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Why Can’t Some Stations See Beyond Local Ties?

“Where you went to high school is a big part of how conversations begin. There is an agreed upon correct answer for for which Applebee’s is “the nice one”. Someone from another town would be so far behind the 8 ball at the beginning that it doesn’t even make sense for them to come to town in the first place.”

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The Evergray

Every host has experienced it. You apply for a gig at a station with a great reputation. You have a good conversation about your audio and your skillset with the PD. Then he or she says something that makes your heart sink, wondering why you wasted your time.

“I think you’re great, but I can’t hire you. You’re not from here. The listeners just wouldn’t accept you.”

Loneliness, homeworking and financial worries made our mental health worse  in Lockdown 1 - Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER)
Courtesy: Institute for Social and Economic Research 

It’s not a phenomenon exclusive to one region of the country or to markets in a particular size range. So many markets think of themselves as parochial. Where you went to high school is a big part of how conversations begin. There is an agreed upon correct answer for for which Applebee’s is “the nice one”. Someone from another town would be so far behind the 8 ball at the beginning that it doesn’t even make sense for them to come to town in the first place.

How true do we believe it is that the local population cannot accept opinions on the home teams from people that didn’t spend their entire lives in the town? Surely, it isn’t always smart to think that way, no matter how much you think your listeners value local knowledge. It could work in Chicago, where there is an abundance of talent that grew up knowing what it was like to suffer with the Bears, but think about a place like New Orleans. It isn’t even one of the 50 biggest radio markets in the country and more people are moving away from the area than into it. Does it make sense to demand all hires for a sports station there grew up with parents that drank Community Coffee and consider The Neville Brothers every bit as important to rock n’ roll as The Rolling Stones?

Dave Tepper is in a unique situation. He programs Altitude Sports Radio 92.5 in Denver. That market is becoming a hub for transplants from all over the country. His radio lineup though is made up of a lot of long time Denver residents and guys that have spent a considerable amount of time in the city’s sports media scene.

Tepper says that creates a unique challenge. How do you take advantage of so much institutional knowledge and still entertain an audience that everyday adds more and more people that lived halfway across the country when Peyton Manning led this team to a win in Super Bowl L?

“Denver is filling up with transplants like myself. We do talk about it and most our talent have been here long enough to have seen how it’s changing,” he told me. “We often discuss the importance and pacing of balanced content. We strive to talk about relevant topics both local and national. Talent challenges themselves to tie national topics back locally but not to force it. It’s ok if a national topic doesn’t turn local because most sports fans, natives or transplants, are aware and interested in what’s relevant.”

Erik Gee grew up in Norman, Oklahoma. It is right outside of Oklahoma City, where he hosted for years. He now serves as co-host of the Pat Jones Show on The Sports Animal in Tulsa. Gee says getting out of his hometown was important in order to truly grow.

Articles by Erik Gee - Sports Illustrated Oklahoma City Thunder News,  Analysis and More
Courtesy: SI.com

“The biggest drawback is sometimes you can’t be a star in your hometown,” Gee says. “The audience and even the people you work with (especially if there isn’t a lot of turnover in your building) will pigeonhole you into a particular role that you can’t seem to escape. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, don’t be discouraged. Continue to work hard because good things will happen.”

I asked if there is any undeniable drawback to hometown radio.

“If you grew up rooting for the teams in your hometown, you will be more likely to think like a fan, he answers. “99.9% of the time, having the same passion as a fan is good, but you need to know when to pull back and look at the big picture.”

I asked Jason La Canfora the same question. CBS’s NFL Insider also co-hosts the afternoon drive show on The Fan in Baltimore. He doesn’t focus on the drawbacks. That is mostly because he is focused on the fun he has in local radio, as opposed to when he has been on nationally.

Jason La Canfora calls Cardinals 'inclusive'
Courtesy: Arizona Cardinals

“Its not even close,” he says in an email. “We all speak the same language and I so far prefer finding a way to educate or entertain the people I am sitting next to at the games I go to with my kids rather than trying to pretend I could figure out how someone in Indiana thinks 9 could best spend the next 10 minutes.”

La Canfora doesn’t see how someone from the outside could really break in and have success on the radio in Baltimore. He is aware that it is not an issue of whether or not the outsider is talented. It’s just that Baltimore values…well, Baltimore.

“I’m not sure that it is any one thing as much as it is the fact that ultimately you aren’t from here. It is a very tough market to penetrate unless you are one of us at your core.”

It is really hard for me to believe that local ties are more important than if a talent is engaging. I’d rather listen to a guy that just moved to town and is a unique thinker than a lifer that hasn’t had a new thought about the home team in a decade.

Am I crazy? As long as the new guy isn’t misidentifying the market, anything can be overcome, right? If you are entertaining, I can live with you mispronouncing the name of a prominent landmark. Tepper agrees.

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“I think local ties are important but not as much as finding the right talent that’s willing immerse themselves into the local teams. It’s great to have talent with local ties but it isn’t as important to me as fit. Getting too caught up in local ties can eliminate or minimize consideration of fresh voices that can do the work to fit into market.”

Good content is all most listeners are looking for. That is not to dismiss every programmer or GM that thinks local ties matter. Any local station in any market owes a level of connection to their listeners. I just don’t think that connection has to take decades to build. Thinking that way really limits the pond you can fish in and probably limits the number of keepers you’ll reel in.

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5 Goals

5 Goals: Rob ‘World Wide Wob’ Perez

“I’ve always had aspirations, hopefully with FanDuel in collaboration with another network, to apply NFL Red Zone to the NBA.”

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This month’s subject of five goals is Rob Perez, better known to NBA Twitter as World Wide Wob. The content creator and producer for FanDuel shared with me five things he wants to accomplish or see happen.

1. I want to make FanDuel, my licensing partner in content creation, as happy as possible.

My goal is to drive people to their web site or app, and spread the reach of the brand. I’m sure there’s a more formal word for that, but I want to organically integrate FanDuel into everything I do.

I don’t want to just be a commercial — hey 20% off, or here’s a free bet — because people are drowning in those across various forms of communication. All the content I do is naturally involved, and if someone’s asking about who’s favored it’s a very seamless type of content integration in which I can include them and drive them to FanDuel if they’d like to put their money where their mouth is. 

I would certainly love the opportunity to continue working with them — not just because they pay me to do so, but I do find value in working with a sportsbook of that size that is turning into a content company. Of course, they’re always gonna be a sportsbook. It makes them the most money. But, giving you additional reasons to engage with that brand, if you have an itch to bet on something, is what my job is.

I want to continue to be the face of the NBA for them, having a very casual conversation about the game itself — whether that’s off the court stuff, or all the coaching departures earlier this week. Integrating the FanDuel logo into all this feels much more real than a 30-second commercial between timeouts. I want you to enjoy the experience of the show, and gamble if you so choose.

2. NBA Red Zone.

I’ve always had aspirations, hopefully with FanDuel in collaboration with another network, to apply NFL Red Zone to the NBA. It would work best on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and sometimes Sunday, when there are 8-9 concurrent games.

That’s why I’m where I am today. I’m watching every single dribble of every single game. But, I would never expect any other normal human with responsibilities outside of NBA content creation to ever keep up with what’s going on between the Kings and Pistons while there’s seven other games on, one of which is nationally televised. 

So, if the NBA ever decides to have a true commitment to their version of the Red Zone — they’ve tried versions of it on NBATV, but I’ve never seen one hopping between games every 15-20 seconds, hot switching any time there’s a play stoppage — I’d love to do it. 

You’d have a Scott Hanson type host who is as integrated with the league as it gets. I hope maybe one day I have the opportunity where what I do on my own personal timeline merges with true rights partnership from the NBA. Just based on the feedback I get on my Twitter page, there would be demand for it. 

3. Do another NBA variety show.

In the past, I had a show called Buckets that I did with Cycle and ESPN. It had sketches, pre-produced talk segments, and interviews. Think of it like Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon’s shows, but applied to the NBA. 

Inside the NBA is obviously the gold standard for an NBA talk show. But, those guys are going to retire at some point. What I do on Twitter Spaces, Twitch, and Periscope — I want the ability to blow that out with some more production resources. 

Photo Credit: TNT

Right now, I’m doing everything myself, from playing DJ to directing to taking calls to actually running the show and talking basketball and researching stats — I’m doing it all on the fly. While I’m certainly happy to do that, I know what we could create with a team around me because we’ve done it in the past. I would love to do a weekly variety show based around the NBA.

4. Some more work life balance.

My entire day for 11 months out of the year revolves around the NBA. It’s my job and I’m happy to. I love following it. At some point, I feel like I’m gonna get burned out, and I don’t want to ever get to the point where doing this feels like work

It felt a little bit like work this year, and that might be because I’m on Year 8 doing this. [RG note: at this point, I mentioned how last offseason was so condensed after the bubble, and how the energy felt partially zapped out of sports with a lack of fans]. I’m gonna watch regardless because I’m a crazy person, but I think a lot of people would agree with you that the return to normalcy is helping with the engagement on a mainstream scale.

This offseason will be condensed again. We have the Olympics, which of course I’m going to watch because stars will be playing. Summer League is in August. There’s free agency and the draft. There’s barely going to be one month — September — where there probably won’t be a whole lot of NBA news or events. 

But then we’re going back to the normal schedule from before the pandemic, which means Media Week will be the first week of October. There’s one month off before it all starts again, and I’m hoping I don’t get burned out by it. 

Being on the East Coast, it’s impossible to follow the NBA 24/7. I don’t know how people with kids and families do it. Getting back to the West Coast is a personal goal of mine, which will happen this summer when I move back to Los Angeles. These hours will allow me to get back to a more normal life.

5. I want the Knicks to win a championship in my lifetime.

Just being a die hard Knicks fan and not seeing a title in my lifetime, that’s a personal goal. I’ve put so much work into watching every effing game since I was eight years old with Patrick Ewing and John Starks in the NBA playoffs. 

I was young, but I was old enough to know that I wanted to stay up for those games. I was emotionally invested. I would even get to the point where I was putting towels underneath the door so my parents couldn’t see that the TV was on. They thought I was sleeping. 

Patrick Ewing New York Knicks NBA Posters for sale | eBay
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Of course I want my team to win a championship, and I don’t want to die without seeing that mountaintop. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a Red Sox or Cubs fan and going all those years without seeing them win, then having it happen. I want to experience it once. 

Whatever it takes to get there. I have too many gray hairs on my head, and every single one of them I can attribute to a single Knicks game from the past decade. Being a fan while trying to create objective NBA content will always be a challenge, but being a Knicks fan will always take precedent over a career because it means that much to me.

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BSM Writers

Forget the Email, Just Smile & Dial

“Don’t confuse marketing with sales. We are not human advertisements or, even worse, spam.”

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Back in August of last year, the pandemic was still front and center, acting as a roadblock for business. Retailers were in business and at the stores, but what about the advertising buyers? Where were they?

Well, the ad-buying community, corporate employees, and most white-collar workers were still at home. So were most of us in radio sales. So, when it came to prospecting for new accounts, some of us gave up, most sent emails, and a few brave souls hit the phone. Earlier this year, I wrote about the sales trainer John Barrows and how he got to the top by cold calling 400 prospects a week! That’s not cold emailing. That’s cold CALLING. And to be exact, if Barrows was working a 10 hour day on the phones Monday through Friday, he would dial at least eight prospects an hour. 

Does that send a chill down your spine?   Or does it make you want to run to your keyboard to avoid rejection and send some more cold emails? Back in August, when most of our ad buyers were at home, not near a business phone, Jeb Blount and Anthony Iannarino were recording a podcast about why you should hit the phone, not the email. Both sales consultants and authors thought we could improve our connect rate immensely by working the phones over email. 

Both authors agreed that we need to have conversations with people about our stations, personalities, shows, and the sports world! We can hire an automated CRM service to send emails!

Now I am all for some well-crafted custom emails sent to targets that do not answer phones or listen to voice mails but not as the first activity in a sales sequence. Don’t confuse marketing with sales. We are not human advertisements or, even worse, spam. Our job isn’t to create awareness for buying sports radio packages; it is to make the sale!

We are consultants offering custom solutions to the unique challenges your clients have. And consider that if you pick up the phone and connect with the advertising buyer and get the appointment, you won’t need an email!  

Both consultants agree that you don’t need email to warm up a client when using the phone to get the appointment! I recently tested this theory myself and decided that with the pandemic subsiding in most metropolitan areas and more buyers going back to the office, I could start hitting the phones more. 

It worked. I got more appointments faster and wasted less time. I even got help. I had a business owner who I reached out to via email with a custom approach. I offered a few excellent ideas on how I could help him. Crickets. I let 2.5 weeks go by before I picked up the phone to dial the business and ask for him. They told me he was out on vacation and asked me if I had personal interaction with him. I explained no I was looking to connect with him on an advertising idea. The receptionist said you need to talk to Jane, the ad buyer. I was connected immediately.

Erma Scholl working the Old Forge switchboard in 1971. Photo courtesy of the Goodsell Museum.
Courtesy: Goodsell Museum

I left a voice mail. The next day I received a return call indicating interest in my idea, and we set the appointment. Now, why didn’t I try that in the first place!

If you want a custom phone pitch that I wrote out for myself, send me an email at jeffcaves54@gmail.com. Now it’s time to smile and dial! 

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 33

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It has been a busy week at BSM. Demetri Ravanos talks about Domonique Foxworth and the future of commentary on ESPN. Kate Constable stops by to discuss her column on Sarah Spain and the sometimes ugly realities of life as a woman in sports media. Finally, Brian Noe and Demetri discuss Le’veon Bell’s Twitter rant and how depressingly relevant it is in the radio business.

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