Sometimes an excellent message is lost because of the messenger.
Perhaps the messenger lacks knowledge. Maybe the communication skills are missing. Possibly, the messenger lacks vision or a channel to deliver the message. Or maybe the message can be so darn complicated that it is difficult to distill down to concepts that are easy for normal, non-technical folks to understand.
Many in the digital asset space have said Bitcoin suffers from these difficulties. And some are also now saying that one of their own has grown into the ideal messenger to bring the message to the masses.
“You’ve been absolutely killing it, you’ve been relentless, you don’t let up with the hosts,” said Peter McCormack, the trailblazing host of the “What Bitcoin Did” podcast. “You don’t let them interrupt you. You just came on; I’ve seen two specifically, you’ve come on like a f–king steam train, and some of the best clips I’ve seen of people talking about Bitcoin.”
McCormack was referring to Natalie Brunell, the buoyant host of the Coin Stories podcast, who he welcomed onto his highly-respected program recently.
“I finally feel like I’m kind of in my zone and feel like I am, sort of, I found my calling,” Brunell responded humbly. “I’m really passionate about Bitcoin, and I want to spread the message and use my skills that I acquired over the last ten years to do that.”
Brunell acquired those skills through her early career in journalism, and it was only recently that she made the move full-time into Bitcoin education and programming. Just last week, she helped anchor Bitcoin Magazine’s live coverage of the Bitcoin 2022 Conference from Miami.
“We think you are the best we’ve got to be out there in the mainstream talking about Bitcoin. We think you are the best,” McCormack said.
Going unsaid is one of the most obvious attributes she brings, that of being an eloquent woman in a space dominated by males. Most digital asset hosts openly admit that their audiences skew heavily male, an obstacle they feel the industry will need to surmount to reach the heights many of these insiders foresee.
Regardless of gender, breaking into the mainstream is a challenge for anyone.
“I want to get on more shows. It’s funny; people ask me why haven’t you been on CNBC yet? Why not CNN? You know, it’s hard because, for some reason, Fox Business and some of the other outlets have been more prone to want to discuss Bitcoin, as opposed to some of the other outlets,” Brunell replied. “I’m not a big CEO that purchased Bitcoin on my balance sheet, so I would love to get out there more if I can, and hopefully that’ll happen.”
“But you’re an insider in that world,” the intrepid McCormack responded, alluding to Brunell’s stellar career in media and journalism. “You know how it works.”
“Yeah, a little bit. A little bit,” Brunell acquiesced. “But I still think that Bitcoin, there’s still so much that people just don’t understand, which has been an advantage to me, right? Because if mainstream media got it, I probably wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing right now and making a career of it. So I feel like I’m kind of running full speed because I got a head start sort of understanding and learning all this myself. But once mainstream media pours in, I don’t know what will happen. They won’t really need me anymore.”
One of the traits that makes Brunell such a well-qualified Bitcoin educator is her deep appreciation for personal freedom. She was born in Poland and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of five, as her parents yearned for the opportunities America offers citizens, regardless of their place of birth.
“My parents have all these stories of what it was like when it was Communist. They really always dreamt of coming to the United States. My mom just had this vision of the American Dream and coming to the U.S.,” Brunell said. “She watched a lot of American films, which I think is why I was naturally predisposed to loving film and T.V. and just media in general. She always had things on, and she loved the old classic Hollywood movies and how they depicted American life.”
With her mother as the driving force, it took 20 years before her family was able to make the move to America and the suburbs of Chicago. When Natalie arrived in an American elementary school, she didn’t know a single person or speak the English language.
“It’s like this feeling when you know you’re different. Everyone kind of thinks you’re weird and doesn’t understand the food you’re bringing to lunch, thinks your language and accent is weird,” she recalled, remembering her early school years as a recently-immigrated student.
She eventually changed her name officially from Natalia to Natalie in an effort to fit in. Financially, there were many challenges in her early days in Chicago. In their first apartment, she and her brother each had their room, while her parents slept on a pullout sofa in the living room. Her family of four shared a single bathroom.
Brunell is bright, engaging, and clearly a “people person,” which helped her assimilate quickly by talking and interacting constantly with friends. Even at her young age, she had the natural talent and desire to communicate and express herself, a skill set that today helps her make the sometimes-complicated topic of Bitcoin seem simple and understandable to the viewers. And not only understandable, but fun and exciting as well!
“I believe that the American Dream shouldn’t be so hard to achieve. I feel like the country was founded on such amazing principles of self-determination and freedom, and we’ve lost that along the way. I’ve always been a believer that if you’re a good person and you work hard, you should be able to achieve the things that you want,” she told McCormack. “And it’s not going to be all equal. We’re not all equal, and we don’t all have the same motivations and desires, but I think you should have a shot, you know.”
“I think certain types of journalists are predisposed to understanding or getting Bitcoin straightaway,” McCormack complimented Brunell. “I think there’s two types of journalists – they get it, or they want to fight it. There’s no middle ground, and the ones that want to fight it are usually shitty journalists who don’t do the proper research. The ones who get it, they suddenly just want to work on it.”
Brunell noted that, even in her younger years, she felt a strong pull toward media and journalism.
“I always wanted to work in T.V. or film, and I grew up sort of having a ton of media on at home because it helped augment my parents’ English skills,” she said. “Whether it was T.V. shows that were more on the scripted, fictional side or just news. We were a family that watched a ton of news, like Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters interviews, Oprah, all of it was on all the time.” And as she matured, she felt even more compelled to the idealistic nature of true journalism.
“I remember being young and just thinking what an incredible job. What a noble profession; you get to interview leaders and big celebrities. I’m this little girl in the suburbs of Chicago who came from a foreign country. It just seemed like this amazing job,” Brunell said.
Brunell eventually majored in journalism at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles. She then earned her Masters in Journalism at Northwestern. It was a continual rise of the ladder of success for the woman who once felt she would consider herself financially successful if she simply had a house with a garage. In fact, her family’s financial struggle started after immigrating to America and worsened with the great financial crisis of 2008. During that time, the family lost everything, including their home, to bankruptcy.
And that led Brunell to Bitcoin.
“It took this ten year career being in news and exposing myself to some of the biggest crises facing this society – interviewing people on a day-to-day basis facing poverty, homelessness, civil unrest, public corruption – for me to finally start to connect the dots. Because when I discovered Bitcoin and finally went down the rabbit hole, I was like, oh, this is the problem. Oh, this is the problem that’s also impacted my hard-working, amazing, good family. And now I will do anything possible to help everyone I can, first understand the problem, and know that Bitcoin is the solution.”
Today, Brunell delights viewers and listeners through her YouTube and audio podcast, discussing Bitcoin topics with the industry’s leading voices. The best and brightest in the space appear with Brunell and watch with satisfaction as she so concisely and compellingly spreads the word on national media.
For McCormack and the other Bitcoin influencers, developers, and O.G’s, Natalie Brunell is officially one of them. And she is now also one of the most influential.
Rick Schultz is a former Sports Director for WFUV Radio at Fordham University. He has coached and mentored hundreds of Sports Broadcasting students at the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, Marist College and privately. His media career experiences include working for the Hudson Valley Renegades, Army Sports at West Point, The Norwich Navigators, 1340/1390 ESPN Radio in Poughkeepsie, NY, Time Warner Cable TV, Scorephone NY, Metro Networks, NBC Sports, ABC Sports, Cumulus Media, Pamal Broadcasting and WATR. He has also authored a number of books including “A Renegade Championship Summer” and “Untold Tales From The Bush Leagues”. To get in touch, find him on Twitter @RickSchultzNY.
Michael Berry Doesn’t Want to Be All Serious All the Time
“I get to entertain everyday and people come and listen to me. That really — more than anything else — is the thrill.”
There are plenty of nationally syndicated radio shows that began as local shows. Not many hosts, however, have both a local radio show and a nationally syndicated show each weekday. But Michael Berry isn’t your average radio talk show host.
In addition to hosting a local show on NewsRadio 740 KTRH, Berry hosts The Michael Berry Show on more than 40 stations throughout the nation. And he believes having a local show in his hometown market — Houston — while still getting to talk about national topics on his afternoon show is the ideal situation for him.
“It lets me sort of keep my hand in two very different pies and do two very different shows. And that fulfills me,” Berry said. “I wouldn’t want to do just one or just the other. And I think part of it — I was the Mayor Pro Tem of the city of Houston, so I got very involved and very entrenched in the political world. I know a lot of the restaurant owners, I know a lot of business owners, and I really enjoy making the fourth-largest city into a tiny town for our listeners.
“But I also want to be able to talk to a national audience on a national level. I get to do both of those. I think that’s ideal for me.”
Michael Berry served on the City Council in Houston from 2002-2008, which gives him a unique perspective about both local and national politics that many others in the format don’t have.
“I think the experience of how bills are made and the backroom deals and how they’re done, I think that informs my opinions in a way that if you haven’t done that, it makes it harder to understand,” said Berry. “Also the blocking and tackling of how you get bills passed and how you win elections and those sorts of things.
“It just gives you that experience and it also helps you understand when a politician or an elected official says something that seems to go against what he believes or what he promised. You have a better sense of ‘Ok, who did he sell out to? Why did he do that? Where is the pressure point?’
“Because I think listeners want to understand not just why is Mitch McConnell doing something that feels like it’s against what the base is doing. The better question is, what’s the pressure point? What’s driving him? Who’s pushing him into that corner? And I think when you’re in the process, you get a very good sense of that.”
One could refer to Michael Berry as an almost new-age news/talk host. While one of the large criticisms of conservative talk radio today is the vitriol and anger most hosts present on the air, Berry is often presenting the opposite. Oftentimes, his show isn’t centered on conservative political viewpoints at all. A constant presentation of hope, admiration, and excitement not just about politics but about culture and the conservative lifestyle is the backbone of Berry’s program.
And while he has an affinity for those inside the conservative talk radio format, he simply believes he’s filling a different, virtually unoccupied, lane.
“There are some brilliant people out there on the radio. Sean Hannity has access to every elected official. Clay (Travis) and Buck (Sexton) are getting access to anybody they want as a guest. Mark Levin is a brilliant mind, a brilliant legal mind. (Glenn) Beck has a great perspective from decades of experience. Dan Bongino’s a really smart guy. There’s some really, really clever, smart, experienced broadcasters. I don’t need to be a lighter version of them, which is all I could ever hope to be. I want to be who I am,” admitted Berry.
“And I don’t see myself as competing with them. I wouldn’t want to. They’re all wonderful. We can all coexist, but I don’t want to watch the same show 24 hours a day. I want to create content that is different than other people are doing,” Berry continued. “Not because I’m better or they’re not good, but because I don’t think I can do it as well as they can. So I want to do what I do well.”
Michael Berry free admits he’d get bored simply sticking to the conservative political script for two separate shows each day. That’s why weaving other topics into his program continues to excite him.
“If all you do is what I call angry, old white man radio, you can’t build an audience and you can’t keep an audience. And the reason is that it becomes tedious. It becomes a chore to listen to. And everybody has heard that type of program that never laughs at anything and especially not that itself. We want to make people laugh. We want to talk about real life things, as well. We don’t have to talk politics 24/7.
“When I think about the influence in this country, on the culture, comedians have always had such an influence. The reason is that when you’re laughing, you’re thinking, and you’re engaging and you’re building your bond. I think that one of the great barriers to success in radio and success for the conservative movement is the inability to bond on the deeper level of let’s share a laugh.
“I think there is a great joy when I find that I’m making a point that I consider to be important, and yet in the middle of it, we can all laugh.”
Ultimately, Michael Berry doesn’t view his role in talk radio as a political pontificator, conservative advocate, or a preacher from behind the Republican pulpit. He views his craft from a completely different angle.
“I view myself as an entertainer. The hardcore conservative listeners don’t like me to say that because that means you must not mean what you say, or you’re not serious. I mean every word I say. And I’m very serious,” Berry stated. “But I’m serious in the way Dave Chappelle is serious. And make no mistake, Dave Chappelle is having a huge influence in America today on how we view the First Amendment or the concepts of freedom of thought…the reason is, is because he’s dead serious while making you laugh.
“When I was really deciding that this was a career I wanted to pursue…I went and studied stand-up comics, because I felt like that was the place. Otherwise, I would just mimic the guys that were already successful, and I didn’t want to do that,” Berry continued. “I felt dishonest about that.
“So what I did, instead, is I went and studied comedians, and delivery and how you engage an audience and how you hold an audience and how you make a point without beating the audience over the head with it. And how you go from point to point, how you pivot, how you make it fun. A lot of these are sort of back porch conversation tricks, you know, parlor games of, of how we keep a conversation going except it’s a one one man conversation without it feeling like I’m lecturing you.”
During our conversation, Michael Berry admitted he can hear hosts around the country who have lost the will to create compelling content, who say things they don’t believe, and are no longer in love with the format that once enticed them to join the industry.
However, he’s made a vow to never lose the excitement that comes with working in a format he still thoroughly enjoys.
“I view it as I get to wake up every day excited to go to the studio. My dad worked for 40 years at a plant in the maintenance unit and he hated every day of it. But he had all us kids to take care of. I get to entertain every day and people come and listen to me,” he shared. “That really, more than anything else, that is the thrill. I know that sounds hokey, but it’s true.
“I think that most people probably don’t love what they do…I’m a megalomaniac. We all have to be to have the audacity to think that you can talk every day and people want to hear you, but I love it. It’s a thrill. I love to talk and I love to create stories and I love to create entertainment and create content. And when I hear from people that in some way they enjoyed it. It’s more rewarding than you can imagine, in the way that it would be for a pastor, or a comedian, or a songwriter, or a singer. It is incredibly rewarding.
“We live in an abundance of riches when it comes to content…but for them to choose to come and say I’m gonna let you entertain me,” Michael Berry concluded. “That is the ultimate compliment.”
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett News Media. He previously served as Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host of 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio.
Do Radio Hosts Actually Care About What They’re Talking About?
So many shows do topics because they feel like they have to. Maybe the topic’s trending. Maybe it’s leading the news. But if you don’t care, listeners will notice.
If you don’t care, why should anyone else care about what you do?
That’s one reason why I didn’t watch the NBA All-Star Game Sunday night. You don’t get a 211-186 final if anyone is remotely making any effort at all. It’s an extended version of the pre-game warmup. Everyone’s throwing up threes with no defense. They might as well break into a layup drill. Nobody wants to get injured in a meaningless game. I’ve endured a lot of All-Star games among the major sports leagues, and I stopped bothering to watch years ago. I haven’t missed much.
That translates to other realms as well. This column focuses on the media, so if you’re, say, a talk radio host, you should be asking yourself whether you really care about what you’re talking about. That’s the threshold question: Do you care? Because if you don’t, are you really going to put in the effort to make the topic entertaining so that other people – your listeners – care enough to listen and stay with you for the whole segment?
So many shows do topics because they feel like they have to. Maybe the topic’s trending. Maybe it’s leading the news. But if you don’t care, listeners will notice. And “I don’t care about it” isn’t a particularly compelling talk radio topic, is it?
It’s easier for local sports talk – it’s a given that whatever you’re ranting about and whatever take you have, listeners care because, well, who listens to sports radio and doesn’t care about what’s going on (All-Star Games notwithstanding)?
News organizations, on the other hand, have a different goal: If it’s news that on the surface is dry and boring but still matters, it’s the reporters’ and editors’ job to explain why a viewer or reader should care. Ukraine or Gaza might seem remote to a lot of people, but their importance to a typical U.S. citizen can’t be understated, and it’s important (and often forgotten) to emphasize why they matter and what impact they have on everyone.
The simple fact is that the energy you project on anything you talk about or report upon is a reflection of what you have invested in the story. You can fake enthusiasm, but if you just truly don’t care about Taylor and Travis, you’ll just be going through the motions and that’s what the audience perceives.
On the other hand, if you’ve invested a lot of time digging into an arcane financial story and you know that what seems like a remote, inscrutable radio topic may have profound consequences for many consumers, emphasize that and make clear why the viewer or reader should care, and do it right out of the gate to grab their attention.
Here, a digression: Why do they even bother with the actual All-Star Game anymore? Take the NBA All-Star Weekend: Nobody will remember anything about the game (other than that one team scored over 200 points) but everyone will remember the Steph Curry-Sabrina Ionescu shootout. They may remember Mac McClung’s repeat dunk contest win or the celebrity game or Rising Stars games.
Why not just do the skills and challenges, which are usually entertaining, and skip the All-Star Game itself, which isn’t? Maybe add some contests and honors for past greats. Most of the people who trek to the All-Star venue are there for the parties anyway. And with baseball now doing interleague play all season, none of the All-Star Games involve getting to see players who don’t normally face each other in the regular season face off. They don’t need a game nobody in it wants to play. I recognize this will never happen.
But the main takeaway here is that it’s less true that you can’t make someone care about a thing they don’t care about themselves than it is true that if you don’t care, you have zero chance making anyone else care. Your poker face isn’t that good.
Perry Michael Simon is a weekly columnist for Barrett News Media. He previously served as VP and Editor/News-Talk-Sports/Podcast for AllAccess.com. Prior to joining the industry trade publication, Perry spent years in radio working as a Program Director and Operations Manager for KLSX and KLYY in Los Angeles and New Jersey 101.5 in Trenton. He can be found on X (formerly Twitter) @PMSimon.
Radio Was Built For Charity and Volunteer Work
Your charitable activities build a better world. Your radio show and station make a real difference.
Art Bell once said, “We are all here for a Cosmic Blink. Use your time wisely.” The wisest man in all of history, a fellow named Solomon said, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” All of us are drawn to radio for usually a basic human impulse…it is a narcissistic rage that exists in every baby. Look at me! Listen to me! My opinions are important!
Unless you are a completely narcissistic fool, you have looked in the mirror and wondered about why we are here. What is your worth in the cosmic blink? Ok, let old Uncle Peter (Yes, I went full third person) explain.
We have all been given an amazing platform. Not only to spout our beliefs, biases, and humor, but to touch our communities. Does your show have a charity? Why not? Does your station have a charity or a “Day of Action” to support local causes? The answer should be yes. Radio shows and stations raise millions of dollars to improve our society. We raise awareness of issues that create change. It is why we are here.
Before I give you some random idea starters for your show/station, let’s talk about the charities that you personally support. Do you give a portion of your income to religious, humanitarian, or conservation projects that you believe in? You should if you don’t make these donations. I don’t know what floats your boat, but I think it is important psychologically to donate to organizations that do good things in our world.
These donations allow a portion of the cosmic blink of our lives to pay it forward. Even if you don’t make a lot of money, a small donation helps you feel connected to our world. If you are particularly blessed by the fruits of your hard work, make that donation bigger. Investing in the charities and religious organizations of our choice gives us significance. Instead of the narcissistic screaming for change, it is an action step.
Your show can unify your community through service. There was a movement that is still going on today by some churches that take a Sunday off from a religious service to spend their day serving their communities. This can be painting an elderly widow’s home, cleaning a park, feeding the homeless, or other things. If you speak to homeless shelters, lots of people want to volunteer on Thanksgiving morning, but not so much in the middle of February.
So how about a day of service for your radio show? Reach out to a local charity that needs volunteers and make it an all-day affair. Perhaps you can do your show from the homeless shelter. Interview the people who serve the downtrodden every day or interview listeners who donated their day with you? Make it big and use your platform to make someone’s life better.
For those of you who have been doing radio for a decade or less, I have had listeners reach out to me about something that I said on the air 25 years ago. It’s very humbling. Every day you get on the air trying to perform. Heck, have you ever wanted to scream “Is anyone listening?” I have. I had someone reach out to me on Twitter to share a moment that meant so much to him. When those moments happen, I thank them for listening and what an honor it was to impact their memories in such a way. You are making a difference for people every day.
Your station may broadcast a big charitable event each year. Be involved in every aspect of the planning process. Buy in 100%. When you take full ownership of the station event, your interest will take this fundraiser to the next level. Talk about a way to build goodwill in the community.
Do you want to create an unbreakable bond? Help a local charity. You will go viral. Take selfies with all of the volunteers and organizers. Put this on your social media. Make it big. Do something that makes a difference. Go to their events and volunteer to do anything. Likely, you will be an emcee, but, if they want you to wrap presents, shovel up some stuff do it. Be a servant.
In our post-COVID world, I keep reading about disconnection. Civic groups and religious organizations are experiencing a crisis of participation. This is terrible. Our society’s drift into solitude is damaging. Census figures show that the average household size in the USA is about 2.5 people. This means there are a lot of people sitting in a home or apartment alone. These people are disconnected from society. They go to work, go home, and live their solitary life online. Humans are not built for this. Your radio show is a connection for them. By the way: Your community’s average age is probably around 37 years. Think of this. You are a lynchpin for building community. Your station’s charitable events help people belong to something greater than themselves.
You are an influencer. Be a leader. Build a community. Create belonging.
Your charitable activities build a better world. Your radio show and station make a real difference.
Peter Thiele is a weekly columnist for Barrett News Media. He currently serves as the Director of Spoken Word for iHeart Des Moines. Additionally, Peter has held programming roles in New York City, San Francisco, Little Rock, Greenville, Hunstville, and Joplin. He has also worked as a host, account executive and producer in Minneapolis, and San Antonio. You can reach him on X at @PeterThiele.