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The Face of Your Audience: Why Perception Isn’t Always Reality

Jason Barrett




In 2013, Arbitron conducted a study on radio listening which showed that over 92% of American’s over the age of twelve listen to the radio each week. Over 10,000 stations were tested as part of this project, with 1274 of them being listed as sports talk operators.

What really stood out on a positive note in the research was how the format itself was responsible for delivering the best educated and the highest income earning listeners among the top 22 formats. Given that we’re all in business to make money, this is certainly not a bad thing. Where it is however an issue is when it comes to the perception of your audience among the people in your building.

“Humans see what they want to see” 
― Rick RiordanThe Lightning Thief

In most cases, sales folks are treated to some advanced information and the good ones use it to their benefit when dealing with local advertisers and national agencies.

That said, even the work horses in your building who are fighting each day to generate revenue don’t have a visual perception of who the target audience is because most of the time they’re creating presentations, making phone calls to secure dollars or dealing with their sales manager and a pain in the ass Program Director who they’re convinced is only in the building to make their lives more difficult.

Sellers are typically working off of data and selling points from managers, not the feedback that comes from your audience through social media, text lines, callers and on-site appearances. They don’t see, hear and experience your audience as often as those on the programming end do but then again, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing and here’s why.

If you venture down to the programming end, you get a completely opposite picture painted for who your listeners are. While sellers may see data which shows a smarter and more sophisticated listener, in the mind of most hosts, producers and programmers, your listener is sitting in his basement, playing fantasy football, has a low paying job and he listens to your station for 8-10 hours a day.

Ok maybe that sounds brash and isn’t a reflection of how every programming person thinks but trust me, many do see it that way and it’s not accurate.

Let’s face it, today you can see people and who they are and what they do via their Twitter and Facebook profiles so instantly a perception is created in the mind of the personality once they receive some form of feedback. Secondly, if the studio receives ten texts from the same phone number during the course of a talk show then the immediate thinking is “he can’t have much of a life or a job if he’s bugging us this much“.

The need of a talk show host (and those who work on a program) is to feel that the audience is invested in the content that’s been created so when real people provide some type of engagement to the show, it confirms that the path that’s been taken is the right one for the show. That validation courtesy of a response provides fuel to keep moving the show forward except we often lose sight that those who we see, hear and connect with are not the majority of the audience who are consuming our product.

In various markets the numbers are different so feel free to adjust accordingly with where you’re based but in most cases, 85-95% of the audience DOES NOT call into the radio station. With social media exploding the way it has over the past 10 years I expect the numbers for engagement are up but even if they blossomed to 25% of people talking back to the radio station, that would still mean that 75% of your audience doesn’t speak to you.

We operate in a world where instant validation of our opinion is necessary for our own ego so it’s hard to fathom that 3/4 of the listening audience wouldn’t think to connect with us. Yet they do and that’s where the misconception lies. People who listen to you buy tickets to support your local teams, they buy products they’ve heard about during commercial breaks on your radio station and they have conversations each day with their friends, family and co-workers about things you talked about – they’re just not telling you about it.

Think about it for a minute. How could the sports talk radio format be measured and come back with results that show it to deliver the best educated and highest earning listeners if the sample of evidence was the irrational caller in your market who calls up each week to suggest trading three reserves for Mike Trout or that one lunatic on social media who’s only mission in life is to tell you how every hour of every day how bad you are?

The reason why the intelligence and income levels are higher are because the lawyer who’s listening for 45 minutes while on his way into the office isn’t telling you he does. Neither is the Fed Ex driver who considers you his companion while making deliveries throughout your region. Nor is the local police officers who are driving around listening while trying to keep your streets safe. And it’s certainly not going to be conveyed to you from the high ranking executives in your backyard, including the power players inside of your local professional sports teams.

In all of the professions above (and there are many more), the consumer is focused simply on listening and enjoying the experience, not feeling obligated to participate. Sure it’s a great feeling when we form a connection with a listener because it means our content presentation moved them enough to want to respond but not hearing from them doesn’t mean they don’t exist and aren’t engaged in what we do.

Think about yourself for a second. Most of you have some type of TV show you watch on a regular basis and when it’s over you discuss it with your family, friends or co-workers or you post about it on a social page for your followers to respond to. How many times though did you call, email, tweet or facebook a response to NBC, FOX, ESPN, ABC, etc?

Heck, the Super Bowl is the most watched sporting event of the year and the next day every single radio and TV outlet spends considerable time discussing which commercials worked and which one’s didn’t however we don’t go to work that next day and tell ourselves that we better alert Budweiser, Go Daddy or Geico of what we thought of their new creative campaigns.

Once again, consumption, awareness, mental connection and emotional investment in the product may exist even if the public communication does not.

The reality in this line of work is that you will always be relevant to many more people then you ever thought possible so don’t make the mistake of assuming that the reflection of your audience is what you see and hear through public reaction.

Most people will not consume every segment of your show and in most cases they’re not even listening to you every day. When they put on their radio, they’re hoping to mentally escape into your content and be entertained. As Billy Joel once sang in the hit song “Piano Man”, “He knows it’s me they’ve been coming to see to forget about life for a while“.

In a nutshell, that’s our job at the end of the day. We’re the voice on the radio that’s supposed to take people through a mixture of emotions on their journey to and from work. Whether it’s joy, anger, comfort, confusion or something else is to be decided upon by each individual. We become a part of their world and the only bad part is that we may never know it. Then again judging by our own perceptions, maybe that’s not so bad!


  • Identify the age of your target listener in your key demographic
  • Use your data to better understand what type of income level they’re at
  • Make a list of things that appeal to most men in this age/income bracket
  • Position your content/imaging/engagement strategy in line with your target listener
  • Give this listener a face & name & put it on display in your office/studio for all to see

Barrett Blogs

Jeff Catlin, John Mamola, Gordy Rush & Maggie Clifton Join The 2023 BSM Summit Lineup

Jason Barrett




We’re less than two months away from the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles. This year’s conference takes place on March 21-22, 2023 at the Founders Room inside of the Galen Center at USC. Many industry professionals are set to attend but sports media folks tend to be a last minute crowd whether it’s buying a ticket, reserving a room or committing to be a sponsor. Yes, tickets, rooms, and a select few sponsorships are still available, but the longer you wait, the more you risk not being in the room, featured as a partner, and paying higher prices for travel. To make sure you have a seat and a place to stay, log on to For sponsorship inquiries, email Stephanie at

I am really excited about this year’s Summit. The venue is tremendous, the agenda is coming together nicely, and there’s no doubt we’ll have great weather when we gather in LA. Some have asked me why I don’t reveal the full schedule of sessions months in advance, and it’s because I believe in swinging for the fences and trying to do big things. To do that, you’ve got to be willing to invest time and explore every opportunity that can be impactful. It’d be much easier to fill the schedule and be done with everything but if it’s going to take a little longer to deliver the best speakers, discussions and experiences for all in the room, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Those involved in the creation of this conference know that I set a very high standard for it. We’ve run some great events over the years, and it’s because we put everything we have into making sure each session is valuable to a different segment of the industry. My goal each year is to present an action packed agenda that helps people learn, gain access to information to improve themselves and/or their brands, and create a few connections and memorable moments to justify it being worth a few days away out of the office or studio. If we can do that, it makes the sacrifices worthwhile. If we can’t execute at a high level, then I’d probably pass on doing it.

Before I tell you about the four people we’re adding to our speaker lineup, I do want to remind you that we recently announced a contest for California college students. We’re giving away ten (10) FREE tickets to the show courtesy of Steve Kamer Voiceovers. If you know a student in California please let them know about this. If they’re not in California but want to attend the event, we’ve created a special college rate to make it affordable for young people. Everything is listed on

Now, for the new additions to the lineup.

I’m excited to welcome Jeff Catlin of The Ticket in Dallas to the Summit. This will be Jeff’s first Summit visit, and I appreciate him making time to share his programming wisdom with the rest of the room. Jeff will be part of a programming panel that kicks off day #2. That panel will include Jimmy Powers of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Raj Sharan of Denver’s Sports Station 104.3 The Fan, and our next addition, John Mamola of WDAE. John has been at all of our events dating back to our first test event in Chicago. I’m looking forward to giving him an opportunity to offer his programming insights alongside this talented group.

Also joining the Summit lineup is Maggie Clifton, Blue Wire’s Senior Vice President of Business Development. Maggie has played a vital role in growing Blue Wire’s revenue, and I’m looking forward to having her join Barstool Sports’ SVP, Head of Sales Matt Berger, and Magellan AI’s Chief Revenue Officer John Goforth on a panel that focuses on digital monetization.

Guiding that conversation will be Guaranty Media’s Gordy Rush. The Baton Rouge Vice President and General Manager who doubles as LSU’s sideline reporter on football broadcasts is well versed in monetizing content, and understanding the opportunities and challenges broadcasters face. I’m confident those in the room charged with maximizing digital revenue for their brands will gain great value from these four professionals.

There’s much more in the works that I’m looking forward to announcing in the coming weeks. Whether you own a company, manage a cluster as a GM, lead a sales team, host or produce a podcast or radio/TV show, buy advertising, oversee a brand’s social media strategy or program a network or local outlet, there’s something for every sports media professional at the BSM Summit. I invite you to come see for yourself. To do so, visit

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Barrett Blogs

Jimmy Powers to Receive The Mark Chernoff Award at the 2023 BSM Summit

“Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award.”

Jason Barrett




As a former programmer turned consultant, I pay more attention than most to those who lead brands, manage talent, and create consistent success. When you look across the country at the hundreds of stations delivering sports radio content, and analyze who operates at a high level, there’s maybe ten to twenty who are changing the game, and others who are rising and hoping to become a bigger part of the conversation.

What makes this annual award special in addition to having Mark Chernoff’s name on it, is that it’s voted on by eighteen industry heavyweights. These are folks tasked with overseeing radio companies, major networks, and having exceptional track records of broadcasting success. So when they vote and an individual earns an honor, it means a little more.

If you’re in the business and follow sports radio, then you’re aware of Mark Chernoff’s accomplishments as a program director. He was one of the true architects and consistent winners, and his ability to excel as a sports radio manager has influenced and shaped many careers. Mark graciously agreed to be part of our awards ceremony a few years ago when I approached him with the idea in New York City. I’m thrilled to share that although he doesn’t attend many industry conferences on the west coast, he will be with us at the 2023 BSM Summit in Los Angeles for the ceremony.

Which brings me to this year’s winner.

It is my honor to congratulate the leader of 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit, Jimmy Powers. Jimmy received the most votes from our industry panel to become our third recipient of the Mark Chernoff Award. He follows Rick Radzik of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, and Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score in Chicago. Jimmy will be in attendance at the Summit to pick up the award, and will take part in a program director panel at the show. Further details on that to be shared next week.

“It’s such a great honor not only to be mentioned in the same breath with Mark Chernoff, but to receive the ‘Mark Chernoff Award’ is really, really cool” shared 97.1 The Ticket Program Director Jimmy Powers. “With so many great program directors across the country who are deserving of this award, I truly appreciate the recognition.”

Since late 2009, Powers has led the Detroit sports radio station to unmatched local success. Brought in to build upon what was created by the late great Tom Bigby, he’s helped The Ticket become one of the format’s best examples of success. The station has consistently dominated the Male 25-54 demo, while also becoming a ratings force with Persons 12+ and Adults 25-54.

“Jimmy has done an amazing job over the years running 97.1 the Ticket,” said legendary sports radio programmer Mark Chernoff. “He knows how to work with talent, and maintain balance while managing relationships with the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons, which is not an easy job. The ratings remain high, and the Ticket continues to be one of America’s top sports stations, which reflects the great work Jimmy has done as the station’s program director.”

In addition to delivering double digit shares, quarterly ratings wins, and presenting a star studded lineup and Michigan’s top sports franchises, The Ticket has taken home plenty of hardware too. The station has won the Marconi award for best sports station in 2016 and 2022. And now, they can add the 2023 Mark Chernoff Award to their trophy case.

“2022 was another big year for The Ticket, and many in Detroit deserve credit for the brand’s consistent success, but none more so than their exceptional brand leader, Jimmy Powers,” added BSM President Jason Barrett. “Jimmy has been a staple of consistency, guiding one of the crown jewels of sports radio, managing top personalities, important play by play partnerships, and helping the brand generate large revenues. I’m thrilled that our industry voters took notice of the fantastic work Jimmy has done and look forward to celebrating his career and accomplishments in Los Angeles this March.”

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Barrett Blogs

California College Students Earn Chance to Win 10 Free Tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit Thanks to Steve Kamer Voiceovers

“In order to win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event.”

Jason Barrett




With a new year comes renewed energy and optimism for the sports media business. Yours truly is looking forward to showcasing the best our business has to offer when we gather the industry in Los Angeles, CA at the 2023 BSM Summit at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California on March 21-22, 2023. Our conference is returning to the west coast for the first time since 2019. We’ve announced some super talented speakers. We’ve got additional things in the works and I plan to make additional announcements in the next few weeks.

People often ask me what the biggest challenge is putting this event together. My answer is always the same, it’s getting people to leave the comfort of their office and spend two days in a room together learning and discussing ways to grow the business. We have great sponsorship support and exceptional people on stage and are fortunate to have a lot of folks already set to attend. Our venue this year has extra space though, so I’m hoping a few more of you make time to join us. If you haven’t bought a ticket or reserved your hotel room, visit to make sure you’re all set.

If there’s one thing our industry could get better at it’s opening our minds to new ideas and information. There’s more than one path to success. Just because you’re in good shape today doesn’t mean you will be tomorrow. Building brands, growing audiences, increasing revenue, and examining new opportunities is an ongoing process. There are many shifts along the way. We may not solve every business challenge during our two-days together but you’ll leave the room more connected and informed than when you entered it.

Each year I’ll get two or three emails from folks sharing that they learned more about the industry in two-days at the Summit than they have in ___ years inside of their building. That’s truly gratifying and what I strive to achieve when I put this event together. I remember when conferences like this didn’t exist for format folks and I take the risk and invest the time and resources to create it because I love the sports media industry and believe I can help it thrive. I see great value in gathering professionals to share ideas, information, and meet others who can help them grow their business, and if we do our part, I’m confident some will want to work with us too. That’s how we benefit over the long haul.

But as much as I focus on serving the professional crowd, I also think we have a responsibility to educate young people who are interested, passionate, and taking steps to be a part of our business in the future. The BSM website is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each month and it’s become a valuable resource for folks who enjoy sports radio and television. I think it’s vital to use our platform, influence and two-day event to connect generations and I’m happy to announce that we will once again welcome college students at this year’s Summit.

Most of us who’ve been in this line of work for two or three decades learned the business without podcasts, YouTube, social media, the web or conferences delivering two full days of sessions that taught you more about the business than what’s available inside of a class room. We learned by doing, and hoping we were right. Then we copied others who had success. Some of that still exists, and that’s not a bad thing. But where our business goes in the future is going to be drastically different.

I’d like to see the difference makers in our format remembered for years to come, and practices that have stood the test of time remain valued down the line. Change is inevitable in every business and I’m excited about the road that lies ahead especially some of the technological advancements that are now available or will soon become a bigger part of our industry. I think we can embrace the future while enjoying the present and celebrating the past. The best way to do that is by bringing together everyone who is and is hoping to be a part of the sports media universe.

So here’s two things we’re doing to make sure future broadcasters have an opportunity to learn with us.

First, I want to send a HUGE thank you to Steve Kamer Voiceovers. Thanks to Steve’s generosity, TEN (10) college students will be given FREE tickets to attend the 2023 BSM Summit in March. Steve is a USC graduate (Class of 1985) and he bought the ten tickets to help young people learn about the industry, save money and make valuable connections. When I first received his order, I thought he hit the wrong button. I reached out to tell him a mistake was made and I needed to refund him. That’s when he told me what he wanted to do for students who were pursuing their broadcasting dreams just as we both did years ago. A very classy gesture on his part.

As it pertains to the contest, here’s how it’s going to work.

To win tickets to attend the Summit, students must submit a 2-minute video by email to explaining why they’d like to be in attendance and what they hope to learn at the event. Included in your email should be a list of steps that you’ve taken or are pursuing to explore opportunities in the media industry. If you want to pass along a resume and audio or video clips too to showcase your work and experience, that’s fine as well. BSM will accept submissions until February 17th. The winners will be announced on Friday February 24th.

Helping me select the winners will be an exceptional panel of media executives. Each of these folks below will choose one person to attend our L.A. event. The final two will be picked by Steve Kamer and myself.

  • Scott Shapiro – Senior Vice President, FOX Sports Radio
  • Justin Craig – Senior Program Director, ESPN Radio
  • Jeff Sottolano – Executive Vice President, Programming, Audacy
  • Bruce Gilbert – Senior Vice President of Sports, Cumulus Media & Westwood One
  • Amanda Gifford – Vice President, Content Strategy & Audio, ESPN
  • Jacob Ullman – Senior Vice President, Production and Talent Development, FOX Sports
  • Greg Strassell – Senior Vice President, Programming, Hubbard Radio
  • Scott Sutherland – Executive Vice President, Bonneville International

To qualify for the BSM Summit College Contest, students must be enrolled in college in the state of California, pursuing a degree that involves course work either in radio, television, print or the digital business. Those attending local trade schools with a focus on broadcasting are also welcome to participate. You must be able to take care of your own transportation and/or lodging.

This is a contest I enjoy running. We’ve had great participation during our prior two shows in New York City but haven’t done it before on the west coast. I’m hoping it’s helpful to California students and look forward to hearing from many of them during the next month.

For students who live out of state and wish to attend or those enrolled at local universities who enter the contest but aren’t lucky enough to win one of the ten free tickets from Steve Kamer Voiceovers, we are introducing a special two-day college ticket for just $124.99. You must provide proof that you’re currently in school to take advantage of the offer. This ticket gives you access to all of our sessions inside the Founders Club. College tickets will be limited to forty (40) seats so take advantage of the opportunity before it expires.

The 2023 BSM Summit will feature award ceremonies with Emmis Communication CEO Jeff Smulyan and legendary WFAN program director Mark Chernoff, sessions with influential on-air talent such as Colin Cowherd, Jim Rome, Joy Taylor, and Mina Kimes, big picture business conversations with executives from groups such as Audacy, iHeart, Bonneville, Good Karma Brands, Barstool, The Volume, Omaha Productions and more. For details on tickets and hotel rooms visit

I look forward to seeing you in March in Los Angeles!

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