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Nothing Is Easy For Hosts That Own Small Businesses

Tyler McComas

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When it comes to the hierarchy of interests in Atlanta, dining and restaurants rank No. 1 and sports rank No. 2. At least that’s how Steak Shapiro sees it and if anyone deserves to have an opinion on the subject, it’s probably him. 

Shapiro, co-host of The Front Row on 680 The Fan, is the longest-running sports talk radio host in the city’s history. He also owns businesses that are outside the sports radio spectrum such as Atlanta Eats and Bread and Butter content studios, which are both centered on the food scene in the city. Not only is he trying to do a drive-time show in a major market with no sports, he’s also trying to navigate the trying times of being a business owner. 

steakshapiro (@steakshapiro) | Twitter

“I have 13 full-time employees to worry about,” said Shapiro. “I have marketing ad dollars to worry about. We were having the best year in our history and had a couple of big media partnerships opportunities. I’m applying for the PPP payroll loan and I’m also applying for the Government Disaster Loan. 

“It gives me great perspective on the radio because I’m a small business owner and I understand the loans. We’ve had to make drastic decisions with our employees about whether we lay folks off, cut income or whether we furlough, so all those things people are talking about I’m living as a founder and owner of a company.”

Nick Cattles of ESPN Radio 94.1 in Virginia Beach is also a small business owner and has already had to make a tough decision with his bar, The Tailgate Sports Pub. Cattles and his co-owners decided to close things completely down at the bar, because curbside service and deliveries were still netting a giant loss. 

“The final week we did take-out and deliveries we were down 86 percent, compared what we would do on a decent week during that time,” Cattles said. “It was just to the point where you’re keeping the place open, you obviously have bills that you’re running and employees that you’re paying. To stay open, you’re also buying food and then some of that food is going to go bad if you’re not able to sell it quick enough. All those conversations and decisions you have to make play a role.”

Kyle Bailey of WFNZ in Charlotte just started his own new business named Clubhouse Productions and was going to use the spring and summer to get things off the ground. However, with the economy taking a severe downturn, it’s put a dent on his entire timeline.  

“I’ve already have to cancel my first event this summer,” Bailey said. “I’m just now getting off the ground and all of this has thrown a wrench into things. I’m still able to plan and do things behind the scenes, such as work on graphics, logos, websites and other things. I continue to do things that need to be done in the background but things have been pushed back indefinitely.”

I can’t imagine trying to balance the stress of doing a daily radio show, along with trying to make key business decisions during a time like this. But Shapiro, Cattles and Bailey are handing things in a very admirable way. It’s especially refreshing to see, that both Shapiro and Cattles are helping out other local businesses during their own dilemmas. 

“My company is raising a ton of money for restaurant groups in Atlanta that are trying to survive,” said Shapiro. “Atlanta Eats has pivoted to restaurant support, which is very purpose driven.”

“I’m going to be starting on Monday a thing that I’m calling the Tough Times Giveaway,” said Cattles. “I’m driving around with my wife to local spots, we got a bunch of suggestions from people on Facebook and Twitter, and I’m going to be buying a bunch of 25-dollar gift cards to local businesses. I’ll be giving one away per day on the show, just to try and give those restaurants and bars free publicity and let people know that they’re still open and try to make some money. It’s just about trying to get these small, local places at least some kind of promotion and hopefully people will either order a gift card or still get food from there. I don’t want come across as like I’m gaining something from being on the air. I don’t think that would be fair and I think it would also be kind of weird at this point. It sounds cliché and corny but I really believe that local bars and businesses, we’re all kind of feeling the same thing.”

What about plugs over the air for your business? If the audience feels a connection to you, they’re obviously way more willing to show support for your business during a time of need. Every little bit helps, there’s no doubt about that, but can self-promotion be ok both during and after the pandemic?

“Yeah, within the guidelines of what I’m allowed to do or able to do, I will absolutely do that,” said Bailey. 

“As far as on the air stuff, I try to separate my bar from what I do on the air as much as I can,” said Cattles. “Every once in a while, something happens at the bar and I’m telling a story, that I give the context of it and tell it. But I’ve had an understanding with Max Media, who owns 94.1, that I’m not going to throw the bar’s name out there for a bunch of free promotion.

“When we decided to close I told the story and spent a segment on that decision and shared it with the listeners. I would think at least some of them know the place, and I’m sure I said the name a couple of times during that segment. But it wasn’t an over the top, hey, we’re closing with a real infomercial feel. It was just more of my personal feelings of going through what we went through.”

For now, all three are just fortunate to still have a job in radio. Sure, maybe their small businesses haven’t went the way they planned in 2020, but as long as they’re still behind the mic, everything can work its self out. 

Cattles’ bar is undergoing updates the establishment couldn’t normally do if it was open for normal business hours. He’s also, like so many others, waiting for the money that small businesses are getting from grants and loans. The month of August will mark five years since The Tailgate Sports Pub opened. This is the biggest hurdle he’s had to climb as a business owner but he’s hoping that life will be back to normal when the anniversary of the bar rolls around late in the summer. 

3 Best Sports Bars in Virginia Beach, VA - Expert Recommendations

Shapiro has been so successful in Atlanta because he’s been able to touch intimately on what the locals care about most: food and sports. But just because you can’t sit and eat at a restaurant, doesn’t mean he’s still not concerned with putting out great content for the local dining scene. 

“I do an Instagram show live every Tuesday and Friday night and I call it Happy Hour at Home,” Shapiro said. “I think people crave some belief and some connection that the human spirit wants to know that they’re not alone. I think listeners crave a sense of familiar voice that they can relate to. They want to know that we’re all in this together.”

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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