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What Is Twitter’s Role In Breaking News?

“I think that’s something that all radio people are faced with these days, is trying to find the balance of getting the story out there as quickly as possible but also trying do to the radio side, too.”

Tyler McComas

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We’re witnessing the craziest free agency period the NBA has ever seen. KD and Kyrie to Brooklyn, Kawhi and Paul George to the Clippers and we’re still waiting to see if and where Russell Westbrook is going to be traded. The past two weeks have been absolute insanity and, pardon my pun, a slam dunk for the NBA.

To prove that, all you’ve had to do is check Twitter to see the frenzy everyone goes into after a Woj Bomb is dropped. NBA content has been readily available, which has created a dream scenario for hosts trying to come up with quality show material during the summer months. It’s no surprise that so many stations have put a lot of emphasis into NBA free agency coverage. 

“We’ve put a ton into it,” said Ryan Rothstein of 97.3 ESPN FM in Atlantic City. “It’s wrote the entire show for weeks. Especially with us covering the 76ers and the buzz surrounding them. It’s really been driving our four-hour afternoon show. The Phillies talk has taken a back seat from the day free agency started, to even all the speculations before the official day happened. You can tell the demand was there for us to talk it as much as we did.”

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There’s not an argument to dispute the popularity of NBA Free Agency. It’s all over social media, especially from other show hosts across the country I follow, who are constantly giving their opinions on the latest moves. And that brings me to a question I’ve had for a long time: How much of my opinion should I put on Twitter, versus holding it back for my show?

I can see both sides of the equation. For one, it’s nice to have followers and a gaining popularity on Twitter. There’s definitely a ton of ways to benefit from that. But on the other hand, Twitter isn’t paying any of our salaries to share our opinions. The stations we work for are. So where’s the balance? Is there such a thing as revealing too much on Twitter before a show? 

“Absolutely not,” said Rothstein. “No way. We have this great thing right at our fingertips. It’s a positive. Every sports talk radio host should be looking at Twitter as their side or even full-time job. It’s a way to get your name, brand and station out there. It’s a glimpse into your mind.”

Along with being a host at ESPN 102.5 The Game in Nashville, Chase McCabe is also a team reporter for the Predators. He’s been locked into everything NHL free agency has had to offer this summer. But whereas everyone defers to Woj for breaking news in the NBA, McCabe says the NHL has at least four guys that lead the coverage around the league. There’s Darren Drager and Bob McKenzie of TSN, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic and Elliotte Friedman of Sports Net Canada. All four are considered the best in NHL coverage and he’s had to monitor the feed of each one to stay up to the second with the latest news. But much like every other show host, McCabe had to decide what to put on Twitter and what to hold back for the radio station.  

“It’s hard for someone like me, because I’m a host as well as team reporter,” said McCabe. “I kind of have to battle both. If I get some information, I obviously want to take that to the air first, but Twitter is such an instant source now, that I notice when a lot of people get information they’re going to Twitter and then they go to the air. It’s a balance figuring out exactly how I should handle that.

There’s ratings and revenue, that’s what you’re trying to get from the radio side. Then there’s the responsibility of getting the story right and providing good information for your audience. Twitter is the more instant way to do that, especially if I’m not on the air at the time, but at the same time, my paid gig is talking into a microphone. I think that’s something all radio people are faced with these days, is trying to find the balance of getting the story out as quickly as possible but also trying to make listening on the radio important too.”

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What Woj is doing right now with breaking news is incredible. Rothstein went as far to say that 90 percent of the NBA free agency news he gets is coming from Woj’s Twitter page. That number may still be conservative and I’d argue that his coverage of the NBA has made him into the biggest sports media star in the country. He’s done so by having the most relevant Twitter page out of anyone that covers sports for a living.

Sure, Adrian makes live appearances on ESPN and expands on previous reports, but the guy puts nearly all of his information on Twitter and we’re left refreshing all day to see what bomb is going to drop next. 

But Woj’s success brings me to another social media related question with show hosts: Let’s say you have the scoop on a big story that’s extremely relevant. Do you sit on the news until you’re on the air or break it right away on Twitter? 

“100 percent I’d go to Twitter first,” Rothstein said. “That’s how you’re going to make your money if you’re a host. If you’re in this industry you have to figure how to get the demand and traction on your page. If you have a special piece of information that you think nobody else has, it’s important for you to get it out there with the time stamp underneath the tweet. 

That promotes your show, which is a good thing. Twitter is a great tool for this industry. If you break something big with a tweet, you have people that are saying, well, who’s Ryan from 97.3? Let me look him up, who is this guy? Oh, he’s on the afternoon show with Mike Gill in South Jersey? Oh, I can download the app and listen to him? It’s all positive. Twitter is a huge positive for driving listening to sports talk radio.”

“It depends,” added McCabe. “If I’m on the air, then yes. But if it’s a time I’m not on, I might try to walk into the studio and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got something big, can we break in with it? If it’s 7:00 at night and I’m not in studio, I’m putting it on Twitter. If it’s in the middle of the day and I’m at the station I can jump in and get on the air and break it.”

Legitimately, I can see both sides of the discussion. In reality, there may not be a wrong answer. It could all depend on the situation you’re in and what you’re trying to accomplish. 

But Rothstein is right in his approach to social media as a host, which is to leave no stone unturned. Especially if you’re at a station that’s working with disadvantages. 

“I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface on how we can fully take advantage of it,” Rothstein said. ”We’re starting to live stream our segments on Twitter. That’s a way to get your show out there, because the signal at our station only goes so far. Literally, you could listen to our show in Hong Kong. That’s a way to drastically grow your station’s brand. 

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I think you need to pursue every single social media outlet that you can. If you’re ranking them, you know we love our power rankings, I would say Twitter is No. 1. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the others. We’re trying to figure out how to really use Twitter, well, times that by two with Instagram. It seems to skew to a younger demographic, but also one that’s important.”

BSM Writers

Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing

…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.

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WRONG BAD

In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.

“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.

“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”

Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.

The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?

That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.

You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.

“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”

Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.

Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”

Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”

Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”

Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”

It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.

WORTH EVERY PENNY

I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.

My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.

My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.

After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.

Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.

Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”

My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.

My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.

Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.

And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.

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BSM Writers

Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours. 

But is that why you sell sports radio?

In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.

A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family. 

Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.

I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.  

I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.

Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important. 

So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.

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