFAN could thrive with Imus in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon, and the NY Times, LA Times, KOA, KMOX and numerous other newspaper and radio brands could find a way to blend sports and news/talk, then so could we.

And it worked.

We dove in and started to showcase both formats, building social channels and groups for each, growing newsletter databases, and with the addition of a few top notch writers, BNM began making bigger strides. Now featured under the BSM roof, the site looked bigger, the supply of daily content became massive, and our people were enjoying the increased attention.

Except now we had other issues. Too many stories meant many weren’t being read and more mistakes were slipping through the cracks. None of our crew strive to misspell a word or write a sloppy headline but when the staff and workload doubles and you’re trying to focus on two different formats, things can get missed. Hey, we’re all human.

Then a few other things happened that forced a larger discussion with my editors.

First, I thought about how much original material we were creating for BSM from our podcast network, Summit, Countdown to Coverage series, Meet the Market Managers, BSM Top 20, and began to ask myself ‘if we’re doing all of this for sports readers, what does that tell folks who read us for news?’ We then ran a survey to learn what people valued about our brand and though most of the feedback was excellent, I saw how strong the response was to our sports content, and how news had grown but felt second fiddle to those offering feedback.

Then, Andy Bloom wrote an interesting column explaining why radio hosts would be wise to stop talking about Donald Trump. It was the type of piece that should’ve been front and center on a news site all day but with 3 featured slots on the site and 7 original columns coming in that day, they couldn’t all be highlighted the way they sometimes should be. We’re actually going through that again today. That said, Andy’s column cut through. A few sports media folks didn’t like seeing it on the site, which wasn’t a surprise since Trump is a polarizing personality, but the content resonated well with the news/talk crowd.

National talk radio host Mike Gallagher was among the folks to see Andy’s piece, and he spent time on his show talking about the column. Mike’s segment was excellent, and when he referenced the article, he did the professional thing and credited our website – Barrett SPORTS Media. I was appreciative of Mike spending time on his program discussing our content but it was a reminder that we had news living under a sports roof and it deserved better than that.

I then read some of Pete Mundo, Doug Pucci and Rick Schultz’s columns and Jim Cryns’ features on Chris Ruddy, Phil Boyce, and David Santrella, and knew we were doing a lot of quality work but each time we produced stories, folks were reminded that it lived on a SPORTS site. I met a few folks who valued the site, recognized the increased focus we put on our news/talk coverage, and hoped we had plans to do more. Jim also received feedback along the lines of “good to see you guys finally in the news space, hope there’s more to come.”

Wanting to better understand our opportunities and challenges, I reviewed our workflow, looked at which content was hitting and missing the mark, thought about the increased relationships we’d worked hard to develop, and the short-term and long-term goals for BNM. I knew it was time to choose a path. Did I want to think short-term and keep everything under one roof to protect our current traffic and avoid disrupting people or was it smarter to look at the big picture and create a destination where news/talk media content could be prioritized rather than treated as BSM’s step-child?

Though I spent most of my career in sports media and established BSM first, it’s important to me to serve the news/talk media industry our very best. I want every news/talk executive, host, programmer, market manager, agent, producer, seller and advertiser to know this format matters to us. Hopefully you’ve seen that in the content we’ve created over the past two years. My goal is to deliver for news media professionals what we have for sports media folks and though that may be a tall order, we’re going to bust our asses to make it happen. To prove that this isn’t just lip service, here’s what we’re going to do.

Starting next Monday November 28th, we are relaunching BarrettNewsMedia.com. ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will be available daily under that URL. For the first 70-days we will display news media columns from our BNM writers on both sites and support them with promotion across both of our brands social channels. The goal is to have the two sites running independent of each other by February 6, 2023.

Also starting on Monday November 28th, we will begin distributing the BNM Rundown newsletter 5 days per week. We’ve been sending out the Rundown every M-W-F since October 2021, but the time has come for us to send it out daily. With increased distribution comes two small adjustments. We will reduce our daily story count from 10 to 8 and make it a goal to deliver it to your inbox each day by 3pm ET. If you haven’t signed up to receive the Rundown, please do. You can click here to register. Be sure to scroll down past the 8@8 area.

Additionally, Barrett News Media is going to release its first edition of the BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will come out December 12-16 and 19-20. The category winners will be decided by more than 50 news/talk radio program directors and executives. Among the categories to be featured will be best Major/Mid Market Local morning, midday, and afternoon show, best Local News/Talk PD, best Local News/Talk Station, best National Talk Radio Show, and best Original Digital Show. The voting process with format decision makers begins today and will continue for two weeks. I’ve already got a number of people involved but if you work in an executive or programming role in the news/talk format and wish to be part of it, send an email to me at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

We have one other big thing coming to Barrett News Media in 2023, which I will announce right after the BNM Top 20 on Wednesday December 21st. I’m sure news/talk professionals will like what we have planned but for now, it’ll have to be a month long tease. I promise though to pay it off.

Additionally, I’m always looking for industry folks who know and love the business and enjoy writing about it. If you’ve programmed, hosted, sold or reported in the news/talk world and have something to offer, email me. Also, if you’re a host, producer, programmer, executive, promotions or PR person and think something from your brand warrants coverage on our site, send it along. Most of what we write comes from listening to stations and digging across the web and social media. Receiving your press releases and getting a heads up on things you’re doing always helps.

If you’re a fan of BSM, this won’t affect you much. The only difference you’ll notice in the coming months is a gradual reduction of news media content on the BSM website and our social accounts sharing a little about both formats over the next two months until we’re officially split in February. We are also going to dabble a little more in marketing, research and tech content that serves both formats. If you’re a reader who enjoys both forms of our content, you’ll soon have BarrettSportsMedia.com for sports, and BarrettNewsMedia.com for news.

Our first two years in the news/talk space have been very productive but we’ve only scratched the surface. Starting November 28th, news takes center stage on BarrettNewsMedia.com and sports gets less crowded on BarrettSportsMedia.com. We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future. If we can count on you to remember two URL’s (add them to your bookmarks) and sign up for our newsletters, then you can count on us to continue delivering exceptional coverage of the industry you love. As always, thanks for the continued support. It makes everything we do worthwhile.

Continue Reading
Advertisement blank
Advertisement blank

Barrett Media Writers

Copyright © 2022 Barrett Media.