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Golic and Wingo Are Rolling With The Punches

Jason Barrett

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It’s 8am in Charlotte, the middle of May, and Uber driver Mike has his SiriusXM dial tuned to ESPN Radio. Being a transplanted New Yorker, he isn’t attached to the local sports stations, but has pledged his support to the one network which has provided him with a consistent listening experience that suits his tastes, ESPN Radio.

Just ten years ago the father of two relocated to the area, hoping to find a show that talked about his hometown teams and partially resembled the program he had grown up on, “Mike and the Mad Dog.” But that type of show didn’t exist in North Carolina so it required adjusting to what was available. Although he enjoyed Mark Packer on WFNZ, he didn’t care as much about local topics.

That opened the door to finding a new brand and talk show. After sampling a number of options, “Mike and Mike” became his preferred listening experience. The show spent time talking about the New York sports teams, and had their finger on the pulse of what mattered most to sports fans each day. Over the next decade, Greeny and Golic were part of Mike’s routine, until November 2017 when ESPN decided to make a change in mornings.

“When they announced Mike and Mike were going away, I was upset and not sure I was going to stick around,” said Mike. “I enjoyed Greenberg and Golic and wasn’t happy that ESPN split them up. Luckily though Golic stayed and they added Trey who I knew and liked from TV, and that convinced me to give them a chance. I’m glad I did because it’s a similar show.”

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The feelings shared by Mike are similar to what many others feel. There’s been a comfort in hearing ESPN Radio’s morning programming for close to two decades, and although “Mike and Mike” had their differences from “Golic and Wingo,” there’s enough similarities to retain the base that’s been loyal to ESPN’s morning show.

But anytime a station or network changes a popular show after eighteen years, it’s going to create noise, especially if the show isn’t considered broken. “Mike and Mike” were a huge part of the morning radio experience for sports radio listeners all across the nation, not to mention one of the most popular tandems on any of ESPN’s platforms. If the network was going to split them up and explore a new direction in morning drive, they’d likely have been given a pass. After all, introducing new faces and voices on a huge national network like ESPN Radio requires time.

But starting over isn’t an easy decision. It’s made even more difficult when you still have one part of the show in tact, and he’s familiar and popular with listeners and advertisers, and shown an ability to continue performing on a high level. Figuring out where Golic fit into the company’s plans was very important but this wasn’t just a company call. Golic had to make a few decisions too.

After going thru multiple morning shows on the same network with different partners, did he want to give it a third try? Did he want to continue dealing with comparisons to his former show? Was he still excited, energized and in love with the job he had done for over two decades, and willing to trust his employer to set him up for success after the previous year had produced a number of internal and external tensions as a result of his breakup with Mike Greenberg?

When the dust settled, ESPN chose to make subtle tweaks in morning drive rather than wholesale changes. There was an internal belief that Golic had more left in the tank, and affiliates and advertisers were comfortable and satisfied with the association and preferred for it to continue. Once Golic learned that Trey Wingo was an option to be his partner, and the addition of his son Mike Golic Jr. was being considered, it was clear to him that it wasn’t time to ride off into the sunset just yet.

“When the idea of working with my son and Trey was brought up it re-energized me,” said Golic Sr.. “This is my third time around the block. I worked first with (Tony) Bruno, then Greeny, and now Trey, and I felt the show was at its best when it was focused on being a radio show. The company said they wanted to get back to that and as I thought about it and the idea of working with Trey and my son, I felt we had a chance to grow faster than the last two shows did because the relationships were already established.”

Upon the announcement of ESPN Radio naming “Golic and Wingo” its new morning show, enthusiasm wasn’t as high among sports radio members outside of the ESPN Bristol campus. Many hoped the network would shake things up, and the idea of offering a similar style show was initially viewed as less than inspiring. As one unnamed source told me “ESPN had an opportunity to do something exciting and instead served up a second serving of vanilla radio.”

To content people not inside the ESPN bubble, higher value is placed on big personalities and unfiltered opinions. What isn’t given much consideration is whether a show is the right fit for the ESPN brand, sustainable for affiliates, and pleasing to the company’s paying clients.

But in executive circles, the ESPN brass had to consider a myriad of factors including the difficulties of replacing a high profile show. It’s easy to clamor for something new when moving on from an established program, but why purchase a new car if the one you already own drives well, is strong under the hood and only needs a few cosmetic changes?

“We’re proud of what we accomplished with Mike and Mike and saw this is an opportunity to build on the past 16 years,” explained ESPN Radio Senior Director, Programming and Operations Justin Craig. “Since making the change in mornings to Golic and Wingo, not one major market affiliate or dollar has been lost. I think that speaks to the power of our brand, the quality of our talent, and the trust we’ve earned from super serving our radio partners.”

Fast forward to today, six full months into their morning radio adventure, and “Golic and Wingo” have done their part to represent ESPN Radio well in the affiliate and advertising space. They’ve also produced the same multi-platform content that has made ESPN successful in mornings in previous years. The ratings may be down year over year in top markets like New York and Chicago (Two of ESPN’s owned stations and operated markets), but that’s not a surprise as any new show going in after Mike and Mike would require time before an audience committed to them. ESPN Radio Senior VP Traug Keller mentioned on the BSM Podcast last month that he believes new shows need over a year in order to establish a connection.

The bigger reflection of the show striking the right chord for company folks is that it’s held on to the “Mike and Mike” base, fueled the fire of the same “Mike and Mike” critics, and done its part to satisfy business partners. Although there’s a confident belief in the show’s development, areas of improvement aren’t being dismissed either.

“I think it’s a good show right now, but it has the potential to be great,” said Marcia Keegan, Vice President, National Radio Programming and Production. “The show could benefit from adding a few bigger guests, football talkers, and creative stunts. We’re always trying to find ways to improve. We’re only a few months into this show and already I can hear how it’s grown. As the guys gain more reps, they’re going to develop an even stronger rhythm.”

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One advantage “Golic and Wingo” have over the prior two morning shows on ESPN Radio is the instant chemistry and familiarity that already existed between Golic Sr., his son Mike Jr. and Trey. Their relationship history doesn’t guarantee anything, but it helps a host feel comfortable when they already know their partner’s hot buttons, weaknesses, quirks, and day to day approach. It certainly was a huge factor in Wingo in making the decision to take on the challenge of hosting a 4-hour radio morning show.

“It’s very rare in this business to be twenty years in and get the chance to do something new with someone you love working with,” said Wingo. “Our prior relationship made this easy and worth doing. My biggest adjustment was adjusting to the morning schedule. I’m a night person. I’m still on that routine of “wake up idiot”.”

If Wingo thinks it’s rough hitting the airwaves at 6am each day, imagine what must be rolling thru Mike Golic Jr.’s head. He wakes up each day after 2am and sets a number of additional alarms just to make sure he doesn’t oversleep. He then hits the airwaves across the country at 4am, hosting “First and Last,” before making a seamless transition from his solo show to joining the first hour of the morning program.

Despite not having the opportunity to pre-plan with the morning crew due to being on the air, Golic Jr. says they’ve found a way to work around it.

“We talk a lot and prep the night before,” explained Golic Jr.. “They also get to listen to me while driving in which gives them a chance to hear what I’m passionate about and react to it too. We’re fortunate to have a good cast around us too and we’ll rely on them and trust their feedback to determine if we should stick with something or change direction. Nobody is afraid to speak up and voice their opinion on ways to make the show better.”

But when family relationships carry over to the workplace, sometimes they’re counterproductive. That isn’t the case though for the Golic’s. Mike Jr. made the choice to pursue a football career just like his father, and when that didn’t work out, he pursued his father’s second labor of love, the sports media business. So far, so good.

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Since making the move, Golic Jr. has increased his value inside ESPN. He’s gone from making occasional on-air appearances, contributing to fantasy football programming, and co-hosting “First and Last,” to hosting “First and Last,” taking part in social media shows, and appearing each day on “Golic and Wingo.”

Given the nature of the sports media business, there will of course be whispers about Golic Jr. gaining advantages due to who his father is. He’s not naive, he understands that. Ironically, most who move up the ladder in this industry do so based on having talent and relationships. Rarely do people land a high profile opportunity by blindly submitting a resume and demo tape.

No matter what your perception is of Jr.’s ability to get his foot inside the door, he’s had to work hard to stay there. He’s also had to perform in front of the nation’s eyes and ears, knowing that he’ll forever be compared to his father. Though those comparisons may bother some, Golic Jr. wears them like a badge of honor. He’s proud of who his father is, and acknowledges how much of an influence he’s had on his career.

“I saw the proof of concept in my dad,” shared Golic Jr.. “Mike and Mike was a big part of my life. The work dad did on that show inspired me to want to be in this business. Now look at where we are. How many people get to talk sports with their dad each day for a living? The only downside of working with him is that he’s wrong a lot. He could also dress better and improve his footwear.”

That good ole fashioned ribbing between father and son has been on display since the show was introduced on ESPN Radio in November. It allows them to provide a family friendly sports program for morning commuters, while embracing unexpected moments that may leave them initially startled. No time was that more evident then when Rhonda Rousey appeared on the program.

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“Golic and Wingo” aren’t going to be confused for a shock-jock morning show or a program which goes for the throat of whoever’s on the front page of ESPN.com. They concentrate their efforts on having insightful, topical and entertaining sports conversations while mixing in laughter, guests and social interaction. That may not be a revolutionary approach but it’s a formula that keeps an audience engaged and advertisers and affiliates happy.

“We want to continue building the relationship and get comfortable discussing anything on the show,” said Wingo. “I’m not worried about numbers and things beyond our control. We’re just going to roll with the punches, do what we do, and see what happens. Just like the NFL Draft, nobody really knows what’s going to happen. You’re making educated guesses. Right now, we’re having fun and delivering what we feel is a good show and we’re going to enjoy the ride as long as it lasts.”

Though he might downplay it, Wingo understands the high stakes involved in running point on ESPN Radio’s morning show. The program, which also broadcasts on television on ESPNEWS, is critically important to the network’s success. If ratings, revenue or affiliates were to decline, so too would the fun.

But unlike some in local situations, if the show doesn’t work out, Trey doesn’t have to worry about finding employment. Having been one of the best and most respected hosts on ESPN’s NFL programming, he’s earned trust with the viewer, and likely gained a few more fans in the company by agreeing to take on the challenge of filling Greeny’s spot and hosting the morning show. Despite having done a great job on the network’s NFL coverage, Wingo admits the chance to expand his horizons was welcomed.

“My presence on ESPN around the NFL has been tremendous but this now gives people a chance to learn more about me and my personality,” said Wingo. “Sports fans are discovering that I keep my finger on the pulse of other sports too. You’re not going to hear hot takes from me. That’s not my style. I’ll give opinions when I feel I need to, but I believe it’s about organic conversation and this shows provides plenty of opportunities to create that.”

The challenge of creating those organic conversations depends largely on strong chemistry and familiarity. Trey and the Golic’s have a firm handle on that. Golic Sr. has been down this road before, and knows all too well how difficult it can be and how long it can take to find the right mix with a co-host. His prior two morning shows with Greeny and (Tony) Bruno were each successful, but required developing relationships and learning what to do and what not to do.

In this case though, relationships were already formed. Golic and Wingo have worked inside the same location for over twenty years, they’ve done shows together, and they’re friends with mutual interests. That certainly helps when assembling a new show, and Justin Craig says that preexisting chemistry has made a difference in the way the show has grown over the first six months.

“They’re in their first season,” Craig points out. “In sports, teams get better with time. There’s still work to be done of course but I think Mike and Trey launched at a higher point than others.”

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To make sure the morning show is firing on all cylinders, ESPN Radio has spared no expense in surrounding their on-air stars with a top notch behind the scenes crew. The production team is led by radio producer Dan Stanczyk, social media producer Ali Bronson, board op Cliff Augustin, production assistant Devin Kane, and imaging director Jerry Mailhiot.

And that’s just the radio side of things. The television crew includes producer Rob Morgan, director Carlos Mejia, production assistant Andrew Distler, and researchers Brett Perrotta and Riley Foreman.

With that type of support given to the show, creating a multi-platform successful product for ESPN is the expectation. When you watch on TV, listen on radio, follow on social media, or catch up later on the website, the reason things run smoothly is because of all of the individuals involved in the show.

But how does that factor into the content creation process? Ali Bronson acknowledged that teamwork, attitude and role definition are important behind the scenes, but having consistent input and solid execution from the hosts makes all the difference.

“These guys are motivated to deliver a great show and there’s a collective understanding of what’s expected each day,” said Bronson. “They each know their role on the show, and participate in the content process including how to use social media and GIF’s to create tune ins. Golic Sr. steers us back to where we need to be if we get off track. Trey drives the show and looks for his spots to react. His being new to the show has brought a new energy and allowed everyone to have fun. In terms of what we talk about, it depends on what matters most at that particular time. The NBA Playoffs and NFL topics though generate the strongest reactions from Trey and Mike Sr. so we make sure they’re a big part of what we do.”

With nearly six months in the books and having weathered the storm of replacing a high profile morning show, it’s natural to wonder “what’s next?” The content may be topical, the chemistry natural and the energy high, but to expand the audience, increase the confidence, and elevate the position of what was initially viewed by some as “Mike and Mike Part 2,” it’s all about where the show goes from here.

Golic Sr. acknowledges that they’re off to a strong start, but hasn’t lost sight of the way the business works or his own career aspirations:

“I view this industry very similar to my football career, I’m on the same team but the roster changes sometimes,” explained Golic. “I think this show has the ability to grow faster than the last two did and we’re off to a good start but if we’re able to get Jr. more involved in the future that would be welcomed. As long as I’m having fun, I want to keep doing this. I would though like to call more games.”

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So, that begs the question, should Golic Jr. be more involved? If the network is going to include him in the first hour, why not utilize him during the remaining three?

To their credit, network officials have eased Golic Jr. into the show rather than immediately throwing him into the deep end. That strategy has allowed Trey and Mike Sr. to find their groove together, which is essential for the program to ascend to its highest level.

However, the youthful approach that Golic Jr. supplies has added a nice touch. That’s especially important given that Trey and Mike are in their mid fifties. It allows the show to play to both ends of the sports radio demographic. One thing’s for sure, an increased role certainly wouldn’t be rejected by Golic Jr. if it were to be presented.

“I love doing this and want to contribute more but that’s not up to me,” Golic Jr. said. “If they feel in the future that my role should be expanded then I’ll happily have that conversation. But right now, I’m just thrilled to be a part of it.”

Golic Jr. may have his sights set on advancing his career and earning more air time on the nation’s largest sports morning show, but after enduring the public barrage that comes with replacing a popular show like “Mike and Mike,” Trey and Mike have reached a point where they’re done looking in the rear view mirror. They’re not worried about how they stack up to the former show, if ESPN executives are second guessing their decision, or if their style of show makes the masses happy. Their primary concern is doing a show they can feel good about it. If that results in affiliates, advertisers, listeners, and executives being satisfied, then that’s icing on the cake.

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“I don’t get caught up in numbers and all that stuff” said Golic. “If I can leave you with one serious and one funny note then I feel good about what we did.”

Never one to pass up an opportunity to lighten the mood, Wingo countered with “If I can wake up and get thru 4 hours, that’s a good day.”

Six months into the start of their show, the lights remain on, the affiliates are still there, and the revenue is strong. That has to give ESPN executives confidence that they’re on the right track.

For Golic and Wingo though, there’s another way to measure progress. Their badges still work, the checks still clear, and they continue to do a show with people they enjoy being around. If that’s not the definition of success, then what is?

Barrett Blogs

Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, Don Martin, Sam Pines and Amanda Brown to Speak at the 2023 BSM Summit

“All six of these media professionals have enjoyed success throughout their careers and bring different perspectives, styles, and experiences to the room.”

Jason Barrett

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I announced last week that the 2023 BSM Summit will be returning to Los Angeles. We had a fantastic experience in LA in 2019, and I expect our next conference on March 21-22, 2023 to be even bigger and better. But to do that, we need the right people on stage, and I’m excited today to reveal the first six additions to the show.

The 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles is proud to welcome FOX Sports Radio and FOX Sports 1 host Colin Cowherd, FOX Sports 1 co-host of the new weekday program SPEAK, Joy Taylor, CBS Sports Radio and CBS Sports Network superstar Jim Rome, FOX Sports Radio and iHeart Sports SVP of Programming, Don Martin, and the brain trust of ESPN LA 710, Senior Vice President Sam Pines and program director Amanda Brown.

All six of these media professionals have enjoyed success throughout their careers. They bring different perspectives, styles, and experiences to the room, and I’m sure those in attendance at The Founders Club at the Galen Center at USC will enjoy and appreciate learning from them.

We will have more announcements in the future about additional speakers to the 2023 BSM Summit. A reminder that if you work in the media industry and would like to attend the conference, you can purchase tickets and secure your hotel room by visiting BSMSummit.com.

I’d also like to thank last year’s sponsors who have already confirmed participation in our 2023 event. The Summit isn’t possible without their support. For folks interested in sponsorship details for the conference, please email Stephanie at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now here’s some press information about each of our six participants.

Colin Cowherd: He is one of the most thought-provoking and successful sports talk show hosts in the country, and has been a key part of FOX Sports Radio and FOX Sports 1 since September 2015. He is also the founder of The Volume, a digital-first sports media brand which has created an immediate impact in podcasting and on YouTube.

Cowherd’s three-hour sports talk program, THE HERD WITH COLIN COWHERD, airs simultaneously on FS1 and the FOX Sports Radio Network weekdays from Noon to 3pm ET. It is also available on www.FOXSportsRadio.comwww.FOXSports.com and has a dedicated iHeartRadio station, available live and throughout the day. The Herd has been chosen by industry programmers and executives as the top national sports talk radio show an unprecedented six times in seven years as part of BSM’s annual Top 20 series.

Jim Rome: Jim Rome is heard nationwide hosting ‘The Jim Rome Show‘ weekdays from Noon to 3pm ET on CBS Sports Radio. The program can also be watched on the CBS Sports Network. The show delivers three hours of aggressive, informed sports opinions, rapid-fire dialogue, tons of sports smack, and is consistently supported by Rome’s legions of fans otherwise known as the clones.

Rome also delivers his unique take on the day’s sports headlines via the CBS Sports Minute, 60-second commentaries which can be heard hourly on CBS Sports Radio affiliate stations. He also hosts his own podcast, The Reinvention Project, contributes to CBS Sports television, and has previously been seen on ESPN, FOX Sports, and in numerous movies and TV shows.

Joy Taylor: Joy Taylor co-hosts FS1’s new weekday program SPEAK alongside Emmanuel Acho and former NFL running back LeSean McCoy. She has previously worked as a co-host on THE HERD, as the moderator of SKIP AND SHANNON: UNDISPUTED, and as the host of her own podcast, “Maybe I’m Crazy”. She has also hosted programs for FOX Sports Radio.

Prior to joining FOX Sports, Taylor spent five years in Miami radio, including a successful three-year stint at 790 AM The Ticket, where she was co-host for the station’s top-rated morning-drive program, “Zaslow and Joy Show,” after starting with the station as the show’s executive producer. Taylor also served as the host of “Thursday Night Live” and “Fantasy Football Today” on CBSSports.com. She is a Pittsburgh native and the younger sister of former Miami Dolphins star Jason Taylor.

Don Martin: A 27-year veteran of iHeartMedia, Don is currently the SVP of Programming for FOX Sports Radio, the EVP for iHeartMedia Sports, and the SVP of KLAC-AM 570 LA Sports. Additionally, he provides oversight of the iHeartPodcast Network, which includes more than 40 national and 100 local sports podcasts and exclusive podcast agreements with the NFL and NBA. Don has been a featured speaker at prior BSM Summit’s and was recently a guest on The Jason Barrett Podcast. To hear it, click here.

Sam Pines: A fixture with Good Karma Brands since 2000, Pines is now charged with leading ESPN LA 710 since GKB assumed control of local operations. Prior to taking over the Los Angeles sports brand, Pines served as the GM and Sales Manager of ESPN Cleveland from 2006-2022. He has written a sales and leadership series, “Time to Win”, which focuses on coaching relationship-based selling and marketing, and is also involved with numerous boards and nonprofits.

Amanda Brown: Amanda has spent her entire twenty year career in sports radio working for the worldwide leader in sports. Currently responsible for creating and implementing the programming strategy for ESPN LA 710, Amanda has enjoyed nearly twelve years with the LA based brand after spending nearly six years in Bristol, CT producing national shows for the ESPN Radio network. Her career started behind the scenes in Dallas, TX where she worked as a producer at ESPN 103.3.

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Barrett Blogs

7 Years of BSM and The Official Announcement For The 2023 BSM Summit

“Fast forward to now, and where this thing has advanced to is far beyond my expectations.”

Jason Barrett

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Apologies in advance if some of this column feels like I’m giving myself and our brand a pat on the back. I am. When this company launched, many assumed I was just writing a few articles and biding my time until another programming job popped up. I had a number of friends say ‘there’s no future in sports radio consulting‘ and after putting my programming career in the rear view mirror to go home to NY, I wasn’t sure what was in store for me.

What I did know is that my interest in doing the same thing that I just did for the past decade in three different cities was gone, but my interest in working with brands and individuals was still very much alive. I loved creating and programming 95.7 The Game but my choice to come home was driven by personal reasons, not professional. I wrote in great detail about it back in February 2015 so if you’re not aware of my story and want to know more, click the link.

Some of you do know these details already so I’m not going to repeat myself. I also don’t like talking on this website about personal issues because that’s not what brings us together each day. Media news, insight, and opinion does. But when this day rolls around each year, I hope you can understand why I take a moment to celebrate it. I moved home with no job, no plan, and no business but 7 years later, here we are are still ticking.

Launching this company has been the best professional decision I’ve ever made. Erika Nardini just had this conversation recently with Mark Cuban and he said taking a leap when you have nothing is the best time to do so. As crazy as that sounds, he couldn’t have been more right. That said, it’s pretty humbling going from successfully managing a top 4 market brand and earning six figures to being unemployed with no income and not being sure what you want to do. There were many days where I wondered ‘what was this all for?’. I hadn’t been without a job for a long time but I didn’t want to rush into something I wasn’t excited about especially since I knew I had to take care of my son and wanted to set a good example for him.

When I announced I was leaving San Francisco, I said I’d consider staying with the company if a position could be created that would allow me to work from NY and travel to help brands. Entercom back then wasn’t as big as Audacy is now, so that wasn’t an option. That led to small talk about consulting but quite frankly, I had no interest in doing that. I thought consulting was something folks did at the end of their careers or others used as a temporary excuse to explain what they were up to after leaving a job. I was 41 at the time and felt I had two decades left to give to the business, and if I was going to go down that road, I’d do it differently.

As I began to clear my head and think about what was next, I decided I was going to create the position that Entercom didn’t have available except rather than being exclusive to one group, I’d be accessible to all of them. I wanted to make a difference in multiple cities and expand my reach beyond radio. Now I work with brands involved in radio, TV, podcasting, social media, sales, sports betting, etc..

I’m also very entrepreneurial, so the idea of building a digital company that focused on covering the sports media business had great appeal to me. I built my radio career by doing everything early on and saw that as an advantage. Back in 2015, there were outlets covering the radio business, but none dedicated to sports radio. Even the newspapers that wrote about sports TV and other media issues, often examined them with folks who hadn’t been on the inside for quite some time. I had recent experiences programming brands in three different parts of the country, I learned how to build a website, I didn’t mind selling myself, and I wasn’t restricted from writing and sharing my honest and candid opinions. That helped me give BSM life and a voice. I also had one other advantage. I was talking weekly with industry people, going to different cities to work with multiple groups and seeing up close why certain things worked and others didn’t. That helped me tell better stories, build deeper relationships, and assist clients with greater knowledge.

Fast forward to now, and where this thing has advanced to is far beyond my expectations. I’ve been presented with opportunities to work with groups I never expected. I’ve had people reach out to present opportunities, including purchasing the company, that others would be shocked were considered (Btw I’m not looking to sell). Our brand now generates hundreds of thousands in traffic per month thanks to an exceptional team of 20 writers which produces 35-40 pieces of content per day on the sports and news media industry. In fact, August was our best month of traffic this year. We were up 30% year over year. We create 5 podcasts per week, distribute multiple newsletters, consult a strong amount of media brands, sell and work with advertising partners to help grow their businesses, deliver content through social media channels that are followed by thousands of people, and host an annual conference, which is well attended and supported by industry professionals and broadcast companies.

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Which brings me to the next part of this column – the 2023 BSM Summit.

After hosting our last two shows in New York City, I told all in attendance that our next event would return to the west coast. Finding the right city and venue takes time, and this one was tough because there were great options in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, but after reviewing the possibilities, I’m thrilled to share that the 2023 BSM Summit will take place in Los Angeles, California at The Founders Club at the Galen Center at the University of Southern California. The dates will be Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 22nd (we didn’t want to do dates that conflicted with the NCAA Tournament). Show time both days will once again be 9a-5p PT.

I couldn’t be happier with this location. The space we have to work with is fantastic, the people involved with USC have been great, and to bring a room full of sports media professionals to the USC campus will be awesome. We’ve also partnered with the USC Hotel which is within walking distance of our venue. Room rates and ticket prices for the Summit can now be found on BSMSummit.com.

I know everyone will start texting, emailing, calling, and DM’ing to ask about tickets, speakers, sponsorships, the after-party and awards show, etc.. I’ll have follow up announcements coming soon about the first few speakers we’ve lined up. Most people attended the 2022 show live, but some checked out the show virtually too. I’m not sure yet if we’re going to make this one available virtually. If we do, we’ll announce it on the site at a later time. Like anything, if enough people want it we’ll find a way to get it done. In the meantime, Stephanie Eads is setting up conversations with former and future conference partners so if you have a sponsorship question, hit her up by email at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

One thing I do want to ask of those who are planning to attend the Summit, email me to let me know what you’re interested in learning about at the show. We’ve been blessed to have some incredibly smart, successful people in the room, but as cool as that may be, I want to make sure folks return to their buildings afterwards with information to improve their operations. This only works if you take the knowledge and use it to help your brands and people. If anything in particular is of interest, please let me know by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

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As I look ahead to year 8, I’m extremely bullish on continuing our momentum on the sports media side. We’ve just added Eddie Moran as a new features writer, and if it makes business sense to add more writers or create additional podcasts down the line, we’ll examine those opportunities as they arise. A few years ago it was just Demetri and I running the day to day business. Now we have Stephanie, Andy, Garrett Searight, Arky Shea, Alex Reynolds, and Eduardo Razo involved, and though having a larger staff doesn’t guarantee success, I like how we’re positioned. If anything, our focus now is on doing impactful work not busy work. As much as I’d love to keep everyone and never stop adding, running a business effectively requires regularly examining what is and isn’t working. Having people involved who are passionate and consistently reliable is vital. If they can’t be then it means the fit isn’t right.

Having said that, I believe we can always get better. As we move ahead, I’m counting on my team to find and create more original content, strengthen and increase relationships, gain a stronger grasp of SEO, and collectively, we’ll work on improving our digital marketing to promote our content and develop better affiliate partnerships. One way the industry can help us in return, let us know when you create something on-air that might fit the site. Most of what we gather comes from finding it ourselves yet content gets created daily on sports TV and radio. We’re not going to write stories about sports opinions but if it’s media-centric, a heads up helps. So too does sharing our content on social media.

Though BSM is an integral part of our company’s future growth, I am equally as bullish on building Barrett News Media. We started BNM on September 14, 2020 and our first year was slow. We needed to dip our toe in rather than dive in head first, but over the past 9 months we’ve increased our relationships and our readers are now starting to see what we’re capable of. We’ve assembled a strong cast of news writers, reporters, and columnists, and just added to our team last week with the addition of Joe Salzone. Adding writers and consulting clients remains an ongoing process, and make no mistake about this, I want to help news/talk stations just as I have helped sports brands. Maybe down the line we’ll add a few news media podcasts too, but we have other things to focus on first.

For starters, if you’ve read this website over the years then you’re likely familiar with the BSM Top 20. It’s a series we produce recognizing the best in the sports media industry. It’s voted on by a large number of sports radio programmers and executives, and for 6 years in a row it has been our website’s largest traffic driver. I thought previously about doing a series for the news media industry, but because we had less help, little time, and an unfamiliar brand, I held off.

But that’s about to change.

Later this year, we will introduce the very first BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will include voting participation from news media programmers and executives, with the goal being to showcase the best national radio shows and podcasts, and the top local stations, shows, and PD’s from both the major and mid markets.

It will be a giant undertaking but it’s long overdue for our brand. Though I’m sure the process will be exhausting, I’m looking forward to sharing the results and shining a brighter light on the news/talk media business. When I’m ready to announce the dates and schedule for the series, we’ll reveal it here on the site and across our BNM social media channels. Stay tuned.

———-

As I bring this column to an end, I’ll end by sharing a few things that have surprised me over the years. First, I’m seeing less interest the past 3 years from younger people becoming programmers than I did between 2015-2019. Is that because of the pandemic? The rise of sports gambling? A lack of confidence in the radio industry? As someone who’s helped 15-20 brands find and hire brand leaders, and talks to more people than most, that’s concerning.

I think sports radio also needs to do a better job of grooming people for these roles and showing them a path to long-term success. PD’s should be more actively championing their people for growth too than they do. If you value someone and want to see him or her reap the rewards for their hard work, you have to look beyond how it’ll affect your day to day duties. Focus on the big picture, not just what makes your life easier.

What should concern executives is the fact that in the past five years, sports radio has lost Armen Williams, Jeremiah Crowe, Joe Zarbano, Adam Delevitt, Tony DiGiacomo, Terry Foxx, Brad Willis, Chris Baker, Tom Parker, Jay Taylor, Kyle Engelhart, Hoss Neupert, and John Hanson. I’m sure I’m missing a few too. That’s a lot of programming experience out the door including some with decades left to give to the industry. Maybe some weren’t built for the job long-term or others were kicking down the door and ready to lead but in most businesses, if you saw that type of change in key management roles, you’d be questioning if it’s an industry you want to be a part of. If the veterans don’t stay or become too expensive, and the leaders of tomorrow aren’t sticking around, where does that leave us?

From the talent end, how are you helping yourself when there isn’t a job to chase? If the only time you contact a PD is to ask about a gig, don’t be surprised when your calls go straight to voicemail. Relationships are a two-way street. Build them when there’s nothing to be gained and you’ll be amazed at how it pays off later. By the way, that goes for me too. I get asked by a lot of people to find time when there’s trouble in paradise but when life is good, crickets. Those who keep in touch and support BSM/BNM whether that’s through a monthly membership or buying a Summit ticket have more success getting a hold of me. I’m not trying to be a hard ass but I’m not an agent, so building your career isn’t my priority. Taking care of my family and business partners is. However, I do help people and make time for many, but it’s got to work both ways. My members and clients know they can ask for something and receive an answer. Others I’ve built and maintained relationships with receive the same. But if you’re counting on me to help you find work and gossip about the business with you, I’m not your guy.

If there’s been a winner the past 7 years it’s been the growth of sports betting. As other categories have produced less, sports betting has emerged as an important growth driver for the sports format. And this has happened with most of the country not even legal yet. As more states give the green light to legalize sports gambling, revenues and content opportunities should follow. We will likely reach a point where consolidation comes into play and certain brands and companies overload their content in a way that makes them insufferable to listen to but for every few setbacks there are far greater reasons to be optimistic. In the past 7 years we’ve seen Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and YouTube become big players in sports television. Might FanDuel, DraftKings, BetRivers, Fanatics, Barstool and others do the same in the sports media space? That’s going to be an interesting follow for sure.

Knowing how everything can change in an instant, I take nothing for granted with BSM and BNM. This could all end tomorrow, and if it did, I’d look back on it as the best days of my professional life. I want to keep growing as a professional, while remaining an asset to my current partners, and finding ways to work with new brands and companies in both sports and news media. I’m also enjoying hosting a podcast again, and if you haven’t checked out The Jason Barrett Podcast, the latest episode with Colin Cowherd is a good one to start with.

The future for sports and news media may change but both will remain viable and important. I love that we’ve been able to be a small part of this business each day for the past 7 years, and I hope to make the next 7 years as fulfilling as the past 7. If I’m able to do that, it’ll mean the 20 years I spent in studios were needed to make a nationwide impact from a home office.

So on behalf of our entire team, past and present, thank you for reading the twenty thousand pieces of content we’ve produced since 2015. None of this is possible without an army of BSM/BNM supporters. I hope to see you in Los Angeles this March for the 2023 BSM Summit.

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The Podcast Movement Conference Made a Mistake Rejecting Ben Shapiro

“If this is a conference about podcasting, and you have someone in attendance who excels at it, has a massive following, and their company is supporting your event as a sponsor, why are you treating them like a disease?”

Jason Barrett

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I’ve had the pleasure of attending multiple Podcast Movement Conferences over the years. Those involved in putting the event together do a fantastic job creating an action packed agenda full of accomplished speakers, and the visual displays and access to different brands and industry professionals have always been nothing but positive. It’s why I was disappointed this year when my schedule didn’t allow for me to make the trip to Dallas.

So imagine my surprise late last week when I learned the conference took a stance against Westwood One radio host and co-founder of The Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro

Shapiro’s company was a sponsor of this year’s show, and according to reports, the well known podcaster and radio host wasn’t registered for the event. He made a brief appearance at his company’s booth, shaking hands and taking photos with fans who stopped by to say hi, and his mere presence at the show led to some protesting his involvement on social media.

After learning Shapiro had stopped by, the Podcast Movement Conference posted a series of tweets which said “Hi folks, we owe you an apology before sessions kick off for the day. Yesterday afternoon, Ben Shapiro briefly visited the PM22 expo area near The Daily Wire booth. Though he was not registered or expected, we take full responsibility for the harm done by his presence.”

The conference added, “Those of you who called this “unacceptable” are right. In 9 wonderful years growing and celebrating this medium, PM has made mistakes. The pain caused by this one will always stick with us. We promise that sponsors will be more carefully considered moving forward. No TDW representatives were scheduled to appear on panels, and Shapiro remained in the common space and did not have a badge. If you have questions, we’re here to talk. Thank you for reading, and we hope you’ll continue to join us from here on out.”

A quick search shows that Shapiro has one of the top performing podcasts on the charts. According to Westwood One, it is downloaded over fifteen million times per month. In addition, his radio program is carried on hundreds of radio stations, he has 13 million followers combined between Facebook and Twitter, and his company, The Daily Wire, adds another 5.5 million supporters to the mix. They also showed they were supportive of the conference by making a financial commitment to sponsor a booth.

Having explained all of that I was stunned that the Podcast Movement Conference took this position. Let me be clear, it was a mistake. Their stance has led to a flood of negative attention over the past 72 hours, and it all could’ve easily been avoided. Though their next event is still a year away, given how much attention this story has received, it could have a carry over effect on future sponsorships and attendance. Only time will tell.

As someone who runs an annual conference, albeit much smaller, I know how hard it is to put an event together. What the Podcast Movement organizers put together each year requires a herculean effort, which is why I’m baffled that they picked sides in this situation. The media industry is large and full of people, brands and companies with different views and approaches to business and everyday life. The second you start judging and making decisions based on personal beliefs and/or social media activity, you’re in trouble.

I’ve long maintained that if someone works in the sports media industry and wishes to learn and share information to help improve the business, they’re welcome at our BSM Summit. We make changes to our schedule each year based on what we feel is topical for the attendees but we don’t discriminate, support one brand over another or allow personal views to dictate if someone can or can’t be present.

Case in point, at our March conference, I had a few people privately upset that I asked Craig Carton to speak. Craig’s prior arrest and time served in jail is well documented. First, I have a ton of respect for what Craig has accomplished, and I believe in second chances, but personal views aside, he’s the afternoon host in the nation’s largest market working for WFAN, a top rated sports radio brand. History has shown that he’s damn good and successful, and more than qualified to speak on the subjects we cover at our event. When a few folks expressed their displeasure with my decision I told them ‘If you’re not a fan of Craig, don’t attend that session. If it bothers you beyond that, I understand if you can’t attend the show.’

Quieting the noise gets easier when you focus strictly on the business. Making everyone happy is impossible when you organize an event, but if you allow multiple viewpoints to be present in the room, you end up in a decent place more times than not.

You also have to remember that social media can make things appear worse than they are. Is the issue you’re dealing with being raised by conference partners and supporters who attend the event each year or from someone who’s not in the building and thrives on creating a social media firestorm for the causes they oppose and fight against?

Some may recall that I dealt with a few headaches in 2019 prior to our LA Summit after folks involved with groups that had no interest or desire to attend our show started trying to create a controversy out of nothing. Though it was frustrating playing defense on Christmas night when individuals from the New York Times, Deadspin and WNBA teams started poking holes in our conference’s flyer, I learned an important lesson. As long as you do the right thing and have the support and trust of your friends, family, attendees, and partners, who cares what others think or say who don’t know you and aren’t in the room for your event.

That’s what I don’t understand here. Is Shapiro not one of the most successful podcasters out there? Was his company not a paying partner of the event? If this is a conference about podcasting, and you have someone in attendance who excels at it, has a massive following, and their company is supporting your event as a sponsor, why are you treating them like a disease? Most would roll out a red carpet for someone with Shapiro’s track record of success not publicly condemn them for showing up and sponsoring the show. I know I would. I’d also do the same for someone who’s equally successful and views the world the exact opposite way.

I can’t help but wonder how folks at Westwood One feel about this incident. Don’t they promote and support this conference and include their people in the event? Think they might object to one of their top personalities being treated this way? Furthermore, how about the talk radio format? It’s no secret that most of the programming on news/talk radio stations leans right. A number of top performing podcasts follow a similar path. It’s safe to say that most in the format are going to support Shapiro, and I don’t think that helps the conference with attracting future business and participation.

To be clear, I don’t listen to Ben Shapiro’s podcast or radio show, and I don’t read The Daily Wire. I only point that out because I don’t want anyone to assume that I’m supporting him because of personal interests or a professional relationship. We’ve never spoke or crossed paths. My opinion is based solely on the facts surrounding this situation, nothing else.

That said, I understand Ben has shared opinions that some take offense to and I don’t blame those folks for not wanting to be around him. But there’s a simple solution, don’t go near him or his booth. It’s the same thing I tell people who don’t like a particular radio station’s hosts or a piece of content on our website; if you don’t like it, don’t read or listen to it. The Podcast Movement Conference takes place in a large convention center. There’s more than enough room to keep everyone separated and happy. Last time I checked, there were attendees in the room who stopped by to meet Ben at his booth. Do they not count?

Look, you don’t have to agree with Shapiro, but this is a podcasting business conference, and it’s something he’s done at a higher level than most. That qualifies him to be there. You can’t get in the middle and start determining who is and isn’t allowed in based on personal beliefs or trying to please agenda driven people on social media. Would Podcast Movement tell Joe Rogan, one of the most successful podcasters out there, that he couldn’t attend if people who didn’t like his views on Covid-19 protested? What’s next, not giving out industry awards to stations and individuals who we don’t like or agree with? When does the insanity end?

Here’s the reality, there are likely other sponsors and attendees in the room who have views that some may consider offensive. Our content and advertisers aren’t just supported by good, honest people. There are thousands, if not millions, who listen and support us who are shady, sick, and morally bankrupt. That’s beyond our control. Our job is to inform and entertain, and make people care enough to come back regularly. If we do that well, sponsors will follow. Keep those things happening, and everyone remains satisfied.

Moving forward, the Podcast Movement Conference has to decide if it wants to be open to all or only to some. I root for the conference to do well. I’ve enjoyed attending previous shows and hope to attend future ones. But if they expect to maintain support and enjoy future growth, learning from this situation is important. There’s much more money in staying neutral than alienating one side of the room.

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