Axl Rose, back in the jungle, is selling t-shirts for charity these days. “LIVE N’ LET DIE WITH COVID 45,’’ goes the message, which has nothing to do with a Guns N’ Roses remake of a James Bond-inspired movie tune and everything to do with the rowdy singer’s damning political platform: He blames the 45th U.S. president, Donald Trump, for a pandemic that soon will kill its 100,000th American.
Live and let die. Wealth over health. Economy over mortality. Such are the oblivious, hellbent mantras of a country that, in ample swaths, doesn’t care about the ongoing death toll as long as some semblance of normalcy returns — and physical distancing restrictions can be flouted by creepy COVID-iots in crowded swimming pools. There is little regard for human life and a mind-numbing absence of responsible thinking, as Rose notes. Hence, his rock band, citing “an abundance of caution,’’ postponed its North American and European tours in lockstep with a wary music and theater industry, which sees no sense in hosting live performances before 2021 — particularly if fresh coronavirus tidal waves are preparing to assault the planet.
I wish the same medical logic was being used by the $200-billion U.S. sports industry. But trumpeting a need to heal the national condition and psyche — translatIon: a desperate pack of wealthy titans unaccustomed to financial bloodletting are trying to recoup billions — the NBA and Major League Baseball are ready to live and let die themselves this summer. By that, I mean exactly how it sounds: Athletes, coaches and support staff will not be safe within various capsules of quarantine, regardless of self-serving assurances about advanced diagnostic testing and airtight daily protocols, assuming the leagues do execute their mad rush to resume live games. With no magical vaccine or mass immunity blanket in sight, even commissioners have been forced to acknowledge the health dangers and say they expect a number of in-season positive tests, increasing the risk of infectious breakouts and spread within the isolated frameworks and in greater communities beyond.
“Nothing is risk-free in this undertaking,’’ MLB boss Rob Manfred said.
“No decision we make will be risk-free,” NBA boss Adam Silver said in a teleconference with players, per the New York Times. “We’re going to be living with this virus for the foreseeable future.”
And you know what that means, given the potentially lethal impact of any COVID-19 trigger effect. People might die.
If anyone cares.
In the parlance missed by so many deprived fans, all of this feels like a hurry-up, no-huddle offense when sports should be in the ultimate prevent defense. The prudent, level-headed route would be a complete shutdown of the industry, NFL and college football included, until next year. Sports will have more answers then about the development and distribution of a vaccine and fewer worries about the bad optics of depleting the national testing supply, still very much a concern for extreme virus hotspots. Think I’m overstating a coronavirus death wish? Here’s what Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, told the Washington Post about the premature scramble to come back before the virus wants sports to come back.
“I think you’d end up with a lot of infected players and other personnel. If it isn’t done right, not only would people get sick and potentially die, but it would shut down the season,’’ Zuckerman said. “I don’t see a way around it. It would be a miracle if … it didn’t end up infecting people.’’
But the NBA marches on anyway, hopefully avoiding a Mickey Mouse setback as it explores a single-site proposal within ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World. The plan is to use three arenas and several luxury hotels on a “campus’’ where players will live, practice and resume competition in late July. As I’ve written, basketball is among the activities most vulnerable to an outbreak — players literally are dripping sweat on each other in an indoor environment, with every play involving close-up physical contact and a ball touched by as many as 10 players and at least one referee, not to mention incessant chatter that will discharge speech droplets for more than two hours. Then you hear Jared Dudley, a Players Association representative with the title-contending Los Angeles Lakers, say the so-called quarantine bubble won’t be as restrictive and secure as the NBA has led us to believe.
“You will be allowed to leave,’’ said Dudley, who has been on key group calls with Silver and union executive director Michele Roberts. “Now just because you leave, if we’re going to give you that leeway, if you come back with corona, you can’t play.’’
You can’t play? What about: How many people inside the bubble might be victimized by the one infected doofus — or doofuses — who needed to play golf or visit an Orlando strip club? And if family members or players are part of the social experiment … yikes. This cannot be anything short of an absolute, isolated lockdown involving as few people as possible. And the players need to know going in, from LeBron James to the last guy on the Brooklyn Nets’ bench, that the quarantine could extend for months, depending on whether the league tries to retrieve lost broadcast revenues and finish the regular season (bad idea) or immediately start the playoffs. And am I hearing this correctly? In a league where at least 10 players have tested positive for COVID-19, including three who faced each other in that instructive Utah Jazz-Pistons game in Detroit, players still prefer the less-accurate saliva test to the uncomfortable, full nasal swab test.
They aren’t taking this seriously, are they? They don’t grasp that 35 percent of virus carriers are asymptomatic, according to CDC studies, with the global number of infections jumping by a million-plus over the last 2 1/2 weeks. The thought process among millennials and Gen Zers, the NBA’s player demographics, continues to boggle the mind: They’re too young, strong and healthy to fall victim. They miss the point like an airball misses the rim. If someone has the virus, where else is he spreading it? And how many others are contracting it?
At least the NBA will need only a fraction of the 200,000-plus tests required by MLB, kits that could be used by sick patients who urgently need them. Even with such a massive inventory, baseball’s plan is to test players and personnel just “several’’ times a week when the sport’s best player, Mike Trout, has said he doesn’t see the season happening without testing every day. The strategy is beyond risky when Manfred says only those who test positive will be quarantined, never mind the possibility that the infected person already has spread the virus to others. The ballgames must go on, you see, with MLB preferring travel to existing ballparks to the NBA’s bubble concept. As for standard recommendation by health officials that an infected person stay isolated for 14 days? Dr. Manfred says otherwise, requiring a player — or, closer to the truth, a superstar — to pass only two subsequent tests in a 24-hour period to resume play.
Then consider the stifling restrictions within the daily MLB protocol. Players can live without handshakes, high-fives and clubhouse buffets, I suppose. But being spaced at least six feet apart at all times, wearing masks everywhere but on the field? No sunflower seeds or smokeless tobacco, which can be vices for players more than treats? No showers on the premises, a flashback to Mom picking you up from Little League? Hand-washing after every half-inning and every time equipment is touched (which is constant in baseball)? No saunas, pools or chambers to ease injuries? If social distancing is a mandate, can a runner still slide into home plate or a base if an opponent is tagging him? Can you still hold a runner? Attempt pickoff plays?
And that’s just at the ballpark. On road trips, no one can eat or drink in public. Preferably, you do not leave your room, and please use the hotel stairs to avoid elevator buttons. No one is allowed in the room but family members, so tell the groupie to stay home. When returning to personal residences after a home game, everyone is urged to isolate and not go anywhere — for months. Would a prison sentence be much worse?
None of which will happen, of course, if the owners and players can’t agree on a financial resolution. Never mind that baseball, already beset by numerous existential issues and lagging interest, could be committing long-term suicide if the season is canceled over a money dispute amid a pandemic. Per The Athletic, the owners have moved off a demand to split revenues 50-50 with players for an abbreviated 82-game regular season, but that is merely a starting point when players are the ones taking the life-and-death health risks. The union is disgusted, understandably, that owners would wage a public-relations battle amid a pandemic, when 40 million jobless Americans might not grasp why players wouldn’t return to lucrative gigs. But if I’m a player with a wife and children at home, I am assessing the laundry list of risks and having grave doubts. And if I’m Trout or another megastar with a nine-figure contract — and Trout’s wife is expecting their first child in August, remember — I’m not going anywhere near a field. And if I’m a player with an underlying medical condition — or a mental health issue exacerbated by the pandemic — the answer is simple: No, the virus risk is not worth it.
Ask golfers Adam Scott and Lee Westwood, who aren’t satisfied with PGA Tour protocols and won’t be traveling to the U.S. for events. If golfers are nervous in a no-contact, distance-protected sport, basketball players should be petrified, right? I can just hear the blowhard fan who doesn’t have empathy and wants athletes to “man up’’ and play. Please, try to get a life at some point. The wife of Oakland Athletics pitcher Jake Diekman, whose issues have included colitis, already has clapped back at critics.
“(Resuming the season) should not be coming at my husband’s expense,’’ Amanda Diekman tweeted. “No offense, but I really don’t care that Bob from wherever is bored at home with no sports and it’d be `good for him’ to watch.’’
Hell, every pro and college athlete should worry about protocol after Dana White showed the sports world how not to test for the virus, making a debacle of procedures at UFC 249 and forcing more stringent guidelines for the next event in Las Vegas. Two swab tests will be required of each fighter before competition, followed by self-isolation until the scheduled bout. “During this time, no athletes or cornermen will be permitted to leave the Athlete Hotel without express prior approval from the Nevada State Athletic Commission,” states a UFC memo to the fighters. “You also should not have physical contact with anyone other than the members of your camp.”
I’d say the Nevada commission just bombed White with a head kick.
So why do the leagues ignore common sense and power on? Ask Pink Floyd, the Notorious B.I.G., the O’Jays, Dire Straits, Donna Summer, the Steve Miller Band, Wu-Tang Clan, Cyndi Lauper, Ludacris, Randy Newman, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, AC/DC, Puff Daddy and the Beatles — MONEY!!!! When billionaire owners and broadcast behemoths see a way to stop drowning, any pangs of guilt and irresponsibility fade quickly. The NBA would lose more than $1 billion if the remainder of the season is canceled; the same applies to the NHL, which is eyeing a 24-team postseason in Vegas and a second hub city. MLB would suffer a $4 billion shortfall if its season is ditched. The NFL, which absurdly thinks its season will proceed with bodies in the stands, will lose $5.5 billion in revenue for a season without fans, or $14 billion if canceled altogether. College football would lose $4 billion — and that sport is a mess, with traditional Southern powers such as Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Texas and Oklahoma prepared to march on without conference brethren. Ohio State is ready to do the same — in front of 50,000 fans if possible, says a hallucinating athletic director — as rival Michigan says it won’t play football at all if students aren’t on campus.
Meanwhile, in South Korea, sex dolls were placed in seats to make a soccer stadium seem less empty. If that isn’t a reminder of how far sports has strayed from normalcy, consider this jolt: The meatpacking plant that produces the legendary Dodger Stadium item, the Dodger Dog, was hit by an outbreak of 140 positive coronavirus tests among employees.
Not that sports addicts can’t find content to shoot into their veins: auto racing, UFC, professional bull riding, Mike Tyson in a wrestling ring — all without fans. None of it was half as fun as watching Tom Brady suck at golf in the Florida rain, playing so horribly that commentator/hopeless hacker Charles Barkley razzed him. Of course, Brady had a Hail Mary in him, holing out from from the fairway on No. 7 … as his microphone fell off. “Take a suck of that, Chuck,’’ Brady told Barkley, as a TV camera revealed Tompa Boy had split his pants. That was the coolest sports moment of our national shutdown, made better by the $20 million in virus relief raised by Brady, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in an entertaining dude-fest called: “The Match: Champions For Charity.’’
We continue to venture into the unknown, the frivolity of games diving blindly into the poisoned pandemic pool. But this much is certain: I’m tired of mishmash that posits sports as a spiritual salve, a symbol of American rebirth, such as this from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell: “America needs baseball. It’s a sign of getting back to normal.’’ And this from prominent sports agent Scott Boras in a New York Times op-ed: “Time and time again, baseball has helped our country heal.’’
A pandemic is not an earthquake in the Bay Area, a bombing in Boston or even 9/11 in New York. A pandemic is invisible.
And the ghost lurks, furtive and dark, ready to end seasons that never should have been played and lives that never should have been risked.
Jay Mariotti, called “the most impacting Chicago sportswriter of the past quarter-century,’’ writes a weekly media column for Barrett Sports Media and regular sports columns for Substack while appearing on some of the 1,678,498 podcasts in production today. He’s an accomplished columnist, TV panelist and radio talk host. Living in Los Angeles, he gravitated by osmosis to film projects. Compensation for this column is donated to the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust.
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.