Jason Barrett takes the stage to introduce Day 2 of the BSM Summit, thanking the partners who helped make this event happen. Jason announces that the 11:15 a.m. ET “Dominating Digital” will only be WWE’s Steve Braband as ESPN’s Mike Foss was unable to attend.
But the big news is that Mike and the Mad Dog, Mike Francesa and Chris Russo, will reunite for the awards ceremony beginning at 11:50 a.m to present the Mike & the Mad Dog Award to Mike Felger and Tony Massarotti for the country’s best local sports show.
Already planning for next year’s BSM Summit, the location has not yet been determined. But it will take place out west.
Jason shares data from Edison Research’s Share of Ear study that shows younger listeners gravitating toward podcasts, while older consumers are sticking with radio. Yet the overall takeway is good news: Audio listening is increasing across demographics and regions.
9:10-9:50 – The Power Panel Revisited presented by
- Jeff Sottolano – Audacy
- Steve Cohen – SiriusXM
- Bruce Gilbert – Cumulus Media/Westwood One
- Don Martin – iHeart Media/Premiere Radio Networks/FOX Sports Radio
Jeff Sottolano – Audacy
Outlets need to focus on distribution, how to reach the audience that is increasingly going to podcasts rather than listening to radio. But that presents an opportunity. The ears are there; they’ve just moved.
We need to spend less time thinking about the boxes and more about the content that goes into those boxes. How much content ends up going into the ether? But with clips, we can make sure that content is available and listeners can find, for instance, everything we have on the New York Giants.
We need to be audience-agnostic. Listeners increasingly care less about where they’re getting audio.
How can new program directors, brand managers be developed? – We need to make sure roles are established and restored, so that pathways are available for those managers to develop. We have to invest in people with leadership potential. That applies to talent as well.
Don Martin – iHeart Media/ Premiere Radio Networks/FOX Sports Radio
We have a massive platform for podcasting. Colin Cowherd is an example who is working across mediums — radio, podcasts, social media, video — to reach different segments of the audience.
The infighting within our game needs to stop. It’s all the same business. On-demand podcasts and radio content aren’t separate; they just provide different value depending on where and when you’re listening. We make the message. How do we move this forward together?
Companies must invest in the back end. You need to put a great team together to push the content, to push the talent.
How can new program directors, brand managers be developed? – We need self-starters. People have to want it and go get it. It’s not up to us to make young people care, potential managers care. They have to care. We can teach them the rest. But it starts there and we can take them to the top.
Bruce Gilbert – Cumulus Media/Westwood One
Some talent is better at unique podcast content than others. So a podcast strategy is necessary. Who at the operation is best suited to carry that initiative out? Content is important, but distribution is king. It has to be available where people can find it.
For metrics, what we get is a small sampling of the actual audience. But the cream rises to the top, which is what the charts and data show. Talent, branding, and distribution is the most important.
Nielsen is doing the best it can, but the sample is way too small. There’s a lot of anecedotal information, but we need more analytics. Behavior needs to be measured. Where are people listening? What are they doing while listening. It’s important to be everywhere.
Steve Cohen – SiriusXM
My job is to get you listening wherever you are. Ultimately, this comes down to talent and giving the audience the programming it wants. But what we do with podcasting is different from radio, providing “snackable” content to meet the needs of the audience. Live doesn’t matter as much anymore for sports talk.
It all starts off with programming. Look at movies. Something can be No. 1, but it’s a bad movie. But it was promoted well. People were told about it. There was a game plan. The company believed in the product.
Do ratings matter? – The important thing to determine is “Do you like my radio show? Are you listening to my radio show?” If the fans listening to our channels like that programming, we’re doing our job. But we have to stay on top of what’s going on. Pat McAfee was huge for us. That was a game-changer. It showed us there was a different way to do this.
9:50-10:25 – Betting on Sports Media presented by
- Ari Borod – Fanatics
- Brian Angiolet – DraftKings
- Mike Raffensperger – FanDuel
— Moderated by Joe Fortenbaugh of ESPN’s Daily Wager
Mike Raffensperger – FanDuel
Fantasy sports have a built-in, unique advantage in creating sports betting content, reaching those customers.
Our content partnerships continue to grow. What helps is that even for people who aren’t sports bettors, sports betting content is interesting content and we can utilize that. Personalities who enjoy betting like Charles Barkley can help us, give customers something to hook onto.
Pat McAfee is someone who moves the needle for our business. He’s thinking about things we can launch together, looking ahead to events like March Madness and helping to plan strategy. Talent needs to have an authentic relationship with the audience. We’re not giving him an ad read. He has an active role in reaching out to listeners.
Brian Angiolet – DraftKings
We’ve been successful expanding from Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) content with new products to reach an audience we already have and use that to reach bettors.
To promote our brand, talent has to be at the forefront to present authenticity. But there has to be a mix between traditional campaigns and creating content that reaches the audience in an authentic fashion, rather than just trying to sell something.
What do you value in new partners? – Media companies still tend to look at content as inventory. Relevancy, interpretation, making this more approachable is extremely important. And a live read doesn’t always convey that. We need to work together on ideas.
Ari Borod – Fanatics
What are the best aspects of the fan experience for sports and how do we build on that? Where will those fans be five years from now, 10 years from now?
If a media company or personality goes into partnerships with our companies simply to make money or if our companies just look at how much money can be made, it won’t be as productive. There has to be buy-in on both sides. We have to work harder to educate media markets and the audience.
What do you value in new partners? – The approach has to be, “Let’s do this together.” We know what’s important to us, but they might have an idea of what they want to say.
Joe Fortenbaugh – ESPN
Betting content needs to make sure it educates the audience. “Picks, picks, picks” is reliable content and it’s what people want. But there are so many terms, different sorts of bets that viewers and listeners don’t know about or need to learn about. Future content needs to take that into consideration as it builds.
10:25-11:00 – The Craig Carton Conversation presented by
- Craig Carton – WFAN
Act 2 of Carton’s career, doing a show with Evan Roberts – It all started because Bart Scott said no! But there was a thought that because of the success of Mike & the Mad Dog that there had to be hard sports talk in the afternoon, unlike the morning. I disagreed with that. We have to be entertaining. I chose Evan because he represented things I never could or even try to.
How did you know a lighter approach would work in afternoons? – Total ego. I know how to attract an audience. We have to teach the audience what to expect. There’s a whole new audience that doesn’t know what Mike & the Mad Dog.
You can’t quit on what you’re doing. You have to give it three months. You have to train the audience. Sports is the baseline, but if you are tunnel-vision focused on just sports, I think you lose the audience. Not every bit comes out the way I want it to, so I have to look back at how the audience responded.
Twitter is fake. We pay too much attention to what’s going on there. Ratings, phone calls, tell you want the audience wants, what they’re listening to.
My kids don’t know radio exists. That’s a big problem for us going forward. We just have to produce good content and repurpose that content to where people can find it. Pat McAfee does such a good job of repurposing clips, going beyond what the live show is. If he was on radio, he’d be getting killed. We need to do a better job with that. We need to repurpose the best of our content.
Marketing to sports betting listeners – I’m a compulsive gambler. I’ve gone four years without making a wager now. Audacy doesn’t make me read that stuff on the air. They let me do a public service on Saturdays talking about gambling addiction. But I partnered with FanDuel because they’re responsible with their content.
I listen to a lot of gambling shows out there. No offense, but they’re full of shit. The betting expert does not exist. I think the best content is to just talk about the games. We can get into the spreads, but talk about the teams, what’s going on, and make a decision based on the information you have.
Working with program directors, planning shows – We don’t do a good enough job of teaching people how to do radio. It bothers me when I turn on the radio and hear them clearly mailing it in because they didn’t prepare. I’m there three hours before the show; I’m locked in. I know what I’m doing at 4:15.
COVID, in a weird way, exposed who didn’t know what they were talking about. The guys who are still here know what they’re doing. People might know more sports than I do. But they don’t know how to keep an audience.
You have to get out there and figure out what people are talking about. In Philadelphia, we never talked baseball. It was outlawed. You get to New York, you better know baseball. You have to figure out who you are as a show, who you are in a particular market. But who you are on the air doesn’t have to be who you are off the air. Figure out what you do well, what you don’t do well. I can’t read off a script. I know that.
I’m a radio geek. I love radio. We can reach an audience in ways no place else can. Podcasts can’t do it. TV can’t do it. Radio connects with the audience, and I love that. I love radio. I want to do radio for a long time. I missed it. I’m grateful to have been given another opportunity.
After a quick break, the 2022 BSM Summit returns for its next session.
11:15-11:50 – Dominating Digital presented by
- Maggie Gray – CBS Sports Radio
- Steve Braband – WWE
# Last-minute change: Mike Foss was unable to attend
Steve Braband – WWE
The biggest challenge was educating others while we were educating ourselves. We had to be almost like Kindergarten teachers in educating on digital content, platforms like YouTube, and social media.
Digital and social has come a far way from being the island of misfit toys. So much time and effort has been put into creating these platforms and it’s been gratifying to see how successful it’s been, how it’s broken through. Let people fail. Not everything is going to work. But trying is important. It may end up working for something else. Just don’t repeat those mistakes.
The linear television, documentary, digital, and social teams have to communicate with each other. There can’t be silos where this team is doing one thing and this team is doing another. You have to meet with everyone and discuss strategy, what stories are being pushed, which current stars are being pushed. But we have to understand each department’s goals — What matters to PR, what matters to sales, what matters to partners — and how we can work together.
Tik Tok has presented an opportunity for clips and videos that might not do as well on TV, like bloopers. We had a promo where Rey Mysterio was doing pull-ups in the background and then he fell. That didn’t make it to TV, but we put it on Tik Tok and people loved it. So that’s created a new opportunity and we’re going through our archival video now for moments like that to share.
The Miz is someone who goes to our team and asks how he can help them. What do they want to try? Or he’ll bring ideas to them to see if they could work. If you aren’t following him on Tik Tok, you should. He’s bought all the way in and it’s been really successful. More of our stars are getting that.
11:50-12:15 – BSM Summit Awards Ceremony presented by
The Mark Chernoff Award – Rick Radzik, 98.5 The Sports Hub
A video tribute to Mark Chernoff includes highlights from his career, including appearances on Don Imus’s show and WFAN’s Mike & the Mad Dog and Boomer & Gio, and testimony on him pushing the sports radio format forward.
Introducing Rick Radzik, a congratulatory video from 98.5 The Sports Hub executives and on-air talent with praise and compliments plays. Among the remarks: “Best program director ever.” (One employee took the opportunity to say he needs Monday off.)
Accepting the award, Radzik thanks Chernoff, crediting him as a pioneer for the work he did at WFAN, setting a standard and path to success for so many to follow. He thanks the staff at The Sports Hub that helps produce great programming each day and keeps the station running smoothly, allowing everyone to do their best work.
On a personal note, Radzik dedicates the award to his late wife, who fell to cancer three years ago. He thanks her for the perspective she gave him and their daughters on life moving forward.
The Mike & the Mad Dog Award – Mike Felger & Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Jason Barrett says he’s been thinking of creating an award to credit local sports radio for a long time. No one did more with the format than Mike & the Mad Dog, “blazing the trail for what so many of us enjoy today.” That leads to a video with a few of Mike and the Mad Dog’s best moments on radio and subsequent reunions on radio and TV, such as on MLB Network’s High Heat.
Mike Francesa and Chris Russo reminisce about the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks, inspired by some of the clips shown in the video. The two them talk about making families and seeing each other’s children grow.
“It’s been 14 years, believe it or not, since Mike & the Mad Dog,” said Francesa. “We could not only do a good show, but could fill a building today.”
Francesa expresses gratitude for this award being named after their show. When they started out, there was no sports talk. But with a lot of support — including from Don Imus, who was crucial — Mike & the Mad Dog took off and launched the sports radio format across the country, in addition to inspiring debate TV like Pardon the Interruption.
The sports talk guy used to be the low man on the radio station totem pole. Now, they’re the most important person at many stations.
Russo calls it a “perfect storm,” with good teams in New York and an audience willing to listen for 24 hours a day. He also credits Radio Row at the Super Bowl for showing how the format was working in so many places and showing businesses this was a product to invest in.
Francesa and Russo took questions from the audience and looked back on their long career together. Francesa admitted that when he got afternoon drive at WFAN, which he always coveted, he didn’t want a partner. But he was convinced to give Russo a chance. It didn’t take long to realize that they had something.
But their long run together included some significant friction between the two when they weren’t talking to each other except for when they were on their air. Even during commercial breaks! Francesa admitted that he didn’t want Russo at his wedding, but his wife invited him and if not for that, Mike & the Mad Dog probably wouldn’t have survived as long as it did.
Following the Q&A, Francesa and Russo introduce a video of Felger & Mazz highlights. Felger and Massarotti were unable to attend the BSM Summit due to scheduling conflicts, but recorded a thank-you video for the award, expressing gratitude to The Sports Hub and the Boston fans for their success. They also thanked Mike and the Mad Dog for their pioneering work, saying they were honored to win an award named after them.
The 2022 BSM Summit takes a one-hour lunch, and then returns for the second half, led off by a conversation with Meadowlark Media CEO, John Skipper.
1:30-2:15 – The Day 2 Keynote Conversation presented by
- John Skipper – Meadowlark Media
Asked about the decision to launch Meadowlark Media, Skipper says he and Dan Le Batard had discussed a joint venture for a long time. So when Le Batard left ESPN, they announced their new endeavor very soon thereafter.
Meadowlark’s deal with DraftKings gave them the money to start the business and look to expand quickly. The company didn’t have to worry about licensing content and DraftKings helps with distribution. The partnership has worked very well so far.
Most of the company’s content is in audio right now. Le Batard still loves terrestrial radio, which is demonstrated in producing a quality show. Putting content online has provided unique opportunities, such as the live reaction shows which have been very successful.
Our business model is to have an idea, develop the idea, take it to potential partners for production, rather than try to produce and finance those projects ourselves. Going into Spanish-language content and women’s sports content are initiatives they probably couldn’t pursue if Meadowlark wasn’t its own company that can take projects to other studios and outlets.
People say they want to do more women’s sports, but they don’t want to pay for it. So we’ll make it, then find the right place for it, Skipper said.
“The status quo will eventually overtake you and stifle creativity,” said Skipper. “You have to try new things.”
Skipper points out that Le Batard had a long run at ESPN, but him leaving shows how relationships and ambitions evolve. Le Batard wanted to do content ESPN preferred him not to, and ESPN wanted Le Batard to do more of what the network asked. Skipper uses Bill Simmons as another example of how things can change, regardless of how well each side may have previously benefited. He credits Simmons with helping his success at ESPN, boosting ESPN.com and creating the popular 30 for 30 documentary series.
It’s hard to break through in the podcast space, but Meadowlark has an advantage with Dan’s show, a tentpole to build around and use to steer listeners to other shows on the network. Personality allows you to drive audience, Skipper says. That allows Meadowlark to take chances like on audio documentaries like its upcoming The Mayor of Maple Avenue on the Jerry Sandusky case.
Skipper says the future of sports is streaming. He believes there are some NFL owners who think the Super Bowl should be on pay-per-view. Look at what’s happening in Europe with soccer. If you wanted to watch La Liga, you needed beIN SPORTS. (Now you’ll need ESPN+.) That will likely happen in the United States eventually. Amazon getting Thursday Night Football is probably the first step in this process.
“You’re going to miss your pay TV when it’s gone because it was easier,” said Skipper.
2:15-2:50 – Talk To My Agent presented by
- Kevin Belbey – CAA
- Heather Cohen – The Weiss Agency
- Mark Lepselter – MAXX Sports & Entertainment Group
- Mike McVay – McVay Media
Heather Cohen – The Weiss Agency
Not everyone should have an agent. Not everyone is ready for an agent or needs one. An agent can be good for talent and management; we’re the buffer in between. It’s important for us to manage expectations, but get a deal done, find a compromise that’s good for both sides.
Transparency is very important. Give me the ratings, give me the data. I need to know what the revenue looks like. With that on the table, then management can see why we’re presenting a certain number. It’s a game; let’s just cut the game and get to the deal.
I’ve had management tell me they’re happy when talent has agents because the agent can have a difficult conversation with a client that a manager can’t.
I encourage my clients to do many different things. Fred Toucher, who was here yesterday, he has like 13 things going, not just the radio show. Angela Yee, she’s working all the time to get on social media to promote her brands — her coffee, her juice line. Does she want to be doing that all the time? Probably not. But she knows how important it is. I hate to say it, but those willing to work seven days a week are the ones who will be the most successful.
Kevin Belbey – CAA
I’ll often tell people, you don’t need an agent. But I’ll also say we’d like to work with you because we believe in your talent. For management, we want to make a deal that’s good for them as well. I think it’s important for them to realize we’re partners. A good negotiation should be, everyone wins. We want to cut through a lot of the B.S. and get right to getting the best deal done.
I tell my clients they can be influencers. Maybe you only have 500 followers or 2000 followers, but you can reach people that way and need to. They need to be involved in other things outside their shows, they need to have other things going on.
Mark Lepselter – MAXX Sports & Entertainment Group
It’s important to be an enhancement to talent’s career. It’s also important to bridge the gap between your client and management. Sometimes, that means protecting them from themselves in some aspects.
2:50-3:25 – The Art of Storytelling presented by
- Jim Cutler – Jim Cutler New York
People are deciding in the first 20 seconds of watching something whether or not to stay with something. They quickly decide if it’s worth their time.
Why care about storytelling? Everyone on social media fancies themselves a storyteller. And everyone is trying to get better at it to make money. Storytelling is really all we have when we’re creating content.
Sunday Night Football producer Fred Gaudelli says they prepare 25 to 50 stories ready to use for a given telecast. But the game is the primary story; that has to be the priority. We can’t layer in stories that don’t have anything to do with what’s happening. If it doesn’t fit, we don’t use it. Only jam in what’s appropriate.
Looking at visual storytelling, images alone can be powerful without sound — or accompanied by music instead. Images show you who the people are in the story without needing to tell you why or add to what’s already seen. But look at video games and how they’ve changed sports. Skycams and drones have completely changed sports coverage on TV. The “gameification” of sports storytelling.
But for radio and podcasts, the fundamentals of content have not changed. As Amplifi Media’s Steven Goldstein says, the speed it gets to the consumer has changed. If content is average and has no heat, it’s disposable. Another example provided comes from Colin Cowherd, who illustrated Manny Ramirez’s relaxed approach at the plate with an audio bit joking about Ramirez’s mindset, rather than just giving play-by-play or statistics.
Video of South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone speaking to a college class is shown in which they explain the beats of storytelling and how to keep it compelling and moving along. If you have “and then” between moments, “you’re fucked.” Yet if it’s “therefore” or “but,” the story is moving forward. The viewer wants to follow along. “This happened. Therefore, this happened. But this happened.” It’s not just saying what happened. Each action begets the next one.
Authenticity is vital. You have to be real. You can’t show the audience the sell. If they see the sell, they’re turned off. Stephen A. Smith is authentic to the audience. Someone else who’s authentic is ABC’s David Muir. Colin Cowherd explains how admitting when he’s wrong comes across as authentic to the audience. He knows he’s “in theater,” but has to come across as a real person.
A brief timeout for attendees to recharge, and then we’re back to close up Day 1 of the Summit with two more excellent sessions.
3:40-4:15 – The Value of Traditional Media presented by
- Ariel Epstein – Yahoo Sports
- John Jastremski – The Ringer
- Kazeem Famuyide – MSG Networks
- Demetri Ravanos – Barrett Sports Media
Ariel Epstein – Yahoo Sports
On doing gambling content on terrestrial radio – The change was getting gambling language into regular sports news and conversation. It’s not just “picks, picks, picks.” I say how the line moves according to the sports news of the day, like Trae Young not playing for the Hawks tonight. How do you build an audience and get them to trust you? It’s having good information.
I used to post my picks from the night before to show how I did. But I realized that people don’t care about that. They want to know about what’s happening tonight. What can they hear from me that’s different from what they’re getting everywhere else?
Kazeem Famuyide – MSG Networks
On working directly with athletes – We can eliminate the filter with athletes and work directly with them, let them show their personalities and interests. Like we talked to Trae Young and got his 15 favorite songs, then we created a playlist. He’s more accessible to the audience.
On being accessible as media – You have to be yourself. People can see that. And MSG lets me do that too. I can show up in a suit one day, Jordans the next. But it’s all me and people see that.
John Jastremski – The Ringer
I want my content to be conversational, like you and me at the bar. I don’t want to act or come across like I know more than you. I don’t want people assuming I think that either.
You have to understand what buzz is surrounding your particular work environment. You need a sixth sense. If you know your town, you know what they want to hear. The NFL and NBA are always going to play. But you can’t assume either. What’s the story in your town?
On being accessible as media – Social media has changed how people see media. Like they know “J.J.’s a gambling guy” or “J.J’s a Knicks guy.” I didn’t know that about the people on TV growing up. I couldn’t ask Bob Costas a question on Twitter back then.
Being in a lot of different places, doing a lot of different things is crucial. You can’t be defined as one thing.
4:15-4:50 – Programmer’s MasterClass presented by
- Justin Craig – ESPN Radio
- Scott Shapiro – FOX Sports Radio
- Mark Chernoff – Formerly of WFAN
- Jason Barrett – Barrett Sports Radio
Justin Craig – ESPN Radio
How to select content – Play to the biggest part of your audience. The biggest names and topics. And then reset. What is the expectation of your audience? When they turn on your show, what are they expecting? And are you filling that expectation? Like what’s the first thing you think of with Stephen A. Smith? Yelling? So if he’s talking in a real quiet voice, they’re wondering what’s going on.
On ratings – I check them every day and share them with the talent. They’re our report card. Which markets are listening, which aren’t.
Scott Shapiro – Fox Sports Radio
On the clock and length of breaks – Ultimately, we’re in the ratings game. So the fewer off-ramps you can give the audience to go some place else, the better. There are so many options now. You’re on the phone. You’re going somewhere. We want to give listeners as few opportunities as possible to go away.
Mark Chernoff – Formerly of WFAN
I don’t like to overmanage. I don’t want to tell people to stick to the clock. For new talent, emphasizing the fundamentals are good. But it all revolves around sports. Content is king. It’s like being in music. You can play a deep cut. But if you play all deep cuts, you lose the audience.
I got the “POKE” theory of success from Eric Spitz (from SiriusXM). Passion, Opinion, Knowledge, and Entertainment. If a host has those four things, they’re going to be a success.
On simulcasting for digital and video – I tell the talent, remember you’re on radio, not TV. Don’t play to the camera.
Takeaways From The NAB Show and Six Days in Las Vegas
“I’m certainly not afraid to be critical but my enthusiasm for the NAB Show was elevated this year.”
Six days on the road can sometimes be exhausting. Six days in Las Vegas, and it’s guaranteed. That was my world last week, as I along with more than fifty thousand people headed to sin city to take in the 2022 NAB Show.
The event didn’t draw as many as it had in the past, but after two years of inactivity due to the pandemic, it was good to be back. Judging from some of the vendors I talked to, the sessions I attended, and the feedback I received from folks I met with, though far from perfect, it was a solid return for an important event. Seeing people interact, celebrate others, and talk about ways to improve the business was a positive reminder of the world being closer to the normal of 2019 than the normal of 2020-2021. The only negative from the week, the consistent failure of Uber to appear in the right place at the right time. But that had zero to do with the NAB.
It feels like whenever I attend industry conferences, there are two different type of reviews that follow. Some writers attend the show and see the glass half full. Others see the glass half empty. I’m certainly not afraid to be critical but my enthusiasm was elevated this year. Maybe it was because BSM was a media partner or maybe it was due to the show not happening for years and just being happy to be among friends, peers, and clients and operate like normal. Either way, my glass was definitely half full.
For those who see events this way, it’s likely they’ll remember the numerous opportunities they had to create and reestablish relationships. They’ll also recall the access to different speakers, sessions, products, and the excellent research shared with those in attendance. The great work done by the BFOA to recognize industry difference makers during their Wednesday breakfast was another positive experience, as was the Sunday night industry gathering at The Mayfair Supper Club.
Included in the conference were sessions with a number of industry leaders. Radio CEO’s took the stage to point out the industry’s wins and growth, credit their employees, and call out audio competitors, big tech, and advertisers for not spending more with the industry. When David Field, Bob Pittman, Ginny Morris and Caroline Beasley speak, people listen. Though their companies operate differently, hearing them share their views on the state of the business is important. I always learn something new when they address the room.
But though a lot of ground gets covered during these interviews, there are a few issues that don’t get talked about enough. For instance, ineffective measurement remains a big problem for the radio business. Things like this shouldn’t happen, but they do. NBC and WarnerMedia took bold steps to address problems with TV measurement. Does radio have the courage to take a similar risk? That’s an area I’d like to see addressed more by higher ups.
I can’t help but wonder how much money we lose from this issue. Companies spend millions for a ratings service that delivers subpar results, and the accountability that follows is often maddening. Given the data we have access to digitally, it’s stunning that radio’s report card for over the air listening is determined by outdated technology. And if we’re going to tell folks that wearables are the missing ingredient for addressing this problem, don’t be shocked if the press that follows is largely negative. The industry and its advertising partners deserve better. So too do the reps at Nielsen who have to absorb the hits, and make the most of a tough situation.
Speaking of advertising, this is another one of those critical areas that deserves another point of view. Case in point, I talked to a few ad agency professionals at the show. Similar to what I’ve heard before, they’re tired of hearing radio leaders blame them for the industry’s present position. This has been a hot button topic with executives for years. I often wonder, do we help or hurt ourselves by publicly calling out advertisers and ad agencies? How would you feel if you ran an agency which spent millions on the industry and were told ‘you don’t do enough’? I’m a champion of radio/audio, and am bullish on spoken word’s ability to deliver results for clients, but having attended these shows for nearly seven years, it might be time for a new approach and message. Or maybe it’s time to put one of our CEO’s with one of theirs and have a bigger discussion. Just a thought.
Of the sessions that I attended, I thought Erica Farber’s ‘What Business Are You In?’ was excellent. I especially liked Taja Graham’s presentation on ‘Sharing Your Truth’. I also appreciated Eric Bischoff’s tips on ways to monetize podcasts, and am curious to see how Amazon’s AMP develops moving forward. My favorite session at the show though was “A GPS Session For Your Station’s Car Radio Strategy” led by Fred Jacobs. The insight shared by Joe D’Angelo of Xperi and Steve Newberry & Suzy Schultz of Quu was outstanding. Keeping the car companies on our side is vital to our survival, and how we position ourselves on the dashboard can’t be ignored. Other tech companies and audio operators take it seriously. We must too.
Sessions aside, it was great to check out the VSiN and Blue Wire studios, connect with a bunch of CEO’s, GM’s and Market Manager’s, and visit with Kevin Jones, Joe Fortenbaugh, Jeremiah Crowe, Jon Goulet, Bill Adee, Q Myers, Mike Golic Jr. and Stormy Buonantony. The NFL’s setup for the Draft, and the light show presented at the Bellagio was without a doubt spectacular, plus Stephanie had a chance to say hello to Raiders owner Mark Davis who was inside the back room of a Westgate restaurant where we were having a business lunch meeting. The personal tour we received at the Wynn showed off some of the best suites I’ve seen in Las Vegas, and I was finally able to witness Circa’s Stadium Swim in person, and meet owner Derek Stevens (heck of a suit game). What an outstanding hotel and casino.
Altogether, it was a productive trip. As someone who knows all about building and executing a conference, I appreciate the work that goes into pulling it off. This event is massive, and I have no idea how the NAB makes it happen so flawlessly. This was the first time my head of sales, Stephanie Eads, got to attend the show. She loved it. Our only negative, going back and forth between convention halls can get exhausting. Wisely, Stephanie and Guaranty Media CEO Flynn Foster took advantage of the underground Tesla ride to move from the North hall to the West hall. I wasn’t as bright. If that’s the worst part of the experience though, that’s pretty solid. I look forward to returning in 2023, and attending the NAB’s NYC show this fall.
You’ve likely seen posts from BSM/BNM on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn promoting a number of open positions. I’m adding crew to help us pump out more content, and that means we need more editors, news writers, features reporter’s and columnists. If you’re currently involved or previously worked in the industry and love to write about it, send a resume and few writing samples by email to JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
With that said, I’m excited to announce the addition of Ryan Brown as a weekly columnist for BSM. Ryan is part of ‘The Next Round’ in Birmingham, Alabama, which previously broadcast on WJOX as JOX Roundtable. The show left the terrestrial world in June 2021 to operate as its own entity. Ryan’s knowledge and opinions should provide a boost to the site, and I’m looking forward to featuring his columns every Tuesday. Keep an eye out for it tomorrow, and if you want to check out the guest piece he previously wrote for us, click here.
Demetri Ravanos and I have talked to a lot of people over the past month. More additions will be revealed soon. As always, thanks for the continued support of BSM and BNM.
Six New Contributors Join Barrett Media
“These latest additions will make our product better. Now the challenge is finding others to help us continue growing.”
Building a brand starts with a vision. Once that vision is defined, you identify the people who fit what you’re creating, lay out the game plan, and turn them loose to execute. If the product you’re creating is original, fills a gap in the marketplace, and the work turned in by your team is consistently excellent and promoted in the right locations, more times than not you’ll build an audience.
As you grow, the focus turns to studying what your audience wants, needs, and expects from your brand. Certain things you expect to be big turn out small, and the things you saw limited upside in create opportunities you never saw coming. It’s critical to be open minded and ready to pivot while also examining where and when people consume your product, which pieces of content do and don’t matter, and then use that information to direct your team to give folks more of what they value and less of what they don’t. Team members should want that feedback too. It tells them what is and isn’t worth spending their time on.
As I lay all of that out it may sound like I’m talking about a radio station or television operation. These are the things programmers do frequently to make sure the talent, shows, and brand is satisfying the expectations of an audience. But what I’m actually referring to is the brand you’ve made a choice to click on to read this column, Barrett Media.
I’ve mentioned many times on this website how I started this operation by myself, and didn’t expect to have a team of writers involved in it. I was focused on consulting sports stations, sharing my programming views on this website, and as I cranked out content consistently, I discovered others loved the business like I did and had a desire to share their insights too. Rather than sticking to my original plan, I pivoted and increased our content offerings. In return, the audience grew, clients grew, and it’s led this brand to grow beyond my expectations. Now we cover sports AND news media, we run an annual conference, feature a membership program, create podcasts, deliver a daily 8@8 and three times per week BNM Rundown newsletter, and work with various brands and companies across the broadcasting industry. I’m extremely fortunate to be in this position and don’t take it for granted.
But with growth comes change. We’ve been blessed to have a lot of talented people contribute to this site over the years, and as they produce quality work, and others across the industry recognize it, they earn interest for their services. That then leads to some having to sign off for bigger opportunities. I see that as a great positive for the brand. Would it be nice to have more consistency and keep a crew together for years? Of course. I know it’d make Demetri’s life a lot easier. If we’re losing people for the right reasons though, and they’re landing opportunities that help them advance their careers, I’m going to be happy for their success, and trust that we’ll find others to keep us moving forward. The success of our team helps make what we do more attractive to others because it shows that if you do good consistent work here, you can put yourself in a position to attract attention.
Over the past two months, I have challenged Demetri Ravanos to invest more time talking to people about writing for us. Expanding our Barrett News Media roster is a priority. So too is adding quality people to help us improve Barrett Sports Media. BSM has had just under seven years to earn trust with readers. BNM has had less than two. We’ve put out ads on our website and newsletters, social posts, an ad on Indeed, and we’ve reached out directly to people who we’ve felt may be able to add something interesting to our brand. Most of my time is spent listening to stations and talking with clients, but my eyes are always roaming looking for content, and my mind is always thinking about what we can create next to make an impact.
I don’t judge our brand’s success based on clicks, shares, breaking news before other outlets or showing up in the top three listings on Google. I care more effort accuracy, timeliness, passion, consistency, storytelling, insight, and being fair and non-agenda driven. We’ve found our niche being able to tell stories about broadcasting professionals, relaying news, and offering expert knowledge to serve those involved in the broadcasting industry. If we continue to excel doing those things consistently, I’m confident our audience will reward us by reading and sharing more of our content. It’s why we never stop recruiting to keep things fresh.
Having said that, I am excited today to reveal six new additions to the Barrett Media staff. Peter Schwartz is a name and voice many in New York sports radio circles are familiar with. Peter has spent three decades working with various outlets and I’m thrilled to have him writing weekly feature stories for us. Brady Farkas is a talented host and former programmer who now works for WDEV in Burlington, VT. Karl Schoening is a play by play broadcaster who has worked in San Antonio sports radio and has had the added benefit of learning the industry from his talented father Bill who calls Spurs games. Each of them will produce bi-weekly feature stories for the brand. Jason Ence is in Louisville and has written about sports betting for Twin Spires while also working for ESPN 680. He’ll be writing sports betting content for us on a weekly basis. Jasper Jones will help us by adding news stories on Friday’s. He’s presently in Philadelphia learning the business working for Audacy. Last but not least, veteran author, Brewers writer, and former radio professional Jim Cryns comes on board to help us with features on news media professionals.
These six additions make us stronger, and I’m excited to have them join the team to help us add more quality content to the website. That said, we’re not done yet. Demetri and I are still talking with others and I expect to make a few more additions in the weeks ahead. As I said earlier, we want to improve the news media side of our operation and continue adding people to help us make a bigger dent in the sports media space. Broadcast companies invest in us to help them, and I believe it’s important to invest back.
If you’ve programmed, hosted a top rated show, worked in measurement, led a cluster as a GM, sold advertising, represented talent or have worked in digital and feel you have knowledge to share, reach out. I can’t promise we’ll have room but we’re always willing to listen. I’m not worried about whether or not you’ve written for professional publications. Passion, experience and unique insights matter much more than a resume or journalism degree.
I appreciate everyone who takes time to read our content, like and share it on social, and all involved with this brand who help bring it to life each day. The latest additions of Schwartz, Farkas, Schoening, Ence, Jones and Cryns will make our product better. Now the challenge is finding others to help us continue growing.
Programming In Fear Is a Recipe For Failure
“The best programmers go to work focused on making an impact and thinking about what could go right not what could go wrong.”
If you haven’t read Demetri Ravanos’ column this week, which included feedback from five programmers on whether or not they’d hire sports radio’s equivalent of Deshaun Watson, you should. It’s interesting, enlightening and sparked my interest to write a follow up column.
When it comes to decision making in the media industry subjectivity is at the center of everything. It’s not as simple as the NFL where wins and losses are often decided by talent and coaching. Instead, our business is judged by a small amount of meters and their activity using our products as determined by Nielsen, and personal relationships formed with advertisers and media industry professionals. All three of these areas may be less than perfect in determining if something is going to work or not, but it’s the way it is.
Let’s start with something I think most of us can agree on – listeners spend time with brands and individuals that cut through the noise. Most will also agree that advertisers value that too. If a talent can attract an audience and convert them into customers on a consistent basis, a company will employ them. Advertisers will ask to be included in their program too. If issues with a host’s track record or character exist it may turn off a few sponsors, but when there’s money to be made, the bottom line usually wins.
It’s similar in some ways to the NFL, which is why players like Deshaun Watson, Tyreek Hill, Antonio Brown, Michael Vick, Aldon Smith, Kareem Hunt, Joe Mixon and others are given second, and in some instances third and fourth chances to play. In a league where wins and talent impact the bottom line, executives care more about success than their morale standing. I know some folks would prefer that to be different but competition and business success drives many to look past certain situations.
In every business, there are people who are dirt bags. You may not want to associate with them or see them receive second or third chances, but if they can help a team win, make the franchise money, and excite a fanbase by helping to deliver a championship, owners are going to turn a blind eye to outside issues. They’ll even pay these players insane amounts of money despite their problems. Just look at the recent deals inked by Watson and Hill.
I know radio and television isn’t exactly the NFL, but as I read Demetri’s column I couldn’t help but think about the dilemma radio programmers face; to hire the best talent and run the risk of dealing with increased attention by inviting baggage into the building or play it safe and hire people with less problems even if their talent level is lower.
We work in the media industry. The job is to deliver audience, and ad revenue. If someone possesses the ability to help you do that, you owe it to your bosses to look into it. If you are going to pass up hiring someone with special talent because you value character more, I applaud you. It’s commendable and speaks volumes about who you are. But producing high ratings and revenue isn’t determined by who’s a better person. If your competitor loses to you in the morale department but wins consistently in those two areas, you may one day be calling me for advice on saving your job or finding the next one.
Audiences care far less about an individual’s behavior or the negative PR you have to absorb. They simply listen and/or watch people they find interesting and entertaining. Did the Chiefs and Bucs sell less tickets after adding Hill, Mixon or Brown? The answer is no. Fans wanted to see their teams win, and as long as those players helped them do that, far less cared about whether or not those guys were good or bad people. I’m sure Browns fans will do the same with Watson if he delivers a title for the city of Cleveland.
This issue is red meat for many in the media because it makes for great discussion, and generates a lot of reaction. However, as nice as it’d be to have good people in every enviable position, this is a business, and what matters most is the final result in generating audience and advertising. Sometimes that means adding people who bring baggage through the door.
Advertisers aren’t much different than fans either. They may voice concerns or reject being connected to someone initially who comes with negative attention, but if people start to listen or watch, they’re going to want to be involved eventually because it presents an opportunity to improve their bottom line. It’s why you don’t see a surge of advertising partners abandon NFL teams after they sign or draft a player with a troubled past. If it’s good for business, exceptions will be made.
Some may not like hearing this, but a brand manager is paid to improve their brand’s business not to manage the media’s morality department. I’d much rather work with good people who provide little drama. It makes work more enjoyable. But this is the entertainment business. Some high profile stars have ego’s, issues, ridiculous demands, and they create a lot of bullshit. Some are worth it, some aren’t. If they can help attract big dollars and a large audience, it’s an executive’s job to find a way to employ them and manage them.
I’m not suggesting that we should hire everyone with a prior track record of problems. I’m also not advocating not to do background checks, ask questions, double check with references, and feel as comfortable as possible with who you’re adding. It’s important to analyze the risks vs. the rewards when hiring someone who may cause some initial blowback. Not everyone is worth a second or third chance. More times than not, the HR department is going to prefer you add people with minimal risk who make the hiring process easier. But if a special talent is available and they come with baggage, you can’t be afraid to make a move that can grow your brand’s performance and bottom line.
For example, you may dislike some of the prior incidents that Howard Stern, Joe Rogan, Craig Carton, Dave Portnoy, and Ryen Russillo were involved in, but they’ve all shown a consistent ability to deliver an audience, revenue, and relevance. I used those 5 personalities as examples because Demetri specifically used Deshaun Watson, a QB who is widely recognized as a Top 5 QB in the NFL as the example. He’s seen as a game changer on the field just as these personalities are recognized as stars behind the microphone. If a programmer had a chance to hire one of those talents and bypassed them because they were worried about the ‘noise’ they’d have to deal with, I hope and pray their competition takes a pass too. If not, they’d be paying for it for a long time.
That said, I would not put my career on the line for a talent who has twenty two counts of sexual misconduct hanging over their head. I’d tell them to handle their legal situation first and then wait and see how the situation plays out. You can tell me how special a talent is, and I’ll tell you I’m all for second chances and I’m not afraid to put my job on the line to hire someone exceptionally gifted, but I’m also not stupid. Most corporate companies are going to want no part of that association and neither are advertisers. It’d be a bad bet.
But in Watson’s case, he was cleared of the criminal charges. That was decided in a court of law. Are we supposed to never hire him even though he was found innocent? This world is littered with examples of people who are talented, have been accused of wrongdoing, have prevailed legally, and have gone on to make the most of second opportunities. Yet social media is often seen as an approval ground where ‘noise’ matters more than facts.
Human beings are flawed and do stupid things sometimes. It doesn’t make them bad people or not worthy of being hired again. We also have a legal system for a reason. If one is accused of a crime, they have their day in the court, and a judge and jury decides if they are guilty or innocent. For some reason, whenever a high profile individual is linked to a situation, we have a tendency to react quickly, often declaring them guilty and permanently damaged. But that’s not right, and it often blows up in our face.
How did that work out with the Duke lacrosse case? Or when Rafael Palmeiro waved his finger at congress and said he never took steroids? Instant reactions were the Duke lacrosse team needed to be put away for life, and the media needed to leave Palmeiro alone. We later learned, both reactions were wrong. The same thing just happened again with Watson. In the court of public opinion, he’s guilty. In a court of law, he’s not. There’s something very wrong with that picture.
The minute you hire a person connected to controversy you have to know people are going to bring it up, and media outlets are going to draw attention to it. So what? If people listen/watch, and clients spend, deal with it. From the movie industry to politics to the world or sports and the media business, there are many examples of highly skilled people with imperfect records that were worth betting on. You have to have thick skin and be able to absorb negativity if you’re going to hire and manage people. You’re responsible for serving the audience, advertising community, and growing a business, not being the most liked inside your office or on social media.
Secondly, speaking of social media, I think we place way too much value on what listeners say on Twitter and/or Facebook. The majority of your audience isn’t living on Twitter. If they’re not happy with your product, they’ll change the dial or avoid pressing the button to stream your content. There is a lot of good that comes from social media, but when you make decisions for a brand that could raise a few eyebrows, your best move is to tune it out. Let people say what they want. If you’ve done your homework and added an individual who’s capable of making an impact, trust your gut that it’ll be proven right over time.
Third, when you’re talking to someone who has gone through a situation that can potentially create headaches for the brand you represent, remember that they’re going to act remorseful and tell you what you want to hear. They’re hoping to land a high profile job and recover from a setback. Talking to others who’ve been around them and have history with them is part of the process, and hearing them out is too. After you’ve gathered your facts and weighed the pros and cons, it ultimately comes down to whether or not you trust them, believe in them, and have the courage to handle the heat that will soon hit you when you enter the kitchen.
You can avoid all of that and hire someone safer. Sometimes that works. But in a business where talent ultimately wins, others eventually find ways to improve. If the brands you compete with have the guts to take the risk that you didn’t, you may pay for it later. Which is why you can’t dismiss star talent with blemishes on their resumes. It’d be great if we could all go through life, do the right thing, and never have to answer questions for controversial decisions, but that’s not realistic.
I’ve shared this story before, back when I was in San Francisco in 2013, I hired Damon Bruce. He had previously generated heat for comments about not wanting women in his sandbox. It was a bad take, one he endured a lot of negative attention for, and despite apologizing and serving a suspension, nothing seemed to satisfy the masses. When we started talking, I entered those conversations knowing if I brought him on board I’d have to deal with the noise. I got to know him, talked to others, and reviewed the facts. One thing that stuck with me, he had never been in serious trouble and he had spent a decade working for the same employer. More times than not, you don’t work somewhere for that long if people don’t value you and enjoy working with you.
Damon would be the first to admit that back then he could be a pain in the ass, and he came to the table with public attention that made him harder to hire. I chose to believe in his talent, trust my eyes and ears, and focus on how he could help us improve our business. There were emails, tweets, and voicemail complaints I had to deal with but typing this now nine years later, after Damon just signed a three year extension to remain in afternoons at 95.7 The Game, I know the right call was made. He had to own his mistake, learn from it, and I had to have the courage to give him a shot and support him. In the end, everyone benefitted.
One story I haven’t shared, took place in 2006. I had just been hired to program Sports Talk 950 in Philadelphia, which has since become 97.5 The Fanatic. Our roster was bare, our lineup had national shows occupying the majority of the weekday schedule, and we needed more top level local talent to get to the next level. As I reviewed local and external options, I put Mike Missanelli and John Kincade high on my list. Ironically, they now both host drive time shows on The Fanatic.
Well, as we were preparing to reach out and talk to people, Missanelli got fired by WIP for ‘violating company policy’. It was alleged that he got into a physical altercation with a part time producer. I wasn’t there so I didn’t know all the facts, but the noise from that situation affected our process. When I raised the idea of meeting with him it was quickly dismissed. I knew he was ready for the next step, would have a chip on his shoulder to beat his former employer, and had a ton of local relationships which could be good for business. I was willing to meet and learn more, and if during that process we felt it made sense to bring him on board, I’d have handled the heat that came from it.
It never even started though. Others worried about the ‘noise’ and decided to pass up the opportunity to add a difference maker to the lineup. The brand struggled to gain traction for the next few years, and when Matt Nahigian arrived in town, he wisely went and hired Missanelli. Almost instantly, the success and perception of the brand changed. Now, The Fanatic consistently competes against WIP, and Missanelli has helped deliver a lot of wins in afternoons over the past 13-14 years.
Each person who makes a decision to hire someone has a lot to consider. If a radio talent is seen in a negative light because of prior history with other professionals or because they delivered an insensitive rant that’s much different than being found guilty of twenty two counts of sexual misconduct. Having said that, I worry that some managers ignore the facts (Watson was found not guilty) and will add a solid talent with less negative attention than a more talented person with extra baggage. As a programmer, would you have had the guts to hire Craig Carton after he served time? Would you have the stomach to handle the heat if Dave Portnoy worked for you and the Business Insider story cast a dark cloud over your brand? Would you stand by Joe Rogan when others attack him for comments made in the past or as artists pull their music because of not agreeing with his views?
I’m not sure if I’m right, wrong, smart or stupid, but I know this, if I believed in them enough to hire them knowing that the noise would increase the second they entered the office, then I’d do my best to have their back. I’d also not think twice about my future or whether or not my corporate boss had a bullseye on my back. I think the best programmers go to work focused on making an impact and thinking about what could go right not what could go wrong. If you program in fear and play it safe to avoid the noise, you run the risk of hearing silence. And sometimes that peace and quiet comes when you’re sitting at home rather than dealing with headaches inside of the office.