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Paul Finebaum Isn’t Going To Distract You From Covid-19

“Guest writer Chrissy Paradis shares how transparency about Covid-19’s impact on life, sports and other daily issues has become the blueprint for Paul Finebaum’s show.”

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The Paul Finebaum Show has been a hallmark of the SEC Network since its inception. Finebaum, known for his close relationships with coaches and fans, coupled with his forthright delivery, is widely respected for his commitment to covering college sports. In the wake of an unprecedented worldwide health crisis however, Paul has demonstrated the power his program holds by leaning into the COVID concerns amongst his audience.

The beloved SEC Network host has been leading the charge to cover the severity of the pandemic while maintaining a commitment to sports news.

Paul goes with his gut and his dedication to remain true to his instinct has benefited his career, and now has been able to be a benefit to his audience amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

Finebaum has been awarded the title of “King of the South”, widely respected by the broadcasting community and sports radio listeners. The power of his influence is a responsibility that he takes very seriously. His roots as a newspaper reporter have shaped his career and with it his priorities. As seen through his commitment in adjusting the formatting of his show, becoming a hub that has not resisted covering the crisis but rather, leaning into it. As we have all learned at one point, what we resist usually persists; Paul’s understanding of this universal and fundamental truth is what makes him so special and unique. Avoiding the crisis and keeping the energy up as a distraction or diversion is not aligned with who Paul is at his core.

The ideology of providing a respite, distraction or safe-haven from the news is limiting. Tuning into Paul’s show over the past few months, has been a reflection of what he thinks of his audience and what his audience thinks of him. Rather than escaping from the news, transparency has become the blueprint for his show, where callers can acknowledge their concerns about the future of the COVID-19 crisis or simply ask where the Tide will roll come football season.

Paul Finebaum on Twitter: "Two of our favorite callers today ...

The end result has created a forum for the audience that encapsulates the intersection between life without sports and the catalyst that created the sports-free world we’ve been living in: COVID-19.

The frequent attempts to evaluate the collective intelligence of the audience rings false with the average sports radio listener. This catch-22 also distracts hosts from being able to operate at their best. Paul’s show has brilliantly been able to lift the curtain/break the fourth wall and bring in guests and callers alike to determine the true value of the content on his show, trusting the audience to make the decision.

The alternative strategy of ‘refusing to acknowledge the elephant in the room’ by eliminating any and all discussion about COVID, will continue to fall flat as it is insincere. The notion that the listeners aren’t impacted or following world news truly underestimates the intelligence of the audience altogether.

The solution? While listeners are not tuning in solely for COVID talk, many have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. Job losses, sick family members, cancelled sporting events. These have all made it more difficult to not spend time acknowledging the global crisis. Whether it involves spending a few minutes or opening the phone lines to allow listeners to connect with their favorite sports radio hosts, the top priority should remain the same: the listeners. It wouldn’t be genuine to discuss any of the various adjustments made to the NFL Draft without mentioning the reason that the precautionary measures are being taken. 

The shows that want to remain committed to providing COVID-free content can still utilize the power of production elements thanking first responders, doctors and nurses on the show/station’s behalf. Social media is a great tool as well during this period of uncertainty. Encouraging listeners to utilize Siri or Alexa to listen through the station’s call letters, downloading apps or listening online show the various ways that you are attempting to adapt to fit the needs of the audience during this unprecedented time.

Amazon Alexa Is Now Your Home Intercom | PCMag

As the world awaits the return of sports, there’s the unique ability to define your show’s commitment to the listeners, right now. Paul Finebaum’s cleared the path and demonstrated firsthand, how to be a beacon of hope while still delivering the latest news in the sports world.

The Paul Finebaum Show airs daily on the SEC Network, ESPN Radio and SiriusXM Channel 81 from 3-7pm EST.

Chrissy Paradis is a veteran sports radio producer. She’s worked in Las Vegas, Washington DC, Raleigh and Hartford helping notable personalities such as Rob Dibble, Tim Brando, Steve Cofield, Adam Gold and Joe Ovies. You can contact her on Twitter @ChrissyParadis or by email at Chrissy.Paradis@gmail.com.

BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 44

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This week’s episode is all about the NFL. Demetri explains why the league embracing kids is long overdue, Andy Masur stops by to breakdown the first Manningcast, and Ryan Maguire explains why some sports radio stations are missing a golden opportunity to shine on Sundays.

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BSM Writers

Interviews Thrive On Podcasts In A Way They Can’t On Radio

“Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.”

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Live radio vs. podcasts seems to be a heavyweight fight that isn’t ending anytime soon.  Podcasts are growing so much that companies that do radio are also now offering podcasts. This column is hardly about that fight. 

Instead, this is about how a podcast interview is a better way to get the best out of the guest than anything live on a radio station. This is not about downloads or clicks or sponsors. Solely about the content that is being produced.

A podcast makes the guest more comfortable and is more intimate than a live radio show.  Especially in sports.

Since 2015, I have hosted and produced 656 podcasts (yes it was fun to count them) and hosted many radio shows. My current shows are called Sports with Friends, Hall of Justice, and Techstream. That last one I host with tech expert Shelly Palmer.

On radio, there is a myriad of things the host has to do besides focus on the guest.

First, there are the IDs. Program directors have always told me ID the guest every chance I get. “We are talking with Eli Manning on WFAN,” is heard 7 times during an eight-minute segment.

On a podcast, the name of the guest is on the player or app that is playing the podcast. “Episode 1. Eli Manning, New York Giants” scrolls across smartphones, car radios, or other devices constantly.  Never interrupt the guest with an ID.

Then, there’s the fact that it is recorded and not live. I have a standard preamble that I say to any guest before any record light turns on.

“I will push,” I explain. “I will see where the conversation takes us, but I do tend to push. However, I’m on your side. This isn’t some expose’. If something comes up that you don’t like your answer, tell me. I’ll take it out. If there’s something that I say that is bad or wrong, tell me, I’ll take it out. This is a conversation, not an interview.”

In 656 podcasts, only one player, Bryce Harper (then of the Washington Nationals) asked me to take something out of a podcast.

We were doing Episode 54 of Sports with Friends when the subject of Dusty Baker came up.  He had just been hired to manage the Nationals. I mentioned in passing that Dusty had given the eulogy at my best friend Darryl Hamilton’s funeral.

Bryce was so intrigued that he recalled the comments I had made and asked if we could pause. We then spoke for a good 10 minutes about the kind of person Dusty was. Why Darryl held him in such regard.  It was a really inciteful chat.  Never was on the podcast.

Still, guests do relax when told that the editing option exists. They let their guard down. The host of a podcast can ask deeper questions.

“Who was the first person you called when you found out you were traded?”

“Have you seen a life for you after football?”

“How much do you hate a certain player?”

All questions, that if asked live, could seriously backfire. So not only does the guest have a guard up, but the interviewer also has to play it relatively safe, when they are not IDing the guest for the umpteenth time.

Time constraints also don’t exist in a podcast where they are beholden on live radio. The guest is just about to tell you they did cocaine during the World Series, and you are up against the clock.

ShinStation - Game Over - #017 - Wrap it Up - YouTube
Courtesy: Comedy Central

I have hosted shows over the years where the guest was phenomenal, but I screwed up the PPM clock. That was the takeaway.  The clock is important on a live medium that needs to get that quarter-hour.

I try to keep my podcasts short. You wouldn’t see it from looking at the lengths of my episodes. Still, I feel that if someone wants to talk and dive into a topic and it goes a little long, I will never cut the guy off.

Ken Griffey Jr. spoke for 45 minutes with a cigar and his feet up on the phone by his pool. He was telling jokes and stories. I wouldn’t have stopped that if a train was coming. When I hosted Mariner content at KJR in Seattle, our interviews usually last 5 minutes.

Jon Morosi broke down the future of clubhouse access and how he traveled during Covid. Then he told an amazing story of his wife working in the medical field and how that impacted all of his family. Shannon Drayer of 710 KIRO got so in-depth in her arduous journey from being a coffee barista to the Mariners on-field reporter. It was split into two episodes.

Former porn star Lisa Ann talked about her decision to quit the business. Even Jason Barrett himself was Episode 173 of Sports with Friends.

(When in the past has Jason Barrett been in the same paragraph as a porn star? Note to Demetri: please leave it in.)

The radio industry is seen to be cutting costs wherever it can. Mid-market stations are not doing night shows anymore, instead offering nationally syndicated programming. 

Weekends are another avenue that perplexes me. Talent that is not deemed good enough to be on during the week is often given weekend shifts. Also, some Monday-Friday hosts add a weekend shift to their duties. Here’s a theory: play podcasts. Format them to hit your PPM time marks. 

They don’t have to be my podcasts, but in the crowded podcast space, surely there are sports talk podcasts that are intimate, deep, and fun. Since we live in a data-driven age, let’s see how a radio station fares playing high-quality podcasts or portions of them, vs. weekend hosts.

Program directors often worry about the outdated nature of a podcast. That sells the podcaster short. As someone who has been in the podcast space since 2003, I know how to make them timeless, and companies make shows often enough, that rarely would they be outdated.  

Quality shines through the speakers.  The spoken-word audio format is continually evolving. Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.

How to Start a Podcast: Podcasting for Beginners - RSS.com Podcasting

The podcast industry is continually evolving.  Radio needs to evolve as well.  Then, it can be a fair fight.

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BSM Writers

National Voices Can Work For Local Clients

“Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder.”

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Selling personalities is one of the hottest trends in media today. Sure, most of the buzz is around social media influencers, but radio has long had a relationship with its audience based on personal connections between host and listener. And nobody has a better relationship with their audience than a sports radio host.

I am sure you are leveraging your local hosts by now. Live spots, testimonials, remotes, and promotions are all great tricks of the trade, as well as sponsored social media posts. But does your station carry syndicated shows? I am sure you do either from 7 pm-12 am Monday-Friday or on weekends.

In 2018, The Ticket in Boise, Idaho brought CBS Sports Radio host Damon Amendolara and his co-host, Shaun Morash, to town for a Boise State football game. Damon had just switched to mornings from evenings, and his show aired in Boise from 4 am-8 am Monday – Friday. His ratings were decent, but nothing that stood out considering the daypart. It was thought to be risky to sell him into sandwich shops, pizza places, appearances at local legend hangouts, and so forth.

Boise State head football coach and QB Bryan Harsin and Brett Rypien did a live shot on the show from the on-campus bookstore. At dark thirty. It all worked. DA and Morash were hits! Everywhere they went, lines and crowds awaited them and they hit spots in a two-county area.  The few days of appearances worked so well that DA is back in Boise three years later, this time for a week. Now, DA is doing his show from resort hotels 2.5 hours away, taking riverboat adventure fishing trips in Hell’s Canyon, craft beer tours for his sidekick Andrew Bogusch and hosting college football viewing parties at brewpubs. Every station that carries syndicated shows probably has a DA success story waiting to happen. 

Start by listening to the shows, know the benchmarks and quirks of the national personalities or call the affiliate rep and ask. Does the talent discuss their love of beer, BBQ, pizza, whatever? If they do, then go ahead and sell them to a local client. The national talent can do the spot and endorse your client. If it’s a product, send one to them. Figure out how to get them a pizza. If it’s a service, do a zoom call with the client and let them start a relationship. Include some social media elements with video. The video can be used in social media and can sit on the client’s website. Yours too!

If you want to bring the talent to town, do it for a big game, local event, or 4th of July parade, and the sponsors will follow. Run a promo during the talent’s daypart asking local sponsors to text in to reserve their promotional spot. Have the talent cut liners asking the same thing. Take the NFL Sunday morning host and sell a promo to a sports bar where the host zooms in to a table or room full of listeners, and they watch a portion of a game together. Or sell the same idea to a national chain and do an on-air contest for a listener to have a home watch party with the zoomed-in host complete with food and beverages from your sponsors sent to both locations. How about sending your #1 BBQ joint that handles mail orders and sends some food for the talent? They can videotape themselves reheating the BBQ and make some great Facebook and Instagram videos.  

Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder. Try selling a nationally syndicated host inside your market. I promise you’ll like it. 

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