The term ‘new media’ has been around for almost ten years. It was originally used to describe content distribution that was native to computers. Things like blogs, podcasts, websites, mobile apps, YouTube videos, and so on would fall under the new media umbrella. In contrast, TV, radio, newspapers, and all forms of print are considered ‘old media’. But lately, you’ve probably heard this term thrown around a lot and its kind of taken on a life of its own, specifically in our world of sports. I want to discuss what the new meaning is, who’s using it, and the good and bad of it.
The term ‘new media’ has been a common slang used to describe media forms that don’t fall into traditional norms. Most notably, media generated by athletes themselves. Rather than using broadcast/media professionals as their conduit to the fans, athletes are connecting with their fans directly. Draymond Green is the most recent and relevant example of this. He’s now partnered with Colin Cowherd’s podcast company The Volume to speak directly to his fans. Tyreek Hill is another athlete that recently released his own podcast. Tom Brady has one, CJ McCollum, and countless others do too. New media, as its being referred to most commonly today, has become a marketing tool, and a means in which athletes can bypass traditional forms of media to tell their stories without interruption or misinterpretation.
With anything, there’s good and bad to this. One obvious problem this creates for people in our industry is that we are further crowding an already crowded space. Content is in a surplus stage, not a demand stage, so if these big names draw attention, they could be drawing attention away from platforms you broadcast from and are judged upon. Conversely, these podcasts generate great content for the shows we’re already doing.
Use Tyreek Hill has an example; on his most recent episode, he made the bold claim that Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa is more accurate than Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes. This clip was played any and everywhere and was shared countless times on social media by your traditional fraternity of broadcasters. Getting athletes in this type of candid environment, even if it’s not us, still creates more honest conversation that we then have access to. The beauty of prominent athletes having podcasts is that they also have social media teams that are in charge of promoting them, and in order to that properly, the most eye-popping material needs to make its way to the internet. Or as I’d like to call it: easy to find show prep.
I do wonder how much the creation of these ‘new media’ projects are a product of ego versus a product of desire in the market. Use Tyreek Hill’s podcast again as an example. Bear in mind, he’s only one episode in and I’m only using one social media site as my metric, but the It Needed to be Said podcast only has just north of 1,500 followers on Twitter. Compare that to Tyreek Hill’s 753,000 on Twitter and it makes you wonder if there’s really a market for this. That’s only one example, and I’m sure that name alone for a lot of these athletes will create more downloads than many of us (or our bosses) could ever dream of if we were to venture into a similar project. But still, it makes you wonder.
There’s also the aspect of credibility for folks on our end of the spectrum as we help some of these athletes get into the broadcast space. Use Colin Cowherd as a key example. Draymond Green signs to his podcast network, cranks out episodes, and then stinks it up through the first few games of the NBA Finals. Well, guess who came out to say nothing to see here on his live traditional TV/radio show? You guessed it, it was Colin. How can you keep objectivity on an athlete while also helping them crank out content for the ‘new media’?
There’s a good chance this wave of prominent athletes getting into broadcasting while still in their playing days is just a fad. It’s never been easier to crank out content from the comfort of your living room. Many people, some more famous than others, are taking advantage of that. Some will work, some won’t. That’s kind of how this industry operates, no matter the name value you carry with you.
I think we need to do a better job of blending the worlds of telling the stories of these athletes without burying them, build trust, without losing credibility with your audience. We seem to have lost the media-to-athlete connection that existed not too long ago. We’ve all heard stories of the newspaper columnist who would ride to the game with a star player to get his story. We seem so far removed from that. Everyone is so guarded, and teams have become more protective than ever before which doesn’t help matters. But it won’t take long for ‘new media’ types to realize that it’s a lot tougher to do what we do day in and day out than it appears from the outside looking in, and when it comes time to criticize their peers, will they be able to do it?
There will likely come a day when new media either fades away or blends in with old media, but until then, just keep enjoying the free content these guys are putting out there.
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.