What if I asked every show host reading this article to continue doing their daily show, but also taking over sales to monetize their content. Could you do it? Some have and they’ll be the first to tell you it’s not easy.
Austin Stanley and Zach Bingham are a two-man band that’s doing exactly that. Based in Nashville, the duo built from the ground up, a unique way to provide sports talk content through social media. Every day at 8 a.m. you can find Stanley and Bingham on Facebook Live as the hosts of A to Z Sports Nashville.
For one hour, the two hosts talk anything and everything that’s going on in the sports scene around the Nashville market. Everything you see and hear, including graphics, live reads, content and more, is all created by duo themselves.
The idea came about after both Stanley and Bingham found themselves out of sports radio in the summer of 2016. They had done radio shows and podcasts together in the Nashville market, but were now looking for their next big break in the sports media business. They soon decided to create their own break, after the duo stumbled upon the power of Facebook Live. The tool was still relatively unknown when Stanley and Bingham received a ton of hits and comments during a Titans-Chiefs preview show the following fall, but soon realized they had a way of getting back into the sports talk scene on their own accord.
In theory, it’s great to be your own boss, especially in this business. Amongst other things, you get to create your own schedule, as well as your own content, but it also means you have to create your own revenue. Luckily, the team had experience as Bingham dabbled as a sales rep during his time in sports radio. It gave the team more of an understanding of what it was going to take to profit from their own coverage.
For the first six months of A to Z Sports, the two made no money as they tried to sell their own sponsorships. However, their luck started to change as the calendar turned to 2017. Stanley and Bingham decided to partner with a local digital media business that developed their website and helped get their coverage off the ground.
Soon after, they were gaining clients and staring to bring in real revenue. While the two were constantly grinding away throughout each day with both show content and sales, they caught a break that proved to be key to their ascent: captivating local storylines.
All of a sudden, the Tennessee Titans went from a 3-win team to a 9-win team which flirted with the playoffs. Along with strong NFL coverage, Stanley and Bingham were able to capitalize off the drama of the Tennessee football head coaching search that made national news, as well as the Predators making a run at the Stanley Cup. The Nashville sports scene had never been more relevant and the two were building off of it, as the A to Z Sports Facebook page went from zero likes to now over 28,000. All of it from organic growth.
Stanley and Bingham figured it’s better to be in the listener’s phone, rather than their radio. That strategy has been key in implementing an internet-based show that’s turned profitable. The two are full-time with the operation and focus all their efforts on improving their product and seeking new clients.
If you watch an episode of A to Z Sports Nashville, it’s easy to see why Stanley and Bingham have been successful. The graphics are exceptionally well done, the topics are creative and local, plus, the two have great chemistry and energy which makes for an entertaining show.
Though I have no fan loyalties to any teams in the Nashville area, I can sit and enjoy a great product. Not only do these two have that, they have one that should be commended for its originality. I would expect nothing but big things in the future from A to Z Sports.
TM: Between you and Zach, whose responsibility is it to plan the show and who takes the reins on the sales side?
Austin Stanley: We’re both involved in everything together. Whenever we’re in studio you’ll notice our graphics. Zach puts that together while I put the show run down together. Each of our sponsors gets a live read and we’ll do creative things with topics to imbed the sponsors into them. That’s kind of my job along with creating headlines and creating questions for viewer interactions. We try not to talk too much before the show, because you want organic reactions and opinions from each of us.
TM: How have you two found selling advertising for an internet-based show, versus an actual sports radio show?
AS: It’s different because our livelihood depends on how much we sell. Radio stations have endless inventory and we don’t. We don’t want to have 10 sponsors on our show, because then it feels like a NASCAR package. We try to be creative and cater to the needs of the client.
What Zach always says, when he was in radio, there are a few rules: There’s limitations on what a sales person can do for a client. Well, we try to focus on doing everything we can to benefit the client, because they’re our first priority and we want to make sure each sponsorship works perfectly for each client. It’s definitely more flexible than selling at a radio station.
TM: Is there one particular social media platform that’s been more critical to your success?
AS: They all serve their own purpose. Businesses like Facebook and they’re also really starting to like Instagram. Twitter is a necessity but it’s not what clients are really looking for.
We have Twitter because news travels fastest there and we can tweet out links to our show. Instagram is becoming more and more popular and is more of a creative type feel. We don’t have our show on Instagram, but we try to build around it with more content. We’re focusing a lot on growing on that platform.
TM: What’s the long-term goal for you guys? To continue to grow your own brand and keep your unique platform? Or would the two of you be open to joining a station in the future?
AS: We have thought about that. We have some ideas on what we can build this into that are kind of behind the scenes type of ideas. We’ve talked with some radio stations before about getting a show, here and there, but also keeping our business open.
There really isn’t a ceiling with our company and how we’re doing it. We just need to continue to grow and grow, and make sure that we’re using our time the best.
Doing a radio show requires a ton of prep work and we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin. We don’t like being repetitive and during a three-hour show you kind of have to be.
TM: Radio stations have callers, texters, etc. for interaction? Do enjoy that your interaction is more digital?
AS: Yeah, that was the thing we really wanted to focus on the most. As we noticed, in the first eight months we were doing this, that was when so many platforms and companies were trying to do sports talk on Facebook Live. They weren’t engaged with their audience, they were mostly just trying to talk with each other. Our primary focus was to talk to whoever was watching.
The comments are instant, and just like regular callers on a radio station, you get to know certain people that always watch and comment. It’s really cool.
We always try to say the names of the people commenting, along with their question and comment. We call it a virtual room, because we want to include everyone and that only makes it more likely they’ll want to continue to watch and interact. Plus, it’s more fun. They come up with funny stuff and rip on us sometimes.
TM: What’s one thing you know now that you wished you did when you started?
AS: Doing a sports talk on this platform is not near the same as doing it on radio. It’s very different. You have to play to your audience more, than you do just filling time. Now, in radio, you still want that to be good content, but I think with this platform you have to be more directional with your topics and discussion.
Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content
Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.
When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.
“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.
Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:
1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”
2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.
The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.
I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.
Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”
There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.
First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.
The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!
We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.
When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.
They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.
A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.
Media Noise – Episode 74
This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.