Two years ago I started writing a weekly column about sports radio content. I’ve written some very serious columns, some silly columns, and some Q&A’s with talent, programmers and executives. I am so appreciative to Jason Barrett for giving me the opportunity to write and the freedom to explore the topics and people that I have. This will be my last column for BSM.
I have decided that it is time to put my money where my mouth is. It’s easy to pontificate about what you would do when programming a sports radio station, but it’s something else to put it into practice in the real world. Starting today I will be doing that as the new Director of Content for ESPN Cleveland.
The time away from radio or “outside of a building,” as Jason Barrett and I talked about often, has been eye opening for me. I listened to everything: national sports radio, local sports radio, top morning shows, country stations, rock stations, podcasts. Large market, small market, some internet only shows.
Additionally, I spoke with some great professionals over the past few years and learned so much from the conversations. Fascinating conversations with some incredibly sharp people at Nielsen about ratings, podcasts, and the future of audio. Recently I spent time focusing on talent who lost their jobs for being too critical of their local sports teams. I was blown away by the power some professional teams have in some markets to make or break careers.
One major area of focus for the 2019 Barrett Sports Media Summit was inside radio thinking vs. how listeners actually consume sports radio content. Program Directors Chris Kinard of The Fan in Washington, DC and Jason Dixon of SiriusXM provided great insight into listeners’ habits and what programmers and talent need to do to adjust to this information.
The hardest part of writing about sports radio was talking about people who died. People I knew. Some of the people I had worked with. Over the past year sports radio lost some great professionals like John Tautges, Chet Coppock, Allen Lamb, and Gantry “Wolfgang” Miller.
So why after this time “outside of a building” was I interested in working at ESPN Cleveland? There are a number of key answers to this question:
- Team: There are few better feelings in sports radio than working with a great team of on-air and off-air professionals to create kick-ass content. Having had the chance to spend time with many of the teammates at ESPN Cleveland I can feel how people love to work there. Plus, seeing how the group has mobilized during Browns breaking news has shown me this is a special radio station.
- Passionate Fans: The opportunity to work in a local market with truly passionate sports fans cannot be overlooked. The fervor that Cleveland sports fans have for their teams is truly incredible!
- Good Karma Brands: Everyone I trust and spoke to about the company, Good Karma Brands, raved about the company’s culture. Radio people are more than happy to crap on a competitor or former employer, but the praise of Good Karma Brands was unanimous among the people I spoke to.
- Talent: ESPN Cleveland is a station with great talent–on and off the air. Usually when jobs like this are open, the station is struggling or needs an influx of talent. This is not the case at ESPN Cleveland.
- The Challenge: In addition to working with the terrific team at ESPN Cleveland, there is an opportunity to grow the station’s subscription service– TheLandonDemand.com. The service has exclusive Browns coverage from award winning sportswriter Tony Grossi, replays of every live show, interviews, and rants as well as original podcasts.
Am I excited to get to work? Absolutely. In my final year at SiriusXM I would honestly say that I was getting “crispy”. That’s the crafty phrase then-VP Brian Hamilton used to describe people weren’t burnt out but were well on their way. Today I feel rested, balanced, and inspired for this challenge.
I would like to send a huge thank you to Jason Barrett and Demetri Ravanos of Barrett Sports Media for the opportunity to write about sports radio over the past two years. I’m not sure I would be in this position without them. Thanks for reading and now it’s time to get to work!