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John Kincade Enters His Third Act

“Put down your phone and listen instead of constantly trying to get feedback from a bunch of faceless people on social media.”

Derek Futterman

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It is exceedingly rare in sports media to host a radio show that lasts for over two decades, bringing listeners compelling talk and opinion about their favorite teams. John Kincade achieved that feat with his co-host Buck Belue in Atlanta on 680 The Fan and viewed himself as part of a family. The station, owned by Dickie Broadcasting, embraced Kincade and the skillset he brought on to the airwaves – and he viewed himself as a trusted voice in the city’s sports media landscape. Then in December 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the radio station dropped him in a cost-cutting move that suddenly put his livelihood in flux.

“It was one of the greatest shocks of my career, but it also taught me something,” Kincade said. “It taught me to prepare myself because no matter who you are or what you are in this industry, there could be a reason at some point that your employer says, ‘We can’t afford you anymore,’ or, ‘We don’t want you anymore’ and you’ve got to go.”

As a native of Broomall, Penn., Kincade was always captivated by Philadelphia sports media personalities, including Howard Eskin who he would later have a chance to learn from as an intern at WIP 610. After doing sports at the television station at Cardinal O’Hara High School and broadcasting local events on community television, he decided to matriculate at Temple University: one of the top broadcasting schools in the country.

Working in radio was never a given for Kincade, though. Although he always had a passion for sports media, finding a full-time job in the industry was hardly facile and part of the reason why he chased internship opportunities to complement his participation in student media outlets on campus.

As an undergraduate student majoring in radio, television and film, Kincade worked with the Philadelphia Flyers’ coaching staff compiling statistics and video, meaning he was often around the team. As a result, when he was offered a chance to be a Flyers correspondent with Tony Bruno on WCAU, he had to receive permission to work in the role from head coach Mike Keenan. While Keenan granted Kincade’s request, it came with the caveat that if he ever divulged team secrets or sensitive information, he would immediately be fired by the organization.

“I would have strong opinions but I had to be very, very careful not to give away any information and I always had to make sure that I was well-versed in what I was saying,” Kincade explained. “It always had me a little bit on eggshells but it also had me… prepared.”

From there, Kincade worked at WIP where he was afforded the chance to go on the air by then-program director Tom Bigby. Additionally, Kincade contributed to Angelo Cataldi’s program and developed a relationship with the host – little did he know they would become competitors in Philadelphia morning drive years later. Cataldi had a profound influence on Kincade’s career, serving as an example of how to express himself and tirelessly improve at his craft in an industry predicated on sustained success.

“I got to see him and work with him when he was building the brand; not this juggernaut corporation that he’s built that has been this incredibly successful venture,” Kincade said. “I watched him put in the hard work when he was still a young radio guy.”

Working in radio was only a part-time gig for Kincade, as he landed a job in regional sales and marketing for Shared Medical Systems (SMS) [currently “Siemens”] two years out of college. His expertise in the field led to a quick ascension to the point where he was making a six-figure salary in his latter years. On the side, he was a high school hockey coach, maintaining his passion for the sport while still contributing to WIP 610 and, in the process, receiving minimal amounts of sleep each day.

Then in 1995, he was told by SMS of an opportunity to work in Atlanta and relocated, picking up part-time radio work on the weekends at 680 The Fan. Kincade was operating at a pace bereft of considerable time to recuperate and thrived until it all came to a screeching halt.

Less than a year into his time in Atlanta, Kincade was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Fortunately, the cancer was detected early enough to where it could be treated with chemotherapy and radiation, and he was able to continue to work at his unremitting pace. Two years later though, Kincade was told he had testicular cancer, causing him to undergo more treatment and surgery. By this time, he had taken a new job as director of new business development at First Consulting Group, but internally he thought his days on earth were numbered.

“I didn’t have confidence that I was ever going to get to be a guy like I am now with some gray hair,” Kincade said. “I believed my life wasn’t going to be that long.”

Kincade had a powerful realization during his second bout with cancer that he needed to expend his efforts into chasing his passion of sports radio. It catalyzed him to give up his lucrative sales job to work in sports radio in an attempt to fulfill his childhood dream.

“Cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Kincade said. “People will roll their eyes and go, ‘What are you talking about?’ Without it, I wouldn’t have had the guts to change careers and I think I may have missed out on one of the greatest rides of my life.”

Since that moment, Kincade experienced a precipitous rise as a sports media personality and began refining his style to best appeal to the audience. In 1999 following a two-year stint at 790 The Zone, Kincade was signed on as an afternoon host with 680 The Fan (where he worked part-time in 1995) to form a duo with former University of Georgia quarterback Buck Belue. The new program, titled Buck and Kincade, quickly became a staple of sports coverage in Atlanta. The locale was a melting pot – an amalgamation of sports fans and rooting interests – that, at the time, Kincade says was a “fledgling sports radio market.”

The show endured changes in media and a growing sect of sports fans solely invested in the local teams, lasting for over two decades before the station decided to move on in December 2020. Over that stint in Atlanta, though, Kincade had been involved in a variety of other projects, including hosting a nationally-syndicated Sunday morning show on the weekends called The John Kincade Show on ESPN Radio. Nine years later, his show moved to CBS Sports Radio and gave him a chance to connect with a national audience and discuss the world of sports and, of course, the football games that would kick off a few hours later.

“I would always have a show with a bunch of different segments in it and little things that became sort of unique benchmarks of what I did,” Kincade said. “I enjoyed making it my own and getting to do mornings.”

In these roles spanning over 15 years, Kincade not only hosted his own program but also filled in for other radio personalities on their shows as needed. Some of the hosts he sat in for include Colin Cowherd, Dan Patrick, Scott Van Pelt and Mike Greenberg, fortuitous occurrences that engendered him heightened exposure and reach towards their embedded audiences. 

Additionally, Kincade launched The Big Podcast with Hall of Fame center Shaquille O’Neal where they would discuss basketball, sports and the world of pop culture at large. It was a memorable experience for Kincade. The show was produced by Rob Jenners who also worked at 680 The Fan and found creative ways to keep listeners entertained within every episode.

“He was an amazing, amazing partner,” Kincade said. “[We had] so much fun; I had so many laughs…. On my deathbed, I will be remembering some of the fun and stupid things we used to do on the Shaq podcast.”

Kincade joined 97.5 The Fanatic in January 2021 as the host of The John Kincade Show airing weekday mornings from 6 to 10 a.m. Moving back to work in Philadelphia for the first time in over two decades was not an insurmountable task for him since he had been closely following the teams in the area and making biweekly appearances on Cataldi’s show. Today, he likes to think of himself as a collaborator who aims to create original content and a distinct sound consumers will not be able to find anywhere else.

“I don’t like the sort of 1990s/early 2000s of sports talk radio where it’s one person on a mic just taking a bunch of phone calls,” Kincade said. “I enjoy interaction; I enjoy creating unique and compelling segments that don’t require throwing out the phone number and literally just saying to my callers, ‘Here, you provide me the content.’ I like creating content and then being able to deliver that content and having listeners that will interact [with] what I’m talking about.”

The importance of being cognizant of both the marketplace and in what consumers want to hear is paramount to drive ratings and revenue; however, he does not want his show to be solely caller-driven. Instead, he tries to engage the listeners by presenting thought-provoking topics, giving his opinion on them and then opening it up to callers to join the conversation. It is a philosophy many sports radio hosts do not agree with Kincade on – doing anything different though, he says, likens the callers to aspects of show preparation.

“You’re letting the plumber; the electrician; the doctor; the lawyer make the decisions about what the content of your show is,” Kincade said regarding caller-driven programs. “I think that’s crazy because they’re not going to be there to pay your bills someday if the station decides to let someone else do the show. You’ve got to be a strong content creator and you’ve got to run your show first. You can’t just toss someone the keys and say, ‘Yeah, wherever you want to drive me today, you drive me there.’ I think that’s nuts.”

Philadelphia sports have been passed down through the progeny of local residents, requiring a hyperlocal focus to maintain interest. Otherwise, there are plenty of other options out there for consumers to explore more closely related to their niche sports interests.

“You have to be much more focused because honestly – I’m not using myopic in a bad way – but in Philadelphia, if you’re not talking about what Philadelphians want to talk about, they’re turning the dial,” Kincade said. “They’re not going to pay attention to you.”

SportsRadio 94WIP host Angelo Cataldi is set to retire either the week after the Philadelphia Eagles are eliminated from the playoffs or following the parade if they win the Super Bowl. Over the years, there have been morning drive ratings battles between Cataldi on SportsRadio 94WIP and Kincade on 97.5 The Fanatic, a challenge Kincade described as “like going 15 rounds in a prize fight.” The impending shift from Cataldi to the duo of Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie gives Kincade and his team a chance to expand their audience and appeal to new segments of the marketplace.

“The younger listeners in Philadelphia have been finding us and have been paying a lot of attention to our show since the day we took to the airwaves because we sound different; we’re a different show,” Kincade said. “We’ll expand on that; we’ll continue to work with that…. Angelo may have a departure week and a goodbye week, but we have our own things planned to have our own sort of welcome party to the people who may be looking to say, ‘Hey, I’d like to try something different in the mornings in Philadelphia.’”

In addition to his radio show, Kincade is teaching a talk radio course as an adjunct professor at Temple University,  his alma mater.. He is developing an original curriculum to help foster the next generation of broadcasters, giving them expertise and advice on how to build a career in the uber-competitive industry. The new job is indicative of his “third act,” something he was asked about from his former agent Norman Schrutt.

Schrutt, a renowned radio executive known as the “Radio Rabbi,” was a tactician when it came to negotiating favorable terms of employment, according to Kincade, and would tell his clients upon signing a contract to “just shut up and go to work.” He always challenged Kincade to pursue another act in his career, though, and Kincade has found his chance in teaching the craft for which he gave up a steady career to pursue.

“He was the perfect mentor to sort of guide me and I enjoyed getting a chance to learn from him,” Kincade said of Schrutt. “….When I [went] into my classroom last week for the first time, I thought to myself, ‘Well Norm, I’m following through. This is going to be my third act.’”

Some of the advice he plans to share with his students focuses on how to stay original and generate content conducive to success, focusing on being versatile in your abilities and being yourself on the air. 

“If you’re thin-skinned, get out now because you will never survive,” Kincade stated. “Put down your phone and listen instead of constantly trying to get feedback from a bunch of faceless people on social media. The people on social media, whether they’re real or not; they’re not giving you feedback that’s going to help you be more successful. Stay less driven by trying to pander to Twitter or Instagram and be more focused on the radio content that you create each day.”

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Matt McClearin is Not Just Filling a Void at The Ticket

“As much as I dreamt about this opportunity, it’s even more so than I probably could ever have dreamt.”

Derek Futterman

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Matt McClearin
Courtesy: Matt McClearin

Norm Hitzges is considered an industry pioneer, helping establish morning sports talk radio in the Dallas area. Spending a total of 48 years in the format, he made an immense contribution to the field. When Hitzges officially retired in June, there were questions surrounding who would move into the midday slot on Sportsradio 96.7 and 1310 The Ticket to work alongside host Donovan Lewis. The station eventually made the decision to bring one of its own home in Matt McClearin, and he has excelled in the assignment since officially taking over in August.

McClearin, a Texas native who grew up listening to Hitzges and other programs on the outlet, is living his dream with the medium he set his sights on from the time he was young. Over the years, he had a chance to be around Hitzges and saw his elite level of preparation and congeniality firsthand.

“One of the kindest humans I think that I’ve ever met,” McClearin said of Hitzges, “especially in this business, and that says a lot, I think, about how to carry yourself. Even when you have success and get to a certain level, [knowing] the right way to treat people and the right way to go about your daily business.”

It is safe to say that Hitzges had an impact on everyone at The Ticket, and it is a legacy that McClearin hopes to further perpetuate. Every time he walks into the studios, it is not lost on him the magnitude of the assignment he has been entrusted with, and he remains focused and driven on realizing his full potential.

Reaching this point took endurance and patience, but the timing ultimately ended up working out in his best interest. Growing up in the metroplex, The Ticket was a fundamental part of the sports sound and represented McClearin’s innate ambition.

McClearin was selected by station management to work in paid positions for two years while attending Texas State University – production director and program director – which entailed 20 to 25 hours per week within the offices and studio. In addition to working on job-specific functions, he also used the time to perfect his editing skills and board operating procedures and gain on-air repetitions. By the time he graduated and sought to apply for a job, he surmised that possessing versatility would engender a larger swath of chances to become immersed in the craft.

“Originally, [I was] kind of practicing the craft as much as [I] could and learning as much as I could,” McClearin said. “I could increase [my] value, I think, of being able to walk into a radio station in Dallas in a Top 5 market and say, ‘I can run the board; I can do production [and] I can do on-air stuff,’ but not just talk.”

By happenstance, he learned that The Ticket was looking for a part-time sports anchor to fill in for various shows, leading him to send his demo reel to the outlet. After some conversations with station management, McClearin officially joined the team and became immersed in refining his on-air skillset with guidance from program director Jeff Catlin.

“He’s very hands-on [by], early on, giving you a lot of constructive criticism and helping you to learn the ins and outs and proper formatics and how to set up each segment correctly,” McClearin said of Catlin. “Doing things like that and having those opportunities [are things] I always enjoyed.”

McClearin eventually began working as a pregame and postgame studio host for Dallas Stars broadcasts. Moreover, he would attend Dallas Cowboys games and collect audio from the players and coaches to edit and send back to the radio station to be used across its programming.

Working hard and going the extra mile helped separate McClearin from his competition both inside and outside of the radio station, ultimately earning him a weekend show with Scot Harrison. His candid assessments of the local teams and ability to delegate on the show, indifferent towards whether or not he is the center of attention, have rendered his hosting abilities conducive to success.

“I’m just a big believer in being who you are and being real and presenting that on the air,” McClearin said, “so no matter what you’re going through or what’s different about you, there are listeners out there that can connect with that and understand that you’re being real.”

The program remained a fixture on the weekends before both hosts were offered the chance to become part of the weekday programming lineup, following sports radio luminary Paul Finebaum. This opening, however, would require McClearin and Harrison to pick up and move to Birmingham so they could broadcast from the studios of Jox 94.5.

Both hosts eventually agreed and spent the next three-and-a-half years on the outlet, growing a new audience and becoming an indispensable part of the evenings in the area. There are certain instances in any business that are fugacious and unexpected in nature though, and the show cancellation in 2016 was an example of such.

McClearin returned to Dallas to work as a part-time radio host on ESPN Radio 103.3 FM, an extraordinary circumstance in that he was in the same building he used to work in with The Ticket. The station was operating under a local marketing agreement (LMA) with Cumulus Media and competing with the very outlet they were sharing the building with, cultivating a professional atmosphere mired by the ratings. The onset of the global pandemic caused the station to shutter.

“It was one of those things where you’ve just got to believe in what you’re doing and believe that there’s an appeal to what you’re doing,” McClearin said. “You get hired for a reason, and you continue to perform and try to grow what we were doing at the time.”

Catlin continued to serve as a mentor for McClearin during his years away from The Ticket, a venerable radio professional who has helped further build the outlet into a local powerhouse. The station frequently posts stellar ratings each quarter, representing a place where McClearin feels he can grow his brand and show to unrealized heights.

“The goal is to be No. 1 in the ratings in our [demographic] and to continue that,” McClearin said. “That’s something that I think drives me every day. When you’re not No. 1, you want to know, ‘Okay, well why aren’t we No. 1?,’ and when you get to that point, the question then becomes, ‘Okay, well how do we maintain this and continue to go and be better and bigger than what we were the previous month?’”

Before he ultimately returned to The Ticket to work with Lewis in the midday time slot, there was a bit of irony in that he, once again, called Birmingham home. When McClearin’s original program was canceled, he felt as if he had assimilated into the city and found his niche. He was disappointed in the outcome and always thought of the area in a favorable light, which then led to his phone ringing with a call from program director Ryan Haney.

As fortune would have it, Haney asked McClearin if he would be interested in returning to the station to host a solo program as part of a refreshed local lineup. Without hesitation, he conveyed that he would be interested in making a comeback in the locale, a full-circle moment filled with feelings of both satisfaction and gratitude.

“I never thought that I would go back to Alabama, much less work for the same station that, five years prior, had made the decision to let, at the time, Scot Harrison and I go,” McClearin said. “….I never wanted to leave in the first place, [so] I was really, really happy and I’m very fortunate that Ryan believed in me and gave me that opportunity to come back.”

The dynamic of the show differed the second time around in that he was the primary host, yet he also had help from John Saber and Conrad Van Order. Being around the Birmingham audience for a second time gave him more chances to talk about college football, basketball and other sports topics dominating the local and national scene.

Moving from one marketplace more focused on professional teams to one that was dominated by college sports, he furthered his abilities and worked to finish at the top of the ratings.

“I say the things that I actually believe in and I talk about the things that I really do to where, yes, sometimes I think I probably do some weird things and I’m a different type of person, but that’s just my personality and I have my quirks and my eccentricities,” McClearin said. “Again, I think if I present that and that is me, then the audience understands that and I think it comes across that way.”

Just as he thought during his initial stint in Birmingham, McClearin was prepared to stay in the marketplace for the long haul and try to further cement his name in the radio airwaves. Being able to reconnect with the audience and discuss meaningful, impactful topics was validating and worthwhile for him, and he was especially steadfast to the outlet. After all, he never had a particular interest in voyaging to television and still, to this day, concentrates his efforts on growing and maintaining the sports radio format.

“My brain just doesn’t think like that in those three-minute little quips that you do,” McClearin said. “TV is just so much more structured and short than radio, where we can have a 15-minute segment and have a real conversation.”

The only way McClearin was going to leave the station was if The Ticket came along, and sure enough, an opening became available concurrent with Hitzges’ retirement. While he enjoyed his time in Birmingham, he doubled down on his commitment to the Dallas-Fort Worth marketplace for the long run in making this move and conceding a solo program for a new co-host.

“When I got the call and went through the process with Jeff Catlin, [it] was a little bit surreal because it truly is a dream coming true,” McClearin said. “I found out that they’re going to put me with Donovan Lewis is kind of when Norm Hitzges decided to retire and I was going to walk in, [and] it’s really such a new show. Donovan and Norm had had such success for a while.”

As soon as McClearin took the air with Lewis for the first time, he felt an instant connection. Just a few months into the program, both hosts know there is plenty of room for growth and consistent improvement to create enthralling and proprietary content that will amplify cume and serve the community.

“We both are just two people, I think, that really care about the listener [and] what we’re putting together each and every day to make it the best that we can,” McClearin said. “So far, it’s been really easy and it’s been just – as much as I dreamt about this opportunity, it’s even more so than I probably could ever have dreamt.”

The Ticket is in competition with 105.3 The Fan in the Dallas-Fort Worth marketplace, along with other media outlets across various platforms. Whereas the Birmingham market releases its ratings through quarterly diaries, Dallas has monthly figures through PPM, but he makes sure the influx of quantitative data does not command his mindset.

“We can all see the ratings that the two main sports stations here have – they’re very healthy ratings and I think there’s a real hunger,” McClearin said. “A lot of that is football-driven – the Cowboys, nationally, are crazy relevant. All the [networks with] NBC and ABC and FOX and everybody; they always want to put them on because the Cowboys drive the needle. Well, they also drive the needle in Dallas very, very much so.”

Understanding and capitalizing on the reach and relevance of the Cowboys helps these local programs gain further traction. Arriving unprepared equates to marketplace malfeasance.

“Prep is very important to me, and I like to try to come into the pre-show meeting that I have with Donovan and our producer Travis every day with my own ideas, but also, ‘Okay, Donnie, what do you think?,’ and then, ‘Travis, what do you think about that?,’” McClearin said. “From that and our own individual prep, we kind of do the show prep together [to present] the in-depth segments that we roll out.”

The majority of content focuses on the Cowboys since they are the team that exhorts the most interest in the area, but there are plenty of other storylines within the landscape. The Texas Rangers are headed to the Major League Baseball postseason for the first time since 2016, while the Dallas Mavericks organization enters its first full season with superstar guard tandem Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving. Sometimes, sports fans do not want to solely listen to discussions about the teams themselves but rather hear about other pertinent topics in which they may be interested.

“I like to call them, I guess, lifestyle segments because I don’t think anybody, even the most passionate sports fan, only does sports in their life,” McClearin said. “We all have relationships and we have TV shows that we like to watch, and we went to the store and [some] random thing happened. We incorporate that, I think, into the show, and I think that’s The Ticket itself. It’s a very real station that has real conversations with a focus on sports.”

Everything throughout McClearin’s professional journey has centered on reaching this moment, and he wants to maximize the opportunity he has earned by bringing his best to the air on a daily basis.

From the onset, he knew where he wanted to end up and took the necessary steps to get there, even if it meant enduring some difficult setbacks. By taking advantage of every opportunity in his purview, he has made it in front of the microphone, and he has no plans on going anywhere at any time soon.

“I want to continue to grow the audience and have as many people enjoy doing what I love to do as possible,” McClearin said. “I get a lot of motivation from that [and] just the excitement of driving into the station every day and the excitement of when that light comes on and it’s time for the show. It’s like being on stage to me; it’s almost like you just get kind of high off of that feeling, and I love it.”

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Barrett Blogs

Focused on Today With My Eyes on Tomorrow

“Our sites perform best when they are original, creative, and going beyond the surface, and we will do more of that in 2024.”

Jason Barrett

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It’s been a minute since I managed the editor’s desk for our websites but as we look for the right leader to execute our strategy, I’m back involved assisting my team. The positive is that it gives me a chance to get further connected with our writers and see what’s being produced. The challenge is trying to balance website duties with consulting work, conference building, content creation for two newsletters, and tabling ideas until we’re at full strength. We already made a few tweaks to BNM with the addition of a Media Stock Ticker on the website and the addition of On The Record and Job of the Week in the newsletter. If you haven’t checked them out, please do so.

This seems like a good time to remind you that I am looking for a full time editor/writer to help lead BSM and BNM. A passion to write, manage people, provide ideas, and execute the vision is important. I’m looking for the equivalent of a digital program director who enjoys creating content. Covering the media industry is different than writing about sports or news. If you don’t love the broadcasting business and understand the brands, people, issues, and challenges and opportunities facing those involved, this won’t work. If you do, and you have the ability to manage a writing team and editorial calendar, dig for stories, expand relationships, and understand SEO and how to grow traffic and influence, then let’s talk. My email is [email protected]. Please include your resume and a few writing samples.

In the short term, you won’t notice much different on our websites. Our columnists will keep delivering timely opinions and insights, our features on broadcasters will remain thorough and interesting, and our daily news will occupy most of the space on both home pages. However, starting in 2024 we will begin placing a greater focus on original storytelling, expert insights, and creative features and benchmarks. This was a bigger focus during our early days but we’ve done less of it over the years as news began to dominate our daily content focus.

Though we will continue to relay industry happenings, personnel changes, and key details involving sports and news media brands and professionals, our sites perform best when they are original, creative, and going beyond the surface. That’s why our annual conferences are a hit. They educate, celebrate, and investigate key issues with the right people. I know that in today’s media climate aggregation is impossible to avoid especially when we’re seen as a resource for relaying key stories that others may not have seen but my hope is to do less of it and place a higher premium on original material. This means examining more of the radio, television, podcasting, advertising, and social media business from all angles not just reacting to things said on the airwaves.

I’ve already assembled a content plan for BSM and BNM for 2024 and am fired up about it. Stephanie Eads and I will share some of those plans with existing and prospective partners during Q4, and we’ll start rolling things out little by little once the new year rolls around.

Having shared that, I mentioned when we celebrated our 8 year anniversary that this year has been harder than others. The more we grow, the more we have to manage, and that’s why it’s so important to find a strong editor to help me maximize our websites while I remain heavily involved with our clients. One thing I haven’t done in a while that I’d like to take advantage of while I have you here is ask you two simple questions: What is it that you enjoy reading most on our sites? What would you like to see more and less of? Your feedback is appreciated at [email protected].

On a daily basis, we publish 14-16 pieces of content on BSM and 10-12 on BNM. That’s a ton, and let’s be honest, you’re not reading all of that. We constantly provide a full menu of options and try to avoid it feeling like we’re throwing up content to fill the page but truth be told, sometimes it feels like we’re filling the page. I don’t want to invest time and resources in busy work that is less relevant. I want to create stories that are worth your time to help you stay informed, entertained, challenged, and inspired. I realize readers have different opinions and pleasing everybody isn’t possible but we’re trying deliver more of what you want and less of what you don’t. It’s why I’m asking questions, interviewing candidates for our editor role, and reviewing our analytics to make sure we have the right content plans in place.

If there’s one lesson we’ve all learned it’s that the rules are constantly changing. What worked 5 years ago on Twitter isn’t the same today on the X. What was a guaranteed way to produce ratings on the radio a few years back is more complex now with video and podcasting part of the overall sum of success. It’s no different for BSM and BNM. If we’re writing about stations, networks or people that others don’t care to read about, we change our focus. If our ability to generate interest through social media platforms changes due to an algorithm adjustment, then the content and amount of posts we had planned changes too. Is it inconvenient sometimes? Yes. But if the winds of change are blowing, it’s on us to adapt or risk getting blown away.

I’m going through these next few months of 2023 making sure we stay focused on what matters each day while also inspecting our brands to make them the best they can be for 2024. In between all of that is hiring an editor, creating our annual BNM Top 20 (December) and planning a 2024 BSM Summit (March). One thing I’d like to do entering the new year is add 1-2 additional columnists on BSM and possibly another reporter/features writer for BNM. I’m also planning to bring back The Jason Barrett Podcast in April except with guests from both formats, sports and news.

We’ve come a long way since September 2015. This started as a one man show with a thousand people reading each day, and it’s turned into a talented team producing quality, relevant industry content read by 10-20 thousand people per day. Our challenge moving forward is figuring out what we need more of, what we need less of, diving deeper into the original content pool, adding more support, and seeing just how far we can ride this train. As always, thanks for reading and supporting our journey.

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BSM Writers

3 Questions to Ask Before Booking a Guest

Nobody has more passion for your show than you do. Be very careful who you invite to share that passion.

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In my formative years of sports talk, the legendary Rush Limbaugh was at the absolute height of his popularity. Limbaugh had a very simple formula, nobody could argue against the success of that formula. Each hour was pretty much the same; a monologue or two, a sound bite, a few phone callers, and lengthy reactions to those calls. One thing that was absent was a guest, Limbaugh almost never had a guest on his show.

He was once asked about that and maintained there isn’t a guest that has the same passion for his show as he does so, why hand the show over to someone without that passion? It is an intriguing and thought-provoking strategy.

Each show has a unique approach to guests; the type that work, the length of the interview, the times they should be on. There is no cookie-cutter approach that works for every show in every market. I do think a strategy for a show as it relates to guests is absolutely crucial. Scheduling them without first answering a few “whys” would be a critical mistake. We only get so much time with each listener, few things can run them off like a bad one.

More on the “whys” in a moment but I first need to address what I believe to be a misconception. I often hear that a show is good because “it gets great guests”. That may be a plus for the listener but I refuse to believe it is what makes a show great.

Ultimately, a show is great because the entire production is entertaining. Guests are only part of what makes a show entertaining. Even two in an hour on a show still leaves the hosts having to fill the majority of the time. If they aren’t entertaining hosts, there isn’t a guest alive that makes the show good. All of that gets me to the “Whys”.

Why is this guest on?

There must be a reason to hand part of your show over to a guest. They must be extremely entertaining, covering a topic that is of great interest to your audience, or be someone you know beyond a shadow of a doubt your audience loves.

If you can get at least two of those three, you have a winner.

Otherwise, it feels like a segment filler and I think most audience members can spot a segment filler from miles away. I get it, I’ve done small market shows solo before and felt like I was the only one listening. I know the appeal of having someone to help fill a segment.

The truth is, it does more harm than good if it isn’t entertaining.

Why does this guest want to be on?

Every guest you have on has an ulterior motive. It is part of the transaction: They scratch your back and they get something out of it. The more they feel they get out of it, the more likely they are to give you a better interview.

Having someone who understands the value of a spot on your show will exponentially increase the interest and effort of that guest in their given segment. Simply put, if they’re not into it, the segment isn’t going to work.

I’ve seen shows chase the “big name guest” and the big name has very little interest in the interview. It shows. We once had a former athlete turned analyst on our show who was doing the interview on speakerphone while he was packing for a trip. He could not have been less interested in doing the interview and I still don’t know why he agreed. It was a show killer.

I don’t care how big the name is, if the big name just goes through the motions, it will be a failure.

Why is this YOUR guest?

Most topics you’ll discuss on a show have numerous possibilities tied to them. Rarely is there only one guest that can discuss that topic. Try finding the person who has the best chemistry with your show. Show chemistry matters when selecting hosts, I think it should matter just as much when selecting guests. It is likely your show has a unique personality of its own, lean into that when you are selecting guests.

As an example, my show is far more likely to discuss a player’s haircut rather than his NextGen Stats. When we have someone on, it is important to us that they understand that and isn’t thrown off by it. That is an understanding of the chemistry of the show and the importance of that to the audience. I think every booking has to be viewed through that prism.

Ultimately, I have always believed having no guest is far better than having a bad guest. If people are consuming your show, they already value your opinion and insight, don’t lend that audience trust to someone who will not value it to some extent. Rush Limbaugh may have taken it to extremes, he was good at that, and he was also correct in his assessment.

Nobody has more passion for your show than you do. Be very careful who you invite to share that passion.

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