Connect with us

BSM Writers

How to Survive (and Hopefully Thrive) in a Digital Revolution

“It’s almost like a twist on that Spider-Man mantra about great power coming with greater responsibility: With greater professional opportunity comes bosses asking you for more contributions.”

Published

on

Getty

It is easier than ever to create and distribute sports-media content. This means more opportunities regardless of the medium you work in.

On the one hand, this is great for anyone who creates content. Not only has the number of potential employers increased in almost exponential terms, but it’s now possible to produce and distribute content yourself.

On the other hand, this is incredibly challenging for anyone who creates content. Not only are you going to be asked to make more of it, but you’ll be asked to tailor that content to the contours of different platforms it will be distributed on. It’s almost like a twist on that Spider-Man mantra about great power coming with greater responsibility: With greater professional opportunity comes bosses asking you for more contributions.

I have some first-hand experience, not just from 8 years as a radio host in Seattle, but for 14 years before that, I was a newspaper reporter. One of my favorite memories from that industry’s transition to online publication came after the staff meeting in which The Seattle Times was declared to be a “Digital First!” operation.

“More work!” chanted the city-hall reporter, clapping his hands twice, “Same pay!”  

He wasn’t entirely correct in this matter. I found it was much more than double the work, and that’s not a criticism of the newspaper’s approach. The adjustment was necessary for the survival of the business, and speaking specifically of that newspaper, the sports reporters who took on a heavier digital workload came to be more valued. Unfortunately, you also run the risk of being swamped by more people asking you to do more things in more places.

Sound familiar?

I thought so.

So consider this the opening chapter in my handbook “How to Survive (and Hopefully Thrive) in a Digital Revolution.” I know, I know, the title is kind of clunky. This whole thing is a work in progress.

1) Prioritize

You need to know what your employer defines as your most important job functions and what it sees as the most valuable content. You may not agree with the priorities they lay out, but you absolutely have to understand what they are.

Create a hierarchy ranked in terms of importance. Over-the-air programming is likely to be at the top, at least for now. Is social media next? Is it an original podcast? How about online articles?

You need to know what they want and what they value to make an informed decision about how you’re going to spend your most important commodity: your time. This is especially true in the digital media business, which is not subject to the same limitations as traditional media.

A newspaper’s content is limited by the physical space of the printed page. An over-the-air radio station’s programming is restricted by time in the schedule. Those limitations simply don’t apply to digital content, which is really exciting because you don’t have to wait to be given a spot in the lineup to show you can attract an audience. It’s also potentially overwhelming and opens the chance you may spend too much time creating content that your employer doesn’t value at the expense of what they do value.

2) Don’t Wait To Be Given Marching Orders.

Sell your employers on a few experiments. Try stuff. Be willing to incorporate some new things into what you’re doing.

In 2005, I began covering the Seattle Seahawks for a local newspaper. Mike Sando was covering the same team for the Tacoma News-Tribune, but he increasingly focused on the digital product not just with a blog, but by posting audio files of the press conferences and interviews online. He didn’t just serve an audience that didn’t want to wait until the next morning’s paper to learn what was said, he developed that audience.

Within a few years, Sando had been hired by ESPN and now works for The Athletic. His willingness to experiment with a new way of covering an NFL team functioned like a pole vaulter’s fiberglass stick, flinging up into a higher tier of the industry.

It’s not just the audience you learn about, though. Sometimes it’s you. I began using Twitter in 2009 while working as a reporter for The Seattle Times. Adopting the new technology gave me a (brief) headstart on others who soon followed, but that platform also provided an outlet for both my sense of humor and my willingness to share details about my life, which didn’t come through in my articles and columns for the newspaper. It has built an audience that followed me, personally, to my career as a radio host and now as a self-employed writer.

3) Don’t Try To Do Everything.

OK, so far you’ve got the list of priorities that has been laid out by your employer, and some new stuff that you want to try. Now comes the third pool of potential work: Ideas or initiatives that come from your boss or corporate overlords. This is the trickiest group because in a practical sense, you’re almost certainly not going to have time to try EVERYTHING they bring up. But in a professional sense, it’s risky to decide you’re not going to try ANYTHING they suggest.

What you can do is ask for clarity on two things:

  1. How do they see this piece of content working? There’s a chance that it will be something that is legitimately exciting for you, and if it’s not, at least you’ll understand both the concept and the hope.
  2. Where does this fit into the list of your job’s priorities? This not only provides you with a sense of how much of your time should go into this, but it forces your boss to commit to how much time they want you to spend on it.

4) Mix From The Three Pools of Work

The sports-media industry is changing, and if you keep fulfilling the job requirements as if this was the 1990s, it’s a recipe for extinction. But disregarding those core requirements entirely and plunging headfirst into new types of content is risky. If those new types of content aren’t successful, or just as bad, aren’t valued by your employer, what are you left with?

My advice is to mix from the following three pools of content that have been identified:

  1. Identify and fulfill the core functions of your job. This part is non-negotiable and is almost certain to consume the majority of your work week;
  2. Develop and actively experiment with one type of content that piques your interest or you consider promising;
  3. Be open to ideas that are handed down to you, too, but make sure you get clarity on where they should figure into your work week.

More work? Yeah. That’s probably the reality of a digital workload, but these rules should help you navigate the new opportunities without getting swamped by the workload.

BSM Writers

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.

Published

on

WRONG BAD

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.

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

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.

Jeff Caves

Published

on

Radio Sales

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.  

Continue Reading

BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending

Copyright © 2021 Barrett Media.