As the sports podcasting space continues to grow, what elements can brands adopt from sports radio? In turn, what can sports radio learn from podcasting to reach an audience that increasingly wants its content on-demand?
It’s a complex question, says Amplifi Media CEO Steven Goldstein, who will appear at the BSM Summit. But the answers could be crucial to radio’s continued survival in a changing media landscape. In his views, broadcasters need to avoid being formulaic in their content.
“You don’t hear about breakthrough radio programming in this era,” said Goldstein, who spoke to Barrett Sports Media by phone. “Especially as stations have been forced to cut back and do more with less.
“But podcasts do have that. There’s a lot of wonder and amazement and experimentation from all sorts of experienced audio creators or novice creators. So I think that’s created a lot of the excitement.”
Podcasting is a very hot sector, according to Goldstein. Within that sector are shows doing exceptionally well, providing content different from anything currently available on commercial radio and succeeding because of it.
Goldstein uses television as an analogy. In a previous era, viewers got their content from four TV networks. But now, there are so many more choices and so many other places to get content. That’s forced content creators to be more energetic, show more creativity and a willingness to experiment.
“They take chances on new forms,” he said.
But so many choices also makes it increasingly different for radio shows and podcasts to stand out. That makes discoverability a key issue for the industry right now. How do listeners find good content, programming they want to listen to? Radio’s greater reach provides an advantage that podcasters don’t have.
Five or six years ago, if a podcaster had a good social media following, that could be enough to introduce a podcast and build an audience. Yet as the space has become more crowded, it’s difficult to stand out.
“That’s why I like the relationship between podcast and broadcast,” said Goldstein. “Because broadcast has this massive megaphone that’s the envy of podcasters. It is not a one-and-done. It’s not a magic bullet. But it’s a built-in audience exposure method that’s been proven to be effective.”
However, one element radio broadcasters can learn from podcasters is distilling the best content into a shorter form more digestible for consumers. A three-hour radio show doesn’t often have three hours of strong content. But serve up the best stuff in eight- to 15-minute chunks, rather than in bulk, and there’s a better chance of giving the audience what it wants.
Yet successful programming doesn’t have to be for one audience or the other. Goldstein points to Dave Ramsey, the personal finance and business personality whose organization figured out that there can be synergy between a radio show and podcast.
“Ramsey has the fourth-largest radio show in the United States and he has a top 30 podcast,” said Goldstein. “So the Ramsey organization knows that the audience which listens to the radio show is different than the audience which listens to the podcast. It’s a different psychographic group, it’s a different age group.”
NPR is another example of an organization that’s learned to reach different audiences with its radio programming and podcast content.
Those different audiences also present an opportunity for advertisers, which is what Goldstein will discuss with Borrell Associates CEO Gordon Borrell during their session at the BSM Summit. Advances in technology allow local advertisers to reach audiences that were previously only available to national brands. It’s incumbent upon radio stations to reach that audience.
“It’s getting better every day and more advertisers are interested in that,” said Goldstein. “And Gordon will talk about that because he has a very strong sense of this. His feeling is that the local advertiser is not interested in radio, not interested in newspaper, not interested in TV. They’re interested in media and audience accessibility and they’re going to go wherever the audience is.”
The good news for sports radio is that there is significant synergy with sports podcasts among the audience. But radio has to find and embrace that audience.
“Sports radio listeners are 37 percent more likely to be podcast consumers than the average American,” Goldstein said, citing data from Nielsen. “Sports radio listeners are 91 percent more likely to listen to sports podcasts, compared to the average American.”
Reaching local audiences and advertisers for radio will be crucial in the future. But the opportunity is there because it’s more difficult for advertisers to break through in a crowded national space.
“The local podcast ecosystem is virtually undeveloped, and so whoever gets in there stands to do best,” Goldstein said. “But radio is not going to be alone in producing audio. TV stations are doing podcasts, newspapers are doing podcasts… So if radio doesn’t move on this, others will fill the port.”
As Goldstein puts it, we’re in the early innings of exploring an untapped market for local advertising. But radio can’t be afraid to try and to evolve. More importantly, stations and programmers need to focus on educating the market and develop podcast versions of their shows. The audience is moving to more on-demand content and radio needs to move there with them, while adapting accordingly.
“I absolutely think dicing and slicing is critical, especially in an ADD world in which people are surfing content,” said Goldstein. “I think that there has to be a good deal of content that is more snackable.”
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.