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Swimming In Digital Waters

Jason Barrett



In most buildings, talent are conditioned to think about the here and now. They’re consumed with creating content, watching and reading about sports and other topical events, and forming emotional connections with their listening audience. Few are spending their time studying industry trends and changes or creating Plan B strategies to assure their brand remains relevant across multiple media platforms in the event of a catastrophic shift in audio consumption.

The same can be said of many programmers, sales managers, and account executives. Today’s tasks are what matter most and winning the next month or quarter helps determine if the boss remains satisfied and a future raise awaits.

But while we’re all caught up in our day to day responsibilities, it’s too important to stay informed on the way our business is changing. You may think that radio is bulletproof but one piercing of the skin could require much more than a band aid. I’m not talking about a competitor’s decision to adjust their lineup or the station’s largest client switching its ad agency and reevaluating how much business they want to do with your brand. I’m talking about change that can affect every single person and brand and the way our entire industry thinks and operates.

Now before you sound the alarm and start emailing copies of your resume to the real world, relax. Radio isn’t going anywhere tomorrow nor the day after. But if we’re not smart and strategic in the future, we could be in deep trouble because technology is moving at the speed of sound and it’s not going to wait around for anyone.

If you weren’t aware, last week the country of Norway announced that it was eliminating FM radio. The Norwegian government said the country’s high mountains and scattered population make it expensive to operate the Norwegian FM networks compared with other countries, and a growing confidence in digital audio was behind their reason to change course.

As a result of the change, the government estimates that radio stations will save 23.5 million dollars per year. They also feel that broadcasters will have access to more channels and better audio quality by operating in the digital space.

“Radio digitization will open the door to a far greater range of radio channels, benefiting listeners across the country,” former Minister of Culture Thorhild Widvey said in a statement in 2015. “Listeners will have access to more diverse and pluralistic radio content, and enjoy better sound quality and new functionality.”

Although Norway is the first to execute this strategy, other countries such as Denmark and the United Kingdom are said to be considering following suit. Switzerland has also pledged to shut down FM broadcasting by 2020.

There will certainly be some bumps in the road when making such a drastic change, but the digital audio space is seen as an open road full of possibilities. The surplus of content is enormous, listening and downloading of programming is available on each individual’s time, and broadcasters are treated to more reliable measurement. It also happens to be where the majority of advertising dollars are moving.

When Napster and other file sharing software became available in the 1990’s, the record industry didn’t take the threat seriously. That lack of concern resulted in the music industry experiencing years of agony and a whole lot of financial pain. Fast forward to today and the majority of music is downloaded and purchased online, and companies like Spotify, Pandora, YouTube and Apple have become very lucrative.

Here’s something to ponder that you may not have ever considered before, what would your brand identity be if your product was removed from the AM and/or FM dial? Many stations tie the name of their brand to their dial position and the frequency they broadcast on, but if those two things were eliminated tomorrow, how would you be identified?

The answer is many of you would be pushing the panic button because your entire brand history would be permanently altered.

Why does that matter? Because technology is changing the game. Many of us may accept the status quo with the dashboards inside of our vehicles, but the auto industry believes it can make the experience inside of your car better and more attractive. In doing so, they believe it will result in more sales and higher customer satisfaction.

If you didn’t notice, two of the hottest selling products on the market this holiday season were Alexa by Amazon and Google Home. Each have been a big hit with consumers and the auto industry has taken notice.

Case in point, Ford has formed a partnership with Amazon to make Alexa available inside of its cars, and voice activation is an attractive feature to automakers. Once the inside of your vehicle begins to offer this service, and the dashboard is no longer controlled by an FM and AM tuner, the only way you’ll stand out is through audience recall.

In order to do that, you must create a powerful brand. There are hundreds of thousands of digital audio options to enjoy, but if the consumer can’t remember you or isn’t familiar with what you offer, then you’re as useful as a white crayon.

Are these products good for radio’s future? I believe they can be. Except radio may have to rethink and expand its content and distribution strategy and pursue other areas of the entertainment business. iHeart and Townsquare have already done this by becoming event creators and marketers, and Hubbard and E.W Scripps have too through significant investments in podcasting.

In recent years, many in the industry have been skeptical of the growth potential of digital audio. Inventory counts are drastically lower, and consumers have been unwilling to foot the bill to enjoy consuming content, which means it’s financially unattractive when compared to radio’s current business model. But, if it’s where the audience is shifting, and distributors begin to introduce newer technology at the expense of the previous models which had been reliable and successful for previous decades, then the industry has two choices – adapt or risk permanent damage.

Our industry has done a great job building and sustaining its local awareness, community connection, and visibility. That approach has enabled stations to build bonds with the audience, making it easier for them to be remembered. Those type of relationships help a brand remain important to a consumer who has access to voice recognition software or a digital dashboard.

It’s true that innovation is happening lighting quick and what seems groundbreaking today could be old news tomorrow, but one thing we can’t take for granted is radio’s position in the car through FM and AM distribution. All it takes is one monumental change in the way audio is distributed, and the business as we know it would not exist.

I can’t see the United States of America abandoning FM and AM radio the way other countries have, but to think that in the next ten years there won’t be massive changes and a heavier focus on digital distribution is simply naive.

Throughout my career I’ve tried to prepare myself for the “what if” scenarios. What if my best talent retired tomorrow? What if my legendary play by play announcer had to step aside as the voice of the local team which my brand held the rights for? What if a new social media platform launched and the audience shifted away from Facebook and Twitter? What if the identity of my brand was changed?

Fortunately, I was able to avoid these situations, but I’m a believer that when chaos ensues, it’s the ones who are prepared beforehand who navigate the rough roads best.

I’ll share one small example with you about preparing for change.

When we were building what is now known to sports radio folks as 101 ESPN in St. Louis, we launched with the rights to the St. Louis Rams, St. Louis Billikens, and a partnership with ESPN. The ESPN relationship in particular provided us with an opportunity to align our on-air and online branding.

During our first two years, we gained strong traction in the marketplace using the name 101 ESPN and But as many great brands and leaders do when they’re having success, we held open dialogue about some of the potential dangers that could face us down the road.

We heard whispers about the Rams potentially relocating. We realized there was a chance that a key personality or two could elect to leave in the future to pursue a different opportunity when their contracts expired. And there was this one longshot possibility that we didn’t give much thought to but could never be discounted, what if we lost ESPN?

We had zero control over the Rams future, confidence in ourselves to retain valuable people inside the organization, and a great relationship with ESPN, but we were also not privy to their future plans or opportunities in St. Louis. Although the likelihood of the relationship changing seemed farfetched, in the world of business, you can’t rule anything out.

As we analyzed our future, we determined that it’d be a wise move to change the website branding of the radio station and align it with something we had future control over – the 101 FM frequency. We continued to position the on-air brand as 101 ESPN, while getting the audience more familiar with the new name of our website

In taking that approach, we were able to keep the station on track and built around a powerful brand like ESPN, yet prepare ourselves for the future by positioning the website with a name that would become a logical and easy transition should the on-air identity be compromised. Having pounded that branding into the audience’s mind for the past five years, the station is now in good shape should it ever need to adjust.

You may work for a station which is identified by its call letters, dial position, or affiliation with a sports radio network. There is a reason why hundreds of stations following this strategy, it works under the current set of broadcasting conditions. But if tomorrow those conditions were to take an unexpected turn, how would you be defined? What would you do?

I’m not suggesting that you should freak out over Norway eliminating FM radio or other countries considering the same possibilities. I realize that we operate in a different part of the world with a different government and very different economic realities. But as we all know too well in business, change is inevitable, and if you’re not careful and aware of future possibilities, it can send you into a downward spiral that you may never recover from.

My advice is to stay up on the trends, prepare for “what if” scenarios, continue creating memorable brands and content, and make sure your digital strategy is strong and sustainable. It’s easy in 2017 to treat your digital presentation as the second most important part of your brand, but before you know it, it could be the very thing that defines your relevance and success.

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Rachel Nichols and Baron Davis Headline Final Speaker Announcements For the 2023 BSM Summit

“I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.”

Jason Barrett




The 2023 BSM Summit schedule is set. After months of planning and talking to everyone across the industry, I’m ecstatic to roll out next week’s agenda including making one final announcement involving seven great additions to our conference.

For starters, it is a pleasure to welcome Showtime’s Rachel Nichols to the BSM Summit. I’ve admired her work on television for years, and am thrilled to have her guiding a session which I think many in the room are going to really enjoy.

Rachel’s guest will be former NBA star Baron Davis. Baron runs his own company, Baron Davis Enterprises, and he has been active in investing in media brands, and exploring ways to evolve the industry. Among his areas of passion, athletes taking more control of their brands, and the media industry needing to improve its track record with diversity. I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.

Also joining the Summit are a few longtime industry friends. For starters, VSiN’s program director Jon Goulet is someone who I’ve known and worked with, and he understands the sports betting audio space extremely well. Jon and BetQL VP of Programming Mitch Rosen will spend time with another industry friend, Bryan Curtis of The Ringer. Collectively they’ll examine the state of sports betting audio on Tuesday March 21st from 3:35p-4:10p, and what they look for when it comes to sports betting talent, and how they determine what is and isn’t success in the sports gambling content world.

With Mitch taking part in the sports betting panel, Jeff Rickard of WFNZ in Charlotte steps into The Programmer’s Panel alongside Jimmy Powers, John Mamola and Raj Sharan. The session is scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 9:10a-9:45a PT. Ironically, all four of these programmers work for different companies, so it’ll be interesting to hear how they differ and where they align while navigating through a few sports radio programming topics.

Next, I’m excited to introduce a social media session with Karlo Sy Su of ESPN Los Angeles and Matthew Demeke of AM 570 LA Sports. If you look at the performance of their brands on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook, they’ve each delivered strong audiences and engagement. I’m looking forward to hosting this one and learning about their processes, how they decide which platforms to focus on most, what they consider a social media win when analyzing social statistics, and how they develop their content process. Given our location, we’re calling the session ‘Social Media Goes Hollywood‘. It’s scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 3:35-4:10 PT.

I realize you’re not going to remember all of these session speakers and times off the top of your head, so to make it easier, log on to and scroll down past our speakers. That’s where you’ll find our detailed list of sessions/times and activities planned each day. We have eighteen sessions, two awards ceremonies, and two parties. Our kickoff party is presented by the WWE and takes place Monday March 20th from 7p-9p at the 1880 Founders Room. The ESPN Radio After Party takes place Tuesday March 21st from 6p-8p at the Lab Gastropub. Both party locations are in walking distance of the USC Hotel and our conference venue.

As an added bonus, thanks to the generosity of our friends at WWE, we will be giving away a pair of tickets to the first night of WrestleMania, and a WWE title at our kickoff party. WrestleMania takes place this year in Los Angeles at Sofi Stadium on March 25-26. You must be present at the kickoff party to win either prize.

We’ll have more to share next week including providing an ongoing blog with session news and notes for our readers. We’ll also have a ton of content available on our social media channels so if you’re not following @BSMStaff on Twitter, @BarrettSportsMedia on Facebook or @BarrettMedia on LinkedIn, what are you waiting for?

The focus now shifts to finishing our creative for next week’s show, sending information to our speakers for their sessions, and finalizing our attendees list. For those who are attending, we’ll be sending out an email on Friday or Saturday with a complete list of names of who’s coming so you can plan meetings in advance.

If you forgot to buy your ticket after seeing months of promotion about the event and meant to do so, you can still do that, but it costs more. Students on the other hand can take advantage of a low rate established for college kids at

Putting this event together isn’t easy, but I’m extremely pleased with how it’s come together. We have a lot of smart, talented, and accomplished people making time to be part of this, and I appreciate each and every one of them for doing so. Now, it’s all about the execution. Hope to see you next week in LA.

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Sports Broadcasting Icon Al Michaels To Be Honored at the 2023 BSM Summit

“This is a man who has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer.”

Jason Barrett




If you work in the sports media industry you’ve likely heard someone along the way utter the phrase “don’t bury the lead“. I’m usually good about following that advice but I didn’t do that at our 2022 BSM Summit.

We introduced the greatest tandem in sports radio history, Mike Francesa and Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo and it was a special half hour. Mike and the Mad Dog were reunited after seven years apart and every individual at the event knew they were witnessing something magical on stage. I created a Mike and the Mad Dog Award for the event, which went to Felger and Mazz, who were the absolute right choice to win it. Even Chris remarked ‘that’s the right call‘.

But I learned quickly that although the intention was right in honoring the industry’s current top performing show, when you have legends in the room and they’re in their element, the last thing you want to do is overcrowd them. The connection Mike and Chris had on the air became the gold standard by which we measure successful sports talk shows, and they didn’t need an award created to deliver a special moment, just two mics and 20-30 minutes of stage time.

As I began thinking about the 2023 BSM Summit, I knew there was an opportunity to build on what we started last year with Mike and Chris, and after talking to a few people who I trust and respect, the decision of who we would recognize became crystal clear. I believe it’s important to honor the greats in our business because those who leave a permanent mark on our industry deserve it. The man we’ve selected has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer. He’s worked with the best of the best inside the booth, has helped elevate the presentation and execution of in-game content for ABC, NBC and Amazon, and his call of the Miracle on Ice, the US Olympic hockey team’s 1980 gold medal win over Russia remains one of the best calls in the history of sports.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored and privileged to share that Al Michaels will join us on Wednesday March 22nd at the 2023 BSM Summit for our awards presentation, where we will present him with BSM’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Michaels is one of America’s most respected sports broadcasting voices, known for his exceptional work on Monday Night Football (1986-2005), Sunday Night Football (2006-2022) and Thursday Night Football (2022-Present). He’s called the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, Hagler-Hearns, the Olympics, the Indy 500, Horse Racing’s Triple Crown races, College Football and Basketball games, Golf, and more. He’s even held roles as the voice of the University of Hawaii, the Cincinnati Reds, and the San Francisco Giants, and was in the booth in 1989 when an earthquake rocked the Bay Area during Game 3 of the A’s-Giants world series.

The Brooklyn native turned Los Angeles resident has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and owns a ton of hardware including five sports Emmy’s, three NSMA Sportscaster of the Year honors, the 2013 Pete Rozelle Radio & Television Award distributed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award given out by the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Though his trophy case may be full, we’re excited to add another to his collection to show our appreciation and respect for the impact he’s made on the sports media business.

A quick reminder, the BSM Summit takes place on Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 22nd at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California. Tickets are on-sale at

Be advised, we have started adding sessions and times on the website. As always, the schedule is subject to change. Our final agenda will be posted by the end of next week. In addition, attendees will receive an email by next Friday with details of who will be in attendance. We hope to see you there.

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Rob Parker, Brian Long, Sean Thompson and Matt Fishman Join The BSM Summit Speaker Lineup

“I’m excited to welcome a few folks who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.”

Jason Barrett




As we gear up for our 5th annual BSM Summit on March 21-22, 2023, I’m starting to get a better feel for how the final puzzle may look. When this process starts I have no idea how it’s going to turn out because so much depends on who says yes and no. Many who’ve attended over the years have complimented our lineups, and I appreciate it because I put a lot of time and effort into featuring a strong mix of professionals from different areas of the industry. Though I’m proud of the work we do and the schedule we deliver, there are so many things pursued leading up to the event that I can’t help but wonder ‘what if this or that had worked out?’

One thing that some folks don’t understand if they haven’t been to the show before is that this is not a talent conference. It’s a sports media business conference. That means we feature radio, TV and digital executives, programmers, researchers, sales professionals, and yes, talent. I believe on-air performers are vital to the industry’s success and I want the best of the best sharing their wisdom with everyone in the room, but we’re also not going to do two full days of on-air conversations. Being successful in sports media requires understanding the on-air side and the business side, and we do our best to offer a blend of both.

For today’s announcement, I’m excited to welcome a few sports media pros who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.

First, Rob Parker is someone who has made a name for himself as a radio host, writer, TV commentator, and teacher. He’s currently heard weeknights on FOX Sports Radio, teaches students at USC Annenberg, writes for Deadspin, and is helping MLBBro gain awareness and a bigger mainstream media presence covering Major League Baseball. He’s experienced, smart, and never short on opinion. I’m looking forward to having him join Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score/BetQL, and Scott Shapiro of FOX Sports Radio for a session titled “Aircheck On Campus“. They’ll take the stage together on Wednesday March 22nd from 2:10-2:45.

My next three speakers, all come from the sports radio programming department.

Matt Fishman is the Director of Content for ESPN 850 Cleveland. Fishman has been with the brand since January 2020 following stints at SiriusXM, 610 Sports in Kansas City, and 670 The Score in Chicago. He even wrote for BSM for a few years.

Sean Thompson is responsible for programming decisions at Arizona Sports and ESPN 620 AM. He joined the well respected Phoenix brand after more than a decade in Atlanta at 92.9 The Game. Sean has also worked in affiliate relations for Westwood One, and on the air and as a programmer in music radio for Good Karma Brands in Madison, WI.

Brian Long is the program director of both San Diego Sports 760 and KOGO 600 in San Diego. In addition to guiding two of the top talk brands in his market, he has also managed Seattle Sports 710, and served as the Assistant Program Director for ESPN LA 710.

Matt, Sean, and Brian will be part of one of our final sessions on day two of the Summit. The Last Call which yours truly is hosting, will explore unique revenue opportunities created by local brands, and examine a few new ideas and missed opportunities that brands and managers may want to take advantage of in the future.

As of today, the Summit has more than forty accomplished professionals taking the stage at the Founders Club at USC’s Galen Center on March 21-22, 2023. I’ve got a few others still to announce as well, including a few cool giveaways planned for the WWE’s Kickoff party.

If you haven’t bought a ticket and wish to be in the room, visit The last day for ticket sales will be Monday March 13th. I’m hoping to release our final schedule of sessions on Tuesday March 14th. Hopefully I’ll see you in the city of angels.

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