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The Lack of Intimacy In Sports Talk Radio by Dan Zampillo

Jason Barrett



One of the more underappreciated skills in radio is the ability of an on-air host to connect on a 1 on 1 level with a listener. Some think that a connection is the result of providing passion, opinion, knowledge and entertainment, and choosing the right topics to discuss. Although those items factor into a radio show’s success, there’s one other small detail that often gets overlooked – speaking to one set of ears at a time!

Turn on a local sports radio station today and chances are you’ll hear a number of hosts refer to the audience as “everyone”, “all of you”, “ladies and gentlemen”, or “the fine people of (name your city)”. But when a person tunes into a sports talk show, they do so while in the comfort of their car, home, or job. In most cases they listen without anyone else nearby.

Driving with comfort.

Driving with comfort.

To the individual, you’re a companion providing a mental distraction while they travel to or from work. Depending on that person’s job and your show’s level of importance, they may even listen during their workday. The host can see the texts, tweets, Facebook replies, and phone calls that pour in, but those who interact are unaware and uninterested in who else is reaching out. They simply want to ask a question or offer an opinion, be acknowledged on a personal level by the host, and then listen for the response.

When we talk to our audience, we must remember that we’re making one hundred thousand individual connections, not speaking to a stadium full of one hundred thousand people. One of the most powerful words you can use on the air to address the audience and re-set your subject is ‘YOU’. It helps steer the conversation in a more personal direction, and if you insert that word in place of the other options, you’ll find your listeners feel much closer to you.

danzOne person who shares this belief is Dan Zampillo. During his career, he’s programmed in New York (SiriusXM), Detroit (97.1 The Ticket), Washington DC (ESPN 980), Columbus (97.1 The Fan) and Chicago (APD at WGN and 670 The Score) so he’s worked with some of the best personalities in many of America’s top sports radio markets.

When I connected with Dan and discussed the possibility of writing a piece for the website, I knew he’d put something together that would be thought provoking. Dan pays attention to the details and understands their value, and I think his explanations and solutions make a lot of sense and can be very beneficial to on-air talent, producers, and programmers alike.

If you’d like to reach him to discuss the article, follow him on Twitter by clicking here or on Facebook by clicking here. When doing so, make sure to wish him a happy birthday. Today’s his big day. Now without further delay, here’s a look at the lack of intimacy in sports talk radio.

The Lack of Intimacy In Sports Talk Radio by Dan Zampillo

Are you afraid of intimacy?

Are you wondering why a radio programmer is prying into your personal life?

intimacy2Relax. That’s not my intent. Instead, I want to draw attention to an issue in our industry that I think is hurting our ability to connect with listeners: a lack of intimacy.

Failing to talk to our listeners in an intimate way prevents us from establishing a strong relationship with them. It’s this strong relationship that is absolutely critical for developing and growing listeners, particularly now when there is so much competition for ears. Podcasts, webcasts and other digital broadcasts are popular in part because they have embraced the art of intimacy, making our ability to gain audience share more and more difficult.

So, what can we do?

One thing I have told my talent is to recognize that it’s a rare occasion when a station or host can stand on the top of the mountain and preach to the masses. It’s much more powerful to go out to those masses and engage with them one on one. Here are three ways I’ve tried to embrace intimacy on the radio and create an emotional and lasting connection with listeners:

Talk To One Person

All too often I hear radio hosts welcome “everybody” to their show. Or, they start out with the phrase “HELLO, AMERICA!”

SatelliteHere’s the issue with this: I am not “everybody.” I am not “America.” I am one person who is sitting in my car listening to a radio station, hoping to connect to the content and personality who is talking to me.

I’ve learned that one easy way of building intimacy is by talking to our audience like we are talking to one individual person. Phrases like “How do you feel?” or “What do you think?” can be more personal than “What does everyone think?” or “How do all of you feel about this?” Speaking directly to your listener makes them feel important and valued. The more important and valued they feel, the longer they’ll stay with you and the more often they’ll come back.

Use Theatrics

Intimacy can take many forms in real life, and the same is true for radio. I’ve tried to create an environment that encourages creating intimacy by presenting content in a variety of ways: loudly or softly, fast or slowly, seriously or in a goofy way. The key here is to have talent use all the tools at their disposal to help the audience feel closer to them.

intimacyThe best personalities think about how they can present a topic and talk to their audience in a way that will elicit the most emotional response. This means giving strong consideration to the theatrics of their presentation. They’re silly if they need to be. They’re soft if it more easily gets their point across. They’re angry if that’s the best way to drive the point home. Great talent do all of these things, knowing it will drive audience engagement and ultimately forge a deeper bond.

Don’t Overlook Station Imaging

I’m convinced the messages we send the audience via our station imaging should reflect the idea of establishing closeness. In other words, I’d argue that intimacy should be cultivated not only by the hosts and through their shows, but also through the promos that surround them.

expectHere’s how I like to do this: I tell the audience that they can get closer to the things that matter most to them. Then, I tell them how we’re going to accomplish this.

For example, if listeners value their football team above all else, then the station promos should acknowledge this and tell them what coverage is offered as it relates to their team—such as when the beat reporter’s daily team updates are and what kind of information to expect from them.

Likewise, if listeners feel a connection to a particular host, then show promos should accentuate that host’s personality and strive to provoke an emotional response from listeners. I’ve found that the more direct and specific we can be about the value proposition of listening to a particular segment or show, the better chance we’ll have that they’ll keep coming back.

I believe in radio, and I believe that no matter how it is consumed, it will continue to be an important part of people’s lives. But I’m afraid that if we continue to scrub out the intimacy, we are opening the door for our competitors to win over our audience. So I’ll rephrase my original question: Are you ready to embrace intimacy? The future of our business might depend on it.

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Rachel Nichols and Baron Davis Headline Final Speaker Announcements For the 2023 BSM Summit

“I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.”

Jason Barrett




The 2023 BSM Summit schedule is set. After months of planning and talking to everyone across the industry, I’m ecstatic to roll out next week’s agenda including making one final announcement involving seven great additions to our conference.

For starters, it is a pleasure to welcome Showtime’s Rachel Nichols to the BSM Summit. I’ve admired her work on television for years, and am thrilled to have her guiding a session which I think many in the room are going to really enjoy.

Rachel’s guest will be former NBA star Baron Davis. Baron runs his own company, Baron Davis Enterprises, and he has been active in investing in media brands, and exploring ways to evolve the industry. Among his areas of passion, athletes taking more control of their brands, and the media industry needing to improve its track record with diversity. I’m sure Baron and Rachel will have all eyes and ears focused on them when they take the stage together next Tuesday at 2:45pm PT.

Also joining the Summit are a few longtime industry friends. For starters, VSiN’s program director Jon Goulet is someone who I’ve known and worked with, and he understands the sports betting audio space extremely well. Jon and BetQL VP of Programming Mitch Rosen will spend time with another industry friend, Bryan Curtis of The Ringer. Collectively they’ll examine the state of sports betting audio on Tuesday March 21st from 3:35p-4:10p, and what they look for when it comes to sports betting talent, and how they determine what is and isn’t success in the sports gambling content world.

With Mitch taking part in the sports betting panel, Jeff Rickard of WFNZ in Charlotte steps into The Programmer’s Panel alongside Jimmy Powers, John Mamola and Raj Sharan. The session is scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 9:10a-9:45a PT. Ironically, all four of these programmers work for different companies, so it’ll be interesting to hear how they differ and where they align while navigating through a few sports radio programming topics.

Next, I’m excited to introduce a social media session with Karlo Sy Su of ESPN Los Angeles and Matthew Demeke of AM 570 LA Sports. If you look at the performance of their brands on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook, they’ve each delivered strong audiences and engagement. I’m looking forward to hosting this one and learning about their processes, how they decide which platforms to focus on most, what they consider a social media win when analyzing social statistics, and how they develop their content process. Given our location, we’re calling the session ‘Social Media Goes Hollywood‘. It’s scheduled for Wednesday March 22nd from 3:35-4:10 PT.

I realize you’re not going to remember all of these session speakers and times off the top of your head, so to make it easier, log on to and scroll down past our speakers. That’s where you’ll find our detailed list of sessions/times and activities planned each day. We have eighteen sessions, two awards ceremonies, and two parties. Our kickoff party is presented by the WWE and takes place Monday March 20th from 7p-9p at the 1880 Founders Room. The ESPN Radio After Party takes place Tuesday March 21st from 6p-8p at the Lab Gastropub. Both party locations are in walking distance of the USC Hotel and our conference venue.

As an added bonus, thanks to the generosity of our friends at WWE, we will be giving away a pair of tickets to the first night of WrestleMania, and a WWE title at our kickoff party. WrestleMania takes place this year in Los Angeles at Sofi Stadium on March 25-26. You must be present at the kickoff party to win either prize.

We’ll have more to share next week including providing an ongoing blog with session news and notes for our readers. We’ll also have a ton of content available on our social media channels so if you’re not following @BSMStaff on Twitter, @BarrettSportsMedia on Facebook or @BarrettMedia on LinkedIn, what are you waiting for?

The focus now shifts to finishing our creative for next week’s show, sending information to our speakers for their sessions, and finalizing our attendees list. For those who are attending, we’ll be sending out an email on Friday or Saturday with a complete list of names of who’s coming so you can plan meetings in advance.

If you forgot to buy your ticket after seeing months of promotion about the event and meant to do so, you can still do that, but it costs more. Students on the other hand can take advantage of a low rate established for college kids at

Putting this event together isn’t easy, but I’m extremely pleased with how it’s come together. We have a lot of smart, talented, and accomplished people making time to be part of this, and I appreciate each and every one of them for doing so. Now, it’s all about the execution. Hope to see you next week in LA.

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Sports Broadcasting Icon Al Michaels To Be Honored at the 2023 BSM Summit

“This is a man who has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer.”

Jason Barrett




If you work in the sports media industry you’ve likely heard someone along the way utter the phrase “don’t bury the lead“. I’m usually good about following that advice but I didn’t do that at our 2022 BSM Summit.

We introduced the greatest tandem in sports radio history, Mike Francesa and Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo and it was a special half hour. Mike and the Mad Dog were reunited after seven years apart and every individual at the event knew they were witnessing something magical on stage. I created a Mike and the Mad Dog Award for the event, which went to Felger and Mazz, who were the absolute right choice to win it. Even Chris remarked ‘that’s the right call‘.

But I learned quickly that although the intention was right in honoring the industry’s current top performing show, when you have legends in the room and they’re in their element, the last thing you want to do is overcrowd them. The connection Mike and Chris had on the air became the gold standard by which we measure successful sports talk shows, and they didn’t need an award created to deliver a special moment, just two mics and 20-30 minutes of stage time.

As I began thinking about the 2023 BSM Summit, I knew there was an opportunity to build on what we started last year with Mike and Chris, and after talking to a few people who I trust and respect, the decision of who we would recognize became crystal clear. I believe it’s important to honor the greats in our business because those who leave a permanent mark on our industry deserve it. The man we’ve selected has spent more than five decades on your television screen calling the biggest games, and producing some of the most iconic moments sports has to offer. He’s worked with the best of the best inside the booth, has helped elevate the presentation and execution of in-game content for ABC, NBC and Amazon, and his call of the Miracle on Ice, the US Olympic hockey team’s 1980 gold medal win over Russia remains one of the best calls in the history of sports.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored and privileged to share that Al Michaels will join us on Wednesday March 22nd at the 2023 BSM Summit for our awards presentation, where we will present him with BSM’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Michaels is one of America’s most respected sports broadcasting voices, known for his exceptional work on Monday Night Football (1986-2005), Sunday Night Football (2006-2022) and Thursday Night Football (2022-Present). He’s called the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, Hagler-Hearns, the Olympics, the Indy 500, Horse Racing’s Triple Crown races, College Football and Basketball games, Golf, and more. He’s even held roles as the voice of the University of Hawaii, the Cincinnati Reds, and the San Francisco Giants, and was in the booth in 1989 when an earthquake rocked the Bay Area during Game 3 of the A’s-Giants world series.

The Brooklyn native turned Los Angeles resident has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and owns a ton of hardware including five sports Emmy’s, three NSMA Sportscaster of the Year honors, the 2013 Pete Rozelle Radio & Television Award distributed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the 2021 Ford C. Frick Award given out by the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Though his trophy case may be full, we’re excited to add another to his collection to show our appreciation and respect for the impact he’s made on the sports media business.

A quick reminder, the BSM Summit takes place on Tuesday March 21st and Wednesday March 22nd at the Founders Club at the University of Southern California. Tickets are on-sale at

Be advised, we have started adding sessions and times on the website. As always, the schedule is subject to change. Our final agenda will be posted by the end of next week. In addition, attendees will receive an email by next Friday with details of who will be in attendance. We hope to see you there.

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Rob Parker, Brian Long, Sean Thompson and Matt Fishman Join The BSM Summit Speaker Lineup

“I’m excited to welcome a few folks who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.”

Jason Barrett




As we gear up for our 5th annual BSM Summit on March 21-22, 2023, I’m starting to get a better feel for how the final puzzle may look. When this process starts I have no idea how it’s going to turn out because so much depends on who says yes and no. Many who’ve attended over the years have complimented our lineups, and I appreciate it because I put a lot of time and effort into featuring a strong mix of professionals from different areas of the industry. Though I’m proud of the work we do and the schedule we deliver, there are so many things pursued leading up to the event that I can’t help but wonder ‘what if this or that had worked out?’

One thing that some folks don’t understand if they haven’t been to the show before is that this is not a talent conference. It’s a sports media business conference. That means we feature radio, TV and digital executives, programmers, researchers, sales professionals, and yes, talent. I believe on-air performers are vital to the industry’s success and I want the best of the best sharing their wisdom with everyone in the room, but we’re also not going to do two full days of on-air conversations. Being successful in sports media requires understanding the on-air side and the business side, and we do our best to offer a blend of both.

For today’s announcement, I’m excited to welcome a few sports media pros who have enjoyed success in different parts of the country, and in different areas of the business.

First, Rob Parker is someone who has made a name for himself as a radio host, writer, TV commentator, and teacher. He’s currently heard weeknights on FOX Sports Radio, teaches students at USC Annenberg, writes for Deadspin, and is helping MLBBro gain awareness and a bigger mainstream media presence covering Major League Baseball. He’s experienced, smart, and never short on opinion. I’m looking forward to having him join Mitch Rosen of 670 The Score/BetQL, and Scott Shapiro of FOX Sports Radio for a session titled “Aircheck On Campus“. They’ll take the stage together on Wednesday March 22nd from 2:10-2:45.

My next three speakers, all come from the sports radio programming department.

Matt Fishman is the Director of Content for ESPN 850 Cleveland. Fishman has been with the brand since January 2020 following stints at SiriusXM, 610 Sports in Kansas City, and 670 The Score in Chicago. He even wrote for BSM for a few years.

Sean Thompson is responsible for programming decisions at Arizona Sports and ESPN 620 AM. He joined the well respected Phoenix brand after more than a decade in Atlanta at 92.9 The Game. Sean has also worked in affiliate relations for Westwood One, and on the air and as a programmer in music radio for Good Karma Brands in Madison, WI.

Brian Long is the program director of both San Diego Sports 760 and KOGO 600 in San Diego. In addition to guiding two of the top talk brands in his market, he has also managed Seattle Sports 710, and served as the Assistant Program Director for ESPN LA 710.

Matt, Sean, and Brian will be part of one of our final sessions on day two of the Summit. The Last Call which yours truly is hosting, will explore unique revenue opportunities created by local brands, and examine a few new ideas and missed opportunities that brands and managers may want to take advantage of in the future.

As of today, the Summit has more than forty accomplished professionals taking the stage at the Founders Club at USC’s Galen Center on March 21-22, 2023. I’ve got a few others still to announce as well, including a few cool giveaways planned for the WWE’s Kickoff party.

If you haven’t bought a ticket and wish to be in the room, visit The last day for ticket sales will be Monday March 13th. I’m hoping to release our final schedule of sessions on Tuesday March 14th. Hopefully I’ll see you in the city of angels.

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