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6 Takeaways From The Producers Podcast

A producer does not just sit behind the glass and answer phone calls. A producer does not just run a board and a producer does not just play audio cuts. A producer may do all of those things, but they may also have different responsibilities entirely.

Brady Farkas

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I first broke into sports talk radio in 2014. I was a part-time board-op at WTMM in Albany, NY, producing the mornings and making sure that Mike and Mike ran smoothly. I did some voiceovers and teases, too, but producing the mornings was my main focus. I made sure that spots played when they were supposed to, and relevant audio from that show was pulled for our local shows. 

It wasn’t overly difficult, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing, either.

I eventually graduated to producing a Saturday morning show, and got to be the fill-in producer on the afternoon drive show before also getting hosting responsibilities of my own.

I’ll be honest. While I was doing it, I looked down upon the producer position. I don’t think that’s uncommon, especially for young and in my case, stupid, people. I viewed the producer as “lesser than” or “not as important,” and I frankly was resentful that I had to do it to get where I wanted to go as a host.

Fast forward eight years, and I realize the error of my ways. I wish I could tell my younger self just how valuable the position is, how important the position is, and how some of the brightest people in the industry serve as producers. 

By the way, the joke is on me, because while I host my own daily show at WDEV Radio in Vermont, I don’t have a producer. I serve as my own! Guess I couldn’t kick the position, after all.

I bring this all up to remind you that we are now five episodes into the Producers Podcast, which comes out each Wednesday.

Through my conversations with some of the industry’s best, including Ben Charleston of WEEI, Steve Ceruti of the Ringer, Andrew Williams of Sirius XM, Declan Goff of SKOR North, and Shane Riordan of 670 The Score, I’ve accumulated six takeaways that I wanted to share.

Being a Producer Means Many Different Things

A producer does not just sit behind the glass and answer phone calls. A producer does not just run a board and a producer does not just play audio cuts. A producer may do all of those things, but they may also have different responsibilities entirely.

Ben Charleston of WEEI in Boston produces the daily show Mut at Night but is also the Executive Producer of the entire Red Sox Network, and he oversees more than 100 Sox affiliates, making sure game broadcasts go smoothly all across New England. That’s a huge responsibility and certainly is not “lesser than”.

Declan Goff of SKOR North is a digital producer. He has an immense amount of tasks that include making social media graphics, scheduling those graphics across all different platforms, and cutting up podcasts so they can still be aired on traditional radio. 

Andrew Williams is a producer on non-terrestrial radio while Ceruti is a producer for a very prominent podcast (The Ryen Russillo Show). Each of them works on a different style of broadcast and with that comes very different responsibilities. Being a producer is not just one thing, it means being able to do different things depending on the show you work on or the outlet you work for.

So if you think you have the producer position figured out, you likely don’t. I know I didn’t.

Learn How to Do Everything

In order to be a great producer and in order to thrive in today’s media world, you have to know how to do everything. Ceruti spoke about learning how to do high level podcast editing and teaching himself the basics on YouTube on software like Pro Tools. Goff spoke about learning the ins and outs of Adobe Audition for editing purposes. 

Learn how to make graphics on software like Photoshop or Canva, and learn how to cut up your show’s video highlights on software like Premiere or a site like Online-video-cutter.com so you can use them on social media. Be confident in your ability to talk on the show and contribute to the on-air discussion. Become aware of what types of content work best on each social media platform and tailor specific content to each one. Be willing to be resourceful and bold when it comes to building your Rolodex for guest-booking on shows.

“Be diverse in just about everything you can be,” Goff said in Episode 4. “Whether that’s writing, graphic design, audio editing, or video editing, be a Swiss-Army knife. You don’t have to be excellent at all of those things but have them in your golf bag. And find something that no one else on the staff has the time to do or can elevate your products.” 

Gain Your Hosts Trust

I fell victim to this. When I started in 2014, I wanted to prove I belonged. I wanted to show how much I knew. Nobody likes that guy. Don’t be that guy.

Show that you are there to help the host, not be the host, and not overshadow the host. This isn’t a game of “who knows more?” This is “how do we build the best show possible?” It’s a collaborative effort. One of the quickest ways to turn off your host is to try to outshine them or prove that you know more than they do.

“I think with being a producer you have to ditch the ego a little bit and use your ability to prop up others more than yourself,” Riordan said in Episode 5.

A host has to trust you. They have to trust that you have the best interests of the show at heart, and then they have to trust that they can count on you to provide content, stats, figures, information, social media integration, and guests that can help the show grow. 

And as you gain that trust, you will gain more opportunities within the show and at the station. You will get the opportunity to bring segment ideas to the air, or to contribute on-air yourself, but that stuff can’t happen if your host has resentment towards your attitude and demeanor.

Don’t Immediately Look For On-Air Opportunities

Guilty, again. Another cardinal sin. Similar to the above, you are there to prop your hosts up and help the overall flow of the show – not steal the show. While some hosts operate with an open-mic policy, that doesn’t mean you should just steal the mic at every turn.

Understand that there is a progression in this business. You have to gain the trust of your host, and with that trust, comes an openness on the show that will give you opportunities to shine on the air. But if you go in angling for those opportunities, you likely will be detached from the original purpose of the job, and your host will never develop that trust in you.

“Gain the trust of your host in the pre-show meetings,” Ceruti said in Episode 2. “Make sure that they enjoy the perspectives that you’re bringing, let them bring you on first, and then as you get more comfortable and learn the tendencies and cadences of your host, you can pick and choose your spots where there’s a lull or that some funny thing can be dropped in.”

Communicate With Your Host

Every host needs something from their producer. Some may need more, and some may need less, but they all need something. Make sure you are communicating with your host or hosts about what you are seeing, who you are booking, and if anything is changing about the show.

While the host ultimately makes the final call on what goes on the air and when over the course of your shows length, you do have an obligation to bring all the different balls that are up in the air to your host so they have as much information at hand in order to make the show a success.

And depending on where you work, you may be producing a show where the host is remote and not in the same room with you. That is the case for Williams at SiriusXM.

“Over communicate. They don’t have to respond to your message…. If something changes at all, you let them know immediately. You don’t wait on certain things, you just over communicate all the time,” Williams said in Episode 3. “It’s the communication aspect of it. You have to hammer that home.”

Other Tidbits

  • Know where to find audio that could be relevant for a show. Some of your local teams have YouTube channels where they post audio from press conferences. Some of your team’s Twitter accounts, or beat writers, also post audio from players and coaches, or their own opinions. Check out national Twitter accounts like The Herd with Colin Cowherd or the account for The Pat McAfee Show and see if anything from there is relevant to your market. 
  1. Recognize that guest booking is not just a one-way street. When you book a guest, make sure you are giving something as opposed to just taking (as Riordan said in Episode 5). If you are in a big market, that may mean giving a gift card to a prominent guest. If you are in a smaller market, make sure you offer to plug a guest’s charity or outside work they are doing.

What’s Coming Next

As we move forward through the Producers Podcast, you’ll hear from more of the biggest national and local producers around. Already scheduled to appear? Jackson Safon, the producer of the Draymond Green Show, so be on the lookout for that to drop soon.

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BSM Writers

Your Football Conversation Has To Be Different

I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.

Brian Noe

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Rejoice! Ball is back, baby. Life is just better when football season is included; am I right? (That was a rhetorical question because I know I’m right in this case.) Like many people in this country, I’m all about the pigskin. Outside of my family and friends, there aren’t many things in life that I love more than BALL.

With all of that being established, a simple question still exists: is there such a thing as talking too much football on a sports radio show?

I think it isn’t as much what you’re talking about; it’s how you’re talking about it. For instance, it isn’t good enough to lazily say, “Ehh, we’ll start off by talking about the game last night.” Well, how are you going to talk about it? Do you have anything original, interesting or entertaining to say? Or are you just gonna start riffing like you’re in a jam band hoping to accidentally stumble onto something cool after six minutes of nothing?

Talking about football is like opening a new burger joint. Hang with me on this one. There are so many options — Burger King, McDonald’s, Five Guys, Wendy’s, In-N-Out, etc. — that you can’t expect to have great success if you open a run-of-the-mill burger joint of your own. Having an inferior product is going to produce an inferior result.

It comes down to whether a topic or angle will cause the show to stand out or blend in. Going knee-deep on a national show about the competition at left guard between two Buffalo Bills offensive lineman doesn’t stand out. You’ll get lost in the shuffle that way.

A show needs to constantly be entertaining and engaging. One way to check that box is with unique viewpoints. Don’t say what other shows are saying. Your burger joint (aka football conversation) needs to be different than the competition. Otherwise, why are you special?

Another way to stand out is with personality. It’s impossible to have unique angles with every single topic that’s presented. A lot of hosts recently pointed out that the Dallas Cowboys committed 17 penalties in their first preseason game against the Denver Broncos. But Stephen A. Smith said it differently than everybody else. That’s what it comes down to; either say things that other shows aren’t saying, or say them differently.

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh made a comment recently that too much of anything is a bad thing. So back to the original question, is there such a thing as too much football talk on a sports radio show?

Variety is the spice of life, but quality is the spice of sports radio. If a show provides quality, listeners will keep coming back. It’s really that simple. Sure, hosts will hear “talk more this, talk more that” from time to time, but you know what’s funny about that? It means the listeners haven’t left. The show is providing enough quality for them to stick around. If the quality goes away, so will the audience.

It’s smart for hosts and programmers to think, “What’s our strongest stuff?” If that happens to be a bunch of football topics, great, roll with it. I don’t know why any host would go with B- or C-material just for the sake of providing variety. That’s silly to me.

Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick said something interesting last week while visiting Atlanta’s training camp. Vick was asked which team’s offense he’d like to run if he was still playing today. “The offense Tom Brady is running in Tampa,” Vick said. “Pass first.”

The answer stood out to me because throwing the ball isn’t what made Vick special with the Falcons. He was a decent passer and a dynamic runner. The run/pass blend made Vick a problem. I totally understand wanting to prove doubters wrong, but there are a lot of athletes that get away from what they do best while relying on something else that isn’t their specialty.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is not an outside shooter. He’s brutal in that area. Yet Russ will keep firing threes at a 30% clip. Why? Attacking the rim and working the midrange is his game. You don’t see Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul bombing threes if they aren’t going in. He kills opponents with his midrange skills all day.

It’ll be interesting to see how Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa approaches this season. He’s received a steady diet of “can’t throw the deep ball.” Will he try to a fault to prove doubters wrong, or will he rely on what he does best? Beating defenders with timing and accuracy on shorter throws is where he finds the most success.

Working to improve your weaknesses makes sense, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of going away from your strengths. How is it any different in sports radio? If a host isn’t strong when it comes to talking basketball or baseball, it definitely makes sense to improve in those areas. But if that same host stands out by talking football, at some point it becomes like Westbrook jacking up threes if the host gets too far away from a bread-and-butter strength.

Former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the only player in the Baseball Hall of Fame that was unanimously elected. He relied on his cutter — a fastball that moved, a lot — about 85% of the time. Mo didn’t say, “Man, my four-seam fastball and changeup aren’t getting enough respect.” He rode that cutter all the way to Cooperstown and legendary status.

Rivera is a great example of how playing to your strengths is the best approach. He also shows that quality trumps variety every time. Let’s put it this way: if 85% of a sports radio show is football content, and the quality of that show is anywhere near Mo caliber, it’s destined to be a hit.

One of my buddies, Mike Zanchelli, has always been a hit with the ladies. I think he came out of the womb with at least 10 girls in the nursery showing interest in him. He had a simple dating philosophy: “Always. Leave them. Wanting. More.” That might work in dating, but I think it’s the opposite in sports radio. Most listeners don’t hear the entire show. If they’re in and out, wouldn’t you want them to hear your best stuff when they are tuned in?

That’s why I say screw variety. That’s why I wouldn’t worry about overserving your audience an all-you-can-eat BALL buffet. I think it’s much wiser to focus on producing a quality product regardless if it’s well rounded or not.

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BSM Writers

ESPN Has Gone From Playing Checkers to Chess In Two Years

Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different.

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In the days after the Big Ten news leaked regarding some of the details of their upcoming media deals, I was hankering for more information. I wanted more insight as to the “why”. Why did the Big Ten leave such a long-lasting and prosperous relationship with ESPN. I just couldn’t imagine it and it’s why I wrote about it last week.

It was in that pursuit of knowledge that I tuned into a podcast favorite of mine, The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast. The show’s hosts are deep into the weeds of sports media with John Ourand at the Sports Business Journal and Andrew Marchand at the New York Post. It was Ourand who was dropping dimes of news on the Big Ten deal last week. I wanted to hear him dive deeper, and he did on the podcast. But it was a throwaway line that got my wheels churning.

“This is about the third or fourth deal in a row that ESPN, the free-spending ESPN, to me has shown some financial discipline” Ourand said. “They are showing a bit of financial discipline that I hadn’t seen certainly when John Skipper was there and pre-dating John Skipper.”

I had to keep digging and folks, it’s true. ESPN is essentially Jimmy Pitaro in the above quote, the Chairman of ESPN. Since taking the role in 2018, he was put into an interesting position of being in the middle of a lot of big money media rights deals that would be coming due for renegotiation soon. The rights fees for EVERYTHING were going to balloon wildly. But in the last two years, he has comfortably kept the astronomical rates somewhat within shouting distance.

The big one, the NFL media rights deal agreed to last March, saw ESPN pay a very strong 30% increase for the rights. However, other networks involved had to pay “double” as Ourand so succinctly put it. He also personally negotiated with FOX to bring in Troy Aikman and Joe Buck to make their Monday Night Football booth easily more recognizable and the best in the sport. ESPN in that deal, that did NOT include doubled rates, got more games, better games, and more schedule flexibility. ABC gets two Super Bowls in the deal too. Simply put, Jimmy Pitaro set up ESPN to get a Super Bowl itself, but for now his network will take full advantage of the ABC network broadcast when the time comes (2026, 2030).

The recent Big Ten deal was massive because the conference spent forty years with ESPN and decided to reward that loyalty with a massively overpriced mid-tier package. ESPN balked at the idea. In their back pocket lies a lot of college football media rights deals with a lot of conferences including one that will be a massively profitable venture, the SEC package. ESPN takes over the CBS package of the “top” conference game. Yes, it paid $3 billion for it, but it’s a scant $300 million annually. Sure, that’s over 5X what CBS was paying annually but CBS signed that deal in 1996! I need not tell you all of the advancements in our world since Bob Dole was a presidential nominee. ESPN now gets to cherry-pick the best game from the best conference and put the game anywhere they damn well please to maximize exposure.

The F1 media rights extension is massive because of two things: one, they got it cheap before the sport littered your timeline on weekend mornings and two, when they re-signed with F1 this summer they paid way less than other streaming networks were reportedly willing to pay. The brand, the savvy worked again. ESPN takes a small risk for a potentially exploding sport and much like CBS did with the SEC for 25 years, can make massive margins.

I can keep going, and I will with one more. Sports betting. The niche is growing like my lawn minutes after the summer rainstorm. Pitaro has said publicly that sports betting “has become a must-have” and he’s full-frontal correct. ESPN is in an odd spot with their clear lineage to Disney, but it’s obvious something massive is going to come soon with ESPN reportedly looking for a deal in the $3 billion neighborhood.

Pitaro has been positioning this company from a position of strength. He pays big money for big properties, but knows when he’s getting taken advantage of and most importantly, isn’t afraid to pull his brand’s name out of the deep end.

ESPN may have an issue with dwindling subscribers, but that’s an everyone problem. The difference is ESPN is constantly trying to get you from one network ship you think is sinking into another network life raft. If you want to leave cable or satellite and go streaming, you can. ESPN+ is there to pick up the pieces. Or Sling (with an ESPN bundle). Or YouTube TV (ESPN is there too). Or a myriad of other ways. They are positioned so well right now to be where you think you want to go. Jimmy Pitaro and ESPN have been amazing at doing whatever they can to keep you paying them monthly.

The network has been aggressive with media rights deals but these newer ones have been diligently maneuvered by Pitaro. It was a choice to essentially back the SEC for the next decade, and to put more money into the potential of F1. The effort was a conscious one to keep a tight-lipped mission to bolster Monday Night Football’s booth. It was an understated strategy to reinvest in the NHL. Those decisions make the future ones with the Pac-12, the Big 12, NBA and UFC fascinating to watch but what’s clear is that this ESPN strategy is different. The old adage of “pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered” may have applied to the network under different leadership, but these aren’t eating pigs. These are boars.

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BSM Writers

The Producers Podcast – Big Baby Dave, Jomboy Media

Brady Farkas

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Big Baby Dave has his hands in everything for Jomboy Media. He joins Brady Farkas to talk about how he brings a unique sound to each show he works with.

iTunes: https://buff.ly/3A7FJ4a

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3bZ7NgG

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3dB4FrO

Google: https://buff.ly/3JVC5NG

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3STupzF

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