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Pivoting and Being Bold Helped BSM Survive 2020

“It’s easy to wait for the stars to align perfectly to make decisions or stand pat because things are fine at the moment, but changing tomorrow’s outcome requires having a feel for what’s coming, and the conviction to act decisively. Not doing so can hurt your brand or crush your business.”

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From the Desk of Jason Barrett

Most people will likely remember 2020 as a year they’d like to forget. Between worrying about the health and safety of family and friends as a result of the coronavirus, watching the lights go out on the sports world for months, colleagues forced to work remotely and feel out of touch with society, and seeing businesses suffer the wrath of the pandemic, including the sports media industry, it’s been a year full of bad news. 2021 holds no promises of a bounce back year either, but given what we just endured over the past ten months, I think it’s safe to say that anything else is welcomed at this point.

I’m going to produce a column next week which will look back on some of the standout performers and moments from sports media in 2020, but I want to use this space today to share a few lessons I learned from operating a company during a challenging year, and pass along a few updates and thoughts related to our 2021 plans.

For starters, I discovered that there’s nothing more important than understanding how critical it is to pivot in business and not be afraid to be bold. So many in our business use these words in conversation and they look good when printed on a website but how many have actually followed thru and done it? It’s easy to wait for the stars to align perfectly to make decisions or stand pat because things are fine at the moment, but changing tomorrow’s outcome requires having a feel for what’s coming, and the conviction to act decisively. Not doing so can hurt your brand or crush your business. I wrote a story about this earlier this year, highlighting how a local florist reacted. If you didn’t have a chance to read it, you should.

Being completely candid, I wasn’t sure if BSM was going to survive in its current form back in early April. When the shutdown hit in March, I knew it could be bad. In late February we hosted a successful BSM Summit in New York City. One month later I was preparing for likely cancelations to my consulting business. I never assume that any of my client relationships will last forever. I know I’ve got to prove my worth every year. I also know that the cost for my services don’t appear on the first page of the budget, the sheet which identifies essential staff. That means I can deliver great value and have management’s complete support, but if a station loses 50-60% of their revenue, my phone may ring with bad news.

BSM Staff

Sensing that the worst could be headed our way, I knew we had to make a bold move and go all-in on original content. In May, we did that by adding six writers to the staff including Jay Mariotti who has been a tremendous addition to our team. Though nobody gets rich here from contributing, the collective expenses do add up. Adding all of those folks made no economic sense whatsoever at the time, but I felt this website mattered to industry people, and I knew that if we were going to continue to serve the sports media industry that I’d have to look past the short-term financial setbacks and focus on building a stronger staff to help us elevate our content, and display strength during a critical time.

We began ramping up our content, launching the BSM Member Directory to help broadcasters seeking opportunities, debuted the ‘Managing The Crisis’ podcast to share insights with executives dealing with the downward spiral caused by the pandemic, placed a greater focus on selling advertising opportunities on our website, and tightened up our SEO strategy to have our content appear better in search. We also added a new layer to the company, announcing our entry into news radio consulting in September, and added the website Barrett News Media to begin serving the news media industry. We wrap up 2020 with fourteen people contributing and earning compensation from BSM and eleven being paid to help us on BNM.

By making those decisions, we were able to triple our website traffic, grow memberships to thirty plus people, add new advertising business from multiple partners, and kick off BNM with monthly activity similar to where BSM was two years into its existence. Keep in mind, BNM has only been a brand for 90-days. I dodged a bullet and only lost two clients during the pandemic. Though it stunk to end working relationships with some great brands and people, the hard work we invested paid off as months later we added three new clients.

As proud as I am of our ability to maneuver the business thru a difficult year, I endured a personal challenge in 2020 which I didn’t talk publicly about. I went thru a struggle with my voice from September to December. I kicked off Season 5 of the BSM Podcast with a few killer episodes (Sam Savage, Mike Greenberg and Chris Oliviero) but had to halt the show because I had days where I could barely talk. Though I hate starting and stopping projects, I knew that if I couldn’t rely on my voice being strong, I’d have to stop the podcast in order to save my energy for client calls. I learned I had a cyst on my vocal chords, which thankfully isn’t cancerous and is common among folks who speak a lot. My voice has been stronger over the past few weeks but I’m planning to get the issue addressed during the first quarter of 2021. For those of you who have enjoyed the conversations I conduct with industry leaders on the BSM Podcast and wondered why the shows stopped, now you know the reason. I’m hoping to dive back in sometime in 2021.

The news wasn’t all bad though on the personal front. Despite having to delay a wedding, cancel a WrestleMania trip with my son, miss out on opportunities to work with staffs in local markets, and battle vocal chord problems, I did finally buy a home. Having rented 16 different homes or apartments in 15 towns over a 22 year stretch, it’s nice to finally be settled in. If there’s any advice I wish I had been given early in my career it’s to expect to move around a lot and rent more than you buy. Now that I’m living where I want to be and running my own company, I’m not worried about where I may have to move to chase the next opportunity. One great perk of my new residence is that it has a large finished basement area. That will soon become the working office for BSM, and in time I will build out a video room and production studio for podcasting in order to create more content in the future.

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I don’t have all the answers on how to survive a pandemic. A shutdown could hit in early 2021 and cause more damage, and I may be writing a different story then. I just did what any small business operator would, I tried to analyze the situation, examine which paths would and wouldn’t make sense to explore, and create new ways to keep the business alive. I also understood how vital it is to use my platform and relationships to help people. As a consultant (I still hate that title) I do everything from helping brands improve content, branding, imaging, structure and ratings, recruiting, social/digital planning and execution, conducting research, and making recommendations or introductions. What most don’t see though is how I can help on the sales end. A few brands who I think highly of earned advertising buys from agency friends of mine in 2020 as a result of my recommending them. These things don’t happen all the time and they may not always show up in a consulting contract but during a pandemic year when profits were evaporating, it helps having people in your corner who care about helping your business grow. BSM closes 2020 in good shape and is positioned well entering 2021. That doesn’t happen without great loyal clients. To all who stuck with us thru a challenging year, it’s sincerely appreciated.

Entering 2021, I’ve been asked a few times about the BSM Summit. Due to the uncertainty in the country, it’s on pause until further notice. Once America is back to normal we’ll begin planning for it because we know it is enjoyed, appreciated, and well attended by the industry, but to lay the groundwork for it without an idea of when things will be stable again would be a bad business decision. When we do start putting together the next event I can share that it will be hosted again in either New York City or Los Angeles. Moving it around will have to wait a bit. Until then, we’ll sit tight and wait until it’s safe to assemble a large group of people.

While we wait for the green light to gather and assemble another star studded conference, we are planning to host a virtual event in 2021. We have a few ideas in mind that we’re excited about. The key is making sure we can find the right video provider who can deliver a strong technical experience without bankrupting the company. I’ve had a few productive interactions so far and once we’re ready to make an announcement you’ll learn on the BSM website what’s coming and how to be part of it.

Additionally, the BSM Top 20 of 2020 will be released February 1-5 and February 7-8. We will reveal the Top 20 local morning, midday, and afternoon shows in both Major and Mid-sized markets. We’ll also unveil the Top 20 sports stations, program directors, national sports talk shows, and original podcasts. Similar to prior years, more than 50 executives will be involved in the voting process to determine the winners. Altogether 240 shows, stations and/or personalities will be recognized. We’ve asked our voters this year to rely on the ear test, and take into account originality, and a show/hosts ability to entertain and connect across multiple platforms when making their selections. If an executive wants to factor in ratings success when casting their vote, that’s fine too. The only thing that we insist on is a show finishing the year in the timeslot it’s up for consideration in. We do have one sponsorship opportunity available for the BSM Top 20. If interested, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. This is the biggest thing we do each year on the BSM website.

Barrett News Media

Among my list of priorities for BSM heading into 2021 is finding more sales support to help us grow our online business. We reach a lot of decision makers and influential talent on this website, and our visitors and page views are higher than the monthly cume on some top sports radio stations. Our social media impressions are also consistently between four and five million per month. We’ve earned the industry’s trust and respect as a content outlet over the past five years, and I know we can help brands benefit from promoting their products on our websites. If you need a recommendation, ask Justin Dove of Core Image Studio how advertising with BSM has paid off for him.

Two other areas I’d like to dedicate time to in 2021 are developing our BSM merchandising strategy, and growing the BNM website. We will launch an official online store in the new year on BSM, and I’m also going to explore utilizing some talent for paid marketing to help us increase the awareness of the brand. I’ll also be looking to increase editorial support and add more writers to BNM to help us grow our presence in the news media space. If you or someone you know is involved in news radio and has a passion to write about it, email Jason@BarrettNewsMedia.com.

In closing, I want to thank each of our writers for consistently producing great content, but I especially want to recognize Demetri Ravanos for not only doing a great job as our editor, but for being a great partner and friend thru some difficult times. We have an outstanding crew at BSM, and though the faces and names may change when folks land opportunities, we keep finding ways to move forward with new talented people because Demetri and I never stop recruiting people who love this business as much as we do. If we can help our readers stay informed about the business, improve at their craft, develop relationships, or position themselves or their brand for future success, that’s what makes the work we do rewarding. It’s cool to see so many people interested in reading our content, and I could write a few more paragraphs about it but this column is long enough. Instead I’ll end it by simply saying, Thank You, Merry Christmas.

Barrett Blogs

Black Friday Sale TODAY For 2022 BSM Summit Tickets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Barrett Blogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Barrett Blogs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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