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Women in Sports Radio Should Not Be An Anomaly

“Any woman who loves the sports radio industry enough to want to pursue a career in it should be welcomed with open arms if they have the talent to do the job.”

Jason Barrett

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I contributed a few thoughts and pieces of information to a story The Athletic published earlier this week titled Why Do So Few Women Work in Sports Radio? If you haven’t read it yet I encourage you to do so. The research done by Lisa Dillman and Sean Fitz Gerald was fantastic.

As I read the piece, I saw example after example of why this issue should be a thing of the past, and as the social responses began flooding in I thought ‘good for them, make your voices heard‘. Most involved in the conversation shared why women deserved better treatment in a format that’s largely ignored them, and just seeing the issue receive attention was a positive reminder that our business has a lot of room for improvement.

But then it hit me. It’s a great read, a valid question, and an issue which should produce far greater results in 2020 than it did in 2000 or 2010, but having traveled down this road many times before I’m not sure much is going to change anytime soon.

I saw the same public reaction to similar stories I wrote in recent years. I heard the same frustrations from women in the industry who I’ve talked to throughout the years. I’ve led on stage discussions on this topic with women and industry leaders, and the results are always the same – the problem is acknowledged but no plan, strategy or commitment is made to change it.

This may rub a few of you the wrong way. If it does, I don’t apologize. The truth hurts sometimes. In a format with nearly seven hundred stations, it’s inexcusable to have such little involvement from females. Spare me the excuses, show me the results.

Any woman who loves the sports radio industry enough to want to pursue a career in it should be welcomed with open arms if they have the talent to do the job. All these ladies have sought is a chance to prove they too love sports and can contribute to daily conversations while connecting with audiences. Yet there are programmers who fear the idea of a woman’s voice chasing away listeners. Others who don’t have the balls to take a risk and try something different. And some who just lack the ability to scout talent, resorting instead to hiring retread after retread because it’s easier.

Lineups across the country look similar to the way they did a decade ago. Sure there’s been a little progress when you see women like Sarah Spain, Amber Wilson, Joy Taylor, Jen Lada, Kayce Smith, Maggie Gray, Kate Scott, Michelle Smallmon, Sandra Golden, and Amy Lawrence occupying on-air roles on top stations and shows, but if sports radio leaders think hiring 15-20 women in a format that features hundreds of male voices represents a firm commitment to address the issue they’re sadly mistaken.

Answer me this, why is it that we don’t have one single sports station in this country featuring an all woman lineup on it? How many brands exist with a full roster of male talent? Hundreds would be the correct answer. Are you going to tell me that stations offering sports talk content that produce less than a 1 or 2 share couldn’t be used to try something different to actually create buzz and a potential new approach? What’s the worst that could happen, it fails? Isn’t that what a 1 share radio station is in the first place? By the way, you could raise the same question about no stations existing that feature a full roster of minority voices but I’m trying to keep this column focused on women.

And how about on the programming end. Why is it that I can count all of the women who oversee sports radio brands with less than ten fingers? Women can coach and referee men’s sports, excel on television and in podcasting, guide some of the largest media companies in the world, and run for the highest office in the land, but they can’t hold a prime position on a sports radio station?

I’m not naive, I recognize that the majority of the audience is male, and guys are more interested in sports radio than women. Ladies may not want to hear that but it’s true. Having run stations for a decade and spent the past five consulting brands and managing this website, the interest level is significantly higher among men seeking opportunities in the industry than it is of women. But it’s better now than it was ten years ago, and it could be even better in the future if we actually invited them to the party instead of telling them it’s an invitation only event.

The other side of the conversation that those advocating for change don’t like to hear about is that radio is first and foremost a business. If a sports station has 6-7 male personalities on the air producing strong ratings which help the station earn high revenues, why would they change it? Just because someone thinks they should have more on-air balance? If the numbers are strong and the dollars are coming in, radio groups aren’t going to mess with a winning formula. We can talk all day about being agents of change but if you’re running a business and it’s doing well, you’re going to be less focused on other issues because the current strategy is working.

That’s even more important in 2020 where this pandemic has created a lot of economic pain for radio operators. We can talk about diversity, the financial benefits of changing personnel, expanding the audience, and a whole list of other reasons of why it makes sense to consider adjustments, but we’ll be blue in the face before things take a different turn because profitable businesses don’t change until they’re forced to.

But that’s not the situation for the majority of brands in the format. For every 98.5 The Sports Hub, 97.1 The Ticket and KFAN that dominates its market and reserves the right to say ‘sorry guys, we’re thriving here and not screwing with it‘ there are plenty in need of a jolt to put ears and dollars on their airwaves.

One brand that does a great job elevating women is 1010XL, the sports radio leader in Jacksonville. The station has the rights to the Jaguars, features strong personalities who’ve been with the station for over a decade, and delivers results without subscribing to Nielsen. They could embrace the ‘it’s working so leave it alone‘ approach, yet they’ve consistently made it a priority to feature women on their airwaves. Lauren Brooks, Lauren Rew, Jessica Blaylock, Amanda Borges, Jordan DeArmon, Donna Murphy and Taylor Doll have all been part of on-air shows on the station and guess what – the predominantly male audience continues to listen to the radio station. Incredible right?

Let me give you another example. This one may surprise you even more. By most accounts, sports betting is seen as a male dominated space. Have you seen how many women are already contributing to sports betting brands? Go ahead and look them up – Ali Burns, Minty Bets, Lisa Kerney, Anita Marks, Lauren Joffe, Alyssa Rose, Ariel Epstein, Kelly in Vegas, Danielle Alvari, Jessie Coffield, Erin Kate Dolan, Rachel Bonnetta, Sara Perlman, and Chelsa Messinger. Sports betting content has grown in popularity over the past 5-6 years, and already groups like VSiN, DraftKings, FanDuel, FOX Sports, ESPN, SportsGrid and others are involving women faster than sports radio has.

Just thinking about this issue, and the prior work I’ve done examining it frustrates me. The solution to this problem isn’t going into every sports radio station and blowing out every male who occupies a spot. Many are doing their part to produce ratings and revenue. But there are certainly a lot of people who’ve been given numerous chances despite poor results, simply because they’re familiar to those in hiring positions. It’s fair to say that if a woman performed poorly for the same period of time as a male host, the likelihood of her getting a second opportunity to get back behind the mic and prove she could be successful is much lower.

If we’re going to make this situation better, Market Managers have to be more involved during the hiring process. How many have ever asked one of their PD’s ‘which women are you talking to for this position?’ I never had a GM ask me that question as a PD. They simply trusted me to do what I felt was best. I’m also embarassed by how little we see of women and minorities in PD roles. How does that change if GM’s and executives don’t prioritze it? Maybe you think the current results are acceptable. I don’t see it that way.

Continuing on the PD front, you guys in charge of brands also have to ask yourself if this situation really matters to you or not. I’m not sure everyone cares enough about it even if they publicly claim to be bothered by it. I am hardly ever asked by today’s programmers ‘are there any strong female hosts out there I should be looking at? and I rarely hear anyone mention female talent when on-air openings arise at their station. I did see Mitch Rosen in Chicago bring in Leila Rahimi for auditions with Dan Bernstein and Danny Parkins, Jen Lada was added in Milwaukee to ESPN 94.5 by Brad Lane, and Matt Nahigian hired Kate Scott to the morning show on 95.7 The Game. Those examples should be normal, not an anomaly.

Women also have a responsibility in this process too. Being relentless in the pursuit of opportunity is on you. Most PD’s aren’t going to come find you, and not every agent is going to call with news on your next gig. For every female who applied to one of my sports radio stations, I’d see 500-1000 emails, resumes, and applications from men. Since going on my own and launching BSM, the level of interest from females writing here compared to men is also very low. I was lucky to find Chrissy Paradis and previously had a female social media director, but the desire to work in the industry is higher among men, so women who want to be part of it need to be ready to knock on doors, dial phone numbers, and litter inboxes until they’re given the opportunity to chat. It’s fair to say you’re under represented. I agree with you. But that doesn’t excuse a lack of persistence.

As far as companies are concerned, executives need to put a higher priority on talent, and decide if they want to be great or just live quarter to quarter worrying about the bottom line. In the talk business, you’re nothing without unique talent striking a chord across multiple platforms. You can ask your morning host who runs a 4-hour radio show to write a daily blog, cut a weekly video, produce an original podcast and meet with current and potential advertising clients, but that’s not a path to long-term digital success. All you’re doing is stretching someone thin and attempting to play in a space you deem important without committing any real resources to it.

Our brands can create and distribute radio programs, original podcasts, social video, and online written content, but to do it effectively you need people. I’m sure there are many women who’d love to contribute to your digital content, but if stations won’t spend money to develop digital talent, and tomorrow’s radio stars, what are women supposed to think? You’re telling them the path to opportunity in sports radio doesn’t exist.

If there’s one thing I was good at as a programmer it was finding talent. I didn’t hit homeruns every time, but I never stopped scouting and looking in different places. I also wasn’t afraid to roll the dice and live with the results. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I lose a job? If you program in fear, I question if you should be managing the brand. Too many people look at what could go wrong rather than what could go right. I’d rather go down trying to create something special than stay afloat being lost in the noise.

Case in point, I hired Joe Fortenbaugh to be a host on the morning show in San Francisco depite never previously hosting a radio show full time. I did the same hiring John Middlekauff, Aubrey Huff, and Rick Venturi as hosts. I went to smaller markets to hire Guy Haberman and Zach McCrite, watched videos of Anna Kagarakis on YouTube to hire her as an update anchor, named Tony Softli a Rams Reporter/Host the week after he exited an NFL front office, and after studying San Francisco’s demographics and the lack of minority voices that existed on-air, I launched a promotion ‘Lucky Break’ in San Francisco to give an unknown person a chance to become a host. The final 4 contestants were a mix of Black and Hispanic voices, and the two Hispanic guys (Rudy Ortiz and Brandon Santiago) went on to host shows in the market, and the winner, Daryle ‘The Guru’ Johnson, is now in middays on 95.7 The Game and is one of the best people and talent in the market.

I’m not bringing up those examples in search of credit. I raise them to explain that one person with vision and confidence CAN make a difference. Nobody told me I had to improve the station’s diversity, hire unproven talent or dig thru YouTube looking for interesting people. I did it because my job was to look anywhere and everywhere to find people to build a great radio station. I see people out there today that fit this bill too but more times than not, the names and faces hired in sports radio look and sound the same.

This notion that female personalities can’t be successful in sports radio is nonsense. Many who see the business that way are out touch and unlikely to evolve. Rather than listening to someone who’s living in the past and lacks the spine to do something different, maybe take a chance to try and do something epic. Who knows, it might just strengthen your job security. But that’d require thinking about what could go right, and welcoming women to a party they’ve been given limited access to.

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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