Over the last week, Facebook has been dominating news headlines — for all the wrong reasons. A whistleblower, revealed in a 60 Minutes interview to be Frances Haugen, said the company’s products “harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy.” One of the world’s most valuable companies with a market cap of nearly $1 trillion, Facebook is the world’s most heavily used social media platform, hosting 2.85 billion users who share photos, reconnect with old friends, shop for products and consume written and visual content. The company also owns Instagram, another popular social medium which has nearly 1.4 billion users of its own, and WhatsApp, the world’s most heavily used instant messaging service.
Haugen, a former company employee who resigned this past April, copied internal research documents and provided her insight to several media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, who published the information last week in a public impugnation of the ethical and moral standards of the company. As the former lead product manager in Facebook’s civic misinformation department, Haugen testified in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation about the company’s products that she considers to “deepen divides, destabilize democracies and make young girls and women feel bad about their bodies.” Haugen’s mission is to help reform social media, rendering them as net positives in mediated communication rather than allowing companies like Facebook to profit off of deception and dread.
A significant part of sports radio’s evolution involves broadcasting and disseminating its content to multiple platforms, one of which includes social media such as Facebook and Instagram. With the recent negative headlines disquieting users and amplifying the conversation as it pertains to the regulation of social media, our own Demetri Ravanos suggested last week that it was time for sports media to leave Facebook. I put that theory to the test, asking several hosts across sports media how they utilize these channels of communication in the 21st-century, and how they see them continuing to be implemented in radio.
How much access do you let listeners have to you on Facebook as opposed to other social media platforms?
Marc Hochman (Host, 560 WQAM/790 The Ticket Miami): “Zero. Facebook is reserved for friends and family. I have a queue of thousands of people over the last ten to fifteen years that have tried to be a Facebook friend. Twitter and Instagram are my two go-to platforms for my interaction with listeners. I try to be super active on both..”
Damon Amendolara (Host, CBS Sports Radio): “I certainly try to give them access in multiple ways. I do think there’s a limit to access; I won’t post everything that’s personal to me. There needs to be some line where public figures have private lives. I try to be accessible as much as possible on as many different platforms as [I can so] my listeners get to know me. Ten years ago, we did a lot [on] Facebook. We found that the interaction there hasn’t been what it once was. Twitter really took over as a go-to [platform,] and so did Instagram. We still use Facebook, but we use it less. Its usage has dropped [quite] precipitously over the last five years.”
Maggie Gray (Host, WFAN): “It’s really evolved for me. At the beginning, I was very closed off. When I first got hired at WFAN, the transition was so crazy, and I thought it would probably be best if I was not checking my mentions all the time. As I got more comfortable at WFAN, I started to ease it back a little bit, and started to really enjoy it. I’ve interacted with people a lot more.”
Christian Arcand (Host, 98.5 The Sports Hub): “I’m not really on Facebook anymore, but I have an open Twitter and Instagram account. I used to be a lot more open with things before I was on the air. I think a lot of people come across that as they move up in the business — [I] never felt [it] to the point where I felt I had to delete a bunch of tweets.”
In general, have hosts been helped or hurt more by having a social media presence?
Marc Hochman: “My personal experience is that it’s helped because you get a deeper view into who the host is and what he or she is like outside of the show. I’m very careful about it. It hurts some [hosts] because people are very apt to be wildly unfiltered on Twitter and sometimes will go for a joke or a hot take. Besides [it] beyond falling flat, [it] can impact someone’s career negatively if it’s written poorly or not thought out. For me, social media has been great, but I’m sure there’s a myriad of stories of social media even killing careers.”
Damon Amendolara: “I think it can always help more than it hurts. Obviously, you have to hesitate on engaging in mean-spirited conversation, or when someone just wants to fight and argue. You have to put out there what is smart to put out there. We have seen so many people get in trouble with other stuff. Think through what you’re saying and posting. You have to remember that your negative interactions are [usually] outweighed by positive or neutral ones, so I think, overall, giving listeners access, being able to publish your stuff and have more people consume it, and having people be able to see you in multiple lights is really important. I think a lot of people don’t even listen to the show who are fans of my content; there’s a percentage of my consumers that consume me only through social media.”
Maggie Gray: ““I think it really comes down to the individual host. For all the flaws that social media has, I can’t imagine doing this job without it, simply because it’s where news is breaking [and] where you are trying to find a new audience. On the flip side, you’re in a public space giving opinions, so with that you are naturally going to be drawing criticism just by virtue of what the job description is. It’s about making sure you are weeding out and not paying too much attention to people who are either trolling you or arguing for arguments’ sake.”
Christian Arcand: “I think in some cases hosts have built their entire careers on social media — younger ones certainly — and some guys my age or older have used it to niche their brand and boost their message or content. I think there’s also been some people who’ve had their careers ruined by it because I think we have all been in a bad mood one day and argued with people. You see that happen everyday on Twitter, and you hope that it’s not you doing it. I think it’s a double-edged sword in that way.”
How does social media play a role in talent evaluation? Namely, does what people say or like in the past have an impact on their candidacy in a job search?
Marc Hochman: “If I were still hiring for the radio station, I absolutely would use social media as an indicator — not the be-all end-all in the decision — as to who I’m dealing with. When you are listening to someone’s audition or reel, or having an interview with them, you’re getting a brief and polished glimpse at a person. Social media gives you a more full-depth view of a person’s proclivities and who a person is.”
Damon Amendolara: “I certainly think so. I’ve certainly seen people get hired for certain jobs based only on their social media presence — networks, television stations, radio stations, etc. have simply looked at how many followers a person has and [sought to] leverage that into eyeballs for them. I’m sure it depends on every given scenario, but that’s absolutely a factor in hires and some decision-making made across the industry. I don’t think you can resent it; you simply have to accept it as part of the industry right now. You either get on that train or move aside. If you don’t like that other people are benefiting [from] it, you have to be better [at it].”
Maggie Gray: “As someone who is in the public space and who is on social media a lot, I’m constantly thinking about it. I want to make sure that I’m coming across in a genuine, authentic way. I try to be as clear as I can, especially if I am tweeting jokes or trying to be funny. You have to make sure things are coming across in the way you mean it so it does not get misconstrued. As far as hiring practices, a program director or a manager would be better suited to answer that question. I noticed when I got hired at WFAN, people [online] had gone back through my social media and searched my entire feed. Nothing was bad or offensive — I would never do anything like that. The social media world went ahead and did the work to try to find something. I was surprised at first, but that’s to be expected.”
Christian Arcand: “I’m certainly nowhere near any hiring jobs right now, but I would imagine when someone’s looking to hire a personality, they look to see if they have a social media following. I don’t think anyone wants to hire anyone who puts stuff on social media that would embarrass them or the company. It’s so common these days with everybody on some platform or another — you wouldn’t be doing your job if you didn’t go back and check it out.”
How have the recent negative headlines about Facebook made you rethink your use of that platform and social media as a whole?
Marc Hochman: “I really use Facebook, again, just personally, and I use it for posting pictures of my family and, for me, it’s like a video scrapbook. You have to remind yourself that Twitter and Instagram are not representative of real-life human-to-human interactions. I don’t really give [either platform] too much credence because [they] become an echo-chamber, and oftentimes Twitter becomes mob mentality; very rarely does that kind of stuff rule in real life. I love it more for the interaction between listeners and hosts. The way that I use Twitter and Instagram is not just to promote the show on a daily basis; I use it to start conversations that are interesting to me. I like when conversations are heated about silly things. When social media isn’t fun, [I ask] ‘Why am I doing this?’”
Damon Amendolara: “For me, they’re all individual. I took a long and hard look at Instagram before I got on there. I cultivated what I thought was a game plan to approach it, and, of course, that evolved as I went on; you see what works and what doesn’t work. I did the same thing when I was originally on Snapchat; ultimately, I bailed on Snapchat because I did not think it was a benefit. Facebook, in 2006-2007, there’s a value there. In 2008-2009, you kind of had to be there. Now I don’t think you don’t need to be there anymore; that’s not where conversations are taking place. The headlines on Facebook did not change my view of it. You have to view and watch it on a regular basis. It’s a tool. If you feel it’s valuable, you use it. If you don’t feel it’s valuable, you don’t use it. I don’t think it should be some sort of grand change based on news. You should kind of be locked in on those realities every day you use these things.”
Maggie Gray: “I don’t do anything on Facebook. I have a personal Facebook, and I don’t really use that at all. I use Twitter, a little bit of Instagram, but [Facebook] hasn’t really played into [my] life.”
Christian Arcand: “It honestly has made me think about it a lot. I don’t really go on Facebook that much anymore because it’s not that interesting to me. I was in college when Facebook came out, and it was really great. You could reconnect with all your old friends; you just type in a name and you find somebody from your past. I’m so far removed from the novelty of it that I don’t really care — I could lose my Facebook tomorrow. Instagram I guess is an offshoot of Facebook, and The Wall Street Journal had that series about how it affects teens. I’m glad I didn’t have that as a teenager; I think it’s tough for kids today on social media. The people in charge of running these platforms are preying on them in many ways, and I think that’s really messed up. I use my Instagram to post pictures of my wedding stuff; I’m an old Instagram guy. I think, all and all, there should be some changes. I do think they ought to. It’s been tough on the younger generation, for sure.”
What do you see as the future of the implementation of social media into radio?
Marc Hochman: “It just brings you closer to the air personalities and the radio station. I don’t think there’s much more to evolve; I think people get side-tracked all the time. ‘I have to be more active on Twitter; I have to have a Twitch channel.’ All of this stuff, to me, takes people’s eyes off the prize, which is the radio show. I love to use it as a complimentary piece because I find it to be fun and a good way to grow the audience. If I was listening, things that are important for a radio show, I don’t think social media would crack the top five.”
Damon Amendolara: “Ultimately, sports media is communication. We are expressing ideas. We are communicating through a microphone — ideas, opinions, etc. Social media [are] simply that. These are modes of communication. It’s never going to go away. They are intertwined forever. Broadcasting and opinion-making is social media. I think that people will ultimately get more sophisticated and more savvy and more smart in how they use it. In some ways, it is a relatively new thing people are dealing with. We have a lot of people in our industry who are older than the general users of social media, so they don’t always know how to use it as well. In my estimation, you understand it, you learn about it, you utilize it and if you don’t, you get out of the way. It’s an extension of what we do in living — which is to express ideas on a platform.”
Maggie Gray: “I think that people are using social media to get their work out there and to have it shared. It is much different than when I was first getting out of college and into broadcasting and there were so few ways to get in front of people. Social media has totally obliterated that barrier. I think it’s excellent for finding new talent and new voices; the cliché about the democratization of information. I think it’s excellent for people to get their voices and opinions out there, and try to cultivate a following. I think that’s only going to increase as we get going. Maybe it shows that we need even [fewer] traditional mediums because you can get your stuff out through Twitter and Instagram, and amass a big following without going the traditional route in media.”
Christian Arcand: “I think at some point it’s going to be completely intertwined, and if we are talking [about] social media, that includes streaming platforms. There’s so much money on Twitch right now. I saw this ‘Dungeon and Dragons’ series made $9 million on Twitch; it’s unbelievable. Our show is broadcast on Twitch… [and] we share clips on social media all the time. Again, I haven’t checked The Sports Hub Facebook account because I’m not on Facebook much. It’s very intertwined and I don’t see that separating anytime soon. Radio is a platform, and you are always looking to add to it. Eventually, TV, radio and social media [are] all just going to be one big thing. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but it will.”
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.