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Anti-Social Vs. Socially Consumed: Which One Are You?

Jason Barrett

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It’s safe to say that there’s been a social media explosion over the past 10 years and chances are you’ve caught the bug. Each day we wake up and check our Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds before we even look at a website, listen to a radio station, watch a TV channel or god forbid open a newspaper (I actually know some people who still do it). This is a way of life for us and our listeners and given how many platforms launch and succeed each year, it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

If you scan the country today, you’ll find tons of sports radio personalities who are passionately engaged in these forums and take the responsibility of connecting very seriously. To list a few examples, Damon Bruce & John Middlekauff at 95.7 The Game-SF, Chad Doing at 750 The Game-Portland, Shan Shariff at 104.3 The Fan-Dallas and Chad Dukes & Grant Paulssen at 106.7 The Fan-Washington DC are just some of the on-air hosts who do a great job in this space.

johnkincadeI’ll also catch guys like John Kincade at 680 The Fan-Atlanta, Bob Fescoe at 610 Sports-KC and Freddie Coleman at ESPN Radio use their Twitter feeds to drive radio teases and content tune-ins on their shows and I think that’s very smart. It certainly makes you wonder what they’re talking about and creates an urgency to want to click the station’s app button on your phone and hear what’s going on.

While there’s no denying the importance social media plays in our daily lives, there is some debate in the sports talk radio universe of how heavily invested we should be in it. While that may seem crazy to some of you, there’s some good reasoning offered on the other side to make for a great discussion.

Case in point, Mike Francesa of WFAN in New York has talked openly for the past few years about his lack of interest in it. Mike admits that he doesn’t have a Twitter or Facebook account and has no plans to adjust. He also doesn’t think athletes should be using the forum. There are plenty of other established major market personalities who share similar views.

Now some of you will dismiss that and say “he’s behind the times” or “he doesn’t get it” and maybe there’s some validity to that point of view but there’s equal value to the point he raises about giving things away for free in too many places and not making your radio show a unique one of a kind destination.

twitterLet’s face it, in the ratings world today it’s likely that a user with a PPM meter has a Facebook account. Maybe even a Twitter account. One could say that being active in both of these locations gives you a better chance to form a loyal bond with the individual which then makes them want to consume your show more.

The other side of that equation is that because the individual with a meter already knows what you think and has seen you interacting with everyone about it online, there’s no specific need now to tune into your radio show. It may seem far fetched but can you be so sure that isn’t accurate?

I myself have a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn account and I believe there is great value in being accessible, connecting with people and staying involved in what the latest trends are but I do know that each medium has the ability to infect you like a virus and keep you so busy that you lose focus and decrease your own productivity.

Once you start letting the feedback consume you and ultimately influence you, you’re likely to hate it. That’s where social media can be really dangerous. I have watched hosts change segments based on a few tweets and I’ve seen them also spend hours going back and forth with 2-3 people who have no interest in having a good healthy discussion and are only interested in getting under their skin.

stltodayI can recall in 2006 moving to St. Louis to program 590 The Fan, KFNS and before Twitter/Facebook became the powerful outlets for feedback that they are today, message boards were the popular thing. I was new to town and unfamiliar with them so I figured I’d better get up to speed since every host, producer and employee seemed consumed by one of my former colleagues Bernie Miklasz’s “Bernie’s Press Box” in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Well before I knew it I found myself reading the board daily, hearing my staff talk about stuff from it and letting it influence their opinions. At one point I started to even question my own beliefs because I was working for a place which had made some bad decisions and the reaction to what I was involved in was strong and I felt I needed to be aware.

I finally woke up one day and thought to myself “what the hell am I doing“? While I couldn’t fix every single issue with the company, I knew I had to detach myself from that outlet because it was now causing me to not do what I was good at which was trust my gut.

Today, I use Twitter and I do engage at times with listeners and I’ve even been known to conduct special chat sessions or use the social media world for surveys and soliciting focus group participants. What I make sure not to do these days though is let it impact the way I think about my brand, my staff and any decision I make.

Jason on the mic in TorontoFor talent, that challenge is much harder. When you’re on a microphone communicating your position on every single sports topic, it’s going to lead to reaction. I’m a PD so I don’t have to endure the wrath of a half of a market when I speak my opinion about a sports topic but as a personality it comes with the territory. While I think it’s great to know that your words do connect with people, I think it’s equally wise to remember that a strong well informed opinion on a subject that has value to local people should create a response every single time! If you’re not creating a reaction then you’re likely just background noise.

The real key for on-air personalities is trying to strike a balance between being active and accessible yet not giving away the farm for free. People love to see you online during a game talking about it with them and you want to be able to provide some color on the game but saving the good stuff needs to factor into your thinking if you want to keep people interested and adjusting schedules to catch your show.

I do believe that the future of media personalities requires you to be much more than a radio host. In the future (and present) companies are going to expect you to be able to do a radio show, video commentary, write a blog, engage on social media, sell products, appear in the community and get out to games and build relationships with teams and fans.

moneyballSome will bitch and moan “that’s a lot of work” or “it wasn’t like that back in the day” and much like with everything else in life, change happens. If I recall correctly, in the movie “Moneyball” Brad Pitt said it best “Adapt or Die“.

Ask someone in local television today who shoots their own video and does their own stand ups. Sure some will say “this is ridiculous” and “it wasn’t like this before” but the media industry will move on just fine without those who adapt and the list of people interested in this line of work will only increase.

The next part I want to touch on is the value or lack thereof of following people back and blocking them. Unless someone starts firing personal attacks or provides little benefit to me to engage with them, I usually refrain from blocking people. Once again though, I’m a PD and not an on-air personality. Some of the things that get sent to personalities today would make you sick to your stomach. I’ve seen it occur in multiple markets where things that were sent in were so over the line and being done so frequently that there could be grounds for an arrest for harassment.

twitterblockedNone the less, as a personality you’re in a no-win situation. Your opinions drive reactions and people will always have different viewpoints on everything you say and you’re in the public spotlight so the second you begin engaging in a confrontational way, it consumes your mind day/night and in most cases it just fuels the fire of people who’s sole purpose is to get under your skin. And if you react and take it too far? It could cost you your job.

If you follow Keith Olbermann on Twitter you’ll see that he doesn’t hide from the negativity and at times he even welcomes it. While I don’t see a lot of benefit for KO in getting into twitter battles with viewers, I will say that I find his jabs very entertaining. In some ways I’m glad he does it because too many personalities get verbally abused and are then expected to not stand up for themselves.

The only areas of concern for me are “what is really being gained from it” and “is it worth it if a line gets crossed and some corporate executive or key client gets offended“? Let’s face it, we’re in a very sensitive world today and people presume you guilty a lot faster than they consider you innocent. That said, Olbermann’s responses are hysterical.

. I’ve had jobs for 35 years, little one. You have a twitter account. And not much of that.

While KO has his approach, Jay Mohr has a very different approach. I read an interview with him (click here) where he discussed his views on social media and what blew me away was when he talked about his strategy on positive and negative reactions.

jaymohrHis exact quote was “The golden rule of Twitter is you cannot ever respond to somebody saying something negative to you. It took me a good three years to learn that, and, even still, I’ll start to type something and be a sentence or two in before I realize, What am I doing? Why am I answering this person? I’ve blocked about 3,000 people. I’ve made Twitter this ivory tower of Babel where people only say nice things about me.”

Here’s Jay, a popular public figure doing a daily show and expected to be accessible and yet he’s shutting down future communications with more than 3,000 people. Is that really wrong though? For his own peace of mind I bet he’s much happier opening his twitter account each day and not dealing with a ton of negativity. That probably puts him in a better frame of mind to be creative and do a great show and if he’s blocking people who don’t enjoy what he does anyway, are they really the fans who you want to focus your energy on anyway?

You can also make the case that by only promoting the positive, it creates the illusion that everyone likes Jay and his show and that can often create a domino effect where others feel like they need to start getting familiar with what’s happening on the show so they don’t feel left out. That’s one of the simple rules of marketing, say something enough times and people will start repeating it.

If you take it one step further, look at brands in general. Some feel strongly about following back listeners and some don’t. Some will post station only content benefits and some will respond to listeners messages. As a good brand example, I personally think the airline industry does a great job of responding to their customers. They’re very timely and often witty and I’m sure they see great value in it.

Get hurt. Try to fly back home and mechanical issues. Awesome.

 

Our apologies for the delay, Josh. We’ll do what we can to keep our plane off the . What’s your flight number?

One big challenge we have today in our business with social media is trying to keep up with the thousands of responses per day while putting the responsibility on staff members who are also trying to balance doing 2-3 other jobs. Yes the interaction is very important and we don’t want to be dismissive of our audience but if the on-air product suffers from it, is it worth it? At that point you’re choosing between sipping two different poisons. Either way you’re in trouble.

I’ll close with this. If you’re not on Twitter today, you’re missing out on knowing about breaking news. Whether you love the service or not, if you’re not aware of what’s going on there you’re missing key information that matters to your audience. Every single reporter across the country is breaking news on Twitter before they do it on their ow company’s platforms and while that boggles my mind and one could question why, this is how the news cycle works in today’s environment and you need to be where the action is.

francesaI do think one key takeaway from Mike Francesa’s views on social media is valid – are you giving away your best material for free and leaving nothing unique and special for your show? If your best stuff is left on Twitter or you’re recycling the same exact lines from the night before, you may want to alter your approach. For more on his views on the subject, watch his keynote address on the sports talk radio industry by clicking here.

That said I believe there’s great personal and promotional value for personalities and it’s a smarter long-term strategy for your career to be accessble and active in social locations where fans are. It’s certainly not for everybody but I see more upside being there than downside for not but that’s just my point of view.

I’ll leave you to consider this. Mike Francesa has no connection in any social space and yet he’s been (and still is) one of the highest rated performers in the #1 media market in the country. Maybe he’s missing out on what’s important to people today and he’s not thinking about what’s going to matter tomorrow but given his track record of success, he might not be as crazy as you might think. I’ll let you be the judge!

How do you feel about the importance of social media and how active personalities and sports radio professionals should be? Leave a comment below to continue the conversation!

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

Jason Barrett

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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 BSMSummit.com. For sponsorship inquiries, email Stephanie at Sales@BarrettSportsMedia.com.

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 BSMSummit.com.

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 BSMSummit.com.

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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

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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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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

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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 BSMSummit.com 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 JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com 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 BSMsummit.com.

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

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