When you first get an opportunity to work at a sports radio station, you’re not thinking about how the lessons you learn might serve you one day down the line. You’re just hoping to remain employed and in the company’s good graces. The thought of crossing state lines and building a brand as an on-air talent in another market is the furthest thing from your mind.
Once you’ve been in the industry for a while though, it’s amazing how the people you once spoke with, met, or shared a press box with, emerge as industry friends or connections. In some cases they even become direct competitors or colleagues.
When I started my career, I worked in upstate New York, about an hour from New York City. Everyone’s goal in that market was to make it to WFAN. ESPN New York didn’t exist, sending snail mail to ESPN in Bristol, CT and being considered for employment was thought to be a pipedream, and local radio had its perks but only provided a small portion of what was possible in sports radio.
It was in local radio in upstate NY though that I became familiar with Tom Krasniqi. I was hosting afternoons on 1340/1390 ESPN Radio in Poughkeepsie and had just been promoted to Program Director of the radio station. I was determined to develop the second coming of WFAN (which was very unrealistic) and I started interviewing people who shared the same passion and vision as I did for sports radio.
As I searched for people who understood my vision, I came across Tom Krasniqi’s resume and aircheck. Although he was still new to the business, so was I, and I liked what I heard. Plus I saw that he had spent time at WFAN so I reached out and arranged a meeting.
He showed up, and three things stood out. First, he was easily the sharpest dressed guy in our building. Secondly, he towered over me, and third, he had a lot of passion for sports talk radio.
As we talked about sports, radio and professional experiences, I could tell that we had a lot in common. Tom had recently worked for WFAS in Westchester and was trying to find a spot which would allow him to develop further as a sports talk show host. After our interview ended, I spoke to my bosses about the possibility of adding him and they gave me the green light to do so but shared two things that I knew would make it difficult to attract a good candidate.
- The offer had to be part time and at minimum wage
- The radio station had just been sold and a format flip could be coming
Sensing that it wouldn’t be a positive situation for Tom or anyone else, I elected not to make an offer. We did speak and have a great conversation and I knew he’d end up landing in a good situation because he was young, talented, and hungry.
As luck would have it, my radio station in Poughkeepsie did flip formats a few months later from sports to spanish, so it’s a good thing that I never asked Tom to head north. That allowed him to focus his time on other opportunities, and after landing some work in New York City, he eventually migrated south to Florida where he began building his brand in Tampa.
Tom got a break in 2004 when he was hired as an anchor and host by 1010AM. Five years later that led to an opportunity at ESPN 1040am where he eventually became the station’s afternoon drive host. It wasn’t until 2012 though when he earned his biggest opportunity, working for 620 WDAE, Tampa’s leading sports radio station.
“TKras” as he’s known to his audience, started as an anchor, host, and Bucs reporter on WDAE. Two years later when the radio station had a chance to upgrade their local programming schedule, Tom was named host of the 9a-12p midday program, alongside Ronnie “Night Train” Lane, his former on-air partner at ESPN 1040.
Since teaming up, the pair have not disappointed. In the recent January ratings, “Ronnie and TKras” delivered the highest ratings on WDAE. Their show focuses primarily on the local Tampa sports scene and the chemistry and difference in the way each of them sound and approach topics is easy to detect.
Given that many in the sports format may not know Tom’s story, background, or the way his program has climbed the ratings ladder at WDAE, I thought it’d be interesting to catch up with him and get some insight on how he’s progressed over the years, and what he believes is important in creating great sports talk radio for a local audience.
Q: Who did you listen to growing up that influenced you to want to pursue a career in the sports radio business?
A: From the very first day of existence back in 1987, I grew up listening to WFAN in New York. Steve Somers, Chris Russo & Mike Francesa were the inspirations for me. When I finally got a chance to intern & work there, it was a dream come true. I was able to get an up close view as to how to be a compelling sports talk host from these guys. Being able to pick their brains was invaluable to me. It was instrumental in my development.
Q: Prior to landing at WDAE, where did you work previously and what were the best/worst parts of those career experiences?
A: Prior to WDAE, I was a sports anchor and host at Genesis Communications 1040-AM in Tampa. Before that, I spent nearly 6 years at all-sports 1010am in Tampa also as a sports anchor and host. All in all, I’ve been in the Tampa/St. Petersburg market for more than 12 years. I enjoyed the people I worked with and the opportunity to cover some of the greatest moments in Tampa Bay sports, namely the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals and the 2008 World Series. The downside? Cutbacks in recent years by corporate entities has hindered the business greatly.
Q: How did you end up landing on the airwaves of WDAE?
A: They were aggressive in pursuing me back in 2012 and that was really attractive to me. It’s a great feeling to be wanted. They had a plan for me to come in — cover the Bucs, sports anchoring and filling in as a host on occasion. Fortunately, I was able to establish myself to the point where I was able to land a regular hosting gig. I’m grateful to iHeartMedia for that.
Q: When it comes to your show, what do you read, watch and listen to in order to help you prepare and create content?
A: I’m online reading and researching about 4 hours per day, sometimes more. I’m watching games at night and always observing the mainstream sports networks, ESPN, Fox Sports, NFL, MLB & NHL Network. I’m always interested to get the national perspective to the local Tampa Bay area teams.
Q: During the span of a 3 hour show, how many topics do you try to introduce to the audience?
A: It’s a heavy emphasis on the local sports scene, Bucs, Rays & Lightning, as well as the major college sports in Florida with some relevant national topics mixed in. I’m always eager to express my opinion on the hot button issues, both locally & nationally.
Q: Why do you believe recycling/not recycling content is a smart strategy?
A: I believe recycling content is an effective strategy to a certain point. The average sports radio listener doesn’t stick around for long. Of course, we always love the P1 fanatics but they’re few & far between. What I always like to do is take a different angle to the same topic, advance the story when we touch upon it again later in the show. For example, The Lightning win last night. Early in the show we mention the big plays & analyze what happened. When we bring up the topic later in the show, I try to advance it. What’s next? Who’s playing well? Who needs to pick it up? Injury updates, that sort of thing. Recycle, but keep it fresh with updated content.
Q: How much value do you place on callers being a part of your show? Why do/don’t they matter to you?
A: I always enjoy interacting with callers. It can be highly entertaining at times but it should never be the end all, be all when it comes to hosting. You don’t want to rely on it constantly. At the end of the day, people are tuning in to hear YOUR opinion.
Q: When you lay out your 3-hour program, what’s your approach to adding guests?
A: Unless there’s a big story developing, you never want to jam your show with wall to wall guests. You want to bring people on that bring something to the table, opinions, insight & entertainment value.
Q: As it pertains to social media, how important do you think it is for an on-air talent to be accessible in the space? How do you incorporate it into your show?
A: Social media these days is very important to sports radio! You want to interact with the fans and at the same time, use it as a tool to promote your brand/show. Tease subject matters & invite them to listen in when you’re ready to make a big prediction or offer a hot take on a topic. Twitter/Facebook are great tools to push your content and reel in new listeners. You never know who’s listening.
Q: If there’s one area of sports radio today that you believe is sub-par and needs to be improved what is it?
A: I think it’s always the race to try and break news first, rather than get it right. I also believe in objectivity when it comes to local teams. You want to be fair & balanced. Do I want to see the local teams succeed? Absolutely! We’re the radio home to the Bucs, Rays & Lightning. When they do well, we do well. But at the same time, you have to remain objective & avoid being a homer. And stay away from the personal attacks and cheap shots. That’s how you gain credibility.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your broadcast career?
A: Be humble. Work hard & stay resilient. Never say no to opportunities when they come along. Be versatile. Learn how to cover the field as a reporter as well as being a producer, anchor and eventually a host. Start at the bottom and work your way up. That’s the only way you’ll learn responsibility and when that hard work eventually pays off, it’s that much more gratifying. If you can’t conquer the task in front of you (board-op, reporter, producer), what makes you think you can tackle the bigger jobs with more responsibility? My good friends Ian Eagle and Sweeny Murti of WFAN instilled that in me years ago and I’ll never forget it. Great piece of advice that I pass along to others today.
A: I hope to continue doing what I do. I pride myself on being entertaining, passionate and opinionated. I’m never satisfied with status quo. I’m always striving to improve. At the same time, I’m blessed to be living a lifelong dream and I’ll always be grateful for being in this crazy business.
Tom Krasniqi aka TKras can be heard weekdays from 9a-12p on 620 WDAE in Tampa. For more information on his show with Ronnie “Nighttrain” Lane, click here. You can also follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
New Study Finds Listeners to MLB on Radio Are Willing to Spend
More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team… 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.
When it comes to advertiser’s attempting to reach an affluent and engaged audience, sports talk radio might have a whale on their hands. Major League Baseball play-by-play features an audience that has money and has no problems spending it.
In a recent MRI-Simmons study, data shows that consumers who listen to MLB broadcasts on the radio are the perfect audience for sports marketers. According to the analysis, done by Katz Radio Group, nearly two thirds (62%) of those surveyed consider themselves “super fans” of baseball. That number is 58% higher than the average.
Those “super fans” are willing to spend to support their team, as well. More than one third (34%) of the respondents recently purchased clothing/apparel that features their favorite team. Those fans are also far more willing to make the trip to see their team. The study found that 27% have visited a ballpark in the past year. That compares to only 19% of the average MLB fan base has made an apparel purchase to support their team while just 11% have gone to a game in person in that same time span.
The news continues getting better for advertisers. Continued analysis reveals that 66% of listeners are currently employed and have a median household income greater than $106,000.
Listeners to MLB games on the radio are also 34% more likely to place a sports bet and 106% more likely to be a participant in fantasy baseball.
Jeff Dean Signs Off At ESPN Tucson for The Final Time
Dean said on Facebook: “…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”
Fans will no longer be able to tune into ESPN Tucson and hear Jeff Dean hosting his show. Friday morning was his last show, according to his Facebook and Twitter pages.
The Jeff Dean Show had been airing from 7-9a MT weekday mornings. Dean took to social media to relay the news and the reason behind him stepping away from the microphone. Dean said on Facebook:
“This morning I signed off from my radio show on ESPN Tucson for the final time. I have been devoting too much of my life and my time to working multiple jobs…the years of burning the candle at both ends has taken a dire toll on my health and for the first time in my life, I’m going to put myself and my livelihood first”
Dean went on to emphasize that he isn’t stepping away from ESPN Tucson, he’s just taking himself off the air. He also added that “gladly, I will be continuing my position as PA announcer of University of Arizona Football and Men’s basketball.”
Dean would also go onto Twitter to add even further context for his self-removal from the ESPN Tucson airwaves. He added, “It’s not a decision I arrived at hastily, as it’s been a 6 month mental grind to make the ultimate decision that had to be made, and I’m not particularly happy about it, but I have to put my health first, we all do, and make sure we’re around long enough to enjoy life”.
Dean had been ESPN Tucson’s morning host since November 2019.
Jonas Knox: Adrian Wojnarowski’s NBA Draft Reporting Was Desperate Ratings Ploy
“The idea that Woj is going to get duped by Orlando Magic in the draft! The first time he’s ever been duped in his career?”
Thursday’s NBA Draft is a moment the guys waiting to hear their names called had been waiting for since the day they picked up a basketball. While his draft came decades ago in the NFL, LaVar Arrington could relate to what they were feeling.
“It’s a dream recognized,” he said on Friday’s episode of FOX Sports Radio’s 2 Pros and a Cup of Joe. “You work so hard for so long. So, when you’re sitting there waiting for them to call your name, it’s a surreal moment.”
His partner, Jonas Knox, wasn’t in such a nostalgic or celebratory mood. He had a problem with the information leading up to draft night and just how much the narrative that Auburn’s Jabari Smith would be taken by the Orlando Magic with the first pick was pushed before all the sudden, it wasn’t.
“What a bunch of crap that we are being fed by Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN, the Orlando Magic,” he said. “Whoever’s feeding it is full of crap.”
Wojnarowski tweeted an hour before the Draft that Jabari Smith was still the favorite to be taken, but he was hearing that the Magic weren’t ruling out Duke’s Paolo Banchero.
When the first pick was announced, it was Paolo Banchero that heard his name called, not Smith.
“One of three things happened,” Knox said. “Either ESPN is so desperate for ratings and for people to give a crap about the NBA Draft and their sport that they waited until the final hour to pump up some interest, realizing we’ve got a problem here based on some ratings and some reports on some ratings in the NBA Finals, so they waited until an hour before and had Woj drop a ‘Woj Bomb’ that it could not be Jabari Smith, that it could be Banchero who’s gonna go number one overall. It’s either that or Woj is in some kind of cahoots with the Orlando Magic.”
That is a powerful accusation. Knox finds it hard to believe the information got to ESPN’s renowned NBA Insider so late in the process.
“The idea that Woj is going to get duped by Orlando Magic in the draft! The first time he’s ever been duped in his career?”
He didn’t rule out that someone was trying to make money behind the scenes. As late as Thursday afternoon, the Duke Forward was still in plus territory to be the top pick on many sportsbooks’ odds boards. The odds had gone as high as +1600 last week.
“I call BS. I think it’s all shenanigans and I think somebody needs to get called out for it,” Knox concluded. “That pisses me off, man.”