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Revolution In The Brackets, Rebellion In The Hotels

Sister Jean has become the norm in a script-flipped NCAA tournament, but be reminded that the athletes aren’t being paid from a $1 billion pie — and should consider game boycotts amid COVID-19 disarray.

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Why stop at basketball? Might Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt also save Tiger Woods? Cure the latest coronavirus variants? Stop anti-Asian hatred? Quell the maskless mobs on South Beach?

Sister Jean's prayer answered: Loyola Chicago stuns top-seeded Illinois in  NCAAs - syracuse.com

If you believe in fairy tales and Jim Nantz, yes, friends, this is a revolution. But if you’ve studied the sea changes in college hoops, you aren’t shocked in the least, realizing there are no one-percenter elites in the sport now — and that Loyola-Chicago and its 101-year-old team chaplain just might win it all. The have-nots are terrorizing the haves as they invade traditional mansions, water-board famed coaches, ransack their stuffed safes and spray-paint the fine artwork with their own names — Oral Roberts, Abilene Christian, Ohio, the Mean Green of North Texas and Oregon State, which reduced the NBA’s presumptive No. 1 draft pick, Cade Cunningham, to something ordinary.

And on their way out the front gates, owning all the cachet now, they are tweeting ha-ha-has back at the gamblers who legally bet against them.

Where’s Duke? Kentucky? North Carolina? Michigan State? Louisville? The NCAA tournament is being played in Indiana, but there are no Hoosiers. I see no Ohio State, where the players are being threatened online by psycho fans, but I do see Ohio, from Athens, where I remember once attending classes and find the personal triumph of Jason Preston more compelling than anything on Netflix. I see Illinois crashing because of inflated egos and porous coaching, embarrassed by the modest school tucked away in a North Side neighborhood, Loyola, thanks not only to Sister Jean’s faith but the precision and passion of leisure-wear-clad coach Porter Moser and a balding, mustachioed, harmonica-playing big man, Cameron Krutwig.

The No. 1-seeded Illini, you might say, were nun-and-done.

“The guys believed, and it’s amazing what happens when you have a group of young men who believe,” said Moser, who can name his next job, including governor of Illinois … or coach at Indiana.

This delicious portion of March Madness — oh, how we needed it as a virus-and-politics-weary country. Has the pandemic altered life to the point where, in a couple of Mondays, we finally might see some crazy, little team win it all? And I don’t mean Gonzaga, the crazy, little team that grew up and now stands nearly alone as a blueblood.

“We just beat the University of Texas. Little ol’ Abilene Christian out in West Texas built a program that went toe-to-toe with the University of Texas, and it’s an incredible story,” coach Joe Golding rhapsodized. “It’s what March is about. We needed March Madness, man. We needed some type of normalcy to our country. We needed people to fill out brackets. We needed people to cheer for the underdog.”

And Sister Jean? Somehow bigger in Americana at 101 than she was at 98, when Loyola reached the Final Four, she delivered these pre-game words to the team: “As we play the Fighting Illini, we ask for special help to overcome this team and get a great win. We hope to score early and make our opponents nervous. We have a great opportunity to convert rebounds as this team makes about 50 percent of layups and 30 percent of its (three-pointers). Our defense can take care of that.”

Maybe she should coach the Illini. Or the Bulls. Because the Ramblers held Illinois and its future NBA guard, Ayo Dosunmu, to 28.6 percent shooting from the three-point arc.”It’s been a whole season of that. That’s our defense,” said Krutwig, who resembles what a young Mike Ditka might have looked like if he’d played hoops. “It’s not just a 48-hour scout. We’ve been working our whole season for this. I guess people kind of forgot. We were the No. 1 defense in the country this year. People chalk it up to being a mid-major.”

Of course, there is no such creature as a mid-major anymore. My only issue is why Sister Jean, in her picks, had Loyola losing to West Virginia in the Elite Eight — when West Virginia (and Bob Huggins’ mullet) lost to Syracuse, a team Loyola should beat.

Yet for every broken bracket, every sweet disruption and every familiar adrenaline attack that cues the thunder of March, there are louder voices in Indianapolis — those of the athlete activists speaking hard truths, something you won’t see covered on CBS. This would be an insurrection.

They’ve already seen one game declared a no-contest due to a COVID-19 outbreak, with virus-ravaged VCU going home. The natural response is to ask who will be infected next and whether there’s a hole in the NCAA’s “controlled environment.” At what point should the tournament be shut down to protect players, coaches, officials and traveling parties, knowing five programs have been disrupted by COVID the past week? And if you view that as a Chicken Little reflex, consider how the sport’s obsession with money prompted the playing of needless conference tournaments that might have led to VCU’s outbreak and other positive tests?

“It just stinks,” said VCU coach Mike Rhoades. “I can’t sugarcoat it.”

The activists also have observed the anguish of Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell, who received threatening tweets after a stunning loss to Oral Roberts, and wonder why players are subjected to such hatred. Is this what happens when the sports industry embraces legalized gambling — creeps who lose wagers threaten players? And the abuse isn’t limited to digital devices; an old-school coach stuck in the last century, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, grabbed a player and bullied him in full view of a national audience.

WATCH: Tom Izzo, Gabe Brown go at it heading into halftime locker room

So, quite justifiably, the players wish to interject once again that they aren’t being paid a penny. Hundreds of young men, all but locked down in hotel rooms so the NCAA can make $1 billion from its basketball spectacle, do not get a crumb of compensation from the pie. They receive scholarships, nice places to live on campus and televised windows to showcase their skills, but in the biggest equation — advertisers paying broadcast networks that feed the NCAA monolith — what’s happening to them now, amid a pandemic, looks like slavery to them.

Symbolic of the slights: A multi-billion-dollar governing body that should care deeply about peak performance has whiffed on nutrition. Borrowing from former President Trump, who served junk food to Clemson players for their White House celebration, the NCAA asked its proud partners from Wendy’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and Pizza Hut to provide massive quantities of burgers, chicken wings and pizzas. In essence, the players are eating no better than COVID-pudgy fans gorging at home. Said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s tournament poohbah: “That’s a lot of food for hungry student-athletes.”

His comment contains two lies: It is not food, and they are not students.

Which explains why this tournament ultimately could be remembered for much more than basketball. It might be defined by a historic boycott  — the possible shutdown of games in the Elite Eight or Final Four, where America’s eyeballs are primarily glued — as guided by a movement that includes players from at least 15 schools with little to do but think and text in confinement. Heeding the powerful lessons of activists throughout professional sports, including LeBron James inside the NBA’s restrictive bubble, the players want change. They are treated like essential workers as the NCAA and its partners, CBS and Turner, try to shoehorn 67 games into three weeks in central Indiana. The sole mission is to complete the event on the night of April 5, this avoiding the substantial financial losses resulting from the canceled 2020 tournament.

It is an act of desperation and business survival in a sport burdened by two many existential issues to count. Yet, the players who’ve been asked to save the NCAA tournament aren’t paid a cent for it? That’s why some are talking boycott, fueled by a hashtag: #NotNCAA Property.

“This tournament is going to generate a billion dollars,” Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon told The Athletic. “And we’re not allowed to make a single dime off our own names … but they want to treat us like employees. … Maybe it’s protesting a game or delaying a game — because it would be a nightmare for the NCAA. I know they don’t want that. Right now, we certainly have the leverage to do it.”

Is it likely games will be boycotted and postponed? The answer depends on how many more games are canceled because of COVID-19. Three years ago, Michigan was at the forefront of a plotted Final Four-wide boycott but couldn’t gather consensus acceptance. Some players are thrilled to be living a dream, others intimidated by coaches who might try to ruin their lives. The difference this time is the pandemic. In life-and-death America, players haven’t been able to see loved ones, and now, VCU’s forfeit plants more doubt.

The NCAA has said that COVID-tainted games can proceed if five “eligible and healthy” players are available. But while Rhoades indicated he had at least five — “I was going up and down the hallway and saying, `We’re like a wounded animal. You don’t want to go against a wounded animal,’ ” he said — the NCAA played the caution card. In consultation with the local Marion County Public Health Department, it wisely determined, “With potential risks to all involved in the game, we could not guarantee or be comfortable that five or more players would be available without risk.”

Members of the VCU traveling party had been tested every day for three weeks. “But within the last 48 hours we’ve received multiple positive tests,” said Rhoades, which suggests the infections occurred during a period when the Rams were at the Atlantic 10 title game in Dayton, Ohio, before bussing to Indianapolis. How were the players infected? Was it during a walk on a rare occasion when teams are allowed to be outdoors? “I want to make sure it’s clear: This isn’t something where our team broke protocol and did the wrong thing,” VCU athletic director Ed McLaughlin said. “We don’t know how this happened, but it certainly wasn’t bad behavior on our side whatsoever.”

Is it any wonder, then, why such a crisis plants burdensome seeds? The athletes want compensation for their work and health risks, as we all would in their situation. The core issue is the longstanding fight that athletes should be paid for names, images and likenesses, a mission that has progressed in some states but continues to clog Congress like a bad half-court offense. The disparity is magnified by their current accommodations, a hermetically sealed experience that allows for games, practices and an occasional outdoor exercise period. Unlike college football players, who played once a week, basketball players have engaged in multiple games a week and traveling since November — that is, when schedules weren’t paused by virus outbreaks.

Now here they are, in the heartland, hoarded together like so much cheap labor and subjected to abuse beyond the absence of pay. As I wrote last week, this NCAA tournament is the most heavily gambled sports event ever. Despite pandemic risks that wouldn’t make betting advisable — such as, hearing three hours before tipoff that Oregon was advancing — almost 50 million Americans are expected to invest $1.3 billion. And when a team loses unexpectedly, fans are known to turn wacko, perhaps because they lost a wager.

It’s repulsive that Ohio State had to contact police after Liddell was threatened on social media. One fan vowed to find Liddell and attack him. Another wrote: “You are such a f—— disgrace. Don’t ever show your face at Ohio State. We hate you. I hope you die I really do.”

Tweeted Liddell, after posting the screenshots: “What did I do to deserve this? I’m human.”

And an unpaid human, at that. We don’t know if the cowardly snipers were gamblers who’d lost an Ohio State bet. If they were, this is Exhibit A of the possible consequences when the sports industry — especially college sports, which purportedly is centered around higher education and “student-athletes” — embraces the legalized gambling craze. Of course, Ohio State’s athletic leadership rallied around Liddell, with coach Chris Holtmann saying, “These comments, while not from or representative of Ohio State fans, are vile, dangerous and reflect the worst of humanity. E.J. is an outstanding young man who had a tremendous sophomore season and he was instrumental in our team’s success.”

Ohio State's E.J. Liddell received threatening messages

But don’t count on Ohio State or any other monster program to question the possible agenda of gambling. I’ll bring back a paragraph I wrote on the eve of the tournament: “And who cares that Indiana is enjoying a gambling boom that includes 14 physical sportsbooks thrilled to accept wagers of any size? That includes the Winner’s Circle Sports Pub and OTB right there on Pennsylvania Street, mere blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the six team hotels, according to the trusty Bookies.com website. No way a dirtball or two could infiltrate the NCAA Bubble and convince a teenager or two to fix a game, right? This is college basketball, so very clean and ethical, a sport that has responsibly steered clear of point-shaving scandals — except those at Arizona State, Boston College, Tulane, Northwestern, Auburn, Toledo, San Diego, etc. — and never, ever would allow a player or parent or coach or referee or agent or sneaker creep to be on the take or crawl under a table.”

Whatever the motive for the attacks on Liddell, it’s another reason athletes are wondering: Why are we playing for no pay?

The abuse also comes from coaches, the men who walk into living rooms and tell parents that their sons will be treated well. Izzo, 66, blistered forward Gabe Brown during an overtime loss to UCLA, grabbing him by the arm and jersey. Brown pulled away, causing Izzo to chase him through the tunnel in an uncomfortable scene. “A normal nothing,” Izzo called it. “It’s just that this day and age, everything’s something. He missed a play and I told him, and he walked away and so I told him to come back.”

Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim should be a happier man than usual, watching ice-veined son Buddy lead the Orange to the Sweet 16. But the grumpy coach, who recently mocked a reporter as someone “who has never played basketball and is 5 foot 2,” continues to scold players even with big leads. Boeheim is 76.

Mike Krzyzewski, whose Duke team finished 13-11 and had its season ended by a COVID outbreak, is 74. North Carolina’s Roy Williams, routed by Wisconsin in the first round, is 70. John Calipari, coming off his most miserable season at Kentucky, is 62 and perhaps too old to be chasing around recruits in a private jet. Kansas’ Bill Self, 58 going on 70, was lucky to get by Eastern Washington.

This is a revolution, all right, and not a good one for college basketball. A future NBA superstar, such as Cunningham or Zion Williamson, now won’t bother to play even one season on campus when the NBA soon allows players to directly enter the league from high school. As it is, the league’s top rookies this season — LaMelo Ball, before his season-ending broken wrist, and James Wiseman — didn’t need a full college season to adjust. There is the NBA’s developmental option, the G League, and a new league offering $100,000 salaries. The kids can play in other countries, as Ball did.

All of which will dilute the level of talent in the NCAA tournament. Make no mistake, as long as CBS and Turner have broadcast rights to the event and pay the $1 billion annually — a $19.6 billion extension doesn’t end until 2032 — March Madness will exist. The gamblers have to gamble, after all, and the coaches have to coach so they can get rich and their schools can cash in. But once considered a jewel event on the American calendar, the tournament could fade in prestige for common fans and shift sideways into a gambling-centric mode. It’s the NFL’s world, after all, buoyed by more than $100 billion in new TV deals, and one can make the argument that everything else is niche now.

Thus, the NCAA will keep trying to fight the players. President Mark Emmert will give the Indianapolis activists an audience, as they’ve demanded, and the games likely will proceed as normal until “One Shining Moment” is played. “I’m certainly not unhappy that students are using their voices to describe what they think are issues of importance to them,” Emmert said. “That’s a good thing. They’re students. They’re supposed to do that.” But the NCAA is the biggest flim-flam group in sports, evidenced by the original disparities in weight room facilities at the men’s and women’s tournaments. Once the fresh revenues are deposited as usual, we won’t hear from the NCAA or the TV networks. Mission accomplished, Emmert would say.

How NCAA, Mark Emmert might approach name, image, likeness issue - Sports  Illustrated

In that sense, I’m hoping for an Elite Eight boycott. I’m rooting for chaos. “Am I concerned?” Gavitt asked. “I would be concerned about any potential disruption, I guess, of games.”

The tournament so far has been fun, invigorating. But the emerging stories aren’t on the makeshift courts of Indiana. They are inside those hotel rooms, which must feel like cages by now, inhabited by angry young men ready to raise necessary hell.

BSM Writers

Adam The Bull Is Giving Cleveland Something It’s Never Had Before

“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?”

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After spending 22 years on the radio, Adam “The Bull” Gerstenhaber was ready for a new adventure.  In fact, the former co-host of Bull and Fox on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland did not have a new job lined up when he signed off from his 11-year radio home last month.

“I was already leaving without having a new project,” admitted Gerstenhaber during a recent phone interview with BSM.  “I left before I knew for sure I had a ‘next project’.”

Gerstenhaber was preparing for his final show with co-host Dustin Fox on April 1st when he was contacted by an executive producer for TEGNA, a company that was developing a Cleveland sports television show on YouTube.  The executive producer, who had just found out that Bull was a free agent, made it clear that he wanted Bull to be a part of the new project.

It all came together very quickly. 

“Let’s talk on Monday,” Gerstenhaber told the executive producer. “And within a week they signed me up.”

The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show on YouTube featuring Gerstenhaber, former ESPN personality Jay Crawford, 92.3 The Fan’s Garrett Bush, and rotating hosts to make up a four-person round-table show, made its debut last Monday.  The show, which airs weekdays from 11am to 1pm, features passionate Cleveland sports talk, live guests, either in-studio or via Zoom, as well as interaction from the audience through social media.

“I’m very excited,” said Gerstenhaber.  “It’s a definite adjustment for me after 22 years on radio doing television.  For the last 11 years, I’ve been doing a radio show with just one other host and I was the lead guy doing most of the talking and now I’m on a show with three other people and it’s such an adjustment.  So far, I’m having a ball.”  

And so far, the reaction to the show has been very positive.

A big reason why is that it’s something that Cleveland didn’t have and really never had, unlike a city like New York, where there are local radio shows that are simulcast on regional sports channels. 

“There’s nothing like that in Cleveland,” said Gerstenhaber.  “And there was certainly nothing like this with a panel.  Cleveland is such a massive sports town and now people that don’t live in Cleveland that are maybe retired in Florida or Arizona, now they actually have a TV show that they can watch that’s Cleveland-centric.”

The new venture certainly represents a big change in what Bull has been used to in his radio career.  He’s enjoying the freedom of not having to follow a hard clock for this show. In fact, there have already been some occasions where the show has been able to go a little longer than scheduled because they have the flexibility to do that on YouTube.

Doing a show on YouTube gives the panel a great opportunity to go deep into topics and spend some quality time with guests.  And while there is no cursing on the show at the moment, there could be the potential for that down the road.

Don’t expect the show is going to become X-rated or anything like that, but the objective is to be able to capture the spirit and emotion of being a sports fan and host.

“It’s something we may do in the future,” said Gerstenhaber.  “Not curse just to curse but it gives us the option if we get fired up.  It is allowed because there’s no restrictions there.  The company doesn’t want us to do it at the moment.”  

There’s also been the shift for Gerstenhaber from being the “point guard” on his old radio show, driving the conversation and doing most of the talking, to now taking a step back and having Crawford distributing the ball on the television show.

For a guy called “The Bull”, that will take some getting used to. 

“Jay is a pro’s pro,” said Gerstenhaber.  “He’s the point guard for this but he’s also part of the conversation.  I’m not used to not being the point guard so I have to adjust to that.  I think it’s gone pretty well and the chemistry is pretty good and with time we’ll get used to the flow of it.”  

Gerstenhaber’s move from sports radio to an internet television show is a perfect example of how the industry is changing.  A good portion of the listening and viewing audience these days, especially those in the younger demographic, are not necessarily watching traditional television or listening to terrestrial radio.  For a lot of sports fans, watching and listening on a mobile device or a computer has become a very important way of life.

The desire to adapt, along with a shorter workday, was very enticing to him.

“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?” wondered Gerstenhaber.  “There were things about my job that I was unhappy about.  I was doing a five-hour radio show.  It’s too long. That’s crazy.  Nobody should be doing a five-hour radio show at this point.” 

Broadcasting on the internet has arrived and it’s not just a couple of sports fans doing a show from their garage anymore.  The business has evolved to the point where the technology has provided more opportunities for those who have already enjoyed success in the industry and are looking for new challenges.

Kind of like Adam The Bull!

“I think years ago, probably like many people in the radio business, we looked at internet and podcasts as like whatever…those guys aren’t professionals…they’re amateurs,” said Gerstenhaber.  “But the game has changed.”

Gerstenhaber, Crawford and everyone associated with the “Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show” should not have much of a problem attracting the younger audience. That demographic is already accustomed to watching shows on YouTube and other streaming platforms.  The challenge now is to get the more mature audience on board. There are certainly some obstacles there.

I know this from experience with trying to explain to my mother in Florida how she can hear me on the radio and watch me on television simply by using her tablet.

Bull can certainly relate to that.

“My mother is still trying to figure out how to watch the show live,” said Gerstenhaber with a chuckle.  “The older fans struggle with that. A lot of my older fans here in Cleveland are like how do I watch it? For people that are under 40 and certainly people that under 30, watching a YouTube show is like okay I watch everything on my phone or device.  It’s such a divide and obviously as the years go by, that group will increase.” 

With the television show off and running, Gerstenhaber still has a passion for his roots and that’s the radio side of the business.  In the next couple of weeks, “The Bull” is set to announce the launch of two podcasts, one daily and one weekly, that will begin next month.  But he also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to terrestrial radio at some point.

“I have not closed the door to radio,” said Gerstenhaber.  “I still love radio.  I would still, in the right set of circumstances, consider going back to radio but it would have to really be the perfect situation.  I’m excited about (the television show) and right now I don’t want to do anything else but I’m certainly going to remain open-minded to radio if a really excellent opportunity came up.”

The landscape of the broadcasting industry, particularly when it comes to sports, has certainly changed over the years and continues to evolve.  Adam Gerstenhaber certainly enjoyed a tremendous amount of success on the radio side, both in New York and in Cleveland, but now he has made the transition to something new with the YouTube television show and he’s committed to making it a success.

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BSM Writers

I Heard A Lot of Boring, Uncreative Sports Radio On Friday

“Sometimes your first idea is your best one. You don’t know that though if you stop thinking after one idea. That is what it feels like happens a lot the day after NFL schedules are released”

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Maybe this one is on me for expecting better. Maybe I need to take my own advice and accept that there are times the sports radio audience just wants a little comfort food. Still, this is my column and I am going to complain because I listened to probably six different stations on Friday and all of them were doing the exact same thing.

The NFL schedule was released on Thursday night, so on Friday, regardless of daypart, every show seemingly felt obligated to have the same three conversations.

  1. How many games will the home team win?
  2. What does the number of primetime games we got mean for how much respect we have nationally?
  3. Why do the Lions still get to play on Thanksgiving?

Football is king. I get that. Concrete NFL news is always going to take priority. That is understandable. But where was even an ounce of creativity? Where was the desire to do better – not just better than the competition, but better than the other shows in your own building?

I listened to shows in markets from across the league. The conversations were the same regardless of size or history of success. Everyone that picked in the top 5 in last month’s draft is going to go 10-7. Every team that got less than 5 primetime games feels disrespected. It was all so boring.

Those of us in the industry don’t consume content the way listeners do. We all know that. Perhaps I am harping on something that is only a problem to me because I listen to sports talk radio for a living. If you don’t ever want to put more than the bare minimum of effort into your show, decide that is the reason for my reaction and go click on another article here.

Consider this though, maybe the fact that I listen to so much sports radio means I know how much quality there is in this industry. Maybe it means that I can spot someone talented that is phoning it in.

I want to be clear in my point. There is value in giving your record prediction for the home team. Listeners look at the people on the radio as experts. I will bet some futures bets in a lot of markets were made on Friday based on what the gambler heard coming through their speakers. All I want to get across is there is a way to have that conversation that isn’t taking two segments to go through each week one by one. I heard no less than three stations do that on Friday.

Sometimes your first idea is your best one. You don’t know that though if you stop thinking after one idea. That is what it feels like happens a lot the day after NFL schedules are released. It’s a very familiar rhythm: pick the wins, get a guest on to preview the week 1 opponent, take calls, texts and tweets with the listeners’ predictions.

I didn’t hear anyone ask their listeners to sell them on the over for wins. I didn’t hear anyone give me weeks that you could skip Red Zone because one matchup is just too damn good. I didn’t hear anyone go through the Sunday Night Football schedule and pick out the weeks to schedule dates because the matchup isn’t worth it.

Maybe none of those ideas are winners, and that is fine. They are literally three dumb ideas I pulled out of the air. But they are all ways to review the schedule that could potentially leave a smile on your listener’s face.

Show prep is so important, especially in a group setting. It is your chance to tell your partner, producer, or host that you know you can do better than the idea that has just been thrown out. Quit nodding in agreement and challenge each other! It may mean a little more work for you, but it means more reward for the listeners. And if the listeners know they can rely on you for quality, creative content, that leads to more reward for you.

And lay off the Lions. It’s Thanksgiving. You’re stuck at home. The NFL could give you Lions vs Jaguars and you’d watch.

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BSM Writers

Why You Should Be Making Great TikTok Content

“We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds.”

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It feels like there’s a new social media platform to pay attention to every other week. That makes it easy to overlook when one of them actually presents value to your brand. It wasn’t long ago that TikTok was primarily used by teenagers with the focus being silly dance trends filmed for video consumption with their friends and followers alike. Now, as the general public has become in tune with how this complicated app works, it’s grown far beyond that.

TikTok is now an app used by all types of demographics and unlike TikTok’s closely related cousins Instagram and Facebook, this app provides a certain type of nuance that I think people in our line of work can really excel in. 

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of how you can use TikTok to your advantage and how to make your videos catch on, I think it’s important to first mention why this matters for you. Now, if I’m being realistic, I’m sure there are some that have already stopped reading this or those that could scroll away fast enough when they saw the words TikTok. You might be thinking that this doesn’t fit your demo, or maybe that it’s a waste of time because productivity here won’t directly lead to an uptick in Nielsen ratings. But I’m not sure any social network directly leads to what we ultimately get judged on, and we aren’t always pumping out content directly to our core audience.

TikTok, like any other app you may use, is marketing. This is another free tool to let people out there know who you are and what you offer in this endless sea of content. And the beauty of TikTok is that it directly caters its algorithm to content creators just like us. Bottom line, if you are a personality in sports talk, there’s no reason you can’t be crushing it on TikTok right now. All it takes is a little direction, focus, consistency, and a plan. 

Unlike Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where you can throw a photo up with a caption and be done for the day, TikTok’s whole model is built on creative videos that keep users engaged for longer periods of time. This approach works. According to Oberlo, a social media stat tracking site, people spend more time per day on TikTok than any other popular social media application. 38 minutes per day!

This is where this is good news for us in talk radio. We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds. TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t care how many followers you have, your level of credibility, or the production on your video. All ir cares about is 1) Is your content good. and 2) Are people watching it. 3) How long are they watching it. The more people watch and the longer they watch creates a snowball effect. Your videos views will skyrocket, sometimes within hours. 

So, how do you create content that will catch on? It’s really not all that different than what you do every day. Create thought-provoking commentary that makes people think, argue, or stay till the end to get the info you teased up for them. I’ve found through my own trial and error that it’s best if you stay away from time-sensitive material, I’ve had more success the more evergreen my content is. That way, the shelf life expands beyond just that day or week. This is different for everyone and there’s no one-size-fits-all, but this is where I’ve seen the most success. 

Also, put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to say something that people are going to vehemently disagree with. Again, it’s not unlike what we do every day. It’s one thing to get someone to listen, it’s another to get them to engage. Once they hit you in the comment section, you’ve got them hooked. Comments breed more views and on and on. But don’t just let those sit there, even the smallest interaction back like a shoulder shrug emoji can go a long way in creating more play for your video. 

If you want to grow quickly, create a niche for yourself. The best content creators that I follow on TikTok all put out very similar content for most of their videos. This means, unlike Instagram where it’s great to show what a wildly interesting and eclectic person you are, TikTok users want to know what they’re getting the second your face pops up on that screen. So if you are the sports history guy, be the sports history guy all the time. If you are the top 5 list guy, be the top 5 list guy all the time, and on and on, you get the point. 

Other simple tricks

  • Splice small videos together. Don’t shoot one long video. 
  • 90 seconds to 2 minutes is a sweet spot amount of time. 
  • Add a soft layer of background instrumental music (this feature is found in the app when you are putting the finishing touches on your video) 
  • Label your video across the screen at the start and time it out so that it disappears seconds later. This way a user gets an idea of what the content is immediately and then can focus on you delivering your message thereafter.  
  • Research trending hashtags, they are far more important than whatever you caption your video. 
  • Use closed captions so that people can follow your video without sound. 

Finally, don’t be intimidated by it or snub your nose at it. Anything that helps your brand is worth doing and anything worth doing is worth doing well. 

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