Upward mobility is the name of the game for guys of a certain age in sports radio. Young guys go wherever they get their first opportunity and then proceed to work their way up until they eventually land their dream job in a much larger market.
Having goals isn’t a phenomenon limited to any particular age group. There are always obstacles to overcome when trying to move from point A to point B. Broadcasting in a market with a triple-digit Nielsen ranking that begins with a 2, 3 or 4 comes with some very specific challenges.
Brady Farkas and Ed Lane are two guys that are not currently looking for new jobs, but they have done their share of poking around in the past. Those experiences have given them the chance to learn what they can do better and how their work and success are perceived.
I asked both of them the same three questions. Whether the day comes again that they are looking for a bigger opportunity, or whether it is just knowing they can impart to help someone else, I appreciate their candor and willingness to participate.
AS YOU APPLY AND INTERVIEW FOR BIGGER GIGS, WHAT MISPERCEPTIONS OR BIASES DO YOU HAVE TO OVERCOME BEING IN SUCH A SMALL MARKET?
Brady Farkas (WDEV – Montpelier, VT): Ironically enough, I think one of the things you have to overcome is your relatively small social media following. When you come from a smaller market, you just don’t have as much ability to generate a social media following, so you have to fight the notion that that’s because your content is not relevant or impactful. You have to find a way to show that what you are doing in the community is impactful and you are reaching the people that you should be reaching. It’s nice to hit and make an impact across a region, but if you have a small following, you want to show that you are still impacting the community you are serving.
Furthermore, you have to show that you still have a robust network. Just because you don’t get to go to the game like big market guys do or you don’t have guests coming in studio like they do, it’s still possible to have a very strong network. I’ve still come across very influential sports figures and covered big games and met a lot of people, and a lot of those people have come on my show, and that network can continue to serve you as you move up the chain in terms of market size.
Ed Lane (CBS Sports Radio Lynchburg – Lynchburg, VA): There’s a miss perception that you will struggle to adapt to a PPM market when you come from a smaller market that is either using the antiquated diary system or is not rated at all. The reality is with over a decade of coaching, including constant dialogue with program directors in larger markets, there are certain skills they’ve been gracious enough to help me hone that frankly, anyone can practice.
These include getting to the point early in segments, polished live messages (heck I’m selling the messages, shouldn’t I care about the client getting results?), effective use of soundbites, and strong, well-researched opinions. Just because Nielsen chooses not to invest in PPM in the smaller market doesn’t mean that I don’t have the skill set to adapt.
Another misperception is that I can’t learn about or may not even have working knowledge about topics of interest in a different market. As you research for a broad number of teams like I do in my market, you inherently come across info that is pertinent to other fan bases as well as your own. A lot of that comes from just having a growth mindset and constantly wanting to learn so that you both educate and inform your listener wherever you are.
HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT MAKING SURE THE PEOPLE YOU WOULD LIKE TO EVENTUALLY WORK FOR KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU DO?
Farkas: I make sure that influential people with connections know who I am, and I reach out to them to check-in or keep a relationship strong. This is going to sound like a line solely for this piece, but it’s not: I make sure that the people at BSM are aware of what I’m up to and I like to check in with Jason and Demetri. I may not have a direct link to a company or a PD, but I know they likely do, and that’s a good first step.
I’ve also come across several influential PDs in my career and I like to maintain a relationship with them so there’s always the ability for them to recall you should they be talking to a person in power. And then, you also have the ability to use your guest list and network. These people all work for places too, and they may be able to help you when it comes time at their place of business or at a place where they know someone.
Lastly, I just try to use social media to my advantage. If I put out a piece of content that I think is relevant, or if I have a guest that is relevant, I make sure to tag the appropriate parties that may be interested. And maybe it helps generate a following for me or a topic of conversation on my show, but it could also lead to my profile being clicked on by someone in power somewhere as well.
Lane: A lot of it is about establishing connections and then maintaining connections with people who genuinely have an interest in helping others. Once you establish that connection I try to utilize multiple forms of networking sites including LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to keep them abreast of what I am doing daily, and of course continue to learn more about what they are doing and who they are as people. Some of this goes to just establishing your “brand“ but a lot of it is also giving them some insight into who you are and helping build up that level of familiarity. Additionally, it’s helpful to understand how they preferred that you contact them and how often they are open to dialogue.
WHEN YOU’RE IN A MARKET LIKE THE ONE YOU ARE NOW, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT THAT YOU NETWORK WITH PDS AND GMS IN LARGER MARKETS?
Farkas: I think it’s important to network with the right people, not necessarily a certain number of people, or even just only PDs and GMs. I don’t just reach out to everyone in the country and drop a resume, but there are people and stations around the country that I really like, and I like to pick their brains about how they’ve done what they’ve done or how they’ve built what they’ve built. And that information and those tips can help me grow both now and in the future. And as those relationships get built and conversations get had, a hiring person can draw on that more intimate relationship, rather than just a one-time email.
Lane: For the record, the term “network“ is not necessarily my favorite if only because there’s some truth to the idea that the term is more about what you can gain as opposed to a reciprocated mutually beneficial relationship. It’s absolutely true that when you are a smaller market host reaching out to decision-makers in larger markets there is an implied positioning that you want to be in consideration if an opportunity opens up in their market or if they know of one they can fit for you. That said, it’s also wise to try to make sure there is a level of dialogue and genuine caring about that individual by coming prepared with ideas on how you can help them & their business.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Demetri Ravanos reached out to Brady and Ed on his own. These conversations were not the result of those gentlemen asking to be featured in this way.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.