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Reflecting on The Best Decade of My Career

“With the 2010’s decade set to expire, Jason Barrett reflects on the past ten years.”

Jason Barrett

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Over the years, I’ve tried to live in the moment rather than in the past. But the longer you stay active in the sports media business, the more you recognize how important it is to appreciate the journey, and all of the ups and downs that come with it. Those good and bad experiences play a big part in your professional development.

As I write this column with 2020 lurking around the corner, I’m fond of what I experienced between 2010 and 2019. It is without a doubt, the best decade of my professional career. Granted, I’ve only been in the industry long enough to enjoy 2.5 decades, and there’s still plenty of road left to travel, but the past ten years have given me a newfound respect and love for the business that I chose to enter in 1995.

The decade started for me in St. Louis, where I was fortunate to work for a first class GM named John Kijowski. I was hired as PD to build 101 ESPN. We launched the station in 2009, and made progress, but it was 2010 when the brand took off and became a top rated juggernaut. We had a great lineup, investments in play by play and key contributors, but most importantly, we were having fun and growing together.

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It was at 101 where I developed my leadership style. I introduced monthly meetings with the programming staff which would include a lesson or two, offer a deeper look into the state of the station, and end with a couple of laughs and staff recognition for whoever earned our employee of the month award. I felt it was important to bring the group together to laugh, learn, voice their opinions, and gain a better understanding of our results and why certain decisions were being made. It was a vital part of creating a winning culture, and though I left the station in June 2011, 101 ESPN has continued winning throughout the decade, building on what we started.

The reason I left the radio station was due to receiving an incredible opportunity in San Francisco. I was hired to build and develop 95.7 The Game, working for another great GM, Dwight Walker. The difference with this situation was that it was in market #4, and included the challenge of taking on one of America’s best performing sports stations, KNBR.

I signed a four year deal with Entercom, knowing that the likelihood of winning the ratings battle the first few years would be difficult, especially without a major play by play partner driving additional cume. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to win badly and drove the team hard to help us unseat the competition, but I knew that the real goal was to build a sustainable brand. We came out of the gate far back in 27th place, but over the next 4 years climbed to as high as 3rd right before I exited in June 2015. After I left, The Game landed the radio rights to the Golden State Warriors, and it’s helped make the battle for Bay Area sports radio supremacy even more interesting.

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Similar to my time in St. Louis, the years spent in the Bay Area will always be important to me. I loved living there, and working with a ton of talented people. I helped grow two program directors in that building, and helped others earn on-air opportunities which have since changed their lives. Like every job, it had its pluses and minuses. The GM change two years in wasn’t easy. Neither was going from working with a budget to having constant conversations about every personnel decision. But when I weigh the pros vs. the cons, I look back fondly at the experience. To see the station, and many who I worked with still doing well, shows me that we created something that local people, teams, and advertisers value.

The crazy part of reflecting on the past decade is that this is just the midway point. I had no idea the back half of my journey would include a return to NY, gaining custody of my son, and launching a business as an independent consultant. It took a lot of adjusting, but I dove head first into this space in September 2015 by listening to stations, hitting the road to work with brands, building the BSM website and a stronger social media presence, hiring a writing, web, and social team, and creating the annual BSM Summit. It’s hard work, and not a path for everyone, but I’m thankful that I took the plunge when I did.

As we enter this next decade, many familiar faces who we’ve come to know, trust, and depend on for support the past few decades will exit the industry. Someone has to take the baton and move this business forward otherwise the work those folks have done will have been wasted. As stations look for help to navigate a complex sports media picture, I want to be the person they turn to for guidance.

Looking at the business today, one area where I know we can improve is in keeping more of an open mind. There are far too many assumptions made about who people are, how they operate, and what we think works or doesn’t work based on our prior experiences. The problem with that is the future is different than the past, the sports media landscape is more competitive than ever, and the only way to know what someone stands for and how they fit in your operation is to talk to them and form your own opinion.

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Case in point, I was on a visit this fall when someone told me a corporate person told them to be careful of what they share with me because I could spin their ideas as my own to gain favor or talk them out of their initial idea in order to push my own agenda. I was stunned because that’s not how I work at all. But to know that, you’d need to know me or have worked with me. It annoyed me to hear that a corporate person was offering an uneducated opinion on me, but it also reminded me that I have a lot more people to win over. And I will.

I tell my clients all the time, I’m in the suggestion business. They’re in the solution business. I’m a resource who’s focus is on helping them grow their business. To do that, I listen, do research, and offer my opinions just like anyone else. When the final call has to be made though, it belongs to the client. Sometimes my work involves leading a recruitment search, other times I’m designing a podcast or social media strategy. One day I’m on location leading a sales meeting, the next I’m in a conference room working with a show and PD. There’s no one size fits all formula in my world. Much depends on what each station/market needs and values most.

If I can make two personal requests for the next decade, the first would be for more people in our industry to lead the charge on changing the narrative about the radio business. We’re quick to embrace podcasting and social media, but haven’t done a great job of pounding the drum for radio. The last time I checked, radio was still a big part of people’s lives, even if some want to label it a thing of the past. Be proud of the business you’re in instead of apologizing for it. Many would kill to be where you are.

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I get that our industry doesn’t have a great image in the eyes of the business world. Decision makers see the other media options, the frequent cuts made at stations across the country, and radio’s revenue projections, and it lessens confidence. That’s why it’s up to us to educate advertisers, teams, media partners, and fans about the cool things we do, and the successes we have doing it. That makes others want to be part of it. If your story isn’t familiar to them, why would they look past all of the other danger signs?

My second request is to see more women and minorities given opportunity to manage sports radio brands. I’ve written about it, and highlighted it at the Summit, but here we are entering 2020 with less than a handful of sports radio PD’s being female or non-white. There isn’t one valid argument to be made for why the status quo should continue. Our ability to make progress on this front has been embarrassing. I certainly hope that at the end of 2029 I’m not writing a similar paragraph.

As for myself, I love what I’m doing. Just last week I was recognized by Sports Illustrated’s JohnWall Street as one of the Top 100 sports business follows on Twitter, and my knowledge and understanding of the business has grown leaps and bounds over the past 4 years. I’ve had a chance to meet and listen to a lot of great people, while expanding my knowledge of social media metrics and strategy, website performance, podcasting data, audience behavior, and of course, radio ratings. I never want to stop challenging myself to grow, and nothing fuels that fire more than what I’m doing now.

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I’ve been asked many times if I’ll return to a building one day. I never say never, but it’s highly unlikely. I’ll always take a phone call because that’s just smart business, but I won’t be the guy chasing down job openings. During my 4 years of running BSM, I’ve taken two meetings, and neither were for PD gigs. One was to run an entire sports operation for a major audio company. The other to work with a well known sports television talent and company on building a new online platform.

In both cases, the timing and fit wasn’t right, and I returned to doing the job I love most, this one. I’m fortunate to work with a lot of great brands and people, and tell stories that others care to read or listen to. I also like having my family nearby, and my son in my house, although that’ll end next year when he goes to college.

My goal moving forward is to become an even better resource for the media industry, and increase awareness and interest in our online brand and the BSM Summit. There are a lot of companies I haven’t had the privilege of working with yet. With a new decade in front us, I’m hoping to change that.

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I do have one thing in development that is going to be pretty cool, but I’m not ready to share the details just yet. What I can tell you is that I expect to add more media professionals to this website as writers in the future. If interested, email me at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. We’re also planning to put a few merchandise items on the site at some point. I think you’ll dig some of the sayings and designs we’ve been working on.

As long as sports media remains important to people, I plan to write, report, and podcast about it. If over the next decade I can help and influence a few more brands and people, and help my staff advance in the industry, that’ll make my work even more rewarding. Whether you’ve read this website, listened to one of our podcasts, interacted on social media, retained me for a business project, or attended a BSM Summit, I want to thank you for your support. All of it matters, and is greatly appreciated.

On behalf of our entire crew, I wish you a Happy New Year. Be sure to take a few minutes today to reflect on your own experiences from the past ten years. It’s what makes the journey worthwhile. Just don’t celebrate too hard tonight, because your next decade of challenges and opportunities starts tomorrow!

Barrett Blogs

BSM’s Black Friday SALE on BSM Summit Tickets is Underway!

Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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Barrett Blogs

Mina Kimes, Bruce Gilbert, Mitch Rosen, and Stacey Kauffman Join the 2023 BSM Summit

“By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference.”

Jason Barrett

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The 2023 BSM Summit is returning to Los Angeles on March 21-22, 2023, live from the Founders Club at the Galen Center at the campus of the University of Southern California. Information on tickets and hotel rooms can be found at BSMSummit.com.

We’ve previously announced sixteen participants for our upcoming show, and I’m excited today to confirm the additions of four more more smart, successful professionals to be part of the event. Before I do that, I’d like to thank The Volume for signing on as our Badge sponsor, the Motor Racing Network for securing the gift bag sponsorship, and Bonneville International for coming on board as a Session sponsor. We do have some opportunities available but things are moving fast this year, so if you’re interested in being involved, email Stephanie Eads at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

Now let’s talk about a few of the speaker additions for the show.

First, I am thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Mina Kimes to the Summit for her first appearance. Mina and I had the pleasure recently of connecting on a podcast (go listen to it) and I’ve been a fan of her work for years. Her intellect, wit, football acumen, and likeability have served her well on television, podcasts, and in print. She’s excelled as an analyst on NFL Live and Rams preseason football games, as a former host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and her appearances on Around The Horn and previously on Highly Questionable and the Dan Le Batard Show were always entertaining. I’m looking forward to having Mina join FS1’s Joy Taylor and ESPN LA 710 PD Amanda Brown for an insightful conversation about the industry.

Next is another newcomer. I’m looking forward to having Audacy San Francisco and Sacramento Regional Vice President Stacey Kauffman in the building for our 2023 show. In addition to overseeing a number of music brands, Stacey also oversees a dominant news/talk outlet, and two sports radio brands. Among them are my former station 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, and ESPN 1320 in Sacramento. I’m looking forward to having her participate in our GM panel with Good Karma’s Sam Pines, iHeart’s Don Martin, and led by Bonneville’s Executive Vice President Scott Sutherland.

From there, it’s time to welcome back two of the sharpest sports radio minds in the business. Bruce Gilbert is the SVP of Sports for Westwood One and Cumulus Media. He’s seen and done it all on the local and national level and anytime he’s in the room to share his programming knowledge with attendees, everyone leaves the room smarter. I’m anticipating another great conversation on the state of sports radio, which FOX Sports Radio VP of programming Scott Shapiro will be a part of.

Another student of the game and one of the top programmers in the format today is 670 The Score in Chicago PD, Mitch Rosen. The former Mark Chernoff Award recipient and recently appointed VP of the BetQL Network juggles managing a top 3 market sports brand while being charged with moving an emerging sports betting network forward. Count on Mr. Rosen to offer his insights and opinions during another of our branding and programming discussions.

By the time we get to March, we should have somewhere between 40-60 participants involved in the conference. My focus now is on finalizing our business and digital sessions, research, tech and sports betting panels, securing our locations and sponsorships for the After Party and Kickoff Party, plus working out the details for a few high-profile executive appearances and a couple of surprises.

For those looking to attend and save a few dollars on tickets, we’ll be holding a special Black Friday Sale this Friday November 25th. Just log on to BSMSummit.com that day to save $50 on individual tickets. In addition, thanks to the generosity of voice talent extraordinaire Steve Kamer, we’ll be giving away 10 tickets leading up to the conference. Stay tuned for details on the giveaway in the months ahead.

Still to come is an announcement about our special ticket rate for college students looking to attend the show and learn. We also do an annual contest for college kids to attend the event for free which I’m hoping to have ready in the next few weeks. It’s also likely we’ll give away a few tickets to industry professionals leading up to Christmas, so keep an eye out.

If you work in the sports media industry and value making connections, celebrating those who create an impact, and learning about the business from folks who have experienced success, failure, and everything in between, the Summit is worth your time. I’m excited to have Mina, Bruce, Mitch and Stacey join us for the show, and look forward to spending a few days with the industry’s best and brightest this March! Hope to see you there.

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Barrett Media is Making Changes To Better Serve Our Sports and News Media Readers

“We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future.”

Jason Barrett

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When I launched this website all I wanted to do was share news, insight and stories about broadcasters and brands. My love, passion and respect for this business is strong, and I know many of you reading this feel similar. I spent two great decades in radio watching how little attention was paid to those who played a big part in their audiences lives. The occasional clickbait story and contract drama would find their way into the newspapers but rarely did you learn about the twists and turns of a broadcaster’s career, their approach to content or the tactics and strategies needed to succeed in the industry. When personal reasons led me home to NY in 2015, I decided I was going to try my best to change that.

Since launching this brand, we’ve done a good job informing and entertaining media industry professionals, while also helping consulting clients and advertising partners improve their businesses. We’ve earned respect from the industry’s top stars, programming minds and mainstream media outlets, growing traffic from 50K per month to 500K and monthly social impressions from a few thousand to a few million. Along the way we’ve added conferences, rankings, podcasts, a member directory, and as I’ve said before, this is the best and most important work I’ve ever done, and I’m not interested in doing anything else.

If I’ve learned anything over seven years of operating a digital content company it’s that you need skill, strategy, passion, differentiating content, and good people to create impact. You also need luck, support, curiosity and an understanding of when to double down, cut bait or pivot. It’s why I added Stephanie Eads as our Director of Sales and hired additional editors, columnists and features reporters earlier this year. To run a brand like ours properly, time and investment are needed. We’ve consistently grown and continue to invest in our future, and it’s my hope that more groups will recognize the value we provide, and give greater consideration to marketing with us in the future.

But with growth comes challenges. Sometimes you can have the right idea but bad timing. I learned that when we launched Barrett News Media.

We introduced BNM in September 2020, two months before the election when emotions were high and COVID was a daily discussion. I wasn’t comfortable then of blending BNM and BSM content because I knew we’d built a trusted sports media resource, and I didn’t want to shrink one audience while trying to grow another. Given how personal the election and COVID became for folks, I knew the content mix would look and feel awkward on our site.

So we made the decision to start BNM with its own website. We ran the two brands independently and had the right plan of attack, but discovered that our timing wasn’t great.

The first nine months readership was light, which I expected since we were new and trying to build an audience from scratch. I believed in the long-term mission, which was why I stuck with it through all of the growing pains, but I also felt a responsibility to make sure our BNM writing team and the advertising partners we forged relationships with were being seen by as many people as possible. We continued with the original plan until May 2021 when after a number of back and forth debates, I finally agreed to merge the two sites. I figured if WFAN could thrive with Imus in the Morning and Mike and the Mad Dog in the afternoon, and the NY Times, LA Times, KOA, KMOX and numerous other newspaper and radio brands could find a way to blend sports and news/talk, then so could we.

And it worked.

We dove in and started to showcase both formats, building social channels and groups for each, growing newsletter databases, and with the addition of a few top notch writers, BNM began making bigger strides. Now featured under the BSM roof, the site looked bigger, the supply of daily content became massive, and our people were enjoying the increased attention.

Except now we had other issues. Too many stories meant many weren’t being read and more mistakes were slipping through the cracks. None of our crew strive to misspell a word or write a sloppy headline but when the staff and workload doubles and you’re trying to focus on two different formats, things can get missed. Hey, we’re all human.

Then a few other things happened that forced a larger discussion with my editors.

First, I thought about how much original material we were creating for BSM from our podcast network, Summit, Countdown to Coverage series, Meet the Market Managers, BSM Top 20, and began to ask myself ‘if we’re doing all of this for sports readers, what does that tell folks who read us for news?’ We then ran a survey to learn what people valued about our brand and though most of the feedback was excellent, I saw how strong the response was to our sports content, and how news had grown but felt second fiddle to those offering feedback.

Then, Andy Bloom wrote an interesting column explaining why radio hosts would be wise to stop talking about Donald Trump. It was the type of piece that should’ve been front and center on a news site all day but with 3 featured slots on the site and 7 original columns coming in that day, they couldn’t all be highlighted the way they sometimes should be. We’re actually going through that again today. That said, Andy’s column cut through. A few sports media folks didn’t like seeing it on the site, which wasn’t a surprise since Trump is a polarizing personality, but the content resonated well with the news/talk crowd.

National talk radio host Mike Gallagher was among the folks to see Andy’s piece, and he spent time on his show talking about the column. Mike’s segment was excellent, and when he referenced the article, he did the professional thing and credited our website – Barrett SPORTS Media. I was appreciative of Mike spending time on his program discussing our content but it was a reminder that we had news living under a sports roof and it deserved better than that.

I then read some of Pete Mundo, Doug Pucci and Rick Schultz’s columns and Jim Cryns’ features on Chris Ruddy, Phil Boyce, and David Santrella, and knew we were doing a lot of quality work but each time we produced stories, folks were reminded that it lived on a SPORTS site. I met a few folks who valued the site, recognized the increased focus we put on our news/talk coverage, and hoped we had plans to do more. Jim also received feedback along the lines of “good to see you guys finally in the news space, hope there’s more to come.”

Wanting to better understand our opportunities and challenges, I reviewed our workflow, looked at which content was hitting and missing the mark, thought about the increased relationships we’d worked hard to develop, and the short-term and long-term goals for BNM. I knew it was time to choose a path. Did I want to think short-term and keep everything under one roof to protect our current traffic and avoid disrupting people or was it smarter to look at the big picture and create a destination where news/talk media content could be prioritized rather than treated as BSM’s step-child?

Though I spent most of my career in sports media and established BSM first, it’s important to me to serve the news/talk media industry our very best. I want every news/talk executive, host, programmer, market manager, agent, producer, seller and advertiser to know this format matters to us. Hopefully you’ve seen that in the content we’ve created over the past two years. My goal is to deliver for news media professionals what we have for sports media folks and though that may be a tall order, we’re going to bust our asses to make it happen. To prove that this isn’t just lip service, here’s what we’re going to do.

Starting next Monday November 28th, we are relaunching BarrettNewsMedia.com. ALL new content produced by the BNM writing team will be available daily under that URL. For the first 70-days we will display news media columns from our BNM writers on both sites and support them with promotion across both of our brands social channels. The goal is to have the two sites running independent of each other by February 6, 2023.

Also starting on Monday November 28th, we will begin distributing the BNM Rundown newsletter 5 days per week. We’ve been sending out the Rundown every M-W-F since October 2021, but the time has come for us to send it out daily. With increased distribution comes two small adjustments. We will reduce our daily story count from 10 to 8 and make it a goal to deliver it to your inbox each day by 3pm ET. If you haven’t signed up to receive the Rundown, please do. You can click here to register. Be sure to scroll down past the 8@8 area.

Additionally, Barrett News Media is going to release its first edition of the BNM Top 20 of 2022. This will come out December 12-16 and 19-20. The category winners will be decided by more than 50 news/talk radio program directors and executives. Among the categories to be featured will be best Major/Mid Market Local morning, midday, and afternoon show, best Local News/Talk PD, best Local News/Talk Station, best National Talk Radio Show, and best Original Digital Show. The voting process with format decision makers begins today and will continue for two weeks. I’ve already got a number of people involved but if you work in an executive or programming role in the news/talk format and wish to be part of it, send an email to me at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

We have one other big thing coming to Barrett News Media in 2023, which I will announce right after the BNM Top 20 on Wednesday December 21st. I’m sure news/talk professionals will like what we have planned but for now, it’ll have to be a month long tease. I promise though to pay it off.

Additionally, I’m always looking for industry folks who know and love the business and enjoy writing about it. If you’ve programmed, hosted, sold or reported in the news/talk world and have something to offer, email me. Also, if you’re a host, producer, programmer, executive, promotions or PR person and think something from your brand warrants coverage on our site, send it along. Most of what we write comes from listening to stations and digging across the web and social media. Receiving your press releases and getting a heads up on things you’re doing always helps.

If you’re a fan of BSM, this won’t affect you much. The only difference you’ll notice in the coming months is a gradual reduction of news media content on the BSM website and our social accounts sharing a little about both formats over the next two months until we’re officially split in February. We are also going to dabble a little more in marketing, research and tech content that serves both formats. If you’re a reader who enjoys both forms of our content, you’ll soon have BarrettSportsMedia.com for sports, and BarrettNewsMedia.com for news.

Our first two years in the news/talk space have been very productive but we’ve only scratched the surface. Starting November 28th, news takes center stage on BarrettNewsMedia.com and sports gets less crowded on BarrettSportsMedia.com. We had the right plan of attack in 2020, but poor timing. So we’re learning from the past and adjusting for the future. If we can count on you to remember two URL’s (add them to your bookmarks) and sign up for our newsletters, then you can count on us to continue delivering exceptional coverage of the industry you love. As always, thanks for the continued support. It makes everything we do worthwhile.

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