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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.

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Barrett Blogs

Is Sports Journalism Still Worth Paying For?

“I know many like to declare print being dead. I’m sorry I’m not one of them. Adults still enjoy reading.”

Jason Barrett

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Courtesy: Don Nguyen

I’ve been thinking about this column all week because it’s a topic I’m passionate about and curious to hear the responses to. For starters, let me pose a few questions to you. Does quality journalism still matter? Is it worth paying for? Do advertisers see enough return on their investments with print outlets through associations with influential writers, publications and branded content? Are consumers hungry to read the full details of a story or are they satisfied with the cliff notes version and absorbing messages that fit inside of 140-280 characters?

The world we’re in is saturated with content. Attention spans are rapidly shrinking. Social media is both to blame and bless for that. The positive is that we’re exposed to more content than ever before. This means more opportunity to reach people and grow businesses. The challenge of course is standing out.

People listen, read and watch less of one thing now, opting for variety during the time they have available. The issue with that is that it often leads to being less informed. I know many like to declare print being dead. I’m sorry I’m not one of them. Adults still enjoy reading. I see nearly three million people do it on this website alone and we’re small potatoes compared to mainstream brands. Clearly people like to learn.

I raise this topic because last week, Peter King announced his retirement although he left open the door for side projects. After forty plus years of writing the gold standard of NFL columns, King revealed he wanted to slow down and invest his time in other areas of life. Among his considerations for the future after taking a breather are teaching.

In a podcast interview with Richard Deitsch, King said “We may love this column but I doubt that it made enough money for NBC to pay what they were paying me. I don’t think words are very profitable anymore. It’s a sad thing but it’s what’s happened to our business.”

Later in the conversation, King discussed the difficulty he might face if speaking to students about whether or not to pursue working in the media industry. He acknowledged that the business is bad right now. However, he pointed out that if you can write and read, and be an intelligent thinking contributing member of society, there are a lot of jobs you can do beyond being a writer for a paper covering the NFL. You can teach English, work in PR or for a team or league website. But journalism is different now, and though it’s not impossible to do, having flexibility is important.

I agreed with most of King’s remarks and thought about the two different ways people might respond to them.

If you’re in agreement with Peter, you’ll point to the reduction in industry jobs, the changes in salaries, the lack of trust in media outlets, the economic uncertainty facing traditional operators, the shrinking ability to uncover truth, and the data that frequently supports video being hot, and print not so much.

Those who disagree will list the New York Times and The Athletic as examples of print brands that still matter. They’ll also mention the surge in newsletters, the arrival of new online outlets, and the daily communication between millions of people each day on social media, much of it revolving around conversations created or supported by text.

Where I sit is somewhere in between.

First, the notion that it’s harder now than before is one I’ll challenge. When I entered the business, I had to mail letters, send cassette tapes, and wait months for a response. There was no internet or opportunity to create a podcast, Substack, website or video to build an audience. I had to be selected by someone to have a chance to work. There were thousands like me who wanted a way in and were at the mercy of decision makers preferring my resume over someone else’s. I did exactly what King said on the podcast when he mentioned having to do other jobs to support yourself while pursing a dream.

Where I agree with King is when he mentioned words not being as profitable anymore. Are print reporters and columnists going to make what they once did? Probably not. There will always be exceptions just as there are in television and radio, but if you think you’re going to do one specific job and making a financial killing on it, prepare to be disappointed. Today, you better be able to wear different hats and create a lot of content in multiple places. Earning a lot for doing a little is a way of the past.

The one area where I’ll differ is when it comes to advertising. I believe there’s untapped value for brands in print. Recall with the written word remains strong. There’s also less advertising clutter in written stories than audio and video programming blocks. Advertisers may not seek out traditional print advertising anymore but branded content, newsletter associations, and social media placements remain valued.

What I admire greatly about King is that he evolved over the years. His written work on SI was must-read but that didn’t stop him from leaping into the online space and launching MMQB. The arrival of that microsite was done at the right point in time, and when SI began to change, King didn’t hang on, choosing to make the bold move and jump to NBC. Upon his arrival, he started contributing on television, podcasts, and expanding his profile on social media.

What you should take away from Peter is that you’ve got to constantly examine the business, and understand when it’s time to pivot, even if it means leaving your comfort zone. You also have to recognize that things are going to change and your job description will likely be one of them. If you stay married to what you once did, you’ll be in a tough spot. If you roll with the punches and embrace what’s new, you’ll survive and thrive.

You also have to understand that you’re going to be tied further to what you produce. Does your presence and performance grow advertising revenue? Are you speaking on behalf of brands and helping them move product? Do you grow subscriptions or readership to levels that make it easy for a company to invest significantly in you? Talent is subjective. Results aren’t. Those who create quality while boosting the bottom line will remain in demand.

Remember this in a few years when artificial intelligence becomes a bigger part of content creation and discovery. Those who adapt to it and work with it will be just fine. Those who reject it will be searching for new career paths. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. There’s better stability in other industries. But there’s nothing like creating content around the world of sports and media. It just requires adaptability and being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

BSM Summit Update:

In ten days we unite the sports media business in New York City for the 2024 BSM Summit. All of the sessions are now complete. I’m excited to add Natalie Marsh, General Manager of Lotus Communications in Las Vegas, Cody Welling, Station Manager of 97.1 The Fan in Columbus, and Stephanie Prince, Vice President and Market Manager of Good Karma Brands West Palm Beach to our schedule. The full agenda for both days is posted on BSMSummit.com.

In addition, I’m thrilled to share that we’ll have a few special appearances at the ESPN Radio After Party on Wednesday March 13th. Joining us on-site will be Evan Cohen, Chris Canty and Michelle Smallmon of UnSportsmanLike, Freddie Coleman and Harry Douglas of Freddie & Harry, and Chris Carlin from Carlin vs. Joe.

Thumbs Up:

Chris Mortensen: Rarely does the sports media industry collectively agree on anything but you won’t find much disagreement on Chris Mortensen. He was a special talent and human being. I was fortunate to see it firsthand as a producer at ESPN Radio. I then enjoyed many interactions with Mort as a program director lining up calls on the radio stations I ran. It didn’t matter what job you did or where you worked, Chris treated you well. His work was hall of fame worthy but it was the manner in which he interacted with people that truly made him a legend. Rest in peace, Mort. I’m sure the next wave of conversations with John Clayton are going to be amazing.

Mike Felger: It would’ve been easy to pile on and publicly root for a competitor to fail and fold. Instead, Felger took the high road, acknowledging that he’s rooting for WEEI to come out of bankruptcy in good shape. That’s what smart business people. Mike is comfortable in his own skin. He has the highest rated show in Boston and having a competitor to compete against as well as a potential landing spot when contracts come up is never a bad thing. Besides, why would anyone want to see friends and respected professionals lose an opportunity to work or listeners given less choice for sports talk entertainment? Nice job, Mike.

iHeartmedia: The company’s fourth quarter results were down year-to-year but they were above prior projections. iHeart also gained 16.6% growth in podcasting revenues during Q4, and just got stronger by luring Stephen A. Smith’s podcast away from Audacy. A pretty good week for Bob Pittman and his lieutenants.

Sportico: Jason Clinkscales is an easy guy to root for. He’s written quality content for Awful Announcing, is a sharp guy who enjoys the industry, and after a year full of personal tragedies, he deserved a break. That came last week when Sportico hired him as a reporter and editor on their breaking news team. Well done Sportico. Looking forward to reading the first piece.

National Association of Broadcasters: Creating buzz for conferences isn’t easy but the NAB’s recent announcement of having Daniel Anstandig of Futuri Media present a first-of-its-kind presentation at its April show alongside Ameca, an autonomously AI-powered humanoid robot has certainly increased conversation and intrigue. I’ll be in attendance for the event and am curious like many. I’m just hoping Joe Rogan isn’t right when he suggested this week that robots will jump out of an aircraft carrier with machine guns and do damage.

Thumbs Down:

Kroenke Sports and Entertainment: This isn’t a shot at the company. It’s more about losing a talented media executive. Matt Hutchings, the company’s former COO and EVP was a key part of developing Altitude Sports. Under his watch, the Nuggets and Avalanche won titles, and the company cemented its position in the local sports radio space.

The dispute with Comcast over airing Nuggets and Avs games is well documented, and Hutchings will get some of the blame for the teams not being broadcast on local TV but I tend to believe decisions of that magnitude land at ownership’s doorstep. Regardless, KSE is weaker today than yesterday due to losing Hutchings.

New York Jets: I get it. 98.7 ESPN New York moving away from the FM dial provides a concern for the franchise, and in other cities, football does perform well on classic rock stations. I just see the fit with Q104.3 as an odd one. If Aaron Rodgers returns and the Jets finally take off the way their fans hoped they would last year, it’s going to feel strange hearing their games locally on a channel that has little content time dedicated to the team beyond game days.

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Barrett Blogs

Erika Ayers and Spike Eskin Led Barstool Sports and WFAN to Success But Their Exits Raise Questions

“Rod and Spike understand the business. They know people are going to ask these questions.”

Jason Barrett

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There were two big management moves last week that have sports media folks talking. First was Erika Ayers Badan announcing her exit from Barstool Sports as the brand’s CEO. Second was the news of Spike Eskin returning to Sportsradio WIP and exiting his role as the VP of Programming for WFAN and CBS Sports Radio.

Let’s start with Erika. What she did for Barstool was spectacular. In 2016, I thought Barstool had a strong understanding of social media, unique talent and voices, podcasts that were cutting through, and a connection with younger fans that traditional outlets couldn’t deliver. They also produced events that drew a lot of public attention. But I didn’t view Barstool as a buttoned up business capable of generating hundreds of millions of dollars. Erika Nardini aka Erika Ayers Badan and Dave Portnoy deserve credit for making it one.

Erika told me at our 2020 BSM Summit that Barstool didn’t have a P&L sheet when she joined. She had to build systems, hire staff, grow the sales arm of Barstool, and help Dave Portnoy find investors. What followed were marketing deals with major brands, content partnerships with different media outlets, a massive investment from Penn National, and a changed perception of Barstool as a mainstream player. They were no longer just the cool, rebellious brand on social media and the internet that gave no f’s and generated attention. They became game changers in the sports content space.

So why leave?

If Barstool is now clear of restrictions and able to operate without investor influence, that should be enticing, right? In her farewell video Erika said that she felt she accomplished what she set out to do. I understand and appreciate that. But I can’t help but wonder if less structure and investor involvement made it less appealing to stay. She did join the brand after The Chernin Group got involved not before it.

I have no inside knowledge on this, and I’m not suggesting Barstool won’t continue growing and dominating. They likely will. It just raises questions about how the brand will manage sales, PR, critical internal and external issues, and battles with suitors when they try to lure away Barstool’s on-air and sales talent.

The business end of Barstool appears weaker today than it did a week ago. That’s more of a testament to what Erika did than a knock on anyone still there. To grow revenue the way she did the past 8 years speaks volumes about her skill as an executive. Wherever she lands next, it’s likely she’ll make a difference.

Will it be easier to do business with Barstool moving forward? Time will tell. I don’t expect they’ll make it easier for media outlets like ours to cover them. But if I’ve learned anything in eight years of following them it’s don’t ever bet against Dave Portnoy. Too often people have. Each time he’s proven them wrong. Portnoy has built a powerhouse brand, and grown the business by zigging when others zagged. But how Barstool moves forward without Erika will be of great interest to many in 2024.

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Spike Eskin will be leaving WFAN and his position as the VP of Programming for Audacy to return to WIP and co-host the afternoon show. On paper this is a great move for WIP. Spike understands Philadelphia and WIP’s audience, he lives and breathes Philly sports, and has a great rapport with the entire lineup. He’s maintained an on-air presence through his Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast, and I believe that moving into a host role alongside Ike Reese and Jack Fritz will be a seamless transition for all involved. Being in his mid to late 40’s, he’s also got plenty years ahead of him to cement his spot as an on-air talent. I expect Spike, Ike and Jack to do well together.

But to exit WFAN and the top programming role at Audacy in less than three years, raises a few questions. Why is this opportunity better for Spike than the programming role he just held? Was he happy at WFAN? Were folks happy with him at WFAN? Many have opinions about WFAN’s changes the past few years. Some love the fresher approach. Others don’t. That’s what makes sports radio in New York fun, people care.

As a follower of WFAN for over thirty years, it’s a different brand than the one I grew up on. That’s not a bad thing by the way. I’m almost 50. If Spike and Chris Oliviero programmed to please the Mike and the Mad Dog crowd that’d be a mistake. Attention spans are shorter, content options are larger, digital is more important and the days of a city flocking to the radio at 1pm to hear a host’s first words are gone. Judging from the ratings, revenue, and turnout for Boomer and Gio’s last live event, the station is doing well. They’ve got a lot of talent, a stronger digital game, and they’ll continue thriving. Spike deserves credit for the brand’s progress.

But why is a hosting role and less influence over a brand better for Eskin? Spike has been a part of WIP’s afternoon show before. Though leading the show vs. being the third mic is a different animal. He also programmed the station really well. In fact, Spike did such a good job at WIP that it landed him the top programming position in sports radio. Is there a personal part to this given that his father made afternoons in Philly must-listen for 25 years? Or is it about the personal relationship he has with Ike and Jack?

And how does this work from a financial standpoint? It’s likely that Spike was paid more to lead Audacy New York than Jon Marks was to host WIP’s afternoon show. If that’s the case, and nothing changes for Eskin, and WIP just adds payroll, does it affect what Chris Oliviero can spend on Audacy New York’s next brand leader? I can’t see that happening at all. Chris is going to make sure he has what he needs to land the right leader in New York.

Finances only come up because it’s known that Audacy is going through a bankruptcy process. Adding expenses right now seems unlikely. However, to add someone with Eskin’s skill and track record at a station where he previously shined is smart business, especially when you consider that he can win as a host and programmer if needed. That’s going to naturally lead to folks asking ‘will Spike eventually host PM drive and program WIP? If so, what does that mean for current PD Rod Lakin?’ ‘What happens when talent at WIP that Spike had a hand in hiring don’t like what Lakin suggests or if WIP’s ratings decline?’

Spike told Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie that’s not on his radar and the idea of joining the afternoon show was raised by PD Rod Lakin. Some of you may read that and be surprised that Lakin would suggest it. But Rod stepped into the role that Eskin previously held. I’m sure they’ve talked plenty the past few years. If their relationship is strong that should help. I don’t know it well enough to say if it is or isn’t. This move suggests Lakin’s more concerned with strengthening WIP than worrying about himself or industry chatter.

If anyone can navigate the situation and make it work, it’s Rod Lakin. He’s calm, cool, collected, smart and doesn’t get flustered by noise and pressure. I know this because we’ve known each other for over a decade, and I introduced him to folks years ago, which led to him landing the Philly role. If you read Derek Futterman’s piece on Angelo Cataldi last month, the Philly icon shared a small example of what makes Rod a great leader.

But Rod and Spike understand the business. They know people are going to ask these questions. The flurry of texts and emails I received about this last week was insane. I’m sure it was even louder on the local level. Many will suggest that Audacy will use this as an opportunity to eventually reduce expenses and stay strong by having Eskin handle two roles. Only those involved know the answers but one thing I know is that Rod Lakin knows how to program. If he’s not supported there, he’ll have plenty of interest elsewhere.

In a perfect world, Spike excels in afternoons, Rod leads WIP to greater success, and WFAN finds a great leader to move the brand forward. But until the smoke clears, noise will fill the air in the big apple and city of brotherly love.

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Thumbs Up:

Colin Dunlap, 93.7 The Fan: While on the air last week, Dunlap received a call from a 65-year old woman named Colette. She told the Pittsburgh host that she and her husband were disabled and after undergoing 28 surgeries, she was physically struggling to clear her walkway of snow. Hearing her story moved Dunlap to react. He then called on the audience to step up and help. Shortly thereafter, one of 93.7 The Fan’s listeners, a gentleman named Tom, phoned in, and made the drive over to help out a fellow listener. That’s the power of live radio at its best, all possible by Dunlap reading and reacting to the situation perfectly.

Clay Travis, Outkick: Whether you love him or hate him, Clay delivers strong opinions and commands your attention. A perfect example was his Friday night reaction video to the demise of Sports Illustrated. If you haven’t watched it, it’s worth checking out. It’s nearing one million views at the time of my writing this.

VSiN: The sports betting network based out of Las Vegas recently redesigned its website and the new look and feel of it is excellent. Clean throughout, easy to navigate, and rich of content. Nice work by Bill Adee all involved.

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Thumbs Down:

Sports Illustrated: Laying off the majority of its staff was bad enough, but to notify people by email or have them find out on social media shows a lack of class and a disgusting approach to running a business. All of those traits by the way are the exact opposite of what SI once stood for – RESPECT.

During SI’s glory days, the content was must read. But in recent years, the outlet landed in the hands of operators who valued clicks over quality. Many predicted and expected this once storied brand to crumble. Unfortunately, the naysayers were proven right.

To those affected, I’m sorry for the crummy news. Some will rebound and help other established brands. Some will launch their own platforms or exit the industry. Anyone looking to do future freelancing work is invited to email [email protected].

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BSM Summit Update:

I’m happy to share that Good Karma Brands president Steve Politziner, Edison Research co-founder and president Larry Rosin and ESPN Chicago program director Danny Zederman have been added to our lineup. We’ve also finalized two of our four awards recipients and are working on a third. I’m hoping to share those details soon along with a few other high profile additions to this year’s show. I’ll be heading to Las Vegas during Super Bowl week, which is when we reveal our BSM Top 20 of 2023, and after that I’m hoping to finalize our schedule so it can be released by the end of February.

I know everyone likes waiting until the last minute to buy tickets and reserve hotel rooms. If you want to avoid being left out though, the time to act is now. Everything you need is posted on BSMSummit.com. Our deadline for hotel room reservations is February 13th. We’ve also sent out free ticket contests by email to the advertising community and tri-state area colleges. We’ll have two more this week for executives and programmers. Be sure to check your spam folder just in case it doesn’t arrive in your inbox.

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2-Seconds to Vent:

Jimmy Pitaro, Eric Shanks, John Skipper, Nick Khan, Colin Cowherd, Paul Finebaum, Clay Travis, Craig Carton, Adam Schein, Michael Kay, and Fred Toucher all have something in common with many others across the industry. They’re accomplished professionals with plenty on their plate yet when contacted, they always respond. Most of the time, they do so quickly. That’s greatly appreciated.

If those tasked with running the largest media companies in America, and hosting shows with content, advertising, and audience commitments can find time to respond, why is it so hard for other professionals to do the same? If you don’t want to be featured on BSM, speak at a Summit, market with us or answer a question, just say ‘not interested‘. It takes two seconds. The best in the business understand the value of relationships and promotion. Unfortunately, many do not. I don’t use this platform to draw attention to these issues but sometimes I wonder, should I?

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Original Projects:

On BNM this week we’re doing five days of features on NPR professionals as part of ‘Public Radio Week‘. It’s not easy pulling it off but we’re trying some different stuff. Next week we launch ‘Where Are They Now‘ on BSM. Peter Schwartz will have the first feature next Tuesday. Coming up in February, we drop the BSM Top 20, Derek Futterman’s ‘Day Spent With‘ series which includes spending a day with professionals across different areas of the industry, and we’ll profile a number of black voices on BNM as part of the brand’s focus on Black History month. I hope you’ll check them out whenever time allows.

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Recommended Viewing:

If you’re looking for a movie to watch during the week, check out Blackberry if you haven’t already done so. The film is about the rise and fall of the Blackberry phone, and I thought it was excellent. It had a similar feel to the movie Jobs, and the series Super Pumped: The Battle For Uber. Worth your time if you’ve got two hours available to watch something different than live games or sports programming.

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If you have a question or comment you’d like addressed in a future column, please send it to [email protected]. That same email address can be used to pass along press releases, interview requests or news tips. Thanks for reading!

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Justin Craig, Chris Kinard, Mary Menna Added to 2024 BSM Summit Lineup

“What I’ve always enjoyed about the BSM Summit is that it showcases speakers from many different areas of the industry.”

Jason Barrett

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To kick off 2024, we’re announcing the additions of three more talented broadcasters to our 2024 BSM Summit. More on that shortly. The Summit takes place March 13-14 at the Ailey Theater in New York City. For tickets, hotel rooms, and additional details, visit BSMSummit.com. Those interested in sponsorship opportunities, contact Stephanie Eads. A number of items are already claimed but she can tell you what’s left. Reach her by email at [email protected] or by phone at 415-312-5553.

What I’ve always enjoyed about the Summit is that it showcases speakers from different areas of the industry. We’ve featured top talent, researchers, agents, digital leaders, podcasting experts, ratings analysts, tech builders, play by play voices, and of course, program directors and market managers. There’s many ways to succeed, and no better way to learn than to hear from folks who consistently win.

In the sports audio world, 98.5 The Sports Hub, 106.7 The Fan, and ESPN Radio are highly respected brands. The Hub and The Fan are dominant in Boston and Washington D.C.. ESPN Radio meanwhile maintains a strong position as one of the top national audio brands. All feature strong leaders, and we’re fortunate to have all of them represented in NYC.

It’s a pleasure to welcome Beasley Boston Market Manager Mary Menna to the Summit. This is her first appearance at the conference. Mary is responsible for managing The Hub’s business, currently the top revenue generating brand in all of sports radio. I’m excited to have her offer her insights on a panel with Chris Oliviero and Scott Sutherland. More details on the session, date/time closer to the show.

On the programming side, it’s great to welcome back Chris Kinard of 106.7 The Fan, and Justin Craig of ESPN Radio. Both will be involved in programming panels at the show.

CK has helped lead The Fan and Team 980 to consistent growth in the nation’s capital. He’s a forward thinking type of leader with a great feel for the current and future challenges facing the business. I’m looking forward to having him share a few lessons he’s learned with the rest of the room.

For my friend JC, he’s seen ESPN Radio evolve for the better part of two decades. Liked and respected by most, he’s valued and trusted to guide ESPN Radio’s day-to-day operations. Given the network’s change in focus, talent, and structure, he’ll have great insights to share on where national sports audio is moving.

Our speaker list now sits at twenty. It will grow much more over the next two months as we reveal other additions to the show. We’ll also be announcing our award winners, and a few other surprises. This is a fun and informative two-day event for sports media professionals. If you haven’t joined us before, I hope you’ll do so this time. Everything you need to know prior to the event will be available at BSMSummit.com.

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