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Thank You For Supporting The 2019 BSM Summit

“Jason Barrett provides a recap of the 2019 BSM Summit in Los Angeles.”

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Nine months. That’s how much time was invested in putting together the 2019 BSM Summit. It seems crazy that a two day event could require so much time and energy, but it did. In the end though, it was well worth it.

I’m a perfectionist by nature, so there’s plenty I’ll look back on and say ‘we should’ve done this, we didn’t we do that’ but if I never did another thing in the sports radio industry, I can look back fondly knowing I brought the industry together. I saw over 150 media professionals from 30+ companies grace the halls of the Grammy Museum last week in Los Angeles, sharing insights and ideas on stage, interacting in the halls, toasting one another at the cocktail reception, and coming together for a common cause – to gain information, increase relationships, and work towards lifting the sports radio format to higher levels.

I didn’t think that was possible when I decided to roll the dice and turn this small private event into a bigger industry show. Sports radio folks aren’t often found at radio conferences. They have a tendency to become attached to their offices and studios. Fortunately though this event drew a favorable response.

Don Martin said it best at the end of the summit, ‘kinship matters, and it’s important that we work together to raise the level of this format.” That’s so true. We spend so much time worrying about crushing each other that we forget that there are a lot more stations not delivering sports talk radio content and taking money and ratings out of our format. In the television world sports is king, but in radio, we’ve got a lot more work to do to improve the overall perception.

We’re operating at a time where economic projections for radio are flat to down over the next few years. I made this point during my Under The Radar session that programmers need to think more like business executives, instead of ratings chasers. Yes the content and coaching matters, but a true brand leader invests themselves in the success of the entire organization. That means sales, events, marketing, and examining all aspects of an organization, and what it isn’t taking advantage of that could potentially be a new avenue towards additional revenue.

Reflecting back on the two days, it was a blast sharing the stage with so many great people. We captured a ton of video, audio, and photos. I’ll be sorting thru all of it in the days and weeks ahead, and making some of it available on the BSM website, BSM Podcast, and thru my social media channels, so stay tuned.

As far as the sessions were concerned, it was cool putting Bruce Gilbert and Mike Thomas together. The two brothers are well accomplished, and had never been on a panel. That blew my mind. It reminded me that it’s vital to create fun sessions, understand who’s attending your event, and introduce fresh voices and faces.

Personally, I was very proud to introduce awards in the name of Jeff Smulyan and Tony Bruno, and offer the industry’s respects to both men. What each of them has accomplished in this business was well worth recognizing. Having Eric Shanks, Rick Cumings, Kraig Kitchin, and Clay Travis part of those awards ceremonies made it even more special.

Anytime I can spend thirty to forty minutes talking shop with Jim Rome, Colin Cowherd, Jason Whitlock, Marcellus Wiley, Eric Bischoff, Mitch Rosen, Dan Zampillo, and Don Martin it’s a great day. I also loved going outside of the content area and chatting about business with Steve Shanks, Jill Albert, Lisa Nichols-Jell, and David Gow.

As a spectator I loved watching my good friend Jim Cutler wow the crowd with his fantastic session on imaging. Jim sees more copy than anyone, and he has a tremendous passion for this format. When he offers his insights on how to stand out creatively thru the speakers, I’m a sponge for the information. Hopefully every PD in that room was paying attention.

It was also a lot of fun leading Doug Gottlieb down the hall to surprise Adam Klug, Jim Graci, and Eric Johnson after they critiqued part of his show on stage. All three programmers handled it great, and Doug was awesome as well. Here’s a guy who’s been hosting shows across the country for over a decade, and his first words to the panel were ‘you said I took too long to get into the content…..and you were absolutely right.’

The conversation Mike Salk conducted with Ramona Shelburne, Steve Wyche and Bruce Feldman on reporting, which included expectations when appearing on sports radio brands was also excellent. I thought Demetri Ravanos delivered a similar experience when he explored ways to stand out in digital and social media with Pat Muldowney, David Feldman, and Phil Mackey.

Having Brian Long share time on stage with Mason & Ireland allowed all in attendance to get a feel for why John and Steve have been such a consistent force in Los Angeles. I also liked how Jason Dixon moderated the Inside vs. Outside Thinking panel with Ryan Hatch, Chris Kinard, Justin Craig, and Scott Shapiro. That was a lot of programming power on one stage.

For those in search of information, Steven Goldstein, Warren Kurtzman, and Norm Pattiz hosted sessions on podcasting, smart speakers, research, and monetizing digital. We also ventured into eSports and sports betting with Joe Fortenbaugh moderating a chat with Brian Musburger, Chad Millman, and Kip Levin, and Arash Markazi talking with Ari Segal, Jared Jeffries, Daniel Cherry, and Sebastian Park.

The most powerful session though belonged to Emily Austen. I’m so happy for her that she was able to share her story with people, and continue the process of moving forward. We all make mistakes in life, and I’ve never been the type to close a door on someone who screwed up.

Emily and I met on radio row this year, and I was aware of her screwup on Barstool Sports. She didn’t try to make excuses for it, she was accountable. She sought to use her mistake as an example to help others, and leading up to the conference I knew she’d move the room. I watched some of the video clips she sent me, and they were uncomfortable. I wondered how people at the event would react to such hateful and disgusting remarks on the screen, and decided to air them without editing because real life situations aren’t always pretty. Regardless of where she goes in the future, I know there are people who left that room with a different perspective thanks to her willingness to be vulnerable.

One of my favorite personal moments was sitting on stage hosting the Women in Sports Media panel listening to Amanda Gifford share her wisdom with the audience. To think that fifteen years ago Amanda was my intern on ESPN Radio’s GameNight, and now here we were having an important discussion together on stage was a very cool moment. I thought Amanda, Lindsay McCormick, Debbie Spander, and Julie Stewart-Binks were fantastic, and provided a great reminder of why it’s vital for sports radio to continue adding female voices to the on-air presentation.

Just as important as providing a beneficial on-stage experience was, it was also necessary to have some fun. The private cocktail party at Tom’s Urban was well attended, and went so good that I actually reached into the wallet and added some expense to extend it an hour. It was going too well to shut it down after sixty minutes.

I want to thank Ryan Hatch for picking up on how we promoted the BSM Summit leading up to the show. We had a strategic vision for creating written content, and everyone on the BSM writing staff got into the act and did a tremendous job 4-6 weeks out to build up additional buzz. To all who lent their time sharing feedback with our writers, I greatly appreciate it.

There were a few takeaways that I couldn’t end this column without pointing out. I learned that Colin Cowherd REALLY likes Evan Cohen, Jim Cutler’s bullshit button brings out the kid in all of us, attendees feared front row seats more than losing a meter, the Dolly Parton exhibit in the Grammy Museum had more fans than I initially expected, Josh Innes, Tony Bruno, Joe Fortenbaugh, and Mark Zinno showed that no matter how talented and successful they are as on-air talent, they still care about learning new things to get better, and Bruce Gilbert won the conference with his memorable quote ‘podcasts are the new assholes, everybody’s got one’.

I’ve since begun seeking out feedback from those who attended to find out what we could’ve done better. I’ve learned over the past four years from attending industry shows that nothing is ever perfect, even if that’s the goal. My hope is that attendees were able to take something back to their brands to further grow their business, and that the experience was enjoyable enough to want to attend again in the future.

Where I do have to make adjustments is with my personal involvement creating the show. I put way too much on my plate this year. I created every session, the BSM Summit website, the on-site program, every powerpoint (except Cutler, Austen, Goldstein, and Kurtzman who brought their own) display, and I tracked down 99% of the speakers. I also sold every sponsorship. Trying to do all of that while continuing to listen and talk to clients, write, podcast, and pursue new opportunities is difficult.

Thankfully I had great on-site support from my team of Demetri, Tyler, Brandon, and Stephanie, and excellent video work from Brandon Burgess of The King of Dreams, but going forward, I’ve got to add a few extra hands to make things easier. That’s a good problem to have, it means we’re growing.

Speaking of support, I couldn’t have pulled off this event without the help of Premiere Networks, FOX Sports Radio, ESPN, PodcastOne, Compass Media Networks, Hubbard Radio, Harker Research, and Benztown Branding. These groups placed their faith in me, and I hope that you’ll do the same for them by checking out their brands, programs, people, and websites.

I also want to recognize Colin Cowherd and Jason Whitlock. I traveled to Los Angeles in October to do a site review of the Grammy Museum, and during my visit I stopped by the FOX lot to meet up with both of them. I hadn’t built one session or secured one speaker when I asked them each to participate in the conference. Without hesitation they both said yes. They gave us a much needed boost to attract other great people, and I greatly appreciate them doing so.

It was also a pleasure seeing an increase in market managers, and industry executives in the room. To those who made the trip, thank you for doing so. I’m well aware that programmers, agents, and talent will support the show, but this format needs everyone involved, not just those responsible for content. Moving forward, I’m determined to bring more GM’s and industry leaders into this conversation. I also think if you’re a talent looking to improve, and advance your career, you’re missing a huge opportunity not being here. There is no other event where you’re going to cross paths with more than 40-50 radio bosses.

I’ll wrap this up by adding that I love the sports radio format. I believe it deserves much more credit and investment than it currently receives. The personalities are household names locally and nationally. The brands they operate on are an integral part of listener’s lives, and the associations stations have with professional sports franchises provide another meaningful way for advertisers to benefit.

Some radio groups have a tendency to overlook this format’s ability to deliver significant results. Advertisers can be guilty of doing the same. Maybe that’s due to some brands still broadcasting on AM, measurement remaining challenged, the format being too narrow focused on Men 25-54, and radio not being considered as sexy as other platforms. But I’ve seen firsthand how this format produces strong returns for clients. So much of turning the corner involves pulling for each other, taking chances, and telling our story. We’ve got to continue doing that if we want to generate bigger ratings and dollars.

I’ve made it my life’s mission to advocate for this format, and help brands, and people create larger success. Whether I work with a station or not, I’ve tried to be a valuable resource to anyone I come in contact with. I’m a believer that if you do good work and have a good reputation, when the time is right, people will seek you out to help them. Hopefully down the line we’ll have a chance to do some business together, but even if we don’t, I hope to see you at the 2020 BSM Summit.

Now just one question remains, where should we hold it? Click here to cast your vote.

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John Skipper To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit

“In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured key talent to join the brand, and in April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.

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Putting on a two-day industry conference comes with a fair share of challenges. Months are spent building sessions, selling sponsorships, and talking to so many people that by the time the event rolls around, all I can think about is reaching the finish line and avoiding major issues.

But then the event happens, and there are moments where I’m able to block out the noise for 30-40 minutes and just be present in conversation. It’s what I enjoy most. Being able to sit across from an industry leader who’s been successful in business, and pick their brain on the past, present and future of our industry is both personally and professionally fulfilling. Not only does it provide me with an education, but it helps everyone in attendance too. That’s my motivation for running this conference.

When we return to New York City on March 2-3, 2022, I’m thrilled to share that I’ll have a chance to do that once again with someone I’ve professionally respected and admired for a long time. It is an honor to announce that Meadowlark Media CEO John Skipper will join us for a special on stage conversation at the 2022 BSM Summit.

If you’ve worked in this industry or aspire to, then you’re likely aware of what John has accomplished. He’s seen the business from many different points of view and remains very much involved in helping shape its future. But before we discuss his present involvement, let’s revisit the past.

During his tenure with ESPN, John spent five years serving as company president where he secured a series of long-term, multiplatform agreements with key rightsholders such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, Major College Conferences, US Open Tennis, FIFA, the Masters Tournament and British Open, the College Football Playoff, and the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls. He also oversaw the evolution of several brands including The Undefeated, Grantland, five thirty eight, and espnW among others.

Prior to becoming company president, John held the position as EVP of Content, which he earned after helping create and introduce one of the most successful magazine launches of the 1990’s with ESPN The Magazine. His understanding and belief in digital helped ESPN move ESPN. com forward in 2000, adding a paid section, ESPN Insider, and delivering a revamped site approach to generate more advertising. His foresight also spurred the launch of ESPN3, a television network producing more than 4,000 live events on the web and through mobile devices. If that wasn’t enough, John also supported the creation of the Watch ESPN app, played a key role in elevating the careers of many of the industry’s top sports media stars today, and oversaw the growth of ESPN Films, ESPN Radio, and many of ESPN’s key television programs.

After exiting the worldwide leader, John signed on as the Executive Chairman of DAZN. In January 2021, Skipper’s plate became even more full when he reunited with Dan Le Batard to create Meadowlark Media. Since joining forces, the group has raised millions of dollars in funding, lured a number of key talent to become part of the brand, and established a strong presence in podcasting and on YouTube. In April, Meadowlark closed a deal with DraftKings for a reported fifty million dollars over three years. Not too shabby for year #1.

What I’ve appreciated about John is that he’s never been afraid to roll the dice and take risks. Some of his moves have worked out, others haven’t. The wins have been recognized across the industry, but so too have the losses. He’s had to lead a company thru high profile talent controversies, cord cutting challenges, understand the world of video, audio, print, digital, advertising, subscriptions, talent, and rights deals both domestic and internationally, all while keeping his finger on the pulse of the present state of the media business while turning an eye towards the future and knowing which areas the company should make significant investments in.

John has been thru all of it as a media executive, and he’s still doing it while building the Meadowlark brand. A recent story in Bloomberg captured some of his views on growing the Le Batard empire and navigating various parts of the industry. I highly recommend taking time to read it. You can do that by clicking here.

We have five and a half months until we’re inside the Anne Bernstein Theater in New York City, so who knows where the industry will shift during that time. One thing is for certain, John Skipper will be ready for whatever lands on his doorstep. I’m eager to spend time with him in New York treating industry professionals to his insights, opinions and leadership lessons. I’m confident those in attendance will gain value from hearing his perspectives on the industry.

I invite you to join us either in person or virtually for the 2022 BSM Summit. Tickets to the event can be purchased by clicking here. For information on sponsorship opportunities, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.

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2022 BSM Summit Adds Pablo Torre, Joe Fortenbaugh, Kazeem Famuyide & John Jastremski

“By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day Summit.”

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The announcements continue for the 2022 BSM Summit. After recently sharing the news that former ESPN Radio executive Traug Keller would join us in the big apple to accept the Jeff Smulyan Award, and previously revealing the first fourteen participants scheduled to appear, it’s time to inform you of a few key talent who will participate in sessions at March’s show.

I’m thrilled to welcome ESPN’s Pablo Torre to the 2022 BSM Summit. Pablo’s been with the worldwide leader since 2012. During that time he’s served as a senior writer for ESPN.com, the host of the ESPN Daily podcast, and has appeared on shows such as Around The Horn, Highly Questionable, and The Dan Le Batard Show. He also previously co-hosted High Noon with Bomani Jones. Prior to joining ESPN he spent five years writing for Sports Illustrated. Having worked with a mixture of talent from various backgrounds, I’m looking forward to having him share his insight and opinions on the value of it at the show.

Pablo isn’t the only ESPN personality joining us in New York for the conference. I’m excited to welcome back a great friend and one of the smartest sports betting analysts on television, Joe Fortenbaugh. Joe is regularly featured on ESPN’s sports betting program Daily Wager. He also appears on other ESPN programs and segments on television, radio and digital platforms. Prior to joining the network he hosted 95.7 The Game’s morning show in San Francisco, and hosted “The Sharp 600″ sports betting podcast. He’ll moderate a conversation with sports betting executives at the show.

Given that this two-day sports media conference is taking place in the heart of New York City, it’d be silly to not include someone who’s passion, energy, sound, and content embody what New York is all about. The Ringer’s John Jastremski will make his BSM Summit debut in 2022. The ‘New York, New York’ host is known to many for his years of contributions on WFAN. It’ll be fun picking JJ’s brain on the differences between performing on a traditional platform and the digital stage.

Jastremski isn’t the only one with a connection to The Ringer who will participate at our 2022 event. My next guest is someone who I’ve followed on YouTube and Twitter for years, has infectious energy and likeability, and has taken his life experiences and sports passions and turned them into opportunities with MSG Network, SNY, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, WWE, The Source and various other outlets. Kazeem Famuyide will join us to shed light on his journey and offer his perspective on the value of traditional vs. non-traditional paths.

By the time March’s conference rolls around, we’ll have somewhere between 50-60 people announced to participate at the two day event. I’ll be announcing the addition of a very special executive in mid-October, as well as a few high profile speakers and awards recipients in the weeks and months ahead. I’m appreciative of so many expressing interest in speaking at the conference, and as much as I’d like to include everyone on stage, I can’t. Keeping the Summit informative, fresh and focused on the right issues is important, and to do that, I’ve got to introduce different people, perspectives and subjects so our attendees gain value to further improve the industry.

A reminder, the 2022 BSM Summit is strictly for members of the sports media industry and college students aspiring to work in the business. It brings together people from more than thirty different media companies and focuses on issues of relevance and importance to media industry professionals. The show takes place March 2-3, 2022 in New York at the Anne Bernstein Theater on West 50th Street. Tickets and hotel rooms can be secured by visiting BSMSummit.com. For those unable to attend in person, the Summit will also be available to view online. Virtual tickets can be purchased by clicking here. Hope you’ll join us!

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Traug Keller Named 2022 Recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award

“Former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award.”

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Photo Credit: ESPN Images

Sometimes decisions are difficult. Other times they’re not. This was one of the easiest ones I’ve made since launching the BSM Summit in 2018.

If you haven’t attended the Summit before, one of the cool parts of the conference each year is that we take time to honor people who have left a permanent mark on the industry we love. Awards ceremonies are held both days to recognize difference makers who have made positive contributions to the sports radio business. At our 2022 BSM Summit, I am pleased to share that a great man will be celebrated for his life’s work.

It is my honor to announce that former SVP of ESPN Audio and President of ABC Networks Traug Keller has been chosen as our 2022 recipient of the Jeff Smulyan Award. Keller becomes the third industry executive to earn the honor. Kraig Kitchin and Dan Mason were the first two to be recognized at the 2019 and 2020 BSM Summit’s.

Upon learning that Traug had been selected as the next Jeff Smulyan Award winner, Emmis Communications CEO Jeff Smulyan said, “Traug Keller has left an indelible imprint on not only sports radio, but on all of broadcasting through his remarkable career. I’m proud to call him my friend, but I’m just one of the legions of people who have loved every minute of their time with him. He’s a broadcaster’s broadcaster, but more than that he’s one of the best people I’ve ever known.”

“I am humbled for sure but thrilled to be receiving an award with the name of my good friend on it, Jeff Smulyan,” added Traug Keller, now the EVP and COO of American Media. “Jeff did what all too few leaders in business do, he took risk and action against all kinds of headwinds and the rest of us in the great business of Sports Audio were the beneficiaries of it. Thanks to BSM for this great honor and I look forward to seeing a bunch of old friends in March!”

Anyone who has crossed paths with Traug over the past three decades knows how important he was to the success of ESPN Radio. He’s been a friend to many, a great partner to hundreds of radio affiliates, and a champion for talent. His support for BSM has also meant a lot.

Perhaps even more impressive was Traug’s ability to connect with his affiliates, clients and colleagues, offering steady leadership and on-air stability for ESPN Radio. No executive leaves with a perfect record, but Keller had a knack for landing on the right side of many decisions. None as impressive though as retiring from sports radio in February 2020, one month before the sports world came to a screeching halt and a global pandemic rocked the entire advertising industry. Talk about timing Traug, haha.

In all seriousness, having Traug and Jeff together on the same stage in front of the industry to give folks an opportunity to show their appreciation for their accomplishments is a real treat. So many enjoy professional success today due to bold and smart decisions made by each of these men, and I couldn’t be happier to spend time with both in New York City this March.

For tickets, hotel and additional details regarding the 2022 BSM Summit visit BSMSummit.com.

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