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No One Wants To Work Or No One Wants To Work For You?

We don’t have to watch quality people turn to digital media or leave the business to sell real estate or open a bar and say “well, I guess nobody believes in radio anymore.”

Demetri Ravanos

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You have seen the stories popping up online. Every week some fast food franchisee posts a sign on their door or on their drive through speaker with a message to the effect that the establishment is short staffed because no one wants to work anymore. It’s hard to find people to squirt sour cream out of a caulk gun onto your Doritos Locos Taco for $8 per hour when they’re getting a sweet $300 per week from the government! Weird how all of these signs, which pop up at different businesses in different parts of the country, all have the exact same message written in the exact same font…but I digress.

Four different companies. Exact same wording. They must use the same  Anti-wage propaganda website. : antiwork

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the narrative being pushed is that it has to be the fault of lazy workers and not the fault of shitty employers that don’t offer higher wages or meaningful benefits. The fact is that people want to work, they just don’t see the point in working multiple minimum wage jobs just to get their nose above the poverty line. That’s a failure of the system, not individuals that are fed up.

When I was just starting in the business, I was told that you really had to love radio. This business would never make you rich. As I got older, I heard that was Clear Channel’s fault. Then I worked with people that had come from Clear Channel and I was told that it was fine there. Really it was Cumulus’s fault. Then I got to know folks at the Cumulus building across the street and heard from them that Entercom was the real problem in the industry. You get it. The road keeps winding just like this.

The reality is that regardless of company, the radio industry has the exact same problem as any other business struggling to find good people. From the outside looking in, the problem is obvious. When you’re in the forest though, it can be tough to see that the individual trees say things like “low pay” and “shitty benefits”.

About two weeks ago, Rob Taylor wrote about the overwhelming desire of young people to work in the sports media and the absolute lack of interest in radio from those exact same young people. If we want to understand why new talents aren’t interested in our business and why established talents keep leaving for different fields and platforms, we have to first acknowledge there is a problem and make an effort to understand what it is.

People of all ages don’t look at sports radio as a realistic career path in the media. Why? Because while there are plenty of people in the industry that are doing just fine, the majority of people working in radio will tell you that it offers no realistic path to a comfortable living. So, let’s see what we can do better.

First, let’s acknowledge the paycheck. Way too many positions in radio pay way too little. That is true in major markets. It is true in unrated markets. It is true of full-time positions. It is true of the positions that used to be full-time and are now filled by two part-timers.

How many producers have you worked with that are getting paid somewhere in there area of $10 per hour? How many of those producers have a strict cap of 29 hours per week? Where is the motivation to get better with those restrictions? There is absolutely no message from corporate that starting at the bottom is a path to eventually being at the top.

Clinging to the idea that this business will never make anyone rich is not working for us. I am not advocating that every single producer position start with a $60,000 per year base. What I am suggesting is that exploring an opportunity that clearly will require a candidate to have a roommate or live with their parents and maybe take on a second job just to scrape by isn’t really a recipe for finding diamonds. There may be a few, but really, you’re just gonna be stuck with a lot of rocks.

Producers aren’t the only ones that suffer from this. Do you know how many hosts I have talked to that have turned down jobs in bigger markets because they weren’t even being offered the same money they are currently making?

There are some companies in this business that do pay their people well for their work, and those companies can be hard to move on from, but that isn’t the norm. What is way more common is that corporate or management has determined that their afternoon drive opening is a $40,000 per year position and they have no money for moving expenses. The offers are presented as “take it or leave it”.

Is no one at the top stopping to think how much this severely limits the pond where they can fish for talent? Is no one thinking about the message this sends about the company to the rest of the industry and the way your next help wanted ad will be received? Let me answer that. The message is you don’t care about quality and no matter how good of a job an employee does, it isn’t valued.

That brings us to the next thing we need to acknowledge. It can be hard to feel valued in this business.

1,980 Unhappy Group Of Employees Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free  Images

How many of us started out as part-timers? How many of us got to the point where we demonstrated some level of competency and were told that we were so important to the station that the company was going to use us as often as possible, but that we would have to be cool with not being paid for our efforts?

Program directors, I need you to be honest with yourself here. How often have you told a part-time producer that you need him or her to work 40 hours this week but only write down that he/she worked 29? “I’ll hook you up with some gift cards” is usually how it is sold. KNOCK THAT OFF! JESUS CHRIST! You’re telling people that they need to be cool with a barter system, when employment law clearly states that isn’t how this thing works.

Stations all over America run syndicated programming except for in a single weekday day part. That’s not uncommon. It also isn’t uncommon for a station to have the host of that day part be the one and only full-time employee on the payroll.

No full-time producer. No program director. These stations just rely on a host with no real, reliable support staff and no one to tell them what is and isn’t working. How do we expect talented people to want to take on a job like that? How do we expect people that have talent and just need room to grow to see a future in a job like that?

Also, and I have written about this before, talent and programmers are not given the chance to work with people that are actually qualified. Someone who’s lone qualification is that they press buttons on the board during a minor league baseball game is turned into the morning show’s executive producer not because they showed any other competency. It is because we keep taking full-time jobs and turning them into part-time positions.

It’s not just producers. It is hosts too, and I am talking about hosts in weekday prime slots. It takes a lot to create a unique two, three, or four hour show and as an industry, we are telling the people we are trusting to do that that any effort they put into their show beyond the time they are in the studio is not valuable to us.

Finally, we need to acknowledge where we can do better and ask ourselves if we are giving every employee an opportunity to grow? Are we investing in our own success by investing in theirs?

How do you respond when an employee wants to talk about their career? Does the idea of them valuing their career over the company’s needs make you uncomfortable? Does it feel like that is something that is even okay to talk about?

Very few people get into sports talk radio because they want to be a producer forever. In fact, most only think about the possibility of becoming a producer when they realize that is the first step to becoming a host.

It can be scary to ask your boss what you need to do to get to the next level. Meeting that vulnerability with “You’re a producer. I need you to focus on that right now,” is a surefire way to kill any drive to get better and to do it in a way that could benefit the station.

What about working with hosts? Do programmers and GMs evaluate what they are hearing from a quality standpoint or does the evaluation stop with “is this making money”? A show that isn’t challenged to do more doesn’t help a station and it can lead to complacency. It can also lead to hosts wondering how much the people up top even care about or know what is going on on his or her show.

Employee growth also means helping to grow their own wealth. As a programmer, are you taking the time to get to know your people on a personal level so that you can go into sales meetings and say that you know your morning co-host loves his dog or cat. Let’s go get him an endorsement from a local animal hospital? Are you encouraging your talent to attend and advocate for themselves? As a sales manager, have you done the work to learn what all of the benchmarks on your station are so that you can help your staff explain to clients why each one is worth sponsoring?

Face-to-face meetings still preferable despite pandemic – Business Traveller

Nothing in this article is meant to dump on radio. I love this business. Everything I wrote about here is fixable. We don’t have to watch quality people turn to digital media or leave the business to sell real estate or open a bar and say “well, I guess nobody believes in radio anymore.”

Saying “no one wants to work anymore” is lazy and you know it is untrue. Asking “why does no one want to work for me?” or “why does no one have faith in this business?” forces you to come up with answers and take action. If you have a problem, that is how it gets solved.

BSM Writers

Marty Smith Loves The ‘Pinch Me’ Moments

“I don’t look at it as a talent-based platform. I don’t look at it as a results-based platform. I look at it as a platform that was built and sustained through the way I treat other people, through the work ethic that I believe that I have and through the passion that I know I have.”

Demetri Ravanos

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I tell this story all the time. It is told for laughs, but it is absolutely true. Marty Smith once gave me a giant box of beef jerky.

I was in Charlotte visiting him and Ryan McGee on the set of Marty & McGee as part of a larger feature I was doing on the SEC Network. We spent probably 3 hours together that day. It was a lot of fun. The last thing I watched the duo shoot was a promo for Old Trapper Beef Jerky, the presenting sponsor of their show.

As they finished, I shook their hands and told them I had to get on the road. That is when Smith presented me with a box of twelve bags of Old Trapper and told me, in as sincere a voice as you can imagine, that he wanted me to have it.

“I mean, listen, if you give a man beef jerky, by God, you like him,” Smith said to me when I reminded him of that story earlier this week. “That’s redneck currency right there, bud.”

There just aren’t a lot of people in this business like Marty Smith. ESPN definitely knows it too. That is why the network finds every opportunity it can to use him to tell the stories of the events and people it covers.

Last week, he spent Monday and Tuesday with the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens. He got a day back home in Charlotte before he headed to Atlanta for the SEC Network’s coverage of the SEC Championship Game on Thursday. Saturday, after his duties for SEC Nation and College GameDay were done, he hit the road for Tuscaloosa to interview Nick Saban and be ready for ESPN’s coverage of the reveal of the final College Football Playoff rankings.

As if that isn’t enough, this week he heads to New York. It will be the second time ESPN will use him to conduct interviews and tell stories during the telecast of the Heisman Trophy presentation. It’s an assignment that Marty Smith still cannot believe is his.

“I’ve had a ton of pinch-me moments, but in the last five, six years, seven years, there are two that kind of stand out above the rest. One was when Mike McQuaid asked me to be part of his team to cover The Masters. The other was last year when my dear longtime friend Kate Jackson, who is the coordinating producer over the Heisman broadcast, asked me to be a part of her Heisman broadcast team and interview the coaches, players and families of the finalists,” Smith says. “You know, brother, I’ve been watching the Heisman Trophy my whole life.”

We talk about what the broadcast around the Heisman Trophy presentation is and how it differs from being on the sideline for a game. He is quick to point out that on a game day, the old adage “brevity is king” is a reality. In New York though, he will have more time to work with. He plans not to just fill it, but to use it.

Marty’s interest in his subjects’ backgrounds and their emotions is sincere. It is part of a larger philosophy. He respects that everyone has a story to tell and appreciates the opportunity to be the one that gets to tell it, so he is going to do all he can to make sure the people he is talking to know it and know that they matter to him. That means putting in the time to be respectful of his subject’s time.

“When I’m interviewing these players or coaches before a game, I want to interview them, and I’m saying not on camera, but when I’m doing the record. I want to get as thorough as I can get. Then you take all of that and you try to pare it down into a very small window. It’s not easy. I mean, look, most of the time you come home with reams of notes that never even sniff air.”

Marty Smith has always been a unique presence. As his profile has grown and he shows up on TV more often and in more places, more people question who this guy really is.

That is par for the course though, right? Someone with a unique presence sees their star rise and out come the naysayers ready to question how authentic the new object of our affections really is.

For me, there is a moment that defines Marty Smith, at least in this aspect. I cannot remember the year or the situation, but he was on The Dan Le Batard Show, back when it was on ESPN Radio. Smith was telling Dan about friends of his that are stars in the country music world and Dan asked what it is like when they are hanging out backstage before one of these guys goes out to perform.

I cannot remember Smith’s exact answer, but a word he used stood out to me. He said it was just buddies having a cold beer and “fellowshippin'”.

I told Marty about this memory of him and said that I am not accusing him of being inauthentic or his persona on television being an act, but I was curious if he was concious of the words he chooses. Even if the version we get of Marty Smith on TV is the same one we would get if we were part of the fellowshippin’, does he think about how he wants people to think about him?

He is quick to note that is isn’t an act at all. What you see when you see Marty Smith isn’t a persona he cooked up when he decided he was going into television. That is just his personality.

“It is a lifelong field from where I’m from to where I am,” he says of what we see on TV. “It is relationships made that pinched my clay and remolded who I was to who I am and reshaped me as a person.”

Anyone from The South can tell you that there is no one monolithic “South”. The gregarious, larger-than-life personalities in Louisiana may not always feel real to people from the more reserved and anglo-influenced South Carolina. The Southern accent I got from growing up in Alabama sounds nothing like the Southern accents I live near now in North Carolina.

Marty Smith is from Pearisburg, Virginia just outside of Blacksburg. Surely that informs who he is, but he is also shaped by the wealth of conversations he has had and the characters he has met from his professional life.

“At our company, you have to work really hard to not only make it, but to sustain it. I try hard to do that every day,” he says. “I’m sure I’ve said it before, man. I don’t look at it as a talent-based platform. I don’t look at it as a results-based platform. I look at it as a platform that was built and sustained through the way I treat other people, through the work ethic that I believe that I have and through the passion that I know I have. You piece all of those different things together, and along with opportunity you can do something special, and I’m trying to do that every day.”

The Marty Smith you see on TV is the guy that will hand you a box of beef jerky just because you had a great conversation. He is the guy you see in that viral video from a few years back giving a young reporter advice and encouragement.

You can be confused by Marty Smith. You can have your questions about him and his motivations. They aren’t going to change him though. It took too long for him to become who he is to start second-guessing it now.

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BSM Writers

Another World Cup Run Ends And There’s Still No Soccer Fever In The USA

“We get fired up once every four years, sing the anthem, wear American flag t-shirts, then go back to our daily lives, forgetting about the sport that was attached to the patriotism.”

Brian Noe

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Soccer fever? Hardly. Not in the United States at least. The US Men’s National Team lost in the round of 16 against the Netherlands 3-1 last Saturday. The ratings are in. And the ratings are revealing.

An average of 12.97 million viewers tuned in to see the Netherlands-United States World Cup match on FOX. Before you say, “Hey, not bad,” consider the fact that the ratings are down from eight years ago when 13.44 million viewers watched the USMNT lose to Belgium in the knockout stage on ESPN.

Even more damning are the ratings of the USMNT’s initial match in the 2022 World Cup against Wales, an unhealthy 8.31 million viewers.

Let me get this straight; fans waited, waited, and waited some more to finally see the USMNT in World Cup action, and the first game in eight years drew 8.31 million viewers? Really?

There were 5.5 million viewers across TV and digital that watched the NFL Network’s telecast of the New York Giants-Green Bay Packers game in London. That was a Week 5 game in the NFL compared to the World freaking Cup. Network television (FOX) compared to cable TV (NFL Network). And the ratings are comparable? Come on, US Soccer. Y’all gotta do better than this.

*Mini rant alert — it drives me crazy when soccer in this country is consistently compared to soccer in this country. The promoters of the sport paint an obnoxiously rosy picture of the growing popularity by comparing US soccer now to US soccer then. It’s a joke.

It would be like comparing Nebraska’s 4-8 record in college football this year, to Nebraska’s 3-9 record last year. “Hey, things are looking up!” Never mind the fact that the Cornhuskers are significantly trailing several teams in its conference and many other teams across the country. That’s US soccer in a nutshell. Don’t compare it to other leagues and sports that are crushing it, just say we’re up 10% from last year. Ridiculous.

*Mini rant continuing alert — the Michigan-Ohio State game drew 17 million viewers last month. The New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving drew 42 million viewers. Those are regular-season matchups compared to the biggest stage soccer has to offer. But go ahead and just compare US soccer to itself.

And no, the edge you might feel in my words isn’t born out of fear that soccer will somehow surpass the popularity of football. That would be like Mike Tyson being scared that the Stanford Tree mascot could beat him up. US soccer isn’t a threat, it’s a light breeze. I just hate a bad argument. And many soccer apologists have been making bad arguments on the behalf of US soccer for years. *Mini rant over

The World Cup didn’t prove that American fans are invested in soccer. It proved that we love a big event. It’s the same recipe every four years with the Olympics.

During the 2016 summer games in Rio, when swimmer Michael Phelps was in the pool for what turned out to be his final outing in an Olympic competition, the ratings peaked at 32.7 million viewers. Phelps helped Team USA win gold in the men’s 100-meter relay and then rode off into the sunset.

We don’t really care about swimming. When’s the last time you asked a friend, “You heading out tonight?” and the response was, “Are you crazy? The Pan Pacific Championships are on.”

Whether it’s the Olympics or World Cup, Americans care about the overall event much more than the individual sport. We get fired up once every four years, sing the anthem, wear American flag t-shirts, then go back to our daily lives, forgetting about the sport that was attached to the patriotism.

Ask yourself this, at the height of US swimming’s popularity, would you have paid $14.99 per month to watch non-Olympic events? Me either. US soccer isn’t exactly on fire following its showing in the 2022 World Cup, so the timing isn’t awesome to introduce a paywall for the sport’s top league in this country.

Apple and Major League Soccer have announced that MLS Season Pass will launch soon. I know you’re excited, but try to stay composed. Yes, MLS Season Pass will launch on February 1, 2023. It’s a 10-year partnership between MLS and Apple that features every live MLS regular-season match, the playoffs, and the League’s Cup.

Have I died and gone to heaven?

How much?

It’ll run you $14.99 per month or $99 per season on the Apple TV app. For Apple TV+ subscribers — make sure you’re sitting down for this, you lucky people — it’s $12.99 per month or $79 per season. If you don’t have US soccer fever right now, I doubt you’re running out to throw down cash on a product you aren’t passionate about.

Now if the USMNT won the 2022 World Cup, cha-ching. The popularity of US soccer would definitely grow in a major way. Even if they had a strong showing while reaching the quarterfinals, the momentum would be much greater. But a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands in the group of 16? Nope. This isn’t it. I don’t expect much more than some tumbleweed rolling by instead of cash registers heating up for MLS Season Pass.

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BSM Writers

Colorado Hiring Deion Sanders Will Be Constant Gift for College Football Media

“If Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers, he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor.”

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Deion Sanders quickly made it clear why the University of Colorado chose him to be its next head football coach.

Coming off a weekend in which the four College Football Playoff teams were announced and all of the other bowl-eligible teams accepted their invitations, Colorado — which went 1-11 this past season — made news for hiring Sanders, the former NFL star who was phenomenally successful at Jackson State.

The media that covers college football and sports as a whole should be thrilled that the Buffaloes program decided to take a big leap for attention and notoriety. Sanders is a bold, risky hire. But he’s also been successful in virtually every venture he’s taken. “Primetime” had a Hall of Fame NFL career and also played Major League Baseball. And he’s a master at drawing attention to himself.

During his first meeting with his new team, Sanders made sure to mention that he has Louis Vuitton luggage to make the point that some of his Jackson State players are coming with him to Boulder — including his son, quarterback Shadeur Sanders. Nick Saban and Kirby Smart probably don’t cite luxury fashion when explaining to their players that they’ll have to compete for starting positions.

Coach Prime will not be boring to cover. (That self-appointed “Coach Prime” title, which was on his name plate at his introductory press conference, is a big clue there.) He never has been. This is a man who said during the 1989 NFL Draft, after being selected No. 5 overall by the Atlanta Falcons, that if the Detroit Lions had selected him at No. 3, he “would’ve asked for so much money, they’d have had to put me on layaway.”

Even if he doesn’t win as much as Colorado hopes, Sanders will pursue top talent — players who want to perform on a larger stage than the FCS-level Jackson State allows — and impact athletes will be attracted to him. He got the No. 1 recruit in the nation, cornerback and wide receiver Travis Hunter, to play for him. (Hunter is following his coach to Boulder.) Now that Sanders is at an FBS school in a Power 5 conference, more stars will surely come.

But if Coach Prime achieves the same sort of success that he did with the Tigers — going 27-5 in three seasons, including a 12-0 campaign in 2022 — he will be far more than a curiosity. Sanders will be a disruptor. And he’ll get the attention that such figures typically draw from media and fans. According to the Denver Post‘s Sean Keeler, at least 400 people attended what felt more like a celebration than a press conference.

Coach Prime wasn’t going to just win the press conference, which is what any school and fanbase want when a new coach is introduced.

If Colorado wanted someone to sit at a podium, and give platitudes like “We want to win the Pac-12 and get to the College Football Playoff,” “We’re going to build a program with young men you’ll be proud of,” or “It’s time to restore Colorado to the football glory we remember,” Sanders isn’t the guy for that.

“Do I look like a man that worries about anything? Did you see the way I walked in here? Did you see the swagger that was with me?” Sanders said during his introductory presser. “Worry? Baby, I am too blessed to be stressed. I have never been one for peer pressure. I put pressure on peers. I never wanted to worry, I make people worry. I don’t get down like that. I am too darn confident. That is my natural odor.”

To no surprise, Sanders announced his presence in Boulder with authority. He had cameras following him as he met with Colorado players for the first time. How many other coaches would have recorded what many would see as a private moment for posterity and post it online?

Sanders caused a stir by putting his players on notice. He warned them he was coming, telling them they’ll be pushed so hard they might quit. He told them to enter the transfer portal and go someplace else if they don’t like what he and his staff are going to do.

That candor, that brutal honesty surprised many fans and media when they saw it Monday morning. For some, that message might have felt too familiar. How many in media — or many other industries — have worried about their job status when a new boss takes over? What may have seemed secure days earlier is now uncertain.

But how do we know other coaches haven’t said something similar when taking over at a new job and addressing their team? We just hadn’t seen it before. But Sanders has been in the media. He knows social media. He understands controlling his own message and telling his story.

Sanders also knows what kind of value he brings to any venture he takes on. How many people would have left an NFL Network gig for Barstool Sports? But Sanders went to where his star would shine, where he was the main show, where he could be Deion Sanders. Maybe he’ll have to turn that down just a bit at Colorado. But athletic director Rick George knows who he hired.

Colorado could have made a safer choice, including previous head coaches Tom Herman, Bronco Mendenhall, or Gary Patterson. A top assistant from one of this year’s Playoff contenders — such as Georgia’s Todd Monken, USC’s Alex Grinch, Alabama’s Bill O’Brien, or Michigan’s Sherrone Moore — could also have been an option.

But what fun would that have been? What kind of tremor would Colorado have created in the college football news cycle? How much attention would a more conventional hire have received? Yes, Sanders has to recruit and win. However, if the objective was to make Colorado football a talking point again, that’s been accomplished.

There could be some friction too. Sanders has already been criticized for being a champion of HBCUs, only to bolt for a mainstream Power 5 program when the opportunity opened. (To be fair, other columnists have defended the move.)

At Jackson State, Sanders tried to control local media when he didn’t like how reporters were addressing him or covering a story. Last year during Southwestern Athletic Conference Media Day, he balked at a Clarion-Ledger reporter addressing him as “Deion,” not “Coach,” insisting that Nick Saban would’ve been shown that respect. Earlier this season, Sanders admonished a school broadcaster (and assistant athletic director) for speaking to him more formally on camera than he did off-camera.

Will that fly among Boulder and Denver media, or the national college football press? It’s difficult to imagine. Maybe Sanders will ease back on his efforts to control reporters within a larger university environment, metropolitan area, and media market. But we’re also talking about Deion Sanders here. He doesn’t bend to outside forces. He makes them bend to him.

Sanders’ stint in Boulder — whether it lasts the five years of his contract and beyond, or less than that — will not be dull. There could be no better gift for the media covering Colorado football. Or college football, a sport already full of bold personalities, eccentric to unhinged fanbases, and outsized expectations. Coach Prime will fit right in.

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