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Making Sports Radio Better: Why Women Deserve More Opportunity

Jason Barrett

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Did you know that the first voice ever heard on an all-sports radio station was a woman’s?

The date was July 1, 1987. WFAN in New York City was the radio station, and Suzyn Waldman was the first voice to be heard when she delivered a sports update at 3pm, right before giving way to Jim Lampley who hosted the first show on the station.

waldmanAt the time nobody knew whether or not the format or its personalities would last, but twenty eight years later, Waldman is still going strong. Not only has she covered all New York teams during her illustrious career, but she is now one half of the New York Yankees radio broadcast team opposite John Sterling.

If Suzyn could stand out, and make a difference in the number one market in the country, clearly it should be easier for other women who followed in her footsteps right?

Well it certainly seemed to be going that way, when the Fabulous Sports Babe (Nanci Donnellan) burst onto the Seattle scene in 1991, as a weekday talk show host on 950 KJR.

rickscottThe station’s programmer at the time was Rick Scott, and he believed that Donnellan brought something unique to the table, which was more important than her gender.

Nanci “got it” and knew how to push buttons and generate audience reaction” said Scott. “When I brought up the idea of having a woman do mid-days, they thought I was joking. We flew Nanci to Seattle, and went to lunch with the GM, and she had him laughing so hard he was crying. That helped the cause, but there were still plenty of challenges, especially during the first year.”

Donnellan would make a major impact during her three years at KJR, and her success was noticed by ESPN Radio who brought her to Bristol, CT to take on the challenge of doing a national show in 1994. She started with only 29 affiliates, but two years later, had built the show’s affiliate list to more than 170.

By 1997 though Donnellan was facing challenges from her bosses, some of them stemming from public criticisms she shared in a book titled “The Babe in Boyland“. “Every person on the planet seemed to complain about what I was doing and how I was doing it,” said Donnellan in her book. “But I stood my ground and told all the suits to please get out of my airstream.”

Eventually the marriage between ESPN and Donnellan would dissolve, and she’d move to the ABC Radio Networks in 1997. That move would be short lived, as ABC would part ways with her a little more than a year later.

fabuloussportsbabeWhile her time at the top had come to an end, what was undeniable was her impact. Nanci Donnellan proved that women could not only share the stage with men in the sports talk radio space, but they could excel in it too.

So that should’ve opened up doors for so many more women to have success in the format right?

Not exactly.

Today, sports radio stations are measured by their ability to connect with Men 25-54. If a station delivers in that demographic, all is right in the world. But what does that say about people who are younger or older than the desired demo? Does their listening not matter?

Furthermore, what does it say about women? Are we naive to think that females don’t also enjoy sports, listening to sports radio and talking about it with their friends? Do their dollars not matter to a station’s advertisers?

womenfansGo to a sporting event today, and the stands are not 80-90% full of men. Yet sports talk radio listening according to the Nielsen ratings is fueled by heavy male listening. If those numbers are accurate, it puts programmers and radio companies in a tough spot. The goal is to deliver content which satisfies the listening audience, and produces high ratings, and larger revenues. If 4 out of every 5 listeners are men, and they respond favorably to male voices and the way men discuss sports, then it becomes much harder for women to earn a break!

Amanda Gifford who is a Program Director for the ESPN Radio Network shared her views on the situation: “The demographics of the format have a lot to do with how many women come on as hosts. It’s still completely dominated by men – 85 or 90% of audiences are male. As we see some of the “pioneers” for women who have strong opinions in the media continue to flourish – like Michelle Beadle, Jemele Hill, Sarah Spain, Kate Fagan, etc. – they will help blaze the trail of opportunities for girls/young women interested in this type of career path.”

Ratings numbers aside, there are other reasons as well contributing to the lack of females working as sports radio hosts. First, not as many women pursue a path in the radio industry. If a woman can watch other women cover sports on her television, but can’t hear a female talk about it on the radio, it’s likely to influence her decision of which medium to pursue. The better financial opportunities in television also factor in.

The other part of the issue revolves around programming philosophies and radio ratings measurement. While I know a ton of great programmers around the country who take risks and make smart, and inspiring decisions, there are still many who are creatures of habit, and unlikely to change, especially if the formula is working.

nielsenAs it pertains to ratings, the data provided to radio stations is often very inconsistent. PPM meters which are used to measure local listening and audience characteristics, have been proven to have major flaws, and the sampling sizes in many local markets are tiny. That puts radio operators and talent in a difficult spot, because they can’t draw a firm conclusion, on whether or not the programming they’re providing is working.

While I want to trust the data that says 80-90% of listening to sports stations is done by males, I’ve seen too many inaccuracies to treat it as fact. I do believe men have larger interest in listening to the format than women, but whether it’s 65&%, 75% or 85% is debatable. Even then, that’s where the numbers stand right now. They won’t grow, and become even more attractive to advertisers if the same strategy and execution continues.

When you look at the world today, women are making an impact and effecting change in all areas of society. There’s no better example than in the political arena, where women now run and receive serious consideration for President of the United States of America.

If a woman can run for the most high profile office in the nation, and gain the trust of males in leading our country, then she should be able to find a place inside of a sports radio station’s lineup right? It may seem like a no-brainer but it’s still an issue in sports radio.

engelDuring the mid to late 2000’s, Jennifer “The Little Ball of Hate” Engel hosted a radio program for ESPN 103.3 in Dallas. She started with the station as a contributor before earning a spot as a full-time weekday host. The belief was that she’d break through and disrupt the marketplace. Unfortunately, the audience wasn’t ready for the change, and although she was skilled, the show underperformed.

I spoke with a former Dallas personality about the situation: “Jen was one of the guys, and she had strong, accurate and well thought out opinions and was respected by listeners and other members of the media. However, when the radio station opted to make her the center of her own show, perceptions changed. There was a a lot of feedback from listeners about not wanting to hear “my wife” complain or lecture listeners about sports. That information was learned through professional panels and companies hired to do local market research. The station tried different marketing concepts, and supported her, but to no avail. In the end the show had to be cancelled due to poor ratings, and the market’s unwillingness to embrace a female led sports talk show“.

What I found surprising is that when I asked this same person if they still felt a woman could succeed in the format as a weekday talk show host, they remained supportive: “No question it can work. The Dallas situation hasn’t altered my belief that our format is ready for more female hosts to prosper. Having said that, it still has to be the right woman. Women in the format have to build more credibility than their male counterparts, and can make fewer mistakes. They must also be more thick skinned and determined than men. Let’s also not be naive, it depends greatly market to market. Some markets simply aren’t open minded enough to get it.”

screwsLet’s be honest, most people who run companies, prefer the safer path. The unknown is scary, especially in today’s world where instant success is necessary, or it could cost you your job. But with great risk comes great reward. However, most groups are less likely to endure criticisms, questions, and backlash from local market listeners, advertisers, and other media partners, and risk their bottom line, for an out of the box hiring decision.

They say it usually takes 18-24 months to judge a show and whether or not it will work in a local market. I’m not sure that same courtesy applies for a local show led by a female talent, and that’s unfair. It’s also a big reason why it’s so important for those who do get an opportunity to make it count.

Kate Scott who works for KNBR 680 in San Francisco, notes that when it comes to perceptions in the industry, there definitely are double standards: “Externally, there’s no doubt we’re treated differently. If I mispronounce a player’s name I’m a no-nothing idiot who only got hired because the station was looking for some diversity. If a male colleague does the same thing, aww shucks, he was out late the night before or ha, there goes so-and-so again, he sucks at those tough names.

sandragolden4But should there be different rules for men and women in sports radio? Sandra Golden of 680 The Fan in Atlanta makes an interesting point: “There are 12 people working at my station as full time hosts. NONE of the dozen are treated the same. We aren’t measured the same, and nor should we be. We all have different resumes, are paid differently, and some are more popular than others. I might add, that’s just like any other office in Pick-a-Town, USA.”

While sports radio may indeed be a fun industry to work in, it is still a business, and it’s not one built on satisfying quotas, or personal agendas. The focus is on employing dynamic, compelling, and highly entertaining personalities who possess the ability to provide thought provoking content and develop a connection with a local audience, most of which is made up of white males between the ages of 25 and 54.

Any talent who hosts a sports radio program must be able to connect with advertisers, and sell their products to the audience, and of course, generate ratings in the Men 25-54 demographic. Until the rules change, that’s what station’s require to command larger dollars.

The one area though that deserves larger discussion, is why aren’t women a bigger part of the solution? We often assume that a female on the air talking about sports, doesn’t have the same ability as a male to keep a male audience listening, but we don’t seem to have any objections when a female personality talks about rock music, sex or movies. Those issues can be largely targeted to Men too.

And what about politics? If you turn on Fox News, MSNBC, or CNN, you’ll find plenty of talented women talking about key issues, and they don’t seem to have trouble keeping male viewers watching. And those men don’t watch just because the female host looks good either. Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters and Katie Couric proved you don’t have to be a supermodel to be an excellent broadcaster, and connect with an audience.

fsbSo if women can be accepted talking about music, lifestyle, sex, politics, and every other part of our daily conversations, then why is it so difficult for them to earn a heavier presence in the sports radio industry? And I’m not just talking about the Sports Update Anchor, Traffic Reporter, or Morning Show Sidekick role either. I’m talking about being the face of a talk show and radio station, much like the Fabulous Sports Babe was in the 1990’s for KJR and ESPN Radio.

Maybe I’m wrong but I think Michelle Beadle and Katie Nolan have the talent to deliver a highly entertaining talk show. I also think Rachel Nichols pulls information out of guests equally or better than many male broadcasters. I also scan the country and see numerous women in local markets building strong personal brands and proving they can connect and win. Yes there are many females who aren’t ready for the spotlight, but the same can be said about some men.

As I did my research for this piece, I uncovered some things that may make a few people uncomfortable. I looked at the makeup of the 5 national sports radio networks (ESPN, Fox, CBS, NBC, Yahoo), who broadcast nationwide, and target their content to Men 25-54 audiences. In reviewing the Monday-Friday lineups of all 5 networks, I found only 1 woman, featured as a Monday-Friday talk show host. That female was Amy Lawrence, who’s hosting currently for the CBS Sports Radio Network.

betterLet this sink in for a second, between 5 national networks, there are 34 white males holding positions as Monday-Friday talk show hosts. Only 10 personalities who were female or non-white, held spots as Monday-Friday talk show hosts. That means nearly 71% of on-air personalities delivering weekday national talk shows are white males. If you look across the country on local sports stations, those percentages are even higher.

While I believe in people earning opportunities based on talent, and fit, not on their race or gender, there’s also something to be said for employing broadcasters from different backgrounds, because the audiences who we serve are diverse, and deserve to hear differing viewpoints.

I reached out to some of the best women in the sports radio industry to get their views on the challenges they face, the way they’re measured, and what needs to happen for the format to evolve and include more females. I think that as you read their answers,  you’ll gain a stronger perspective, and deeper appreciation for what they provide, how they think, and what they’ve experienced, while trying to effect change in the sports talk format.

Special Guests:

  • Sarah Spain-ESPN Radio Network and ESPN 1000 in Chicago
  • Gianna Franco-95.7 The Game in San Francisco
  • Joy Taylor-104.3 and 790 The Ticket in Miami
  • Kate Scott-KNBR 680 in San Francisco
  • Anita Marks-98.7 ESPN NY
  • Michelle Smallmon-ESPN Radio
  • Jessamyn McIntyre-710 ESPN in Seattle
  • Amy Lawrence-CBS Sports Radio Network
  • Amanda Gifford-ESPN Radio Senior Director of Daytime Programming

Why do you believe more women are taking larger interest in sports radio?

sarahspainSpain: It’s hard for women to dream of doing a job they don’t see other women doing. For so long certain jobs were almost off limits to women, so wanting to go after them seemed unrealistic. The more women are given a chance, the more women will want a chance. And that isn’t just the result of talented women pushing for jobs but also the decision makers and front office folks being forward-thinking and open-minded. As for listeners, as society becomes less rigid about gender roles, women are free to like whatever they like. Title IX was also huge. Women are now free to participate in sports, and women who play sports as kids grow up to be sports fans.

amylawrence5Lawrence: Women with an interest in working in sports radio are definitely emboldened by the success of those who’ve gone before. Now and then, I hear from women in local radio markets who tell me I’m their role model and they want to get to where I am in the business. A door that was previously locked tight has been kicked open, and that encourages other women to try their hand at radio. At the same time, sports radio is still dominated by men far more than TV. Popularity in radio has nothing to with what you look like and how attractive you are. It’s not as “glamorous” nor does it pay as well across the board. Listeners are extremely tough on their hosts, even tougher on women, so while you SEE more and more women in lead roles on sports television, it’s still relatively uncommon in radio.

katescottScott: I think a lot of things factor into it. Title IX is the foundation. My generation – as opposed to those before us –  grew up being told “yes you can”, which we applied to more than just playing sports. I also think that’s tied into the growth in female listenership. More women had the opportunity to play and fall in love with sports as a result of the law, and thus, you’ve got a larger number of women in the radio demos that now want to keep in touch with their teams.

jessamyn3McIntyre: I think that women are finding more opportunities in places other than TV and the sidelines. The industry is changing, as are attitudes about women in the industry. I think it’s indicative of the change we’re seeing in society, rather than just in sports media. More young girls are studying sports communications, and entering male-dominated industries. I’d like to think it’s a sign of the times, where there is more equality across the board in many areas both in and out of the sports communications world.

anitamarks3Marks: I believe it’s simply a case of more opportunities presenting themselves. The biggest change is that General Manager’s and Program Director’s are feeling there is stronger value in having a female voice on their station or network, and providing the platform.

How do you convince a predominantly male 25-54 audience to keep an open mind towards you and judge you by your content rather than your gender?

amylawrence6Lawrence: I make it a priority to know what I’m talking about, inside and out. I understand a good chunk of the target audience will start listening to me with a bias, whether overt or subconscious. But when I know my material cold, when I’ve watched the same games, when I can answer their questions and back up my strong opinions, many of them will eventually come to respect me. Humor helps, too. Listeners want to relate to their radio hosts. They want to know you’re like them, so while my sports revolve around the top sports stories and topics, I’m not afraid to dive into music, superheroes, lawnmowers, travel, or food in small doses. The last and most important quality as a female host is confidence. No one is going to agree with me 100% of the time, and I welcome dissenting opinions. I’ll debate with anyone as long as it’s done semi-respectfully. When challenged, the worst thing I can do is back down or become wishy-washy. If you do that you’ll get eaten alive.

joyTaylor: Being authentic is the best way to win the male sports fan over. I think I’ve been accepted because I’m not trying to constantly prove I should be there. I’m there because I worked hard, took the same path my peers took and paid my dues. I grew up in a sports city, Pittsburgh, in a sport family, and played sports my whole life. Then I went to school, started as an intern, worked a few part-time jobs, and worked my way to on-air as a producer for several years. All of those experiences have helped me earn the audience’s trust and respect.

amandagiffordGifford: Just be you. Talk sports. Have a personality. Have fun. Have an opinion. Make me think. Don’t wave the “I’m a female flag.” It doesn’t matter what gender you are as long as the content is compelling. Also, don’t take things personally and stay far away from your social media mentions – there are a lot of not nice people out there!

giannafranco4Franco: I don’t pretend to be a stat expert or sport’s almanac. I’m a fan, like the listeners, and I focus on staying knowledgeable, offering a smart opinion and staying authentic. The second you try to pretend to be something you’re not, it comes across on the air. I also try to keep in mind who my audience is. I grew up with a dad and brother who are diehard sports fans, so I have insight into that perspective, and always ask myself would this content matter to them? I also don’t lose sight of the fact that I am a voice for the local female listeners as well.

jessamyn1McIntyre: You’ve got to be tough and grow thick skin. Getting defensive never helps. The best advice I got was from Dan Patrick. He told me I had the ability to make it in this business, but to ‘not be just another cute chick‘. He explained that you can get away with a lot as ‘a cute chick‘ and probably actually maintain a job, but you’ll never truly succeed to your potential. I’ve taken that with me for almost ten years now and am grateful he took the time to point that out to me. I’ve always considered myself a hard worker, but it gave me perspective I could truly appreciate.

Do you believe women and men who perform in the sports radio format are treated the same and measured by the same rules internally & externally?

smalls3Smallmon: Unfortunately, no. There have been times when I was overlooked for positions that were given to males who were less qualified than me. I’ve gotten the ‘you never played the game, you can’t understand football’ attitude, when a man who never played football probably wouldn’t face similar questions about participating in an NFL broadcast. Also, any time there was a photo posted of me on our station’s website, there would be comments about my appearance. Radio is auditory and not visual, yet the main thing many people cared about was my physical appearance. That’s something men are lucky they don’t have to deal with as often. The double standard will probably be there for a long time, but I hope we continue to chip away at it until it’s gone.

sarahspain4Spain: The decision makers at newspapers, radio and TV studios and websites are still predominately white men hiring other white men. They need to understand the benefits of diversity, and bringing in different voices and backgrounds in order for new people to be given a shot. A change in the mindset of those folks, an increase in the number of women seeking jobs in the industry, and the continued hard work of the women who have made it will all combine to help change the climate. And, again, the longer people see women in jobs the less shocking or noteworthy it will become.

giannafranco3Franco: No, not really. I think all stations want a variety. It’s attractive to listeners, and offers a different perspective, but that also means you have to work that much harder for respect and job advancement. It’s very easy for some male hosts to not take you seriously, and use you for only fun or frilly topics, so I learned to not be afraid to speak, crack the mic, and be aggressive. You have to do that if you want to be seen as more than just the token girl on the sports station.

amandagifford4Gifford: Unfortunately I think we have a little ways to go here. Because sports talk radio is mostly dominated by males, it still is a little surprising to the audience when they hear a female voice. I think similar to the way people react to female play-by-play announcers during men’s games (like Beth Mowins or Pam Ward, for example, who have called CFB games for ESPN, or Doris Burke in the NBA as a color analyst), there is not the same benefit of the doubt that male hosts are given. I think women have to work harder to make sure they don’t lose credibility with the audience even if they only make one mistake. It’s not fair, but it’s reality.

joytaylor2Taylor: No, I do not. Just because the industry is changing does not mean it’s an equal playing field. Women have to be better, funnier, smarter, more professional, etc. Fans want to know you’re legit, rather than just accepting that you’re the new host on their favorite station. Overall, my experience has been great, but there are always moments when I know there is still work to be done.

Despite the growth, why do you believe women are still largely under-represented in the format? What needs to change for the growth to become even larger?

katescott3Scott: Women are under-represented in our industry for the same reason they’re underrepresented in a variety of industries. Growing up, we didn’t see anyone that looked like us working those jobs, so we just didn’t think they were an option. Thankfully, I had family, friends, mentors, and school advisors who told me otherwise, which – in my opinion – is where things need to start. I also think it’s important for those of us in the industry to realize the impact we can have on the future. Every time a little girl comes up to say hello at a remote broadcast, I ask her when she’s going to take my job. I think it’s our responsibility to plant that seed or, if it’s already been planted, reaffirm the fact that we believe that they can do it. Case in point, ESPN’s Linda Cohn (who also started in radio) was my favorite SportsCenter anchor growing up. I wrote her a snail mail letter my freshman year in college and about eight months later, got a short, email response from her thanking me for my support and encouraging me to intern to get into the industry. I printed that puppy out, framed it, and had it on my wall all thru college, and I’ve been working my tail off to get to work with her ever since. It’s up to us to be that person for the next generation. Hopefully, with so many more women in sports radio these days, that will lead to even MORE women working in sports radio down the road.

jessamyn5McIntyre: There’s always going to be some level of divide, based on the fact that more men play the sports we talk about than women. While we want to cater more and more to a greater audience, the bottom line is that, more men are interested in football/baseball/etc. than women. That’s not to say women won’t be interested, just like some men won’t be interested, but it says that the content itself is geared more toward men. I think the continued encouragement of women who want to get involved at a younger age will do a ton for growth. I feel as though a lot of road blocks have been taken down throughout the last ten years and that women have all the opportunities in front of them. It’s now a matter of using them to their full advantage.

amylawrenceLawrence: Yes, women are still the severe minority in sports radio. But there is no easy “fix” or formula to make the genre more balanced. The doors are definitely open for women who want to work in the business, but women have to be willing to put in the work and pay their dues, understanding both the business and the audience. It’s NOT the same as TV where the segments are much more controlled and physical appearance can go a long way. But knowledge, preparation, and dedication can lead to opportunities in this day and age of sports media.

anitamarksMarks: Sports talk radio can be intimidating. As a host, you’re out there on an island, and with listeners calling in, you need to have every T crossed and i dotted, because you never know where the show may take you. It’s like a magic carpet ride and it can be overwhelming. Right now most women in the sports broadcasting arena are primarily hired as reporters and TV hosts. As society becomes more accepting of women having opinions on sports, I believe more will venture into sports radio.

joytaylor5Taylor: I think that it’s a reflection of the fan base. Sports fans are still mostly male, so it makes sense that there would be mostly men speaking to them. Over the next 5-10 years as more women become vocal about their love for sports, and more women are accepted into the industry in more than the stereotypical roles, and the fan bases change their opinions of female personalities, this will change.

What advice would you give to a young woman who’s trying to make it in sports radio today but is having a difficult time breaking thru?

anitamarks5Marks: Hit the web! Dominate social media! Create your own podcast! Create your own YouTube channel! Intern at sports radio and TV stations – and go above and beyond what they ask of you. Build a following, be strong with your opinions, allow your personality to shine through, be persistent in sending samples of your work to stations, and don’t ever stop believing in yourself!

sarahspain5Spain: Find out what separates you from the pack and own it. For me, that’s always been my comedy background. For someone else it might be a great mind for statistics, a passion for baseball history, an interest in longform writing or breaking news coverage. Whatever it is, lead with it and show why you’re different than the many others who want a gig. Also, be as genuine as possible. People can see through you if you’re not yourself, and listeners and viewers above all else want authenticity. Also work very hard, be easy to work with and don’t have a thin skin.

joytaylor4Taylor: Be as active and as hard working as possible. Women in the industry start at a disadvantage, so they need to work harder, show up earlier, be more educated and more prepared. They aren’t given the benefit of the doubt and that’s something that will only make you better in the long run. Also, be willing to take the job that doesn’t pay well or may not be what you want to do long term. You have to work your way up and pay your dues in the media industry. There is no way around it, and it will only help you grow your talent. So many people get out of school and expect to walk right on to a set or get behind a microphone, and it doesn’t work that way. Don’t give up or get discouraged though, the hard work is worth it.

smallsSmallmon: If you can, intern anywhere that will have you. This business is hard to break into for both genders, so get involved as early and often as you can. Find a mentor. Ask questions and learn from their experiences. The first thing I do every morning is read for an hour and a half. Be prepared, because if you aren’t, someone else will be. Speak up. Have a strong opinion and stick by it. Radio is very transparent, and listeners will identify a phony pretty quickly. You’re more than what you look like; so don’t let others reduce you to that. Social media can be your best friend and your worst enemy. Take what strangers say, both negative and positive, with a grain of salt. Have fun! Like any job, this one will come with its challenges, but at the end of the day, you’re being paid to talk about sports. Never forget that you’re one of the few lucky ones who get to do this for a living.

amandagifford2Gifford: Find something that differentiates your content from anything else that’s out there. If you’re female, that’s a little easier because there aren’t a ton of women in this format. So right there you’ve got something different. Then, the “rules” are the same – have an opinion, make me think, have some fun, and stay off social media! Reach out to people in the industry to provide feedback/thoughts on what you’re doing. And practice, practice, practice.

Barrett Blogs

Barrett Sports Media To Launch Podcast Network

“We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July.”

Jason Barrett

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To run a successful digital content and consulting company in 2022 it’s vital to explore new ways to grow business. There are certain paths that produce a higher return on investment than others, but by being active in multiple spaces, a brand has a stronger chance of staying strong and overcoming challenges when the unexpected occurs. Case in point, the pandemic in 2020.

As much as I love programming and consulting stations to assist with growing their over the air and digital impact, I consider myself first a business owner and strategist. Some have even called me an entrepreneur, and that works too. Just don’t call me a consultant because that’s only half of what I do. I’ve spent a lot of my time building relationships, listening to content, and studying brands and markets to help folks grow their business. Included in my education has been studying website content selection, Google and social media analytics, newsletter data, the event business, and the needs of partners and how to best serve them. As the world of media continues to evolve, I consider it my responsibility to stay informed and ready to pivot whenever it’s deemed necessary. That’s how brands and individuals survive and thrive.

If you look at the world of media today compared to just a decade ago, a lot has changed. It’s no secret during that period that podcasting has enjoyed a surge. Whether you review Edison Research, Jacobs Media, Amplifi Media, Spotify or another group’s results, the story is always the same – digital audio is growing and it’s expected to continue doing so. And that isn’t just related to content. It applies to advertising too. Gordon Borrell, IAB and eMarketer all have done the research to show you where future dollars are expected to move. I still believe it’s smart, valuable and effective for advertisers to market their products on a radio station’s airwaves, but digital is a key piece of the brand buy these days, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

Which brings me to today’s announcement.

If you were in New York City in March for our 2022 BSM Summit, you received a program at the show. Inside of one of the pages was a small ad (same image used atop this article) which said “Coming This Summer…The BSM Podcast Network…Stay Tuned For Details.” I had a few people ask ‘when is that happening, and what shows are you planning to create?’ and I kept the answers vague because I didn’t want to box ourselves in. I’ve spent a few months talking to people about joining us to help continue producing quality written content and improve our social media. Included in that process has been talking to members of our team and others on the outside about future opportunities creating podcasts for the Barrett Sports Media brand.

After examining the pluses and minuses, and listening and talking to a number of people, I’m excited to share that we are launching the BSM Podcast Network. We will start with a few new titles later this month, and add a few more in July. Demetri Ravanos will provide oversight of content execution, and assist with production and guest booking needs for selected pods. This is why we’ve been frequently promoting Editor and Social Media jobs with the brand. It’s hard to pursue new opportunities if you don’t have the right support.

The titles that will make up our initial offerings are each different in terms of content, host and presentation. First, we have Media Noise with Demetri Ravanos, which has produced over 75 episodes over the past year and a half. That show will continue in its current form, being released each Friday. Next will be the arrival of The Sports Talkers Podcast with Stephen Strom which will debut on Thursday June 23rd, the day of the NBA Draft. After that, The Producer’s Podcast with Brady Farkas will premiere on Wednesday June 29th. Then as we move into July, two more titles will be added, starting with a new sales focused podcast Seller to Seller with Jeff Caves. The final title to be added to the rotation will be The Jason Barrett Podcast which yours truly will host. The goal is to have five weekly programs distributed through our website and across all podcasting platforms by mid to late July.

I am excited about the creation of each of these podcasts but this won’t be the last of what we do. We’re already working on additional titles for late summer or early fall to ramp up our production to ten weekly shows. Once a few ideas and discussions get flushed out, I’ll have more news to share with you. I may consider adding even more to the mix too at some point. If you have an idea that you think would resonate with media professionals and aspiring broadcasters, email me by clicking here.

One thing I want to point out, this network will focuses exclusively on various areas of the sports media industry. We’ll leave mainstream sports conversations to the rest of the media universe. That’s not a space I’m interested in pursuing. We’ve focused on a niche since arriving on the scene in 2015 and have no plans to waver from it now.

Additionally, you may have noticed that we now refer to our company as ‘Barrett Media’. That’s because we are now involved in both sports and news media. That said, we are branding this as the BSM Podcast Network because the titles and content are sports media related. Maybe there will be a day when we introduce a BNM version of this, but right now, we’ve got to make sure the first one works right before exploring new territory.

Our commitment to delivering original industry news, features and opinions in print form remains unchanged. This is simply an opportunity to grow in an area where we’ve been less active. I know education for industry folks and those interested in entering the business is important. It’s why young people all across the country absorb mountains of debt to receive a college education. As valuable as those campus experiences might be, it’s a different world once you enter the broadcasting business.

What I’d like to remind folks is that we continue to make investments in the way we cover, consult, and discuss the media industry because others invest in us. It’d be easy to stockpile funds and enjoy a few more vacations but I’m not worried about personal wealth. I’m focused on building a brand that does meaningful work by benefitting those who earn a living in the media industry or are interested in one day doing so. As part of that process I’m trying to connect our audience to partners who provide products, services or programs that can benefit them.

Since starting this brand, we’ve written more than 18,000 articles. We now cover two formats and produce more than twenty five pieces of content per day. The opportunity to play a small role in keeping media members and future broadcasters informed is rewarding but we could not pay people to edit, write, and host podcasts here if others didn’t support us. For that I’m extremely grateful to those who do business with us either as a consulting client, website advertiser, Summit partner or through a monthly or annual membership. The only way to get better is to learn from others, and if our access to information, knowledge, relationships and professional opinions helps others and their brands, then that makes what we do worthwhile.

Thanks as always for the continued support. We appreciate that you read our content each day, and hope to be able to earn some of your listenership in the future too.

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5 Mistakes To Avoid When Pursuing Media Jobs

“Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.”

Jason Barrett

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I recently appeared on a podcast, Monetize Media, to discuss the growth of Barrett Media. The conversation covered a lot of ground on business topics including finding your niche, knowing your audience and serving them the right content in the right locations, the evolution of the BSM Summit, and why consulting is a big part of our mix but can’t be the only thing we do.

Having spent nearly seven years growing this brand, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I just know what’s worked for us, and it starts with vision, hard work, consistency, and a willingness to adapt quickly. There are many areas we can be better in whether it’s social media, editing, SEO, sales, finding news, producing creative original content or adding more staff. Though there’s always work to be done and challenges to overcome, when you’re doing something you love and you’re motivated to wake up each day doing it, that to me is success.

But lately there’s one part of the job that I haven’t enjoyed – the hiring process. Fortunately in going through it, I was able to get to know Arky Shea. He’s a good guy, talented writer, and fan of the industry, and I’m thrilled to share that he’s joining us as BSM’s new night time editor. I’ll have a few other announcements to make later this month, but in the meantime, if you’re qualified to be an editor or social media manager, I’m still going through the process to add those two positions to our brand. You can learn more about both jobs by clicking here.

Working for an independent digital brand like ours is different from working for a corporation. You communicate directly with yours truly, and you work remotely on a personal computer, relying on your eyes, ears and the radio, television, and internet to find content. Because our work appears online, you have to enjoy writing, and understand and have a passion for the media industry, the brands who produce daily content, and the people who bring those brands to life. We receive a lot of interest from folks who see the words ‘sports’ and ‘news’ in our brand names and assume they’re going to cover games or political beats. They quickly discover that that’s not what we do nor are we interested in doing it.

If you follow us on social media, have visited our website or receive our newsletters, you’ve likely seen us promoting openings with the brand. I’ve even bought ads on Indeed, and been lucky enough to have a few industry folks share the posts on social. We’re in a good place and trying to make our product better, so to do that, we need more help. But over the past two months, Demetri Ravanos and I have easily done 50-60 calls, and it’s been eye opening to see how many mistakes get made during the hiring process.

Receiving applications from folks who don’t have a firm grasp of what we do is fine. That happens everywhere. Most of the time we weed those out. It’s no different than when a PD gets an application for a top 5 market hosting gig from a retail employee who’s never spoken on a microphone. The likelihood of that person being the right fit for a role without any experience of how to do the job is very slim. What’s been puzzling though is seeing how many folks reach out to express interest in opportunities, only to discover they’re not prepared, not informed or not even interested in the role they’ve applied for.

For instance, one applicant told me on a call ‘I’m not interested in your job but I knew getting you on the phone would be hard, and I figured this would help me introduce myself because I know I’m a great host, and I’d like you to put me on the radar with programmers for future jobs.’ I had another send a cover letter that was addressed to a different company and person, and a few more applied for FT work only to share that they can’t work FT, weren’t interested in the work that was described in the position, didn’t know anything about our brand but needed a gig, were looking for a confidence boost after losing a job or they didn’t have a computer and place to operate.

At first I thought this might be an exclusive issue only we were dealing with. After all, our brand and the work we do is different from what happens inside of a radio or TV station. In some cases, folks may have meant well and intended something differently than what came out. But after talking to a few programmers about some of these things during the past few weeks, I’ve been stunned to hear how many similar horror stories exist. One top programmer told me hiring now is much harder than it was just five years ago.

I was told stories of folks applying for a producer role at a station and declining an offer unless the PD added air time to the position. One person told a hiring manager they couldn’t afford not to hire them because their ratings were tanking. One PD was threatened for not hiring an interested candidate, and another received a resume intended for the competing radio station and boss. I even saw one social example last week of a guy telling a PD to call him because his brand was thin on supporting talent.

Those examples I just shared are bad ideas if you’re looking to work for someone who manages a respected brand. I realize everyone is different, and what clicks with one hiring manager may not with another, but if you have the skills to do a job, I think you’ll put yourself in a better position by avoiding these 5 mistakes below. If you’re looking for other ways to enhance your chances of landing an opportunity, I recommend you click here.

Educate Yourself Before Applying – take some time to read the job description, and make sure it aligns with your skillset and what you’re looking to do professionally before you apply. Review the company’s body of work and the people who work there. Do you think this is a place you’d enjoy being at? Does it look like a job that you’d gain personal and professional fulfillment from? Are you capable of satisfying the job requirements? Could it potentially put you on the path to greater opportunities? If most of those produce a yes, it’s likely a situation to consider.

Proofread Your Email or Cover Letter and Resume – If the first impression you give a hiring manager is that you can’t spell properly, and you address them and their brand by the wrong names, you’re telling them to expect more mistakes if they hire you. Being detail oriented is important in the media business. If this is your introduction to someone and they have a job you’re interested in, you owe it to yourself to go through your materials thoroughly before you press send. If you can have someone else put an extra set of eyes on your introduction to protect you from committing a major blunder even better.

Don’t Waste People’s Time – You’d be annoyed if a company put you through a 3-4 week process only to tell you they didn’t see you as a viable candidate right? Well, it works the other way too. If you’re not seriously interested in the job or you’re going into the process hoping to change the job description later, don’t apply. If the fit isn’t right or the financials don’t work, that’s OK. Express that. People appreciate transparency. Sometimes they may even call you back in the future when other openings become available. But if you think someone is going to help you after you wasted their time or lied to them, trust me, they won’t.

Don’t Talk Like An Expert About Things You Don’t Know – Do you know why a station’s ratings or revenue is down? Are you aware of the company’s goals and if folks on the inside are satisfied or upset? Is the hiring manager someone you know well enough to have a candid professional conversation with? If the answers are no, you’re not helping your case by talking about things you don’t have full knowledge of. You have no idea how the manager you’re talking to has been dealing with the challenges he or she is faced with so don’t pretend you do. Just because someone wrote an article about it and you read it doesn’t mean you’re informed.

Use Social Wisely – Being frustrated that you didn’t get a job is fine. Everyone goes through it. Asking your friends and followers for advice on social of how you could’ve made a better case for yourself is good. That shows you’re trying to learn from the process to be better at it next time. But taking to social to write a book report blasting the hiring manager, their brand, and/or their company over a move that didn’t benefit you just tells them they made the right move by not bringing you in. Chances are, they won’t be calling you in the future either.

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Would Local Radio Benefit From Hosting An Annual Upfront?

Jason Barrett

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How many times have you heard this sentence uttered at conferences or in one of the trades; radio has to do a better job of telling its story. Sounds reasonable enough right? After all, your brands and companies stand a better chance of being more consumed and invested in the more that others know about them.

But what specifically about your brand’s story matters to those listening or spending money on it? Which outlets are you supposed to share that news with to grow your listenership and advertising? And who is telling the story? Is it someone who works for your company and has a motive to advance a professional agenda, or someone who’s independent and may point out a few holes in your strategy, execution, and results?

As professionals working in the media business, we’re supposed to be experts in the field of communications. But are we? We’re good at relaying news when it makes us look good or highlights a competitor coming up short. How do we respond though when the story isn’t told the we want it to? Better yet, how many times do sports/news talk brands relay information that isn’t tied to quarterly ratings, revenue or a new contract being signed? We like to celebrate the numbers that matter to us and our teams, but we don’t spend much time thinking about if those numbers matter to the right groups – the audience and the advertisers.

Having covered the sports and news media business for the past seven years, and published nearly eighteen thousand pieces of content, you’d be stunned if you saw how many nuggets of information get sent to us from industry folks looking for publicity vs. having to chase people down for details or read things on social media or listen to or watch shows to promote relevant material. Spoiler alert, most of what we produce comes from digging. There are a handful of outlets and PR folks who are great, and five or six PD’s who do an excellent job consistently promoting news or cool things associated with their brands and people. Some talent are good too at sharing content or tips that our website may have an interest in.

Whether I give the green light to publish the material or not, I appreciate that folks look for ways to keep their brands and shows on everyone’s radar. Brand leaders and marketing directors should be battling daily in my opinion for recognition anywhere and everywhere it’s available. If nobody is talking about your brand then you have to give them a reason to.

I’m writing this column today because I just spent a day in New York City at the Disney Upfront, which was attended by a few thousand advertising professionals. Though I’d have preferred a greater focus on ESPN than what was offered, I understand that a company the size of Disney with so many rich content offerings is going to have to condense things or they’d literally need a full week of Upfronts to cover it all. They’re also trying to reach buyers and advertising professionals who have interests in more than just sports.

What stood out to me while I was in attendance was how much detail went into putting on a show to inform, entertain, and engage advertising professionals. Disney understands the value of telling its story to the right crowd, and they rolled out the heavy hitters for it. There was a strong mix of stars, executives, promotion of upcoming shows, breaking news about network deals, access to the people responsible for bringing advertising to life, and of course, free drinks. It was easy for everyone in the room to gain an understanding of the company’s culture, vision, success, and plans to capture more market share.

As I sat in my seat, I wondered ‘why doesn’t radio do this on a local level‘? I’m not talking about entertaining clients in a suite, having a business dinner for a small group of clients or inviting business owners and agency reps to the office for a rollout of forthcoming plans. I’m talking about creating an annual event that showcases the power of a cluster, the stars who are connected to the company’s various brands, unveiling new shows, promotions and deals, and using the event as a driver to attract more business.

Too often I see our industry rely on things that have worked in the past. We assume that if it worked before there’s no need to reinvent the wheel for the client. Sometimes that’s even true. Maybe the advertiser likes to keep things simple and communicate by phone, email or in-person lunch meetings. Maybe a creative powerpoint presentation is all you need to get them to say yes. If it’s working and you feel that’s the best way forward to close business, continue with that approach. There’s more than one way to reach the finish line.

But I believe that most people like being exposed to fresh ideas, and given a peak behind the curtain. The word ‘new’ excites people. Why do you think Apple introduces a new iPhone each year or two. We lose sight sometimes of how important our brands and people are to those not inside the walls of our offices. We forget that whether a client spends ten thousand or ten million dollars per year with our company, they still like to be entertained. When you allow business people to feel the excitement associated with your brand’s upcoming events, see the presentations on a screen, and hear from and interact with the stars involved in it, you make them feel more special. I think you stand a better chance of closing deals and building stronger relationships that way.

Given that many local clusters have relationships with hotels, theaters, teams, restaurants, etc. there’s no reason you can’t find a central location, and put together an advertiser appreciation day that makes partners feel valued. You don’t have to rent out Pier 36 like Disney or secure the field at a baseball stadium to make a strong impression. We show listeners they’re valued regularly by giving away tickets, cash, fan appreciation parties, etc. and guess what, it works! Yes there are expenses involved putting on events, and no manager wants to hear about spending money without feeling confident they’ll generate a return on investment. That said, taking calculated risks is essential to growing a business. Every day that goes by where you operate with a ‘relying on the past’ mindset, and refuse to invest in growth opportunities, is one that leaves open the door for others to make sure your future is less promising.

There are likely a few examples of groups doing a smaller scaled version of what I’m suggesting. If you’re doing this already, I’d love to hear about it. Hit me up through email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com. By and large though, I don’t see a lot of must-see, must-discuss events like this created that lead to a surplus of press, increased relationships, and most importantly, increased sales. Yet it can be done. Judging from some of the feedback I received yesterday talking to people in the room, it makes an impression, and it matters.

I don’t claim to know how many ad agency executives and buyers returned to the office from the Disney Upfront and reached out to sign new advertising deals with the company. What I am confident in is that Disney wouldn’t invest resources in creating this event nor would other national groups like NBC, FOX, CBS, WarnerMedia, etc. if they didn’t feel it was beneficial to their business. Rather than relying on ratings and revenue stories that serve our own interests, maybe we’d help ourselves more by allowing our partners and potential clients to experience what makes our brands special. It works with our listeners, and can work with advertisers too.

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