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. To see some video highlights from the conference click here.
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.