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An Education on Audience Development

“I think back to the days when cable was going to kill local television. I still watch my local television station. And I believe that there is no way podcasting or audio consumption on digital only is going to kill radio.”

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Developing a great brand that becomes important to an audience and generates ratings involves a few key factors. First, great talent have to be in place. If your brand doesn’t have people in front of the camera or behind the mic who others want to listen to, watch, and spend time with, the rest won’t matter. Personalities with an ability to help an audience laugh and learn while coming across as likeable and interesting are vital.

The next part of the equation involves content choices. Discussing what you had for lunch may sound like an awful content selection but if a gifted storyteller can take that bland piece of content and turn it into something memorable, it could be your brand’s best segment of the day. It could also be your worst. This applies to sports talk too. A host on the air can build content around a team or player that’s most important to listeners but if all they do is state the obvious, it won’t be enough to make a mark. On the other hand, a talent who’s plugged in, processes information differently, and has something to say that makes you think, feel, and react is entirely different. Both types of hosts may have done the right thing focusing their material on the subjects that are supposed to resonate with those listening or watching, but if the opinion and stories told add nothing new, the topic choice alone isn’t enough.

Which leads us to one of radio’s biggest challenges – subjectivity. What one programmer considers spectacular, another may find uninteresting. A talent dubbed as a ‘game changer’ by one executive may be seen as ‘can’t be hired’ by another. One PD may value guests and calls, another wants them nowhere near their airwaves. It’s no different in pro sports too. Coaches, scouts and executives have looked stupid and brilliant picking players who others thought were or weren’t worth investing in.

But building and satisfying an audience depends on much more than just hiring a talented host. You’ve got to feature the right content, market your brand and personalities, connect on multiple platforms, study to learn where your audience is located and what causes them to tune in or out. The deeper you understand your audience and their preferences, the better your chances of reaching them, marketing to them, putting your advertising partners on their radar, and ultimately creating success.

To get a better perspective on the challenges of audience development, and how brands and listening habits were affected by the pandemic, I reached out to my friends at Point to Point Marketing. Their support helped us create the Meet The Market Managers series, which hopefully you read. If not, click here to learn about some of the industry’s top leaders. Given that they specialize in marketing, research, and brand/audience development, their insights should be helpful to programmers and GM’s who are trying to figure out how to better serve their fans and partners. Enjoy.

  • Tim Bronsil – President
  • Tim Satterfield – VP, Digital
  • Susan Bacich – VP Strategy and Audience Insights

Jason Barrett: Before we dive into some of the opportunities and challenges associated with audience development, how did you get started your company?

Tim Bronsil: It started 23 years ago. Mark Heiden, who previously ran Eagle Marketing in Colorado, and Rick Torcasso, who was in charge of programming for Alliance and was kind of the brains behind the young Country format, they became partners. It began with a handful of clients. Now we work in almost all of the PPM markets. I came on board 16 years ago. Susan has been with us for 10 years, and Tim has been involved now for 7 years. The three of us are the face of the company as it relates to our clients. We’re the ones that strategize with them, come up with the different game plans, and then execute it. We have a team of nearly a dozen people that work for us and help with different things such as design, digital, research, etc. but the three of us are who work closest with the client.

JB: We partnered recently on the Meet The Market Manager’s series. There were a lot of different companies and business leaders featured over a 15 week period. What stood out to you from those conversations?

TB: The biggest takeaways for me from the Meet The Market Managers series were learning how business prior to Covid was different, and required adjusting to the present conditions. Brands needed to find ways to connect with their audience, serve their advertisers, and technologically get their talent to continue engaging with their audience whether it was done remotely or in studio. To hear each of these company leaders share how they handled pandemic marketing, programming, and sales was probably the biggest benefit for me.

Susan Bacich: For me, it was learning about the shift in how people are listening. I came to Point to Point from working in radio where you have your morning show and afternoon show as the staples of the radio station. Middays and evenings are obviously important too, but the way the shifting of listening has changed during the last fifteen months was really a big takeaway. The other item that caught my attention was discovering what radio stations and other audio companies are taking away from how listeners consume their audio, when they’re consuming it, and where they’re doing so. All of that has changed, and that stood out.

Tim Satterfield: One of the best things I think is that they now have a higher perception of the value of the digital connection. When the pandemic hit and everybody went to a Zoom call, and the personalities were encouraged to stay in contact with their existing audience thru digital channels, whether thru Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. I just think it sealed the deal on their perception of the value of that contact point being digital. The good part for us obviously is that that’s our conduit on social bounce, so I think anyone who had questions about its value or its ability to work and succeed at getting the message in front of those people, I think that was washed away during the pandemic, if there were any of those.

JB: When it comes to developing and connecting with an audience, technology has changed so much about it. In the past it was a combination of radio, print and TV, now you have digital, which can be split into a number of different directions, plus you have email, direct mail, and other means of reaching fans. Is there one medium you value more than others when you’re working on behalf of a radio brand? How do each of you feel about that?

TB: The big thing with any marketing campaign that you’re going to deploy is you need to recognize the relative advantage that you’re trying to display. Once you have that nailed, then you can decide upon the tactics you’re going to use. Many stations will market before they’ve identified what that relative advantage is. So once we’ve done that, the best way we see to give a full three hundred and sixty degree view of that relative advantage is thru social media marketing. We can put up twenty, thirty or forty five second videos of talent, which showcases their humor, expertise, and other unique traits. That video can then live in the ecosystem with paid dollars behind it for a few days. Then we put up another piece of content that once again reinforces that relative advantage. Social gives you the opportunity to drill down to the demographic and key areas that matter, and that is the same whether it’s for broadcast radio or podcasting. We can find that audience and deliver that message on an ongoing basis very cost effectively.

TS: It just mirrors the move to digital marketing that you’ve seen across all brands and verticals. Radio shouldn’t be any different in that it’s very cost effective, very targetable, we can find the audience, and then when you take it and add it as part of a comprehensive marketing plan with the other products we have, we’ve seen that it can be extremely successful.

JB: How does age factor into this because radio and TV tend to skew older, digital younger. Are you able to still see great recall from older audiences on social and younger people on radio?

TS: The answer is yes. In fact, we’ve recently seen some results with people 55-64+ with podcast marketing because that demographic has the time, they’re interested depending on the product and the affinity it has. Those folks are on Facebook where you can generate a lot of click thru’s where that’s the campaign objective. On the radio side, it depends on the brand and what their target is. But if it’s 18-34 and they say ‘nobody is on Facebook’, that’s incorrect. We can see the results. They still have a high level of profiles. They’re on Snapchat, Instagram, and they look at stories, but they’re not off of Facebook, they still sample it. When you take the 18-34’s and the amount of frequency they have with their devices, it still makes them easy to find. Everything in between, really easy.

SB: One thing to add, in the social world it’s not just about casting a wide net. The nice thing about social and any of the marketing tactics we deploy on behalf of our clients is that we use it to grow recognition with compatible listeners. We’re not just throwing that wide net out, we’re looking for those people who are most likely to listen to your product. Whether that’s to your radio station or your podcasts or social media, we’re looking for those people who are most likely to consume your content. And in doing that, we’re helping to reinforce the brand’s position with that person who we’ve reached. Different tactics allow us to grow that audience in different ways.

JB: When it comes to sports fans, they’re very passionate and the platforms they use and the way they use them are very different. For instance, my company expanded into news in September, and I learned quickly that the majority of brands and talent on news radio are conservative. They have less trust in big tech and aren’t as enthusiastic to share content and engage on social media as sports radio folks are. Sports fans love to have conversations and stay informed on Twitter, whereas news is a different deal. When you’re targeting a sports fan on behalf of a client or just doing your own research to figure out what people want, what are some things you’ve noticed that sports fans respond best to?

TB: I would say that it’s not just the specific knowledge about a certain sport or team. You have that base knowledge but then there are other things around it that are about your lifestyle as a sports fan. Showcasing that from a talent standpoint works. It’s important to give that three hundred and sixty degree view of the show and the personalities not just highlight how you might be an expert at a particular thing. Just because you live in a particular market doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a fan of the local team. People move places all the time. Owning a particular team can be a challenge so we try to focus on showcasing the whole part of the show.

JB: I want to ask each of you about the challenges of doing research and marketing during the pandemic. In 2019 we had a pretty good read on where people were, what was growing, what wasn’t, but then 2020 hit and everything changed due to uncontrollable circumstances. That obviously can create some challenges in the way you might go about reaching people. How did you guys pivot in the way you helped brands market themselves and gather information to be able to reach their audience?

TB: Everyone had a cell phone in their hand in mid-March of 2020 and they were constantly checking it. Our marketing is delivering to mobile devices 100%. Wherever they are Jason, either in the car, at the office, in the backyard, by delivering to that device with an immediate call to action we saw great success and engagement rates pick up in the second quarter of last year. Because we had this platform ready to go, brands were still able to reach their audiences even if they were displaced from their normal commuting patterns.

TS: We saw the engagement rates and connection with the audience go up not down because of the pandemic. People were home, they had their device, they were interested in what was going on outside not inside because they were stuck, so we saw everything pick up. The pandemic I believe helped enhance the perception of the value of the digital marketing that we do. The change from the pandemic may have been the use, but it was also the perception of the value.

SB: What’s interesting is that we’re now doing more at work targeting but during the pandemic it was really important to catch them at home. We had their complete attention because they couldn’t go anywhere. Anything coming in from the outside world was great. If we were able to get into those homes and deliver messages that made them excited, made them interested, made them want to look twice, that’s what our goal was, and that’s what we focused on.

JB: You guys work with multiple formats so I’m curious if we went back to March-May of last year, music didn’t stop, news became really important, but sports shut down. When you’re working with sports brands at that time and there’s no new content being created in the sports world, where do you shift a brand’s marketing focus?

TB: In April and May brands started creating original content. All throughout that time there were a lot of sports stories out there – when will sports return, what will open up in the fall, what type of capacity will there be, the hope of sports is where we placed our focus.

JB: Would it be fair to say that the pandemic helped emphasize how important it is for brands to feature sports media personalities not just talent with an ability to create topics built from last night’s events?

SB: Anyone can deliver the news line, the stat, but it’s how you deliver it that counts. You saw a lot of programmers, producers, and personalities, step up their game because they had to. They had to literally reach out and grab that audience and create a reason for people to connect with them. A lot of people grew during that time period especially the hosts.

JB: As a former PD, the one part that I found fascinating was that you can create a strategy, tell talent what to talk more or less about, and image a brand around a team or teams, and that all sounds great, but when sports goes dark and there’s no live events taking place, you better have great personalities or you’re not going to retain an audience. The PD isn’t going to have the answer when an unprecedented event like a pandemic rocks the world and cancels all of sports. There’s no playbook available that says ‘this works, this doesn’t’. Imagine a music radio station staffed by DJ’s who show up one day and have no songs to play. That’s what sports talent dealt with, and the brands that featured on-air talent who were more important than the content, essentially the destination and reason listeners show up, did well. Those dependent on last night’s game, either struggled or wished they could use vacation time.

TS: Connection is key and personalities always make the difference.

SB: What you’re describing are stations and personalities who lost their brand. But they didn’t have to lose their brand position. They could’ve retained their position in the market. That’s what we worked on with our clients. Reinforcing what the brand is to the audience, and retaining that recognition is what we wanted to keep intact whether people were listening live to a show or thru podcasts.

JB: You mentioned podcasting which is one area of the business that many are excited about. Digital listening continues to increase, revenues are climbing, and radio in recent years hasn’t been growing so that factors into why so many are bullish on this space. When you’re studying audience behavior and the way it’s changing, from what you’ve seen so far, what are your takeaways? Is radio making the right call putting a heavier focus on podcasting based on where things are projected to go in the next few years or are we rushing towards it simply because it’s growing and other parts of the industry have been a little flat?

TS: I think it’s additive. Every time we do this, where we’re looking at the new shiny object, I think back to the days when cable was going to kill local television. I still watch my local television station. And I believe that there is no way podcasting or audio consumption on digital only is going to kill radio. Will it have to adjust? Will the audience change? We’ve seen some research that shows it’s having an impact in terms of frequency and how many tune ins, but it’s not going away. A good company with good margins is still going to see good cash flow using good ole fashioned radio to deliver a product to an audience. I know the public companies like to see growth. I see this as an opportunity that helps not hurts in the long term.

SB: I worked for a small company a while ago and they had this legend and it was the original owner talked to Howard Hughes. He was a bellhop at a hotel and he asked Howard ‘How do I provide for my family? What’s the next thing for me to get into?’ Howard told him ‘Buy FM transmitters’. So this bellhop started buying FM signals, and everyone laughed at him, but soon he was the one laughing all the way to the bank. It took some time and changes in formats and programming between AM and FM, but it reminds us that you never know what’s going to happen. It’s wise to move forward and to start going into those digital directions because you don’t know what is going to take off. If we were having this conversation twenty months ago, we wouldn’t have been talking about a pandemic and people’s listening habits changing wildly in such a short period of time but here we are.

TS: We can see the growth in podcasting. It’s genuine and it’s real. We’re out there to help those who have podcasts and want to have significant audience share do just that. We’ve seen it as a product extension if you will that we think is going to pay off for us kind of like FM transmitters paid off for the bellhop.

JB: So you take the podcast audience, the radio audience, the people a brand reaches thru their email newsletter, the video consumption on social media, in some cases brands even have TV simulcasts, and you add it all up and it’s pretty significant. But then the issue becomes, radio has all of this reach and audience, but isn’t getting full credit for it. That’s frustrating inside the building because you can see the brand’s impact but buyers are still making decisions based on certain criteria and it doesn’t always include the things you do well at that go uncredited. For you guys, doesn’t it in some ways become not just about marketing to develop audiences but also educating advertisers on the power of a brand and why they should be associating with it?

TB: Yes. The first step is to remind the advertisers of how big the brands are and show them that reach and engagement. We had clients that used videos of their air talent and then sold a sponsorship of that video. The exposure that that brand received was thru the roof and they saw the power of not only having a mention on the air but also being involved in social. Taking some chances and involving your client in those ways, maybe at no-cost in the beginning, gives you the opportunity to show them down the road when you go and ask for that order. The other part which was interesting, Sam Pines in Cleveland, what he’s doing with the Land on Demand, an on-demand service, that can also bridge some of that where you’re not picking up some of the advertising dollars but that subscription is an innovative way to leverage that content across other platforms.

JB: I want to wrap up by asking each of you to reflect on last year and the challenge of helping brands while the industry dealt with pain caused by the pandemic. As someone who helps stations myself, I saw how it started bad, but fortunately turned around. During that time though, it has to be hard when the strategies you’ve used that you know work have to be quickly adjusted because people’s habits are rapidly changing. Then there’s the reality that some brands who need your help are navigating financial setbacks and are going to pause business, even though you can argue that there’s no more important time to study audience behavior and be in front of people. When you’re going thru something like that, how do you keep your business relationships strong and remind folks of the importance of sticking with a plan and continuing to market to their audience and do research?

TB: In normal times Jason, it is reminding them that ongoing communication with an audience is important because there are so many other audio choices out there. We have to remind them of that unduplicated content and why they need to come to your brand on a regular basis. It’s even more important now because we know listening patterns have changed since the pandemic to go and remind the audience of that. We need to make sure our radio brands are doing this while people return to the roads, return to work, as they return to their normal commuting patterns. Failure to do something is really not an option.

SB: I want to touch on one thing you mentioned Jason about the challenge of dealing with the realities of what everyone was dealing with last year. There were times when our clients told us ‘we’re with you but we’re going to have to hit the pause button because we don’t know what’s going on.’ That was understandable. If I were in their shoes I’d have probably done the same thing. But just because they paused didn’t mean our communication with the client stopped. If anything, our communication with the client picked up. We were coming up with ideas for them to help them with their advertisers and connecting with their audiences. We worked with them on brainstorming to try and help them create solutions to overcome a difficult period. For us, keeping those relationships intact was important.

TS: And Jason, the result of that is that the relationships and communication that we’ve had with these companies and individuals for literally decades, led to them stopping the pause. To their credit, knowing that they needed to get back in front of the audience to get that share back, and taking into account the relationship history and all of that groundwork that we did to help them, paid off in bringing those companies back to a marketing opportunity sooner which was great for both them and us.

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John Skipper To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit

“In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured key talent to join the brand, and in April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.

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Putting on a two-day industry conference comes with a fair share of challenges. Months are spent building sessions, selling sponsorships, and talking to so many people that by the time the event rolls around, all I can think about is reaching the finish line and avoiding major issues.

But then the event happens, and there are moments where I’m able to block out the noise for 30-40 minutes and just be present in conversation. It’s what I enjoy most. Being able to sit across from an industry leader who’s been successful in business, and pick their brain on the past, present and future of our industry is both personally and professionally fulfilling. Not only does it provide me with an education, but it helps everyone in attendance too. That’s my motivation for running this conference.

When we return to New York City on March 2-3, 2022, I’m thrilled to share that I’ll have a chance to do that once again with someone I’ve professionally respected and admired for a long time. It is an honor to announce that Meadowlark Media CEO John Skipper will join us for a special on stage conversation at the 2022 BSM Summit.

If you’ve worked in this industry or aspire to, then you’re likely aware of what John has accomplished. He’s seen the business from many different points of view and remains very much involved in helping shape its future. But before we discuss his present involvement, let’s revisit the past.

During his tenure with ESPN, John spent five years serving as company president where he secured a series of long-term, multiplatform agreements with key rightsholders such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, Major College Conferences, US Open Tennis, FIFA, the Masters Tournament and British Open, the College Football Playoff, and the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls. He also oversaw the evolution of several brands including The Undefeated, Grantland, five thirty eight, and espnW among others.

Prior to becoming company president, John held the position as EVP of Content, which he earned after helping create and introduce one of the most successful magazine launches of the 1990’s with ESPN The Magazine. His understanding and belief in digital helped ESPN move ESPN. com forward in 2000, adding a paid section, ESPN Insider, and delivering a revamped site approach to generate more advertising. His foresight also spurred the launch of ESPN3, a television network producing more than 4,000 live events on the web and through mobile devices. If that wasn’t enough, John also supported the creation of the Watch ESPN app, played a key role in elevating the careers of many of the industry’s top sports media stars today, and oversaw the growth of ESPN Films, ESPN Radio, and many of ESPN’s key television programs.

After exiting the worldwide leader, John signed on as the Executive Chairman of DAZN. In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured a number of key talent to become part of the brand, and established a strong presence in podcasting and on YouTube. In April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.

What I’ve appreciated about John is that he’s never been afraid to roll the dice and take risks. Some of his moves have worked out, others haven’t. The wins have been recognized across the industry, but so too have the losses. He’s had to lead a company thru high profile talent controversies, cord cutting challenges, understand the world of video, audio, print, digital, advertising, subscriptions, talent, and rights deals both domestic and internationally, all while keeping his finger on the pulse of the present state of the media business while turning an eye towards the future and knowing which areas the company should make significant investments in.

John has been thru all of it as a media executive, and he’s still doing it while building the Meadowlark brand. A recent story in Bloomberg captured some of his views on growing the Le Batard empire and navigating various parts of the industry. I highly recommend taking time to read it. You can do that by clicking here.

We have five and a half months until we’re inside the Anne Bernstein Theater in New York City, so who knows where the industry will shift during that time. One thing is for certain, John Skipper will be ready for whatever lands on his doorstep. I’m eager to spend time with him in New York treating industry professionals to his insights, opinions and leadership lessons. I’m confident those in attendance will gain value from hearing his perspectives on the industry.

I invite you to join us either in person or virtually for the 2022 BSM Summit. Tickets to the event can be purchased by clicking here. For information on sponsorship opportunities, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

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2022 BSM Summit Adds Pablo Torre, Joe Fortenbaugh, Kazeem Famuyide & John Jastremski

“By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day Summit.”

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The announcements continue for the 2022 BSM Summit. After recently sharing the news that former ESPN Radio executive Traug Keller would join us in the big apple to accept the Jeff Smulyan Award, and previously revealing the first fourteen participants scheduled to appear, it’s time to inform you of a few key talent who will participate in sessions at March’s show.

I’m thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Pablo Torre to the 2022 BSM Summit. Pablo’s been with the worldwide leader since 2012. During that time he’s served as a senior writer for ESPN.com, the host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and has appeared on shows such as Around The Horn, Highly Questionable, and The Dan Le Batard Show. He also previously co-hosted High Noon with Bomani Jones. Prior to joining ESPN he spent five years writing for Sports Illustrated. Having worked with a mixture of talent from various backgrounds, I’m looking forward to having him share his insight and opinions on the value of it at the show.

Pablo isn’t the only ESPN personality joining us in New York for the conference. I’m excited to welcome back a great friend and one of the smartest sports betting analysts on television, Joe Fortenbaugh. Joe is regularly featured on ESPN’s sports betting program Daily Wager. He also appears on other ESPN programs and segments on television, radio and digital platforms. Prior to joining the network he hosted 95.7 The Game’s morning show in San Francisco, and hosted “The Sharp 600″ sports betting podcast. He’ll moderate a conversation with sports betting executives at the show.

Given that this two-day sports media conference is taking place in the heart of New York City, it’d be silly to not include someone who’s passion, energy, sound, and content embody what New York is all about. The Ringer’s John Jastremski will make his BSM Summit debut in 2022. The ‘New York, New York’ host is known to many for his years of contributions on WFAN. It’ll be fun picking JJ’s brain on the differences between performing on a traditional platform and the digital stage.

Jastremski isn’t the only one with a connection to The Ringer who will participate at our 2022 event. My next guest is someone who I’ve followed on YouTube and Twitter for years, has infectious energy and likeability, and has taken his life experiences and sports passions and turned them into opportunities with MSG Network, SNY, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, WWE, The Source and various other outlets. Kazeem Famuyide will join us to shed light on his journey and offer his perspective on the value of traditional vs. non-traditional paths.

By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day event. I’ll be announcing the addition of a very special executive in mid-October, as well as a few high profile speakers and awards recipients in the weeks and months ahead. I’m appreciative of so many expressing interest in speaking at the conference, and as much as I’d like to include everyone on stage, I can’t. Keeping the Summit informative, fresh and focused on the right issues is important, and to do that, I’ve got to introduce different people, perspectives and subjects so our attendees gain value to further improve the industry.

A reminder, the 2022 BSM Summit is strictly for members of the sports media industry and college students aspiring to work in the business. It brings together people from more than thirty different media companies and focuses on issues of relevance and importance to media industry professionals. The show takes place March 2-3, 2022 in New York at the Anne Bernstein Theater on West 50th Street. Tickets and hotel rooms can be secured by visiting BSMSummit.com. For those unable to attend in person, the Summit will also be available to view online. Virtual tickets can be purchased by clicking here. Hope you’ll join us!

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Traug Keller Named 2022 Recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award

“Former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award.”

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Photo Credit: ESPN Images

Sometimes decisions are difficult. Other times they’re not. This was one of the easiest ones I’ve made since launching the BSM Summit in 2018.

If you haven’t attended the Summit before, one of the cool parts of the conference each year is that we take time to honor people who have left a permanent mark on the industry we love. Awards ceremonies are held both days to recognize difference makers who have made positive contributions to the sports radio business. At our 2022 BSM Summit, I am pleased to share that a great man will be celebrated for his life’s work.

It is my honor to announce that former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award. Keller becomes the third industry executive to earn the honor. Kraig Kitchin and Dan Mason were the first two to be recognized at the 2019 and 2020 BSM Summit’s.

Upon learning that Traug had been selected as the next Jeff Smulyan Award winner, Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan said, “Traug Keller has left an indelible imprint on not only sports radio, but on all of broadcasting through his remarkable career. I’m proud to call him my friend, but I’m just one of the legions of people who have loved every minute of their time with him. He’s a broadcaster’s broadcaster, but more than that he’s one of the best people I’ve ever known.”

“I am humbled for sure but thrilled to be receiving an award with the name of my good friend on it, Jeff Smulyan,” added Traug Keller, now the EVP and COO of American Media. “Jeff did what all too few leaders in business do, he took risk and action against all kinds of headwinds and the rest of us in the great business of Sports Audio were the beneficiaries of it. Thanks to BSM for this great honor and I look forward to seeing a bunch of old friends in March!”

Anyone who has crossed paths with Traug over the past three decades knows how important he was to the success of ESPN Radio. He’s been a friend to many, a great partner to hundreds of radio affiliates, and a champion for talent. His support for BSM has also meant a lot.

Perhaps even more impressive was Traug’s ability to connect with his affiliates, clients and colleagues, offering steady leadership and on-air stability for ESPN Radio. No executive leaves with a perfect record, but Keller had a knack for landing on the right side of many decisions. None as impressive though as retiring from sports radio in February 2020, one month before the sports world came to a screeching halt and a global pandemic rocked the entire advertising industry. Talk about timing Traug, haha.

In all seriousness, having Traug and Jeff together on the same stage in front of the industry to give folks an opportunity to show their appreciation for their accomplishments is a real treat. So many enjoy professional success today due to bold and smart decisions made by each of these men, and I couldn’t be happier to spend time with both in New York City this March.

For tickets, hotel and additional details regarding the 2022 BSM Summit visit BSMSummit.com.

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