Having an in-depth conversation about diversity in sports talk radio is difficult. It’s a subject that makes many people uncomfortable and defensive, but it’s one that warrants further inspection.
To recognize the industry needs to do better is the first step. Working to improve it is the next. But progress only happens if the industry’s top decision makers believe it’s a critical issue.
Too often in our business, difficult subjects get addressed publicly, but once the questions stop being asked, it’s back to business as usual. The great Bill Parcells used to say “you are what your record says you are“. Well, if results are how we’re going to judge success and failure on the subject of racial diversity in sports talk radio, then thin-skinned members of the radio industry may want to stop reading, because they’re not going to like the evidence.
Before I continue, let me be candid for a second. I began writing this piece in January and almost decided not to publish it. It isn’t the subject matter I’m afraid to explore. I’ve already gone down this road before.
The reason why I considered keeping this column inside the vault is because our ability as a society to discuss race in a productive manner, especially as it pertains to sports media, has gone backwards in recent years. These days there’s an immediate outcry of racial prejudice whenever someone shares a different opinion or point of view about a particular story involving a high profile white or black personality. Social media for all of its positives, serves as a cesspool of negativity anytime a conversation arises that involves any inference of race.
First, nobody in the sports radio industry has gone on the record to explore this issue the way that I have. I do believe progress needs to be made, and what the business has presented collectively isn’t good enough. Let me make that crystal clear.
But despite pointing out the radio industry’s lack of diverse voices in weekday positions, and regardless of my track record of running brands and working with and hiring numerous minority voices, I’ve also been called out by people who read my website and have no knowledge of my background for ignoring black personalities in other columns I’ve written.
When I wrote the piece “Another 10 Talents You May Not Know But Should” I had a high profile TV personality respond by email adding “No blacks huh? Interesting”. It didn’t matter that the intent of the piece was to highlight people doing quality work in sports radio who didn’t earn a lot of fanfare, or that the people I selected to be featured deserved to be recognized. The simple fact of the matter was that none were black, therefore it was implied that I was ignoring minority voices.
Then in early February, I posted the annual Top 20 of the sports radio format. Over the span of 6 days I showcased who industry executives voted as the format’s top morning, midday, afternoon and national shows. Some of these categories included minority personalities. However, they were once again under represented.
At first I was bothered by the tweet because it led to receiving a few hate emails for sports radio being dominated by white males, as if I created the problem. But after having an opportunity to process things I understood exactly where Howard and some of his supporters were coming from.
As a soon to be forty three year old white male, I don’t enjoy when I hear people criticize those who hold jobs in the industry and assume they have them because they’re white. That in my opinion is irresponsible. It ignores the fact that the employed white individual likely had some degree of talent that appealed to a hiring executive. If they’ve been hired to do a job, and have continued to do it well for an extended period of time, that should be enough validation for the hiring manager.
But it’d also be foolish of me to assume that there’s nothing wrong with a picture that shows every major and mid market local morning show being led by white personalities. This is what African American’s see when they look at a list which includes only two minority hosts, Rob Long in Baltimore and Damon Benning in Omaha.
The story was similar in middays where only 6 minority hosts were part of the nation’s top 40 shows, and in afternoons where 10 minority voices contributed to the top 40 shows in the country. It was more of the same on the national scene, where Stephen A. Smith, Bomani Jones and Tiki Barber were the only African American personalities to be included on the list of the nation’s top 21 programs.
I understand that if you’re a Caucasian male you may not want to hear this. You might even be offended that I’ve raised the issue, but I guarantee that you’d have a very different opinion if you looked at the nation’s top 140 shows and saw only 21 of 271 positions occupied by white personalities.
In order to avoid any confusion, I want to be clear that this article focuses on males and the ethnic composition that exists inside many of the nation’s leading sports radio brands. I will address the challenges facing women in the sports radio industry in a separate column. Although I could combine the two, I have found through previous experiences that messages get lost when you try to tackle too much in the same space, especially sensitive subjects such as this one.
Before I share my findings from this year, I do want to address a few things. The intent of this piece isn’t to suggest to folks on the outside looking in that all executives are against hiring minority voices. That would indicate that every single executive in a hiring position isn’t open minded to changing the look and sound of their brand. I don’t subscribe to that theory at all.
This column also isn’t intended to suggest that influence should be used to force minority individuals into high profile positions. I saw a column a few weeks ago on The Undefeated which took exception with Magic Johnson for not using his influence to make sure a minority candidate received consideration for the Lakers vacant GM position. It was insinuated that by not doing so, he failed to handle his responsibility as an African American executive. Not only do I disagree with that assessment, I feel it creates a further divide rather than progress.
Never mind that Jeanie Buss went to war with her family by firing her brother and GM Mitch Kupchak, but she also gave the keys to the Lakers kingdom to a minority (Magic Johnson) and gave him the freedom to hire the team’s next General Manager. Johnson chose Rob Pelinka (former NBA agent) who had an excellent reputation and relationship with many black players in the league, and great familiarity with the way the Lakers run their business.
Pelinka also had the blessing of another powerful minority (Kobe Bryant), who happened to be the best Lakers player of the past twenty years, and we’ve seen proof of agents (Bob Meyers) making the transition into NBA front offices and helping franchises have success. Magic did not nor should he have had to hire or pursue a minority candidate just to please members of his race. That’s the type of process I would like to see our industry avoid.
But that particular example is not what we’re here to discuss. I brought it to light because I want it to be clear that positions shouldn’t be filled based on a responsibility to pleasing one’s race, but rather in the best interests of the brand, company, and audience which each market serves.
In doing my research for this year’s piece, I focused once again on the weekday lineups of the nation’s Top 20 market sports radio stations and networks. Depending on how you look at it, we’re no better or worse than we were 12 months ago. Usually staying consistent is viewed as a positive, but in this instance, where progress is necessary, I don’t believe that does the trick.
Does this mean that companies and their executives aren’t aware of the problem? Not at all. As a matter of fact, if you flashback to ten years ago, many would say that the industry has made a better effort in adding diverse talent to its airwaves. But to expect sweeping changes or a 50/50 blend inside most brands is unrealistic, especially if a sports radio station is currently achieving success.
It’s also puzzling that minority’s rarely occupy management positions. There’s only one African American sports radio program director (Terry Foxx at 92.9 The Game in Atlanta) in a Top 20 market, and market managers, corporate executives and owners are also rarely non-white professionals. Are we really suggesting as an industry that there are no minorities capable of leading our operations? What type of message are we sending to minorities in our industry who have dreams about one day overseeing a company or sports radio station?
The real questions we must address are related to the processes being implemented inside of each station and company.
How are companies holding their executives accountable to make sure that minority candidates are given a fair look during the interview process? What checks and balances are being implemented to make sure stations place a greater importance on reflecting their communities on the air? How much involvement does a brand manager have in making sure the product is more attractive to non-white audiences?
Other questions that deserve to be asked include, is the radio station sending its leaders to speak at schools, job fairs or creating programs to invite individuals from different backgrounds to learn about their business? Are station executives analyzing their audience composition and working to make sure their brands have the right mix of personalities to reach and connect with their local demographics? Are executives looking for minority talent in different places besides colleges and other media companies? How are HR departments assisting executives to improve upon their shortcomings?
Many people love to point fingers, and express their frustrations with these type of sensitive issues, but when pressed for solutions and ideas they fire blanks. That does us no good in this conversation. Instead, we need accountability, action, and a long term strategy to make our business more attractive to people from different backgrounds.
And let’s be sure this next point is understood. As much as African Americans are underrepresented on sports radio stations, the percentage of on-air jobs that they hold is comparable to their overall population numbers inside Top 20 markets. They hold 12% of the prime sports radio positions, while representing 15% of the population from Top 20 cities.
If there’s a group with an even bigger reason to feel slighted, it’s Hispanics. They hold only 9 of 399 prestigious on-air jobs inside the Top 20 markets and national networks, which is slightly above 2%. Yet they make up 22% of the population from our larger cities, and 17% of the entire population in the United States, and that number is expected to rise in the future.
Similar to an office, locker room, federal government agency or restaurant, I believe that the more people you include from different walks of life, the more interesting your operation becomes. Certain conversations that some individuals can’t tackle on the air suddenly become possible due to the different personalities involved. The sound of a station changes too and becomes more distinct, and the more variety you can offer your local audience, the more likely they are to consume your future content. That in turn helps you expand your fan base.
But as we’re discussing this issue, and how to include more people from minority backgrounds in the process, we also have to recognize and acknowledge a few other important facts.
You can slice and dice it however you wish, but the reality is that the majority of sports radio listening comes from white male audiences aged 25-54. That demographic shouldn’t be tossed aside just because the other side is underrepresented. They are people too, and they equally love the content, and spend money supporting the radio station’s advertisers.
Let’s also not be naive to the bigger picture. Sports radio is a business. If the station and company are turning a profit, and the hosts who they employ are charged with producing ratings and they’re getting the job done, then why on earth would they alter their approach?
Most brands are measured by their ability to generate income and audience. Whether success comes from an Asian host, Hispanic host, black host, female host or a middle aged white male, isn’t as important to a company as an ability to fulfill and surpass company expectations.
I understand this issue is sensitive and personal to many. It’s impossible for some of us to see the world through each other’s eyes and skin. Speaking strictly for myself, I don’t believe that one’s ethnicity or skin color should determine whether they warrant an opportunity or not. If the white individual possesses more talent than the minority candidate, and is more equipped to produce results, then that’s who deserves the job. A major league baseball team doesn’t shape its roster based on fulfilling quotas to satisfy different races. A player either has an ability to pitch or hit and help the team win, or they’re not on the roster.
However, I also don’t think the radio business and major league baseball are an apples to apples comparison.
In sports radio, the words, actions, images and voices of our personalities determine how a brand is received by local listeners. If a station doesn’t offer a minority voice on its airwaves in a key weekday time slot, then it creates the impression to minority audiences that it’s going to take an act of god for someone from their background to gain a bigger opportunity on that brand’s airwaves.
Where it becomes even more challenging is when you consider how many positions exist on each station’s airwaves, how successful the brand is, and what level of interest is displayed from qualified candidates from minority backgrounds. Unlike pro sports where 25 men occupy a major league baseball team’s roster, and 53 suit up for an NFL team, and the entire country plays them at a young age and dreams of one day doing so professionally, some sports stations may only feature 2-5 people in their starting lineups. That’s even less than what an NBA team puts on the floor each night.
The other part of the conversation that remains a real issue is the lower level of interest from qualified minority candidates. I mentioned my personal familiarity with this issue when I explored it fifteen months ago, and after speaking to numerous executives for this year’s column, it appears that not much has changed.
Maybe the guy who works at Staples in the stockroom will turn out to be the next Stephen A. Smith, but when a programmer receives an application, and it includes no experience in the radio industry, no audio to judge someone’s ability, no mention of any type of work that would be related to the field for which they’re applying, and no references to anyone inside your operation who might know something unique and interesting about the candidate, chances are that application is going into the filing cabinet.
We can blame corporations and take issue with those who are in high ranking positions at radio stations across the country, but we also need to recognize that there’s a big issue with minority candidates not pursuing this industry as aggressively as whites. If the applicants pursuing work aren’t from a minority background, and those who do apply lack the skill level necessary to land an opportunity, what’s the hiring manager supposed to do?
These days you don’t necessarily have to be a radio veteran with stops in multiple cities, but you do have to provide something that gives a program director a reason to want to contact you. I may want to be the next President of the United States of America, but if I lack political experience, allies, a shortage of campaign funding, and possess little knowledge on the complex issues facing our nation, that opportunity isn’t going to be part of my future plans.
On second thought, maybe that makes me qualified after all.
But I digress.
Another issue that deserves to be raised is how smaller markets (where many people get their opportunities to learn and develop their skills) also have a shortage of minority on-air personalities. Is that because minorities are being ignored in smaller towns? Or is it due to a lack of pursuing entry level jobs in smaller regions and rejecting the idea of relocating and working for minimal pay?
Most small stations rely on young people who are willing to work for minimum wage salaries, and the trade off for low compensation is experience. Smaller markets should be even more open to giving people of color and different backgrounds a chance to learn the business, but it’s also incumbent upon minorities to explore these situations, and be willing to pay their dues because starting at the top in major markets isn’t a viable option.
I also don’t see a ton of minorities creating original content via podcasts, YouTube, Periscope or Facebook Live. These are all areas where an individual can practice their craft, build relationships with radio station executives, and develop an audience. And it costs next to nothing.
This issue is complex and it won’t be fixed immediately, but what’s critical is that the radio industry is making a collective effort to improve upon its shortcomings. Few can argue that the format is thin of minority voices. Nor can they suggest that enough training, outreach and internal accountability has been implemented to assure that brands take steps in the right direction to improve their diversity challenges.
Which means that each company has to decide if this is an issue they care deeply about, or if they’re content with their current standing. It also tells me that the current crop of minority talent on our sports radio stations can be part of the solution by getting further involved and encouraging people from different backgrounds to explore this industry.
The media business, and for that matter, the entire world, is a changed place. Image, sound, variety, and perception all impact a station’s ability to maintain and expand its business. What may have worked for the past thirty years isn’t necessarily going to work for the next thirty, which is why this is a subject that must be addressed.
Most radio industry leaders are good open-minded people with the right intentions, but the collective results we’ve delivered on this issue leave little to be desired. We can sweep it under the carpet, issue quotes to the radio trades, speak at conferences, and send out internal emails telling our employees how much we value being a diverse operation, but at some point, that noise must turn to concrete action, especially in desirable positions.
Keep in mind, I’ve only drawn to light the lack of minority voices in key weekday hosting positions. What do you think we’d find if we also shined the spotlight on update anchors, reporters and producers? Heck, is there one sports radio station in the nation that uses a minority as its main voice to position its brand? If so, I’d love to know. I study this format intently and I haven’t heard of any station doing that.
The late Michael Jackson said it best in his song “Man In The Mirror“. If you’re unfamiliar with the lyrics, they read like this:
I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change
Jackson may not have written that song with the thought of sports radio’s lack of diversity on the top of his mind, but the message rings all too clear.
Change starts in each city, building, company, and executive’s mind. If you care about growing your radio station and relating better to the community in which you operate, be willing to consider others who you may not have previously. Explore different avenues to identify talent. Get a firm understanding of where your brand’s strengths are, and what opportunities exist to make larger inroads in the marketplace. Don’t wait until your market’s demographics change. By then it’ll be way too late to make adjustments.
The collective improvement of diversity in sports radio won’t be resolved inside of a conference room by a group of executives joining forces to introduce wholesale changes across multiple regions and companies. But if better systems are installed, and one individual in one city takes action to make his or her operation more diverse, that becomes the first step towards making an entire industry look, sound, and feel better than it did yesterday. And that my friends is where progress begins.
Angiolet, Borod, Craig & Sottolano Added To 2022 BSM Summit
“If you’re planning to attend, please buy your tickets as soon as possible. We have limited room and it’s first come, first serve.”
We promised we had more great news to share regarding the 2022 BSM Summit. Just four days after revealing the addition of ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro to this year’s show, we’ve added four more heavyweights to March’s sports media industry conference.
First, it’s a pleasure to welcome for the first time, DraftKings Chief Media Officer Brian Angiolet to the BSM Summit. Brian joined DraftKings in April 2021 after two decades with Verizon where he helped the company strike a number of multi-billion dollar broadcasting, sports and entertainment content and advertising deals. Some of the key groups to do business with Verizon during Brian’s tenure included the NFL, NBA, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM. DK has been a large advertiser and supporter of the sports media industry for many years, in addition to becoming a larger content provider following the acquisition of VSiN. We look forward to having Brian join our sports betting executive panel (hosted by ESPN’s host Joe Fortenbaugh) to share his insights on how he sees sports betting groups participating now and in the future in the sports media content world.
Second, it’s an honor to add Fanatics Chief Commercial Officer Ari Borod to the sports betting executive panel for his first appearance at the BSM Summit. Ari’s fingerprints have been all over the sports betting business for years, first with FanDuel, then with the Action Network. He joined Fanatics in June 2021, reuniting with former FanDuel CEO Matt King, and in less than a year, the company became the official trading cards partner of MLB, purchased the Topps Trading Company, and applied for a sports betting license in New York. Possessing a massive customer base, deep executive knowledge of the sports betting business, and a desire to make a larger dent in the sports betting arena, we’re thrilled to have Ari lend his perspective on how Fanatics views the future of sports betting and the evolution of the sports media industry.
Next, I am thrilled to have Audacy’s EVP of Programming Jeff Sottolano appear on stage for the first time at the Summit. In his current role, Jeff is responsible for the content strategy and performance of Audacy’s local brands in all formats across all broadcast and digital platforms. Jeff has played a key role in the launch, development and growth of the BetQL Network, while also helping Audacy evolve its position as one of America’s top audio companies. Jeff will be part of one of my favorite sessions, The Power Panel, which includes SVP of Premiere Sports and EVP of iHeart Sports Don Martin, Cumulus and Westwood One SVP Bruce Gilbert, and SiriusXM SVP of Sports Programming Steve Cohen. All four men will participate in a lengthy discussion on sports talk programming and the various challenges facing brands, talent, and programmers today.
A BSM Summit can’t just feature new faces though, especially when familiar ones add valuable knowledge to important programming conversations. ESPN Radio Program Director, former colleague and longtime friend Justin Craig will join us for our Programmers Masterclass alongside a few other notable leaders. The group will examine what does and doesn’t work from a content standpoint when trying to capture ratings. They’ll also share which ingredients are essential in successful talent/shows, and provide an on-site review of a piece of audio content. Those interested in learning how great programmer’s think will want to be present for this panel.
If you haven’t purchased a ticket to the Summit but are planning to attend, please do so before seats are no longer available. We have limited room inside the theater and it’s first come, first serve. Additionally, all attendees in New York will receive an online registration to be able to watch the show on-demand afterwards. This can be helpful when looking to share insight with local staffs who aren’t able to attend.
For those not able to travel but interested in enjoying the Summit, we do have virtual tickets available. Details on tickets, speakers, and hotel rooms can be found on BSMSummit.com. I hope to see you there!
ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit
“Having Jimmy with us will allow our attendees to learn how ESPN views the current sports media landscape in order to better understand where the business is headed in the future.”
The largest player in the sports content business today is ESPN. From television to radio to streaming, social, podcasts, websites and more, the network remains a force in satisfying the appetites of sports fans around the globe.
But creating sustainable global success isn’t easy. It requires investing billions of dollars in key programming partnerships, holding off competitors who seek to elevate their own standing, and hiring and retaining talented professionals and providing an environment for them to thrive in. If that wasn’t difficult enough, a company must also embrace new technology, and accept that certain things will fail while pursuing a path to excellence.
The man charged with making sure ESPN thrives in each of these areas is Chairman Jimmy Pitaro, and I’m excited to share that he’ll be joining us in March in New York City for the 2022 BSM Summit.
I’ll have the pleasure of spending 35 minutes on stage with Jimmy discussing the state of the sports media industry, the opportunities and challenges facing operators in 2022 and beyond, the growth of sports betting, network radio, podcasts, subscriptions, social, and many other issues. No matter what space we’re talking about, ESPN has held a dominant position among all media brands. Having Jimmy with us will allow our attendees to learn how ESPN views the current sports media landscape in order to better understand where the business is headed in the future.
Jimmy has been with the Walt Disney Company since 2010. He became ESPN President in 2018 and was elevated two years later to his current role as Chairman of ESPN and Sports Content. You can learn more about his professional background by clicking here.
A reminder that the 2022 BSM Summit is an industry-only event. You must work in the media business in order to attend the show. This includes sales, public relations, advertising agency professionals and agents, as well as programming folks. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet of attending the Summit, feel free to visit our YouTube page to see some clips from past shows. It’ll give you an idea of what you can expect. You can also see the full list of speakers scheduled to appear at our 2022 show by visiting BSMSummit.com. We’ll announce a few more executive additions to March’s event later this week.
For those who manage brands and have joined us before in New York, Los Angeles and/or Chicago and are planning to come but haven’t bought a ticket yet, please do so asap. Seating is limited and once we’re full, we can’t add seats inside the room. You can also take advantage of a great hotel deal ($109 per night) with our partner Hotel Edison by clicking here.
One additional note, for those who are concerned about traveling, there is an opportunity to buy a virtual ticket. This year’s show is available both online and in person. For those planning to join us in NYC, in addition to receiving your live ticket, you’ll also get an online account so you can view the event on-demand afterwards. This can be especially helpful if you wish to replay a session or use any information afterwards to help members of your team. A big thanks to our virtual partner Nuvoodoo Media for helping make it happen.
We’re just 49 days away from putting on a spectacular show for industry folks in the big apple. We hope to see you there!
BSM, BNM Ready To Grow In 2022
“We’ve ended 2021 with record high’s for monthly traffic and social impressions, and our client and advertiser base the best its ever been thanks to the support of outstanding partners.”
It’s commonplace in our business to self-reflect when a new year full of possibilities arrives. We should probably do it more often rather than reserving it for the final day of the year or the first day of the next, but in the media business, finding time isn’t always easy.
As I look back at 2021, and the obstacles, adversity, accomplishments, enlightenment, and unpredictability that awaits BSM and BNM in 2022, I’m grateful to be able to do work that many enjoy and benefit from. Since I left the programming world in 2015 not a day has passed where I thought ‘I need to get back to running a radio station‘. That may sound crazy considering I spent two decades inside of buildings, loving the job, and living and breathing it 24/7, but from the second I moved into this space, I knew it was where I needed to be.
I had my fun building brands, chasing ratings, leading corporate programming calls, and making good money, but that restricted me to working in one city for one company with one brand and one staff. Now, I get to wake up each day and help clients in multiple cities, and run my own brand, collaborating with a great group of people to tell stories about the business we love. Combine that with hosting an annual conference, working with advertising partners and industry friends to create cool content and examine ways to grow their businesses, and connecting with folks to stay plugged in on details that others won’t know about until weeks or months later, and I consider myself very lucky. The added bonus, I get to do it in running pants and t-shirts inside the comfort of my home office/studio.
But with operating a business comes a different set of challenges. In 2020, we ended the BSM Summit on a high only to watch the entire world spin out of control weeks later due to the Covid-19 pandemic. That created a bunch of short-term issues, which fortunately we were able to overcome. Fast forward to this year, and we’ve ended 2021 with record high’s for monthly traffic and social impressions, and our client and advertiser base the best its ever been thanks to the support of outstanding partners. I never assume we’re in the clear because things can change quickly, but the support we’ve received is appreciated. It fuels me to reinvest in others to continue growing our operation and helping the industry.
So let’s talk a little bit about how we’re doing that in 2022.
First, we merged Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media in May 2021 to bring news and opinion from both the sports/talk and news/talk worlds under one roof. We tried running them independently initially but that wasn’t the best strategy for a new brand. Since bringing them together, BNM’s exposure has increased, the content has been read more regularly, and though we have more to do to get the brand on par with BSM, we’re making progress. BSM had a 5+ year head start on BNM, and though I know at times it may seem weird to read a sports media and news media story on the same website or social media account, as I tell those who ask, sports and news have mixed together since the invention of television, radio and newspapers.
Boosting BNM’s awareness and content is a goal for 2022, and to do that I want to share two things we’re creating to help us make progress.
I’m excited to share that we are launching The BNM Rundown. This will be a newsletter we distribute 3x per week (Monday-Wednesday-Friday) via email similar to what we’ve done with the BSM 8@8. The Rundown will go out around 5pm ET on each of those three days, and it’ll contain ten (10) news media stories, five (5) advertising slots, and the latest stock prices for radio groups. There will be additional content and advertising added in the future, and we may increase delivery to five days per week down the line. I’m happy with the layout and think you’ll enjoy it. If you’d like to receive the BNM Rundown or discuss advertising opportunities inside of it, click here to sign up. A big thanks to Ryan Jaster for all the work he’s done getting it ready for distribution.
In addition to the newsletter, 2022 will become the first year where we roll out BNM’s Top 20 of 2022. Similar to how we’ve produced the BSM Top 20, we are going to do the same for the News/Talk format. Categories will be announced at a later time, and we’re expecting to present our results towards years end. There’s a lot to be done to make it a success, but if we’re able to do for News/Talk what we’ve done for Sports/Talk during the past 6 years, I’m confident folks will appreciate it.
When I look at BNM right now, I see a number of excellent writers on the site. If you’re not reading Pete Mundo, Jerry Barmash, Douglas Pucci, Rick Schultz, McGraw Milhaven, Ryan Hedrick and Eduardo Razo, you really should. Each of those guys have been rock stars for the brand, but we need more help, especially another columnist or two. If you work in news radio or TV, love writing, and live and breathe the business, email: JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Though we do need to add columnists, a bigger hole has been a dedicated Assistant Content Editor. I’ve poured my heart and soul into BSM over the years, Demetri Ravanos has as well, and that’s helped us build a strong connection with sports radio folks. For BNM, that love, interest, and unwavering passion for telling stories about news radio and news television has been missing in the editor role. Though frustrating at times, it’s all part of building a brand. You have to go thru a few things before it all starts to click. Now after talking to a bunch of talented people over the past two months, and thinking about the brand’s need for TLC, I’m happy to announce the internal promotion of Eduardo Razo.
Since joining us Eduardo has been a steady fixture on the site, writing news, scheduling social posts, and putting an extra set of eyes on the content that comes in from our team. He cares about the site being clean, conducts himself neutrally and professionally when adding news, and he believes in the brand. If hours go by and the site doesn’t have new content, he’s the one who points it out. When Eduardo first joined us he was just learning the ropes. Over the past fifteen months he’s been consistently excellent, and I have no doubt he’ll make even more progress in his new role as BNM’s Assistant Content Editor.
Making sure Eduardo has support to help him though is also important. I’d love to be that person myself, but client projects require much of my focus, so having a strong #2 is key. I’ve been lucky to have a great one in Demetri Ravanos who I’m excited to share is being elevated to the new role of Director of Content. In his new position, Demetri will continue producing columns, creating original feature stories, and hosting a weekly podcast. He’ll also be responsible for daily social creation and scheduling, working with yours truly on client projects and Barrett Media events, recruitment of writers, growth of the BSM Member Directory, BSM merchandising, additional BSM audio projects, and oversight of BSM and BNM’s Assistant Content Editors.
That last line implies that there will be multiple editors involved in shaping BSM and BNM’s content, and with Demetri and Eduardo promoted, that means we’re adding someone to help grow BSM. I’m thrilled to welcome Ian Casselberry to our team as BSM’s new Assistant Content Editor. Ian is familiar to many in the sports media universe for his work with Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He’s also contributed to Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports, SB Nation Detroit, and MLive.com among others.
I’ve read Ian’s work for years and have always appreciated his passion for sports radio and sports television. Adding someone with his experience, creativity, and attention to detail has been a huge priority for me. I’m looking forward to turning him loose on January 17th when he officially begins working with us. Under his direction, and in tandem with Demetri and I, we’re going to aim to produce more quality sports media content, and continue expanding BSM’s footprint across the industry.
As awesome as all of these moves are for creating interest in reading the site, if you don’t have someone in position to help sell it, the upside is going to be limited. For the past six years I’ve been the one making those sales myself. But I’ve also had to be a consultant, social scheduler, content creator, summit organizer-creator-host, finder of new clients, and the one in charge of billing and payroll. I love being busy, but a brand’s potential can’t be maximized without help.
Placing the company’s sales efforts in someone else’s hands though requires trust. I’ve learned the past few years that unless you’re inside my world and understand everything that goes on with BSM and BNM, it’s not an easy brand to sell. Media sellers are used to working with more assets, bigger dollars, and they expect things to move faster. They’re also used to corporate environments where a crew provides support from the beginning to the end of a sale. That’s not how it works here. This is more of a family business. Our success depends on one on one relationships, accessibility, being a self-starter, and patience. It means keeping in touch with industry friends and partners even when there isn’t a sale to be made. Nobody knows this brand, business, and who we serve better than the person who’s lived it with me for the past six and a half years, Stephanie Eads, my new Director of Strategic Partnerships.
Not only has Stephanie worked in sales and customer service most of her adult life, she’s honest, organized, and outstanding with people. She’s been exposed to every aspect of my radio life for the past sixteen years, and if you’ve been to a BSM Summit before then you already know how on the ball she is at making sure things get done. This is something we’ve talked about for years, but the timing was never right. Now it is, and I’m excited to watch her blossom. Having her add extra support to help me with billing and payroll is an added bonus.
The BSM brand will also welcome a few additional writers starting this week. First, I’m glad to have Danny O’Neil joining us as a weekly columnist. I got to know Danny in Seattle at 710 ESPN Seattle over the past six years, and he’s always been smart, passionate about media, and an exceptional writer. He’s now based in NYC and his debut column will hit the site this Friday. Also joining us in a daily news writer role is Will Dundon. Will is based in Nashville where he works as a producer for 102.5 The Game. Having him involved will help us stay on top of day to day news stories.
In terms of upcoming content, the BSM Top 20 of 2021 will be released February 7-11 and 14-15. The series moves back a week this year in accordance with a later Super Bowl date. During the seven day span we will highlight the best local sports radio stations, program directors, and morning, midday, and afternoon shows. We will also recognize the best national sports talk shows and original sports podcasts. To do that, we will once again involve more than 50 program directors and executives in the voting process.
One thing we will do differently this year is create an extra piece which recognizes the top performer in twenty smaller categories. These will be determined by a combination of BSM staff and select experts for specific fields. Some of these categories will include Best Sports Betting Content Brand, Best Wrestling Audio Show, Best Sports Radio Social Brand, and more.
After the Top 20 concludes, we’ll turn our attention to the 2022 BSM Summit, which is scheduled for March 2-3, 2022 in New York City at the Anne Bernstein Theater. The show will also be available virtually for those who can’t attend in person. I’m excited about the guest speakers we’ve lined up for this year’s event, and have more tremendous additions to announce later this week and next week. I realize the Omicron/Covid-19 situation has created some concern over the past month, and we continue to monitor the situation closely. As of today, we’re planning to host the event. If the situation were to worsen and we couldn’t keep people safe and comfortable, we’d reschedule the show. I’m hopeful of seeing familiar faces and many of sports media’s best and brightest in sixty days. If you haven’t bought your ticket, log on to BSMSummit.com and do so before you’re on the outside looking in. In the meantime, stay tuned to this website and the BSM 8@8 for details. We should all know more January 15th when New York State updates everyone on their mask ordinance.
Other content projects are in the works as well for March-December. We’ve got a number of ideas we’ve talked about for March Madness, and the NFL Draft. Items like last year’s Meet The Market Managers or a programmer’s version of it may also land on the content calendar. Not to be forgotten is the importance of continuing to improve the BSM Member Directory to help people stay informed, ready, and land in front of the right decision makers when job openings arise. Seeing a few of our members earn gigs the last 4-5 months of 2021 was very cool, and we hope to see more of that in 2022. Last but not least, I’m hopeful of giving the website a new layout in either quarter 2 or 3.
As I bring this column to a close, I’d like to remind you that BSM and BNM exists because we love the business and advocate for it daily. Since 2015, I’ve prioritized professional storytelling, research, industry news, relationship building, social media marketing, and consulting. Inside information and building relationships are important, and sure, it’s occasionally fun being first, but I’ve never worried about clicks, scoops, cash grabs or ruining reputations to elevate my own. I try to think about the big picture, even if it means missing out in the short-term. That applies to who I work with in a consulting capacity as well as how I operate the site. There’s no better example of it than last week. Most of our crew had the week off. It was tough missing out on stories when we were taking a mental timeout, but people come first. If you want long-term productivity and a staff to stick with you, support and sacrifice are essential.
If there’s one thing I know, this outlet has been a great resource for industry professionals. I wasn’t as fortunate during my studio days to have a site this rich in content to learn from, debate with, and stay connected to. We’ve hired 20+ contributors to help serve the industry, and I’m honored to have each one of them here. The additions we’ve made to improve the brand in 2022 will make us even better. We’re not perfect by any stretch, but we try to be fair and accurate. I also try to be accessible, especially when difficult situations arise. There are going to be times when our crew deliver strong opinions or tackle sensitive issues, and when those instances occur, I hope you’ll remember what I said about accuracy and fairness. We won’t operate as shills for the industry but we’re also not going scorched earth on folks.
Our goal here is simple, help folks stay informed about the sports and news radio/television formats, overdeliver for clients who place their trust in us, connect our advertising partners and members to others who can benefit from their services, and give industry people access to content from other professionals so they can do their jobs better.
If we can do these things consistently we’ll be in great shape. If we miss along the way, we’ll clean up the mess, and try to learn from it. We’re nine months away from celebrating seven years in operation, and we couldn’t have made it this far without your full support. Thanks for riding with us, now let’s make 2022 a year to remember.
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