The sports radio industry sucks at Twitter and it makes no stinking sense. Radio should be the best. Twitter is centered around two things: content and opinions. Who has more of either than this industry?
I mainly mean station accounts and individual show accounts. Your personal ones? I don’t know all of you yet but I imagine you care enough to work at those.
My entire career in radio, and subsequent contribution to this fine website, has been defined in large part by the birth, explosion of and the marketplace dominance by the bird app. It preoccupies my time far more than I am proud to admit to. There are two things I hate more than anything on Twitter. The first is seeing the same joke copied, pasted and tweeted going viral every time. The second is sports radio twitter accounts.
It has happened to me countless times; I hop aboard a show or station’s Twitter feed begging for some kind of interesting content only to be greeted with “Blah Blah from the Blah Blah Blah Gazette talks Blah Team – click to listen.” There’s a better chance Clay Travis agrees with a little league umpire than me clicking that link.
Would you? I know the answer. The question is, why doesn’t the person posting that “tease” ask themselves the same question? I don’t know if it is ignorance or apathy but you are hurting your brand. There are over 600 sports talk radio stations in this country and the strong majority of them have some local presence which equates to thousands of hours of potential interesting content daily just quietly vanishing into the ether. I’ll never know it existed and neither will your followers.
Not everyone is terrible. I’ve amassed some really good examples of ways that stations and shows got me to click. I’ll share with you that I am a tough critic, but when a show or station does something right, they need to get their flowers.
First, a decree: Twitter isn’t a place to park your links. Nothing good happens and you are wasting time. Twitter is meant to engage. You have to give people a reason to follow and then a reason to engage. Please stop copying and pasting your podcast links without thinking: would I click this?
It’s a simple question, but if you would not be interested in the link you are about to tweet, why would I? You are daring your followers to leave. A wonderful question to ask even before programming a show: “is this shareable?” If you think it terms of shareability and presenting your content on Twitter, changes happen.
I am not suggesting to manufacture controversy or emotion. Not all segments are built for moments that feature a guest’s interesting quote or a rant by a host. However, if you begin to think about the social world outside your studio, it most certainly will force you to look inward to at least come up with better questions because regardless of the answer, the question should be worthy of sharing.
Stations, if you are smart enough to have a video element to your studios, you’ve got a gift in front of you. If you don’t, let’s get some purchase orders approved. I cannot tell you how much scrolling I do in a day. What element do you think gets me to slow down more than any other? It’s rhetorical but video is the answer.
This is not about having an entire show stream live on Twitter. It’s a fine option, but I have no problem with preferring people find the dial or your website or app. It actually makes great business sense to do so. Remember, this is all about getting people to be interested in your long-form programs, engage with them and share to people who may not know who you are.
Before my examples, just know that I also understand companies have different priorities for where they want the clicks. There are strategies that simply advocate getting folks to the website for the podcast or live listen. However, you are also on Twitter. Commit to it and both worlds can be happy.
Now my favorite part: giving flowers to those doing it well.
Let’s start with guests. There are almost zero times that you will have a guest on that I will care about by just presenting them by name only or by name and very broad umbrella topic like “Blah Blah talks Jets offseason”. However, give me a solid reason why I should listen to that name, something specific to them and why I should care about their opinion… you got me.
The Grant and Danny Show on 106.7 The Fan in Washington D.C. did this almost perfectly. The tweet is below but it’s so clean it almost looks like one of the Blah Blah teases.
First, they tagged the guest (for potential interactions). Then they provided a specific topic and then even better, added an even more specific segment within that topic that would keep me down the rabbit hole. Slight grammatical issue aside, I love this. This was perfect. It drives you to conversation that’s happening right now. If I was a Commanders fan and saw this, I’d be very interested in why my team’s top receiver was so low in their rankings.
I’m a fan of using trigger words on Twitter. Trigger words do what you think they do, they garner some emotion, a reaction. That’s exactly what we want on Twitter. It’s how we stand out thru the clutter. I like this example of one’s usage from 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. Ron Cook of The Cook and Joe Show says the Steelers draft class is CURSED. How often do you see the word ‘cursed’? We use it with our favorite teams all the time but it’s not one that’s thrown around on sports talk radio often. But when used sparingly, you got my interest.
Fans reward you for being creative in how you present your content. Be different. Try things. Like this poll from BMitch & Finlay in Washington, D.C. It seems fairly harmless enough until you see another one of those trigger words. “Psycho” isn’t on the sports talk format run sheet. If you are scrolling and see that word, you might slow and might get one to wonder the full context. Then, BOOM, an attached link to – and this is important – audio that plays within the Twitter app when ready to hear the origin. Bonus points for just playing the relevant clip.
Here’s a perfect example of why video can be so important to your station’s social footprint. This is former LSU player T-Bob Hebert of Off the Bench on 104.5 ESPN in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He’s talking to Ben McDonald who was broadcasting the SEC baseball tournament. After a game McDonald was at dinner when he spotted an armadillo and captured it. Luckily for everyone Peter Burns of the SEC Network was there to take video.
Now we have a perfect storm: McDonald, a former LSU pitcher talking to a former LSU football player about catching an armadillo in the streets of Birmingham, Alabama… and there’s video. Major credit goes to 104.5 ESPN for snatching a really unique moment that could be shared by an audience that could really appreciate all of it.
I’ve shared a few examples of presenting guests, luring fans in with trigger words about their team and now, here’s something just really dumb. It’s one of my favorites from ESPN Milwaukee’s Scalzo and Brust. This works for me because sometimes I stop scrolling because I have to answer “did I read that right?”
Before you get on your pedestal about the subject, think about this: did you click? I bet their listeners did. You know as well as I do that sports talk radio is sports plus a lot of random conversations we have in life. Absurdity is most definitely shareable.
It’s not easy. It’s work. But, you are getting paid to create. Let that creation continue to work for you. Look at your content. Consider your streams, downloads, shares, likes, etc. If they aren’t growing, you aren’t growing and that means either your content is boring or you are.
It’s not you though. I know you can do it. Remember why you are sitting in a studio or plugging into one right now. A program director somewhere saw something special in you. They saw you, heard you and invested in you to make them look good. They believed you could get them ratings and believed your content could help create sales. That PD believed you would be an asset to their station.
Remember, there’s over 600 sports radio stations in the U-S-of-A and you are at one of them because someone thought you had the stuff. Show them they were right.
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.