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I Came To BSM With Passion, I’m Leaving With Credibility

“Sports radio stations all around the country are connected by this website, and I was in the middle of it. I went from constantly knocking on radio station doors hoping for an acknowledgement, to now having them interested in what I have to say about the industry.”

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After three and a half years with Barrett Sports Media, contributing thousands of articles, hundreds of feature columns, interviews and podcasts, my biggest takeaway was a sense of purpose.

I was struggling to find a job in sports media, but knew I loved the industry and wanted to contribute in some way. Stumbling into a group so passionate about sports radio, a medium that represents just a small niche of the entertainment world was a perfect fit. Getting the opportunity to write for BSM immediately did two things. It gave me a voice and credibility.

I met and interviewed people who I’ve always admired, and I was repeatedly impressed with the respect they showed me in return. Hosts I grew up listening to like Mike Francesa and Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo. Two great conversations with Craig Carton. Nick Wright, Rick DiPietro, Stugotz and Jalen Rose. I was welcomed into the Mets radio booth to watch Howie Rose and Wayne Randazzo work. Traveled on-site to Bristol, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Mitch Rosen & Dan Zampillo with Brandon Contes - YouTube

Sports radio stations all around the country are connected by this website, and I was in the middle of it. I went from constantly knocking on radio station doors hoping for an acknowledgement, to now having them interested in what I have to say about the industry. That’s the benefit of connecting yourself with Jason Barrett.

As I learned on the job, JB quickly gained enough trust to give me a platform with the freedom to write what I want. And over the years, I learned I’m more passionate and interested in the radio side of sports radio than the sports aspect. As much as I remain a die-hard fan, I find the conversation surrounding sports more interesting than the score of a game.

The Mets pulled Jacob deGrom too early? I’ll get over it.

The Jets signed a nondescript wide receiver? Boring.

Colin Cowherd with another hot take about backwards hats?! Oh, Hell No!

I enjoy writing. It’s not as exciting as being on-air and certainly doesn’t offer the same rush of live radio, but I enjoy the control. It’s calculated, well-thought, opinionated and still offers excitement when big news breaks, knowing people within the industry will turn to BSM for info.

But with everyone I’ve met and everything I’ve learned, the most exciting aspect about being part of BSM is that we were building something. There are months and years where the build is slow, and others where the progress is substantial. But knowing the vision for BSM is always bigger than its current state kept me wanting to contribute as much as I could.

And that’s part of why I’m so excited to be joining Mediaite. They’ve built a great platform and audience, but covering sports media is a new venture. I never mind putting countless hours into a project that has big aspirations and an upwards trajectory. Even when the financial compensation was small or nonexistent, my passion for sports media remained more than a hobby. The time I spent contributing to BSM kept me on track.

Let me be clear, I am not patting myself on the back. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but staying on track has energized me to get there. Staying on track, learning about the industry and from the people who are in it, has shown me how many different and unique paths there are to success.

May be an image of 4 people, including Jason Barrett, Brandon Contes and Tyler McComas and people smiling

My tenure with BSM began because JB responded to an email from someone he never heard of, who held very little credibility within the industry. For anyone in management who might be reading this, I understand the number of unsolicited emails you receive can be a nuisance at times. But responses go a long way, even if it’s “I don’t have time for this right now.”

I’ve sent hundreds of emails to program directors around the country in the last 10 years. Many of them went ignored. That’s one of the great respects I have for Mark Chernoff. Leading WFAN, he surely receives tons of unsolicited emails, but he always responds. His replies are quick and equally cold whether he has something positive or negative to say. ‘I’ll get to this later…I can’t listen right now…this is terrible…this is not bad.’ But I always appreciate that he takes the time to respond.

I’m very grateful JB responded to my email when I reached out back in September 2017, even though I had little to offer other than a clear passion for the industry. He noticed that, and it turned into a three and a half year mutually beneficial partnership. His reply to that email gave me a sense of purpose, a credible voice, and a career doing something I love. 

BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 44

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This week’s episode is all about the NFL. Demetri explains why the league embracing kids is long overdue, Andy Masur stops by to breakdown the first Manningcast, and Ryan Maguire explains why some sports radio stations are missing a golden opportunity to shine on Sundays.

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BSM Writers

Interviews Thrive On Podcasts In A Way They Can’t On Radio

“Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.”

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Live radio vs. podcasts seems to be a heavyweight fight that isn’t ending anytime soon.  Podcasts are growing so much that companies that do radio are also now offering podcasts. This column is hardly about that fight. 

Instead, this is about how a podcast interview is a better way to get the best out of the guest than anything live on a radio station. This is not about downloads or clicks or sponsors. Solely about the content that is being produced.

A podcast makes the guest more comfortable and is more intimate than a live radio show.  Especially in sports.

Since 2015, I have hosted and produced 656 podcasts (yes it was fun to count them) and hosted many radio shows. My current shows are called Sports with Friends, Hall of Justice, and Techstream. That last one I host with tech expert Shelly Palmer.

On radio, there is a myriad of things the host has to do besides focus on the guest.

First, there are the IDs. Program directors have always told me ID the guest every chance I get. “We are talking with Eli Manning on WFAN,” is heard 7 times during an eight-minute segment.

On a podcast, the name of the guest is on the player or app that is playing the podcast. “Episode 1. Eli Manning, New York Giants” scrolls across smartphones, car radios, or other devices constantly.  Never interrupt the guest with an ID.

Then, there’s the fact that it is recorded and not live. I have a standard preamble that I say to any guest before any record light turns on.

“I will push,” I explain. “I will see where the conversation takes us, but I do tend to push. However, I’m on your side. This isn’t some expose’. If something comes up that you don’t like your answer, tell me. I’ll take it out. If there’s something that I say that is bad or wrong, tell me, I’ll take it out. This is a conversation, not an interview.”

In 656 podcasts, only one player, Bryce Harper (then of the Washington Nationals) asked me to take something out of a podcast.

We were doing Episode 54 of Sports with Friends when the subject of Dusty Baker came up.  He had just been hired to manage the Nationals. I mentioned in passing that Dusty had given the eulogy at my best friend Darryl Hamilton’s funeral.

Bryce was so intrigued that he recalled the comments I had made and asked if we could pause. We then spoke for a good 10 minutes about the kind of person Dusty was. Why Darryl held him in such regard.  It was a really inciteful chat.  Never was on the podcast.

Still, guests do relax when told that the editing option exists. They let their guard down. The host of a podcast can ask deeper questions.

“Who was the first person you called when you found out you were traded?”

“Have you seen a life for you after football?”

“How much do you hate a certain player?”

All questions, that if asked live, could seriously backfire. So not only does the guest have a guard up, but the interviewer also has to play it relatively safe, when they are not IDing the guest for the umpteenth time.

Time constraints also don’t exist in a podcast where they are beholden on live radio. The guest is just about to tell you they did cocaine during the World Series, and you are up against the clock.

ShinStation - Game Over - #017 - Wrap it Up - YouTube
Courtesy: Comedy Central

I have hosted shows over the years where the guest was phenomenal, but I screwed up the PPM clock. That was the takeaway.  The clock is important on a live medium that needs to get that quarter-hour.

I try to keep my podcasts short. You wouldn’t see it from looking at the lengths of my episodes. Still, I feel that if someone wants to talk and dive into a topic and it goes a little long, I will never cut the guy off.

Ken Griffey Jr. spoke for 45 minutes with a cigar and his feet up on the phone by his pool. He was telling jokes and stories. I wouldn’t have stopped that if a train was coming. When I hosted Mariner content at KJR in Seattle, our interviews usually last 5 minutes.

Jon Morosi broke down the future of clubhouse access and how he traveled during Covid. Then he told an amazing story of his wife working in the medical field and how that impacted all of his family. Shannon Drayer of 710 KIRO got so in-depth in her arduous journey from being a coffee barista to the Mariners on-field reporter. It was split into two episodes.

Former porn star Lisa Ann talked about her decision to quit the business. Even Jason Barrett himself was Episode 173 of Sports with Friends.

(When in the past has Jason Barrett been in the same paragraph as a porn star? Note to Demetri: please leave it in.)

The radio industry is seen to be cutting costs wherever it can. Mid-market stations are not doing night shows anymore, instead offering nationally syndicated programming. 

Weekends are another avenue that perplexes me. Talent that is not deemed good enough to be on during the week is often given weekend shifts. Also, some Monday-Friday hosts add a weekend shift to their duties. Here’s a theory: play podcasts. Format them to hit your PPM time marks. 

They don’t have to be my podcasts, but in the crowded podcast space, surely there are sports talk podcasts that are intimate, deep, and fun. Since we live in a data-driven age, let’s see how a radio station fares playing high-quality podcasts or portions of them, vs. weekend hosts.

Program directors often worry about the outdated nature of a podcast. That sells the podcaster short. As someone who has been in the podcast space since 2003, I know how to make them timeless, and companies make shows often enough, that rarely would they be outdated.  

Quality shines through the speakers.  The spoken-word audio format is continually evolving. Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.

How to Start a Podcast: Podcasting for Beginners - RSS.com Podcasting

The podcast industry is continually evolving.  Radio needs to evolve as well.  Then, it can be a fair fight.

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BSM Writers

National Voices Can Work For Local Clients

“Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder.”

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Selling personalities is one of the hottest trends in media today. Sure, most of the buzz is around social media influencers, but radio has long had a relationship with its audience based on personal connections between host and listener. And nobody has a better relationship with their audience than a sports radio host.

I am sure you are leveraging your local hosts by now. Live spots, testimonials, remotes, and promotions are all great tricks of the trade, as well as sponsored social media posts. But does your station carry syndicated shows? I am sure you do either from 7 pm-12 am Monday-Friday or on weekends.

In 2018, The Ticket in Boise, Idaho brought CBS Sports Radio host Damon Amendolara and his co-host, Shaun Morash, to town for a Boise State football game. Damon had just switched to mornings from evenings, and his show aired in Boise from 4 am-8 am Monday – Friday. His ratings were decent, but nothing that stood out considering the daypart. It was thought to be risky to sell him into sandwich shops, pizza places, appearances at local legend hangouts, and so forth.

Boise State head football coach and QB Bryan Harsin and Brett Rypien did a live shot on the show from the on-campus bookstore. At dark thirty. It all worked. DA and Morash were hits! Everywhere they went, lines and crowds awaited them and they hit spots in a two-county area.  The few days of appearances worked so well that DA is back in Boise three years later, this time for a week. Now, DA is doing his show from resort hotels 2.5 hours away, taking riverboat adventure fishing trips in Hell’s Canyon, craft beer tours for his sidekick Andrew Bogusch and hosting college football viewing parties at brewpubs. Every station that carries syndicated shows probably has a DA success story waiting to happen. 

Start by listening to the shows, know the benchmarks and quirks of the national personalities or call the affiliate rep and ask. Does the talent discuss their love of beer, BBQ, pizza, whatever? If they do, then go ahead and sell them to a local client. The national talent can do the spot and endorse your client. If it’s a product, send one to them. Figure out how to get them a pizza. If it’s a service, do a zoom call with the client and let them start a relationship. Include some social media elements with video. The video can be used in social media and can sit on the client’s website. Yours too!

If you want to bring the talent to town, do it for a big game, local event, or 4th of July parade, and the sponsors will follow. Run a promo during the talent’s daypart asking local sponsors to text in to reserve their promotional spot. Have the talent cut liners asking the same thing. Take the NFL Sunday morning host and sell a promo to a sports bar where the host zooms in to a table or room full of listeners, and they watch a portion of a game together. Or sell the same idea to a national chain and do an on-air contest for a listener to have a home watch party with the zoomed-in host complete with food and beverages from your sponsors sent to both locations. How about sending your #1 BBQ joint that handles mail orders and sends some food for the talent? They can videotape themselves reheating the BBQ and make some great Facebook and Instagram videos.  

Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder. Try selling a nationally syndicated host inside your market. I promise you’ll like it. 

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