Good hosts and shows aren’t struggling for content right now, but who knows how long it will be before we get live sports again? Hell, we’ll have been without sports for nearly a month and a half at that point.
We’re all in this together, right? That’s why Barrett Sports Media has created a content grab bag and we’re asking everyone to pitch in.
Got an idea that can help someone else? Do you have a perfect bit in mind, but maybe your situation has changed and now you have nowhere to pull it off? Don’t let it go to waste! If you want to contribute, reach out to Demetri Ravanos on Twitter.
John Michaels, who used to co-host the mid-day show at 92.9 the Game in Atlanta, is this week’s writer. He delivers a lesson worth understanding during this seemingly endless sports void. Listeners will still look for your content if you give them a reason to.
Many people have asked, how can you host a 3 hour sports radio show when there are no sports? The answer is simple, be entertaining, be engaging, and talk about topics that the audience wants to hear about.
Covid-19 has provided a roadblock that many sports radio professionals were not ready for. Many hosts rely on the games being played for topics and the blueprint for their show on a daily basis. Terry Foxx, who was my former PD, used to always say “anyone can open up their phone and get the box score, you need to give them a reason to listen to you”, and that is something that’s always stuck with me when formatting a show.
The games are obviously the backdrop to our profession, but they don’t always have to be the main course. Entertainment and relatability should be the meat and potatoes of the show, and that’s what will drive listeners to keep the show on even without the sports we all love.
The best in our business are story tellers, they are entertainers, and they provide a fun distraction while the real world is dealing with problems that we have never seen before.
When sitting down to put together a rundown, often the first thing I think of is, what are other shows doing today, and what can I do to differentiate myself from those shows? How much Coronavirus coverage do I want to add, and will that bog down the show? The problem with the Virus coverage is that we are inundated with it at every turn, so unless there is a reason, like baseball coming back, or the NBA allowing players back to the facilities, loading a show with speculation is just redundant.
The second part is how can the show continue down the path of a normal day to give people the escape they are desperately seeking? Landmark segments are your friend, and even the smallest bit of actual NFL or college football news can be needed at this time. Finding great audio from players, owners or coaches can enhance the topics that are being talked about. Having an A list guest also gives appointment listening, and with players not playing, hosts and producers should be pushing for these type of people to come on the show.
The most important element is relatability.
Mike Bell and Carl Dukes at 92.9 The Game in Atlanta have always had a wildly successful show because they are “men of the people”. The two of them are season ticket holders and are often tailgating with fans before every home game for the Falcons or Atlanta United. During the pandemic they have the great idea of doing #tailgatefromhome every Friday where the 2 of them, plus Beau Morgan(producer) and Mike Conti solicit listeners to tailgate with them from home. All four will create tailgate food at their houses, post video blogs, and show the finished food before the show goes off the air. Listeners have flocked to add their own food and pictures via social media which has given Atlanta a sense of normalcy, a sense of togetherness, and a sense of community that has been needed. If I’m a listener, I want to listen more to them than your normal host who is spewing the same regurgitated story over and over again.
Telling stories about what you are going through is also a great way to connect with the audience now when they need you the most. My kids needed haircuts, they needed to be taught classes, and we were all stuck at home like everyone else. Being able to convey this message to people let’s them know that you are no different than they are, as long as it’s not done in a condescending way. Local businesses are in need financially, so connecting with them could be huge at this time. Many businesses are facing extinction if they don’t get customers to frequent their locations any longer. 680 the Fan in Atlanta has started putting local business owners on to promote that they are open, which in turn can get not only patrons through those doors, but also potentially develop an advertising partner down the road. 5-10 minutes of air time can do wonders for everyone involved and is a great “outside the box” idea.
Be an originator, and not a follower. If you were still doing new brackets in mid April, you had completely missed the window to give your audience something new and fresh. You had become the stale and redundant host who took an old idea and was late to the party. On the flip side, if you started original fun brackets as soon as the virus took away sports, a few days or weeks worth of content was right at your finger tips.
More than anything this is the time to stay away from lazy sports talk cliches. No one wants to hear about Jordan vs Lebron, or Brady vs Montana. These are topics that have been beaten into the ground for decades, and your take is not going to wow the market, it will instead get them to change the channel. Be fresh, be original and actually do some research before that mic comes on.
One of the great compliments I’ve ever been given by listeners is that I was very easy to listen to, that it always seemed like I was one of the guys just talking amongst friends. This is a time where our listeners need friends, our sponsors need partners, and our management needs a reason to keep us.
Find fresh ways to be entertaining, to be engaging and relate to your listeners in a way you may have never done before. The best will thrive even when the chips are down, and the ones that can’t will be doing something else at the end of 2020. It’s your time to shine.
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.