I fully intended to avoid writing about this topic because I’ve grown increasingly tired of the whole political-sports media dance. But then a whole new chain of events unfolded, and now here I am, using a line from a Franz Ferdinand song to describe the mess ESPN finds itself in – “This fire is out of control.”
By now you’re probably aware that Jemele Hill of ESPN’s SC6 went off on Twitter about President Donald Trump. If you haven’t seen her tweets, it’s your lucky day. See below.
Hill’s tweets created a stir on social media, leading ESPN to issue a statement. The network said they had talked to Jemele about her actions and she realized they were inappropriate.
But that didn’t satisfy the masses. The pressure increased when White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about Hill’s comments during a briefing with the press, and said Hill’s remarks were “one of the more outrageous comments anyone could make” and added that she thought Hill deserved to be fired.
Media outlets latched on to the story, but it picked up even more steam when Clay Travis spoke to a number of ESPN employees off the record, and broke the news that Linda Cohn had previously been suspended after making public comments about the company turning off their core viewers by moving away from covering just sports and allowing politics to enter the equation during a radio interview in April on WABC radio in New York.
Travis questioned why Curt Schilling was fired for his actions, yet Hill was given a pass. The former MLB pitcher was terminated after sharing a post on social media about the North Carolina law which barred transgender people from using the bathroom and locker rooms that don’t correspond with their birth genders. Schilling also made comments previously about Hillary Clinton deserving to be buried under a jail somewhere, and comparing extremist muslims to Nazi’s which also didn’t sit well with network executives.
After Schilling was fired, respected author James Andrew Miller said, “If you’re taking a paycheck from ESPN, you have to be extra careful about how you communicate publicly and always err on the side of caution and responsibility. It’s not an unfair or impractical position for ESPN to hold. If you want to express your own opinions in a provocative way on social media, then ESPN and a lot of other media organizations are probably not where you should be working.”
Those comments sound reasonable but where things become complex is when you compare how Schilling, Cohn and Doug Adler were dealt with versus the way Hill was handled. ESPN has been labeled as a network which carries a left leaning agenda, and their handling of this situation hasn’t done anything to change that perception.
During an appearance on FOX News, former analyst and NFL defensive back Jason Sehorn confirmed that he had been asked to avoid any discussion about politics while working at the network. Expecting a television analyst to steer clear of political conversations seems like a valid request, except Sehorn was known for being an avid supporter of the Republican party. In fact, he even spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention.
Former sideline reporter Britt McHenry then chimed in, adding that while working at ESPN she was reprimanded for supporting tweets that were conservative leaning.
By now you’re thinking, this must be the worst of it right? Well, not exactly.
On Thursday, Think Progress reported that ESPN tried to take Jemele Hill off the air on Wednesday night, but the plan backfired when her partner, Michael Smith, refused to host SC6 without her. Network executives allegedly reached out to two other black personalities, Michael Eaves and Elle Duncan, to see if they would step in. When those inquiries were rejected, and the company couldn’t find anyone to step in, they reversed their position and had Hill return to work with Smith.
ESPN denied the report, telling Think Progress they never asked anyone to replace Hill on the show, period. Senior Vice President of news and information Rob King said, “Wednesday was a hard and unusual day, with a number of people interpreting the day without a full picture of what happened. In the end, ultimately, Michael and Jemele appearing on the show last night and doing the show the way they did is the outcome we always desired.”
Think Progress has since updated their story with additional details, painting a picture that suggests ESPN hasn’t been completely truthful about the situation. In every story there are three sides – yours, mine and the truth. Each party has much to lose therefore keeping the specifics behind closed doors is important. Leaks do happen when high profile brands and people are involved and at this point, ESPN is trying to do damage control.
After making her inflammatory comments about Trump, Hill received support from the National Association of Black Journalists. She also received social media support from a few of her fellow colleagues.
There are likely detractors of Hill’s inside ESPN as well, but going public with those opinions would only create unnecessary attention. Given how the network has dealt with previous situations involving employees who see the world differently, the reality of being hurt professionally makes it a wiser decision to stay silent.
Hill has since taken to Twitter to apologize for her personal beliefs putting ESPN in a difficult position. But she didn’t apologize for what she said. In fact, her original tweets remain up on her Twitter account.
If you thought that was the end of this story, guess again. It became an even bigger topic of conversation on Friday when the President of the United States, Donald Trump, posted this tweet.
Whether you’re a Trump supporter or a Trump critic, it’s undeniable that his message reaches a large volume of Americans. Over 38 million people follow him on Twitter, and his tweets are picked up by media outlets across the nation. For a network looking to decrease the noise, and return to business as usual, that becomes impossible when every local and national news outlet is advancing the conversation and painting ESPN in a negative light.
Which brings me to the point of the column where I’ve got to interject a few opinions of my own.
Why are we in this situation in the first place? We’re having a conversation about sports media personalities and the ramifications of their public political positions because ESPN’s leadership has permitted it and wavered in how they handle different situations. For well over thirty years, ESPN has been the gold standard in sports media, but the past few years have included a large number of self-inflicted wounds, which begs the question, why are these things continuing to happen?
It pains me to see this unfold from afar because I grew up loving ESPN. My affinity for the company and its people moved me enough to want to go to work for them, a dream I was able to realize in 2004. But as I look at where things stand now, I don’t see the same amazing brand I once did. There are many great people still there, and I’m sure they hate this as much as I do because they’d prefer to get back to talking sports, having fun, and representing the ideals for which ESPN became special the past thirty eight years.
I want to pose a few questions that I hope will make you think.
Which direction does Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic, Scott Van Pelt, Freddie Coleman, Louis Riddick, Jon Gruden, Chris Berman, Trey Wingo, Kirk Herbstreit, Karl Ravech and Suzy Kolber lean politically? Maybe you know. Or like most people, you’d have to know them personally, talk to them at a public function, or dig thru pages of content online to find out.
Why does that matter? Because they go to their job, focus on satisfying the sports fan and don’t make the mistake of allowing their personal views on other issues in life to drive a wedge between them and their audience.
If you listened recently to my BSM Podcast episode with Jim Rome, he made an excellent point. The CBS Sports Radio host said that if you asked his audience which way he leans politically they’d have a hard time figuring it out. Keep in mind, Rome has been on the air for over 25 years, and he’s pretty opinionated. He understands his lane, stays in it, and respects his audience enough to avoid giving them a reason to tune out.
Whether they accept it or not, every ESPN personality is a representative of the brand. The second they speak out on a political, racial, religious or social issue, whether intended or not, they are placing their employer in an unenviable position. The public is smart enough to understand that the individual’s views don’t represent the views of the entire company, but that doesn’t mean the attention doesn’t harm the brand’s reputation or business. If a person is going to occupy a public position and use a company’s platform to reach an audience and earn a living, they’ve got to understand that there are a certain set of responsibilities that come with it.
I’ve heard people the past few days say “Jemele isn’t speaking on behalf of ESPN, she’s talking about her own views.” Hogwash. Without ESPN, Jemele Hill the citizen can speak however she wants, but she’d be reaching a much smaller audience.
Anytime an on-air personality enters this territory my first thought is what exactly are you gaining from this? Is the validation of a few thousand fans and colleagues on social media worth it? Is getting under the skin of the political establishment worth the potential damage you could be doing to your career?
ESPN has built a stellar reputation over the past three and a half decades, and when employees of the company take these political positions, they put their employer in a position to be publicly damaged, and lose audience and advertising dollars. The four letter network is in the business of creating content for its fans and using it to sell advertising to existing and prospective clients. Regardless of intent, this conversation does little to help them increase viewership or gain additional business.
Ask yourself this question. What do you tell an ad buyer who’s white, spends a bunch of money on ESPN and voted for Donald Trump? Do you think they’re going to feel good about continuing to invest in a person/show which spit in the face of their personal beliefs? Do you think they’re simply going to make a ‘business decision’ with their ad buys rather than allow their personal feelings to enter the equation?
What about if you’re a white sports fan who enjoys ESPN, specifically SC6, and you voted for Donald Trump. Maybe you liked Michael and Jemele’s style, but when the social media commentary offered by Jemele suggests that Trump’s rise to power is the result of white supremacy, are you OK being labeled that way?
Consider this, Donald Trump, whether you love or loathe him, did receive nearly 63 million votes. He also won 2,728 of 3,113 counties across the country. Political beliefs aside, are we really going to suggest that MOST of those people who voted for him fit the description of which Hill was talking about? Maybe I’m giving people too much of the benefit of the doubt but I don’t believe that to be the case.
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, a sports media personality represents their brand at all times. If you don’t like it and prefer not to be branded as Person X of ESPN, Person Y of FOX Sports or Person Z of CBS, then you might want to reconsider whether or not a public life is the right fit.
And it carries over beyond sports media too.
If Aaron Judge made the remarks that Jemele Hill did, they would do damage to the New York Yankees brand. If Mark Zuckerberg made them, they’d hurt Facebook. If Taylor Swift made them, they’d hurt her record sales, merchandise sales, and concert attendance. You get the point.
Here’s another question that many are wondering but not comfortable discussing because it stokes the flames of race. If this situation involved Scott Van Pelt or Mike Greenberg blasting Barack Obama while he was in office, in the same manner that Jemele Hill crushed Trump, what do you think happens? If you’re going to suggest the company would have done the exact same thing, wake me when you return to reality so we can have a real conversation.
I love that ESPN has embraced a diverse culture. They’ve not been afraid to take chances whether it’s launching The Undefeated, five thirty eight or rolling out SC6. Heck, even trotting out Sergio Dipp on the sidelines for Monday Night Football was a risk, one which unfortunately didn’t work out due to a rough night of execution. I’ll never rip a company for taking chances because I think that’s essential to growing a business, but in this particular situation, unnecessary tensions have been created, and people have been forced to take sides, all because the conversation shifted into areas that were not in line with the audience’s expectations.
Looking ahead, there are a few elephants in the room that ESPN needs to get out of the way of. The first one involves the issue of political bias. Whenever it’s mentioned, the network quickly rejects it and in many cases, becomes incredibly sensitive over it. Trust me, I know. When BSM conducted a survey in March, it didn’t sit well with many inside ESPN. Some even took me to task publicly for it.
Rather than absorb the information and recognize the very real problem on its hands, the company instead tried to wage a PR war by dismissing the data and criticizing the individuals reporting it. But how else do you explain the double standards in this situation involving Hill? Or the ridiculous controversy that ESPN created with Robert Lee? Or the Caitlyn Jenner decision at the ESPYS? Each of those situations were created by the company or their people, not media critics, FOX Sports employees or viewers who can’t let go of the glory days of Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick hosting SportsCenter.
The second challenge, which I think is much harder to change, is to improve diversity of thought inside the company, and that includes at the highest levels. Bob Ley acknowledged last December that this was an area where the network needed to improve, and that may be easier to fix on the air, but what about up top? It’s been well documented that John Skipper and Bob Iger prefer the democratic party, and Connor Schell, who became Skipper’s right hand man in June, shares similar views. It’s wishful thinking to expect things to be approached differently when the top decision makers lean in the same direction.
Clay Travis wrote in his latest Outkick The Coverage column, that ESPN has two choices in front of them for how to handle these situations going forward. Option #1 would be to announce that they will not police speech that takes place off their airwaves or outside of their websites or print publications. The second option would be to take the position that no employee at ESPN is allowed to publicly discuss politics on their social media feeds.
Guess which one I’m going to pick – Option #2!
If a company wants to maintain standards and avoid having to read between blurry lines to address these type of issues, they’ve got to be consistent in how they handle each situation. If an employee violates the rules, they face the consequences. If individuals don’t like or agree with the policy, there are other places to work.
By choosing the first option, you’re dismissing the influence that social media has on people, and you’re leaving it open for company employees to operate without consequence. I can only imagine the disasters that would follow if Bristol Inc. operated that way. We’re not talking about some small operation here folks. We’re talking about a company that is publicly traded, features thousands of employees and business partners, and generates billions of dollars in revenue.
ESPN finds itself at a crossroads. They’re faced with different economic realities than they’re used to and they’re operating in a new media world where the lights are always on and microphones are present. Whether it’s on their airwaves, their websites, their personalities social media pages or in public conversation, when an employee speaks out on issues that are removed from what ESPN does best, they create a divide. That helps nobody.
With the network trying to hang on to every customer it can and avoid future mass layoffs, there’s never been a more important time for John Skipper and Bob Iger to fix these issues. The first step is to accept responsibility and acknowledge that the issue was bigger than they had imagined. The second is to install a policy which leaves no wiggle room, and is fair to people on both sides of the aisle. The final part of the puzzle is to invite different points of view on the air and inside of conference rooms to present a more level playing field inside the company. The goal should be to make fans of both political parties feel good about spending a few hours enjoying the network’s content and supporting its business partners. That’s especially important with disconnected fans/viewers ages 35 and up.
Sports isn’t supposed to be a right or left choice. But when on-air talent wander into areas that the audience doesn’t tune into them for, the relationship between host and viewer/listener can suffer. It’s critical to know what your brand is, what the audience expects, and then satisfy those expectations. It may sound silly but sometimes it pays to stick to sports!
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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