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Ken Korach Turns A New Page With Every Game

Derek Futterman

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Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

At this time of year, hope springs eternal as the aroma of baseball permeates the air. At ballparks across Florida and Arizona, the sound of sprinklers washing the field; the melodious thump of a baseball in a mitt, and the resonant crack of the bat have all emerged from hibernation, suffusing the atmosphere with its venerable pastime. Ken Korach is quite familiar with this environment as the Oakland Athletics radio play-by-play voice for the last 27 seasons but still enters each season with unwavering enthusiasm.

Ahead of the team’s spring training opener tomorrow against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Korach has focused on rekindling connections and learning more about the various new players. This offseason, the Athletics added reliever Trevor May, outfielder J.J. Bleday and infielder Aldemys Díaz, pairing with a burgeoning core of young talent with hopes of improving on a 102-loss season.

Most MLB 2023 season projections do not have the Athletics making the postseason, which, if proven correct, would extend the team’s championship drought to 34 years. Yet Korach, no matter what is happening on the field, will work to keep listeners engaged through vivid storytelling and comprehensive portrayals of the game. It is a lesson he learned growing up in Los Angeles, listening to Dodgers’ broadcaster Vin Scully, widely regarded as baseball’s poet laureate.

“From the first time I listened to Vin Scully do the Dodgers, I was always really intrigued and fascinated by it,” Korach said. “….When you went out to Dodgers games, you could almost hear him without bringing a radio.”

Korach attended baseball games early in his youth and gazed up at the press box, identifying it as a subliminal phenomenon he aspired to enter. Whether it was Scully, Dick Enberg, or Chick Hearn, he was an avid listener to local broadcasts and through them, became proficient in sports vernacular and knowledgeable about the teams. Additionally, his father was a physical education teacher and coach for high school and junior college basketball and baseball, giving him increased exposure from a different perspective.

Korach opted to attend college down I-5 at San Diego State University where he was a journalism major and sports editor of The Daily Aztec. Following two years, he transferred to the University of California, Santa Barbara; however, the school did not have a dedicated major in journalism. Instead, he studied social sciences and graduated, always thinking about pursuing broadcasting but cognizant of the reverence and immersion requited to attain any level of success.

Five years after his college graduation, Korach secured his first job in broadcasting at a local radio station in Petaluma, Calif. At the same time though, he worked a variety of different jobs to make ends meet, including at a golf club and clothing store. His role at the station pertained to more than just sports, as he hosted music programs, delivered news, and performed voiceovers in addition to exploring job openings in sports media.

By the mid-1980s, he was given a chance to broadcast approximately 27 games for the Redwood Pioneers baseball team in the California League. It is where he began to regularly spend time around the team and hone his craft – but a baseball career was never his primary focus. Instead, Korach sought to augment his versatility and continued working as a play-by-play announcer for football and basketball games at Sonoma State University. In fact, Korach continued calling college sports until 2004 – including at San José State University and UNLV – largely on the radio.

“I never focused on one over the other,” Korach said. “When I got into this, I really was focused on trying to get as good as I could in all three, and I’ll leave those judgments to other people.”

Korach advises young broadcasters to be able to broadcast multiple sports and show a willingness to adapt as opportunities become available. After continuing to broadcast baseball for the Phoenix Firebirds and Las Vegas Stars of the Pacific Coast League from 1986 to 1991, Korach received a call to the big leagues in 1992 with the Chicago White Sox. Although he was solely broadcasting weekend games, the chance to call games at the major league level was invaluable for Korach. He never aspired to call Major League Baseball games during his early years in the industry though, something he says may have been a “defensive mechanism.” Nonetheless, he continues to remain focused on the day-to-day aspects of the job to improve game after game.

“It’s a really subjective business, but the only things you can control are how hard you work and how professional you are,” Korach said. “Those are the things I tried to strive for back then, and then the most important thing was to try to learn to be the eyes and ears of the audience.”

The trial and error afforded to Korach in the minor leagues allowed him to make mistakes and enhance his storytelling ability, something especially important in calling baseball on the radio. Moreover, he fostered professional relationships with players, coaches, and other sources of information who, through conversation, divulge intelligence and anecdotes often imbued into the broadcast. It harkens back to Korach’s skills as a journalist in being able to identify the primary storyline and then using his broadcasting skills to catalyze both thought-provoking and spirited conversation.

Korach’s longevity and connection with baseball fans has largely been a result of his work ethic and passion for the sport; however, there was one particular broadcast partner who shaped his career. Bill King, a fixture over the airwaves in the Bay Area, longed to call Major League Baseball after spending many years calling games for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and NBA’s Golden State Warriors. Over his career, King had established a style conducive to success and, through his indefatigable work ethic and efficient use of his time, broadcast all three Oakland-based teams for parts of three years.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Korach was able to listen to Warriors basketball games, listening to King articulate the spectacular feats of Wilt Chamberlain, Rick Barry, and Nate Thurmond en route to a championship 1974-75 season. Korach calls it “one of the great gifts” of his career to be able to work alongside a voice of his childhood in King. He went on to author a book about King titled “Holy Toledo,” named after his signature catchphrase.

“When I wrote my book about him, I tried to describe him in 270 pages and even that was hard,” Korach said. “He was just a tremendously passionate guy. He was governed by his passions; he lived life by his own terms…. You just knew that he was well-versed and that he was always prepared.”

King’s sports lexicon and linguistic command, along with external interests in opera, fine dining, and sailing, earned him the moniker of being a “Renaissance man.” His erudition and dogmatic propensity for knowledge made him an ideal broadcaster for a team once filled with superstars such as Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Jeremy Giambi; and then discovering hidden gems en route to a 20-game winning streak in 2002. That period, referred to as the “Moneyball” era, was the impetus for a book and the creation of a movie based on the team.

King passed away in 2005 at 78 after suffering a pulmonary embolism following hip surgery, devastating Bay Area sports fans and leaving an open position in the broadcast booth. To begin the 2006 season, that spot was filled by Vince Cotroneo, and it has remained that way ever since.

Korach and Cotroneo were longtime friends before they began broadcasting games together, making the transition more facile for the duo to endure. Yet Korach estimates that stepping into a position occupied by a titan of the industry was difficult for Cotroneo in that Athletics fans had been long accustomed to hearing King. Furthermore, Korach had to make sure to stay within himself and remain genuine toward the audience in moving to the lead announcing role.

“We missed Bill every day and thought about him every day,” Korach said, “[but] I didn’t think about it as being that tough of a transition because I knew Vince and I would have a good chemistry right off the bat.”

As a radio play-by-play announcer, it is essential Korach continues to paint a picture of the action for the listener. Whether it is mentioning the handedness of a hitter; the positioning of the outfield; or the score and the count, making the game a “comfortable listen” is a recurring goal. Additionally, being able to effectively capture big moments and play to the crowd appropriates the recursivities embedded in an aural medium. Korach never wants people to say that the broadcast did not keep them accurately informed as to what was occurring on the field, nor does he want to convey a sense of apathy or inadequacy towards the team itself.

“I really want to open my mind to whatever happens on the field so it just flows and you’re immersed in the moment,” Korach said. “Then, try to use your voice, the emotion of the moment, and the drama and your inflection. I think that’s getting a little more technical, but that’s a big part of it.”

Arriving at the ballpark and taking in Major League Baseball games are motivating factors enough for Korach to prepare and perform his job at a high level. Every day, there is a chance Korach could see something historic or unprecedented ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Despite having the lowest average attendance in Major League Baseball last season, Oakland Athletics fans are vociferous and unabashed in their zeal toward the team. Sitting in the outfield at RingCentral Coliseum, they chant and play drums throughout the game often shouting “Let’s Go Oakland!” The team’s future in the locale, however, is very much up in the air.

For many years, the Athletics have been trying to build a new ballpark in Oakland, most recently unveiling a development plan on the waterfront at Howard Terminal. Although the plan received permission to commence from the waterfront commission, the organization has not yet secured the necessary approvals. Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf tweeted that residents want to come to a “win-win solution” with the team and that the Oakland City Council will protect taxpayers from costs associated with the ballpark and ancillary development.

Last month, Tim Kawakami of The Athletic reported that Major League Baseball is focused on helping the Athletics move to Las Vegas, Nev. without a relocation fee. Korach happens to keep an offseason home in the area and would continue broadcasting Athletics games if the team made the move, yet he hopes the team remains “Rooted in Oakland” with a new ballpark and maintains the two-team marketplace.

“I think when the Giants got their new ballpark, it was a little bit of a game-changer,” Korach said. “People forget that when the A’s moved in 1968 – of course the Giants got to San Francisco in 1958 – if you looked at all the years the Giants were at Candlestick Park and the A’s were at the Coliseum, the attendance was split right down the middle almost literally. It may have been the Giants had the biggest crowds one year and the A’s had the biggest crowds [in] the other.”

Korach remembers the time when the Athletics had a large payroll and nearly pushed the Giants away from the Bay Area. He also remembers the teams of the mid-2010s, which qualified for the postseason from 2012-2014 and 2018-2020, including players such as Josh Donaldson, Coco Crisp, and Dallas Braden (who threw a perfect game in May 2010). He knows the way for the Athletics to once again attract larger swaths of fans will be to build a new ballpark and leave the multipurpose-Coliseum.

Broadcasting for a team that plays its home games at a seemingly-anachronous stadium with attendance that plummeted to a 42-year low at the start of last season, some fans may naturally gravitate towards the San Francisco Giants or other teams. Combined with the American League’s worst record and the lowest payroll in baseball, fans outside of the area may view the situation as disquieting or untenable. Korach remembers Hank Greenwald, former television play-by-play announcer for the team, saying, “If you get down when your team isn’t playing well, you’re going to sound like [how] the team is playing, and you can’t allow that to happen.”

The people of Oakland though, according to Korach, embody a unique grit and spirit through which they continue to embrace the Athletics, and in turn, listen to the broadcasts. It was evinced in 2020 when the team dropped terrestrial radio broadcasts in favor of A’s Cast, a 24/7 audio stream of games and other Athletics content through the TuneIn app or the team’s official website. Six games into the abbreviated 2020 season, the team changed course, moving A’s Cast from TuneIn to iHeartRadio and signing a deal to air games on Bloomberg 960 KNEW-AM, a business talk station in Oakland.

“I think the most important thing for us is to blend the two, and understand that people are tuning to apps to listen to games or A’s Cast, which is 24 hours, and they do a tremendous job over there,” Korach said. “There are also people who prefer to listen to the games on the radio, and I think there’s still a place for AM radio for that.”

The amalgamation of terrestrial radio and streaming-based audio gives Athletics fans of all ages avenues through which to consume aural content. It also gives the team its own dedicated media outlet after Oakland Athletics team president Dave Kaval stated the team lacked “fair and balanced” coverage. The remark was made amid a Twitter interaction with 95.7 The Game afternoon host Damon Bruce, which began with Kaval pointing out low attendance at a Giants game and pondering if San Francisco media would comment on it.

Korach has always felt supported by the organization, never once being questioned for a comment over his 27 seasons with the team and having flexibility in his schedule. He enters the season in the final year of his contract and will broadcast 116 regular season games, largely in the western region of the league. While he intends to return to the organization next year, he recognizes the uncertainty of the future and looks to remain invested in the present moment.

“There’s no place I’d rather work than the Bay Area,” Korach said. “That may be one reason why I had a decent amount of success there because I moved there in 1979, [and] I have great love for the area. When you’re talking to people and trying to build that one-on-one relationship with the listener, these are the same people I’ve gone to games with and concerts with. You kind of think of them as your friends.”

In working among a team of people around a sport he grew up fervently consuming, Korach considers himself fortunate and appreciates the camaraderie within his job. Simultaneously, he thinks about the people who are alone or unable to attend games and tries to bring joy to their days through the broadcasts. Korach recalls that Chick Hearn, one of the announcers Korach listened to in his youth, frequently dedicated his broadcast to the “shut-ins.”

Being able to perform the job well comes with steadfastness towards the craft and intricate preparation through research and conversation. Every offseason, Korach adopts a project to work towards, and this year it was learning how to speak Spanish to cultivate a better rapport with players of Latin American descent. He acknowledges that he is “failing tremendously” at it and that it has been quite difficult, but he remains persistent in the endeavor.

Additionally, Korach and Cotroneo will welcome a new member of the broadcast team this season for the first time since 2006 with the addition of Johnny Doskow. As the longtime voice of the Sacramento River Cats (the Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants) since 2000, he will host pregame and postgame coverage, and also provide play-by-play for various games throughout Spring Training and the regular season.

Rule changes across Major League Baseball – which include limiting defensive shifts, enlarging the size of bases, and implementing a pitch clock – are meant to increase offense, prevent injuries and hasten the pace of play. Over the years, the league has tried to expand into a younger demographic and better market its superstars, part of the reason why changes in scheduling will result in the Athletics playing all of the other 29 franchises this year. It will be a challenge for the broadcasters in terms of preparation and in adapting perhaps a larger view of the league than in years past, but for the fans, it is yet another reason to consume the game.

“I’ve always kind of resented the fact that you work like crazy to prepare for a team for three games and then you don’t see them again for three years,” Korach said. “I’ve always really loved the games in your own league because you really start to get a great feel for those players and really understand their clubs and the tendencies and the managers. It was always a lot more comfortable to do games in your own league because you had such a better knowledge of the club.”

Due to advancements in technology and alacrity to pursue the craft, there are more opportunities than ever to explore a career in media. Even so, working hard, being professional, and remaining grounded in what one can control are established pillars that predicate success in the industry and traits Korach has demonstrated throughout his career.

When he steps into the ballpark though, Korach tries to remember his childhood and how he thought of the press box as being “magical.” Today, he calls it his workplace and the means through which he disseminates the sport and, in turn, helps keep the tradition of Oakland-based sports alive and well. Over the last five years, the area has lost the Warriors to nearby San Francisco and the Raiders to Las Vegas, and both teams play in new facilities (Chase Center and Allegiant Stadium, respectively).

Korach is an author as well, authoring several nonfiction books over the years about the Athletics and Bill King. He views the broadcast as a means through which to listen to a developing and dynamic story, nuanced in contrasting moments of halcyon and exigence, both of which can be blissful or anguishing in nature. Although broadcasters do not dictate the action, they are the ones describing and recounting it to listeners both in real time and during subsequent games or other programs. When history is made, it is their exclamations etched onto the soundtrack of summer, representing the disposition of the fans at large.

“In baseball, because of the everyday nature of it, especially when you’re broadcasting locally, you hope that people can kind of look at it as this great book that unfolds over the course of six months,” Korach said. “The chapters and the pages get turned every day, and if you’re really a fan of our team, the radio broadcasts are like turning the pages of a book.”

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Barrett Media Hires Jeff Lynn to Spearhead Music Radio Coverage

“Adding Jeff to our editorial team to spearhead our music radio coverage is important for building brand identity and trust across the industry.”

Jason Barrett

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Barrett Media is expanding its content focus starting on Monday July 15, 2024. I announced these plans on May 6, 2024. Since then, I’ve had many conversations to identify the right person to bring our vision to life. Music radio will be our first addition. Coverage of tech and podcasting will come next.

Making sure we’ve got our finger on the pulse of the music radio business is the first step. With over 11,000 stations nationwide playing music, and entertaining listeners, there’s no shortage of stories to tell. I maintain that coverage of the music radio industry isn’t sufficient. We’re not going to solve every problem and nail every story but we’re going to work our tails off to try and make things better.

So, how can you help us? Email [email protected] so we’re aware of your success, career related news, and how to reach you for future feature stories. Sharing our content on social media and telling folks about the website once it’s live is another easy way to offer support.

To avoid any confusion, we will not be writing daily news on artists and record label activity. It’s why I’ve continued to mention ‘music radio’ each time I promote this expansion. We’re looking to focus our coverage on broadcasters, brands, companies, ratings, content, etc.. Artists and music labels may become part of our coverage down the road, but that’s not our immediate focus.

Which leads me to today’s announcement regarding our Editor. I spoke with a lot of smart, talented people for this role. Adding someone with management experience, who has a passion to write, a can-do attitude, a love for the industry, and relationships across formats is very important. I’ve found that person, and hope you’ll join me in welcoming Jeff Lynn as Barrett Media’s first ever Music Radio Editor.

Jeff’s experience in the music radio business spans nearly 25 years. He’s been a program director for iHeart, Townsquare Media, NRG Media, and Rubber City Radio Group. Those opportunities led him to Milwaukee/Madison, WI, Cleveland/Akron, OH, Des Moines/Quad Cities, IA and Omaha, NE. All Access then hired him in 2022 to leave the programing world and serve as a Country Format Editor, and manager of the outlet’s Nashville Record promotions. He remained in that role until August 2023 when the outlet shut down.

“I am honored to join the team at Barrett Media to guide the brand’s Music Radio coverage”, said Jeff Lynn. “Radio has been a lifelong passion and pursuit of mine. To be able to tell stories of the great work being done by radio pros and broadcast groups is very exciting. They are stories that need to be told. I can’t wait to get started.”

Jeff Lynn with Jelly Roll

I added Ron Harrell, Robby Bridges, and Kevin Robinson as columnists two weeks ago. Bob Lawrence and Keith Berman then joined us this past Monday. We’re quickly assembling a talented stable of writers, and with Jeff on board as our Editor, we’re almost ready for prime time. The only thing left to do is hire a few features reporters. I’m planning to finalize those decisions next week.

Building this brand and making it a daily destination for music radio professionals will take time. It starts with adding talented people, covering the news, and creating interesting content consistently. If we do things right, I’m confident the industry’s support will follow. Time will tell if my instincts are right or wrong.

Jeff begins his new role with Barrett Media on July 1st. Adding him to our editorial team to spearhead our music radio coverage is important for both building brand identity and trust across the industry. I’m eager to work with him, and hope you’ll take a moment to say hello and offer your congratulations. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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Greg Hill is Turning the Tables in Morning Drive on WEEI

“I think this business is slowly moving farther and farther away from dollars being dependent on being the #1 station or where you’re ranked when it comes to Nielsen.”

Derek Futterman

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Greg Hill
Courtesy: Audacy

Earlier in the week, the Boston Celtics secured their 18th NBA championship. Across a variety of sports radio stations, especially those in the Boston-Manchester designated market area, the triumph was a subject of discussion on Tuesday morning. Within morning drive on WEEI, host Greg Hill provided his thoughts on the team and its achievement.

Akin to the Celtics, Hill aims to position his weekday program to thrive and sustain success. After working in the industry for many years, some professionals can exhibit a sense of apathy, but for Hill, it is quite the opposite, exhibiting congeniality and authenticity to the audience as a whole amid this quest.

Although Hill broadcasts on a sports talk station, the morning show spans beyond comprehensive sports discussion while implementing a variety of other topics into its daily discussion. In fact, Hill defines the breadth of topics into two distinctive categories, one of which is sports while the other covers an assortment of miscellaneous subjects mentioned on the show.

“I think it’s more beneficial if you are a radio person and you know what you think works when it comes to doing radio,” Hill said. “If you can find a way to keep the audience entertained and engaged and try, if you can, to present content that’s different than [what] they might find somewhere else, then that’s more important than necessarily a vast X’s and O’s knowledge when it comes to sports from my perspective.”

Sports teams in the city of Boston have established a tradition of grandeur and excellence, making a habit of remaining in contention for championships every year. In fact, the Celtics championship ended the city’s title drought that spanned just over five years. During that time, the media ecosystem has changed with a prioritization on digital distribution in addition to more niche content offerings. As a long-tenured radio host, Hill has been able to successfully adapt by optimizing the idiosyncrasies of the medium while also being open to innovation.

“The old adage about, and I think it still remains a unique advantage when it comes to this medium, is that when you wake up in the morning, you want to know, ‘What happened? What happened last night?,’ and you want to hear people give you their slant on it,” Hill said. “My function, I think, is to give everybody the opportunity to share their opinions on stuff.”

While Hill has become a respected sports radio host, he initially started working in another sector of the industry. During his time as a middle school student, he worked a paper route and saved his money to buy two turntables and several 45-rpm records. Hill would then go to the garage of his parents’ house and host a radio show with no audience, working to master the craft in his nascence. As he grew older, he started to bring his records to his high school radio station and take the air.

The passion and verve he possessed for the medium, along with his talent in the craft, helped him land a job at WAAF as a promotion coordinator. As he began to showcase his abilities, he earned chances to go on the air over the weekends and overnight. Morning show host Drew Lane later asked Hill if he wanted to do sports on the program, and he continued to grow from there.

When Hill was named the host of the new Hill-Man Morning Show on WAAF a few years later, he needed to find a way to stand out in the marketplace. After all, he was facing competition from Charles Laquidara on WBCN and a variety of other media outlets, and it took time for the program to eventually break through. Hill took the opposite approach of other stations in the area to render the show distinct from those on other media outlets.

“WBCN at the time was an older-targeted station, so we targeted the station towards Men 18-34 and figured that we could grow as they grew,” Hill said. “So we were just going out attending every single possible event where somebody might be, going out before concerts and shaking hands, and doing all that stuff that I think you have to do in order to try to get people to try your show and try your station.”

Hill’s program catapulted to the top of the marketplace, and he signed a lifetime contract after 26 years on the air to stay at WAAF. In signing the deal, he never thought he would work anywhere else, but things changed three years later when Gerry Callahan hosted his last show in morning drive on WEEI. Then-Entercom announced that it was adding Hill to the daypart to host a new morning drive program and retained co-host Danielle Murr in the process, commencing a new era for the outlet. Shortly thereafter, WAAF was sold to the Educational Media Foundation and re-formatted with contemporary Christian programming.

“I never thought [W]AAF would go away,” Hill said. “It was a legendary rock station, and I still to this day will flip by that station and hear Christian rock music and sit there in silence for a couple of minutes for that great radio station, but being the same company and the same market manager at the time [in] Mark Hannon, when that opportunity came up [to] try something different and to make a change, I was really excited about it.”

In moving formats, Hill and his colleagues evaluated the program and determined how they could grow their audience on WEEI while staying true to the essence of the show. The program, however, was going up against Toucher & Rich, the hit morning show on 98.5 The Sports Hub, and others.

“I think this business is slowly moving farther and farther away from dollars being dependent on being the #1 station or where you’re ranked when it comes to Nielsen,” Hill said. “To me, the most important thing is that we’re doing what we should do to get partners for the radio station on the business side of things and delivering results for them.”

Hill is cognizant of the success of 98.5 The Sports Hub but articulated that the ranking does not matter to those spending money on radio. Instead, he claims that it is about the level of engagement and patronization of the product that facilitates interest in the brand.

“From a differentiator point of view, we’re up against, on the sports side of things, an incredible radio station that has done an amazing job of being #1 in this market for a long time with really compelling personalities,” Hill said. “I think it’s incumbent upon us to try to find ways to be different when it comes to our choice on content and the way in which we present it, and then outwork them when it comes to going out and meeting people who might listen to the show.”

Whereas Hill was originally a solo host during his early days on WAAF, he is now joined by Jermaine Wiggins and Courtney Cox, both of whom bring unique aspects that enhance the program. Wiggins, a former tight end for the New England Patriots, provides his knowledge of football and the perspective of a professional athlete. Cox is the youngest person on the program and has a unique approach from her time covering sports at NESN while embracing the humor and repartee on the show. Show producer Chris Curtis, who worked with Hill at WAAF, also contributes to the conversation as well and has helped maintain synergy.

“Whether it’s the co-hosts on the show or callers, I love when they are having fun at my expense, and I think that self-deprecating humor to me is the best,” shared Hill. “If we have a show in which I end up being the punchline or end up, whether it’s my age or lack of technological skill or my frugality – whatever it is – that to me is my favorite part of what we do and that personality coming through, I guess.”

Hill uses his platform to benefit the community through The Greg Hill Foundation, a nonprofit organization he founded to provide families affected by tragedy with immediate needs. He created the foundation in 2010 to celebrate two decades on the air at WAAF before the advent of crowdfunding in a quest to give back. The foundation has donated over $20 million to more than 9,000 beneficiaries during its 14 years.

“We’re lucky in radio because we have this incredible tradition of public service, and I think everybody in radio feels this obligation – this great obligation to use the airwaves to help others,” Hill said. “We’re granted the incredible platform in which we can actually get people to respond when help is needed, and so I wanted to be able to use that microphone and the radio station on those days to be able to help the beneficiaries in our area who needed it.”

Hill recently signed a multiyear contract extension with Audacy-owned WEEI to continue hosting The Greg Hill Show. Part of what compelled him to remain at the station was working with Ken Laird, the brand manager of the outlet who used to be his producer at WAAF. Moreover, he has known Audacy Boston market manager Mike Thomas for over two decades as he leads the cluster of stations in an environment with many entities looking to garner shares of attention.

“To be able to have the opportunity to work with those guys, know what they are, what I need them to do to keep them happy and to have the opportunity for us to, from a team perspective, that we have one clear mission in mind, and that is to be No. 1,” Hill said. “No. 1 in revenue and No. 1 when it comes to ratings, so to be able to sit there and go, ‘Alright, since I came here five years ago, we definitely have some wins, but there’s still a lot that we have to do,’ and to be able to do it with them together was way more interesting to me than any other opportunity.”

Even though Hill has worked in the sports media business for many years, he remains energized by the prospect of achieving goals and having the privilege to host his radio program. In the past, he has stated that he would like to slow down in his career, yet he is unsure what he would do without working in radio.

“That being said, I’ve been getting up at the crack of dawn for 30-something years, and I’m definitely feeling it more than I used to,” Hill said. “But sometimes I think it would be fun to go and do one more radio show where I play seven great songs an hour, as long as I get to pick whatever I play and there’s no research and there’s no computer programming the music. I sometimes think about that, but I just love doing this.”

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If Jim Rome is Willing to Innovate, So Can You

Jim Rome is 59 years old and has been at this for 35 years. And if he finds value in embracing new platforms, you, your hosts, and your stations should be able to do it, too.

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Photo of Jim Rome and a logo for the X platform

Jim Rome is 59 years old. He’s been in the sports talk radio game since before I was born. And earlier this year, his show left CBS Sports Network to begin a live simulcast on the Elon Musk-owned X platform.

And it has exposed him and his show to a much wider, and frankly much younger, audience in the short time since the simulcast began.

If you search X, you’ll see either “I didn’t know Jim Rome was still around” or “I’ve never heard of Jim Rome, but I saw his show on here,” posts.

Now, that doesn’t mean he’s abandoning terrestrial radio. In fact, he recently chastised a caller for talking poorly about “scratchy AM radio”, which elicited a strong defense of the medium from the sports talk legend.

But I can’t help but think that if — at this stage in both his life and his career — Jim Rome is willing to try new things, so can you, your show, or your station.

To be frank, Rome has every reason to coast. Rest on his laurels. Simply collect a paycheck and call it a day until his contract is up. But that’s not what he’s doing. He’s innovating. He’s taking chances. I’m sure it’s a much safer feeling — especially for someone about to reach 60 (you look great by the way, Jim) — to stick to a familiar simulcast on cable TV. For damn near 40 years, that’s been the dominant player in the space. But it isn’t 1992 anymore.

Listening to Rome describe the new simulcast makes either one of two things true: Either he doesn’t truly understand what he’s doing, or he believes that his audience is potentially too old to understand streaming. Because he talks about the new venture like he’s trying to explain it to a five-year-old, but at least he’s out here attempting it.

Listening to many shows or stations around the country has at times led me to have a cynical view of the industry. Lipservice is often paid when you hear leaders say “We’re in the content business, not the radio business,” but then only put their content on the radio. Or in podcast form, in three-hour blocks with the live traffic reports still included in the audio to really cement home the fact that the producer couldn’t be bothered to even attempt to edit it before publishing.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some stations that have fantastic radio, podcast, digital video, and social media strategies. Others excel at live events.

But many — you could argue too many — are resting on their laurels, taking a “this is good enough,” approach to the format and its content, and hoping that nothing ever changes.

The problem is the world changes every single day. And if you don’t keep up, you’ll be left behind. If the biggest and best stations in the industry fall behind, the entire format falls behind. And I don’t want to see that happen.

If you don’t have a digital video strategy in 2024, I have one quick question: Why not? I was a Program Director in market #228, and we had a digital video strategy.

If you don’t have a podcast strategy in 2024 that’s better than “just put up the entire show from today”, I have one quick question: Why not?

“Why not?” is likely the question Jim Rome asked when he was presented with the opportunity to move his show from the safe haven that was CBS Sports Network and bring it to a wider, younger, and more accessible audience on social media. Now, was it a risk? Absolutely.

But that’s the point. Be willing to take the chance. Be willing to try something different. Experiment. Learn. I can empathize with those who are frozen by the fear of failing. It’s a completely valid worry. But not growing, not chasing every revenue and content avenue possible, and not learning something new is a bigger risk, in my book.

I’m not here to suggest you take an ax to everything you’ve done on your show, your station, or your cluster, but I will strongly advocate for expanding your horizons and attempting to meet your audience wherever they may be. And even if that audience might be in places you’re unfamiliar with, familiarize yourself. Do I get the impression Jim Rome was super familiar with live video streams on X before taking his show there? No. But he was willing to take a chance, knowing that it might benefit in the long run.

I hope you operate in the same spirit.

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