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Barrett Sports Media’s Top 20 Mid Market Sports Radio Program Directors of 2020

“BSM’s Top 20 Mid Market Sports Radio Program Directors of 2020 as decided on by industry voters.”

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The BSM Top 20 of 2020 rolls on, and this time rather than highlighting the shows that occupy the sports radio airwaves, we’re going to shine the light behind the curtain on the men and women responsible for guiding some of America’s top sports radio brands. Programmers were tested more than ever in 2020, as a pandemic forced adjustments to daily communication, day to day operations, and a rethinking of how to reach the audience across multiple platforms due to changes in daily listening behavior. Combined with the challenge of creating on-air sports talk during a time when the world of sports offered no new live moments, and industry professionals and audience members alike learned which stations were in strong hands and which ones weren’t.

Before you jump ahead to see the results, please join me in thanking Steve Stone Voiceovers for sponsoring our Top 20 series. As an independent platform we depend on industry support, and Steve’s help makes this series possible. Secondly, I want to acknowledge my son Dylan Barrett, who handled all of the creative for this year’s Top 20 series. He spent all of January digging thru personality and brand accounts to find pictures, editing them in Photoshop, and the images you’ll be sharing on social media or printing off to hang inside your office or studio are a reflection of his hard work. If you don’t like the photo we used to recognize your show or station, may I suggest bugging your program director or market manager to spend a few dollars in 2021 on new station photos 🙂

Lastly, radio companies have recently been trying to rename the title of the person in charge of the programming department. Some are now called Brand Managers, others Operations Managers. We’re going to call them what they are – Program Directors. After all, they run the PROGRAMMING department. Having talked to as many people as I do in this business, I’ve heard many say they’d like to become a program director. I’ve yet to hear one person say they aspire to be a brand manager. If the industry can create a better title that takes into account a PD’s involvement with ratings, revenue, strategy, innovation, content, creativity, digital, vision, marketing, recruitment, leadership, negotiating, and audience development, we’ll look at redefining this category, but until that happens, we’re not going to stick them with a title that makes them sound like they manage a local Walmart.

As it pertains to the voting, here are a few things to keep in mind.

#1 – These results are based on 2020’s performance. 2021 changes have no impact on the voting. Our one specific rule that has been in place since we started this series in 2015 is that a show/individual must finish the year in the position for which they are being considered. Therefore, someone like Tom Goslowski, who exited 104.5 The Team in Albany, NY in January, was eligible for voting consideration since he programmed the radio station thru the end of 2020. A programmer such as Tony DiGiacomo, who was with WFNZ for the first three months of 2020, was not eligible since he didn’t finish the year leading the radio station.

#2 – Our executive panel consists of program directors and corporate executives from a number of top broadcasting companies including Entercom, iHeart, Cumulus, ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio, SiriusXM, Spotify, Hubbard, Good Karma Brands, Emmis, and independently owned and operated radio stations. We involve a large number of groups in order to receive feedback from all parts of the country, as well as to avoid the results heavily favoring one company. BSM President Jason Barrett does not vote, he simply presents the results.

#3 – A total of 52 programmers were eligible for voting consideration in the Mid Market Program Directors category.

#4 – Our executive panel picked their Top 20 program directors based on a few factors; station success, multi-platform excellence, industry respect, and creative ideas. Keep in mind that our voters live in different cities, have different tastes, and work for different companies, so certain factors are likely to be given more or less merit. This isn’t a perfect science, but it’s the best system we can think of to showcase sports radio’s best.

And that brings us to the rankings for this year’s Mid Market Sports Radio Program Directors. It’s a pleasure for BSM to congratulate Jim Graci of 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh on being named the #1 Mid Market Sports Radio PD for 2020. The man responsible for shaping the content strategy for 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh finished six (6) points in front of 92.3 The Fan’s Andy Roth to earn this year’s top prize. We extend our best to Jim and the entire 93.7 The Fan programming staff on a well deserved honor, as well as all of the other programmers who appeared on this year’s list.

Now, here are the full results of “BSM’s Top 20 Mid Market Sports Radio Program Directors of 2020!”

Additional Notes:

  • Ryan Haney received the most 1st place votes with four (4); Jim Graci and Andy Roth were tied for second with three (3).
  • Spots 21-25 belonged to Tim Scott of 97.3 The Game, Andy Sweeney of ESPN Louisville, Mike Thompson of 1620 The Zone, Jimmy Clark of 107.5 The Fan, and Cade Voisin of 104.5 ESPN.
  • The tightest races saw Chris Baker edge Jeff Rickard by one (1) point, and Paul Mason and Kyle Englehart hold off Steven Spector and Ryan Porth by two (2) points each.
  • Of the 52 program directors eligible for voting consideration, ten (10) received at least one (1) 1st place vote.

Here is the remaining schedule for the BSM Top 20 of 2020.

  • Monday February 8 = The 2020 Top 20 Major/Mid-Market Sports Stations
  • Tuesday February 9 = The 2020 Top 20 Original Sports Podcasts

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Two Great Formats, One Kickass Supersite

“This is a strategic move aimed at making things easier for the reader, and showcasing the best of two great brands and formats on one kickass supersite.”

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It’s an exciting day for all of us at BSM and BNM, because today marks the start of something special. Yes we have an awesome new look and layout for our content, made possible by the great Andy Drake. I encourage you to sift thru a few of the different tabs at the top of the website. You’ll find popular features from our writers in the Originals section, podcasts we’ve produced over the years, the Member Directory featuring nearly forty radio professionals, access points to content from all twenty four of our writers, and shortcuts to our sports and news media sections. We’ve even built three columns to the right on the main page to make it easier to maneuver thru daily sports and news content, and the latest columns from our writing teams.

If you were reading carefully, you picked up on my use of BNM in the first sentence, and the word news in the last sentence. And if you browsed the website today, you likely noticed news and sports are now presented in the same location.

I took the risk and launched Barrett News Media eight months ago. We came out of the gate with a staff of twelve, which was twelve more than Barrett Sports Media had when it was born in September 2015. Like with most new brands, tweaks were needed, and lessons were learned. I initially wanted to put BNM and BSM under the same roof, but there were too many unknowns. For that reason, I launched the brand as a separate entity.

I had to find out if my interest in news would remain high or fade out after a few months. I had to learn if our staff would produce content consistently or leave us plugging holes regularly. I had to discover if media stories would remain hot after a heated presidential election. As important as those all were, one mattered even more – would anyone read our work?

After studying the peaks and valleys of our news brand for nearly a year, I know that people will consume our content if it’s original, interesting, and timely. But asking them to follow us in two different places is a tall order. It’s also harder to reach people in the news media space because social media activity is lighter due to a lack of trust in big tech, and some folks in the format still don’t know me.

Since launching, I’ve overseen two websites, two staffs, two email addresses, and multiple social media accounts, worrying about maintaining separation when I had no reason to worry in the first place. Newspapers have spent decades blending sports and news, online brands across the internet do the same today, and Chrissy Paradis, Pete Mundo, Rick Schultz, Douglas Pucci, Ryan Maguire, Ryan Hedrick, Eduardo Razo and Jordan Bondurant have done more than enough good work to deserve having their material presented to the most amount of people.

So now we move forward as one unit, fully dedicated to serving both the sports and news/talk formats in one location. We will continue prioritizing columns from experienced professionals, the latest industry news, and original ideas that spark interest and discussion. Our email blasts will come from one source, social media promotion will emanate from our BSM channels, and all of our website content will be housed in one spot. If visitors type in the URL for BarrettNewsMedia.com it will automatically redirect to the BSM website.

To help us manage the content cycle and strengthen our brands further, I am pleased to announce a few new additions. First, Troy Coverdale joins BNM as Editor, McGraw Milhaven as a weekly columnist, and Jordan Bondurant and Ryan Hedrick add opportunities to write feature stories multiple times per month. Meanwhile, BSM will gain the writing talents of Ryan Maguire, and semi-regular contributions from Rob Taylor and Scott Seidenberg. Kate Constable and Ricky Keeler will also get more involved writing features. I also plan to add one more news writer soon to fill Brandon Contes’ position.

The new look of the website has me fired up and excited about the possibilities ahead. A big tip of the cap to Point To Point Marketing, Core Image Studio, and the great Jim Cutler for helping us pull this off. I’m eager to increase connections with news radio and television professionals, and showcase their great work. With that in mind, if you have a news tip or story idea for either of our brands, send it by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. With the website makeover complete, I’ll now focus on the next project – the 2021 BSM Summit. I’ll have news to share one week from today, so stay tuned.

If you’re a fan of what we do for sports media coverage, have no fear. The same great content experience you’ve come to enjoy for the past six years is not affected. If news radio/television coverage interests you but didn’t know much about BNM, now you’ll be able to access the content without jumping thru extra hoops. This is a strategic move aimed at making things easier for the reader, and showcasing the best of two great brands and formats. I’m pleased with BNM’s start, but know that if we can do a few things for the brand that we’ve done for BSM, it’ll make the content experience better, the industry relationships stronger, and the work more meaningful. And that is the reason we do this in the first place.

Thank you for continuing to visit, and afford us the opportunity to inform and entertain you. We understand the media business and are passionate about it, and that’s reflected in our team’s writing. Some you may know that about. Others you may not. But having them all under one roof should make your ability to find out a whole lot easier.

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BSM’s Sports Media MVP Tournament Bracket

“The field of 64 for the BSM Sports Media MVP Tournament is now set! “

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The field of 64 for the BSM Sports Media MVP Tournament is now set!

Congratulations to ESPN’s Jeff Passan on knocking off FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal to earn the final entry in this year’s tournament. To see the full schedule of when matchups will take place, scroll down below.

A reminder, all voting for each round of the tournament will be done on Twitter thru @sportsradiopd. The people’s votes determine who advances, and who goes home. Be sure to print off your bracket, make your picks, and follow along to see how they stack up against the actual results.

As I mentioned previously, there are no layups in this tournament. Round 1 features many difficult and compelling matchups. Those who advance will have even harder matchups awaiting them in future rounds. There will likely be debate over who should’ve made the list that didn’t, and who deserved a higher or lower ranking. We expect that noise, and welcome it. But this is the bracket, we feel good about it, and whoever wins this tournament, will have gone down a long tough road to earn the voters respect, and ultimately the MVP championship.

So, let’s have some fun, and find out who is the MVP of the Sports Media industry.

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BSM Presents ‘The Sports Media MVP Tournament’

The BSM MVP Tournament begins with a play-in game on March 16th. Tournament play gets underway on March 18th.

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A year ago at this time, Barrett Sports Media rolled out its ‘Greatest SportsCenter Anchor‘ tournament. It was a fun event that generated over 4 million social media impressions, hundreds of thousands of votes thru our numerous poll questions, big traffic on the BSM website, content on sports radio shows that were working without live events, and recognition for Scott Van Pelt who edged out Stuart Scott in the finals to be selected as SC’s best of all-time.

Given where things stood in the world at that time, the SportsCenter bracket was a fun needed distraction. Most were worried about the coronavirus and how it might hurt them or their families. Would it have an affect on their job? School? Church? The American way of life? How soon would it be until we could enjoy some sense of normalcy again?

Fortunately, here we are one year later, and though we’re not entirely out of the woods yet, things are heading in the right direction. Games are back on our television screens and radio airwaves. Teams have started welcoming fans back into buildings. Vaccine shots are being distributed to millions of Americans, and god willing, we’ll soon be past the nightmare that we lived thru in 2020, and on our way to greater prosperity.

So with sports back, and optimism higher, a bracket contest isn’t necessarily needed to add light during a dark time, but as we learned last year, fun is contagious, and there’s never a bad time to use a creative event to bring people together.

Right after we wrapped up the BSM Top 20 in February, Demetri Ravanos and I started talking about ideas for this year’s bracket contest. A conversation about difference makers in the industry and who was critical to their brands success got my wheels spinning, and as we dove in further, we quickly realized there were hundreds with a case to be made. That laid the groundwork for creating BSM’s Sports Media MVP Tournament.

Choosing 65 people to complete a 64 person tournament bracket like this is not easy. The mixture of accomplished studio hosts, debate specialists, analysts, reporters, play by play voices, radio hosts, podcasting personalities, etc. made for some exhausting email exchanges and phone conversations, but time, thought, and effort is necessary if you want to create cool things. What was especially important to us with this year’s tournament was trying to capture some of the same spirit and fun from last year, without focusing on a particular brand, show or company. Too many people in this industry make a difference for various groups and we want to highlight as many of them as possible.

But when you put 64 of the industry’s biggest difference makers against each other in a tournament style bracket, who’s truly capable of going through five tough rounds to emerge as the most valuable performer in sports media? Better yet, who has strong enough staying power to keep fans on social media invested in their advancement?

Well, we’re about to find out.

We’ll kick things off with a play in game for the final spot in the tournament on Tuesday March 16th. That play-in game will feature ESPN’s Jeff Passan vs. FOX Sports/The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Voting will be done for the play-in game and ALL tournament matchups on Twitter for a period of 24 hours. The results of the play-in game will be revealed on Wednesday morning March 17th. Whoever has more votes between Passan and Rosenthal when time expires, will gain the final spot in this year’s BSM Sports Media MVP Tournament.

The release of the full bracket will take place right after the results of the play-in game are known on Wednesday March 17th. I will though let you know which four individuals earned #1 seeds in this year’s tournament, along with the naming of each of their regions. They are Stephen A. Smith (Stay Off The Weed Region), Colin Cowherd (Backwards Hat Region), Dave Portnoy (To The Moon Region), and Tony Romo (That’s My Quarterback Region).

The official start to the tournament will begin on Thursday March 18th. Matchups will then continue each week until Monday April 5th when the final contest takes place. The results of that last battle will be announced on Tuesday morning April 6th. At that time, we will officially put a bow on this year’s tournament and crown the champion. To see the breakdown of the upcoming schedule, click here.

Before the floodgates open and complaints are made about some people getting in, others being left out, and certain folks having harder matchups than others, remember that this is supposed to be fun, everything in the sports media industry is subjective, and regardless of one’s matchup, if they’re seen as the best at what they do, they’ll move on regardless. There are very few layups in this tournament. We knew it’d be impossible to create a field of 64 without leaving some super talented people out, so if you work in the industry and didn’t make the cut, don’t take it personally. It doesn’t make your accomplishments or value to your brand any less important. It simply speaks volumes of how stacked this tournament is with successful people.

I will point out that we involved eight people in the voting process to help us determine this year’s field of 64. There were 225 sports media professionals on our initial list. That got trimmed down to 85, and eventually to 65. The play-in game will be how we get down to 64. As is the case with the NCAA Tournament, the NFL Hall of Fame, the NBA All-Star Game or MLB MVP or Cy Young award voting, there’s always a case to be made for someone who didn’t get in. But when you’re reviewing game changers from multiple areas of the industry and a number of different brands and companies, it’s impossible to please everybody.

What I hope you’ll take away from this year’s tournament as it picks up steam is that there are a lot of really talented people in the sports media industry, many with different styles and approaches to success. Earning the top spot in this bracket will take consistent voting support, respect from fans and friends both in and out of the sports media business, and a whole lot of luck.

We extend our thanks in advance to everyone who will participate in this year’s voting process, as well as to the 64 men and women who will be part of this year’s tournament. We can’t wait to share the full bracket with you next week. It’s going to be a fun few weeks, so let the madness begin!

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