“I lost count years ago.”
After attending trade events for the better part of four decades, you can’t blame Perry Michael Simon for having trouble with the question; “How many media conferences do you think you’ve attended in your life?”
“Maybe 150 or so?”
In fact – this morning Perry is in Cincinnati wrapping up the 11th annual Talk Show Boot Camp.
If there was an “expert” when it came to attending such conventions, look no further than the VP and Editor of AllAccess.com himself.
Simon, like so many of his peers, has had a front row seat on the roller coaster ride that has been the radio business over the last decade. He has opinions on what decision makers are doing right and where the industry may have blind spots as we venture onward into the 2020s. During some down time in Cincinnati – he shared his thoughts on what makes a good conference, the health of the industry, and Cincy’s chili situation.
JACK FERRIS: In the last 4-5 years, what are the largest fundamental changes, if any, you’ve seen at conferences?
PERRY MICHAEL SIMON: Every conference now seems to have at least one session they classify as “the podcast panel.” It’s usually a rehash of the same content every time, geared towards people who don’t know much about podcasting. But the main useful information about podcasting, and social media, tends to come from the people who present actual research (Jacobs Media, Edison Research, Steve Goldstein); the discussions are usually still on the level of “should I start a podcast?”
FERRIS: In your opinion, what has the industry done well in terms of evolving with listeners and the younger demos? What has it dragged its feet on?
SIMON: The industry has failed to develop new talent, for a few reasons. One is that young talent has other places to go in which they can have more free rein over their content (and even ownership) and not work under the threat of layoffs. Another is that most program directors and corporate programmers are risk-averse in trying something new, so the young talent they hire tends to be just younger versions of the same kind of host. It’s most prevalent in talk radio — hey, we found a 30 year old who’s just like Sean Hannity, only younger! — but it’s across all formats and it’s ignoring a sea change in popular culture. There are exceptions, but radio has done a terrible job of developing talent in the last few decades.
It’s good that the industry has embraced podcasting, but I’m still waiting to see radio companies really grasp the differences between radio and podcasts. Repurposing radio shows only goes so far. Again, there are significant exceptions, but on the whole, applying traditional thinking to a new medium seems to be the approach.
FERRIS: How important is the philosophy/management style/vision of a PD to the success of a station in 2020?
SIMON: It depends on whether the PD is really the one in charge. If the company lets the PD do the job without corporate interference, then the philosophy will imprint itself on the station and the PD’s management style will influence everything in the workplace. If the company runs things top down and the local PD is there to carry out the corporate mandate, then the PD’s less relevant. And considering how many jobs and stations a PD has to do these days, it’s harder for one to carry out a singular vision.
FERRIS: Do you notice trends in certain areas of the country vs others? ie – Midwest vs the South vs West Coast vs East Coast?
SIMON: That’s always been the case, but it falls more along the lines of the sports those markets favor. I grew up in the mid-Atlantic, and that area and the northeast in general are absolutely not college football crazy like much of the rest of the country, so national talk shows that are all about the SEC are not going to resonate in, say, New York or Philadelphia. That makes doing national sports talk a little trickier, but the common denominator is the NFL, which is a topic everywhere.
FERRIS: Is there an angle BSM provided last month that was unique for the convention circuit? (No is an acceptable answer!)
SIMON: I thought that the 30 in 30 session was unique- rapid fire, actionable advice from programming pros.
FERRIS: As someone who attends so many conferences, is there a universal oversight you think the industry might have as it looks to the future?
SIMON: It’s existential, really: Is sports radio going to lose relevance in an age when the kind of hot-takery it does is available faster and more easily on social media? I have heard nobody really address that.
Also, diversity remains an issue. BSM did address that and there are positive things happening, but it’s still a very white male industry.
FERRIS: Obviously, some conferences are going to attract higher profile speakers than others. That being said, do you think each and every conference offers its attendees something unique?
SIMON: There’s a lot of repetition. Some are better than others. And I’ll leave it at that.
FERRIS: The best thing a conference can do for its attendees is…
SIMON…send them home with actionable, useful information and provide ample networking opportunities and facilitation, especially setting up chances for everyone to meet and talk to the A-listers. The big shots shouldn’t just make a stage appearance and be escorted away by their handlers before the regular folks have a chance to meet them and/or ask questions.
FERRIS: Best chili in Cincinnati?
SIMON: My chili days are over!
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.