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Rich Ohrnberger Is Finding The Funny in Everything

“I like to make people laugh. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed doing and has come naturally.”

Brian Noe

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Work hard, play hard. That’s the basic approach Rich Ohrnberger brings to sports talk radio. He spent six years in the NFL as an offensive lineman, including two years with the New England Patriots. When you think of head coach Bill Belichick, I doubt you immediately think rockin’ good time and belly laughs. Belichick is detail-oriented, serious and dedicated. That’s part of what Ohrnberger brings as a host. He’s a grinder who’s meticulous when it comes to being prepared and getting better.

The other half of Ohrnberger’s approach is lighthearted storytelling and finding the funny in everything. He’s doing a great job of blending two different worlds — serious yet fun. “It’s time to work,” versus, “It’s happy hour, baby!” When a host can find the balance of being fully dedicated while maintaining the fun factor, that mixture is ideal.

Ohrnberger hosts a weekday morning show for San Diego Sports 760, and also weekend national shows for Fox Sports Radio. This would be his sports radio scouting report: Adaptable — an East Meadow, NY native now living in San Diego. Perceptive — quickly recognizes what appeals to his audience and delivers more of what they want. Most important attribute — funny and entertaining. Areas to improve — could lose a few pounds. (Just kidding, just kidding.)

There are several great viewpoints and stories from Ohrnberger in the conversation below. He shares an awesome story about a conversation he had with Hall of Famer Russ Grimm. He talks about what it was like to entertain the entire Patriots team from time to time. Ohrnberger also talks about not being a sports junkie as a kid and how his perception of the media has changed. Enjoy!

Brian Noe: You’re a seven-day-a-week show host. How’s everything going with your schedule in general?

Rich Ohrnberger: It’s awesome to be perfectly honest with you. I love the idea of immersing yourself in work that you love to do. I remember feeling that way about football because the football season my entire life has been that. It’s always been a seven-day-a-week job. Now in broadcasting, it’s no different. Part of the reason why I wanted to get into sports broadcasting is to stay close to the game of football. Part of that is living the grind a little bit. I’m not nearly as sore on Mondays, I definitely enjoy that aspect of it. But I appreciate feeling purposeful and having something to do every single day of the week. And because we’re not launching rockets, and we’re not doing brain surgery, there’s still plenty of time for family outside of travel for game broadcasts and things like that.

BN: There are a lot of people in sports radio that have been sports junkies their whole life, and that wasn’t the case with you. What were you into during your childhood and how big or little of a part did sports play in your upbringing?

RO: Yeah, I grew up in a household of musicians. My dad is a really talented and proficient guitar player. My younger brother, he ended up picking up the guitar and teaching himself how to play and then eventually became an even better guitarist than my dad. He played in bands. My dad, when he was a kid, played in bands. My sister was an operatic singer. She had an opera trained voice and she went to college as a vocal performance major. My mom even was a clarinetist in high school and ranked in the state. I don’t really know exactly how that works with bands, but she was pretty good at it.

I didn’t have a musical bone in my body. I was a little bit of the oddball in my family, but I was always a really physical kid with a huge amount of energy. I needed an outlet and sports seemed like the best outlet for all that. But it wasn’t something I was passionate about watching. I didn’t really love sitting down and turning on a football game as entertainment, or watching baseball. I got involved in a sport that isn’t as popular nationally as say, football, baseball or basketball. I got involved in lacrosse.

I loved lacrosse, and I played lacrosse my whole young life. Then I started playing some basketball as well. I would say my earliest memories of even watching sports was just really falling in love with how great Michael Jordan was and thinking like, oh my gosh, he’s doing things that you just don’t think are possible and he’s making it look easy. I would be in my driveway bouncing the basketball and thinking to myself, maybe I could do that one day. I was convinced that one day I would be Michael Jordan. [Laughs] It was just ridiculous, but in my mind, I was like, well, he can do it so clearly it’s possible.

My love for sports really was fostered by playing it. I didn’t enjoy watching it as much as playing it. I fell in love with superlative athletes and I really tried to mimic what they did at first, and that was my education. I didn’t live in a house of huge sports fans. I had to rely on my peers to teach me about sports, sort of fill in the blanks that I was unaware of.

BN: What area do you think you’ve grown the most as a sports radio host?

RO: My awareness of the host I want to be. What I want to be — and what is paramount I think to all broadcasts — is just be entertaining. There were times where I would turn on the microphone and really think like, oh my God, okay, I’m a former player, I need to inform everybody about all the things I know about football from a former player standpoint. Yeah, that’s definitely a part of it. That’s important.

Then there were times where I would turn on the microphone and be like, okay, I need to make sure that I argue against a take that I disagree with and make sure that I can very clearly take down and make counter-arguments to this ridiculous, outlandish take that I just don’t seem to agree with. Yeah, sure, that can be a part of a show too. But the most important thing is to be entertaining.

I like to make people laugh. It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed doing and has come naturally. I just want to do that. How can I incorporate it? I think what I’ve gotten the best at is finding the funny in everything. Even sometimes when you’re talking about tough stuff or boring stuff. Where’s the angle that’s going to make somebody smile or feel like, oh wow, he said something a little clever there. Those are the things I search for as I’m waiting to speak or listening to somebody and try to catch something that they said that we can move the conversation in an entertaining direction. Those are the shows I like to listen to. That’s the broadcaster I want to be.

BN: I’m a perfectionist. I’ve grown in not letting that be a bad thing. You can’t be a perfectionist and have a good state of mind in sports radio; you’re gonna drive yourself crazy. Just do the best you can, celebrate the wins, work on the losses, but don’t be handicapped by them, because you easily can be.

RO: I’m so glad you shared that because I was very much so a perfectionist for a long time. To the point where there were times where I’d be so ashamed to hand in something that I worked on that sometimes I just wouldn’t even hand it in. Or I’d feel like even if it’s a good grade, it’s a passing grade, I’d be like, well, I think it sucks so what use is that?

I had an offensive line coach named Russ Grimm in Arizona. Just an old, grizzled former player, Hall of Famer, big mustache, chewed tobacco. One time I remember he was critiquing my technique. He gave me a compliment. He paused the tape and he was like, now that’s exactly how it’s done. I’m like yeah, but I kind of stepped behind myself and I probably need to widen my base a little bit if he bull rushes me. He goes, dude, fuck all that. It’s never gonna be perfect. He was like, Rich, sometimes good enough is good enough, and that was good enough.

Then he hit play and the film continued. I was like holy shit. I mean, this is coming from somebody, obviously, who is definitely far more talented than I was when he was playing. And he had this belief that the job just needs to get done, so good enough is good enough sometimes.

BN: Your NFL days obviously help with knowing the X’s and O’s and all of that. But as a sports radio host, it might be even more valuable being surrounded by so many characters. If you’re trying to be an entertaining host, having teammates that say hilarious things in a locker room setting, does that help you more when you’re trying to pick out what’s funny or entertaining about any topic?

RO: Yeah, and also if you speak to enough of your teammates, you get a really good look at what America looks like. When you’re in a locker room with a bunch of different guys from a bunch of different areas of the country, a bunch of different races and cultures, different families and different backgrounds, well you have to find a way to communicate with all of them. That, in sort of a microcosm way, is connecting with an audience the same way it is on a mass level. Can you do that? Can you be appealing broadly?

A locker room environment, especially when you can get a bunch of guys in a locker room laughing, or listening intently, and there have been many times where I’ve been called in front of teams that I played on and I had to perform, not just as a rookie. I remember in New England there were a couple of different times where Bill Belichick would just call me out. He would just call me out because he knew that I would have a story from my life that would make the team laugh a little bit, or just get guys rolling, or add a little levity to a serious-natured work environment.

He would have me go in front of the room and I would just tell the guys a story. It was fun. It was a great experience because you realize the power of your words. If you can carefully choose them, and if you can deliver them with a certain level of enthusiasm, you can make everybody’s day a little bit easier, a little bit better. That has really carried over into what I do today.

BN: When Belichick said something like, ‘Hey, Ohrnberger, tell the team a story,’ what was that experience like for you?

RO: It made me feel like I was a part of the team. A lot of people would probably get real nervous, but I was like, oh yeah, he sees value in me. I felt like, yeah, this is something that I can offer that nobody else in this room can. Tom Brady can’t do this. He can’t get in front of the room and captivate a roomful of players telling a story about his life, not the way that I can.

Look, I can’t throw a football like him. I don’t have the brain he has. I certainly did not play as long as he has. My durability pales in comparison, but I could get in front of a room of my peers and just introduce them to a story they’ve never heard before about my life, and just have them eating out of my hand, laughing and sometimes crying laughing. It was the best. It was a great feeling because it felt like I belonged, like there was a reason that I was there outside of just being a football player, that there was value beyond just what I was doing on the field that I brought to the team.

BN: If you could give me the CliffsNotes version of one of the stories you told that had people belly laughing, what’s something that comes to mind?

RO: Oh, my gosh, I would tell them the most personal horrifying stories that have ever occurred to me.

Without going into too great detail, imagine the most embarrassing moments of your life. You may have been walked in on doing something, you may have had an accident of some kind or another, and you felt like a complete fool in the moment, but you know it would make a great story if you were just brave enough to tell it. Well, that’s what I was doing in front of the team and it was killing.

BN: [Laughs] Man, that’s awesome. I think you sidestepped the landmines on that one very nicely.

RO: [Laughs] I was trying not to give too much away. Also, look, that could definitely be something that comes up on a slow day on our show.

BN: Yeah, and that’s the other thing too, that stuff not only kills in a locker room, it kills on whatever show you bring it to. Have you brought similar things to San Diego?

RO: Oh, yeah. Anybody who’s ever listened to a radio show I’m on, I think one of the things I try to do is talk about me. We’re definitely covering sports because it’s sports radio, but I think part of the partnership that the listener has with the host is trust, and how the heck do you develop trust with anybody other than getting to know them?

The first thing you’ll do when you’re starting to get to know somebody is find out about their background. Where are you from? What did your parents do for a living? Are you married? Are your kids? What are their names? How old are they? Those sorts of things are so important to sort of build out a whole character. Otherwise, you’re just this surface-level update guy.

Trust me, that serves a role too because again, you need to have information intertwined into your show, and there’s nothing wrong with that profession if that’s what you want to do, but when you’re hosting a show, in my opinion you gotta go deep. You have to dig in and show people who you are. I think the shows that most entertained me growing up were the shows where I felt a connection with the host who was on the mic.

BN: I never really made the connection, but something that Belichick has done a great job of, I think would be a great approach for any sports radio show. You lived through this, he’ll sit there and quiz his players about their teammates and be like, hey, what’s this guy’s wife’s name? What are his kids’ names? Where’d he go to college? All this stuff. It’s like, know your teammates. It’s not just employee 26917. Like, it’s a guy. He’s got a family. He’s got a story. He’s got loved ones. I think that sports radio misses the mark all the time when it comes to that because it’s just human nature to not dig into the details of getting to know someone. If we did, I think shows would be a lot stronger.

RO: Yeah, I completely agree with everything you said. Another really good comparison back to the days in New England, because I remember that was one of the more nerve-racking experiences was when Bill would go around the squad meeting and would point to guys. You could be quizzed on anything. You could be quizzed on the game. You could be quizzed on your teammates. He kept everybody on their toes.

He really wanted people to have a deep level of appreciation for each other on the team, their story, how they got to where they are, and what they’ve done since they’ve been in the league. In terms of the opponent, almost the same thing. Like, tell me about this player. Don’t just tell me that he plays safety. Tell me the routes that he struggles defending. Tell me if he’s aggressive on play action, and he’s going to have backfield eyes when there’s a good, hard play fake from the quarterback to the running back. Tell me those things. That’s how you know if somebody’s really paying attention. That’s one of the things that Belichick required in those rooms was having everybody paying close attention to the details.

BN: I think Belichick should go into sports betting when his career is over.

RO: [Laughs] He probably would be like one of those 75% hitters, like one of those unicorns out there.

BN: Right? I swear he’d have something for in-game betting, prop bets, he’d be all over it. How has your perception of the media changed since being a player, especially under Belichick?

RO: [Laughs] Boy, my perception has changed immensely. My original thought process was that the media — and that’s such an interesting word because that’s a term that’s couched with so much negativity, like the media. The media, all that means is the various different ways that people can reach information — whether it be audio, radio, podcasting, written media, magazine writers, online writers, newspaper writers, or television — whatever medium that you’re taking in your information, that makes up the media.

It’s like this boogeyman, right? That’s the way I used to look at it like, oh, the media. But that’s not what it is. What I’ve learned now leaving football and joining the media is we’re just serving as a conduit to the information that people don’t have the time to pay attention to because they have jobs, and they have families, and they have other important things that they need to do.

They’re just trying to grab a little bit of something that they can carry with them into the office to talk to their buddy about by the water cooler, or on the Zoom call, or when he hops on the phone with his dad, like, hey, you see how Geno Smith is playing? Yeah, I was just listening to the radio, this guy is leading the league in blah, blah, blah. You’re just serving as a conduit to the information that people really don’t have the time to go and look up themselves. My opinion of the media has changed greatly. I think it serves as a great asset for people. It’s not this enemy that a lot of coaches build it up to be.

BN: As far as your future goes, what do you want to accomplish and what do you think would make you the happiest?

RO: The things that make me happiest are just advancing, whether that means entertaining a wider audience, doing a better job. That’s really important to me. Every single day committing myself to doing a better job. I’m not afraid to say it; I’m going to be a stronger broadcaster next year because I know I’m going to work at it. I’m going to learn things. I don’t claim to know more than I do. I know there’s plenty that I haven’t unearthed in this career that I can’t wait to. I know I’m going to put in the work to figure out what those things are.

My main goal is to just keep advancing as I learn more about technique and learn more about connecting with an audience and just keep doing more of that. I don’t want to set any goals in terms of career or where or when. I just know that if I get better every single day, if I make that very simple commitment, opportunities always seem to come. That’s really been how I’ve lived my life. That’s how I lived my life as an athlete and that’s how I’m living my life as a broadcaster.

BSM Writers

Chris Broussard Is No Longer Just A ‘Basketball Guy’

“There’s no doubt that gets attached to you and that can be good because you’re seen as an ‘expert’ in one sport which is great.”

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After embarking on a career in sports, Chris Broussard made a name for himself as a writer, specifically as it pertains to covering the NBA. Whether it was covering the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, covering the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets for The New York Times, or doing television hits for ESPN, Broussard had always, whether it was justified or not, been pigeon-holed as a “basketball guy”.

That was the perception then, but today, the reality is different.

“There’s no doubt that gets attached to you and that can be good because you’re seen as an ‘expert’ in one sport which is great,” said Broussard, the co-host of First Things First on FS1 and the co-host of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio. 

“But what was good for me was that at ESPN, I had done First Take with Skip Bayless a lot.  There were a few years where it was a rotation and I was in that rotation. That enabled me to at least do the other sports.” 

Broussard has certainly made a seamless transition from print to electronic media.

After joining The New York Times in 1998, Broussard started to get television exposure doing local hits and then appearances on the various ESPN platforms would soon follow. He joined ESPN full-time in 2004 as a writer for ESPN The Magazine, but that also included regular guest appearances and fill-in hosting opportunities on shows like First Take and the opportunity to be a co-host for NBA Countdown for the 2010-11 season.

With that gig came the opportunity to work with Michael Wilbon, Jon Barry, and his childhood hero Magic Johnson.

“I think that may be have been the pinnacle because Magic is Magic,” said Broussard. “He was my favorite player until Jordan came along and (with Wilbon and Barry), we just had great chemistry.”

After one season, Broussard and Barry were replaced by Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose. A few years later, Broussard would make the move that would bring him to the next chapter of his career.

In 2016, Broussard left what amounted to being just a reporters role at ESPN for a new opportunity at FS1 where he would also be an analyst as well as a regular panelist for shows like Undisputed, The Herd with Colin Cowherd, First Things First and Lock It In.  In 2018, he began co-hosting The Odd Couple radio show with Rob Parker on FOX Sports Radio.

And then in August of 2021, Broussard was named the full-time co-host of First Things First, something that almost had happened when the network first launched.

“When they asked me to come on as a full-time co-host, it was great and maybe a long time coming,” said Broussard. “I know when Jamie Horowitz first brought all the people over from ESPN to be on FS1 in 2016, he was considering doing a show where Nick Wright and I were the co-hosts.”

Broussard now co-hosts the show with Wright and Kevin Wildes.

“I thought that I really just fit right in with the chemistry and it’s just been a great trio,” said Broussard. 

Born in Baton Rouge, Broussard and his family also lived in Cincinnati, Indiana, Syracuse, Iowa, and Cleveland.  He was a star football and basketball player for Holy Name High School in Parma Heights, Ohio and went on to play basketball for Oberlin College, an NCAA Division III school in Ohio.

Believe it or not, his first love was not basketball.

“My favorite sport growing up was football,” said Broussard. “I played football through high school. I played basketball at Oberlin College but they recruited for me football and basketball. I even played baseball up until I was about 16 years old.” 

So much for being just a basketball guy, right?

After college, Broussard had a decision to make. He knew he wanted to be a sports reporter but wasn’t sure if it was going to be print or electronic media. When he was an intern at The Indianapolis Star, he spoke to people in the know about which direction to go.

“I was told that it’s just easier and there are more spots in print journalism than there are in television and radio,” said Broussard. “I chose print because I thought I had more opportunities.”

Broussard’s first taste of covering pro sports was in 1995 at the Akron Beacon Journal when he was a backup writer covering the Cleveland Indians who would go to the World Series for the first time since 1954. Then came covering the Cavaliers for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and then it was off to New York and a bit of culture shock for Broussard.

During his 2 ½ years covering the Cavaliers, Broussard typically wore a rugby shirt, jeans and sneakers at games. But he noticed that when the Knicks and Nets would come to Cleveland or when Broussard travelled to New York and New Jersey when the Cavaliers visited the Knicks and Nets, that the New York writers would typically wear suits and ties when covering the games.

So, when he interviewed for the job with The New York Times, Broussard had an important question for his future editor.

“I asked him when I was being interviewed for the job do they require that your writers dress up,” said Broussard. “He said no but they do generally in New York because they know television opportunities are there. So, when I started working at The New York Times, I started dressing up wearing a suit and tie or sportscoat and tie whenever I would cover games.  Ultimately that led to television.”

And the rest is history.

This coming week, Broussard will be busy co-hosting his shows from the Super Bowl in Arizona. It’s one thing to host a radio show or a television show from a studio but it’s really something special to do it from a live event, especially on the giant stage of the Super Bowl.

And this week, Broussard will be center stage in front of a lot of ears and eyeballs.

“It’s always great,” said Broussard. “FOX Sports Radio always has one of the biggest and best platforms on radio row. It’s always fun when you’re doing these live shows at the big events and you’ve got an audience, it really can kind of bring out the best in you. I’m excited about it both for TV and radio.”

Chris Broussard has certainly come a long way in his career in sports. 

From his days as an athlete in high school in college to getting his start as a write to a transformation into a radio and television personality, Broussard has worked hard to get to where he is today.

“I haven’t written a word since I went to Fox,” said Broussard. “I do feel fortunate that I’ve been able from morph from a writer into TV and radio. What you want to do in this business is stay relevant and you want an audience and a platform. There’s not that many people who get that opportunity to do it.”

He’s no longer just a “basketball guy”. He’s a “sports guy”.

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BSM Writers

Radio Row Is One of Sports Radio’s Worst Weeks

Radio Row is a great opportunity for hosts, PDs, and executives. But it isn’t an inherently great opportunity for your listeners.

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From strictly a listener’s perspective, sports radio the week of Super Bowl’s Radio Row is one of the worst weeks.

Before I was a sports radio programmer, I was a sports radio listener. And while I didn’t realize it at the time, I was listening to sports radio with a programmer’s mindset. And every year, I would spend the entire week listening to shows produced live — or pretending to be live — from Radio Row at the Super Bowl. And each year, I would wonder “What the hell is the point of this?”

And now, as a former sports radio programmer, I will sit this week and listen to shows produced live — or pretending to be live — from Radio Row at the Super Bowl. And each day, I will wonder “What the hell is the point of this?”

Who does it serve? Let’s take an in-depth look at that question.

It serves the NFL. Hundreds of media professionals are stationed at its largest event, talking about it, ensuring it stays at the forefront of the public consciousness and providing millions in value for its sponsors.

It serves NFL players. Both past and present. Dozens of current and former stars will flock to Radio Row to record dozens of interviews. They’ll be paid thousands of dollars to pitch their wares as often as possible while expanding their brands outside the cities in which they currently or formerly played.

It serves the sponsors of NFL players. Radio Row provides a one-stop-shop for sponsors to send their endorsers down a line of interviews to continually get in front of new audiences. Scale, baby!

It serves the hosts, PDs, and executives. You get a working vacation! It’s awesome! I live in the Midwest, and yesterday was one of a handful of days I’ve seen the sun since November. Being in Arizona in early February is phenomenal! Plus, you get to hob knob with celebrities, get your photos taken, go to awesome parties with extravagant hor dourves and open bars, and it’s fantastic. You deserve the little break Radio Row provides; better yet, it’s all on the company dime. You get some bonding with your co-workers, you get to network, and it really is an awesome opportunity.

But you know who isn’t served? Your listeners. At least, the vast majority of them. Because here’s the reality: While it’s really cool that you’re hanging out with other radio folks, and you’ll have a plethora of former and current players swinging by for interviews, your listeners really don’t care. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s the truth. While there’s a subset of listeners who are living vicariously through you — and that can’t be completely shortchanged, it’s a big deal — the overwhelming majority couldn’t be less invested in your Radio Row interviews.

Think of it from a listener’s viewpoint: Outside of the Bay Area, do you think anyone has thought “Man, I wonder who Kyle Juszczyk thinks is gonna win the Super Bowl?” I’ll tell you that, no, they haven’t thought that, and they don’t particularly care what he thinks. Furthermore, they definitely don’t care that he’s sponsored by Old Spice, which gives him the P-P-P-Power!™

And it would be fine if there was one interview here or there, but there are some shows — both local and national — that will completely fill out their rundowns with interviews with people your listeners don’t especially care about, ask questions that your listeners don’t especially care about, and end the interview by asking who they think wins Sunday, why they think that way, and allow them to pitch their boner pills or whatever else they’re schlepping. Every day. For five straight days. For two, three, four, or even five hours.

It stinks.

Self-serving isn’t bad as long as you recognize it’s self-serving. And that could be potentially the biggest issue. Now and then, you’ll get a host that is sanctimonious and pretends they’re doing the listener a favor by spending a week away from their family in a warm weather destination, rubbing elbows with some of the greatest players — both past and present — in the game. You’re not. You’re spending a week eating all the free food you can find, drinking all the free beer you can find, and taking pictures to post on your Instagram. And that’s fine, but don’t pretend like it’s something it isn’t. You can talk yourself into its importance, but it’s important to you.

Radio Row is a great opportunity for hosts, PDs, and executives. But it isn’t an inherently great opportunity for your listeners. You can turn it into one with thoughtful questions, a unique spin on the traditional interview, or avoiding the same boring questions your subject has been asked 1,000 times during the day, but you’ve gotta go the extra mile to accomplish that. And I hope that’s not something you lose sight of this week.

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What Are The Right Social Media Answers For Sports Radio?

“What are the limits of social media for radio brands? Are there any?”

Demetri Ravanos

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Social media does not stand still. The platforms that matter today can fall out of favor with the general public in the blink of an eye. Conversely, the right feature or attention from the right people can catapult a site’s importance in the social pecking order.

How does a radio company determine what matters? Are all formats received similarly on social media or is sports radio such a unique animal that brands have to be much more deliberate in how resources are allocated? To answer these questions, I turned to some experts. 

Tom Izzo doesn’t exclude any platform when he is plotting WFAN’s social strategy. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter may each attract a different type of sports fan, but they all matter in building and serving the larger audience.

“There is sports radio audience on every social media platform, you just have to talk to them differently depending where you are,” he told me. “The language and audience on Twitter is different than the language and audience on Facebook, but there is audience everywhere.”

Audience is everywhere. That’s what is at the heart of the conundrum. How do you best utilize your assets in a landscape that isn’t just constantly changing? It’s also constantly growing!

Lori Lewis has overseen social media strategy at an executive level for Cumulus, Westwood One, Jacobs Media and iHeart among others. Now she coaches companies on creating great content with her own company, Lori Lewis Media

She told me that the key for not just sports stations, but for any brand, is understanding what their audience prioritizes. That doesn’t mean it should be the brand’s only focus though.

“Obviously, for sports radio, it’s Twitter. But don’t sleep on short-form vertical video,” she said in an email. “When done right, you’ll see success (meaning converting views into new fans) with YouTube Shorts and/or Instagram Reels as well as playback videos on Facebook (those are visual replays from the audio show).”

Converting views into new fans was taken to a bit of an extreme in Nashville. 104.5 The Zone launched Zone TV in 2021. Will Boling took the lead in creating the product. He says that launching a proprietary video stream was never about moving away from other social platforms. It was about giving listeners more access to better content in more places.

“Our video platform affects a lot of our social strategy,” he said. “On Twitter, we don’t want to just be seen as a radio station, but as a media company. Our Twitter stream allows us to react to breaking news while also sharing our broadcast at the same time. And with Twitch’s video producer, we can create featured clips from shows whenever we want. That allows us to push video out of featured guests, funny callers and anything in between to promote our podcasts from each show too.”

Video matters so much more than ever before. It does not matter who you talk to or what platform it is you are talking about. The answer always comes back to using video to attract more eyeballs.

TikTok, our most controversial social video platform, is trying to figure out what its reach could be without the visuals. Last month the company announced that it would experiment with its version of podcasts – a mode on the app that would allow users to experience TikTok content as audio-only entertainment.

I asked all three of my experts what their initial impression of the story is. Only Izzo expressed reservations.

“Probably no need for us to be first anywhere if there isn’t any particular benefit to doing that,” he said. “We’ll watch and see what happens and if it turns out that people like consuming podcasts on TikTok we will certainly address that.”

That doesn’t mean WFAN hosts and bosses won’t keep a keen eye on the feature. I would anticipate that there may be some experimental posts that either don’t receive much of a push or perhaps never see the light of day at all.

Boling is adamant that any use of TikTok is a wise one for stations. He says anything set up with an algorithm that rewards creators for posting content the audience connects with is an asset that cannot be ignored.

“We use social media to push listeners to our YouTube channel because it’s an algorithm based platform. If we get someone to click on our page once, then our channel will get recommended to them the next time they get on YouTube. TikTok helps radio companies accomplish that and own every space in the digital market right now.”

Unsurprisingly, it’s Lori Lewis that approaches the feature in the most scientific way. Do TikTok podcasts represent a sort of new frontier for audio brands? Sure, but just like Grogu and the Mandalorian, you have to go there and poke around before you can figure out how it will work best for you.

“If TikTok expands to audio, how might you complement the mothership (The FM/AM stick) and build on the trust you’ve earned from your show? What’s a unique way to tap into new features? As social media evolves, so should our approach.”

What are the limits of social media for radio brands? Are there any? Since the onset of the pandemic, so much listening has shifted from terrestrial signals to digital streams. We have totally rethought what we are. Why should it stop with how our audience consumes our content? 

I asked Lewis if we are too narrow in thinking about how social media can serve us. Are we so focused on what is that we have not considered what could be? Can a brand have one identity on air and use social media to create something that does not mirror it, but instead compliments it?

“Depends on why you’re using social media,” she answered. “If you’re leveraging social media for increased awareness and building trust to drive more engagement during your show, it might not make sense to be different on social than on-air. But, if you’re a vanilla brand limited to creativity on-air, why not? Throw yourself out there. Show your real, relatable self (assuming it’s legal and appropriate, ha-ha). Relatability wins every time.”

Do we have to be deliberate in sports radio with how we allocate our social media resources? Yes, but that doesn’t mean there is a single correct answer. 

Strategy matters on air. It’s no different on social media. But in order to figure out the best strategy, you have to be open-minded and eager to play around with new offerings to determine what works.

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