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John Martin Is Young And Putting In The Work

“I talk to a lot of people in this industry that say you almost have to leave for your perception to change. That’s not what I want and that’s not what’s going to happen”

Tyler McComas

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R-E-L-A-X. That’s what Aaron Rodgers told Packers fans back in 2014 during a weekly radio interview on ESPN Milwaukee after his team started the season with a 1-2 record. It was solid advice, seeing as Green Bay won its next four games before finishing the season at 12-4 and coming inches away from a trip to the Super Bowl. Though it’s simple advice, being told to R-E-L-A-X can sometimes be the best thing a person can hear. 

If John Martin of ESPN 92.9 in Memphis could go back in time, he would give his 26-year-old self that same advice. Though his time travel wouldn’t even take him back a full two years, being a young show host has thrown things his way he’s had to overcome and endure. Learning to relax and trust his talent may have been the best thing someone could have told him.

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Truth be told, it’s not easy being a young show host, Yes, you feel ahead of the curve in your career with having an early arrival in the host seat, which shouldn’t be undersold, but with that comes a whole lot of work for a much lower price than the other hosts at the station. You may work harder, heck, you may even think you’re the best in the building, but don’t expect that paycheck to add any zero’s at the end of it.

Being young in this business can mean being both stressed and frustrated at times, but ultimately, it’s your attitude that will dictate how well you handle those situations. Remember, what may seem as challenging and overwhelming today will only help in the long-term of your career. 

Martin’s beginning in sports radio wasn’t unlike many others that attempted to make the climb at a young age. For over three years at ESPN 92.9 he was the station’s utility man, serving as a producer, fill-in host and anything else that was needed around the building. 

“I wasn’t getting paid to fill-in,” said Martin. “It was just like, hey, Gary Parrish is going to be out these days and you’re filling in. There were days where I would host three shows. It was so stressful. But in a way I realized doing it made me indispensable. I came to the realization that this was the way I position myself for the next host opening.”

It turns out that Martin was right. The lifelong Memphian showed he was both talented and dependable behind the mic, with a real authenticity on the air that the locals demand. But at that point, he still wasn’t a show host. Though it can be hard for a young broadcaster to realize not everything comes at once, Martin was still left wondering if fill-in work was all his career was ever going to amount to. 

“A lot of times when you’re young in this business, you start out as something other than what you want to be,” Martin said. “I was a producer and didn’t want to be a board operator. I wasn’t just that, but that’s what my role was. I did a show on Saturday mornings with chiropractors, which was a paid show called ‘Back Talk’. It was only an hour but it felt like it lasted an eternity. I wasn’t as professional as I probably should have been about it, I was 22 or 23 thinking, man, is this really what my career is?”

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Okay, nobody aspires to be on the air with a chiropractor talking about back pain. But if it’s your only opportunity behind the mic, you better make sure it’s the best radio show that talks about backs in the entire country. Think about it, if you can somehow make a show like that sound entertaining, a GM or a PD is going to want to find out really quick what else you can do behind the mic. The point, is that you have to take the non-glamorous jobs and treat them like they’re the biggest thing on the station. 

Hard work and perseverance eventually paid off for Martin. At 26 years old, he was thrust into the role of full-time host. Though that’s a dream scenario for anyone that young in the business, the new gig came with excitement, but also some immediate challenges, due to who he was replacing. 

“There was a popular guy that was leaving the station at that time slot,” said Martin. You know how it goes, everybody becomes 10 times more popular when they leave. No matter what the numbers say or the ratings say, people just hate change. I was watching it all unfold on Twitter, all the backlash from that departure. Even though my goal was to be a show host, I didn’t want to touch it. It was toxic.

“You never want to be the guy that follows the guy. Initially, I didn’t want the gig. But I talked to a friend who said ‘you don’t know how often these opportunities come around’. I had a conversation with my program director and said ‘hey man I want to throw my name in the hat. He looked at me and said ‘I don’t think your dreams are going to come true’. He told me that in a very polite way, but I left that meeting thinking it just wasn’t my time.”

Two weeks later, Martin was walking into the studio for the first time as a show host. Call it fate or destiny, but the job he was told he didn’t have a great chance at was now his. Martin’s job title was now different, but his age wasn’t. He was still 26. 

Most young hosts in this position will believe they’re immediately thought of in a different way with management inside the station, just because they’ve been elevated. That’s not always the case. In fact, be prepared to continue to fight the battle of being looked at as your former self that was the young producer or even the unpaid intern.

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“When you start out as something other than what you really want to be in the same company I do think it can be difficult for your managers and your higher-ups to start viewing you any differently,” said Martin. “Even when you get elevated to being a show host, it’s hard for them to not look at you as the kid who’s just a producer and hosting Saturday morning shows.

“Unfortunately that’s a challenge and I think everyone in our situation has to deal with. I talk to a lot of people in this industry that say you almost have to leave for your perception to change. That’s not what I want and that’s not what’s going to happen, but I do think that that’s a challenge that young people face.”

I’m not telling you this realization can’t be frustrating, especially when all you want is to be viewed the same way as the other show hosts in the building. But it’s the nature of the business for young people in the business to pay their dues. Besides, that something that’s hard to control. What you can control is the work you put in to make sure you earn credibility from the listener. 

“My main objective was to establish credibility,” said Martin. “A lot of that is through my reporting and I think I’ve proven that specifically with University of Memphis basketball. I really think that’s the only way you can combat it. I think it can be tougher for a young person if they’re just a talking head. I think establishing credibility is so important.”

This isn’t made to be a doom and gloom piece, its intent is to shed light on some of the challenges the young broadcaster will encounter. You should celebrate the fact you’re young and have a show. That’s awesome. Sure, at times it’s tough, but nothing that’s worthwhile is easy. Buckle your chin strap, keep at it and be the hardest worker in the building. Sweat equity is how you change your perception. 

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“For me it was about proving my managers were right for giving me the job,” said Martin. “It was about proving that life can go on after a popular show leaves. When your name is on the show it’s your livelihood. I view it as every day I’m fighting for my livelihood. That’s a mentality that I apply, especially booking guests. I’m not a producer but I work like one. I came from that so I know what a producer’s job is. So yeah I definitely have a chip on my shoulder and I still have one to this day. I think the minute you stop approaching your job that way is the minute you’ll start to fail. It’s a daily grind and you don’t last in this business by being complacent.”

To the young show host out there that’s trying to make their mark in the industry, just trust yourself. There’s a reason you were hired to the position you’re in. Though you may be presented with frustrating circumstances, NEVER let them affect your relationships with your co-workers, PD, sales staff or owners of the station. Trust yourself, your abilities and your show prep. If you can accomplish those three things, you’ll eventually find both success and respect. And remember…

R-E-L-A-X.

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“You can’t make it all happen in one week,” said Martin. “I put an unbelievable amount of pressure on myself. I would go back and say, look, man, work hard, be yourself, and do what you do. It’s all going to be just fine. Luckily that’s exactly what happened.”

BSM Writers

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.”

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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”.

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BSM Writers

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.

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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.

It stinks.

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.

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BSM Writers

What Are The Right Social Media Answers For Sports Radio?

“What are the limits of social media for radio brands? Are there any?”

Demetri Ravanos

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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.

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