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A Millennial’s Open Letter To The Radio Industry

Jason Barrett



For the past twenty to thirty years, sports radio has been led by many of the same personalities. And for good reason. They’ve built powerful brands all across the country, delivering big ratings and large revenues.

But soon the sports format is going to undergo changes and be tested to provide personalities that can lead us through the next twenty to thirty years. I’m often asked is “Who’s the next Mike Francesa? Where are tomorrow’s superstars? Will Millennials want to work in sports radio in 5 years?”

oneThe reason those questions can’t be answered are because it varies from market to market and programmer to programmer. Some believe it’s their responsibility to invest in the future and plan ahead, others are worried about winning today’s ratings battle and protecting their own position.

What gets lost in the shuffle is how disconnected from the future we are. There’s a limited focus placed on finding, developing, and promoting young talent. Maybe that’s not a grave concern at the moment, but when the format’s best personalities ride off into the sunset, and the day arrives when technology giants start exploring a move into the sports audio space, then what will radio do?

Radio may be well positioned as the in-car companion, and its transition to digital has drastically improved, but if exclusive sports content is offered on platforms like Facebook, Apple, Google, Twitter, etc. it’ll create a big challenge for the radio industry. In the current economic climate, these companies have more money, a larger reach, stronger stockholder support, and the full attention of the advertiser community.

socialI raise this point because younger people today are growing up interested in consuming content and working for platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook. The idea of working for a local newspaper or radio company is foreign to them. When I was young, options were limited, and the thought of being a radio personality or featured sports columnist seemed like the best job in the world. But today, media groups are launching everywhere on a daily basis, and as interest in the content increases in social and digital circles, so will the amount of career interest from younger candidates.

This is why radio can’t fall asleep at the wheel and needs to be committed to discovering new talent and making the industry cool and fun to younger people. Just the other day I was driving with my son, and when I turned on the radio, he said “Dad, do we have to listen to the radio?” I reminded him that this was my business, and one that he’s grown up around, and he said “I’m sorry Dad but my phone sounds better, doesn’t play all of those commercials, and more people interact on social media. Radio feels old to me.”

My son turns 14 this weekend so he’s not in the demo that sports radio courts to showcase its success, but if that view of radio continues over the next 10 years, it’s going to be harder to get people to listen, and even more difficult to lure them to work in the industry, especially when it pays considerably less.

That got me to thinking, what does a current radio professional who’s part of the millennial class think of the industry today? Is it fun? Is it a business that they see long-term growth and stability in? How do they feel about the coaching that’s provided and opportunities to develop?

craighoffman2Fortunately, Craig Hoffman was willing to share his point of view and I think it’s not only riveting, but it’s important for programmers, market managers, and corporate executives to pay attention to it. We can dismiss the way the youth perceive the industry and continue telling ourselves everything will stand the test of time like it always has, but eventually, the world does catch up. If we don’t make a more concerted effort on our part to bring young people to the party, it’ll only be a matter of time until the music stops playing and the lights go out.

Rather than take my word for it, here’s Craig’s column to give you something to think about.

A Millennial’s Open Letter To The Radio Industry by Craig Hoffman

The sports radio industry is in a very interesting place. It’s volatile. It’s rapidly changing. It’s very future seems up in the air.

At least that’s the way I see it.

craighoffmanMy name is Craig Hoffman, and I’m a 26 year-old free agent after I was laid off in Washington, DC. Before that, I spent nearly two and a half years in Dallas.

Despite my youth, I’ve seen a lot in my career.

I’ve had my station bought out, costing me a boss that believed in me, coached me and made me better, not to mention many qualified co-workers that created a quality operation. I’ve seen superiors stretched just as thin as those of us in the studio, as they too have been given more responsibility while the hours in a day and their wages stay the same. I’ve been told “we’d love to hire you, but we just don’t have the money” more times than I can count.

That’s obviously left me with some worries about where we are and where we’re going as an industry, so when Jason asked for people to write guest columns I jumped at the opportunity to write about those things from my point of view. I’m a millennial. I’ve been in top 10 markets. It’s an odd juxtaposition that gives me a different view than so many in our business, and certainly those running it.

I want to stress that I would have wanted to write this piece whether I had a job or not. I’m looking to make you think, and maybe get some responses that quell my concerns. I certainly know I don’t have all the answers. I probably have barely any of them, but I’m hoping some of you do.

I love sports media. I’ve studied the industry since I was 18 years old and decided to get into it. I want us, as an industry, to succeed. I want us to put out a product we’re proud of. I want that product to make us money.

microwaveHowever chief amongst my fears about both our present and our future is that we’re trying to shortcut too many things. I know that’s ironic coming from a member of the instant gratification, “microwave generation.”

Microwaves are great. They’re efficient. They have a purpose. That purpose is not to create anything worth eating from scratch. Shouldn’t our business be something prepared and served with care, not instant eggs?

If we want the very best quality, we need the best ingredients and to use them properly, to treat them well.

Jason wrote earlier this week about coaching, and I agree with many of the points he made. The de-emphasis of coaching is something that terrifies me as a young talent. I’ve gotten a lot of coaching from some of the best and brightest in our industry, but nearly all of it I’ve had to seek out. As programmers are asked to do more, talent development seems to be the one thing that gets pushed to the side.

qualityIt’s not just the quantity of coaching that’s important though; it’s the quality. How we communicate evolves and changes generationally. Societally, there are certain words that we just don’t say anymore because we’ve realized that they’re harmful and hurtful to people. Some people push back and say that’s PC and represents the wussification of America. If you’re ready to puff out your chest as one of those people, why?

The first step to effective communication doesn’t change by generation. That is to realize that the correspondence is about the receiver, not the sender. It might be the sender’s message, but if the person or people receiving it don’t perceive it in the way the sender intended, the communication has failed. In radio terms, the message has to be tailored to the audience.

crucialThe goal in all communication is mutual understanding. I can’t recommend the book “Crucial Conversations: Talking When the Stakes Are High” enough, which discusses this in great detail.

Mutual understanding doesn’t allow for the messenger to dictate the terms because the goal is mutual. So if you’re a programmer reading this and you’re “old school,” my generation probably thinks you’re an asshole, and you probably don’t care. You should.

I’m inclined work harder for a boss that I respect than a boss that I fear could lash out at me for a mistake. The only time fear effectively enters the equation is fear of letting that person I respect down. Learning how to work for any boss is part of being a professional. In the end, we all have jobs to do. However, if all you care about is me doing the job, then communicating in a beneficial way should interest you too, whether that’s in the form of coaching or day-to-day communication.

Is that the wussification of America? Some might say yes, but if you are let me ask you a question. Do you like being told you’re good at something? Or, if you’re not, being told that you’ve got potential? I’m pretty sure the answers yes. Who doesn’t?!

worthlessBeing told you’re worthless, or, to not be as extreme, merely a pawn in the chess game might harbor resentment that results in a short term positive in the form of motivation. It’s also going to result in an “eff you” attitude that will prove you wrong and then leave you to be successful elsewhere. That isn’t generational. That’s human.

Part of this equation of effectiveness is also financial. When you hold an anchor position in a top 10 market and make the equivalent of what a board op in market 84 does, that can be frustrating. On one hand you’re grateful to hold a position and earn a living doing what you love, but on the other hand, you have bills to pay and a higher cost of living to contend with. When I arrived in DC and told people what my best year of income had been up to that point, they were appalled. Do you realize how hard it is to appall a radio person when it comes to salary? We’re all making less than we should be.

I may have been young, but my company determined I could do the job with the evidence being that they hired me. Should a company get to give the young guy the job and pay him an amount that someone his age “should” be earning?

sdOf course, because that’s how a free market economy works! It’s supply and demand and it’s exactly why, even though I was living paycheck to paycheck I never considered quitting. I decided it was worth it to make that sacrifice. However supply and demand when it comes to human resources completely ignores quality.

There may be an endless supply of people who want to be in this business, but that doesn’t mean they’re all capable of doing the job, especially at the highest levels.

There are so many people who want to talk about sports for a living for the obvious reason that it’s a pretty sweet gig. If I weren’t willing to do that job, someone else would have snatched it up in an instant.

It was my choice to determine that the job was far more important than the wage, just like it was the company’s job to determine that the risk of me going elsewhere was not worth paying me more. That’s part of growing up in any industry.

nomoneyHowever, what makes me nervous is seeing so many talented friends drop out of the industry because at some point reality kicks in and you have to pay your bills. People also would like to have some semblance of a social life in their 20’s and by the back half of them, many are ready to get married and family becomes a consideration.

As the industry continues to shrink, this problem is only going to get worse. As syndication and automation continue to expand, there are fewer and fewer jobs, specifically on the entry level.

Overnights are no longer a training ground because they don’t exist. Now the best places to get reps are in bigger cities because they might actually run an operation that isn’t completely skin and bones, but even those shops are dwindling their numbers.

There’s nothing wrong with sacrifice early in your career. In fact, it should be expected. You give up something (the wage to live the life you want) to get something (the invaluable experience you need to get the job that will provide you that life).

My concern is that we’re asking people to sacrifice to the point of committing industrial suicide. 

pushMy concern is that in ten years we’ll have pushed so many people away and not developed our people enough that our quality will have dipped to a point that no one will want to consume it. Even if we take all the romance of the job and acknowledge the goal is to maximize profit, we’re going the wrong way.

So many companies are bleeding money, yet they all follow the same path. They cut. How many has it worked for?

Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing and expecting a different result?

Maybe I am just a young, dumb millennial. Actually, in this case, that’d be great!

Maybe our industry is in a much, much better place than it seems. I certainly haven’t been privy to the books. However, I have first hand experience with the consequences.

Maybe I’m just a kid with a warped sense of reality because of a somewhat unbelievable string of bad luck, but there seems to be more and more evidence every where I turn.

So why stick with it? Why, if all this stuff is so awful, do I want to go through another job-hunt and dive right back in as soon as I can?

solutionsBecause I believe we can do better. We do this thing in sports where if we don’t have a perfect solution, we’d rather just not deal with the problem.  “Why do we have instant replay if we can’t even get it right?!” That’s not the right question. The right question is “why can’t we get it right?”

There are so many smart people in key places that are capable of getting it right, and there are reinforcements with new ideas and new ways of thinking on the way.

In sports talk, we’re lucky to be in a format that can’t be 100% replaced by syndication and automation. Our product requires humans. We are our most valuable resources. I hope that in the very near future we return to treating them as such.





To connect with Craig Hoffman on Twitter, click here. You can also read his blog by clicking here.

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Barrett Blogs

ESPN Has Made It Clear, Radio Is Not a Priority

“What’s unfolding now at the worldwide leader is disheartening because it could have been avoided.”

Jason Barrett




This is not a column I wanted to write. For years, I’ve expressed how much better the industry is when ESPN Radio is healthy. I’ve maintained friendships at the network, the company has supported our BSM Summit, and I reflect fondly on the few years I spent working there earlier in my career. It was a special place to work and I learned a lot about becoming a pro in Bristol.

But this ESPN Radio is not the one that I and many others were fortunate to be a part of under Bruce Gilbert. It is not the one that Traug Keller, Scott Masteller, and other radio-first believers oversaw. This current version lacks radio instincts, focus, passion, and care. That may be an opinion that folks in Bristol, New York, and Los Angeles offices don’t want to hear but the decisions made in recent years make it difficult to see it any other way.

ESPN Radio used to obsess over serving the sports fan, its radio affiliates, and network advertising partners. But serving the company’s television and digital interests is what matters most now. Relationships with radio operators have changed, interest in operating local markets has decreased, and though I’m sure some will defend the network’s interest in satisfying advertising partners, it’s hard to do that a day after the entire national audio sales team was gutted. Thankfully Good Karma Brands is passionate about the audio business and helping their sales efforts. If they weren’t involved, who would be leading the charge in Bristol?

I didn’t start this week planning to drop a truth bomb but as I sat here on Tuesday and fielded text after text and call after call, I couldn’t help but be disappointed and upset. This network has been a staple of the industry for over thirty years. Yet in less than ten it feels they’re closer to turning off the lights than celebrating success. That should not happen when you have the partnerships, history, and talent that ESPN has.

What saddens me is that it didn’t have to reach this point. ESPN Radio had chances to sell in the past to outside parties. They declined. Folks inside of Disney felt the network was worth more. Well, how’s that looking now? If the company wasn’t going to commit to doing it the right way, and was just going to cut its way to the bottom, why stand in the way of others who’d pay to save it? It’s eerily similar to what just happened with Buzzfeed News. The company thought it was better than it was, and within a few years, the whole thing crumbled.

If this were the first time the network looked bad, I’d go easier on them. I understand the business, and sometimes brands or companies make mistakes or have to make difficult choices. It’s why I didn’t bury the network when Mike and Mike ended. Though I knew replacing their stability in mornings would be tough, I felt the network had earned enough clout over the prior years to be given the benefit of the doubt with a new show/lineup. I also applauded the company for replacing Zubin with Max, defended paying Stephen A. Smith top dollar, and supported GetUp! when it was popular to predict the show’s funeral.

But how can leadership in Bristol expect radio operators to trust their decision making at this point? I’ve talked to network executives privately and publicly about these issues for years, and have been told repeatedly that the radio business matters to them and becoming more consistent was a priority. At some point though the actions need to match the words. Unfortunately the only consistency taking place is change, and it often isn’t for the better.

I’ve lost count of the phone calls, texts, emails and direct messages I’ve fielded from PDs, executives, market managers, and ad agency professionals who’ve asked ‘should I be doing business with this network? Can you help me rebrand and redesign my radio station without ESPN Radio?‘ Yesterday alone I took five calls including from two who have expiring deals coming up. Think they’re in a rush to extend a partnership given what’s going on?

If you turn back the clock, some will say that things began to go in the wrong direction when Bruce Gilbert and Dan Patrick left. Though those were big losses, there was still a lot of confidence across the industry in ESPN Radio after they left. The early signs of issues at the network really started in 2014. That’s when Scott Masteller and Scott Shapiro departed. Masteller went on to program WBAL in Baltimore, and Shapiro teamed up with Don Martin to strengthen FOX Sports Radio.

Fast forward to 2020, and the heart and soul of the network, Traug Keller retired. Traug had more in the tank when he signed off, and when I talked to him prior to his exit, he denied being forced out or having concerns about the future direction of the network. Those who know Traug, know that’s he’s a class act and not one to air dirty laundry. But I also know he’s smart. As I look back now, I can’t help but wonder if he knew the ship was headed for an iceberg. I have no doubt that the network would be in better shape today if he were still there.

After Traug’s exit, a year later, Tim McCarthy was let go in New York. The network even cut ties with longtime voice talents Jim and Dawn Cutler, though they stayed on the company’s top stations in NY and LA.

Though I hated to see all of them go because they were good at their jobs and valuable to the network, the one that made a little more sense was Tim’s exit because that had more to do with Good Karma taking over in New York. Tim has since landed with the Broadcasters Foundation of America, and Vinny DiMarco is now leading 98.7 ESPN NY, and I’m a fan of both men.

But now here we are in 2023, and once again, the folks being shown the door are the people who dedicated their lives to radio. Among the casualties, Scott McCarthy, the network’s SVP of Audio, Pete Gianesini, Senior Director of Digital Audio, Louise Cornetta, Digital Audio Program Director, and two good local sports radio programmers, Ryan Hurley at 98.7 ESPN NY, and Amanda Brown at ESPN LA 710. All of them good, talented people with track records of success in the format. I struggle to explain how ESPN Radio is better today without them.

By the way, I haven’t even touched the talent department yet. But let’s go there next.

In less than eight years, ESPN Radio’s morning show has featured Mike & Mike, Golic & Wingo (Mike Golic Jr. and Jason Fitz were added as contributing voices), Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin, and Keyshawn, JWill and Max. Middays have included Colin Cowherd, Dan Le Batard and Stugotz, Scott Van Pelt, Ryen Russillo, Danny Kanell, Will Cain, Mike Greenberg, Jason Fitz, Stephen A. Smith, Bart & Hahn, and Fitz and Harry Douglas. Afternoons have been a combination of Le Batard and Stugotz, Bomani Jones, Jalen & Jacoby, Golic Jr. & Chiney, Canty & Golic Jr. & Canty and Carlin. I could run down the changes at night too, but you get the picture.

As a former programmer and current consultant, I know that radio is a relationship listen and investment. You can’t build an audience and attract sponsor support for talent and shows if the product constantly changes. Most PDs or executives who make this many changes during a short period of time, usually aren’t around very long. Yet ESPN has allowed this to continue, which leaves me to question how much they value their radio network.

Look, I’m sure this is a tough week for those in management at ESPN. Having to tell folks they’re not being retained and watch friends say goodbye is a crummy part of the job. I’m sure some have even fought to try and avoid this bloodbath. But when the news comes down from up above that 7,000 jobs are being eliminated, it’s not a question of whether or not people are talented and valuable, it’s simply about the bottom line. I feel for the folks at ESPN who have to deliver the bad news this week but also for those who are staying and now have limited support around them to make a difference.

By decimating the radio department there are now bigger questions to be answered by Jimmy, Burke, Dave, Norby and the rest of the management team. How much does ESPN value the radio business and the stations they’re in business with? If most of the people who’ve built relationships with local stations are gone, talented programmers are being ousted, talent changes happen far too frequently, and the company becomes less involved in local markets, why is anyone to believe this space matters to ESPN? What exactly are stations gaining from partnerships besides the use of four letters and the opportunity to air play by play events?

The network expects these stations to provide them with inventory, rights fees, branding, promotion, and clearance of certain programs so isn’t it fair of stations to have expectations of the network too? Don’t radio network partners deserve consistent quality programming, relationships with managers who prioritize audio, and less negative PR?

Most who I talk to about this situation believe the network’s glory days are gone. That’s fine. Just because this isn’t the ESPN Radio of 2005 doesn’t mean it can’t be great. The product exists now to primarily serve mid to small market operators who can’t afford local content, major market stations who don’t want to spend on evening and overnight shows, and company owned stations that can be utilized to promote the company’s digital and television content. ESPN does gain value for their radio shows on TV and podcast platforms, but those benefit the company much more than their radio partners.

The general feeling in industry circles is that FOX Sports Radio now delivers the best national radio product, CBS Sports Radio has better consistency but similar east coast content issues, and others don’t have strong enough brand recognition or content to justify a change. If sports betting continues to gain mainstream acceptance and bring cash into the marketplace, that could help outlets like VSiN, BetQL, and SportsGrid gain greater traction. If Outkick gets more aggressive with offering content to local markets, especially in the south and Midwest, that could be another interesting option.

The bigger question is whether there’s enough audience, revenue, and excitement for national content in today’s sports radio space. If most major markets are focused on local, is there enough out there in rural America to keep networks excited?

I do know that just ten years ago CBS Radio entered the space because they saw value in it. NBC Sports Radio leaped in too. FOX Sports Radio went all-in for Colin Cowherd, and ESPN Radio was healthy. Even SiriusXM continues to expand its national offerings, and three sports betting networks saw value in pursuing national distribution. It’s hard to convince me that there isn’t financial upside for national sports radio brands in today’s media environment. It may not be a big ratings play but from a business standpoint there is value.

What’s unfolding now at the worldwide leader is disheartening because it could have been avoided. Instead, brands have been damaged, relationships changed, jobs lost, and questions raised about future viability.

If the world’s leading sports operator values radio, they’ll prioritize restoring confidence across the industry. A good start would be putting people in place who champion radio’s future, and make decisions that best serve the radio brands carrying their product. If they can’t do that, then maybe it’s time to step aside, and let someone else try. I know a few groups who’d be happy to take a shot at restoring the network’s pride.

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Barrett Blogs

Radio Must Bring Back The Fun

“The promotions you’re creating are not producing massive recall across the format, national media attention or revenues that change the fate of your next quarter.”

Jason Barrett




Five and a half days in Las Vegas can feel like an eternity. Especially when you’re in town for business not pleasure. But though I’d rather sleep in my own bed, eat at home, and avoid walking from convention hall to convention hall, I’m glad I made the trip because the NAB Show delivered. 

Many media members have attended this event over the years, and it’s easy to come up with reasons not to attend. Budgets are tight, you can’t afford to be out of the office, or you think it isn’t beneficial. That’s where I’ll take exception. If you can’t find something of value at a five-day event that exists to serve broadcasters and brands, that’s on you, not the conference.  

Over the past few days, I did what many do and took necessary business meetings at Encore, but I also listened to speakers offer valuable insights on artificial intelligence, marketing, programming, technology, dashboard connectivity, the future of AM radio, and more. All of these are subjects that should matter to media professionals. Having Brett Goldstein (Ted Lasso star Roy Kent) on hand to talk about content creation was an added bonus. 

As I spent my final hour inside the North Hall on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but think about how large this event is, what goes into creating it, and how many different industries and brands are represented at it. What the NAB does to make this event possible for sixty-five thousand plus is amazing, and I commend all involved because it truly is informative, and it helps bring together business leaders and brands to help move our industry forward. 

There were many takeaways from the conference sessions, but one in particular stood out. I thought Mike McVay’s session with J.D. Crowley and Paul Suchman of Audacy was excellent. Crowley’s insights on listener choice, distribution, and personalization were spot on, and I was very impressed with Suchman’s feedback on some of the behavior testing Audacy has done to learn how consumers respond to different types of content and messaging.

Crowley’s final message about people in the audio industry needing to be proud of the business they’re in was easy for me to relate to because I feel similarly. This is a great business to be in. I get tired of hearing folks in and out of the industry tear it down. So much attention gets placed on who exceeded revenue goals, what a brand’s ratings were, and what a company’s stock price is, losing sight of the more important part, our brands, personalities, and content, and the way they’re received by those who consume it.

Additionally, I was honored to speak about the growth of BSM and BNM. Joe D’Angelo of Xperi and Pierre Bouvard of Cumulus Media treated folks to information on advertising and in-car data, and Erica Farber, Tim Bronsil, and Mary DelGrande did a nice job guiding multiple business conversations. I also enjoyed stopping by the Veritone booth and learning about their products and staff. My only regret, I missed Buzz Knight’s session with Nielsen’s new audio team due to a business meeting running long. Thankfully Inside Radio put together a detailed recap of what was discussed. 

But what I want to draw attention to most is something Dan Mason said on stage during his acceptance speech when receiving the Lowry Mays Award at the Broadcasters Foundation of America breakfast. It’s something I raised at last month’s BSM Summit. 

After sharing how local is a key differentiator in helping radio stand apart from other forms of media, and reminding everyone about the importance of longevity, Mason said that radio has to get back to having fun. He shared a story of a promotion he was part of in the 1970’s that wouldn’t fly today. It was a short people’s convention that included six-ounce drinks, pigs in a blanket, and strawberry shortcake. The event put his radio station on NBC Nightly News, and created a ton of buzz.  

Just because that type of event wouldn’t work in 2023, doesn’t mean others can’t. We have got to create special events that produce national attention, local market interest, and fear of missing out spending. This is what radio is supposed to be exceptional at yet it doesn’t happen enough.  

At our Summit in LA, I asked three PD’s to share with me the one promotion in sports radio today that they viewed as a killer event. It wasn’t an easy one to answer. In fact, two referenced WIP’s Wing Bowl, which ended in 2018. Had I asked five or six other PD’s, they’d have likely been in the same boat, struggling to name three or four killer events. 

I mentioned how the Mandy Awards at 710 ESPN in Los Angeles stood out, but this format should be able to deliver more than one standout promotion. I realize there are stations doing promotional events, and if they’re helping you produce revenue, great. I’m not telling you to abandon that strategy. But I will challenge you if you try to tell me sports radio’s report card on promotions in 2023 is superb. It is not.

One gentleman I listened to during the week who was attending a session shared one reason why this is the case. He was asked about creating ideas and said ‘we use a committee to brainstorm and find that sometimes the best ideas come from different departments, in fact, our last successful event was the idea of our engineer.’ 

I’m all for collaboration, and if you’re creating events that satisfy your goals, continue doing it. I’m not here to rain on your parade. But let me share an opinion some may view as unpopular. If the best ideas in your organization are coming from departments other than programming, you have a problem.

The program director and talent are supposed to be the people you turn to for leadership, ideas, passion, creativity, and execution. They’re supposed to be able to think of things that others can’t. Do you think Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino would turn over the direction of their next film to others inside their companies? Imagine the focus of Ted Lasso’s next episode being decided by someone other than Jason Sudeikis, Brett Goldstein, and the rest of their writing team. You’d be wasting the talent of your best storytellers.

Radio companies pay premium dollars for elite programmers and hosts because they’re supposed to be able to bring things to life that only exists inside their brains. If your HR or engineering department are creating the station’s best promotions, you don’t have enough creativity coming from your programming team. That could be due to having a PD who lacks ideas and vision or it could be the result of the way your creative process is structured.

One of the things I enjoyed most as a PD was coming up with ideas that created buzz, ratings, and revenue. My job was to think and execute BIG, and whether it was Lucky Break in San Francisco, Stand For Stan at 101 ESPN in St. Louis, the Golden Ticket at 590 The Fan in St. Louis, the 20 in 20 tour or Goodbye Roast at 95.7 The Game or the Gridiron Gala in both cities, we produced buzz, grew ratings, and made money. If we did something and it failed, that was ok. I’d rather swing and miss than be afraid to try. I took that responsibility seriously, and feel that when you’re making calls by committee, you’re not allowing your best people to do what they’re best suited to do. 

Case in point, I attended Boomer & Gio Live in Jersey City, NJ a few weeks ago. It was a fun event with a lot of different things going on. WFAN’s PD Spike Eskin worked the event on stage, and if you recall, the station made national news when Jets GM Joe Douglas said that Aaron Rodgers would end up in New York. There were multiple sales activations included throughout the show, and much of the fun content that took place on stage came from the creators. Because the FAN crew were allowed to do what they do best, the station produced a successful event. Had that been an ‘all departments contribute’ approach, it’d have not been the same show. 

What Dan Mason said in Las Vegas was accurate. Radio has to get back to having fun but it also has to be unafraid to take risks. I fear that we worry so much about the ‘what ifs’ and the potential noise on social media that we’re killing creativity, and the next big idea.

If I asked you to list five GREAT sports radio promotions today, could you? And I’m not talking about golf tournaments, charitable bowling events, host debates or bar remotes. If I ask this same question in five years and we’re in the same spot, that’s going to say a lot about where we are as an industry. We have to excite ourselves, our listeners, and our advertisers because when we showcase our creativity in a way that no other medium can, we make a statement, which results in increased attention, and financial investment.  

Some of that creative spirit is still alive. You see it in Boston with WEEI’s Jimmy Fund Telethon, and if you attended the Michael Kay Show 20-year anniversary special or Barstool’s Upfront, you saw what great planning, and execution looks like. But I also remember The Fanatic’s Celebrity Week, The Millen Man March in Detroit, Ticketfest in Dallas, Wing Bowl in Philadelphia, and 790 The Zone in Atlanta becoming a national sensation by creating multiple home run events.

I don’t believe enough brands today create events that deliver meaningful impact. Yet they’re needed. When done right, brands ascend to a different level. Sports radio has too many sharp, creative minds to not be creating the biggest and most successful promotions in all of media. If you work in programming and your station isn’t producing promotions that generate recall across the format, national media attention or revenues that change the fate of your next quarter, it’s time to step up your game. If you don’t, the interns, street team, and receptionist may soon be deciding the future direction of your brand’s promotional strategy.

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Reflecting on the 2023 BSM Summit

“Barrett Media president Jason Barrett reflects on last week’s BSM Summit in Los Angeles.”

Jason Barrett




One of the best parts about the world of sports is that every season ends with one team being crowned champion. It doesn’t exactly work that way managing a media company, even though we invest the same amount of time leading up to the BSM Summit, our equivalent of the Super Bowl or WrestleMania.

Having had a few days to recover and reflect after last week’s Summit in Los Angeles, I know that what we did last week was special. I’m a perfectionist and have a hard time patting myself on the back because I know there’s plenty we can do better, but last week, we hit a homerun. The venues at USC were perfect, the signage was spectacular, the tech ran well, the speakers were awesome, the crowd was great, and the sponsorship support was outstanding. It’s the first time I’ve walked away from an event and felt we accomplished what we set out to do. If time allows, check out Garrett Searight’s piece on some of the key takeaways from the show.

In 2018, Mitch Rosen invited me to utilize his space at Audacy Chicago to take a shot at trying to execute an event for PDs. Now here we are five years later with a few hundred people joining us from all across the industry. It’s pretty incredible. We’re only successful because a lot of people have come together to make sure we are. Without the speakers, sponsors, and staff around me stepping up to get things done, I’d just be a guy with an idea incapable of executing it.

In the next week or so we’ll be sharing video clips from the show on the BSM social media pages. I’m also planning to make full sessions available via on-demand for free for those who attended the show in California. If you didn’t come to the event and want to watch it online, it will be available for a small fee. Stay tuned for further details.

What matters most to me with the Summit is that folks in the room get something out of it. I thought many of our speakers delivered a ton of value this year, and there were a few WOW moments along the way as well. Colin and Rome were outstanding as expected, and Jay Glazer and Al Michaels’ speeches had everyone hanging on their next words. I thought the Shawn Michaels and Jack Rose led sessions were outside the box and well received, and I was beyond impressed by Joy Taylor, Mina Kimes, and Amanda Brown. We used 14 hours in that room to explore issues dealing with management, research, technology, programming, talent and social media, so it gave everyone a little bit of everything, which was the goal.

We did have a little bit of friction on stage during the Aircheck on Campus session, which wasn’t a bad thing. Personalities and programmers have passionate conversations inside the office every day. Rob, Mark and Scott just happened to have one on stage. All three are smart, talented, and willing to be candid. I thought that was healthy for the room.

I know networking is important at these type of events and there was plenty of opportunity for folks to do that. I look at it like this, if you can get face time with others, meet your heroes or folks you admire and pick up some ideas and insight in the process to elevate your business, that should justify it being worthy of a few days out of the office.

As crazy as it may sound, I step away from each of these events asking my team ‘is that the last one?’ I know I can create and execute a great conference, and I enjoy doing it, but I also don’t want to invest eight months of time building a show that becomes predictable and stale. It’s why I change speakers and topics frequently. This year’s lineup was phenomenal, and I’m so pleased with who we featured on stage and had in the room, but the competitor in me will also look back and say ‘Bill Simmons, Ice Cube and Lincoln Riley Should’ve Been On Stage Too!


If we do host an event in 2024, it will take place in either Boston, Chicago, Dallas or New York. You can cast your vote on

I want to thank everyone who stopped me last week to share how much they enjoy this event. That support means a lot. I think Good Karma Brands broke a record with 20+ employees in attendance, and iHeart was also well represented, which was great to see. I was also excited to have 15-20 college students in the room. The more we can educate the next generation, the better it is for all of us. I also was thrilled to learn a few of our partners and attendees made time to arrange further business conversations. If two groups can help each other, that’s what it’s all about.

But as much as I love my radio brothers and sisters, I’ve noticed more folks showing up the past two years from areas outside of sports radio. That’s both exhilarating and concerning. This year we had folks in the room from WWE, Amazon, The Volume, Omaha Productions, Dirty Mo Media, Barstool Sports, Spotify, Blue Wire, Locked On, BetRivers, Bleav, etc.. I hope that trend continues because sports media is a lot larger of a business than sports radio. As I told the room, we’re not in the radio business, television business, audio or video business, we are in the content business. That covers a lot more ground for brands than focusing on one specific platform.

I’ve been on cloud nine for a few days because overall, this went as well as I could ask for. If there’s one thing I’d like to make better it’s that I hear from a lot of folks throughout the year who say they want to learn, meet new people and give themselves a competitive edge yet when an event exists that can help them do that, they’re not in the room. Some of my radio friends didn’t come because they weren’t asked to speak. Others said they couldn’t make it because their company wouldn’t cover the costs. A few said they thought the Summit was only for programming people not managers or sellers.

First, growing and selling an audience should matter to everyone not just programmers and hosts. GM’s and Sales Managers can gain a lot at this show. So can advertisers and agencies. I’m hoping to change that in the future. Second, I can’t tell you whether or not to prioritize attending but groups outside of radio are passionate about sports audio and video, and they’re finding ways to be in the room. At some point, you have to decide if investing in knowledge, ideas and relationships matters to you and your business. Your employer isn’t going to cover everything you want to do so especially when the economy isn’t strong. Sometimes you have to invest time and resources in yourself.

Many of you reading this website know my track record in the radio industry. I built my career in radio. My passion for the business remains strong. I consult brands all across the country, and root for the industry’s success. It’s why I sink my heart and soul into this event and share all that I do over two days because I want to help people grow their businesses.

But it is strange that over the course of four live events I’ve still not had one current radio CEO sit down for an in-depth sports media business conversation. It’d be one thing if they were pitched and I turned them down but that’s not the case. I’ve had great conversations and support outside of radio from Jimmy Pitaro, Eric Shanks, Erika Ayers, and John Skipper. Jeff Smulyan has been a huge supporter taking part in our awards ceremony, and we’ve had high ranking TV executives in the room watching the show. Maybe things will change in 2024 but whether they do or don’t, I’m going to focus on helping brands and individuals who gain value from this two day event, and continue challenging this industry to think and act differently.


Now that the 2023 BSM Summit is over, my focus shifts to supporting my clients and gearing up for a massive challenge, hosting our first BNM Summit for news media professionals. The conference will take place in Nashville, TV on September 13-14 at Vanderbilt University. I’ll be announcing the first group of speakers in April after the NAB. Tickets will go on sale at that time too.

I know it won’t be easy but I tend to do my best work when I’m out of my comfort zone. This is a space I have passion for and feel I can add something to so there’s only one thing left to do, get to work, and put together the news media equivalent of what we just created for sports media professionals last week in Los Angeles. That may be a tall order but if anyone is ready to meet the challenge head on, yours truly is certainly up to the task.

Thanks again for a spectacular time in Los Angeles. Onward and upward we go!

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