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Don’t Let The Market Size Make You by Mike Gill

Jason Barrett

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Before I enjoyed success as a programmer in a couple of major markets, I was a hungry and aspiring broadcaster in a smaller market with big market dreams. I emulated what I heard on WFAN and assumed it was the right way to do professional sports talk radio.

There weren’t content coaches or mentors available teaching me how to program and develop as a talent. Everything I learned was through trial and error and seeking out independent advice. I provided the best product that I could for my employer and assumed they were ok with it. The alternative would’ve been to spend more money to find someone better and in smaller markets that isn’t often an option.

Years later after running stations and working on successful national shows, I have a much deeper understanding of how to create content, develop ratings and social media strategies and maximize a brand’s value. If I were to listen back to some of my earlier work I’m sure I’d want to erase it. The perfectionist in me might wish that those inferior performances didn’t take place but truth be told, I’m glad they do. It’s important to learn, make mistakes, and be stretched thin early on because it gives you an appreciation for the business and provides you with experiences that help you later on during your career. If you can’t handle three to four roles, talking about community focused subjects, and making little money, the early stages of this business may make you consider another line of work.

I raise these points because they’re part of the fabric of small market radio stations everywhere throughout the country. Air staffs are small, sales staffs are small, and budgets are even smaller but the mindset to be successful can’t be. In many cases patience, positivity, and a love for the medium are required. The more an individual can handle and execute in strong fashion, the better their chances of developing and one day gaining an opportunity to make a better living in the radio industry.

It’s not much different than being a minor league baseball player. The goal may be to reach the big leagues, earn a big contract, and perform in front of sellout crowds, but before getting to that level, paying your dues is required. A player might perform in front of a few hundred people, ride a bus to each game, and even organize the bat rack or fetch baseballs. It’s part of the process of learning and proving you can handle responsibility before being thrown into the lion’s den. That said, you have to treat the stage as if it’s as important as the larger one you hope to one day stand on.

In my current role, I get to listen, talk and follow the work of many small market brands and radio professionals. I can tell you that there are hidden gems all across this nation and some brands which create exceptional programming despite not working with a ton of resources. Small market stations don’t often earn national headlines or praise, but many do a great job of connecting in their communities through events, promotions, sales, partnerships and charitable associations.

I thought for this industry piece that it would be interesting to get the perspective of someone who works in one of these situations and is doing a really good job. Mike Gill, programs 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City for Townsquare Media, and doubles as the radio station’s afternoon host. He broadcasts in market 151, 60 miles outside of Philadelphia (market 8), and aims to superserve South Jersey and Philadelphia sports fans as if he were sitting on the other side of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania border.

As you’ll learn in this article, smaller market stations work with less and have to think outside the box to make their brands stand out. When they’re able to be creative and made up of a staff that shares a passion, love and dedication to making an impact, the results can be anything but small.

Jason Barrett

Don’t Let The Market Size Make You by Mike Gill

In today’s ultra-competitive sports radio world, many of us ‘small market’ guys are doing a ton of things in addition to hosting our own show just trying to get noticed. Programming, meetings, imaging, meetings, editing audio, meetings, blogging, meetings, making sure logs are right, meetings, building programming clocks for the upcoming NBA game and weekend’s shows – did I mention meetings?

All of that in addition to preparing for a four-hour talk show with compelling content and great guests, coming up with station promotions, scheduling, making sure everything runs smooth and more.

In Atlantic City, which is located on the beach in market 151, we are in the shadows of one of the most competitive major sports radio markets in the country – Philadelphia. However, I would contend we are only in the shadows of Philadelphia in terms of market size – not show content, guest promotions or overall show quality. We may not have the same amount of listeners but our market share is every bit as good.

Many people recognize our station when they vacation “down the shore” in the summer when the Philly stations are out of range and tell us ‘wow, I can’t believe the level of guests you guys have’, or ‘I can’t believe some of the things you guys give away on your station’.

Someone once told me, don’t let the market size make you, you make the market size! It’s something that I live by everyday when I program and host at 97.3 ESPN.

I went to West Virginia University where I was the sports director at U-92 Radio. I hosted a sports-talk show, provided play-by-play, and took any opportunity that came up. When I graduated in the spring, the first job I applied for I got, and my radio career began. That only fueled my desire to take on more challenges.

I did an internship at WIP in Philadelphia, with my goal being to work in Philly again one day. I fulfilled that goal, doing weekends at 97.5 The Fanatic from 2013-2014.

But, I always wanted to be more than just an on-air host. I wanted people to associate the station’s sound with my personality. I consider the radio station an extension of myself. Throughout my time in this business, I’ve always sought to give back and do more. It’s how I program my brand.

One thing I’ve tried to do is find and give young talent a chance to show what they can do. Many of our alumni have moved on to bigger markets and become successful and I take a lot of pride in witnessing their continued success.

  • Pat Gallen (Now CBS 3 in Philly and WIP Radio)
  • Matt Lombardo (97.5 The Fanatic and NJ.com)
  • Matt Hammond (Sportsradio 610 in Houston)
  • Barrett Brooks (Breakfast on Broad on CSN Philly, 97.5 The Fanatic)
  • Matt Martucci (Voice of St. Joe’s men’s hoops, WIP and SiriusXM Radio)

Those are just some of the recognizable names that got their start at ESPN 1450, which has since become 97.3 ESPN.

So how did market 151 get their hands on so many talented guys?

We got creative.

If a person has an idea, I’m willing to listen and within reason, give them a shot.

Currently, we are live and local from 1p-7p ET Monday-Friday and we air local updates from 6a-6p ET. Rich Quinones handles middays, and I host our afternoon show. We carry the NBA, MLB, the Masters, the NCAA Tournament, every primetime NFL game, the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. 97.3 ESPN is also an affiliate of the Sixers, Flyers and Eagles and because of these partnerships, our on-air promotions have a big market feel and sound.

Through those partnerships, we’ve been able to give away trips to Eagles road games, Flyers tickets every Thursday during the Spring book, Sixers season tickets, and an opportunity to sit with Sixers radio play-by-play man Tom McGinnis. These giveaways resonate with our listeners.

We’ve also created unique promotions. One in particular, ’99 Bottles’ includes registering 99 listeners and having a party where each bottle has a logo taped to the bottom of it. Each person picks a bottle and wins the pair of tickets that are taped to the bottom of it. Prizes include tickets to see the Sixers, Flyers, Phillies, local casino shows, concerts, anything we can get our hands on. The grand prize is Eagles club box seats on the 50-yard line.

With all of that play by play on our airwaves, it’s important to cover each team on a regular basis. We’re fortunate to have a Phillies, Eagles, Sixers, Flyers and high school sports beat reporter covering them for our website 973espn.com.

How does market 151 have the budget to make that happen? We don’t. We get creative.

Veteran NFL writer John McMullen covers the Eagles for us. John appears on my afternoon show daily in-season and during the off-season, while providing content for our website. Flyers beat writer Dave Isaac from the Courier Post covers the Flyers for us, providing web content with his on-air hits during the season. Michael Kaskey-Blomain, formerly of Philly.com, covers the Sixers, while also providing web and on-air content to the radio station.

We also struck a content sharing deal with a local website, SportsTalkPhilly.com, which is led by Philly radio veteran Brian Startare. The website supplies Phillies content for us from Frank Klose, who we credential and send to games. In return, he appears for bi-weekly on-air hits or anytime Phillies news happens.

Dave O’Sullivan is a well-respected local high school sports publisher of a magazine called Glory Days. He hosts a Saturday specialty show called ‘The South Jersey Sports Report’ and is our go-to guy for local material that we might not cover on our local shows, but has strong appeal on our website. By teaming up, Dave gains an opportunity to promote his magazine on the air during his show, and we receive the benefit of local high school sports coverage.

In addition, we’ve formed strong relationships with ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio and Jayson Stark. They both appear weekly during their respective seasons, once again helping us present a profile of quality guests and content on the radio station that our audience can enjoy.

Not to be forgotten, my producers have worked tirelessly in securing high caliber guests. My former producer Pete Giordano spent eight years with me before leaving for a great producing opportunity at SiriusXM. Josh Hennig has since taken over and we haven’t skipped a beat.

I’m sharing these details to remind you to be creative, work tirelessly, and not take no for an answer. We try to make people take notice on a daily basis and that’s something that every small market station has an ability to do.

The goal at 97.3 ESPN remains the same, don’t let the market size make you, you make the market size. Because of that approach, the hard work has paid off in the ratings. Here’s an example of one of our recent books.

12+ 

4.0 – #6 in the Market

Men 18-49 

6.5 – #2 in the Market

Men 25-49 

7.9 – #1 in the Market

Men 25-54 

6.2 – #2 in the Market

5.5 – #3 in PM Drive

Men 35-64 

8.2 – #1 in the Market

8.6 – #1 in the AM Drive

10.2 – #1 in Middays

8.5 – #1 in PM Drive

Mike Gill programs and hosts afternoons for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City. Visit the radio station’s website by clicking here. You can also follow Mike on Twitter by clicking here.

Barrett Blogs

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

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to see you there!

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

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

Jason Barrett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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