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What Makes Listeners Care About National Stories?

“The football topics are worth talking about, but ask yourself how much your audience really cares about an x-and-o breakdown of the Colts’ future.”

Demetri Ravanos



I’m sure a lot of us spent Saturday night and most of Sunday thinking about what to do with the Andrew Luck story on Monday’s show. Despite the fact that so many people were locked into two exciting college football games on Saturday night, the second the 29-year-old All Pro quarterback announced his retirement from the NFL the headlines and our attention shifted to the NFL.

Image result for andrew luck retires

This is one of those stories that you’re going to talk about on Monday no matter what market you’re in. Even if you’re in Gainesville or Honolulu and you have to devote significant time to a close win to open the college football season, Luck’s retirement was such a dominant story on television and social media that you have to make time for it on Monday.

So what is the right way to talk about the story? Well, it really kinda depends on what your goal is, but there are two clear angles you can attack from – the football angle and the human angle.

Topics relating to what happens next on the field are a bit limited. How does this effect the Colts’ playoff chances? Is Jacoby Brissett just keeping the seat warm, or is there a chance he could establish himself as the team’s long-term answer at quarterback? Who is the new favorite in the AFC South?

The football topics are worth talking about, but ask yourself how much your audience really cares about an x-and-o breakdown of the Colts’ future. If you’re on the Fan in Indianapolis or SiriusXM’s NFL Radio, your audience probably cares a lot and is coming to your station to hear that content. Maybe the same is true if you’re on in Houston, Jacksonville, or Nashville. Anywhere else though, and it is tough to imagine that yields you anything more than an 8-10 minute monologue.

Storytelling is the lifeblood of talk radio and human connection is at the center of building an audience. There are human interest angles to Andrew Luck’s retirement that not only cover what goes into a 29-year-old deciding he is too mentally worn down to continue in the NFL, but also will hit your listeners right in the feels.

Image result for right in the feels

How did this effect your listener’s fantasy teams? How about their futures bets? When did they first have that “everything hurts all the time” feeling? These are simple questions tailor-made for Twitter polls and text topics.

What about the guy that never got off the bench in high school? Surely he has some thoughts on how soft Andrew Luck is or how he lacks class. Those are two comments always bubbling just below the surface for football fans. Ask your listeners if they understand Luck’s decision or if he let his team down and watch the pendulum swing back and forth between empathy and contempt.

Even responding to hot takes is pure human interest radio. Surely you saw the flaming takes on Saturday night from either Dan Dakich or Doug Gottlieb or probably both.

Let’s take these one at a time. First, Dakich’s Tweet is pure hot take nonsense that I am not even positive he buys into. Steel work, policing, and teaching are all hard work and are all tiring. None of them involve getting drilled into the ground over and over again by 300 lbs linemen. I am not saying playing football is harder. I’m simply saying that there is plenty about football that makes you just as tired as steel workers, teachers, and cops.

With Gottlieb’s Tweet, the word “millennial” absolutely sets off a visceral reaction in people. That reaction comes from both sides. The point is, it guarantees a reaction. Something tells me that is exactly what Gottlieb was thinking when he composed his Tweet.

Whether you are reacting to someone else’s over the top opinion or delivering your own, hot takes are all about emotion and reaction. That is exactly what you want from your audience. So, if you’re calling out Dakich or Gottlieb, let the listeners have their say too.

It’s not that the football angle isn’t important to the story of Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement. It just may not be the most important angle in your market.

Great sports radio that doesn’t come from ESPN, Fox, SiriusXM, or one of the other national outlets is built on passion from a local audience. There’s room for national topics, but before bringing national topics to a local show you need to ask yourself how you can get the best reaction from your audience.

The guy that calls into a sports talk radio show probably isn’t going to give you a coherent and well-thought out breakdown of the Colts’ QB depth chart. Give ask listeners how they feel about a story or an opinion though and you’re more likely to create interesting content.

All sports fans like action, some sports fans like stats, but everyone loves a good story. If you want to create maximum interest in a topic and give people that may not be die hard sports fans a reason to stay on your station and hear what you have to say about a story that has no local connection, focus on the human interest parts of the story and use the stats and football angles to deepen the narrative.

BSM Writers

3 Tips For Solving Co-Host Conflicts

If there’s a specific, repetitive behavior that is bothersome say something.



What I wrote last week in this space wasn’t wrong, per se. It wasn’t the whole story, either. And at the risk of dragging out the dead horse of intra-show conflict for another week’s worth of whacks, I’d like to resuscitate the topic because there’s something else to learn here.

First, a cliff notes version of our previous episode: I wrote about how I had learned to work with a particular co-host who from time to time drove me up a wall. While I was careful to state this co-host was funny, and unique and described him as a crucial component to whatever success the show enjoyed, I did this in about as backhanded a manner as possible, mentioned him by name, and effectively labeled him as an asshole.

Not my proudest moment. For one, it was unnecessarily hurtful. I could have made the very same points without turning my co-host into a punching bag or even mentioning his name. Second, I do like this particular co-host even if he can make me madder than anyone I’ve ever worked with. He’s an all-time great dad and at his core a kind-hearted man. And finally, even if I didn’t like him, he didn’t deserve that after we worked together successfully for 5 years. So to Jim Moore, I am truly sorry for writing last week’s column the way that I did.

But I’d like to go a little bit deeper here because while last week’s column was an accurate – albeit harsh – reflection of my experiences on the show, it didn’t reflect the full reality of what occurred. This was pointed out to me by several helpful folks in the Seattle area where we worked together, and I’m going to include two examples here, one from a Twitter comment that was deleted and another from an email I received.

The Tweet to me: “As a co-worker, you always seemed to be a management suck-up. My co-workers would make bets on how many times you would whine or berate Jim Moore during a show. You always exceeded their expectations.”

The email: “Do you know how many times I heard you disparage him on the air? … Yours weren’t of the petty variety that you chronicled about him. Yours were biting, relating to his age or supposed lack of work ethic — things that could plant in management’s mind that he — and not you — was dispensable.”

In other words: Jim certainly was not the only person on the show who could be described as an asshole from time to time, and he may not have been the biggest. I did make jokes about my co-host’s age and his work ethic among plenty of other things, including my insistence on bringing up the fact that Jim once invested $10,000 in a so-called “Gold Machine” which was supposedly capable of refining what was previously unprocessable ore. I saw all of this as playing along with the character my co-host had developed, the Beta male. That’s my perspective, though. I don’t know how he felt though, given the reaction to last week’s piece, I think I have a pretty good idea that for him it wasn’t the harmless ribbing that I felt it was.

If this were a normal sad-sack apology, I would now apologize if he was offended. But I try to avoid sad-sack apologies. I make them with my entire chest, and I’m sorry that I acted in a way that could have left my co-host feeling diminished, demeaned, and belittled. I also know that anyone who has spent any amount of time working on a live program has been guilty of these sorts of transgressions and has also been on the receiving end. It’s pretty much endemic to the format especially if you’re looking for subjects that will evoke an emotional reaction. The key to sustaining a show is not avoiding conflict but learning how to manage it.

I also think there are a couple of lessons to be learned here, too.

1)    Set some ground rules

If there’s a specific, repetitive behavior that is bothersome say something. I spelled out last week how I stated that the time to declare a segment as being stupid or unworthy was before the show and not during it. Jokes about my co-host’s age and work ethic should have faced a similar prohibition. Making someone the butt of the same joke without their consent is the recipe for resentment.

2)    Develop a procedure for resolving conflict

It can be a one-on-one meeting. Perhaps there’s a designated mediator like the producer or program director. One tip: Don’t do it over email. That’s a one-way medium that’s prone to venting because you’re not able to see or read the reaction of the recipient as they’re working their way through your list of grievances.

3)    Remember we tend to judge ourselves by our intentions, but others by their actions

I think this is a natural tendency we all have. We seek to minimize any harm we cause by focusing on what we meant. We seek to explain the harm we suffer by focusing on how it felt. Understanding this underlying bias can help us see that the actions of others aren’t always malicious and our reactions aren’t always virtuous.

I’m going to close with a line from NYPD Blue, a cop show where Andy Sipowicz played a quick-tempered detective who wore short-sleeved shirts with ties and exhibited a penchant for violence came off as (troublingly) admirable. He also had an aquarium with saltwater fish, which he used as a metaphor for a younger detective he was paired with.

“You have to keep a clean tank,” he said. “Not too cool, not too warm, keep it all in balance.”

It’s true for a show, too. Too tranquil, it gets boring. Too antagonistic, it becomes volatile. Everyone involved has to be willing to make adjustments when necessary because everyone – from time to time – is going to run a little too hot or feel a little cold.

In the five years I worked with Jim, Dave Wyman, and Jessamyn McIntyre, we kept our tank balanced well enough to sustain an afternoon drive show that many people in Seattle remember fondly. It was some of the most fun that I’ve had working in sports media. Anyone who knows Jim and me knows how much I love his writing. I’m able to quote directly from columns he doesn’t remember writing. I’m laughing right now thinking of the time he described Rick Neuheisel’s sister flipping Hugh Millen the “double Dick Bennett” during Neuheisel’s lawsuit against the NCAA and the University of Washington. If you know, you know.

Jim was also capable of making me madder than any other co-worker I’ve ever had. That’s not a criticism. It reflects as much on my level of sensitivity as his behavior. I am glad that I learned to accept who he was as a co-worker throughout our time working together because it made the show more enjoyable for me. I wish I had learned that lesson well enough to have written last week’s column with a smile instead of a snarl.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise Episode 86: The Big Ten Won’t Be The NHL

Demetri Ravanos



It’s golf, college football and history on Media Noise this week as Demetri talks about the LIV Tour’s media future, Arky Shea wonders if the Big Ten made a mistake exiting ESPN and Peter Schwartz talks about the next legend from WFAN to get the call from the Hall of Fame.






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BSM Writers

Are You Sales Material? Take the Sales Quiz

Sports radio needs consistent, motivated, driven people to make the engine run. That’s on the air and that’s making the sales.

Jeff Caves




Sports radio needs consistent, motivated, driven people to make the engine run. That’s on the air and that’s making the sales. However, not everyone in the industry doing sales is cut out for it. Are you? Take this quiz to see if you are qualified to hold your current sales job:

Are you passionate, motivated, and high performing, at goal and above consistently?

Do you develop and maintain deals with clients using all your platforms and, in every market, possible?

Do you sell your station’s social media to a high percentage of your clients?

When was the last time you included OTT or geo fencing in your digital presentation?

Have you sold one of your music stations in the last quarter?

Did you have a sponsor in a station community or sports event in the last quarter?

Are the top three ways your peers describe you as driven, resourceful, and a problem solver? 

Are you considered a champion of diverse cultures, or do you stick with like-minded people?       

Do you always understand your client’s goals, objectives, performance benchmarks, and systems of doing business? 

Do you understand all your client’s customer and market trends?

Do you customize your proposals to meet what the advertiser needs or take proposals off the shelf?

Are most of your presentations featuring digital, social, and over-the-air elements?

Do you have a recognizable negotiation and closing skill set?

Are you known as the person in the office who develops clients from cold calls to annuals and records it all in the CRM?

Is your knowledge of every station in the cluster above a “B”? Can you explain streaming, website, social advertising, and digital audience extension products to clients without help?

Do you do the following weekly: attend networking events, cold call, go door to door, and get client referrals?

Are you on time, submitting accurate orders, sales projections, and new clients list, and analyzing your competitors? 

Do you handle all your client’s billing issues on the same day? 

Do you read company research reports as they come out? 

Are you committed to your manager’s standard for the staff, or do you have your own?

If you didn’t say yes to all these questions, your company likely doesn’t want you working there. Because when your company goes looking to hire new salespeople, they expect them to have all of these qualities. And, when the ad is written to attract those candidates, it is very standard and generalized if they mention compensation.

It is no wonder the industry has such difficulty hiring new people. This type of job description scares most people away. Not often enough or in detail do companies say what THEY offer in support to get you where you need to be. Management support, sales support, presentation support, sales development assistance, digital education, CRM software, or paperwork assistance.

Interviewees should turn the table on the interviewer and start asking THEM questions. And I believe the industry offers support and tools but could do a better job selling it. I hope we start looking at how we recruit new sellers into the industry. There must be a better way. 

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Barrett Media Writers

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