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Product + Knowledge + Passion = Revenue

Jason Barrett

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In the radio business, there’s this constant struggle between what matters more – generating revenue, or delivering great programming. Clearly you need both to make a difference, but not all brands experience success in both areas.

Given my background in programming, I’m sure you’re going to be stunned to learn that I lean first towards providing quality programming. However, I’m not one of those people who turns a blind eye to sales, or minimizes the importance of being profitable. Anyone who’s occupied a conference room with me knows that I’m going to defend the integrity of the programming at all costs, but if I reject an idea, I’m likely to counter with “but here’s what I will consider”.

We can play the chicken or the egg game, but in life, listeners have a choice of whether or not to invest their time in a brand. They didn’t turn on your radio station, listen to your podcast, or watch your personality’s video, because they were looking for an advertiser message.

The client didn’t place their ad budget on your radio station because they were concerned with helping your company turn a profit. They did it because you have something of value to offer – access to people!

With that access comes the opportunity to place effective messaging in front of an audience by aligning the advertiser with things that the user considers cool (talent, features, play by play, etc.). But how are you supposed to take advantage of the power you yield, if you don’t fully grasp the vision of the product, and the reasons why it connects?

I’ve been fortunate to work with some great Market Managers during my career. Since entering into business for myself last August, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many more who truly understand the secret sauce of their radio stations. You can’t measure a brand’s success solely by ratings numbers, and you can’t make investments by only looking at expenses vs. revenue earned. If that were the case, this format wouldn’t have more than seven hundred stations operating in it.

One area today which is drawing larger industry concern is the product knowledge, and interest level, among market managers, and sales leaders. Some of that’s brought on by individual decisions, but most of it is the result of structure, pressure, and inexperience.

Selling sports isn’t easy. You have to use the emotion of a local team, the persona of an on-air talent, and the passion of the audience to create deeper interest. Ratings help, but for most sports radio brands, they’re not going to be the reason that local and national clients spend larger dollars on your station. If numbers are part of the decision making process, music stations will get more respect, because they perform better in the 6+ and Persons 25-54 demos, an area that only a handful of sports talkers do.

If you want to strike a chord with a buyer or client, you need evidence to make them look beyond the ratings sheet, especially if you have a competitor in your market.

Have you ever walked into a meeting with audio clips of your brand and your competitor, and let the client hear why it makes sense to invest more in your brand? If you want to draw an emotional response from the client or buyer, watch their reaction when they hear the way their business is presented. Few advertisers enjoy hearing their commercial run on your competitor’s station during an eight minute commercial break, let alone as the final unit.

You can point out the mistakes on your competitor, but when you do so, you better have your own house in order. The last thing you want to do is highlight how the brand you compete against treats a client, and then have the same issues occurring on your own radio station. If you can show a clear difference of the programming, and how a sponsorship works better on one brand than the other, they’ll give deeper thought to doing more business with you.

Here’s another idea. Have you ever taken a look on social media at the reaction of your audience when your on-air talent says something bold, or the station announces something big? The passion is off the charts, and the response can be overwhelming. I used to conduct quarterly Twitter chats when I programmed 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and there was never a shortage of activity.

When you can take that emotion, and large sample-size, and put it visually in front of people, the evidence stands out. It tells them that people care, and gives them incentive to want to tap into your audience. It’s even more magnified if a radio station carries a team’s games, or has a weekly call-in arrangement with a popular local athlete.

For example, I negotiated a deal with Buster Posey, and Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants years ago. Their call-in segments didn’t exactly set the content bar on fire, and their ratings were slightly higher than a few other quarter hours on the station. But, if you called a local advertiser in the Bay Area, and told them you were aligned with Posey and Cain during the Giants championship run, do you think there might have been interest? Of course there was.

When the two players met four contest winners prior to an A’s-Giants rivalry series, those listeners became fans of the radio station for life. If clients receive similar treatment, and are introduced to people that they view as heroes, and see as being a part of something that matters to them personally, they pony up to be connected to it.

Understanding what goes into selling sports radio is more important than ever, and the reality is that many markets feature staffs that have grown up in radio, and are trained on selling spots and dots. They don’t necessarily share an enthusiasm for the programming, and they look at digital and social media sales the way kids today view common core.

To be fair, it’s really difficult to sell all of these things, and be extraordinary at it. It’s even harder when stations have lean sales teams with big revenue expectations.

If sports is a local/direct sell, and your sports station is operating in a top 20 market with three or four sellers, and a group of other reps who are focused on selling other formats but lack an emotional attachment to the brand, you’re going to miss the mark. I don’t believe that every salesperson has to love sports to sell it, but, if they don’t know and love the radio station, the on-air talent, the way the brand connects with the audience, or understand why it’s special, good luck being profitable.

It’s also necessary to have a solid grasp on the assets you have at your disposal. Some programmers prefer to put it on a grid, some lack attention to detail which can make it tough for a seller to navigate thru, and others do neither because they’ll put anything on the air that sales asks of them (even if it weakens the brand) just to gain a client’s business.

In each scenario, success is possible, but I believe you help your own case by making it easier for everyone to follow. Here’s an example of how to lay things out for your sellers. It’s an edited version of an old features booklet I created in 2011 in San Francisco.

In it you’ll find the details of how each feature works, what day/time they occur, and what each sponsorship requirement is. This is helpful to sales teams who are trying to create Powerpoint presentations to place in front of potential clients, and it’s a great way for them to be reminded of how the brand operates, without having to constantly bang on the programmer’s door to get their questions answered.

The original booklet I created had other elements in it, including Raiders play by play, weekly call-ins during football, baseball, and basketball season, digital media opportunities, and something I refer to as “Beachfront Property”. Those assets are the biggest on the radio station. Everything from owning the name of the studio, to sponsoring the phone or text line, to being the featured sponsor of the station’s largest events and promotions.

If you’re charged with managing a sales team, and they have all of those assets to sell, in addition to commercials, web banners, Facebook mentions, and lord knows what else, is it realistic to expect them all to be monetized? I’ll help you answer this one, the answer is no.

Chances are, most of the sales team won’t remember half of the assets on the station because they’re under the gun already trying to sell out commercial inventory. If a station runs twelve to sixteen minutes of commercials each hour, and there are thirteen prime-time hours (M-F 6a-7p), and eighteen weekday hours (M-F 6a-Mid), that means they need to sell between 150-300 spots per day. That’s assuming they’re all :60 seconds in length, which they won’t be.

When you factor in :30 second spots, which are the usual length of most radio commercials, plus :10s and :15s, now that inventory number jumps even higher. And I haven’t even talked about digital, mobile, and social assets, promotions, local and national play by play, big station events, or advertiser demands to create specific opportunities.

The reality is that the radio station’s assets will likely never be fully monetized, and reducing them probably makes more sense. But, the second you tell a sales team that an opportunity is no longer available, all hell breaks loose.

Equally important is for the programming team to understand that just because a feature isn’t sold, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. If it is sold, that also doesn’t mean you deserve an increase in pay. In many cases, the sponsor is given the feature sponsorship as a bonus, to close a bigger inventory deal on the radio station.

This all brings me back to my point about the lack of understanding and interest in sales leaders towards the product, its assets, and the unique qualities that make a radio station great. You can’t take advantage of opportunities if you don’t know how they work. If your focus is on making sure your sellers hit their revenue numbers, and move every unit of commercial inventory, that’s understandable. However, there’s likely going to be less focus placed on product integration, digital/social/mobile assets, and training people which means at some point you’re going to come up short somewhere.

We realize the business world is shifting to the digital space. Just last week ESPN went on offense to try and slow down providers like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Why? Because they see their power reducing, and they know the money is heading in that direction.

Have you seen how Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Apple are performing? Google has grown 17% year to year in Q1, raking in over twenty billion dollars. Twitter is up 36% year to year while generating nearly six hundred million dollars. Facebook has climbed 52% year to year, while turning in more than five billion in the first quarter. Apple has grown by 2% year to year, en route to generating over seventy five billion dollars in the first quarter.

There’s a specific reason why I listed those companies. Three have been in existence for less than twenty years, and one experienced modest success in the 1980’s before falling on hard times. Its resurgence has taken place during the last two decades! Google entered the digital world in 1998, Facebook was born in 2004, and Twitter arrived in 2006. Apple was launched in 1976, but most view 1997-2016 as the time when it’s truly become one of the world’s most dominant companies.

How on earth is it possible that these companies which have enjoyed massive success for only two decades, could overtake the entire radio, print, and television industry for advertising revenue? The media business we grew up in has over a half of a century to put itself in position to be untouchable, yet here we are in 2016, and we’re all using these three platforms to help promote and grow our own businesses. Some would even say that without them we’d be in trouble at reaching our audiences.

Am I not the only one scratching my head, and wondering how that could be possible? Not only did they start their own companies, but they created an entire new media space too. We’ve had access to a megaphone, and a relationship with the auto industry which has given us great accessibility to people, but still couldn’t figure out how to grow revenue the way each of these groups have.

Here’s another scary fact that addresses one of radio’s bigger issues – each of those businesses have been built by someone who bled product first. That’s not always the case in radio.

Before Mark Zuckerberg started worrying about stock prices, and quarterly earnings reports, he was a programmer. He cared first about creating a product that mattered to people, before learning how to become a successful businessman. Here he stands now at 31 years old, listed as one of the top 100 wealthiest people on the planet. He figured out how to give a speech, excite investors, and cut deals with business leaders, but not before understanding every aspect of what made Facebook important.

Apple, was founded by Steve Jobs, who was an inventor with a large focus on product development. Before he spent his energies trying to sell a room full of people on the power of the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and iTunes, he concentrated on making great products that he thought people would use. Once he had a great product to offer, he learned how to market it, sell it, and become the face of the company.

At Twitter, Jack Dorsey led a group of four in bringing the social media network to life. He was a programmer, with a passion for innovation, and that enthusiasm for creating technology has earned him world wide praise. He sits currently in the CEO position, and is tasked with growing the business moving forward. Who better to explain why Twitter matters, and how it can be used to grow a business than the guy who helped create it?

For Google, Sergey Brin, and Larry Page were computer scientists who met at Stanford, and spent all their time in dorm rooms tearing thru computer equipment, and testing out different concepts in order to create the world’s most powerful search engine. By investing their time in developing an idea that they felt could change the world, they did, and in the process became two of the top 20 richest people in the United States.

Teaching someone how to create powerpoints, discuss ROI, lead a meeting, and operate a budget isn’t difficult. But, knowing a brand, creating a vision, selling its value, and producing the right strategy will take you further. Certain leadership skills can be taught, but if your laptop crashes, and it’s just you and the advertiser face to face, can you look them in the eye and make them believe in what you have to offer?

Natural born leaders are built to perform in front of anyone. They can sell their beliefs to any audience because it’s part of who they are. They live and breath their products, and don’t need a phony story, or fancy powerpoint presentation to convince people to invest with them.

I can’t explain why radio programmers don’t warrant deeper consideration to run companies or clusters. If you have the answer, please let me know. Dan Mason had a strong background in programming, and did very well operating CBS Radio. Bruce Gilbert had a great track record when he joined ESPN Radio, and his results at the network speak for themselves. I’m sure there are others out there who can make the same difference.

The point of this isn’t to lessen sales leaders, or suggest that programmers should run the world. It’s to explain the importance of connecting with your products, and understanding why they matter. We can’t operate in a silo, and expect one-trick ponies to be dynamic across multiple platforms. It’s just not realistic.

Today, we expect air talent to be skilled at hosting a radio show, writing a blog, interacting on social media, creating video, and being an advocate for advertisers, so it’s only fair that our revenue generators be proficient at maximizing on-air, online, and on-social sales. Before they can be successful in any of those areas though, they’ve got to familiarize themselves with the assets on their brands, and know why each is special to the audience.

Facebook, Google, Apple, and Twitter took over the media world, and changed the revenue game in less than twenty years. Others will do the same during the next two decades. If we want to avoid becoming the new age dinosaur, we’ve got to excel at creating unique and powerful content that connects with an audience, distributing it across multiple platforms, and having well rounded business leaders who understand how to maximize the assets. Without it, we might as well borrow ESPN’s ad campaign against streaming providers and pray that it works.

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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

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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 BSMSummit.com.

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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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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].

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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 BSMSummit.com. 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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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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The 2024 BNM Summit is Coming To Washington D.C.

“Tickets will be regularly priced at $299.99 but for the month of January they’re on-sale for $199.99. Prices will not be this low after February 1st.”

Jason Barrett

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2024 BNM Summit

What better way to kick off the new year than to make an announcement. We’ve been working on our plan for the 2024 BNM Summit for months and I’m stoked to share the news today with the news media industry.

In 2023, we had an excellent debut event in Nashville. I recognize that I’m a new face to many in news talk radio and television. For that reason, I wasn’t sure what to expect last time. Would folks make the trip? What would our sponsor support look like? Could I create the right agenda for those in attendance? There were a lot of questions to answer. Judging from the feedback, I think we passed the test.

As we talked about the next one and reviewed industry responses, I knew we’d have to raise our game in an election year. We listed New York City, Chicago, Dallas, and Washington D.C. as possible destinations, and all were attractive for different reasons. But we can only pick one, and I’m excited to share that the 2024 BNM Summit is coming to the nation’s capital, Washington D.C..

The dates of the show will be Wednesday September 4th and Thursday September 5th. We’ll have more details leading up to the show. One thing you’ll want to take advantage of now is our special sale on tickets. Our regular price will be $299.99 but for the month of January tickets are on-sale for $199.99. Prices will not be this low after February 1st. We have 250 seats in the venue so it’s first come, first served.

When we considered the possibility of bringing the Summit to D.C., we knew it had a ton of benefits. There were great options for speakers, and numerous brands and networks operating locally. Being accessible to politicians, the NAB, and other businesses was also appealing. All that was needed was the right venue with nearby hotel options. Fortunately, we found it.

The Jack Morton Auditorium at The George Washington University will serve as our location for September’s show. It’s an awesome venue, which has been used before for high profile events. There’s also great parking and an awesome food court nearby, and it’s close to the main local landmarks. Having 3-4 hotels within walking distance was another advantage. Speaking of which, we’ll have more details on our hotel options soon.

The key information to be aware of for now are the dates of the show, and the special January ticket price. We’ll add speakers in the upcoming months and email attendees for insight on what they wish to learn at our next event. We expect this to be a strong conference, and I’m excited to bring the industry together a half a mile away from the White House.

If your group sponsored last year’s show or didn’t and would like to, reach out to Stephanie Eads. She has this year’s sponsorship deck now available. We had outstanding support last year, and expect demand for this one to be even higher. Stephanie can be reached at [email protected] or 415-312-5553.

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