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Do Listeners Really Want A Slice Of Your Life?

“If the goal is to entertain and inform your audience, then it’s also important to understand what they expect to hear when they listen to you.”

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In many ways, you’re not any different from those who choose to listen to you on a daily or weekly basis. You’re all sports fans who share a deep enough passion to either listen, or in your case, do this for a living. Audience and host, both sides, are among the most passionate sports fans in the nation. But it’s not like sports is all we care about. It’s not like sports is all we discuss day-today.

There’s a real life out there we’re all leading as well. As hosts, if you can tap in to that aspect of your day to day, share stories that liken you to the audience, you become something that we all hope to achieve: Relatable. 

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Sports talk radio listeners aren’t turning on your station or your podcast so that they can hear about how you had to change a tire today or to hear about the sandwich you had for lunch that was just to die for. But while they might not come to you for that, sprinkling in those ‘slice of life’ moments is what creates a deeper connection that can separate you in sea of similar sports content. 

The question is, how valuable is it? Do listeners actually care? Can you overdo the tales from real life? Let’s attempt to answer some of those questions. 

I think one thing that’s important to differentiate is that not all personality/get to know the host type chats are created equal. There’s a difference between a dialogue that goes off the beaten path, maybe a movie or music chat, versus an entirely personal story where you are detailing some relatively everyday moment.

Both can give the listener insight into who you are, what makes you unique, and they get to know you better in the process. But the ‘slice of life’ likely has a higher volatility with the audience. Thinking about this common sense wise, if I have a discussion about an occurrence from pop culture, there’s a level of relevance that’s attached to that, maybe the listener has heard of the story or knows the characters involved (artists, musicians, actors, etc) and there’s a higher probability that you will be able to engage with any random listener in some way. Now, if I tell you that I had an interesting experience at the coffee shop, you might find the host to be relatable but the probability of that story being interesting or causing some form of engagement as you try and cast that wide net to your audience is greatly diminished. 

If the goal is to entertain and inform your audience, then it’s also important to understand what they expect to hear when they listen to you. Different hosts and different shows can get away with different topics while keeping their audience satisfied. It comes down to expectations. I just recently went through this myself.

My method is about 80/20. 80 percent sports, 20 percent off the beaten path. If I can be in that range on a daily basis, I feel like I’m putting on a good sports talk show blend. That’s my preference, and everyone is going to be different. Also, to be clear, some days it’s more like 95% sports, 5% non-sports. So with that, my audience has come to expect straight up sports debate, news, rankings, and things of that nature when they turn on my show. And the response I get when we veer off is proof of that. One listener texted in recently “You guys are the meat and potatoes, no one tunes in to hear stories about your ripped jeans”.  

The thing that puzzled me about the response is that of the 3 local shows on the station I broadcast on, I probably talk about non-sports related things the least, yet I get the most negative reaction when I do. I find this fascinating. What I came to learn in investigating was exactly what I’ve mentioned here, expectations. We all have the ability to train our audience and in that process they grow a certain tolerance for content that’s not the “main course” of what they came for. 

In the highly subjective world of choosing what content is the right content to go with, given our finite amount of air time to work with, we have to be careful with what we deem to be interesting versus what the common listener is into.

I do think we tend to become intoxicated with the reply. As we all try and grow our brands on social media, light up the phone lines, or seeing barrels of texts rolling into our texting platform, the response – even when its good – still represents a relatively small portion of the audience. While you might be satisfying the avid listeners that already listened to your station or sports talk in general for 10 hours in the day, what about those that only give you 15 minutes a day? Those “small cup of coffee” listeners can be just as, if not more valuable, then the one’s who wouldn’t turn away from you no matter what you’re delivering. 

One thing I’ve been paying close attention to is, do the “big guys” do it? The national hosts. The Dan Patricks, Colin Cowherds, or Mike Greenbergs of the world? The answer is largely no (except for Dan LeBatard).

One common thread I’ve found in listening intently for that type of conversation on these shows is that they have a way of sprinkling in those off the beaten path topics, without diving deep into the minutia. They give you just enough to create a level of distinguishable personality, without alienating their avid sports fans who came to find them for a very specific reason. Now, as I mentioned, we’re all trying in some ways to cast a wide net, and no one is casting a wider net then those that broadcast nationwide.

In that vein, it makes sense that they wouldn’t get too personal, national syndication doesn’t provide the same intimate feel local radio does. If you talk about the traffic you experienced on a certain highway, there’s a good chance your local listener has driven on that highway, or might even be sitting in that traffic as you speak. That creates a different level of connection that you can only get with local radio, thus making the slice of life that much more valuable. 

In polling some listeners, I found that this is the thing they appreciate the most with slice of life story telling in sports talk radio. One listener said “Listening to sports talk is great but breaking it up a bit is necessary. Especially when I listen to local radio where I find myself as invested in the people as I do the news”.  Another said “I love hearing personal stories, it helps me relate to the hosts, hearing that their everyday life is similar to mine”. Of course, not everyone agrees, I got hit with plenty of “no’s” and “It bugs me when I take time out of my day to get the latest sports news and I hear about someone’s trip to the grocery store”. 

Bottom line, I wish I had the right answer to the question. But taste in talk radio styles is highly subjective. Sports radio taste is like ice cream, we all have our flavor, and some of them are nothing alike. I do think the slice of life stories have value and in some cases, they can lead to endorsements, which is always a plus.

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You have to put your personal touch on your product, it’s the only way to distinguish yourself, but what I found is that listeners can tell when you’re doing it to check a box and when you’re doing it because that’s the true flavor of your show. Understand who you are, understand what your audience expects when they tune in, and you’ll likely find the right balance. 

BSM Writers

Who Handled the Tua Concussion Discussion Best?

Rex Ryan, Rodney Harrison, and Boomer Esiason stood out with their commentary on the Tagovailoa story.

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The major story going into the bulk of Week 4’s NFL action on Sunday was the concussion suffered by Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in Thursday’s game versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

Amazon’s Thursday Night Football telecast, particularly its halftime show, faced heavy criticism for neglecting to mention that Tagovailoa had been tested for a concussion in his previous game just four days earlier. Additionally, the NFL Players Association called for an investigation into whether or not the league’s concussion protocols were followed properly in evaluating Tagovailoa.

In light of that, how would the Sunday NFL pregame shows address the Tagovailoa concussion situation? Would they better inform viewers by covering the full story, including the Week 3 controversy over whether or not proper protocols were followed?

We watched each of the four prominent pregame shows — ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, Fox NFL Sunday, CBS’s The NFL Today, and NBC’s Football Night in America — to compare how the Tagovailoa story was covered. With the benefit of two extra days to research and report, did the Sunday shows do a better job of informing and engaging viewers?

Here’s how the pregame studio crews performed with what could be the most important NFL story of the year:

Sunday NFL Countdown – ESPN

ESPN’s pregame show is the first to hit the air each Sunday, broadcasting at 10 a.m. ET. So the Sunday NFL Countdown crew had the opportunity to lead the conversation for the day. With a longer, three-hour show and more resources to utilize in covering a story like this, ESPN took full advantage of its position.

The show did not lead off with the Tagovailoa story, opting to lay out Sunday’s schedule, which included an early game in London between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. But the Countdown crew eventually got to issue on everyone’s minds approximately 28 minutes into the program.

Insider Adam Schefter provided the latest on the NFL and NFLPA’s investigation into the matter, particularly the “gross motor instability” Tagovailoa displayed in stumbling on the field and how the Dolphins initially announced that the quarterback had suffered a head injury, but later changed his condition to a back injury.

Schefter added that the NFL and NFLPA were expected to interview Tagovailoa and pass new guidelines for concussion protocols, including that no player displaying “gross motor instability” will be allowed to play. Those new rules could go into effect as early as Week 5.

“This is an epic fail by the NFL,” said Matt Hasselbeck to begin the commentary. “This is an epic fail by the medical staff, epic fail by everybody! Let’s learn from it!”

Perhaps the strongest remarks came from Rex Ryan, who said coaches sometimes need to protect players from themselves.

“I had a simple philosophy as a coach: I treated every player like my son,” Ryan said. “Would you put your son back in that game after you saw that?

“Forget this ‘back and ankle’ BS that we heard about! This is clearly from head trauma! That’s it. I know what it looks like. We all know what it looks like.”

Where Sunday NFL Countdown‘s coverage may have stood out the most was by bringing injury analyst Stephania Bell into the discussion. Bell took a wider view of the story, explaining that concussions had to be treated in the long-term and short-term. Science needs to advance; a definitive diagnostic tool for brain injury doesn’t currently exist. Until then, a more conservative approach has to be taken, holding players out of action more often.

Grade: A. Countdown covered the story thoroughly. But to be fair, it had the most time.

The NFL Today – CBS

CBS’s pregame show led off with the Tagovailoa story, going right to insider Jonathan Jones to report. He cited the key phrase “gross motor instability” as a significant indication of a concussion.

Jones also clarified that the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant who helped evaluate Tagovailoa made “several mistakes” in consulting with the Dolphins’ team doctor, leading to his dismissal by the NFL and NFLPA.

The most pointed remarks came from Boomer Esiason, who said any insinuation that the Dolphins, head coach Mike McDaniel, or the team medical staff put Tagovailoa back in the game in order to win was “off-base.” Phil Simms added that the concussion experts he spoke with indicated that Tagovailoa could miss four to six weeks with this injury.

Grade: B-. The opinions from the analysts were largely bland. Jones’s reporting stood out.

Fox NFL Sunday

The Fox NFL pregame show also led off with the Tagovailoa story, reviewing the questions surrounding how the quarterback was treated in Week 3 before recapping his injury during Week 4’s game.

Jay Glazer reported on the NFL’s investigation, focusing on whether or not Tagovailoa suffered a concussion in Week 3. And if he did, why was he allowed to play in Week 4? Glazer noted that Tagovailoa could seek a second, maybe a third medical opinion on his injury.

Jimmy Johnson provided the most compelling commentary, sharing his perspective from the coaching side of the situation. He pointed out that when an injured player comes off the field, the coach has no contact with him. The medical team provides an update on whether or not the player can return. In Johnson’s view, Mike McDaniel did nothing wrong in his handling of the matter. He has to trust his medical staff.

Grade: B. Each of the analysts shared stronger opinions, particularly in saying a player failing “the eyeball test” with concussion symptoms should be treated seriously.

Football Night in America – NBC

Sunday Night Football was in a different setting than the other pregame shows, with Maria Taylor, Tony Dungy, and Rodney Harrison broadcasting on-site from Tampa Bay. With that, the show led off by covering the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, its effects on the Tampa area, and how the Buccaneers dealt with the situation during the week.

But after 20 minutes, the show got into the Tagovailoa story with Mike Florio reporting what his peers told viewers earlier in the day regarding pending changes to the NFL’s concussion protocol and “gross motor instability” being used as a major indicator.

Florio emphasized that the NFLPA would ask how Tagovailoa was examined and treated. Was he actually examined for a back injury in Week 3? And if he indeed suffered a back injury, why was he still allowed to play?

When the conversation went back to the on-site crew, Dungy admitted that playing Thursday night games always concerned him when he was a coach. He disclosed that teams playing a Thursday game needed to have a bye the previous week so they didn’t have to deal with a quick, four-day turnaround. That scheduling needs to be addressed for player safety.

But Harrison had the most engaging reaction to the story, coming from his experience as a player. He admitted telling doctors that he was fine when suffering concussion symptoms because he wanted to get back in the game. Knowing that was wrong, Harrison pleaded with current players to stay on the sidelines when hurt because “CTE takes you to a dark place.”

“It’s not worth it. Please take care of yourself,” said Harrison. “Don’t depend on the NFL. Don’t depend on anybody. If something’s wrong with your head, report it.”

Grade: B+. Dungy and Harrison’s views of the matter from their perspective as a coach and player were very compelling.

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BSM Writers

Jason Barrett Podcast – Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt, BetRivers

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Sportsbooks are creating their own media now, and no company is doing that using more guys that have made their names on sports radio than BetRivers. Terry Dugan & Adam Delevitt talk about the strategy behind that decision for today and for the future.

iTunes: https://buff.ly/3nTJC5K 

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3z9hErM

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3oyi0U0

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Amazon: https://buff.ly/3w9hqAh

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Joe Rogan Betting Admission Reveals Gray Area

Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not.

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Joe Rogan

For nearly a decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to cover the football and basketball programs for the University of Kentucky in some form or fashion. Whether writing for blogs or working with ESPN Louisville as co-host of the post-game show, I’ve gotten to know people around the program I grew up supporting, and other individuals in the media doing the same. I’ve made some terrific friendships and cultivated quite a few relationships that provide me with “inside information” about the teams.

As an avid sports bettor, that information has sometimes put me into some difficult personal situations. There have been times when I’ve been alerted to player news that wasn’t public, such as a player dealing with an injury or suspension. It’s often been told to me off-the-record, and I’ve never put that information out publicly or given it to others.

I wish I could also say I’ve never placed a wager based on that information, but that would be a lie. While it’s been a long time since I’ve done so, I’ve ventured into that ethical gray area of betting on a team that I’m covering. I’ve long felt uncomfortable doing so, and I’d say it’s been a few years since I last did it.

At least I know I’m not alone. On his latest episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, Rogan told guest Bert Kreischer that earlier in his UFC broadcasting career he regularly bet on fights. He claims to have won nearly 85% of the time (which I highly doubt but that’s another discussion for another time), either via bets he made or ones he gave to a business partner to place on his behalf.

From his comments, Rogan doesn’t seem to have been using sensitive information to gain an edge with the books, but he also didn’t state that he didn’t. He indicates that much of his success stemmed from knowing quite a bit more about fighters coming from overseas, and he said he “knew who they were and I would gamble on them.”

But Rogan undoubtedly has long been in a position where he knows which fighters might be dealing with a slight injury, or who are struggling in camp with a specific fighting style. It’s unavoidable for someone whose job puts him into contact with individuals who tell him things off-the-record and divulge details without perhaps even realizing it.

But let’s say Rogan did get that information, and did use it, and was still doing so today. The fact is…there’s nothing illegal about it, not in the United States at least. While it’s against the rules of some entities — the NFL, for example, has stated they could suspend or ban for life individuals who use inside information or provide it to others — it’s not against any established legal doctrine. Unlike playing the stock market, insider betting is not regulated by any central body or by the government.

However, Rogan’s admission raises a question as to just how ethical it is to place bets with insider information, and whether it should be legal or not. Many of the after-the-fact actions that have been taken in the realm of legalized sports betting in this country, or those being discussed currently (such as advertising limitations), fall in line with changes made in Great Britain following their legalization.

One of their big changes was making it illegal to utilize insider information, with very specific definitions about the “misuse of information” and what steps the Gambling Commission may take. It lays out what information can be used, the punishments that may be levied, and at what point it might venture into criminality.

Sportsbooks do have recourse in some instances to recoup money on insider betting, but not many. If they can prove that a wage was influenced, they can cancel the bet or sue for the money. The most well-known instance is the individual who bet $50,000 at +750 odds that someone would streak on the field during Super Bowl LV –which he did– and then was denied the payout when he bragged about his exploits. But unless someone foolishly tells the books that they’ve taken them with information that the public wasn’t privy to, they have little to no chance of doing anything about it.

There are ramifications to insider betting that raise truly ethical dilemmas. Just like stock trading, information can be immeasurably valuable to those with stakes large enough to change prices. If I’m placing a $20 prop bet with the knowledge that a team’s starting running back might be out for a game, or dealing with an ankle injury, I’m not going to harm anybody else playing that line. But if I give that information to a shark, who places a $20,000 wager on that same line, I’ve now enabled someone to move a line and impact other bettors.

Online sports betting in this country continues to grow, and every day we are reminded that there are still aspects of the space that can feel like the wild west. As individuals in the media, we have to decide personally what our ethical stances are in situations like this. We also have to keep in mind the impact that betting can have on our biases–especially if we’ve bet using inside information. A prime example is Kirk Herbstreit, who won’t even make a pick on College Gameday for games he is going to be doing color commentary for lest he possibly appears biased on the call.

At one end of the spectrum, you have someone like Herbstreit, and on the other end, you have folks like Rogan who, while he no longer does so, was more than happy to not only wager on fights himself but gave the information to others. And in the middle, you have hundreds of people in similar situations, who might lean one way or another or who, like me, may have found themselves on either side of that ethical line.

There is no black or white answer here, nor am I saying there’s necessarily a right or wrong stance for anybody in the sports media industry to take. I would say that each person has to take stock of what they’re comfortable doing, and how they feel about insider information being used. Rogan didn’t break any rules or laws by gambling on the UFC, but his admission to doing so might be the catalyst towards it no longer being accepted.

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