I love the summer. It has nothing to do wit the sun, most definitely nothing to do with this sinister humidity and the longer days mean nothing to me. I love it because this is the time of the year that sports radio can innovate. Summer radio is the best radio.
Summer is perfect for you, your show and your station to shine. Pun aside, I mean it. There is a heavy temptation to want to show up, clock-in, do your time and clock-out. Sports just aren’t as active in totality like they are between September and Mid-June. There is only so many times we can say “blood-money” and it matter.
Unless you are in a market that is dying on ever MLB team’s pitch or one that feels like position battles are meaningful content in July and August, it can feel like a haul waking up each morning to plan for two, three or four hours of discussion. But friends, it doesn’t have to feel that way. Summer radio is the time to implement experiment radio.
Before I toss some ideas out there, a major tenet of mine needs to preface it. Don’t trash your audience favorites. If you think quarterback battles in July is notable, and you can bring some fire to that discussion, don’t stop. The thing about this format is that its fuel is energy and passion. Don’t do it just to do it, feel it before then feel it on the air. People will be there for you to hear you, to engage with you, to care if you have that in your voice and on your topic. These ideas are for the sprinkling.
My favorite thing to do this time of year is experiment with guests. This one I might get a lot wordy with. I am a big believer in not having a lot of guests on your show. In my world, when I listen to a show, I want the opinions of the folks in the chairs. However, guests do matter and not just because they can give you insight you don’t have. They matter because… they are filler. Not in a bad way, necessarily.
I fully understand you are programming 10-20 hours a week of content. The temptation is strong to book a guest and then ask them to be a standing regular. There’s a place for that, no doubt. But, the summer is THE BEST time to play around with different voices.
It was in the summer that I found some of my favorite guests. In the summer listeners tend to be fewer, they tend to be less judgmental so you have a bit of a leash to broaden your scope. If you stop and consider it, we all listen to a lot of the same experts over and over again. There’s nothing wrong with them, but I always knew there was someone else worthy of a shot to impress our audience if I just looked. I never would have found those people if I didn’t stop myself from the routine and investigated further. What’s the worst that could happen? They suck? You control the airtime, baby!
No one wants to say this aloud about radio but here it is: it’s all air. It is literally all air. If a segment is bad, it goes away almost immediately and you get to try again in the next segment or next day (unless it is stupendously bad). I have done bad interviews, really bad ones, more times than I’d like to admit. No one remembers them. No one remembers the good ones either. The ones they remember are the ones that touch the sun for the good and bad. Those are few and far between don’t usually come from regulars.
More idea chatter incoming. There has never been a more popular time than this very one to really get entrenched with sports betting. It’s a longtime part of sports but it’s a longer-time part of our lives. We love our opinions and putting stakes on them. A new study was just released YESTERDAY that said radio listeners are far more likely to be interested in sports betting and its content than television viewers. What’s that mean? It means buy in right now. If you aren’t already diving headfirst into that content stream, go get your suit this summer.
The content can be about finding guests you like that can talk about it, sure. Frankly most of those are trying to sell your listeners a service. What it really should mean is YOU and YOUR STATION getting more comfortable with the topic. If you don’t know the nomenclature, let’s start learning and introducing it into the show slowly. Experiment with ways to make your experience unique for your listeners. For example, on Twitter several weeks ago I started a bit about giving picks via Haiku.
Is it the best idea? I don’t know. I enjoyed the ones I did but I was playing around with the presentation of the same old content. People talk about this all the time. Sports betting, not the Haikus. You need to be with them. Baseball season is a perfect time to get aclimated. There’s still 100 games left for everyone. Do you want listeners to compete with you? Do you want them to compete against each other? Should you introduce a poll at the beginning of the show that decides by the end of the program how you bet a matchup? Don’t stop thinking.
Hey, if you decide to go Haiku on the people, send me a message. You are my kind of people.
Segments based around food are always a fun idea to play with providing you have a little bit of an idea of what the end goal should be. You are probably aware of Barstool’s Dave Portnoy and his traveling rating guide to pizza in New York City (and beyond). He has been going around rating pizzas for years. Well, Matt Chernoff of 680 the Fan in Atlanta aimed for a similar goal, instead opting to look for the best quesadilla in Atlanta. The video is below.
Is it the best content? For me, that doesn’t matter in the slightest. He, and 680 the Fan, tried something. They experimented to see what the appetite for it was amongst their listeners/followers.
Your show could look for the best local “INSERT FOOD HERE”. It could get a jumpstart on the football season and try and find the “OFFICIAL TAILGATE FOOD ITEMS OF YOUR STATION/SHOW”. Blind taste tests have always proven the ability to create good content especially if someone on your staff claims to have a knack for a flavor or even an aversion to one.
Games. I love listening to shows play games. The more audio elements you can add, the better. The amazing thing about sports radio is that it is a lot more versatile than you think. People just want to hear people talking about things they talk about. That’s why it’s so great to create ways to play games that involve what people are talking about right now.
One example is a trend on Tik Tok that has people give a numerical rating to a person (1-10) and then asking another person what that numerical rating would be if they factored in a trait about that person. For example: she’s a 9 but her favorite band is Toto. You’d then tell me what her rating would be factoring the entire equation. You could put a sportsy spin on it if you must and say: she’s a 6 but her favorite player is Jose Altuve.
The point is sports radio is fun and always topical. If you are seeing it on social media, so are your listeners. Remember… fun. Don’t be afraid to wade into the silly either. I won’t judge. I used to impersonate Paul Bearer while predicting football games.
An effective way to try and think of games is to start with something everyone is talking about. Brainstorm all around the topic. Even think of the show name or topic and think about wordplay with it, puns.
One of the finest examples of that is from Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. A few years ago they used the popularity of Game of Thrones to inspire a game called Game of Thrones. Two contestants would be asked to name a certain number of items in a category (like name five works of fiction) and the contestants, standing in bathroom stalls, would wager who could name them in the fewest amount of flushes. It’s incredibly dumb, but incredibly fun. That’s sports radio and that’s how you can create memorable content.
Man on the street bits are the absolute best. I adore these. It’s real audio from real people. The premise is simple: send someone to an event that is going to be well attended, whether it’s a game or a big movie opening or a carnival, and you ask people questions. Then you get to use the good answers on the air. It’s a perfect setup for comedy gold.
You can ask basic sports questions. Maybe you want to ask about the local team specifically. Perhaps you’d like to test their entertainment acumen or get their fresh reaction after a big movie or a team’s win/loss. Now is a magnificent time to get to practicing it. Hint from experience: look for the inebriated ones first.
The grand idea is that this time of year is special. It gives you the chance to reshuffle your cards. You can be a little looser than what would traditionally would be expected during peak rating books. You could also discover an awful lot about you, your show and station and springboard that to creating dominant content in the future. Sports radio is so damn cool that 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.