If FALCon and the relationship Morning Men has with its listeners can be summed up in 3,000 words, this would be it.
Every weekday, from 6 – 10am ET on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio, Evan Cohen and Mike Babchik provide listeners with a sports talk radio show growing in popularity and an entertainment value that goes beyond sports. Morning Men is nothing like the show Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo creates in the afternoon, it’s probably nothing like a show Russo would have picked to listen to.
When Steve Phillips left the channel’s morning show for MLB Radio five years ago, the decision could have been made to fill the void with someone who can continue the classic sports talk model. Instead, producer, Mike Babchik went from being a third voice and sidekick, to the star of the show.
While many incumbent radio hosts wouldn’t be comfortable allowing a drastic change to the scope of their show, Evan Cohen became part of the transition and let Morning Men take on a life of its own. In doing so, the show also took on the personality of Babchik, even drawing out a side of Evan he didn’t know he had.
That’s what Morning Men is. It uses sports talk as an avenue for people to be open, to share vulnerabilities and laugh at the things maybe you’re not supposed to laugh at. The show will test limits, even during their live broadcast. Playing beer pong in a speedo, the “Babkini” and a beer chugging contest all while “Larry Long Balls” and “The Sheriff” are in town, isn’t something most radio stations push in the year 2019.
The fans and listeners embrace everything about Morning Men in a way that few national shows achieve. If you’re a first time listener, you want to learn the inside lingo and what it means to be a “FAL.” If you’re a longtime listener, you want to hear every minute so you don’t miss out on something that could be discussed at FALCon 5 next year.
So much emphasis in radio is put on ratings, subscribers and streaming numbers, but maybe witnessing a raucously supportive crowd travel the country to attend a party should also be considered a measurement of success.
FALCon 4 was my first Morning Men event, but it wasn’t my first time watching a radio show conduct a remote broadcast. My expectations were that of watching a normal two-hour live broadcast, but FALCon is less about seeing the show and more about the fans and listeners celebrating being part of the show.
At the end of their two-hour broadcast during FALCon, I was able to speak to Evan, Babchik and Steve Torre about the event. First up was Mad Dog Radio’s longest tenured morning host, Evan Cohen.
BC: It’s really amazing that you have this feeling that surrounds a national show, that you’ve built this community that wants to get together, travels to get here. Everyone knows the inside jokes and they gather to talk about it and create friendships over it.
Evan Cohen: Yeah and we appreciate it. Give credit to our bosses, Steve Cohen and Steve Torre for allowing us to do this because we knew we couldn’t be the regular sports show and really stand out. We had to be different and our way of being different is trying to be even more inclusive of the fans and making them the show. One of the sales people from Sirius came to this last year and said it feels like you’ve done national, local and I thought that was a great way of putting it.
BC: You were on this show doing more traditional sports talk when it was you and Steve Phillips. How has the transition been in getting to where the show is now?
Evan Cohen: This show is all of our shows, but it reflects Babchik’s personality more than anything and maybe a side of mine and Andrew’s personality that we didn’t know we had until Babchik brought it out of us.
BC: Was there any concern about Bachik going from producer to full-time co-host, knowing how different he was going to make the show?
Evan Cohen: No, this is what we wanted because he’s the kind of guy that will say and do anything that others won’t, but also will say the things you’re thinking and he actually says them out loud and it’s not a shtick, it’s who he really is. The internal support is amazing, the fact that everyone from SiriusXM is here is great.
BC: Having management here to play beer pong with Babchik and watch him dancing around in a speedo is definitely a different kind of support.
Evan Cohen: It’s something I didn’t initially expect, but winning over our own team was so important and understanding that this is different from what a national sports show is supposed to be, but that’s what we needed it to be. The best part about this, if I’m going to say one single thing about this event, is all of the people you just saw, come here to see each other. This show has created a family for our listeners to be together with each other which is a wonderful thing for us.
BC: Does this event fire you up and motivate you when you see the turnout and feel this energy?
Evan Cohen: It’s unbelievable, honestly. Every year I can confidently say we have more people and I think that will continue next year. Hopefully they give us another one, but we will have more people again. I also give Dog a lot of credit for this because we’ve discussed it and he doesn’t want to come here and steal our thunder. But we’ve been saying, number five he has to come. Our fans, FALs and us, we’ve made it and now we can bring him into it.
BC: How about the support the show gets from Chris Russo specifically? There’s a lot of back and forth between the shows – you guys make fun of him a lot – it’s something maybe not every super star radio host would be okay with.
Evan Cohen: Amazing. This morning, he calls me to wish me luck, sends me motivational texts and then records all the ins and outs for the show. We want him to be a part of our show. The biggest thing that ever happened to us was him realizing he actually enjoys us making fun of him. His wife, who is wonderful, she loves it too and she’s even given us material for it, but that’s just the kind of guy he is.
BC: Did Russo’s motivational texts inspire you to want to talk about baseball for two hours today?
Evan Cohen: No, they made me want to read them on-air and make fun of him, [Laughs] because that’s what he would want, but it means something when you have this person that I grew up idolizing and still do, cares as much as he does.
BC: And he cares about this show and event which is so far and away different from anything he’s done, but he recognizes it’s working and creating its own following and sees that as something beneficial to the channel.
Evan Cohen: Absolutely, and that’s important for us because without his support, I don’t know that we could do this. It’s also Steve Torre, Steve Cohen, Danny Kanell, the support is amazing and everyone in this room is friends with each other now, which is crazy because how could they even know each other? This show brings people together and they’re friends for life. It’s amazing.
It wasn’t hard for me to spot Babchik in the middle of the room, standing on a table, donning a speedo still 30 minutes after the show ended, but getting him away from the crowd to ask him a few questions was the more difficult task.
BC: You’re obviously a shy person, were you nervous in front of everyone today?
Mike Babchik: No, you get this strange calmness that takes over you. [Laughs] Maybe it’s being in a room full of people that love you. When you have all these people that fly in and love the show, they love Evan and Babs, you feel like you can do anything. I don’t know if I would get naked and wear a speedo in front of people that weren’t fans.
BC: You lost the beer chugging contest to Kanell today, but you did beat Joey Chestnut in a matzah eating contest not too long ago, which was more important to you?
Mike Babchik: The win! Forget the loss! I drank too much last night so it tainted this beer chugging thing, but Joey Chestnut legitimately lost to me. Without a doubt, I won. I crushed him! I picked the right thing and ate more matzah than he could. It’s one of the greatest achievements of my life.
BC: How awesome is it to have this crowd, as a national show to bring all these people together from all over the country into this bar and have them as fired up to be part of the show and talk about the show as they are?
Mike Babchik: That’s what it’s all about. It really is a community of fans and listeners, it’s more about their friendships. They want to get together and they do it through this show. Now people have friends all over the country, it’s crazy to think that someone from New York can now have a friend in Wyoming, but because of this show we’re able to bring a lot of people together.
BC: There are people that actually met here today for the first time, but they share inside jokes and their favorite segments and that’s the beauty of radio, that it can bring people together like this and fans become not only a consumer of the show, but they’re actually part of the show.
Mike Babchik: It’s incredible, the show just took over. It was organic and people felt comfortable enough with their own vulnerabilities to make it work. They get together and communicate with each other through the show and on social media and to have an event so they can all meet is just a great thing.
BC: You started out as a producer on a normal sports talk show, now, not only are you the co-host, but the show has taken on your personality and transitioned from a traditional sports talk show to what it is now.
Mike Babchik: The evolution is amazing. I got lucky, but give so much credit to Steve Cohen, to Steve Torre and to Evan who really had a vision for this. It’s a different type of show. Not a lot of people thought it would take off, but the bosses had faith, Evan had faith. That’s what it’s all about and here we are a couple years later, filling places up in New York City.
Lastly, the program director, midday host and Mad Dog Radio originator, Steve Torre gave a few thoughts on the channel’s morning show and FALCon 4
BC: For a national show to have this type of turnout at an event like this on a random Saturday, people have traveled from all over the country – Syracuse, Maryland, Texas, California even Canada – fans are flying in to turn this two hour broadcast into a vacation, it’s unprecedented.
Steve Torre: I’m 55 years old, I’ve been in radio for a long time, NY radio for 20 years and I attended various events for the station and the parent company and we would have big numbers, people would have a connection to the talent – but it’s mind-boggling to me that we have the amount of people that we do here, traveling on their own dime and flying in from various parts of the country.
I was talking to someone who flew in from Wyoming and took two flights to get here and it kind of hits home that we have that type of connection with the audience. That they’re putting in that much time and effort to get here for a two hour event – it blows my mind, but it’s a sense of satisfaction that we’ve achieved something that’s rare, where it’s a national show, but it has a local feel.
BC: Three hundred people at a bar in New York isn’t that crazy, but no one is here by accident, every single person here knows the inside jokes and can share their favorite segments with the person next to them and that’s what Stern was so great at building with a national show. Building a community of listeners that couldn’t afford to miss a show because they didn’t want to lose out on an inside joke. And if they didn’t know about something, it’s even more important to listen so they can figure out what they’re not in on.
Steve Torre: Sometimes from a national perspective for programming, if you’re listening to the show for the first time and you’re not really aware of the inside jokes, you’re wondering how you can draw in another audience.
If somebody is listening for the first time at 7:30 on a Thursday morning and they’re wondering, ‘what’s a FAL?’ you’re hoping through the strength of the content that they’ll stick around to learn. They’ve developed ‘Morning Men tell a friend’ which has grown the audience, but you worry that there are too many inside things for a new audience. But with the numbers today and the connections you see they have with people, it makes you realize that’s not the case because this event keeps growing.
BC: How about Babchik stepping in a few years ago from being the producer, and give Evan credit, because the show is totally different from when he started, but he allowed it to take on the personality of Babchik.
Steve Torre: When Chris Russo and I first started developing this channel, we had a blueprint of what works for talk radio and not that it was horrendous, but we had to make mistakes to really figure out what works. With this show particularly, it took us a longer time to find our groove and establish ourselves. When you’re doing something nationally, where your parent company already has ESPN, Fox Sports and several sports entities, you want to do something different to catch the listeners ear, and Evan had the wherewithal to understand how important Mike’s contribution was.
Just talking to Mike off the air, I could tell he had an ear for what was relatable to people. He’s the everyday guy and he follows sports, but why does he need to be an expert? He’s like your buddy you’re talking to at the bar or on the phone. We realized Mike’s just a regular guy, he might not be an expert X’s and O’s wise, but he knows sports and can relate to people.
BC: It’s more about entertainment than knowing baseball analytics.
Steve Torre: Entertainment, personality and there is room for X’s and O’s and following an important story. Not to bring anything negative into this, but we served a purpose during the Jerry Sandusky scandal and we were able to have some levity. I would describe this show as entertaining and being relatable to people. You can see the connection these people have with the show and it’s satisfying to see the type of impact it’s made.
BC: How about Russo supporting the show and his willingness to allow Mike and Evan to make fun of him as much as they do, but still seeing it as a benefit for the show and station?
Steve Torre: It’s a great point and it speaks to him about how comfortable he is that he can just sit back and take a beating because he does. Probably 50, 60 percent of what they play back for entertainment value is a result of what we call ‘Dog-isms’ – some of his faux pas, mispronunciations and botching of the English language. They’re exposing him and making him look like what some people would perceive as a complete fool, but he embraces it because he knows he’s Doggie.
He’s reached a certain status. I don’t know if he would’ve done this 20 years ago, but trust me when I tell you, on and off the air, he supports them. They wouldn’t do it if they didn’t know that. They know he supports what they do and it makes them comfortable that he’s not going to get defensive or be offended. There are times that they come to me with a bit and ask if I think Russo’s going to be okay with it. We’ll run it by him and every time he says, ‘of course, what are you kidding?’ That’s a very important part of it.
BC: And it’s great to have that cross-promotion between shows on the channel.
Steve Torre: I’ve been trying to go around and talk to a lot of people here to show appreciation and most of them tell me what they love so much is the fact that we have a great connection and the shows all crossover. My partner Danny Kanell is here today, Dog isn’t here, but it’s because he doesn’t want to take away from their day. Even though Mike and Evan are immensely popular and people are here for them, if Dog walks in, it steers some attention away and he genuinely doesn’t want to do that to them.
Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
Chris Broussard Is No Longer Just A ‘Basketball Guy’
“There’s no doubt that gets attached to you and that can be good because you’re seen as an ‘expert’ in one sport which is great.”
After embarking on a career in sports, Chris Broussard made a name for himself as a writer, specifically as it pertains to covering the NBA. Whether it was covering the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, covering the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets for The New York Times, or doing television hits for ESPN, Broussard had always, whether it was justified or not, been pigeon-holed as a “basketball guy”.
That was the perception then, but today, the reality is different.
“There’s no doubt that gets attached to you and that can be good because you’re seen as an ‘expert’ in one sport which is great,” said Broussard, the co-host of First Things First on FS1 and the co-host of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio.
“But what was good for me was that at ESPN, I had done First Take with Skip Bayless a lot. There were a few years where it was a rotation and I was in that rotation. That enabled me to at least do the other sports.”
Broussard has certainly made a seamless transition from print to electronic media.
After joining The New York Times in 1998, Broussard started to get television exposure doing local hits and then appearances on the various ESPN platforms would soon follow. He joined ESPN full-time in 2004 as a writer for ESPN The Magazine, but that also included regular guest appearances and fill-in hosting opportunities on shows like First Take and the opportunity to be a co-host for NBA Countdown for the 2010-11 season.
With that gig came the opportunity to work with Michael Wilbon, Jon Barry, and his childhood hero Magic Johnson.
“I think that may be have been the pinnacle because Magic is Magic,” said Broussard. “He was my favorite player until Jordan came along and (with Wilbon and Barry), we just had great chemistry.”
After one season, Broussard and Barry were replaced by Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose. A few years later, Broussard would make the move that would bring him to the next chapter of his career.
In 2016, Broussard left what amounted to being just a reporters role at ESPN for a new opportunity at FS1 where he would also be an analyst as well as a regular panelist for shows like Undisputed, The Herd with Colin Cowherd, First Things First and Lock It In. In 2018, he began co-hosting The Odd Couple radio show with Rob Parker on FOX Sports Radio.
And then in August of 2021, Broussard was named the full-time co-host of First Things First, something that almost had happened when the network first launched.
“When they asked me to come on as a full-time co-host, it was great and maybe a long time coming,” said Broussard. “I know when Jamie Horowitz first brought all the people over from ESPN to be on FS1 in 2016, he was considering doing a show where Nick Wright and I were the co-hosts.”
Broussard now co-hosts the show with Wright and Kevin Wildes.
“I thought that I really just fit right in with the chemistry and it’s just been a great trio,” said Broussard.
Born in Baton Rouge, Broussard and his family also lived in Cincinnati, Indiana, Syracuse, Iowa, and Cleveland. He was a star football and basketball player for Holy Name High School in Parma Heights, Ohio and went on to play basketball for Oberlin College, an NCAA Division III school in Ohio.
Believe it or not, his first love was not basketball.
“My favorite sport growing up was football,” said Broussard. “I played football through high school. I played basketball at Oberlin College but they recruited for me football and basketball. I even played baseball up until I was about 16 years old.”
So much for being just a basketball guy, right?
After college, Broussard had a decision to make. He knew he wanted to be a sports reporter but wasn’t sure if it was going to be print or electronic media. When he was an intern at The Indianapolis Star, he spoke to people in the know about which direction to go.
“I was told that it’s just easier and there are more spots in print journalism than there are in television and radio,” said Broussard. “I chose print because I thought I had more opportunities.”
Broussard’s first taste of covering pro sports was in 1995 at the Akron Beacon Journal when he was a backup writer covering the Cleveland Indians who would go to the World Series for the first time since 1954. Then came covering the Cavaliers for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and then it was off to New York and a bit of culture shock for Broussard.
During his 2 ½ years covering the Cavaliers, Broussard typically wore a rugby shirt, jeans and sneakers at games. But he noticed that when the Knicks and Nets would come to Cleveland or when Broussard travelled to New York and New Jersey when the Cavaliers visited the Knicks and Nets, that the New York writers would typically wear suits and ties when covering the games.
So, when he interviewed for the job with The New York Times, Broussard had an important question for his future editor.
“I asked him when I was being interviewed for the job do they require that your writers dress up,” said Broussard. “He said no but they do generally in New York because they know television opportunities are there. So, when I started working at The New York Times, I started dressing up wearing a suit and tie or sportscoat and tie whenever I would cover games. Ultimately that led to television.”
And the rest is history.
This coming week, Broussard will be busy co-hosting his shows from the Super Bowl in Arizona. It’s one thing to host a radio show or a television show from a studio but it’s really something special to do it from a live event, especially on the giant stage of the Super Bowl.
And this week, Broussard will be center stage in front of a lot of ears and eyeballs.
“It’s always great,” said Broussard. “FOX Sports Radio always has one of the biggest and best platforms on radio row. It’s always fun when you’re doing these live shows at the big events and you’ve got an audience, it really can kind of bring out the best in you. I’m excited about it both for TV and radio.”
Chris Broussard has certainly come a long way in his career in sports.
From his days as an athlete in high school in college to getting his start as a write to a transformation into a radio and television personality, Broussard has worked hard to get to where he is today.
“I haven’t written a word since I went to Fox,” said Broussard. “I do feel fortunate that I’ve been able from morph from a writer into TV and radio. What you want to do in this business is stay relevant and you want an audience and a platform. There’s not that many people who get that opportunity to do it.”
He’s no longer just a “basketball guy”. He’s a “sports guy”.
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.
Radio Row Is One of Sports Radio’s Worst Weeks
Radio Row is a great opportunity for hosts, PDs, and executives. But it isn’t an inherently great opportunity for your listeners.
From strictly a listener’s perspective, sports radio the week of Super Bowl’s Radio Row is one of the worst weeks.
Before I was a sports radio programmer, I was a sports radio listener. And while I didn’t realize it at the time, I was listening to sports radio with a programmer’s mindset. And every year, I would spend the entire week listening to shows produced live — or pretending to be live — from Radio Row at the Super Bowl. And each year, I would wonder “What the hell is the point of this?”
And now, as a former sports radio programmer, I will sit this week and listen to shows produced live — or pretending to be live — from Radio Row at the Super Bowl. And each day, I will wonder “What the hell is the point of this?”
Who does it serve? Let’s take an in-depth look at that question.
It serves the NFL. Hundreds of media professionals are stationed at its largest event, talking about it, ensuring it stays at the forefront of the public consciousness and providing millions in value for its sponsors.
It serves NFL players. Both past and present. Dozens of current and former stars will flock to Radio Row to record dozens of interviews. They’ll be paid thousands of dollars to pitch their wares as often as possible while expanding their brands outside the cities in which they currently or formerly played.
It serves the sponsors of NFL players. Radio Row provides a one-stop-shop for sponsors to send their endorsers down a line of interviews to continually get in front of new audiences. Scale, baby!
It serves the hosts, PDs, and executives. You get a working vacation! It’s awesome! I live in the Midwest, and yesterday was one of a handful of days I’ve seen the sun since November. Being in Arizona in early February is phenomenal! Plus, you get to hob knob with celebrities, get your photos taken, go to awesome parties with extravagant hor dourves and open bars, and it’s fantastic. You deserve the little break Radio Row provides; better yet, it’s all on the company dime. You get some bonding with your co-workers, you get to network, and it really is an awesome opportunity.
But you know who isn’t served? Your listeners. At least, the vast majority of them. Because here’s the reality: While it’s really cool that you’re hanging out with other radio folks, and you’ll have a plethora of former and current players swinging by for interviews, your listeners really don’t care. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s the truth. While there’s a subset of listeners who are living vicariously through you — and that can’t be completely shortchanged, it’s a big deal — the overwhelming majority couldn’t be less invested in your Radio Row interviews.
Think of it from a listener’s viewpoint: Outside of the Bay Area, do you think anyone has thought “Man, I wonder who Kyle Juszczyk thinks is gonna win the Super Bowl?” I’ll tell you that, no, they haven’t thought that, and they don’t particularly care what he thinks. Furthermore, they definitely don’t care that he’s sponsored by Old Spice, which gives him the P-P-P-Power!™
And it would be fine if there was one interview here or there, but there are some shows — both local and national — that will completely fill out their rundowns with interviews with people your listeners don’t especially care about, ask questions that your listeners don’t especially care about, and end the interview by asking who they think wins Sunday, why they think that way, and allow them to pitch their boner pills or whatever else they’re schlepping. Every day. For five straight days. For two, three, four, or even five hours.
Self-serving isn’t bad as long as you recognize it’s self-serving. And that could be potentially the biggest issue. Now and then, you’ll get a host that is sanctimonious and pretends they’re doing the listener a favor by spending a week away from their family in a warm weather destination, rubbing elbows with some of the greatest players — both past and present — in the game. You’re not. You’re spending a week eating all the free food you can find, drinking all the free beer you can find, and taking pictures to post on your Instagram. And that’s fine, but don’t pretend like it’s something it isn’t. You can talk yourself into its importance, but it’s important to you.
Radio Row is a great opportunity for hosts, PDs, and executives. But it isn’t an inherently great opportunity for your listeners. You can turn it into one with thoughtful questions, a unique spin on the traditional interview, or avoiding the same boring questions your subject has been asked 1,000 times during the day, but you’ve gotta go the extra mile to accomplish that. And I hope that’s not something you lose sight of this week.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Are The Right Social Media Answers For Sports Radio?
“What are the limits of social media for radio brands? Are there any?”
Social media does not stand still. The platforms that matter today can fall out of favor with the general public in the blink of an eye. Conversely, the right feature or attention from the right people can catapult a site’s importance in the social pecking order.
How does a radio company determine what matters? Are all formats received similarly on social media or is sports radio such a unique animal that brands have to be much more deliberate in how resources are allocated? To answer these questions, I turned to some experts.
Tom Izzo doesn’t exclude any platform when he is plotting WFAN’s social strategy. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter may each attract a different type of sports fan, but they all matter in building and serving the larger audience.
“There is sports radio audience on every social media platform, you just have to talk to them differently depending where you are,” he told me. “The language and audience on Twitter is different than the language and audience on Facebook, but there is audience everywhere.”
Audience is everywhere. That’s what is at the heart of the conundrum. How do you best utilize your assets in a landscape that isn’t just constantly changing? It’s also constantly growing!
Lori Lewis has overseen social media strategy at an executive level for Cumulus, Westwood One, Jacobs Media and iHeart among others. Now she coaches companies on creating great content with her own company, Lori Lewis Media.
She told me that the key for not just sports stations, but for any brand, is understanding what their audience prioritizes. That doesn’t mean it should be the brand’s only focus though.
“Obviously, for sports radio, it’s Twitter. But don’t sleep on short-form vertical video,” she said in an email. “When done right, you’ll see success (meaning converting views into new fans) with YouTube Shorts and/or Instagram Reels as well as playback videos on Facebook (those are visual replays from the audio show).”
Converting views into new fans was taken to a bit of an extreme in Nashville. 104.5 The Zone launched Zone TV in 2021. Will Boling took the lead in creating the product. He says that launching a proprietary video stream was never about moving away from other social platforms. It was about giving listeners more access to better content in more places.
“Our video platform affects a lot of our social strategy,” he said. “On Twitter, we don’t want to just be seen as a radio station, but as a media company. Our Twitter stream allows us to react to breaking news while also sharing our broadcast at the same time. And with Twitch’s video producer, we can create featured clips from shows whenever we want. That allows us to push video out of featured guests, funny callers and anything in between to promote our podcasts from each show too.”
Video matters so much more than ever before. It does not matter who you talk to or what platform it is you are talking about. The answer always comes back to using video to attract more eyeballs.
TikTok, our most controversial social video platform, is trying to figure out what its reach could be without the visuals. Last month the company announced that it would experiment with its version of podcasts – a mode on the app that would allow users to experience TikTok content as audio-only entertainment.
I asked all three of my experts what their initial impression of the story is. Only Izzo expressed reservations.
“Probably no need for us to be first anywhere if there isn’t any particular benefit to doing that,” he said. “We’ll watch and see what happens and if it turns out that people like consuming podcasts on TikTok we will certainly address that.”
That doesn’t mean WFAN hosts and bosses won’t keep a keen eye on the feature. I would anticipate that there may be some experimental posts that either don’t receive much of a push or perhaps never see the light of day at all.
Boling is adamant that any use of TikTok is a wise one for stations. He says anything set up with an algorithm that rewards creators for posting content the audience connects with is an asset that cannot be ignored.
“We use social media to push listeners to our YouTube channel because it’s an algorithm based platform. If we get someone to click on our page once, then our channel will get recommended to them the next time they get on YouTube. TikTok helps radio companies accomplish that and own every space in the digital market right now.”
Unsurprisingly, it’s Lori Lewis that approaches the feature in the most scientific way. Do TikTok podcasts represent a sort of new frontier for audio brands? Sure, but just like Grogu and the Mandalorian, you have to go there and poke around before you can figure out how it will work best for you.
“If TikTok expands to audio, how might you complement the mothership (The FM/AM stick) and build on the trust you’ve earned from your show? What’s a unique way to tap into new features? As social media evolves, so should our approach.”
What are the limits of social media for radio brands? Are there any? Since the onset of the pandemic, so much listening has shifted from terrestrial signals to digital streams. We have totally rethought what we are. Why should it stop with how our audience consumes our content?
I asked Lewis if we are too narrow in thinking about how social media can serve us. Are we so focused on what is that we have not considered what could be? Can a brand have one identity on air and use social media to create something that does not mirror it, but instead compliments it?
“Depends on why you’re using social media,” she answered. “If you’re leveraging social media for increased awareness and building trust to drive more engagement during your show, it might not make sense to be different on social than on-air. But, if you’re a vanilla brand limited to creativity on-air, why not? Throw yourself out there. Show your real, relatable self (assuming it’s legal and appropriate, ha-ha). Relatability wins every time.”
Do we have to be deliberate in sports radio with how we allocate our social media resources? Yes, but that doesn’t mean there is a single correct answer.
Strategy matters on air. It’s no different on social media. But in order to figure out the best strategy, you have to be open-minded and eager to play around with new offerings to determine what works.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.