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A Mixed Bag of Sports Media Subjects

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There have been a number of things happening in sports and media that have captured my attention lately. Rather than writing a normal column which focuses on one particular issue, I’m going to use my platform today to cover a few topics in rapid fire fashion. Fasten your seat belt.

FACING THE MUSIC AFTER A MISTAKE IS ALWAYS A WISE DECISION

Like many of you, I screamed my head off at the television when watching the final play in the Minnesota Vikings-New Orleans playoff game. I was shocked by what happened and questioned Saints safety Marcus Williams’ judgment along with the rest of the nation.

But it’s what happened afterwards that gained my attention and respect.

Rather than ignoring the media, which most would’ve done in that moment and for good reason, Williams stood tall handling the heat. He knew he screwed up and let down every fan of the Who Dat nation, and felt a responsibility to acknowledge his mistake and pledge to learn from it. As furious as fans were and as emotional as we become over wins and losses, it’s harder to want to kick a guy when he’s down when he has the decency to look you in the eye and say “I’m sorry. I screwed up. This is my fault.”

Why does that matter? Because it applies to many of us in the sports radio business.

If you’re a host or program director and your ratings are down, your market manager and corporate bosses don’t want to hear excuses. They want to know that you’re accountable and prepared with an informed explanation of what happened and a solution to avoid future missteps. If they sense that you care, have a game plan, and understand the situation, they’re more likely to support you during the tough times.

If you’re producing a show and the topic you pitched falls flat or the guest you booked doesn’t show up, own it. It’s live radio. Things don’t always go according to plan. All you can do is develop the angle, talk to the guest, confirm that they’re on schedule, and have a backup plan ready in case something doesn’t work. Your show unit and program director are going to ask questions when something you promised doesn’t come to fruition. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be doing their job, keeping you honest, and letting you know they expect better.

There are many daily situations that take place in our business which put us in position to either fall flat on our face or rise above the tide. Remember, everyone has a bad moment. It’s how you respond that determines whether people remain confident in your abilities or not. Judging from Marcus Williams’ performance throughout the season and how he conducted himself after the lowest moment of his professional career, I’m sure many in New Orleans are going to have his back going forward.

THE VIKINGS RADIO FINAL CALL PLEASED FANS, NOT MEDIA FOLKS

From that same Vikings-Saints game came another issue. The final call heard on KFAN in Minneapolis by the voice of the Vikings, Paul Allen.

Nobody expected the Vikings to walk off the field with a victory on the final play. It was something that had never happened during the course of NFL playoff history. So when Stefon Diggs took a Case Keenum pass 61 yards into the end zone to send the Vikings past the Saints and into the NFC title game versus the Philadelphia Eagles, the entire broadcast team got caught up in the moment.

If you were listening to the final play and judging the execution of Allen and Vikings color analyst Pete Bercich by normal broadcasting standards, you’d probably tear it to shreds. It was not the way broadcasting schools instruct you to call a play. In fact, Bercich stepped all over Allen and the excitement felt by both men contributed to them becoming fans with microphones for a few minutes.

But here’s the thing about local sports that makes it different. A local team’s broadcast crew is there to be the eyes and ears of the fan who isn’t. They’re invested in the team’s success and they live the highs and convey the lows of each developing situation. In Allen’s case he’s called Vikings games for 16 seasons. Bercich on the other hand has spent 11 years in the booth after spending years wearing the purple as a player and coach. Given the team’s track record of being on the wrong side of history, what Allen and Bercich experienced Sunday was unfamiliar and they let their true emotions pour onto the radio airwaves.

Depending on your preference for a sports broadcast, you may have hated the final radio call of the Vikings game, or played it ten times. My guess is that many who didn’t like the execution, are probably not living in Minneapolis or rooting for the Vikings.

Whether you enjoyed the call or not, I think it’s important to remember that the real art of broadcasting a game is having the ability to paint a picture with words and let the audience feel and hear the moment in its purest form. Maybe it wasn’t what the radio gods would have preferred or executed the way broadcast trainers have taught it but it was exactly what Minnesota sports fans needed during that moment in time. Taking that into account, Allen and Bercich increased their hero status with Vikings fans this past Sunday.

WOULDN’T BARSTOOL SPORTS HAVE MADE SENSE FOR TERRESTRIAL RADIO?

On Wednesday, Barstool Sports launches a 24-hour radio channel on SiriusXM. To sports radio traditionalists that might not mean much. After all, there are many channels on SiriusXM, so who cares about another one right?

Well, you may want to pay attention. Barstool has built an army of fans. They’ve also earned their fair share of critics. The company’s content isn’t for everyone, but for those who do enjoy it, they are rabid, loyal and invested in the company’s success. Given the company’s impact online and on social, they’re throwing punches with the heavyweights and proving they’re a force to be reckoned with. They’ve also struck a chord with younger fans, an audience which terrestrial radio has a tougher time reaching.

For the past two decades, the national sports radio space has been dominated by ESPN and FOX. Others such as CBS, NBC and SB Nation have operated networks too, but they’re far behind the top two networks. One could easily make the case that SiriusXM has created much more buzz and interest in its national programming than those other brands, despite not being on terrestrial channels and requiring a fee to listen.

What’s interesting to me about this partnership is why a brand like Barstool was not pursued more aggressively and given a bigger national platform by one of those terrestrial networks. One would assume the Barstool brand and personalities working for the company would have created a lot more interest. A few sources I spoke to mentioned that Barstool’s use of foul language and the negative press received over the years provided some concern. I get that they’re not squeaky clean but if the ultimate goal is to increase ratings, revenue and brand relevance, then just as ESPN figured out how to create a TV show with the company, I’m sure the same could have been done by a terrestrial radio partner.

What I find ironic is that some of the issues that concerned traditional broadcasters about Barstool were the same ones they embraced when giving Howard Stern a larger platform a few decades earlier. All Stern did for them was produce big ratings and revenue, despite creating edgy content and negative headlines.

It’s also interesting that SiriusXM is the company which took the plunge. That would be the same group which was smart enough to recognize Stern’s power and lure him away to satellite radio thus building a thriving company in the process. That left a moon sized crater in morning drive on FM radio stations and now SiriusXM is taking a page out of the same playbook by pledging their support to Dave Portnoy’s band of misfits.

I believe that Barstool will help Sirius increase subscribers but I can’t imagine the company having a Stern like effect on business. However, if they produce even a tenth or twentieth of the impact that Stern did, that would be a huge victory for the suits at SiriusXM. That leaves me to wonder, why wasn’t that enough to excite even one terrestrial radio group?

FACEBOOK SENDS THE MEDIA INDUSTRY BACK TO PANIC STATION

Last week’s announcement from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg that the world’s largest social media platform would soon begin favoring posts from friends and family and decreasing the material you see from media outlets, has created a tidal wave of concern among broadcasters. As many inside offices throw darts at the Facebook czar’s image and offer four-letter expletives to describe how they feel about his recent decision, that won’t change the fact that Facebook is adjusting its strategy and execution.

Although the impact has yet to be seen or felt, many media brands anticipate being forced to spend more money to have their content reach audiences which use Facebook for daily reading and conversation. The social company feels its platform has become a playground for fake news, even contributing to the outcome of the prior election. Zuckerberg said Facebook feels a responsibility to make sure its services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being, and he’s willing to accept that people will spend less time on the platform if it means it their time spent on it becomes more valuable.

Take off your business cap for a second and listen closely to what I’m about to tell you. Facebook has ZERO obligation to help your brand create or sustain success. King Zuckerberg didn’t make his fortune by looking out for everyone else’s interests. He did it by building a must-have brand with worldwide appeal and utilized it to increase his own company’s worth and bottom line.

We forget that our brands have little control over the audience developed on Facebook. We use our airwaves, email newsletters, text alerts, billboards, live events and marketing campaigns to promote our product’s benefits and remind the audience of how they can learn more by following us on Facebook, but lose sight of the fact that while we may be able to target our content to specific audiences on the platform, those people actually belong to Facebook, not us.

Some will say that it feels like a one-sided relationship. There’s some truth to that. But, the reality is that Facebook has the audience that our brands need to drive ratings, web traffic, increase brand awareness, attend events, and support advertisers. You can label them as evil, but they’re a necessary evil.

In sports radio, we often preach about the importance of staying fresh, relevant and ahead of the curve. That’s what Facebook is doing. We may not like it because we’ve become creatures of comfort with a preference to continue with ‘business as usual’, but the reason they’ve become a global entity is because they continue to take risks, evolve, lead the charge and react when necessary.

It reminds me of that scene in Moneyball when the scouts are all in the room telling Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) that the problem they need to solve is finding a way to replace Giambi, Damon and Isringhausen who are leaving via free agency. Beane counters that they’re not looking at the big picture which shows that the A’s are a low budget team faced with a competitive disadvantage and unless they reinvent their approach they’ll wind up in the exact same position in the future.

I cautioned folks 10 months ago about a lack of social activity and why being invisible to our most passionate fans was a bad recipe. “Social Media” is meant to be a form of communication where two sides engage in dialogue. It’s not meant to be a place where brands push content at engaged audiences who express their points of view about the material they’re receiving only to not even earn a response from the brand which created it.

Ironically, that’s what radio, television and print have done to audiences for decades. Some of that approach is warranted, but building a relationship with an audience requires time, effort, interest and forming a personal relationship. To expect three industries to execute differently when the way they know is different than how social companies think and operate is asking a lot. Except these social groups are making the rules now. Not traditional media.

It’s too late to blame ourselves for breathing too much life into Facebook. My fear is that some groups will take this news and run now towards Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, assuming they’ll solve the problem. But, they won’t. They reach smaller audiences and want the same thing that Zuckerberg has. If you think they won’t do to your brand what Facebook has, you’re extremely naive. These platforms are led by sharks who want to use their access to the audience and their personal information to take a much bigger bite out of your corporate bank account. It’s that simple.

Allow me to leave you with six takeaways which I hope will serve you well going forward.

  1. Educate yourself on Facebook’s adjustments to best take advantage of reaching your audience
  2. Further invest in additional ways to gain more access and control of your audience’s information
  3. Develop a plan for engaging more with your fans on social media and analyze what is/isn’t working
  4. Create a brand that’s so important/successful that you too can make major changes and not miss a beat
  5. Understand that the rules will continue to change in social spaces and you either adapt or risk extinction
  6. Stay alert, informed and open minded about emerging social channels which may look to challenge Facebook

Barrett Blogs

Black Friday Sale TODAY For 2022 BSM Summit Tickets

“BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets will begin at 12:01am ET on Friday November 26th and expire at 11:59pm later that same night.”

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There are less than 100 days remaining until the 2022 BSM Summit takes place in New York City. We’ve announced 31 participants for the show so far, and have more to reveal in the weeks and months ahead. I think you’re going to like what’s still to come.

Putting this conference together isn’t easy. It requires months of meetings, brainstorming, promotion, selling sponsorships, pursuing speakers, and creating everything that attendees see on stage over a two day period. I’m thankful to have help from some amazing partners, but as I’ve mentioned previously, this isn’t an event that makes us rich or ends with 5-10 new clients signing up to work with BSM. The goal each year is simple, make sure the conference is valuable for those who attend, and don’t run BSM out of business by doing it. As long as those two things remain solid, it’s worth doing.

Some might wonder, why go thru months of headaches if you’re not going to break the bank or immediately add clients. That’s fair to ask. If you look at it from a pure business standpoint, one could easily make a case that pouring this type of energy into something else could be more lucrative. But money was never the motivation for doing this. I felt the sports media industry lacked a signature event where smart, successful media professionals (who don’t often cross paths) could gather at one location to laugh and learn together, and I wanted to change that. If over a two day period attendees could gain insight, information, ideas, and introductions, it’d put everyone in a stronger position to remain successful.

I’ve unapologetically loved the sports media business since I started listening to Mike & the Mad Dog on WFAN and watching SportsCenter on ESPN. I was fortunate to live and work in a number of cities over the past two decades, learning how different companies and people operate, and I remain involved today thru my work with BSM. I mention this because I also know media people. They tend to wait until the last minute to book hotel rooms, airfare, and purchase tickets, even if they can save money by acting sooner. I know, I used to do it too. I can’t control when you book your room or plane ticket, but I do want to give you an added incentive to buy your ticket to this year’s show. Seating is limited, and once the last seat is filled, that’s it. We can’t make extra room.

With that in mind, most of you are either taking today off or working inside a much quieter building. If you’ve thought about coming to the Summit, take 5-10 minutes to log on to BSMSummit.com to take advantage of our special Black Friday sale. We’ve reduced tickets for the day, so whether you’re planning to attend in NYC or watch the conference online, there’s a discount to help you out. Just $199.99 for live tickets, and $124.99 for virtual.

BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets expires at 11:59pm tonight. In the meantime, Hotel Edison in NYC is offering rooms for just $109 + taxes to Summit attendees. Click here to take advantage of the special room rate we’ve secured for this year’s show. Those of you planning to fly to NYC for the show, there have been a ton of great deals offered by American, Southwest, United, JetBlue and Frontier. It might be worth checking into today since Black Friday often has even better sales on travel.

If you’re interested in learning more about the industry, staying a step ahead, forming new relationships, strengthening existing ones, exploring potential business deals, and celebrating the business you’re in, I hope you’ll join us either online or in New York City for the 2022 BSM Summit. I’m making it easier on you, by offering lower ticket prices today. The rest is up to you!

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Barrett Blogs

Craig Carton, Fred Toucher, Mike Felger To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit

“Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.”

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When you talk to industry people about successful brands in sports talk radio, most conversations include WFAN and 98.5 The Sports Hub. The New York and Boston sports radio brands are consistently recognized for their ability to deliver large audiences and revenues.

Helping to create that success is a mixture of strong play by play partnerships, skilled programmers and even more importantly, some of the most dynamic on-air personalities in the format. Fortunately for us, a few of those gamechangers will be present to share their opinions and insights on content matters in New York City at the 2022 BSM Summit.

Starting in New York, it’s an honor to welcome WFAN afternoon drive host Craig Carton to the 2022 BSM Summit. Heard daily on ‘Carton and Roberts‘ alongside Evan Roberts, which is also featured on TV on SNY, Carton has made his presence felt ever since returning to the airwaves in November 2020. Prior to taking on the challenge in afternoons, Craig spent a decade partnering with Boomer Esiason on ‘Boomer and Carton‘, forming one of the most successful sports radio morning shows in the country. In addition to enjoying success in New York, Craig has also experienced the ups and downs that come with performing in different markets. His radio travels have taken him to Philadelphia, Denver, Buffalo and Trenton, NJ. The Syracuse graduate and outspoken host is expected to join BSM President Jason Barrett for a one on one conversation at this year’s Summit.

Shipping up to Boston, it’s a pleasure to welcome two of the format’s highest rated performers to New York City. They’re heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub in morning and afternoon drive, and at the Summit, they’ll interact together during an in-depth content conversation with BSM President Jason Barrett.

Fred Toucher is one half of the Sports Hub’s popular morning show ‘Toucher & Rich‘, which recently added syndication. The Detroit native started his career in Georgia before moving to Boston in 2005. Toucher & Rich, which includes Rich Shertenlieb, officially moved into the sports talk format in 2009. Since making the format switch, the duo have consistently produced some of the best ratings in the entire format in mornings during the past fifteen years. Toucher & Rich have also been recognized by industry executives as one of the top two morning shows in the format each of the past three years in the BSM Top 20, including taking top honors in 2018.

Mike Felger on the other hand is heard on the ride home alongside Tony Massarotti on The Sports Hub. The Marconi Award-winning afternoon radio show has been a fixture in Boston since the station’s inception in 2009. During the past twelve years, Felger & Mazz have been a steady force atop the Men 25-54 ratings including recently delivering an impressive 18.9 share in the summer book to finish 1st. The Milwaukee native also hosts a show for NBC Boston, and has previously served as a columnist for the Boston Globe. Similar to Toucher & Rich, Felger & Mazz have earned high praise from format execs in the BSM Top 20. They’ve been voted one of the top 2 afternoon shows each of the past 2 years including grabbing the top spot in 2019.

We’re excited to add all three of these men to the lineup for the 2022 BSM Summit. As vital as it may be to spend time on business issues in order to stay ahead of a rapidly changing media climate, without great talent and content, the rest is irrelevant. Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.

To reserve your hotel room, purchase tickets or learn more about the speakers we’ve lined up for the 2022 show, visit BSMSummit.com. We hope to see you online or in New York City this March.

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Barrett Blogs

BSM Summit Adds Borrell, Crain, Cutler, Goldstein, Scott, Shapiro & Thomas

“The Summit is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited.”

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The 2022 BSM Summit continues to add firepower to the sports media industry’s premier conference. After previously announcing the first twenty one participants to take part in March’s event in New York City, another seven talented media professionals have been added to the speaker schedule.

Making his BSM Summit debut in 2022 will be the media industry’s leading business analyst Gordon Borrell. The well respected and accomplished CEO of Borrell Associates is featured frequently in the trades and mainstream publications for his insights on advertising trends and forecasts in local media. Borrell will join Amplifi Media CEO Steven Goldstein on stage at the Summit for an in-depth discussion on the advertising climate in 2022. The two men will offer insights and opinions on what advertisers value most, where they’re expected to invest future dollars, which categories will continue to rise and decline, and what brands can do to position themselves better to increase revenue. Additionally, Borrell will be hosting his local advertising conference in Miami a few days after the Summit. Those interested in heading to South Beach and learning more about the marketing world can learn more by clicking here.

Switching to the content end, the Summit is thrilled to welcome The Volume’s Jake Crain to New York City. The host of The JBoy Show will also be making his debut at the conference. Crain will be part of a talent panel along with John Jastremski and Kazeem Famuyide.

Also making his debut at the Summit will be Carl Scott. Meadowlark Media’s Executive Director of Audio will join our podcasting panel featuring Blue Wire CEO Kevin Jones and The Volume’s Head of Content Logan Swaim. Hubbard Radio’s Digital Content Director Phil Mackey will guide the conversation.

Not everyone participating at the Summit will be new to the audience though. Returning to the stage as part of our GM’s discussion will be newly appointed Audacy Boston Market Manager Mike Thomas. Thomas recently led ESPN 1000 in Chicago as the station’s GM after working with Mark Hannon to turn 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston into one of sports radio’s top performing stations. It should be noted that each time Thomas appears at the Summit it follows a recent promotion. We figure by 2023 or 2024 he’ll be running the entire industry.

A Summit isn’t complete without attention given to programming matters. To help us address some of those key issues, we’re excited to welcome back the Vice President of FOX Sports Radio & Podcasts Scott Shapiro. The passionate network executive who oversees many of the nation’s top national programs is always a great listen for folks interested in learning how programmer’s view and tackle the industry’s most important affairs.

Last but certainly not least, voice talent extraordinaire Jim Cutler will return to the stage to lead a session on storytelling. One of the industry’s prominent station voices and creative minds has a penchant for putting on entertaining and informative sessions. If you’ve attended the conference before, you’re already aware. To those planning to catch this one, you’re in for a treat.

Keep an eye out over the next two weeks. We’ll be making additional announcements involving a few high profile talents we’ve lined up for the 2022 BSM Summit. A reminder, the event is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited. I realize some folks may prefer to wait until the last minute to make sure the world is safe. If you’re not comfortable flying to NY for the show, we do have an option in place to enjoy the conference virtually thanks to NuVoodoo Media. For more information on tickets, click here.

That said, the in-person environment is excellent. If you haven’t attended the Summit before I think you’ll find the two days in New York City to be time well spent. This conference is not open to the general public. You must either presently work in an area of the media industry or be pursuing a degree in the broadcasting field.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we still have some sponsorship opportunities available for the show. We’re thrilled to have the support of great partners, ESPN Radio, Premiere Networks, FOX Sports Radio, Stone Voiceovers, Compass Media Networks, Point to Point Marketing, and Core Image Studio. If you’d like to be part of the event too, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com for additional details.

One final note, airfare is low right now. There are roundtrip flights to and from New York from many major cities for less than $200.00. We’ve also secured a low hotel rate of $109.00 per night at Hotel Edison in NYC to help companies and individuals keep costs down. The sports media industry has endured two years of difficulty due to the pandemic, preventing many from networking, learning, celebrating, and growing. The two days we spend together in the big apple won’t solve every issue facing our business, but I promise you’ll leave the show more informed, more connected, and better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.

Hope to see you in New York on March 2nd and 3rd.

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