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Sports Radio Hosts Need to Start Thinking About a Future Beyond AM/FM Radio

It’s not exactly a banner time to be in the sports radio business for talent these days.

Any given day here at Barrett Sports Media, it feels like we’re writing a story that involves a host exiting the station they’ve been at for any decent amount of time due to budget cuts.

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If it was due to saying something stupid on the air, getting a DUI, a domestic violence incident, or something similar, it wouldn’t make me question the medium’s future. Unfortunately, the departures are almost universally tied to budget cuts in an attempt to juice an already comically low stock price, with the hope that — despite decades of evidence showing you that it isn’t the Secret Stuff needed to bring the price back up — this will be the time that eliminating jobs will help make radio more profitable.

Just take a gander in recent days. Darren Smith out at San Diego Sports 760. Everybody out at 590 The Fan in St. Louis. The Blitz 1170 in Tulsa? Shut down to run a 24-hour simulcast of local TV news broadcasts. Seriously.

Despite no longer being in a building on a day-to-day basis, if I were a sports radio host, I’d be looking around wondering ‘Am I next? Is our brand next? What can I do to mitigate any potential job loss?’

Because, more likely than not, the decision isn’t going to be yours. I’ll never forget sitting in a department head meeting and receiving word that our traffic director was going to retire. The business manager perked up in her seat and said “I’ve never thrown a retirement party before!” She had worked in radio for more than 40 years.

If that isn’t enough evidence for you to question what the future looks like, I don’t know what is.

There are a whole bevy of options out there to control your own destiny if you feel the AM/FM Radio walls closing in around you.

Start a video show on YouTube, Rumble, Twitch, X, Facebook Live, or all five. You’d be amazed at how little the start-up costs can be.

I know that everyone has a podcast these days, but it’s because the barrier to entry is so incredibly low.

You can start a Substack and write about … whatever you want. Utilize Patreon to go with it.

The options are bountiful. They increase if you have a loyal sponsor –like many sports radio hosts do.

I can completely understand how scary the idea of jumping out on your own can be. But many folks in the industry have created a blueprint for you. Whether it be Scott Kaplan, Mike Taylor, Landry Locker, or any others in a long list of hosts who have left the corporate world behind to do their own thing, it’s never been easier to monetize your own content and be your own boss.

Even starting something on the side — obviously that doesn’t break any stipulations in your contract — right now is a good idea. Just as a fallback plan. And who knows? Maybe someday it isn’t a fallback plan. It could be a nice leverage play in your next contract talks. Having a platform with a decent-sized audience can give you a “If you don’t hit this number, I’m just going to walk, do my own thing, and take some of your advertisers with me,” card that can be invaluable.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. You can have a fantastic working relationship with a Market Manager, Program Director, Producer, co-host, or insert any other job here, but all of that can change in an instant. And if you don’t have someone fighting for you in a top position, it’s possible your days could be numbered just simply based on how much money you take home each paycheck.

Is that fair? No. Is it right? Hell no. But it is reality. You can guard against it, though.

Branch out and be the creator that you already are. If you’ve got listeners, there’s a reason for it. Leverage them and do something for you. I doubt you’ll regret it.

Garrett Searight
Garrett Searight
Garrett Searight is Barrett Media's News Editor, which includes writing bi-weekly industry features and a weekly column. He has previously served as Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH, and is the radio play-by-play voice of Northern Michigan University hockey. Reach out to him at [email protected].


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