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Has The Pandemic Derailed Young Sports Media Careers?

“If you are currently employed and looking to retain employment, I would encourage people to learn how to do everything.”

Chrissy Paradis

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We have heard from the greats and the veterans of the sports broadcasting industry about the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic, but what about those who have just begun their career in sports broadcasting? How have they been impacted and more importantly what have they learned from this experience? I had the pleasure of speaking with a few of the talented individuals by scanning the Barrett Sports Media Membership Directory. They have all demonstrated their tenacity and resourcefulness in utilizing the tool and reaching more people in the industry.

The competitive sports media industry has set the bar even higher when it comes to the expectations and requirements of prospective talent. Employers have demonstrated an affinity for the ‘Taysom Hill’ style pick in the process of screening prospective job candidates; a dynamic, impactful, adaptive teammate. 

Brady Farkas, Host of the Bleav in Patriots podcast on the Bleav Podcast Network has also decided to meet challenge head on by diversifying his résumé and hosting the University of Vermont’s The Catamount Chronicles; a podcast dedicated to featuring UVM’s best moments in sports history. 

Jake Asman, Host of The Jake Asman Show on SportsMap Radio and ESPN 97.5 Houston has certainly exemplified the Taysom Hill energy when faced with the challenges associated with 2020. 

Jordon Schultz, Bleav Podcast Network Host & KXL News Anchor in Portland embodies all of the Taysom Hill-marks in his continued commitment to contributing quality content across multiple formats and diversifying his skillset. 

I had the opportunity to speak with Brady, Jake and Jordon about their experiences with the sports media world, their careers and takeaways regarding broadcasting during COVID-19; it truly was as inspiring as it was illuminating.

The self-discipline, raw talent and unbridled motivation, while maintaining their focus on continuing to build relationships and develop their skills, truly set the trio apart from the competition. Brady Farkas, Jake Asman and Jordon Schultz are phenomenal reminders of just how bright the future of the sports media world will be.

What have you learned about the sports radio business during the pandemic?

Brady Farkas: I’ve learned how to have more fun as an on-air personality. I wouldn’t say that I was boring beforehand, but I was more regimented and more formulaic in how I hosted a show. And while the clock and the formula will always be important to me, this opened my eyes to more creative features, segments and interviews and I’m grateful for how that has diversified my hosting ability.

As a programmer, I learned more about how important it is to superserve clients and to really make sure you’re taking care of advertisers so that they feel a connection to your brand and have a reason to stay on. I learned more creative ways to tie in your play-by-play rights/national programming into your local line-up when it comes to liners, stabs, etc. It connects the local and national in a really cool way for the listener.

Jake Asman: Well, I think the easy answer is that it’s certainly a lot easier to come up with topics your listeners will care about when there are plenty of games being played and major events happening. However, the challenge of trying to be unique and entertaining every day without a lot of sports to talk about was something that I enjoyed, and I feel that the circumstances made me a much better talk show host. 

Jordon Schultz: I’ve learned that the sports radio business is resilient and has staying power in a landscape saturated with different options for entertainment. Despite unsure times for everyone out there, among the job losses there have been new jobs being listed every week. 

Also, it’s encouraging to hear so many hosts adapt to talking about other things on the air. So I guess you can say the biz is resilient in that way too. In a world full of change, sports radio is doing a good job of trying to adapt. 

How has your belief in the future of the sports radio industry been affected over the past few months? 

Brady Farkas: I still believe very strongly about the future of the industry because of the connection we have with our listeners. When you’re on the air for two, three or four hours a day, you develop a relationship with your listeners to where it feels like a family. And while it sounds corny, that family element allowed stations to go on during the pandemic, and it will ultimately carry us out of it.

Jake Asman: I’m a very optimistic person by nature, so I really believe that even though so many colleagues and stations are struggling around the country right now, that things will turn around. It is going to take time but I think if you have a defeatist attitude about the current situation, it is not going to help anyone find solutions to move forward. Although the pandemic feels like it’s been going on for decades, it still is going to hopefully only represent such a small portion of our lives, and we will get out of this and get back to normal.

It certainly helps that it looks like the NFL is going to be able to at least start their season. Football is king and to have the NFL back will provide a huge boost to every station’s revenue and I know my listeners can’t wait for the season. 

Jordon Schultz: Despite the ratings drop for games on TV (take the NBA as an example), I think sports radio and sports audio have become more important than ever before. While not everyone can watch every game because of blackouts or viewing prices, everyone can listen to the radio station talking about their team, or their favorite show or podcast for free. 

In unsure times, people turn to others that they know and trust. As an industry, we need to make sure that we continue to fill that role. If we’re always doing our best at that, the future of the sports radio industry is bright. 

What have you done differently to adapt/ adjust and keep your skills sharp in order to position yourself for future growth and opportunities?

Brady Farkas: It’s been really rewarding over the last several months to hone skills when it comes to digital marketing of yourself and your station brand. From audiograms, to live streaming of your show, to generating highlight clips of your shows, it’s all important in terms of keeping your audience engaged all day long. 

Furthermore, I personally have continued to grow my network and guest book/rolodex through podcasting opportunities and learned more about how to use YouTube as a tool for radio and podcasting. It has great features that I wasn’t really aware of previously, like scheduling videos as “premieres” that appear LIVE to your audience, but are actually already taped.

Jake Asman: I was on furlough for six weeks when the pandemic first began. I vowed to use that time to improve in any way that I could as a talk show host. I sought out feedback from industry professionals and people that I respect in the field, I taught myself how to edit clips of my show into unique graphics to post on social media to try and grow my following and give my listeners another way to consume my show. I learned how to stream the radio show on various social media platforms so when the opportunity to come back to Gow Media happened, I was ready. 

I also treated every day as if I was still going to be on the air doing a show to stay mentally sharp. I tried to challenge myself with different angles to take on topics and would think about different ideas for unique benchmark segments or various guests I’d like to get on my show. 

Now that I am back on the air doing a daily show, I never want to be outworked by anyone. Because of COVID-19, the news cycle as it relates to sports is always changing every day, so I am making sure that I am plugged in and up to date on everything that is happening. I want to make sure that people know when they listen to me that I’m going to give you a show that is well thought out, entertaining, and interesting, even in a pandemic. 

Jordon Schultz: I’m in sort of a unique situation in that I’ve been working in news for the past few years instead of my chosen format, sports. So even before the pandemic, I’ve been trying to make sure I have a wide set of skills that can make me an attractive candidate to a wide range of program directors.

But during the shut down, I’ve tried to make sure my Portland Trailblazers Podcast is top notch. It’s a weekly opportunity to grow, and I try to take full advantage of it. Other than that, I’ve tried my best to reach out to some of my contacts in the business just to say hi and ask how they’re doing. It’s a small way of keeping yourself on their mind during these crazy times!

What advice do you have for others trying to remain employed or find employment during this tough stretch of 2020?

Brady Farkas: If you are currently employed and looking to retain employment, I would encourage people to learn how to do everything. Make yourself indispensable and make sure you can run a board, produce a show, book guests, plan a show, execute a show, run the social media, work with the interns, understand all the different web/digital functions that help your brand grow. 

Furthermore, if you are looking for work, teach yourself more about the digital space. As the sports radio world looks for younger listeners, getting to them in the digital space they occupy is critical.

Jake Asman: If you are trying to remain employed or find employment, you have to make sure that you have a multitude of skills to increase your value. I’m way more than just a talk show host on SportsMap Radio. I produce my show every day in regards to booking all my own guests, editing the audio and daily clips from the show for social media, and much more.

You have to be able to do a lot more than just turn on a mic and talk. This was true before the pandemic and this is even more true now. I’m lucky because in addition to owning SportsMap Radio, Gow Media also owns ESPN 97.5 locally and the website SportsMap.com. I make sure that I am always available to fill in host locally on 97.5 whenever I’m needed, and I also contribute written articles for SportsMap.com multiple times a week. 

I want to be involved in as many roles as possible to prove my value to the company that I work for. I also think it’s great to get to know everybody in the building behind the scenes too. I love talking to our sales team and seeing if there is anything I am able to help them with. Without them, I wouldn’t be lucky enough to have a job right now. Radio is truly a team effort and during a pandemic, it’s all hands on deck.

Jordon Schultz:  Make yourself available in any way possible. Apply or offer to work in other formats or departments around the building/industry to help fill the gaps we all have in personnel right now. Use the downtime to start a podcast or YouTube channel if you don’t already have one. 

How to supercharge your virtual networking at Disrupt 2020 ...

Also, there’s been a lot of virtual networking happening since the pandemic started. Take advantage of any gatherings or virtual calls that you hear about. You might meet some new people and build some relationships that lead to an opportunity. And keep your chin up! I haven’t been able to get a full time sports radio job for almost 8 years leading up to the pandemic. 

It’s rough out there, but if you continue to grow and show your value it’ll pay off, even during an unprecedented pandemic

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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