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Independent Nation: 1010XL

Jack Ferris

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Unlike the virus itself, there is no “asymptomatic” industry when it comes to the crippling economic impact of COVID-19. As of Thursday morning, 22 million Americans have filed for unemployment since mid March. It’s hard to comprehend a number that size. 22 million people unsure where their next paycheck will come from. 22 million lives upended with next to zero notice. 

Tough decisions with jobs and livelihoods on the line are being made every day with executives doing whatever they can to weather the storm.  Look no further than any of the top companies in terrestrial radio for sobering examples.

District Unemployment Insurance Claims Spike in the Wake of COVID-19

About a month ago – the President and General Manager of Seven Bridges Radio made a decision of his own.

“No layoffs, no furloughs,” exclaimed Steven Griffin. “It really was never a question for us.”

By Griffin’s own admission, Seven Bridges Radio is a small company – and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We can have an idea at 9 am and by 9:15 it’s implemented. No bureaucracy, just a couple conversations and we’re taking action. ‘Pivot,’ is a word we use around here a lot.  We can move quickly.”

They may be small, but the impact of Seven Bridges and 1010 XL on North Florida has been massive. For well over a decade, Griffin and his team have used the station’s 50,000 watts to entertain sports fans and foster relationships within the community.

“What makes radio great is being live and local,” explains 1010 PD Chadd Scott. “No corporate station will ever beat a local station when it comes to serving the local population. We understand the community because we’re all part of the community. Top to bottom.”

That grassroots mentality combined with the inherent agility of a small company has proven to be invaluable over the last month as Seven Bridges has scrambled to deal with these unprecedented times.  

1010 XL / 92.5 FM on Twitter: "Tom Coughlin in-studio with ...

“Right now it’s all about communication with our partners,” declares Ken Brady, the company’s Director of Sales. “We’re having conversations with everyone and we’re simply asking them what we can do to help them get to the other side of this. If they want to pause, we figure out how to make that work for them. If they need to decrease what they’re spending, we figure out how to make that work for them. Copy change? No problem. The ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ of everyone are a little different right now.”

A universal “want” for 1010 clients was to get word to listeners during the first few days of the shelter in place that their companies were still open for business. In true Seven Bridges fashion, that was an accommodation sales and programming were able to turn around quickly and efficiently.

“We scheduled 60 live 5-10 minute interviews for clients to get on the air and share whatever information they wanted,” Brady pauses, eager to praise his co-workers on the microphone. “Our hosts were incredible. Perfect follow up questions, they knew when to keep things light and when to be sincere. It was a huge undertaking by everyone and it turned out as well as we all could have hoped.”

“We know what it is to be a small local company because we are a small local company,” chuckles Scott. “Every decision maker in the building has their email and direct cell number available to anyone.”

At a time when a lot of radio shows are starved for content – Chadd Scott isn’t making any excuses for his team.

“We’re putting out a competitive product every day. Our audience is there for us and we’re there for them. In fact, tune into 1010 at any point during the day and you may not even realize there’s no live sports right now.”

Of course, there is no avoiding COVID-19 as a talking point. When it comes to discussing the tough times we’re all experiencing, Scott isn’t holding his guys back.

Chadd Scott

“I just tell them to be authentic. Share their feelings. React to news personally, how it affects them. It’s something everyone is going through and the listeners are comforted when they’re reminded we’re all dealing with this. Just one rule,” Scott grins through the phone. “No politics. This isn’t the time for donkey and elephant talk.”

Does Seven Bridges Radio have all the answers? No – and they would be the first to admit it. It’s that refreshing honesty that is such a huge part of their appeal. In the time of “social distancing,” the senior staff at 1010 could not be more approachable.

“We’re always talking out ideas,” Griffin smiles. “I would guess 70% of the ideas don’t work – but the important thing is we’re always talking!”

Griffin, Brady and Scott each went out of their way to say they’re constantly looking for ideas out of the market. Listening to other stations, reading about the industry, always searching for something to bring to Seven Bridges.

“We’re always learning,” insists Griffin – proudly.

As my conversation with the GM of Seven Bridges Radio wrapped up we couldn’t help but circle back to the dark cloud of layoffs that looms over every industry. We tried to wrap our minds around the unthinkable decisions so many suits are being forced to make for the greater good of their companies. It was a topic Griffin quickly shook off.

1010XL Instagram posts (photos and videos) - Picuki.com

“I don’t want to sound too sappy here, but this is a family. Everyone on this team is so valuable – especially these last few weeks. Everyone has been able to adapt and work from home and they’re all doing an exceptional job.  I’m so proud to work with everyone.”

“We’re very blessed here,” echoed Brady.  “We’re gonna be fine.”

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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