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Matt ‘Money’ Smith is Shining in the Lights of Hollywood

“I’m not rigid in my ways [and] I don’t feel like I have to be a particular character.”

Derek Futterman

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Matt "Money" Smith
Courtesy: Petros and Money on X

Emerging from the azure of refreshing water, Matt “Money” Smith was approached by a man who had just been laid off from his job. The people accompanying him seemed somewhat incredulous that he had the aplomb to approach Smith, an established media personality at the local and national levels. Nonetheless, he initiated a conversation starting with a compliment about how the Petros and Money afternoon radio program was part of his daily drive home from work and would consistently leave him in a good mood. The discourse ended up lasting nearly 20 minutes and stood out to Smith, although it was not the first time he had been made privy to such sentiments.

Over the 16 years the program has been broadcast on AM 570 LA Sports, it has left an indelible impact on sports fans and media consumers alike. Smith has been told by the son of a listener that the show used to be on during car rides home from school, leading him to play the program for his progeny. Longevity is often pursued in sports media but rarely attained, and in today’s dynamic media marketplace filled with multiple sources of dissemination and niche content offerings, determining how to stand out can be an arduous task.

“I am willing to adapt to what the situation calls for [and] what the partner calls for,” Smith said. “I’m not rigid in my ways [and] I don’t feel like I have to be a particular character.”

The program, however, spans beyond broaching topics that are simply centered around sports. Part of the identity of Petros and Money is derived by discussing culture, politics, history, music and other genres. When the program launched in the summer of 2007, they decided to close out the show with the “Not Sports Report,” a half-hour dedicated to highlighting things outside of the game. As time went on though, Smith and Papadakis recognized that they enjoyed conversing about what interested them and anticipated that it would resonate with consumers. Because of this, they eliminated the segment to lift the hypothetical content restriction assumed therein.

“It’s like, ‘Well, I think we know what our audience likes. Let’s talk about this and see if it works,’ and sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t,” Smith said. “If it does, great. You end up getting response and you focus on that response a little bit throughout the show. And if it doesn’t, you just move on and make a note that, ‘Alright, that didn’t work,’ and, ‘Let’s not go back to that again.’”

Smith moved to the program after a stint working alongside Joe Grande on Good Times, ending when the station eventually deemed it wanted to alter its afternoon drive program. This decision was in close proximity to the cessation of 1540 The Ticket, an outlet Papadakis had previously worked for and resigned from in order to focus on his television endeavors.

“We just said, ‘Okay, this is just lined up,’” Smith recalled. “We’re talking about changing things and he’s now got no show, so let’s just put this together and make it work.”

In beginning a program together in the sports talk radio format, they both recognized that they did not want to do things in a conventional manner. Introducing and continuously discussing one primary topic throughout the show, they felt, would prove tedious to the listeners.

“Now in the era of podcasting, so many radio shows had to completely reconfigure and change their approach to how they did their show because so many more people want to podcast it now as opposed to [listening] to it live, and they want that original content,” Smith explained. “They’re listening to a podcast, and our podcast numbers are great because we’re not repeating ourselves.”

Following a successful first two years broadcasting solely to the Los Angeles marketplace, the program was added to the FOX Sports Radio lineup. While the decision augmented exposure for the program, there were complaints brought forth about its content. The program at its core though is centered on Los Angeles, part of the reason why Smith believes it ultimately did not last at the national level.

“We are this community, and we’re not someone who wants to talk Cowboys; Lakers; Yankees and whatever,” Smith said. “The interesting thing is we still have people that listen from all those markets. We get it all the time because of the iHeartRadio app because they can stream the show live and they can podcast [it].”

Episodes of the show begin with a split-top story, which is presented by one of the hosts and is either an original angle to an existing headline or something entirely new. When it was revealed that Super Bowl LX will be played at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, Smith used the time to reminisce on the last time the game was in the marketplace, doing so in a self-deprecating manner. The second hour leads with a top story, while the third has a flip-top story, all employing similar philosophies of offering original content.

“Maybe we’ll replay an interview from the first hour because it’s so good and it’s the main topic of the day – we’ll give you that – but outside of that, we’re each going to do a story [and] be the driver,” Smith said. “The idea behind it is one of us drives and the other one is along for the ride for each of those.”

There are various ways to appeal to an audience in the moment, such as through a particular interview or topic, but a challenge throughout the industry comes in retaining people’s attention. The goal is to render the show quotidian within the purview of consumption habits, eliciting fervent interest towards the program and what they have to say. Although the media landscape looked different at the time, Smith became more attuned to the audience when he worked at KROQ on the Kevin and Bean morning show.

Although he was still a college student aspiring to become a lawyer or politician, Smith refined his schedule to fit in the morning program role by waking up at 3:30 a.m. every day. He would arrive at the studio by 4:30 a.m. ahead of the show’s first hour at 5 a.m. Five hours later, the show was off the air and he was on the way to Pepperdine University to take his classes so he could earn a degree. Smith also took a job as a valet at the Chart House for four nights a week in order to make ends meet.

“I basically worked and had very little time for play, which was fine,” Smith said. “I still managed to have a good time and enjoy myself, but at the same time I also was busting my ass, and that’s what radio is. You’re going to work.”

During his tenure with the station, Smith received his signature “Money” pseudonym, a moniker with a derivation that remains somewhat ambiguous to this day. Many morning shows at the time had nicknames for on-air personalities, the rationale of which he believes granted him the sobriquet.

Smith also happened to forge a friendship with sports anchor Jimmy Kimmel, who went on to host his eponymous late-night television talk show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, on ABC. Smith has fond memories of Kimmel, who would motivate others to perform at their best and find an entertaining way to deliver sports news. Before his stint in late-night television, Kimmel began hosting The Man Show with Adam Corolla, leading Smith to eventually take over the sports anchor role after the initial hire did not work out.

At the time of the inquiry to return, Smith was working at DreamWorks as a record producer and received permission from his boss to return on the air, figuring that it would be good for business. Smith eventually became the music director of KROQ where he was responsible for various facets of the station while working full time on Kevin and Bean. Approximately three years later, he received a call from the Los Angeles Lakers offering him the role as the team’s pregame and postgame show host on the team’s flagship station, AM 570 LA Sports. The first person he called pertaining to the role was Kimmel to discuss whether he should take the chance.

“We talked for about an hour and he was just like, ‘This is easy. That’s the Lakers,’” Smith recalls Kimmel stating. “‘It’s a premier brand and it’s listened to by such a diverse cross section of people in LA from the most wealthy hedge fund operators to the biggest names in Hollywood to the biggest athletes, so just go get it and remember you’re performing every time you turn on the mic for all those people.’”

In moving to the Lakers role, Smith had to alter his approach to the programming by being more straightforward rather than comedic and irreverent, although he maintained elements of that within his hosting style. The brand equity associated with his “Money” nickname was valuable to the team, explained program director Don Martin, and it is something that continues to be part of his on-air identity to this day. Looking back on it, Smith realizes the postgame show kept elements of his personality alive in the marketplace and where he continued to build an audience.

“I like to think that my postgame show was, above anything else, kind of fun,” Smith said. “I would kind of screw around with the callers, maybe without them realizing I was, and sort of people that listened regularly were in on the joke and it just kind of became a really fun sort of community of people that really enjoyed listening to that postgame show.”

When the Lakers switched flagship stations to ESPN LA 710, Smith shared that he was made to believe the team wanted him to continue in his role on the new outlet. In a decision that he believes many people were surprised about, he opted to remain with AM 570 LA Sports in order to continue co-hosting Petros and Money. Evidently, Smith would rather host the radio program than be on studio coverage surrounding the game.

Although the outlet is in competition with ESPN LA 710 for listenership, it remains focused on the factors it can control and interpreting ratings as a tool for business. According to Smith, Martin realizes that as long as the ratings are good enough that the show can be sold, he is not acutely worried about where the program places compared to others.

“We’ve always had great partnerships with our clients and with the products we endorse and the people that we endorse, and because of that we’ve never had to deal with the ratings game,” Smith said, “so I’m very thankful that Don thinks of it on that level because not enough people do and it [makes] so much more sense to do it that way than figure out what the 2700 people with people meters thought.”

The show has its fair share of recurring guests, including Don MacLean, James Bergener, Orel Hershiser and David Vassegh, all of whom have built rapport and familiarity with the audience. All of these recurring guests have their own jingles before they take the air, further associating them with a distinct sonic identity.

There are several instances where Smith has to host the show remotely because of his play-by-play announcing obligations as the radio voice of the Los Angeles Chargers. Prior to joining the team’s broadcasts on KFI, Smith had deft play-by-play experience working on college basketball, football and NFL games for Compass Media Networks. Additionally, he called games on television for both the Pac-12 Network and the NFL on FOX.

Whereas he previously needed to find an iHeartMedia affiliate to use ISDN lines to connect back to the Los Angeles studio or another studio, Smith is now able to broadcast the program from virtually anywhere. Although he and Papadakis are familiar with their proclivities and the style of the show, Smith knows it is better to broadcast in the studio whenever possible.

The Petros and Money program discuss the Chargers on the air in addition to the other sports teams in the Los Angeles marketplace, but the preparation for the show starkly contrasts that of the game. Smith usually puts in six to 10 hours of work before any given matchup in order to learn about the teams, extrapolate storylines and watch relevant film. Discussing the team on the air and on two podcasts per week also complements this work and allows him to seamlessly include analyst Daniel Jeremiah and reporter Shannon Farren.

“I look at it as you’re a professional play-by-play voice, and treat the game and treat the team and treat the players with respect,” Smith said. “Tell the story of what’s going on in that particular game and do not ever make it about you.”

Even though Smith is responsible for keeping viewers informed without the presence of a visual aid, he makes it a point to implement his colleagues. Jeremiah, a former college quarterback and football scout, provides insightful, esoteric knowledge and opinions on both teams during the course of the contest. Rather than being verbose, Smith emphasizes being succinct and compendious while remaining genuine with the listeners.

“I’m excited to be here – I don’t care what the record is; I don’t care what the score is,” Smith said. “Now if it’s very disappointing, you want to reflect what you think the fan is feeling as well. You don’t want to be feeding them whipped cream on a plate of dirt because of what they’re listening to. We know how passionate fans are, and you only get 17 of these games a year so each one is important.”

Smith wishes that he was still working in television after spending several years broadcasting on NFL Network, initially starting as a fantasy football analyst. During his time with the league-owned media entity, he hosted the NFL Now studio program and also contributed to coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine, NFL Draft and Super Bowl. Even with these responsibilities, he always maintained his commitment to Petros and Money and being a versatile on-air talent. While he is motivated to provide for his family, he also enjoys his work and looks forward to all of his assignments throughout the year.

“People are fun,” Smith said. “Surrounding yourself with great people is a great way to live, and I think if I wasn’t working, I’d probably just drop dead.”

Even though he does not see the program continuing for another two decades, Smith has no plans to leave the Petros and Money. Having the ability and the platform to promulgate his thoughts and creativity to the marketplace is something he does not take for granted, and he displays his appreciation for the fans during the program’s various live remote broadcasts.

Working with Papadakis in addition to longtime engineer Ronnie Facio and producer Tim Cates, the four-person team is keenly focused on providing listeners with captivating and apropos content related to sports in the marketplace and other unrelated subjects. From anchoring a sports segment on a hit morning show to crafting a top-rated afternoon program of his own, Smith has built an ethos with fans as a trusted and genuine voice within and beyond the hills of Hollywood.

“When your name is on the business, it certainly changes a lot,” Smith said. “You have a lot more responsibility, a lot more accountability and certainly you’re now searching because you’re painting the canvas every day,” Smith said. “You’re not handing the paint to the painter and maybe editing a little bit here and there or touching up something here or there. It’s you that’s doing the painting.”

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WWE’s Paul Heyman Joins the 2024 BSM Summit

“I am thrilled to share that on Wednesday March 13th in New York City, we will welcome a man who has experienced every part of the wrestling and entertainment business both on-air and behind the scenes.”

Jason Barrett

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The final few weeks leading up to the BSM Summit are my least favorite time of the entire process. Between last-minute preparations, unexpected changes, laying out a schedule that fits everyone’s schedule, giving speakers direction, and handling the creative for the banners, programs and what appears on the screen, it can be overwhelming. This event isn’t created and produced by a large organization. It’s done by BSM’s small team and a few volunteers. There is no production team. That’s me. There is no sales team. That’s Stephanie. The creative squad that brainstorms ahead of the show? That’s me peppering Dave Greene, Demetri Ravanos and Stephanie Eads with every single thing that pops into my head.

I share this because on Monday I’ll be releasing our full schedule for the 2024 BSM Summit. You’ll find it on BarrettSportsMedia.com/Summit. If you type in BSMSummit.com it will take you to that page. I’m also hoping to announce our final collection of speakers. You guys will like some of the folks coming to speak who we’ve yet to announce.

Booking this event month’s in advance could be easily done. I could execute a radio conference in my sleep. But I’m not interested in easy. I’m focused on delivering a two-day event that unites professionals across the entire media universe, many who you may never share space with again. I believe in this concept because it helps you learn, stay sharp, discover what others do to create success that you may not have thought about, and in the process, you build new connections.

Creating an event that dives into radio, podcasting, social media, newsletters, television, video execution, sales and promotions, the economic climate, and programming strategy, requires thinking outside the box and swinging for the fences. Think about it. Where else are you going to hear the CEO of a radio company one minute, two local sports talk show hosts the next, four digital executives after that, four social media superstars once they’re done, and cap it all off with discussions about business, entertainment, and the future? It may not be perfect or rolled out the way a few would prefer but it works for us. By the time we hit the stage on March 13-14, that’s when the six months of hard work pay off and the fun begins.

Speaking of fun, if you’ve been to a Summit before, you’ve heard me connect the world of sports media to professional wrestling. The battle for audience attention, understanding how to leverage social media, incorporate advertising, create interest in on-air talent, and design programming to capture ratings are something the two world’s have in common. We’ve been fortunate to have Shawn Michaels and Eric Bischoff speak at prior shows but never have we had a speaker involved who’d be part of the upcoming main event for WrestleMania.

I am thrilled to share that on Wednesday March 13th in New York City, we will welcome a man who has experienced every part of the wrestling and entertainment business both on-air and behind the scenes. It is an honor to have the great Paul Heyman joining us at this year’s Summit.

If you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Heyman, here’s the cliff notes version of what you need to know. Currently, Paul serves as the special counsel for WWE Universal Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns. Reigns has been world champion for 1269 days, and the storyline he’s involved in (The Bloodline) has been a massive hit on television and digital for the WWE. Roman will be competing in the main event at the WWE’s largest show of the year, WrestleMania with Heyman in his corner. The event has become so big that The Rock has returned to become part of the story.

As an on-air character, Heyman is gifted in his ability to command the audience’s attention. His promos are always well thought out, well executed, and interesting. Learning about his process as a talent and what goes into creating a compelling monologue is going to be a real treat for on-air folks in the room.

In addition, Paul is an accomplished writer, executive, promoter and booker. He’s served as the lead writer for both WWE RAW and Smackdown, leading both to the top of the ratings charts. He’s also been on the other side as the leader of an underdog promotion (ECW) tasked with building a brand and competing against the top dog, WWE. Paul is also well versed in advertising having co-founded the Looking4Larry Agency, which is known for its wildly imaginative campaigns for 2K Sports, NASCAR, Smart Cups, Monster Trucks, EA Sports and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas.

Talent have praised his creative ideas and ability to design and structure compelling television. Audiences have emotionally connected to his on-air commentaries, and on Wednesday March 13th, BSM Summit attendees will learn what it takes to create, cut through, and command the room’s attention when I sit down with Paul Heyman for an in-depth conversation.

A reminder, tickets for the 2024 BSM Summit are on-sale through BSMSummit.com and the BSM Store. Prices will increase on March 4th so act now and save money before it’s too late. I hope to see you in NYC in three weeks.

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Sports Broadcasts Should Remain Political-Free Zones

There’s a time and place for opinions on other things, but during a game isn’t that time or place. Be smart and think before you speak.

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A cartoon depicting political candidates talking sports
Credit: Maia Lathrop / Clarion

Political thoughts and ads are everywhere. It seems like everything these days is politicized. Sports hasn’t escaped either. Athletes take stands, some commentators have made their political positions well known too.

In this case, politics is more of a catch-all term. It doesn’t just mean Democrat or Republican, it can mean making a comment on any hot button issue in America or anywhere else. Controversies that create a public stir. We’ve had a few over the course of the last few weeks that drummed up lots of emotion and certainly could have been avoided.

The most recent example took place last weekend at the NBA All-Star Saturday on TNT. As I’m sure you know by now, Kenny Smith had some things to say about the Steph Curry/Sabrina Ionescu 3-point shootout. Such choice things as, “She should have shot it from the women’s line, that would have been a fair contest.” Ionescu more than held her own, with 26 points which would have qualified her for the men’s finals in the event. Smith’s partner Reggie Miller didn’t make things much better, when he chimed in, “According to you, you want her to be playing with dolls.” Smith’s response: “Playing with dolls is good, too.” The fallout was swift thanks to social media.

Smith went on to Stephen A. Smith’s ESPN show earlier in the week to defend his commentary. “I think it’s much ado about nothing, honestly,” Smith said, when asked about the controversy. “Most people who know basketball understood what I was talking about. Actually, I was advocating for her, more than anything else, because basketball is muscle memory. So, he practices from one range, she practices from another.” Smith further explained, “Most people just don’t check the tape, they want to just check the bait. My history and track record speaks for itself,” Smith said. “I was clueless why people thought I didn’t want equality.”

Can. Worms. Opened. I get it, social media can make things appear one way when they are intended in another. My question to Smith and Miller, why make the commentary at all in that moment? Ionescu is a terrific basketball player and shooter. Everybody knew the rules going into the exhibition, so why make a stink about it? Or, if the need outweighs the caution, how about putting some notes down on paper so that you aren’t taken out of context? There are ways to make the commentary smoother. It’s not like the event was a surprise.

Talk shows fall into a different light. That’s all about opinion and it is likely up to each individual to understand how far to push it. Hosts should know their markets and from there can figure out what may or may not work. Topics like these generally lead to more fan engagement, because everyone has an opinion. It’s up to the host or hosts to keep the topic ‘on the rails’ or it becomes a free for all.

When it comes to announcers, hosts and reporters in the industry, mistakes can happen. I get that. It’s live and sometimes thoughts can go awry. We’ve seen it countless times. My question is this, why even go there? What is the benefit? Some like to try and make a name for themselves, to be controversial just for the sake of “look at me” or “listen to me” and trying to make headlines. That’s kind of sad to me. There is more to lose than to gain in these cases.

We’ve seen cases of misspeaking and/or controversial ‘hot button’ statements made on air that have proven costly to livelihoods. One of the more recent moments took place in May 2023. Glen Kuiper and the A’s were in Kansas City and had visited the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum earlier in the day. He was discussing the visit on air when he dropped the n-word. His claim was that his pronunciation of “negro” was misheard. After an investigation, he was fired. Kuiper was one of the best local television announcers.

Before that Reds announcer Thom Brennaman was caught on a hot mic, making a homophobic remark. Brennaman was pulled from the broadcast mid-game and suspended. The Reds later told Brennaman that he would not be returning, which prompted his resignation. To his credit Brennaman owned it and is trying to improve himself as a person. He’s been forgiven by the LGBTQ+ community in Cincinnati, after he attended several meetings with leaders. They weren’t easy as he told me a couple of years ago, but he made the extreme effort.

If there’s one entity in sports broadcasting that needs to stay out of the fray, and be ‘politic proof’ it’s the sports broadcast and telecast. The booth needs to remain pure. It needs to be a sanctuary for fans and broadcasters alike. There aren’t many fans that are tuning into a baseball, basketball, football or hockey broadcast to learn about your opinions about anything else but the game. Fans look to escape that when listening to or watching a game. Sports is the place we go to forget about the real world for 3-4 hours at a time.

We all have opinions about things in the sport and out of it. Opinions about the game you are broadcasting is what you’re there for, right? For example, I can’t stand the ‘ghost runner’ at 2nd base in extra innings in Major League Baseball. It’s gimmicky and takes away from the way the game was meant to be played. Me expressing that opinion as the game heads to extras is appropriate, as long as you don’t lose track of the game. My thoughts on the Presidential race or a Senate race is inconsequential in the scope of my baseball broadcast. Be engaging to your audience about things they care about in the moment, the game.

I hate when people tell us in the industry to “stick to sports”. Nothing grates on me more. I keep thinking, oh, because I talk about sports, that’s all I know? So, all that doctors know about is medicine then, right? It’s a simple-minded criticism, but I have to say, in these cases, in a booth, we should stick to the sports aspect of things.  There’s a time and place for opinions on other things, but during a game isn’t that time or place. Be smart and think before you speak.

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Jeff Rickard Understands The Benefits of Attending the BSM Summit

“Over the past five or six years, the industry has been growing up a lot.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Jeff Rickard is one of the truly familiar faces of the BSM Summit. He’s not involved in the planning or with the company, but it’s an event he never misses.

“It went from a small group in Chicago the first year to recognition from everyone in our industry, and there’s a lot to be gained when we all get together from different markets and cities,” said Rickard of the event’s growth. “We’re not competing against each other. Instead, we’re there to bring each other ideas, lift each other up, and give each other not just support necessarily, but different ways of looking at and doing things. It allows you to kind of take some energy from another building and bring it back to your own.”

Since the BSM Summit first launched as an invite-only event, Rickard has held jobs in Indianapolis, Boston and Charlotte. In fact, it was at the 2022 Summit in New York where he had his first meeting that would lead to him taking the reins at WFNZ.

Different jobs have come with different situations. Rickard has been able to talk with fellow attendees about translators, transitions to FM, and building digital strategies. He appreciates the networking opportunities that exist at the Summit, but the access to new points of view have helped him grow as a programmer.

“Over the past five or six years, the industry has been growing up a lot,” he says. “In the last, I don’t know, three to four years, I think BSM has helped that along the way.”

The “radio is dying” narrative is a popular one. We can pretend that it only exists outside of our industry, but how many of us know someone very much inside the industry that exclusively speaks the language of doom and gloom when asked about future goals and plans? 

Rickard says that coming to the Summit is a necessity for anyone stuck in or around that mindset. Radio may not be as popular as ubiquitous as it used to be, but there is still enthusiasm for sports radio. That is something to feed off of!

“Local sports radio, if done right, will always attract an audience, because [listeners] can go to Sirius XM and they can go to ESPN and they can get the main stories of the day, and they can talk about the Chiefs winning another Super Bowl, and they can talk about if the Golden State Warriors being past their prime,” he says. “That’s all great, but if you’re in Indianapolis or Charlotte and you want to hear about respectively the Pacers or the Hornets, you know that we’re going to be talking about them. I think we’ve learned about the things that our local audience is going to want.”

Lessons Rickard has learned at past BSM Summits have had a major impact in Charlotte. WFNZ’s cume isn’t just up since he arrived. It has nearly quadrupled. 

According to Rickard, that is the result of valuing all perspectives. He’s a programmer, but that doesn’t mean he is only paying attention to sessions featuring other programmers. He also isn’t focused only on executives that could offer him the next opportunity. Rickard encourages any programmer that attends the BSM Summit to come and take notes when talent from other markets are on stage. 

“You have to realize that they’re not on a level below you. They are in large part you’re partners,” he says. “I always enjoy listening to guys that are highly successful, at those summits, talk about what motivates them, what they’re thinking about, how they go ahead and put a show together. There’s a reason we hire those talented people because they’re really good at what they do. They’re really good at attracting an audience, and they’re better at holding that audience. That’s why they’re speaking at a conference like BSM.”

Day-to-day operations are always on the minds of the people that attend the BSM Summit. When Jeff Rickard comes to New York next month though, he wants to hear conversations about the bigger picture. Whether it is from the stage or at networking events, he wants to be part of the conversations that are fundamental to the future of radio as a medium and broadcasting as a business. The one at the forefront of his mind? Audience measurement.

“We’ve been dealing with Nielsen for a long time,” he says. “There’s good, there’s bad. We all understand the system and how it works. But with so many of our listeners coming to us now through an app or coming to us by downloading what we’re doing online, they’re coming to us straight to the website. We’re starting to be able to kind of pick and choose our own numbers. We can see with certain day parts and certain guests or certain topics that, ‘wow, a lot of people checked into the app at that particular time.’ 

“So I think moving forward, the biggest thing for our industry is how do we continue to more accurately assess who our audience is and what’s really happening there on a moment to moment basis. I think we’re getting better every year, but I’m curious to see what the industry believes is the future for the next ten years, because I don’t think we’re using it now.” 

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