Engineering a turnaround at a sports radio station takes several things. Whether it’s time, energy or a whole of resources, it’s arguably the most demanding task a PD can be given. David Schultz is one of many that was given that exact task this summer, after taking the PD job and afternoon show host role (3-6 p.m.) at WNSP in Mobile, AL. Though he’s officially been on the job less than a month, his work has already begun to bring the country’s first FM sports talk station the best era it’s ever seen.
Luckily for both Schultz and WNSP, this isn’t his first rodeo. For six years, he was behind a turnaround at 103.7 The Game in Lafayette, La. that netted, arguably, the best book in the station’s short history during the fall of 2018. Additionally, during Schultz’s time at 103.7 The Game, the station became the market leader in time spent listening for the key demo of men 25 to 54.
But as accomplished as Schultz may be walking into his new role, he’s also not naïve. Now that he’s taking over in a new market and replacing a popular radio show, he’s accepted it’s going to take time with the listeners.
“I’m still trying to feel it out,” said Schultz. “It’s obviously a different market and a different culture, but we’re working on it. I’m replacing a popular talk show that was very successful for years, so it’s going to take time for me to get used to the listeners and the listeners to make their adjustments to me. I probably have to make more of the adjustments.”
Alabama can be a tough place to do sports radio if you’re not originally from the area or have any ties to a local team. Like most extremely passionate college football markets, listeners are quick to question anyone who they feel doesn’t know the culture or have the ability to recite the final score of a game from 10 years ago. But coming from Lafayette, which has a loyal and passionate LSU following, one would think Schultz is walking into a similar situation from the one he came from. In reality, that’s not exactly the case.
“I didn’t sound like I was from Lafayette and I certainly don’t sound like I’m from Mobile, Alabama,” said Schultz. “It’ll take some time. I don’t think you can cram sports knowledge. You have to learn it as you go along and you try to do as best as you can. The important thing to me is getting to know who the players are on all the teams, including the coaches. Also, there’s the high schools. It takes a long time to learn the local high schools and that’s a big part of sports radio here in Mobile. It took me a long time to learn that when I got to Lafayette, and now that I know that, I’m trying to get into high school sports as much as possible here. But I don’t try to do a southern accent, because I’m not from here, I’m born and bred from Central New York but I’ve been all over, and hopefully what worked in Lafayette will work here. But it’s certainly going to take some time.”
Before you win over an audience, a new PD and show host must win over the staff. A new plan may sound great to the man in charge, but unless the rest of the team is bought in, it’s more than likely going to fail from the start. Schultz has no intentions of turning the building upside down, but he does want to be more aggressive. That includes being a whole lot more active on social media and sharing content as much as possible.
“I just think you make it an effort,” Schultz said. “When I came into Lafayette the same thing happened and you just do the things you learned. We’re trying to be a little bit broader with social media and podcasting. We have a lot of shows during the week and whether it’s an outdoor show or a prep show, we should be much more aggressive with posting that all online and on social media wise. WNSP was the first FM sports talk station in America and there’s definitely room to grow. I’m excited about that and the people here are excited about it as well.”
Getting out in the community of Mobile is going to be critical for Schultz in the coming months. It’ll go a long way with his immediate popularity in the market, if he’s out of the studio and generating face-to-face conversations with the listeners. But that doesn’t need to be told to a guy that’s already helped turn around one station.
“This station is so into the market,” said Schultz. “We do a game day on Friday mornings, whatever the game of the week is on Friday night, and they’re doing a three-hour morning show from that high school. We’re pretty much out in the community and I’ll continue to follow in their footsteps. But yeah, they’re very well ingrained in the community and we have a bunch of remotes in the afternoon as well. But that’s a big part of it for sure.”
No matter the size of the market, whether it’s in New York, St. Louis, or the far southwest corner of Alabama, patience with the plan is something every PD needs. But as great as that sounds, anyone in those shoes still wants as much immediate success as possible. Schultz has laid out his plan, along with a timeline that reaches 12 months.
“I think it’ll be at least a year before we see any difference in the numbers,” Schultz said. “It took 2 and a half years in Lafayette to overcome the competition, although we did have a nice stretch of about 3 and a half years of audience growth, which is pretty good regardless of what the ratings were. I’m just looking to get the station kind of set up to where, I don’t want to say auto pilot because I don’t think it’ll be that way, but we have a lot of things we can do with podcasting the website and hopefully the numbers will follow. My goal right now is the more specific stuff and I’ll worry about the numbers later.”
So for now, it’s all about the grind for the new guy in charge. Not only as the PD, but as the afternoon drive show host that’s trying to carve out an audience within the market. Luckily, the help of strong storylines with Alabama and Auburn will help Schultz and the rest of the staff at WNSP create compelling content throughout the next several months. Schultz has his work cut out for him, but with a strong plan and a bit of patience, he just may create another big turnaround in an SEC market.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
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.