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Digging Into The Content Evaluation Process

Jason Barrett



It’s true that most on-air personalities believe the content they create is exceptional. They’re prideful, stubborn, confident, smart, and more times than not, have a good grasp on what the audience expects from them.

They also know what fuels their own personal interests. A programmer may offer specifics of what the audience is looking for, and they’ll nod in agreement and provide lip service to satisfy the request. But, when the light goes on, and the microphone is in front of them, many ignore the facts, and gravitate to what they enjoy talking about most.

If you’re in a building where ratings don’t matter, that might not be a bad thing. Having an on-air personality provide passion through the speakers, and treat the audience to something they’re personally invested in usually works out ok. One can argue that a talk show host who’s emotionally connected to a st ory, offers more value than a talk show host who delivers content that benefits the listener, but not themselves.

diseaseHowever, if you’re in a situation where ratings DO matter, or pleasing your audience is a priority, then you may want to go beyond the surface to get your questions answered.

A host can be a big baseball fan, but if the market doesn’t have a strong desire for that content, you’re bringing a knife to a gunfight. Some on-air talent use social media to gauge interest in topics, and it can be helpful, but they forget that the feedback isn’t always coming from their audience.

What I’m a believer in is studying the trends.

In my previous stops, I’d have producer’s track the content of every segment, and send it to me at the conclusion of their program. I wanted as detailed of a report as possible, and I’d often go back to the audio on-demand platform on my station’s websites to make sure the content checked out in accordance with the report. If it didn’t, the producer was likely to hear from me.

The reason that’s important, is because if I’m going to sit in front of an on-air talent, and tell them I need more of one thing, and less of another, I’ve got to have a good solid reason for my position. Telling them “I feel something” or “I prefer something” isn’t going to win them over, and gain their trust. Showing them how the content is being received, and how it can put more money in their pockets, does.

scoutIn professional sports, scouts, coaches, and team executives spend a large chunk of their time analyzing data. They examine how a hitter responds to different pitches, counts, what their approach is when their team is leading or trailing, and they’ll use the information to create an informed opinion. They then share that feedback with the player to try and help them improve. Assuming they respond to the input and it shows up in their performance, it’s often reflected in the team’s long term commitment.

Now let’s think about that from a radio standpoint.

How many personalities and programmers spend time looking at the data from their shows? I’m not talking about an aircheck session where a programmer plays a piece of audio, offers an opinion on it, and the two sides discuss it. That’s a subjective analysis. Depending on the relationship between the PD and Host, it can either be beneficial, or a waste of time.

What I’m talking about is detailed analysis and coaching. This brings the programmer and on-air team together and puts everyone in position to better understand the vision, what’s working, what isn’t, and what matters most to the audience.

predictSometimes talk shows get into a rut. They may follow the same daily routine and not even be aware of it. If there’s little suspense, and the pattern doesn’t take advantage of when people listen or satisfy the audience’s content desires, it can stunt the show’s growth.

When was the last time you looked at the number of guests you include on your program each day? How about the length of those conversations, and the times of when they appeared? Maybe they’re a big part of the show’s success, but then again, maybe they’re getting in the way of it.

Have you ever looked at where you field phone calls in a show? How long they’re on the air with you? What topics they respond to most? Do the ratings suffer or increase when you invite the audience into the program?

What about the content you choose to feature each day and the segments where you provide opinions on it? How does the audience respond when you talk football, baseball, basketball, lifestyle, or other subjects? Do you do a specific feature daily or weekly on a set day and time? Is it working or slowing you down? Is it strategically smart to offer a variety of content to your audience, or would they prefer a heavier focus on 1-2 key subjects?

Every programmer and personality should be aware of these things. If a host wants to connect with an audience, and a programmer wants to win, content evaluations should be done frequently. The information is available. All you have to do is invest the time to study it, understand it, and relay it to your people.

dustyIt’s no different than Dusty Baker telling Bryce Harper to look for a fastball on the inside part of the plate on a 2-1 count, because the data says it’ll happen 8 out of 10 times. That research matters. One little tidbit gives the player an edge, and increases their confidence. When they receive knowledge that can help them do their jobs better, they appreciate it. In turn, it makes them more likely to respond to future feedback. They may even notice something you didn’t, which can benefit the entire team.

A few years ago in San Francisco, I tried to push my staff to take more chances talking NFL. There was an internal opinion that Bay Area listeners only followed the 49ers and Raiders, and while the local teams were a priority, the market had a bigger appetite for football than the staff was giving them credit for. Our competitor was also known for leaning heavy on baseball, so this was an opportunity to establish our position as a strong football focused brand.

I went to work to make my case. I pulled ratings of all of our shows talking about NFL subjects that weren’t 49ers or Raiders driven. I looked at the performance of our NFL Play by Play from Westwood One, which included at the time, the highest rated single event ever on the station – a Patriots-Texans playoff game. I highlighted the local market’s interest on television to national football games, the NFL Draft, and talked about the crowds I witnessed on Sunday’s at local bars when a 49ers or Raiders game wasn’t on the air.

To cap it off, I went around the room and asked each staff member to name their favorite football team. Much to my surprise, 90% of the room pledged their allegiance to teams not named the Raiders or 49ers.

evidAfter going through that exercise, it was easier for the staff to understand why it should be a bigger part of the radio station’s content strategy. The data and visual evidence supported it, and that made it easier for the group to accept.

Sometimes, we get in our own way. We’ll tell ourselves that we know what the audience wants because we want them to like what we personally care about. If they differ in their opinion, we try to sway them towards our way of thinking, rather than making the adjustments ourselves.

But if the content evaluation process doesn’t take place regularly, and you’re not treated to the information that makes your audience tick, then you’re allowing opportunities to pass you by.

I believe that most on-air talent care about the opinion of their Program Director. They want to please the person they work for, even if they don’t show it. They respond quicker to negative feedback than positive, but deep down, they crave the attention and dialogue. They want to know the PD is listening, invested in the show, supportive of their decision making, and has something of value to add. If they don’t, they shut down quickly.

todoNo matter how many things appear on a programmer’s ‘To Do List’ each day, when they meet with one of their hosts, the talent wants to feel like the only thing that matters is their show. The way the PD guides the meeting and responds to the talent’s questions will determine whether they stay interested or reject further dialogue.

Hosts don’t want to be told to deliver a show the way the programmer would. That’s a remedy for creating a giant divide between the two. But, if a coaching session occurs and specific examples, detailed analysis, and audio evidence is provided to help the talent see something they might be missing, they’ll respond more favorably.

Any person on this planet can tell another “I like that, do more of it” or “That doesn’t work, do less of it”. Explaining and showing why, makes all the difference.

If you’re going to hire a highly opinionated person, and ask them to not follow their natural instincts, it won’t work. The only way the feedback takes shape is if they buy into it. When they see the details, and hear your thoughts, it opens their mind. Once they do it, and gain results, it becomes easier to gain future buy-in.

futureOnce a host trusts your ear, respects your point of view, and knows that you’ve put the time into helping them find a way to connect bigger with the audience, that helps the relationship ascend to a higher level. It affords you an opportunity to create and enjoy future success together. That alone makes doing the research worth it.

For the sake of this piece, I thought I’d provide a content evaluation I did for an on-air talent. I’ve removed the individual’s name, and changed the market, and only included two segments worth of analysis from their show.

When a talent receives something like this either from their Program Director or Producer, it tells them you care about their show and have a grasp on what they’re doing. It’s important to provide positives, as well as constructive criticism because the only way someone improves is when they hear both.

The one thing I’d suggest is to send this to the host after the show. That allows them to keep their on-air focus, and discuss it with you once they’ve had time to disconnect from the program and process the critique. They may not agree with every part of your assessment, but they’ll respond to your analysis, and appreciate you for doing it.


  • Red hot out of the gate by proclaiming “The Minnesota Wild are done” – this instantly grabs the audience’s attention on the day when the Wild are facing an elimination game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
  • You dive right in on hating to be the bearer of bad news, but you believe in being honest, and you see no evidence that supports a way for the Wild to avoid elimination.
  • After setting the scene for the game, you give out the # (you’re more than welcome to try and change my mind) and use a good boxing analogy to further establish the point – “the Wild are that fighter that’s getting worn down round after round, and you’re not sure if they’re going to get knocked out early, or hang on to lose by decision, but you know they’re not leaving the ring victorious“.
  • GREAT one-liner “The 40 Year Old Virgin is scoring more than the Wild” to emphasize the team’s biggest problems (Let that line hang out there for a second – being in a rush to hit the next point can take away from the impact).
  • Nice job using some key stats to paint the picture and support your case (0 goals in 175 of 180 minutes this series – the Wild went 20 mins without a shot last game, and they’re 2 of 26 on the Power Play) – clever line used “stats are like bikinis, they show some things but not all“, and followed up with a dose of truth “even if you want to believe in this team tonight, every key piece of information goes against them – this is why I’m struggling to see a way for them to win.”
  • Halfway through you tease NFL Draft/#1 Pick selection in 5 minutes – you’re going to tell the audience what the biggest mistake the Bucs could make with the 1st overall pick – good suspense and topical.
  • Back to the Wild elimination game talk, and another quick one liner about Zach Parise being on a milk carton and missing – please alert the authorities if you see him – (these one liners are quick and memorable, just be careful of not overdoing it).
  • You offer up the other side of the topic to provide some hope – one thing, be careful about playing both sides of the fence – it’s ok to explain it but reaffirm where you stand. Let the audience offer the other side to counter your position.
  • Mid-segment, you offer more analysis on why the Wild are unlikely to prevail and toss to audio of Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo which brings the momentum to a screeching halt (there’s no emotion, opinion, or drama in what he’s saying. If the audio doesn’t fire you up or add something new to the content, skip it – don’t use audio just for the sake of incorporating it).
  • Text line response from a listener who’s pissed at you for painting a negative picture in advance of tonight’s playoff game (Bleep You Dude) – funny, and offers you an opportunity to reset and remind people why you don’t see the game turning out well.
  • – The content now switches to the NFL Draft (reset here, give your name and remind the audience you’re subbing for the afternoon host) – nice job of setting the scene by sharing how you struggle in life with over-analyzing things, and explaining why the Bucs can’t operate the way you do with this year’s #1 pick.
  • GREAT opinion and explanation on why Tampa can’t trade the pick – “if you look at the last 10 teams to win a SB, they all had Top 10 QB’s when they won. 50% of all 1st round picks turn out to be busts. Jameis Winston will be a Top 10 QB. That’s what you need to win. You can offer 4 first round picks & my answer is NO. He’s the best QB prospect the past 10 years not named Andrew Luck. His arrival takes the Bucs to 6-8 wins” – Great confidence & insight, and a relatable subject. Really good content.
  • Teasing to break – At 3:30, former Minnesota hockey player Brian Bellows drops by, has his opinion of Zach Parise changed? But coming up next, nobody in Minneapolis realizes how special this could be (good suspense).
  • *Try not to tease 2 things heading into a break – people rarely remember both – stick with what’s next. Overall this was an excellent start to the show…..great attention grabber with the opening statement – The Wild Are Done! On the day of a playoff game, you have their attention, even if they dislike the opinion… laid out your case for why you feel the way you do, and used facts and color to do so. A lot of it makes sense. Now it’s the audience’s job to poke holes in your theory and try to change your mind.
  • Midway through I liked the switch to the NFL Draft and the commentary on why the Bucs can’t consider trading the #1 pick. It was strong. When an audience hears a host say “you can offer 4 1st round picks for the #1 overall pick and the answer is NO, the pick is not for sale” their ears perk up…..that’s gutsy, interesting, and offers room for a strong pro/con discussion on the topic. Given that we’re 1 week away from the NFL Draft and you’re in a football rich market, this will be well received. We can debate if Winston is a Top 10 QB, on the same level with Andrew Luck as a prospect, etc. but that’s what makes it fun. Really interesting topic, laid out well.


  • You start off giving the station call letters and your name and dive right into a tweet that criticizes your opinion on the Wild – nice response explaining why you don’t believe they can win tonight (Be sure to reset the topic first before the tweet since people who missed the opening segment know what you’re talking about and can play along.)
  • The transition is made to resetting the NFL Draft talk – “the biggest mistake the Bucs can make next week is trading the #1 pick” – no price is high enough to deal it, Jameis Winston is going to be a Top 10 QB, a Ben Roethlisberger clone, and if the Bucs don’t take him, it’ll hurt their franchise for years to come“. One suggestion, although NFL fans follow the entire league, local people care most about the team in their own backyard. Consider how to make this relatable to Vikings fans by pointing out a previous draft blunder they made, and how it impacted them. Then relay how the Bucs passing up Winston would compare. That’s just another way to add an extra layer to the topic.
  • Quick Text – what round are the Bucs drafting Jameis’ babysitter? Clever response from the audience, good job responding to it.
  • You then take a call from Hugh who adds “you took off your fan cap and put on your radio hat to fire up the audience and get them to call in about the Wild” – After explaining that you don’t do shock jock content, Hugh asks about the top 2 QB’s entering the draft & asks about the hockey spirit and why the Wild are allowing fundamental mistakes to hurt them.
  • *** The caller placement in this segment stunted the Jameis topic which could have been gold – the previous tease was about something being special in Tampa – was that about the Bucs/Jameis or something else? Make sure you’re clear so the audience gets a payoff for what they were promised. Don’t leave them to guess, make it easy to play along.
  • Good move mentioning that the opinion may be harsh and it might have required some massaging, especially on the day of an elimination game, but maybe I can make it up to you by offering you this – the Minnesota Twins are going to the post-season this year – book it! ***This is a strong opinion, sure to fire up local baseball fans, and it shows that you’re not against the local team’s and their success. Your proclamation gives every local baseball fan the one thing they all crave – hope! I’m guessing this is what the tease was about right?
  • That leads you to explaining that people outside of Minneapolis have no idea how good the Twins are. You point out how good their youth is and how they’ve won 6 of 8 despite injuries, and have one of the better young rotations in baseball, and run scoring is a half point higher. Those are all good reasons for explaining why you’re optimistic about them. You then set the scene on the wildcard picture and explain how you believe the Astros will come back to earth, and the other spot up for grabs is a complete crapshoot.
  • * If the Twins need to secure 1 of the 2 wildcard spots, tell me how they measure up against the teams that are going to be in contention. How do they going to stack up to the teams in their division and to some of the more formidable teams in the race – Astros, Yankees, Angels, Rangers, Blue Jays, etc. Explain the obstacles in their way, and why they’ll pass those other clubs and prove the experts wrong!
  • Tease – Brian Bellows next, is his perception of Zach Parise changing? He tells us next (Very good – one focused item, with a question that leaves the audience thinking).


  • Let your bold statements, strongest opinions, and one-liners hang out there for a second – it allows people to process things and ask “What? Did he just say that?” For example, “the 40-year Old Virgin scores more than the Wild”, “If you offer me 4 1st round picks for this #1 pick, I’m not interested”. Both were great, but didn’t have a chance to settle. Let it bake for a second.
  • Pay off your teases – they’re excellent going to break, but when you come back they’re not always provided or made clear – it’s not only about teasing content, it’s important to deliver on what you promised too. Not doing it will frustrate your audience. I love what you’re doing to keep them curious. Just make it easier when you return.
  • Using Audio – GREAT audio can make a segment, BAD audio can break one. If it doesn’t provide emotion, drama, suspense, humor, or an ounce of information to support or counter your opinion, don’t feel obligated to use it. Think of the soundbite as being a prop in your show. It’s supposed to enhance the overall content experience. If it’s getting in the way of your best material, leave it out.
  • Segment 1 vs. 2 – The first one flowed nicely, and offered a mixture of strong opinion, quality information, and humor. You went 7-8 minutes on the lead story, before switching to a secondary topic, which also provided many of the same qualities. It was an excellent start to the program and easy to follow… contrast that with your second segment, which started without letting folks know what you were hot on, and then switched into a quick discussion on the #1 pick, a text on that subject, a caller on the NHL playoff game, and conversation on the Twins…..It’s ok to change topics, but make the direction easy for the audience to follow…..if in segment #1 you were on a highway and got off to take a side road to reach your destination, segment #2 you were on a side road, headed back to the highway, got off the next exit, hoped to find an alternate road, stumbled onto one which wound up working out but added time to your trip…..lots of good material, all a matter of connecting the dots to make it easy to process.

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Barrett Blogs

Is Sports Journalism Still Worth Paying For?

“I know many like to declare print being dead. I’m sorry I’m not one of them. Adults still enjoy reading.”

Jason Barrett



Courtesy: Don Nguyen

I’ve been thinking about this column all week because it’s a topic I’m passionate about and curious to hear the responses to. For starters, let me pose a few questions to you. Does quality journalism still matter? Is it worth paying for? Do advertisers see enough return on their investments with print outlets through associations with influential writers, publications and branded content? Are consumers hungry to read the full details of a story or are they satisfied with the cliff notes version and absorbing messages that fit inside of 140-280 characters?

The world we’re in is saturated with content. Attention spans are rapidly shrinking. Social media is both to blame and bless for that. The positive is that we’re exposed to more content than ever before. This means more opportunity to reach people and grow businesses. The challenge of course is standing out.

People listen, read and watch less of one thing now, opting for variety during the time they have available. The issue with that is that it often leads to being less informed. I know many like to declare print being dead. I’m sorry I’m not one of them. Adults still enjoy reading. I see nearly three million people do it on this website alone and we’re small potatoes compared to mainstream brands. Clearly people like to learn.

I raise this topic because last week, Peter King announced his retirement although he left open the door for side projects. After forty plus years of writing the gold standard of NFL columns, King revealed he wanted to slow down and invest his time in other areas of life. Among his considerations for the future after taking a breather are teaching.

In a podcast interview with Richard Deitsch, King said “We may love this column but I doubt that it made enough money for NBC to pay what they were paying me. I don’t think words are very profitable anymore. It’s a sad thing but it’s what’s happened to our business.”

Later in the conversation, King discussed the difficulty he might face if speaking to students about whether or not to pursue working in the media industry. He acknowledged that the business is bad right now. However, he pointed out that if you can write and read, and be an intelligent thinking contributing member of society, there are a lot of jobs you can do beyond being a writer for a paper covering the NFL. You can teach English, work in PR or for a team or league website. But journalism is different now, and though it’s not impossible to do, having flexibility is important.

I agreed with most of King’s remarks and thought about the two different ways people might respond to them.

If you’re in agreement with Peter, you’ll point to the reduction in industry jobs, the changes in salaries, the lack of trust in media outlets, the economic uncertainty facing traditional operators, the shrinking ability to uncover truth, and the data that frequently supports video being hot, and print not so much.

Those who disagree will list the New York Times and The Athletic as examples of print brands that still matter. They’ll also mention the surge in newsletters, the arrival of new online outlets, and the daily communication between millions of people each day on social media, much of it revolving around conversations created or supported by text.

Where I sit is somewhere in between.

First, the notion that it’s harder now than before is one I’ll challenge. When I entered the business, I had to mail letters, send cassette tapes, and wait months for a response. There was no internet or opportunity to create a podcast, Substack, website or video to build an audience. I had to be selected by someone to have a chance to work. There were thousands like me who wanted a way in and were at the mercy of decision makers preferring my resume over someone else’s. I did exactly what King said on the podcast when he mentioned having to do other jobs to support yourself while pursing a dream.

Where I agree with King is when he mentioned words not being as profitable anymore. Are print reporters and columnists going to make what they once did? Probably not. There will always be exceptions just as there are in television and radio, but if you think you’re going to do one specific job and making a financial killing on it, prepare to be disappointed. Today, you better be able to wear different hats and create a lot of content in multiple places. Earning a lot for doing a little is a way of the past.

The one area where I’ll differ is when it comes to advertising. I believe there’s untapped value for brands in print. Recall with the written word remains strong. There’s also less advertising clutter in written stories than audio and video programming blocks. Advertisers may not seek out traditional print advertising anymore but branded content, newsletter associations, and social media placements remain valued.

What I admire greatly about King is that he evolved over the years. His written work on SI was must-read but that didn’t stop him from leaping into the online space and launching MMQB. The arrival of that microsite was done at the right point in time, and when SI began to change, King didn’t hang on, choosing to make the bold move and jump to NBC. Upon his arrival, he started contributing on television, podcasts, and expanding his profile on social media.

What you should take away from Peter is that you’ve got to constantly examine the business, and understand when it’s time to pivot, even if it means leaving your comfort zone. You also have to recognize that things are going to change and your job description will likely be one of them. If you stay married to what you once did, you’ll be in a tough spot. If you roll with the punches and embrace what’s new, you’ll survive and thrive.

You also have to understand that you’re going to be tied further to what you produce. Does your presence and performance grow advertising revenue? Are you speaking on behalf of brands and helping them move product? Do you grow subscriptions or readership to levels that make it easy for a company to invest significantly in you? Talent is subjective. Results aren’t. Those who create quality while boosting the bottom line will remain in demand.

Remember this in a few years when artificial intelligence becomes a bigger part of content creation and discovery. Those who adapt to it and work with it will be just fine. Those who reject it will be searching for new career paths. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. There’s better stability in other industries. But there’s nothing like creating content around the world of sports and media. It just requires adaptability and being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

BSM Summit Update:

In ten days we unite the sports media business in New York City for the 2024 BSM Summit. All of the sessions are now complete. I’m excited to add Natalie Marsh, General Manager of Lotus Communications in Las Vegas, Cody Welling, Station Manager of 97.1 The Fan in Columbus, and Stephanie Prince, Vice President and Market Manager of Good Karma Brands West Palm Beach to our schedule. The full agenda for both days is posted on

In addition, I’m thrilled to share that we’ll have a few special appearances at the ESPN Radio After Party on Wednesday March 13th. Joining us on-site will be Evan Cohen, Chris Canty and Michelle Smallmon of UnSportsmanLike, Freddie Coleman and Harry Douglas of Freddie & Harry, and Chris Carlin from Carlin vs. Joe.

Thumbs Up:

Chris Mortensen: Rarely does the sports media industry collectively agree on anything but you won’t find much disagreement on Chris Mortensen. He was a special talent and human being. I was fortunate to see it firsthand as a producer at ESPN Radio. I then enjoyed many interactions with Mort as a program director lining up calls on the radio stations I ran. It didn’t matter what job you did or where you worked, Chris treated you well. His work was hall of fame worthy but it was the manner in which he interacted with people that truly made him a legend. Rest in peace, Mort. I’m sure the next wave of conversations with John Clayton are going to be amazing.

Mike Felger: It would’ve been easy to pile on and publicly root for a competitor to fail and fold. Instead, Felger took the high road, acknowledging that he’s rooting for WEEI to come out of bankruptcy in good shape. That’s what smart business people. Mike is comfortable in his own skin. He has the highest rated show in Boston and having a competitor to compete against as well as a potential landing spot when contracts come up is never a bad thing. Besides, why would anyone want to see friends and respected professionals lose an opportunity to work or listeners given less choice for sports talk entertainment? Nice job, Mike.

iHeartmedia: The company’s fourth quarter results were down year-to-year but they were above prior projections. iHeart also gained 16.6% growth in podcasting revenues during Q4, and just got stronger by luring Stephen A. Smith’s podcast away from Audacy. A pretty good week for Bob Pittman and his lieutenants.

Sportico: Jason Clinkscales is an easy guy to root for. He’s written quality content for Awful Announcing, is a sharp guy who enjoys the industry, and after a year full of personal tragedies, he deserved a break. That came last week when Sportico hired him as a reporter and editor on their breaking news team. Well done Sportico. Looking forward to reading the first piece.

National Association of Broadcasters: Creating buzz for conferences isn’t easy but the NAB’s recent announcement of having Daniel Anstandig of Futuri Media present a first-of-its-kind presentation at its April show alongside Ameca, an autonomously AI-powered humanoid robot has certainly increased conversation and intrigue. I’ll be in attendance for the event and am curious like many. I’m just hoping Joe Rogan isn’t right when he suggested this week that robots will jump out of an aircraft carrier with machine guns and do damage.

Thumbs Down:

Kroenke Sports and Entertainment: This isn’t a shot at the company. It’s more about losing a talented media executive. Matt Hutchings, the company’s former COO and EVP was a key part of developing Altitude Sports. Under his watch, the Nuggets and Avalanche won titles, and the company cemented its position in the local sports radio space.

The dispute with Comcast over airing Nuggets and Avs games is well documented, and Hutchings will get some of the blame for the teams not being broadcast on local TV but I tend to believe decisions of that magnitude land at ownership’s doorstep. Regardless, KSE is weaker today than yesterday due to losing Hutchings.

New York Jets: I get it. 98.7 ESPN New York moving away from the FM dial provides a concern for the franchise, and in other cities, football does perform well on classic rock stations. I just see the fit with Q104.3 as an odd one. If Aaron Rodgers returns and the Jets finally take off the way their fans hoped they would last year, it’s going to feel strange hearing their games locally on a channel that has little content time dedicated to the team beyond game days.

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Barrett Blogs

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

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

Jason Barrett



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

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

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

So why leave?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thumbs Up:

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

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

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


Thumbs Down:

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

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

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


BSM Summit Update:

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

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


2-Seconds to Vent:

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

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


Original Projects:

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


Recommended Viewing:

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


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

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

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

Jason Barrett



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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