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Do You Know Who You’re Hiring?

Jason Barrett




If you’ve ever watched the show “Shark Tank” or “The Voice“, you’ve watched people present themselves in front of the coaches or sharks, hoping to get them excited about what they do. If they perform well, multiple people on the show could be vying for their services and within a matter of seconds, they’re forced to make a decision on who they wish to partner with. If they make the right choice, it could pay huge dividends. If they choose poorly, they’re back to square one and kicking themselves for not reading the room differently.

Well it’s no different in our business. One of the toughest decisions we face is the decision to accept or reject an opportunity of employment. If you’re in a manager’s shoes, you also have to decide whether or not someone is a good or bad fit for your brand. On a personal level, people want to make a good living so they can take care of their families and they want to be surrounded by people who they respect and like working with. They want to perform for a company with a good track record and be seen as a valuable member of the organization but too often during the process, they allow personal friendships and large sums of money to cloud their decisions. They stop doing their homework on the people and companies they may work for because a few good pieces of feedback and a high salary number that meets or exceeds expectation, is enough to turn a blind eye to some potential warning signs.

reputationEqually in danger is the employer. They’re the ones having to decide whether or not you’re worthy of leading the organization, being the face of the brand or an individual worth attaching a client’s message to. They have to be sure that an employee is a reflection of what their company represents and they’re the ones on the hook for large sums of money. They also have to endure battles and have their ducks in a row when explaining the brand’s results and personnel choices. If they don’t pan out or fail to meet expectation, they then have to address those same subjects internally and externally and figure out solutions to get things fixed.

I’ve learned over the past 9 years of programming that the process for hiring someone is much harder than anything you might imagine. I’ve hired people who walked in the door with baggage and I’ve been rewarded strongly for it and I’ve hired people who appeared to be clean as a whistle, yet ended up being dirty. That said, one thing I take pride in and consider extremely important is doing my homework on anyone I hire. I may not end up being right all the time but it won’t be for a lack of due diligence. In numerous cases I’ve spent months evaluating someone before pulling the trigger on hiring them and usually when I’ve operated that way I’ve made smart choices.

ignore2In my opinion, this is a big part of every manager’s job. Not being privy to what every building and company does, I’m not sure if every programmer, personality or radio executive values this the same. Often personalities get blinded by the lure of a bigger time slot and paycheck which feeds their ego and makes them feel more important. General Managers, Sales Managers and Corporate Executives will sometimes look at a person’s track record of ratings, market size and industry reputation and move forward with that person quickly out of fear of losing them rather than dig through the weeds to find out what that person’s background is like.

One of my favorite situations during my career took place in April 2011. I was brought into San Francisco by Entercom to discuss the PD position for what is now known as 95.7 The Game. The discussions and meetings I had been involved in up to that point had been fantastic and I was excited by the possibility of competing in market #4. I knew the company’s reputation and commitment towards doing local sports talk throughout the county was strong and I felt the offer to join them in San Francisco would be to my liking.

SAMSUNGOn Friday night, my girlfriend Stephanie and I headed to a Sharks playoff game with my former General Manager Dwight Walker and on Saturday we were given time to scout the area and make sure it was a good personal fit. I was blown away by the market and knew I wanted to live and work here for the next 4 years. I also was excited about the possibility of working for Dwight and I sensed he felt the same way about having me lead his operation.

Then on Sunday morning, Stephanie and I joined Dwight for breakfast to put the finishing touches on a deal which would bring me to San Francisco. Before we could get to the end of the process though, my girlfriend asked if she could ask a question. I was sitting there thinking “don’t screw this up for me Steph” and after Dwight gave her the nod to ask away, she asked him “why do you want to hire Jason“? It was a simple question but yet very important because it would tell me a lot about what Dwight really knew about me and the way I work.

jbstephTo his credit, he responded by talking about my passion, leadership qualities, track record and values and I could tell he had done a good job of reading me. However, he wasn’t aware of how I operated on a daily basis. My girlfriend then asked “Are you prepared to receive a 6 paragraph email at 2am telling you what needs to be fixed with the radio station to make it perform better? Can you handle it when people in other departments start complaining to you because he has a vision and won’t let them get in the way of it, especially if it relates to the on-air product? What will you do when you hear him passionately getting into it with an on-air personality because he expects stronger preparation and better performance out of them“?

I sat there both stunned and impressed because she knew what my style was like and how much I put into my work and she wanted him to be sure he knew what he was getting into. To Dwight’s credit, he handled it perfectly and said “I guess I’ll have to read more, ask him to keep it down a little from time to time and I’m not interested in hiring someone who can win popularity contests, I want someone who can lead us to the top and stop at nothing to get there. If Jason comes here he will have my full support to do what we need to do to win“.

dwightTo his credit, he lived up to every part of that during our time working together! Because we both did our homework on one another and felt comfortable with what we were each getting, the radio station was built and put in a position to succeed. Anyone who worked inside those walls during the time Dwight and I worked together knew that he and I were on the same page and the expectations were to work hard, continue to grow and not stop until we were a success.

Often when people interview for a job, we react to what they did previously and it’s easy to get caught up in how good they look on paper. We’ll point to their track record and say “He was in the top 3 in market X, sold a ton of endorsements and his style is perfect for this place“. While success in other places is important, it doesn’t always mean it will translate to another market.

IMG_2771For example, I under performed and socially did not connect in St. Louis during my first 2 years there. I spent a ton of time feeling like a fish out of water and was counting the days until I could exit 590 The Fan KFNS and go someplace else. I walked into a situation where my employer was struggling, the morale inside the building was low and I wasn’t completely locked in the way I needed to be. It was a difficult situation for all involved. Here I was, as an East Coast guy living for the first time in the Midwest, going through a divorce and being separated from my son, and all I wanted to do was have enough success to get the heck out of here. I was emotionally drained and unsure if my east coast style was a good fit in St. Louis.

Then one of the best things and turning points of my career happened. I reached an agreement one year later to leave KFNS and spend 6 months on the sidelines clearing my head. Being unemployed for the first time in 10+ years wasn’t easy but I needed to hit the reset button and find out what I was about and what I wanted. It was also the first time in a while that I had failed at something and I had to either pick myself up off the ground and learn from it or continue blaming everyone and everything else for what transpired.

jbrandybernieI was positive I would leave St. Louis and put it in my rear view mirror and I thought for sure I was going to go to Detroit or Houston but as luck would have it, my next opportunity would be less than 5 minutes away. When I accepted my next job working for Bonneville as the first programmer of 101 ESPN, I went into it mentally focused, appreciative of a second chance and excited about where I was living and much more confident in my abilities to perform there. I learned from the mistakes I made during my first run with KFNS and built a special culture inside the walls of 101 ESPN which continues there today. I also learned that there were a lot of good people in St. Louis who loved radio like I did and I was thrilled that I didn’t allow one bad situation to define my opinion of the market. After going thru that experience, St. Louis became very special to me and when I was faced with a decision to leave, it was really hard to say goodbye.

When I reflect back on those two experiences, there’s one valuable lesson that I learned – doing your homework is vital! When I accepted 590 The Fan’s offer I did so while knowing that my family were unhappy in Philadelphia, they felt more comfortable in St. Louis and there weren’t any other PD jobs available. I was also blown away by the company’s performance in Atlanta but I didn’t consider that just because they were performing strong in one place didn’t mean they would succeed somewhere else. Both markets were very different. I was also a big baseball fan and I loved how passionate St. Louis fans were towards the Cardinals and I figured I’d fit right in and have a chance to succeed if I could tap into that connection. Altogether it took me less than 3 weeks to complete the process going to KFNS and my lack of research on what I was getting into put me in a bad spot. That’s nobody else’s fault but my own.

JB and JKOn the other hand, when I went to work for Bonneville in St. Louis we spent nearly 3 months talking and going over various scenarios before the job was offered. I encouraged my former General Manager John Kijowski to do his homework on me and he did. He talked to people who knew what I was about professionally and I asked him to talk to people who weren’t fans of mine too. I wanted him to know what he was getting if he brought me in. I also did my homework on the company, John and the entire market to make sure I could create a plan that would work. There was no hesitation on either end when we reached the finish line together and by going through an exhausting hiring process, Bonneville got my very best and I benefited by working for a great company which supported, trusted and helped me.

If you’re a programmer, sales manager, corporate executive or GM, think back on some of the decisions you’ve made on talent, producers, board operators, reporters, anchors or any other member of your organization. When you’ve hired people to work for you, have you truly done your due diligence? The ratings story can be deceiving and your former co-worker may have great things to say about an individual but do you really know the ins and outs and critical pieces of information that you need to know about who you’re hiring? If a situation hasn’t worked out, why didn’t it? Did you go against your gut and ignore the signs or were you under pressure to get something completed that you rushed to judgment? If you’ve gone through a failed experiment (we all do), how have you learned from those situations and how are you more prepared now when you make hiring decisions than you were 2-3 years ago?

jbdamonToo often in this industry people read press clippings and form opinions off of them and while I understand the importance of researching information based on what’s been written, there’s always more to a story than what you read. If you’re going to hire someone great who moves the needle, don’t be surprised if they produce a few unpopular opinions online when you google their name. If the job is to generate an audience and create buzz for a show, those with strong opinions who toe the line and sometimes step over it are going to be on your list of targets.

For example, I am glad that I didn’t allow a few articles and media critics to influence my decision to hire Damon Bruce in San Francisco. Most great talent have their legion of fans and critics and Damon is no exception. At times he’ll say some things that ruffle a few feathers and we’ve had a few passionate disagreements along the way but I also know him as a person off the air and how much he puts into his work. When I did my homework on him I asked numerous people for feedback and I spent months examining whether or not the fit would make sense. When I reached my decision I felt very comfortable with bringing him on to our team and without question it’s been paid dividends and benefited all involved.

I’ve also nearly hired Tony Bruno and Sean Salisbury during my career and if you google their names you’ll find an unflattering story or two but if you got to know them, what they’re about, how they work and how they perform, you wouldn’t even question whether or not they can help improve your product. All you need to do is look in Philadelphia and Houston and you’ll see them having success and being valuable members of their respective organizations.

kaplan9The same can be said for other top personalities such as Scott Kaplan, Mike Missanelli, Chris Dimino, Stephen A. Smith, Dan McNeil and Sid Rosenberg. All of them possess outstanding talent and strong track records but all have a blemish or two on their resume. Some of them I know well and I wouldn’t hesitate to hire tomorrow if I had a need and they fit my market and brand, and some of them I don’t know and would need to do more homework on. That said, that’s why you go through an extensive hiring process to make sure you’ve given yourself, your company and the candidate the best chance to have a successful relationship together.

While it’s easy to shine the light on this situation from a programmer’s point of view, if you’re an on-air talent there are things you should be examining too before accepting an opportunity.

  • Do you analyze how the company operates and performs in other markets?
  • Do you talk to people involved with those stations to find out how they like working for the company?
  • Do you talk to current or former employees who’ve worked for your potential PD to see how they feel about them?
  • Do you ask advertisers what their perspective is on the company and why they do/don’t buy the product?
  • Do you talk to the local teams or the networks that the radio station partners with to see how they perceive the brand?
  • Have you directly asked the PD or GM what their long-term plans are with the operation?
  • Have you checked into whether or not the company may be looking to sell?

That’s a lot of questions but each one is critical in helping you make a decision about whether or not to explore working for someone.

peteg2If you’re accepting an opportunity based on money and a higher profile time slot you’re setting yourself up for disappointment down the road. An employee-company relationship is a two way street and I remember my friend Pete Gianesini at ESPN Radio once telling me “you’re interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you” and that’s so true. This is your life and your career and this next move could be the catalyst to something big for you professionally or it could be the start of a downward spiral. While the best of intentions may exist today, that’s not always the case tomorrow and both sides need to know what they’re getting into. If you don’t, then it’s going to eat at you again and again if it doesn’t work out!

I stress this not only to the on-air people but to the folks on the company side as well. Whether you’re a GM, Sales Manager, Corporate Programmer or CEO, every sales person, engineer, traffic person, programmer or on-air personality hired, is a reflection of what the company stands for. These people represent you and your brand and that should matter a great deal because you earn or lose respect with every decision that’s made.

Ask The Right Questions on a cork notice boardHere’s a few questions to consider.

  • Are you trusting your managers to hire people independently or are you talking to the candidate as well?
  • Do you know why a person who’s had success or failure in their career had those experiences? Was it a result of their performance or the company’s decisions?
  • Do you know which people inside your building are future leaders and why they’re capable of stepping up or are you just listening to someone who you like/dislike and allowing it to influence how you think?
  • Do you talk to people inside your building to get a read on how they’re connecting with their manager or do you just assume everything is fine and rely on the manager’s feedback to impact your thoughts?

Managing is not easy and nothing puts a bulls eye on your reputation more than the decisions you make. Company’s who are generating millions of dollars are trusting their hosts, programmers, sales executives, GM’s and support staffs to create products that will help them make even more money and you need the right people to implement the plan. No company is in business to not be profitable and one wrong decision can cost you millions if you miss! If you’re going to risk a few million dollars on your next decision, don’t you want to know everything you can possibly know before you act on it?

Do you know what really stings? Having to go to sleep at night, not being able to do the job you love anymore because you skipped a few steps, made mistakes and damaged the brand you represented. Take it from someone who’s been to both ends of the spectrum, the view is much better from up top! So be smart and do your homework. Regardless of how it turns out, you’ll sleep much better at night knowing you did everything in your power to get it right.

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Barrett Blogs

ESPN Has Made It Clear, Radio Is Not a Priority

“What’s unfolding now at the worldwide leader is disheartening because it could have been avoided.”

Jason Barrett




This is not a column I wanted to write. For years, I’ve expressed how much better the industry is when ESPN Radio is healthy. I’ve maintained friendships at the network, the company has supported our BSM Summit, and I reflect fondly on the few years I spent working there earlier in my career. It was a special place to work and I learned a lot about becoming a pro in Bristol.

But this ESPN Radio is not the one that I and many others were fortunate to be a part of under Bruce Gilbert. It is not the one that Traug Keller, Scott Masteller, and other radio-first believers oversaw. This current version lacks radio instincts, focus, passion, and care. That may be an opinion that folks in Bristol, New York, and Los Angeles offices don’t want to hear but the decisions made in recent years make it difficult to see it any other way.

ESPN Radio used to obsess over serving the sports fan, its radio affiliates, and network advertising partners. But serving the company’s television and digital interests is what matters most now. Relationships with radio operators have changed, interest in operating local markets has decreased, and though I’m sure some will defend the network’s interest in satisfying advertising partners, it’s hard to do that a day after the entire national audio sales team was gutted. Thankfully Good Karma Brands is passionate about the audio business and helping their sales efforts. If they weren’t involved, who would be leading the charge in Bristol?

I didn’t start this week planning to drop a truth bomb but as I sat here on Tuesday and fielded text after text and call after call, I couldn’t help but be disappointed and upset. This network has been a staple of the industry for over thirty years. Yet in less than ten it feels they’re closer to turning off the lights than celebrating success. That should not happen when you have the partnerships, history, and talent that ESPN has.

What saddens me is that it didn’t have to reach this point. ESPN Radio had chances to sell in the past to outside parties. They declined. Folks inside of Disney felt the network was worth more. Well, how’s that looking now? If the company wasn’t going to commit to doing it the right way, and was just going to cut its way to the bottom, why stand in the way of others who’d pay to save it? It’s eerily similar to what just happened with Buzzfeed News. The company thought it was better than it was, and within a few years, the whole thing crumbled.

If this were the first time the network looked bad, I’d go easier on them. I understand the business, and sometimes brands or companies make mistakes or have to make difficult choices. It’s why I didn’t bury the network when Mike and Mike ended. Though I knew replacing their stability in mornings would be tough, I felt the network had earned enough clout over the prior years to be given the benefit of the doubt with a new show/lineup. I also applauded the company for replacing Zubin with Max, defended paying Stephen A. Smith top dollar, and supported GetUp! when it was popular to predict the show’s funeral.

But how can leadership in Bristol expect radio operators to trust their decision making at this point? I’ve talked to network executives privately and publicly about these issues for years, and have been told repeatedly that the radio business matters to them and becoming more consistent was a priority. At some point though the actions need to match the words. Unfortunately the only consistency taking place is change, and it often isn’t for the better.

I’ve lost count of the phone calls, texts, emails and direct messages I’ve fielded from PDs, executives, market managers, and ad agency professionals who’ve asked ‘should I be doing business with this network? Can you help me rebrand and redesign my radio station without ESPN Radio?‘ Yesterday alone I took five calls including from two who have expiring deals coming up. Think they’re in a rush to extend a partnership given what’s going on?

If you turn back the clock, some will say that things began to go in the wrong direction when Bruce Gilbert and Dan Patrick left. Though those were big losses, there was still a lot of confidence across the industry in ESPN Radio after they left. The early signs of issues at the network really started in 2014. That’s when Scott Masteller and Scott Shapiro departed. Masteller went on to program WBAL in Baltimore, and Shapiro teamed up with Don Martin to strengthen FOX Sports Radio.

Fast forward to 2020, and the heart and soul of the network, Traug Keller retired. Traug had more in the tank when he signed off, and when I talked to him prior to his exit, he denied being forced out or having concerns about the future direction of the network. Those who know Traug, know that’s he’s a class act and not one to air dirty laundry. But I also know he’s smart. As I look back now, I can’t help but wonder if he knew the ship was headed for an iceberg. I have no doubt that the network would be in better shape today if he were still there.

After Traug’s exit, a year later, Tim McCarthy was let go in New York. The network even cut ties with longtime voice talents Jim and Dawn Cutler, though they stayed on the company’s top stations in NY and LA.

Though I hated to see all of them go because they were good at their jobs and valuable to the network, the one that made a little more sense was Tim’s exit because that had more to do with Good Karma taking over in New York. Tim has since landed with the Broadcasters Foundation of America, and Vinny DiMarco is now leading 98.7 ESPN NY, and I’m a fan of both men.

But now here we are in 2023, and once again, the folks being shown the door are the people who dedicated their lives to radio. Among the casualties, Scott McCarthy, the network’s SVP of Audio, Pete Gianesini, Senior Director of Digital Audio, Louise Cornetta, Digital Audio Program Director, and two good local sports radio programmers, Ryan Hurley at 98.7 ESPN NY, and Amanda Brown at ESPN LA 710. All of them good, talented people with track records of success in the format. I struggle to explain how ESPN Radio is better today without them.

By the way, I haven’t even touched the talent department yet. But let’s go there next.

In less than eight years, ESPN Radio’s morning show has featured Mike & Mike, Golic & Wingo (Mike Golic Jr. and Jason Fitz were added as contributing voices), Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin, and Keyshawn, JWill and Max. Middays have included Colin Cowherd, Dan Le Batard and Stugotz, Scott Van Pelt, Ryen Russillo, Danny Kanell, Will Cain, Mike Greenberg, Jason Fitz, Stephen A. Smith, Bart & Hahn, and Fitz and Harry Douglas. Afternoons have been a combination of Le Batard and Stugotz, Bomani Jones, Jalen & Jacoby, Golic Jr. & Chiney, Canty & Golic Jr. & Canty and Carlin. I could run down the changes at night too, but you get the picture.

As a former programmer and current consultant, I know that radio is a relationship listen and investment. You can’t build an audience and attract sponsor support for talent and shows if the product constantly changes. Most PDs or executives who make this many changes during a short period of time, usually aren’t around very long. Yet ESPN has allowed this to continue, which leaves me to question how much they value their radio network.

Look, I’m sure this is a tough week for those in management at ESPN. Having to tell folks they’re not being retained and watch friends say goodbye is a crummy part of the job. I’m sure some have even fought to try and avoid this bloodbath. But when the news comes down from up above that 7,000 jobs are being eliminated, it’s not a question of whether or not people are talented and valuable, it’s simply about the bottom line. I feel for the folks at ESPN who have to deliver the bad news this week but also for those who are staying and now have limited support around them to make a difference.

By decimating the radio department there are now bigger questions to be answered by Jimmy, Burke, Dave, Norby and the rest of the management team. How much does ESPN value the radio business and the stations they’re in business with? If most of the people who’ve built relationships with local stations are gone, talented programmers are being ousted, talent changes happen far too frequently, and the company becomes less involved in local markets, why is anyone to believe this space matters to ESPN? What exactly are stations gaining from partnerships besides the use of four letters and the opportunity to air play by play events?

The network expects these stations to provide them with inventory, rights fees, branding, promotion, and clearance of certain programs so isn’t it fair of stations to have expectations of the network too? Don’t radio network partners deserve consistent quality programming, relationships with managers who prioritize audio, and less negative PR?

Most who I talk to about this situation believe the network’s glory days are gone. That’s fine. Just because this isn’t the ESPN Radio of 2005 doesn’t mean it can’t be great. The product exists now to primarily serve mid to small market operators who can’t afford local content, major market stations who don’t want to spend on evening and overnight shows, and company owned stations that can be utilized to promote the company’s digital and television content. ESPN does gain value for their radio shows on TV and podcast platforms, but those benefit the company much more than their radio partners.

The general feeling in industry circles is that FOX Sports Radio now delivers the best national radio product, CBS Sports Radio has better consistency but similar east coast content issues, and others don’t have strong enough brand recognition or content to justify a change. If sports betting continues to gain mainstream acceptance and bring cash into the marketplace, that could help outlets like VSiN, BetQL, and SportsGrid gain greater traction. If Outkick gets more aggressive with offering content to local markets, especially in the south and Midwest, that could be another interesting option.

The bigger question is whether there’s enough audience, revenue, and excitement for national content in today’s sports radio space. If most major markets are focused on local, is there enough out there in rural America to keep networks excited?

I do know that just ten years ago CBS Radio entered the space because they saw value in it. NBC Sports Radio leaped in too. FOX Sports Radio went all-in for Colin Cowherd, and ESPN Radio was healthy. Even SiriusXM continues to expand its national offerings, and three sports betting networks saw value in pursuing national distribution. It’s hard to convince me that there isn’t financial upside for national sports radio brands in today’s media environment. It may not be a big ratings play but from a business standpoint there is value.

What’s unfolding now at the worldwide leader is disheartening because it could have been avoided. Instead, brands have been damaged, relationships changed, jobs lost, and questions raised about future viability.

If the world’s leading sports operator values radio, they’ll prioritize restoring confidence across the industry. A good start would be putting people in place who champion radio’s future, and make decisions that best serve the radio brands carrying their product. If they can’t do that, then maybe it’s time to step aside, and let someone else try. I know a few groups who’d be happy to take a shot at restoring the network’s pride.

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Barrett Blogs

Radio Must Bring Back The Fun

“The promotions you’re creating are not producing massive recall across the format, national media attention or revenues that change the fate of your next quarter.”

Jason Barrett




Five and a half days in Las Vegas can feel like an eternity. Especially when you’re in town for business not pleasure. But though I’d rather sleep in my own bed, eat at home, and avoid walking from convention hall to convention hall, I’m glad I made the trip because the NAB Show delivered. 

Many media members have attended this event over the years, and it’s easy to come up with reasons not to attend. Budgets are tight, you can’t afford to be out of the office, or you think it isn’t beneficial. That’s where I’ll take exception. If you can’t find something of value at a five-day event that exists to serve broadcasters and brands, that’s on you, not the conference.  

Over the past few days, I did what many do and took necessary business meetings at Encore, but I also listened to speakers offer valuable insights on artificial intelligence, marketing, programming, technology, dashboard connectivity, the future of AM radio, and more. All of these are subjects that should matter to media professionals. Having Brett Goldstein (Ted Lasso star Roy Kent) on hand to talk about content creation was an added bonus. 

As I spent my final hour inside the North Hall on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but think about how large this event is, what goes into creating it, and how many different industries and brands are represented at it. What the NAB does to make this event possible for sixty-five thousand plus is amazing, and I commend all involved because it truly is informative, and it helps bring together business leaders and brands to help move our industry forward. 

There were many takeaways from the conference sessions, but one in particular stood out. I thought Mike McVay’s session with J.D. Crowley and Paul Suchman of Audacy was excellent. Crowley’s insights on listener choice, distribution, and personalization were spot on, and I was very impressed with Suchman’s feedback on some of the behavior testing Audacy has done to learn how consumers respond to different types of content and messaging.

Crowley’s final message about people in the audio industry needing to be proud of the business they’re in was easy for me to relate to because I feel similarly. This is a great business to be in. I get tired of hearing folks in and out of the industry tear it down. So much attention gets placed on who exceeded revenue goals, what a brand’s ratings were, and what a company’s stock price is, losing sight of the more important part, our brands, personalities, and content, and the way they’re received by those who consume it.

Additionally, I was honored to speak about the growth of BSM and BNM. Joe D’Angelo of Xperi and Pierre Bouvard of Cumulus Media treated folks to information on advertising and in-car data, and Erica Farber, Tim Bronsil, and Mary DelGrande did a nice job guiding multiple business conversations. I also enjoyed stopping by the Veritone booth and learning about their products and staff. My only regret, I missed Buzz Knight’s session with Nielsen’s new audio team due to a business meeting running long. Thankfully Inside Radio put together a detailed recap of what was discussed. 

But what I want to draw attention to most is something Dan Mason said on stage during his acceptance speech when receiving the Lowry Mays Award at the Broadcasters Foundation of America breakfast. It’s something I raised at last month’s BSM Summit. 

After sharing how local is a key differentiator in helping radio stand apart from other forms of media, and reminding everyone about the importance of longevity, Mason said that radio has to get back to having fun. He shared a story of a promotion he was part of in the 1970’s that wouldn’t fly today. It was a short people’s convention that included six-ounce drinks, pigs in a blanket, and strawberry shortcake. The event put his radio station on NBC Nightly News, and created a ton of buzz.  

Just because that type of event wouldn’t work in 2023, doesn’t mean others can’t. We have got to create special events that produce national attention, local market interest, and fear of missing out spending. This is what radio is supposed to be exceptional at yet it doesn’t happen enough.  

At our Summit in LA, I asked three PD’s to share with me the one promotion in sports radio today that they viewed as a killer event. It wasn’t an easy one to answer. In fact, two referenced WIP’s Wing Bowl, which ended in 2018. Had I asked five or six other PD’s, they’d have likely been in the same boat, struggling to name three or four killer events. 

I mentioned how the Mandy Awards at 710 ESPN in Los Angeles stood out, but this format should be able to deliver more than one standout promotion. I realize there are stations doing promotional events, and if they’re helping you produce revenue, great. I’m not telling you to abandon that strategy. But I will challenge you if you try to tell me sports radio’s report card on promotions in 2023 is superb. It is not.

One gentleman I listened to during the week who was attending a session shared one reason why this is the case. He was asked about creating ideas and said ‘we use a committee to brainstorm and find that sometimes the best ideas come from different departments, in fact, our last successful event was the idea of our engineer.’ 

I’m all for collaboration, and if you’re creating events that satisfy your goals, continue doing it. I’m not here to rain on your parade. But let me share an opinion some may view as unpopular. If the best ideas in your organization are coming from departments other than programming, you have a problem.

The program director and talent are supposed to be the people you turn to for leadership, ideas, passion, creativity, and execution. They’re supposed to be able to think of things that others can’t. Do you think Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino would turn over the direction of their next film to others inside their companies? Imagine the focus of Ted Lasso’s next episode being decided by someone other than Jason Sudeikis, Brett Goldstein, and the rest of their writing team. You’d be wasting the talent of your best storytellers.

Radio companies pay premium dollars for elite programmers and hosts because they’re supposed to be able to bring things to life that only exists inside their brains. If your HR or engineering department are creating the station’s best promotions, you don’t have enough creativity coming from your programming team. That could be due to having a PD who lacks ideas and vision or it could be the result of the way your creative process is structured.

One of the things I enjoyed most as a PD was coming up with ideas that created buzz, ratings, and revenue. My job was to think and execute BIG, and whether it was Lucky Break in San Francisco, Stand For Stan at 101 ESPN in St. Louis, the Golden Ticket at 590 The Fan in St. Louis, the 20 in 20 tour or Goodbye Roast at 95.7 The Game or the Gridiron Gala in both cities, we produced buzz, grew ratings, and made money. If we did something and it failed, that was ok. I’d rather swing and miss than be afraid to try. I took that responsibility seriously, and feel that when you’re making calls by committee, you’re not allowing your best people to do what they’re best suited to do. 

Case in point, I attended Boomer & Gio Live in Jersey City, NJ a few weeks ago. It was a fun event with a lot of different things going on. WFAN’s PD Spike Eskin worked the event on stage, and if you recall, the station made national news when Jets GM Joe Douglas said that Aaron Rodgers would end up in New York. There were multiple sales activations included throughout the show, and much of the fun content that took place on stage came from the creators. Because the FAN crew were allowed to do what they do best, the station produced a successful event. Had that been an ‘all departments contribute’ approach, it’d have not been the same show. 

What Dan Mason said in Las Vegas was accurate. Radio has to get back to having fun but it also has to be unafraid to take risks. I fear that we worry so much about the ‘what ifs’ and the potential noise on social media that we’re killing creativity, and the next big idea.

If I asked you to list five GREAT sports radio promotions today, could you? And I’m not talking about golf tournaments, charitable bowling events, host debates or bar remotes. If I ask this same question in five years and we’re in the same spot, that’s going to say a lot about where we are as an industry. We have to excite ourselves, our listeners, and our advertisers because when we showcase our creativity in a way that no other medium can, we make a statement, which results in increased attention, and financial investment.  

Some of that creative spirit is still alive. You see it in Boston with WEEI’s Jimmy Fund Telethon, and if you attended the Michael Kay Show 20-year anniversary special or Barstool’s Upfront, you saw what great planning, and execution looks like. But I also remember The Fanatic’s Celebrity Week, The Millen Man March in Detroit, Ticketfest in Dallas, Wing Bowl in Philadelphia, and 790 The Zone in Atlanta becoming a national sensation by creating multiple home run events.

I don’t believe enough brands today create events that deliver meaningful impact. Yet they’re needed. When done right, brands ascend to a different level. Sports radio has too many sharp, creative minds to not be creating the biggest and most successful promotions in all of media. If you work in programming and your station isn’t producing promotions that generate recall across the format, national media attention or revenues that change the fate of your next quarter, it’s time to step up your game. If you don’t, the interns, street team, and receptionist may soon be deciding the future direction of your brand’s promotional strategy.

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Reflecting on the 2023 BSM Summit

“Barrett Media president Jason Barrett reflects on last week’s BSM Summit in Los Angeles.”

Jason Barrett




One of the best parts about the world of sports is that every season ends with one team being crowned champion. It doesn’t exactly work that way managing a media company, even though we invest the same amount of time leading up to the BSM Summit, our equivalent of the Super Bowl or WrestleMania.

Having had a few days to recover and reflect after last week’s Summit in Los Angeles, I know that what we did last week was special. I’m a perfectionist and have a hard time patting myself on the back because I know there’s plenty we can do better, but last week, we hit a homerun. The venues at USC were perfect, the signage was spectacular, the tech ran well, the speakers were awesome, the crowd was great, and the sponsorship support was outstanding. It’s the first time I’ve walked away from an event and felt we accomplished what we set out to do. If time allows, check out Garrett Searight’s piece on some of the key takeaways from the show.

In 2018, Mitch Rosen invited me to utilize his space at Audacy Chicago to take a shot at trying to execute an event for PDs. Now here we are five years later with a few hundred people joining us from all across the industry. It’s pretty incredible. We’re only successful because a lot of people have come together to make sure we are. Without the speakers, sponsors, and staff around me stepping up to get things done, I’d just be a guy with an idea incapable of executing it.

In the next week or so we’ll be sharing video clips from the show on the BSM social media pages. I’m also planning to make full sessions available via on-demand for free for those who attended the show in California. If you didn’t come to the event and want to watch it online, it will be available for a small fee. Stay tuned for further details.

What matters most to me with the Summit is that folks in the room get something out of it. I thought many of our speakers delivered a ton of value this year, and there were a few WOW moments along the way as well. Colin and Rome were outstanding as expected, and Jay Glazer and Al Michaels’ speeches had everyone hanging on their next words. I thought the Shawn Michaels and Jack Rose led sessions were outside the box and well received, and I was beyond impressed by Joy Taylor, Mina Kimes, and Amanda Brown. We used 14 hours in that room to explore issues dealing with management, research, technology, programming, talent and social media, so it gave everyone a little bit of everything, which was the goal.

We did have a little bit of friction on stage during the Aircheck on Campus session, which wasn’t a bad thing. Personalities and programmers have passionate conversations inside the office every day. Rob, Mark and Scott just happened to have one on stage. All three are smart, talented, and willing to be candid. I thought that was healthy for the room.

I know networking is important at these type of events and there was plenty of opportunity for folks to do that. I look at it like this, if you can get face time with others, meet your heroes or folks you admire and pick up some ideas and insight in the process to elevate your business, that should justify it being worthy of a few days out of the office.

As crazy as it may sound, I step away from each of these events asking my team ‘is that the last one?’ I know I can create and execute a great conference, and I enjoy doing it, but I also don’t want to invest eight months of time building a show that becomes predictable and stale. It’s why I change speakers and topics frequently. This year’s lineup was phenomenal, and I’m so pleased with who we featured on stage and had in the room, but the competitor in me will also look back and say ‘Bill Simmons, Ice Cube and Lincoln Riley Should’ve Been On Stage Too!


If we do host an event in 2024, it will take place in either Boston, Chicago, Dallas or New York. You can cast your vote on

I want to thank everyone who stopped me last week to share how much they enjoy this event. That support means a lot. I think Good Karma Brands broke a record with 20+ employees in attendance, and iHeart was also well represented, which was great to see. I was also excited to have 15-20 college students in the room. The more we can educate the next generation, the better it is for all of us. I also was thrilled to learn a few of our partners and attendees made time to arrange further business conversations. If two groups can help each other, that’s what it’s all about.

But as much as I love my radio brothers and sisters, I’ve noticed more folks showing up the past two years from areas outside of sports radio. That’s both exhilarating and concerning. This year we had folks in the room from WWE, Amazon, The Volume, Omaha Productions, Dirty Mo Media, Barstool Sports, Spotify, Blue Wire, Locked On, BetRivers, Bleav, etc.. I hope that trend continues because sports media is a lot larger of a business than sports radio. As I told the room, we’re not in the radio business, television business, audio or video business, we are in the content business. That covers a lot more ground for brands than focusing on one specific platform.

I’ve been on cloud nine for a few days because overall, this went as well as I could ask for. If there’s one thing I’d like to make better it’s that I hear from a lot of folks throughout the year who say they want to learn, meet new people and give themselves a competitive edge yet when an event exists that can help them do that, they’re not in the room. Some of my radio friends didn’t come because they weren’t asked to speak. Others said they couldn’t make it because their company wouldn’t cover the costs. A few said they thought the Summit was only for programming people not managers or sellers.

First, growing and selling an audience should matter to everyone not just programmers and hosts. GM’s and Sales Managers can gain a lot at this show. So can advertisers and agencies. I’m hoping to change that in the future. Second, I can’t tell you whether or not to prioritize attending but groups outside of radio are passionate about sports audio and video, and they’re finding ways to be in the room. At some point, you have to decide if investing in knowledge, ideas and relationships matters to you and your business. Your employer isn’t going to cover everything you want to do so especially when the economy isn’t strong. Sometimes you have to invest time and resources in yourself.

Many of you reading this website know my track record in the radio industry. I built my career in radio. My passion for the business remains strong. I consult brands all across the country, and root for the industry’s success. It’s why I sink my heart and soul into this event and share all that I do over two days because I want to help people grow their businesses.

But it is strange that over the course of four live events I’ve still not had one current radio CEO sit down for an in-depth sports media business conversation. It’d be one thing if they were pitched and I turned them down but that’s not the case. I’ve had great conversations and support outside of radio from Jimmy Pitaro, Eric Shanks, Erika Ayers, and John Skipper. Jeff Smulyan has been a huge supporter taking part in our awards ceremony, and we’ve had high ranking TV executives in the room watching the show. Maybe things will change in 2024 but whether they do or don’t, I’m going to focus on helping brands and individuals who gain value from this two day event, and continue challenging this industry to think and act differently.


Now that the 2023 BSM Summit is over, my focus shifts to supporting my clients and gearing up for a massive challenge, hosting our first BNM Summit for news media professionals. The conference will take place in Nashville, TV on September 13-14 at Vanderbilt University. I’ll be announcing the first group of speakers in April after the NAB. Tickets will go on sale at that time too.

I know it won’t be easy but I tend to do my best work when I’m out of my comfort zone. This is a space I have passion for and feel I can add something to so there’s only one thing left to do, get to work, and put together the news media equivalent of what we just created for sports media professionals last week in Los Angeles. That may be a tall order but if anyone is ready to meet the challenge head on, yours truly is certainly up to the task.

Thanks again for a spectacular time in Los Angeles. Onward and upward we go!

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