Building a bond with an audience takes a lot of hard work. Listeners tune into sports talk shows for different reasons, but anytime I’ve done research on an audience’s tastes, and the personalities I’ve managed, one thing has shown up in the results time and time again – listeners want to know everything they can about the individual they spend time listening to.
That means, they want to know what beer you drink, where you hang out, which movie you went to see this weekend, what your favorite restaurant is, who your family is and how you interact with them, and of course, what you think of the local teams and its best players.
Sports is the common denominator that brings a host and an audience together, but when real life gets sprinkled on top of it, that helps make a relationship special.
One line often used by my good friend Rick Scott is “you want to be a guy on the radio talking sports, not a sports talk radio guy”. Simply put, sports may be the conversation starter and the focus of the show, but you’ve got to be willing to venture into other areas and share the life you live with those who listen to you.
If you’ve ever had the chance to tune in to a show like The Musers in Dallas, Toucher and Rich in Boston, the Sports Junkies in Washington D.C, or Papa and Lund in San Francisco, they all do that. When it’s time to talk sports, they can do it, but they also have no fear of sharing the intimate details of their lives. Those real life stories help the audience get to know them on a much deeper level, and when you can go beyond the box score and the latest news involving your local teams, it makes a bigger impact.
To add another perspective on this topic, I turned to Demetri Ravanos who is a part of the morning show with Mike Maniscalco and Lauren Brownlow on The Buzz in Raleigh, North Carolina. Demetri has worked in multiple formats, and taken notice of sports radio’s transformation from being a format led by X’s and O’s conversation, to personality driven stories and hard hitting opinions.
If you turn back twenty years ago, morning zoo shows on music stations were the big personality players in most local markets. Sports talk was a niche format with hosts who showcased their knowledge, and screamed about bad on the field decisions. Many of these programs talked at the audience not with them.
Fast forward to today, and while loud opinions are still a big focus, content often revolves around the lives of the on-air talent, and the stories in sports that occur outside the lines rather than inside of them. Demetri now explains why that’s a good thing for the audience, and those who are hosting sports talk radio shows today.
Creating Personal Connections Through Life and Sports
Every good host – no matter the format – thinks of himself as an entertainer. You’re not there to talk at people. You’re in front of that microphone to lead a conversation. The days of lecture based sports radio are, for the most part, over and it happens to coincide with an interesting time in rock radio.
Stations in male-skewing music demos are cutting back on talk time for their talented hosts in favor of getting in one more track from AC/DC or The Rolling Stones or Pearl Jam that we have all heard a million times. In my rock radio days, I had a PD that used to tell us “tell people the station sounds like their iPod” to which I would always answer “except with songs they hate too!”
Let’s face it. When it comes to music alone, radio will never be able to compete with an MP3 player or a streaming music service that offers the user total control.
That attitude and approach has created an opportunity for local sports talk hosts. Are you capable of replacing the local morning zoo show for men in their 30s and 40s? There is a balance you have to find between being funny and not losing credibility, between staying on the biggest news of the day and letting people into your personal life. The opportunity is definitely there for the host or team that understands their market.
The goal of any show is to develop a relationship with your audience. If your show is just “what I listen to on the way to work” for the audience, you’re not doing enough. Social media and podcasting make it possible to become an integral part of the listener’s day. That’s what Howard Stern did. It’s what Kevin and Bean did. They did it before tools like Twitter and Facebook were available to them, so Lord knows it should be easier for you.
The Howard Stern’s and Kevin and Bean’s of the world are harder and harder to find in local radio. The initial overreaction to PPM technology resulted in ten to twelve minutes of talk time spread across three or four breaks an hour for most shows. Sure, a skilled broadcaster only needs about four minutes to tell a complete story, but it will never feel like a hang.
And that is where talk radio has the advantage. You have to hit hard outs for stop sets and at the top of the hour, but a talk radio host isn’t constrained by hitting the post on Def Leppard’s “Armageddon It.”
So what separates a sports talk host from other talk radio hosts?
Sports radio has the advantage of being friendlier in nature. A good segment should sound like a conversation at a bar or around a buddy’s grill. If you’re a host or a listener, you like sports. That’s safe to assume. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here.
So where do you go next?
The next step is to make them comfortable with you. Let them into your personal life. It doesn’t have to be intrusive. Mention what kind of beer you drink when you watch a game. If the listener shares your appreciation for that beer or despises it, you’ve caused an emotional reaction. Complain about the idiot buddy that texted you during halftime with what he thought was the perfect play to break the game wide open. That guy exists in your listener’s life too.
Using sports to create the small personal connections opens the door for the bigger ones. Opening up your life in a way that doesn’t burden the listener, but instead “invites them into your home” is how you go from “what I listen to on the way to work” to “a part of my daily routine.”
How much “other stuff” can a sports show get away with? Well, I always tell my hosts that you have to remember people don’t just watch a game anymore. They watch a game while checking out movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, reading jokes on Twitter or reading relatives’ views on Donald Trump on Facebook. Clearly there’s room for you to talk about this stuff.
Now just figure out how much of that stuff is too much.
There are plenty of examples of hosts who have found a balance of sports and “other stuff” that works for them. Dan Le Batard, Petros and Money, and Toucher and Rich are the first shows that spring to mind. It not only fits, but has become a part of their brand. Others sound a little more awkward working in pop culture and personal stories. The key is knowing the boundaries of your element.
For instance, a visit with a TMZ staffer may work for a show on the West Coast, but won’t play the same in the South or the Midwest. A movie review segment may work the week Batman vs. Superman is released but have no impact at all the week Zootopia leads the new releases at the box office.
Follow the trends of pop culture in the market and never fake it. If you aren’t a drinker (and no one is paying you to do it), there is no reason to ever have a beer guy on the air. Listeners may not always know what a good radio show sounds like, but they can spot a phony from a mile away.
Howard Stern didn’t become Howard Stern by faking it. He didn’t gain legions of fans by pretending to be an expert on subjects he wasn’t interested in. That’s not how any sports talk host has made their name either.
On his first day on ESPN Radio Colin Cowherd told listeners “If you like football, you’re gonna love the show. If you like baseball, you may like the show a little less.” Honesty matters. Here was a guy taking his first steps onto a national stage and he laid out where his interests lie and how they would guide his show.
“Guys” are the listener’s friends. They have relationships with guys. “Sports guys” are just who they listen to talk about the game on the way to work. Think about your interests outside of the sports world. Talk openly and honestly about them when appropriate and listeners will start to think of you as a guy.
Black Friday Sale TODAY For 2022 BSM Summit Tickets
“BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets will begin at 12:01am ET on Friday November 26th and expire at 11:59pm later that same night.”
There are less than 100 days remaining until the 2022 BSM Summit takes place in New York City. We’ve announced 31 participants for the show so far, and have more to reveal in the weeks and months ahead. I think you’re going to like what’s still to come.
Putting this conference together isn’t easy. It requires months of meetings, brainstorming, promotion, selling sponsorships, pursuing speakers, and creating everything that attendees see on stage over a two day period. I’m thankful to have help from some amazing partners, but as I’ve mentioned previously, this isn’t an event that makes us rich or ends with 5-10 new clients signing up to work with BSM. The goal each year is simple, make sure the conference is valuable for those who attend, and don’t run BSM out of business by doing it. As long as those two things remain solid, it’s worth doing.
Some might wonder, why go thru months of headaches if you’re not going to break the bank or immediately add clients. That’s fair to ask. If you look at it from a pure business standpoint, one could easily make a case that pouring this type of energy into something else could be more lucrative. But money was never the motivation for doing this. I felt the sports media industry lacked a signature event where smart, successful media professionals (who don’t often cross paths) could gather at one location to laugh and learn together, and I wanted to change that. If over a two day period attendees could gain insight, information, ideas, and introductions, it’d put everyone in a stronger position to remain successful.
I’ve unapologetically loved the sports media business since I started listening to Mike & the Mad Dog on WFAN and watching SportsCenter on ESPN. I was fortunate to live and work in a number of cities over the past two decades, learning how different companies and people operate, and I remain involved today thru my work with BSM. I mention this because I also know media people. They tend to wait until the last minute to book hotel rooms, airfare, and purchase tickets, even if they can save money by acting sooner. I know, I used to do it too. I can’t control when you book your room or plane ticket, but I do want to give you an added incentive to buy your ticket to this year’s show. Seating is limited, and once the last seat is filled, that’s it. We can’t make extra room.
With that in mind, most of you are either taking today off or working inside a much quieter building. If you’ve thought about coming to the Summit, take 5-10 minutes to log on to BSMSummit.com to take advantage of our special Black Friday sale. We’ve reduced tickets for the day, so whether you’re planning to attend in NYC or watch the conference online, there’s a discount to help you out. Just $199.99 for live tickets, and $124.99 for virtual.
BSM’s Black Friday sale on Summit tickets expires at 11:59pm tonight. In the meantime, Hotel Edison in NYC is offering rooms for just $109 + taxes to Summit attendees. Click here to take advantage of the special room rate we’ve secured for this year’s show. Those of you planning to fly to NYC for the show, there have been a ton of great deals offered by American, Southwest, United, JetBlue and Frontier. It might be worth checking into today since Black Friday often has even better sales on travel.
If you’re interested in learning more about the industry, staying a step ahead, forming new relationships, strengthening existing ones, exploring potential business deals, and celebrating the business you’re in, I hope you’ll join us either online or in New York City for the 2022 BSM Summit. I’m making it easier on you, by offering lower ticket prices today. The rest is up to you!
Craig Carton, Fred Toucher, Mike Felger To Speak At The 2022 BSM Summit
“Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.”
When you talk to industry people about successful brands in sports talk radio, most conversations include WFAN and 98.5 The Sports Hub. The New York and Boston sports radio brands are consistently recognized for their ability to deliver large audiences and revenues.
Helping to create that success is a mixture of strong play by play partnerships, skilled programmers and even more importantly, some of the most dynamic on-air personalities in the format. Fortunately for us, a few of those gamechangers will be present to share their opinions and insights on content matters in New York City at the 2022 BSM Summit.
Starting in New York, it’s an honor to welcome WFAN afternoon drive host Craig Carton to the 2022 BSM Summit. Heard daily on ‘Carton and Roberts‘ alongside Evan Roberts, which is also featured on TV on SNY, Carton has made his presence felt ever since returning to the airwaves in November 2020. Prior to taking on the challenge in afternoons, Craig spent a decade partnering with Boomer Esiason on ‘Boomer and Carton‘, forming one of the most successful sports radio morning shows in the country. In addition to enjoying success in New York, Craig has also experienced the ups and downs that come with performing in different markets. His radio travels have taken him to Philadelphia, Denver, Buffalo and Trenton, NJ. The Syracuse graduate and outspoken host is expected to join BSM President Jason Barrett for a one on one conversation at this year’s Summit.
Shipping up to Boston, it’s a pleasure to welcome two of the format’s highest rated performers to New York City. They’re heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub in morning and afternoon drive, and at the Summit, they’ll interact together during an in-depth content conversation with BSM President Jason Barrett.
Fred Toucher is one half of the Sports Hub’s popular morning show ‘Toucher & Rich‘, which recently added syndication. The Detroit native started his career in Georgia before moving to Boston in 2005. Toucher & Rich, which includes Rich Shertenlieb, officially moved into the sports talk format in 2009. Since making the format switch, the duo have consistently produced some of the best ratings in the entire format in mornings during the past fifteen years. Toucher & Rich have also been recognized by industry executives as one of the top two morning shows in the format each of the past three years in the BSM Top 20, including taking top honors in 2018.
Mike Felger on the other hand is heard on the ride home alongside Tony Massarotti on The Sports Hub. The Marconi Award-winning afternoon radio show has been a fixture in Boston since the station’s inception in 2009. During the past twelve years, Felger & Mazz have been a steady force atop the Men 25-54 ratings including recently delivering an impressive 18.9 share in the summer book to finish 1st. The Milwaukee native also hosts a show for NBC Boston, and has previously served as a columnist for the Boston Globe. Similar to Toucher & Rich, Felger & Mazz have earned high praise from format execs in the BSM Top 20. They’ve been voted one of the top 2 afternoon shows each of the past 2 years including grabbing the top spot in 2019.
We’re excited to add all three of these men to the lineup for the 2022 BSM Summit. As vital as it may be to spend time on business issues in order to stay ahead of a rapidly changing media climate, without great talent and content, the rest is irrelevant. Few understand what it takes to deliver success in this format consistently like Craig, Fred and Mike, and I’m glad they’re making the time to share their knowledge with us.
To reserve your hotel room, purchase tickets or learn more about the speakers we’ve lined up for the 2022 show, visit BSMSummit.com. We hope to see you online or in New York City this March.
BSM Summit Adds Borrell, Crain, Cutler, Goldstein, Scott, Shapiro & Thomas
“The Summit is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited.”
The 2022 BSM Summit continues to add firepower to the sports media industry’s premier conference. After previously announcing the first twenty one participants to take part in March’s event in New York City, another seven talented media professionals have been added to the speaker schedule.
Making his BSM Summit debut in 2022 will be the media industry’s leading business analyst Gordon Borrell. The well respected and accomplished CEO of Borrell Associates is featured frequently in the trades and mainstream publications for his insights on advertising trends and forecasts in local media. Borrell will join Amplifi Media CEO Steven Goldstein on stage at the Summit for an in-depth discussion on the advertising climate in 2022. The two men will offer insights and opinions on what advertisers value most, where they’re expected to invest future dollars, which categories will continue to rise and decline, and what brands can do to position themselves better to increase revenue. Additionally, Borrell will be hosting his local advertising conference in Miami a few days after the Summit. Those interested in heading to South Beach and learning more about the marketing world can learn more by clicking here.
Switching to the content end, the Summit is thrilled to welcome The Volume’s Jake Crain to New York City. The host of The JBoy Show will also be making his debut at the conference. Crain will be part of a talent panel along with John Jastremski and Kazeem Famuyide.
Also making his debut at the Summit will be Carl Scott. Meadowlark Media’s Executive Director of Audio will join our podcasting panel featuring Blue Wire CEO Kevin Jones and The Volume’s Head of Content Logan Swaim. Hubbard Radio’s Digital Content Director Phil Mackey will guide the conversation.
Not everyone participating at the Summit will be new to the audience though. Returning to the stage as part of our GM’s discussion will be newly appointed Audacy Boston Market Manager Mike Thomas. Thomas recently led ESPN 1000 in Chicago as the station’s GM after working with Mark Hannon to turn 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston into one of sports radio’s top performing stations. It should be noted that each time Thomas appears at the Summit it follows a recent promotion. We figure by 2023 or 2024 he’ll be running the entire industry.
A Summit isn’t complete without attention given to programming matters. To help us address some of those key issues, we’re excited to welcome back the Vice President of FOX Sports Radio & Podcasts Scott Shapiro. The passionate network executive who oversees many of the nation’s top national programs is always a great listen for folks interested in learning how programmer’s view and tackle the industry’s most important affairs.
Last but certainly not least, voice talent extraordinaire Jim Cutler will return to the stage to lead a session on storytelling. One of the industry’s prominent station voices and creative minds has a penchant for putting on entertaining and informative sessions. If you’ve attended the conference before, you’re already aware. To those planning to catch this one, you’re in for a treat.
Keep an eye out over the next two weeks. We’ll be making additional announcements involving a few high profile talents we’ve lined up for the 2022 BSM Summit. A reminder, the event is just 104 days away, so if you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, please do so. Half of the room is already full and seating for the conference is limited. I realize some folks may prefer to wait until the last minute to make sure the world is safe. If you’re not comfortable flying to NY for the show, we do have an option in place to enjoy the conference virtually thanks to NuVoodoo Media. For more information on tickets, click here.
That said, the in-person environment is excellent. If you haven’t attended the Summit before I think you’ll find the two days in New York City to be time well spent. This conference is not open to the general public. You must either presently work in an area of the media industry or be pursuing a degree in the broadcasting field.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we still have some sponsorship opportunities available for the show. We’re thrilled to have the support of great partners, ESPN Radio, Premiere Networks, FOX Sports Radio, Stone Voiceovers, Compass Media Networks, Point to Point Marketing, and Core Image Studio. If you’d like to be part of the event too, email JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com for additional details.
One final note, airfare is low right now. There are roundtrip flights to and from New York from many major cities for less than $200.00. We’ve also secured a low hotel rate of $109.00 per night at Hotel Edison in NYC to help companies and individuals keep costs down. The sports media industry has endured two years of difficulty due to the pandemic, preventing many from networking, learning, celebrating, and growing. The two days we spend together in the big apple won’t solve every issue facing our business, but I promise you’ll leave the show more informed, more connected, and better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.
Hope to see you in New York on March 2nd and 3rd.
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