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Now Hear This: Cofield and Company – ESPN Las Vegas

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Late Sunday evening I took a friend of mine to the airport in Sacramento. On my way back to the house, my wife called to find out when I’d be home. That was when I first learned of what was unfolding in Las Vegas.

When I arrived home a few minutes later, I could see the devastation on her face as she had just finished watching the first video posted on Twitter. After a tragedy like this happens, it instantly captures the attention of the entire country. Every sports talk show in America must decide how to handle it on-air the next day, and in most cases, whether it’s something like this or a natural disaster, you address it by recapping what happened, sharing your personal feelings about it and letting the audience know that you plan to provide a distraction from the surreal scene that continues to play in everyone’s head.

But what do you do when you live and broadcast in the city that endured such a devastating event?

I decided to check in with the afternoon drive show on ESPN 1100 in Las Vegas – Cofield and Company. Steve Cofield is a veteran broadcaster who’s been hosting his radio show in Vegas for over a decade and I was very impressed with how he handled the start of his show on Monday afternoon. Steve and his co-host, Adam Hill, were in a tough situation. Not only did they need to find a way to balance a tragedy and somehow do a sports radio show but they were broadcasting live on-remote from a local pizza restaurant (which is never an ideal scenario regardless of the circumstances).

From the start, you can clearly hear that Steve was not the most energetic person on the air that day nor would anyone expect him to be. His voice conveyed what the entire community was feeling – sadness. Before the show got going, Steve pitched it to a press conference with the Mayor, Sheriff, etc. to bring his listeners the latest updates. The news got worse as the death toll continued to rise along with the total number of people injured. Steve then brought in Adam and asked him to share what he saw when he left his house last night after the shooting. Adam talked about how empty and eerie the strip was and how weird it was to see casino floors empty. Slowly but surely, Cofield and Company did what they had to do, and moved on to doing what they do best, talking sports and providing that needed distraction.

No matter how bad the situation is, it’s important to remember that sports radio provides fans with a break from many of the overwhelming feelings that come when tragedies like this take place. In my 20 years of producing and programming sports radio, I have never lived in a city where such a catastrophe has taken place but there are two situations that I can compare it to.

The first was 9/11. In 2001, I was the board-op on the Grant Napear Show on KHTK in Sacramento. That day was felt across the country like nothing I had ever seen or heard before. Then in 2013, I worked in Denver at 104.3 The Fan and I heard stories of what it was like on-air the day after the theater shooting in Aurora the year prior. Just hearing my former co-workers talk about that day was extremely tough especially since one of the people killed use to work at The Fan.

I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Steve and Adam and any other local sports broadcast to go on the air this past Monday in Las Vegas. Normally at this point I’d bring everything full circle and let you know why something worked well but here’s the thing, I don’t think there is a textbook or “right way” to handle something of this magnitude when you’re hosting a sports talk show. My advice is this; recap what happened, keep people updated with the latest and provide listeners with a way they can help those affected. Most importantly though, speak from the heart and let your listeners know that you care and that you’re right there with them. Let them know that you’re human and that you too were devastated and just want to know the answer to the same question as them… why? Steve and Adam did just that.

To hear the start of Monday’s edition of Cofield and Company click here.

BSM Writers

What Can Programmers Learn From A Social Media Following?

“A large number of followers may be the result of using social media well, but if you think the size of someone’s following is proof they’ll be a good part of your lineup, that’s a set-up for failure.”

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I first began using Twitter in 2009 when I was a reporter at The Seattle Times. Jim Mora was the Seattle Seahawks coach and I had a smart phone made by Palm. The Twitter app was so wonky I posted live updates from Seahawks press conferences via TwitPic, sending a picture of the person speaking with the news item included as a caption. We’ve all come a long way since then.

I like Twitter. Over the past 12-plus years, I’ve found that my sarcasm and sense of humor (if you can call it that) translated better on Twitter than it ever did in print or later as a radio host at 710 ESPN Seattle. I’ve made friends on Twitter, picked fights with other reporters and generally found it a good place to test out ideas and arguments and an increasingly terrible place to discuss anything important. I have more than 40,000 followers, which is not insignificant nor is it at all exceptional given the market I worked in. None of this gives you any idea about how well I’ve done my job in sports media, though.

Yet an individual’s Twitter following has become part of our industry scoreboard. It’s certainly not the final score and it definitely doesn’t decide the outcome, but it is the best way I know to gain a quick assessment of someone’s reach and/or significance. It’s a data point that is readily accessible. It’s the thing I check first when I encounter someone who’s part of the sports-media industry.

But what does it really tell us? More specifically, how much does it tell us about that person’s ability to do their actual job whether it is reporting news, writing stories or being part of a show? Because as important as Twitter has become in sports-media, no one is making money from Twitter and social media specialists are the only people who are really being paid to Tweet.

For most of us, Twitter is not a job, it is a tool. For a radio host, it’s a way to interact with listeners outside the footprint and time slot of the show. It also is a powerful opportunity to deepen audience engagement through two-way, real-time communication. These things may help a host’s job performance, but they should not be mistaken for the actual job itself. A radio host is not valuable because he or she was right on Twitter or because they were first on Twitter or because they had a viral Tweet. A radio host is valuable because of the ability to attract, entertain and retain an audience during a specific slot of time. Twitter may help you prepare to do that, but it does not actually accomplish the task.

Programmers need to understand this, too. A large number of followers may be the result of using social media well, but if you think the size of someone’s following is proof they’ll be a good part of your lineup, that’s a set-up for failure. Just look at what book publishers have found.

An article last month in the New York Times showed how publishers have used social media followings as a weathervane of sorts for books sales. The number of followers an author has is influencing everything from what authors are paid to which books get published. This is especially true when it comes to non-fiction books. The rationale is pretty straightforward when you look under hood of that particular industry.

A publisher is the business that buys a certain book from the author, essentially making a bet that the sales of this book the author is writing or has written will more than cover the money paid to the author as well as the cost of publication and promotion of the book. A publisher wants as much assurance as possible that this book will sell sufficient copies to not just make its money back, but insure a profit. This is where the author’s social media audience comes in. The follower count is being looked to as an indicator of just how many people can be expected to buy this book. After all, someone following the author is certainly a sign they’re interested in what that author has to say. Some percentage of those followers can reasonably be expected to buy a book by this person. Except social media followings turn out to be a fairly terrible tool of forecasting book sales.

Billie Eilish has 99 million Instagram followers. Her book — released last year — sold 64,000 copies. If I was being catty, I would point out that is one book sold for every 1,546 Instagram followers.

billie eilish on Twitter: "“Billie Eilish” - The photo book by Billie The  book and the audiobook companion (narrated by Billie) are available now.  https://t.co/PAYxvTW64A https://t.co/vWFmq3502D" / Twitter

“Even having one of the biggest social media followings in the world is not a guarantee,” wrote Elizabeth A. Harris.

So we should all just stop paying attention to Twitter followings, right? Hardly. First of all, it is a data point, and anyone waiting for social media followings to become LESS important probably thinks the Internet is just a fad. More importantly, having a following is certainly better than not having one as it does indicate the ability to attract an audience.

The issue isn’t whether it’s good to have a large following. Of course it is. The issue is how reliable that is in predicting an individual’s interest or appeal outside of that specific social platform.

What programmers need to do is get smarter about how they evaluate social media followings by answering two questions:

  1. Why are people following this particular talent? Content is the catch-all answer here. Go beyond that. What sort of content is this person providing that none of his or her peers are? Will that type of content be valuable as part of my lineup whether it’s terrestrial radio, a podcast or other format? Someone who’s funny on Twitter may be funny in other formats. They may also just be funny on Twitter. Are there examples of how this kind of content has worked in the past or reasons to think it will work in the future?
  2. How likely is this talent’s social media following to migrate to my medium? This is one of the trickier ones. One of the reasons for acquiring a talent with a large social media following is the hope that some of their followers will become your customers. While this is always possible, the more important question is whether it’s likely.

Remember, that example of Eilish, who had 99 million Instagram followers and sold 64,000 books? Well, that number of books is actually not a bad result. In fact, it’s absolutely solid for book sales. The problem was the publishing house didn’t expect a solid sales performance. It expected incredibly strong sales because it paid a significant amount of money to Eilish in the form of an advance.

It’s clear the publishing house made a bad bet, but the principal mistake was not about Eilish’s ability — or lack thereof — to produce a book. She did produce one that was 336 pages long, loaded with family photos never seen before and while there wasn’t as much text as you might expect, the sales were solid. The mistake the publishing house made was overestimating how many of Eilish’s fans would become customers in an entirely different medium, and I think that’s a lesson worth noting in this industry.

Unless you’re hiring someone to do social media for your company, Twitter is not going to be their job. It’s just a tool. An important tool, a useful one, but just a tool.

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BSM Writers

How Good Can iHeart’s AdBuilder Solution Be?

“It was slick, I admit.”

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Do it yourself radio has come to a new client you will never meet. These clients are ready to do it themselves. All they want is to buy a radio campaign. And iHeart AdBuilder is all they need. 

Let’s figure this out. 

In 2019, iHeart started beta testing a do-it-yourself online platform for small businesses to battle Facebook and Google.  

I went to the website to see how it worked. It was slick, I admit. It would be a great topic to add to the BSM Summit.

The first piece of info. the site wants to establish is your campaign goal. The four choices were “Get website traffic”, “Have listeners know my address”, “Get phone calls”, and “Announce an event”. 

That’s it.

When was the last time you wrote a new business order with any of those four goals as the single reason for the campaign? Wouldn’t that be easier for the copywriter and the client to track results? TRY IT! 

I inputted that I wanted to announce an event and proceeded to the following prompt. My business name, address, website, and industry were the following choices. So far, so good. The only tricky part were the industry choices.

How to Run Ads With iHeartRadio AdBuilder

I can see how specific business categories are not precisely represented, like counter service restaurants. They are not fast food because there is no drive-through, but they aren’t a full-service restaurant either due to no waiters being used and many other factors. It isn’t confusing for me, but you know how clients can be!

Selecting the market I wanted my customers to come from was easy, and it allowed iHeart to choose the closest radio stations. Identifying the ONE type of customer I wanted was fantastic. I can see how it focuses the client on a primary target. Parents with young kids or teens, foodies, married couples, single adults, or an option to select my demo all seemed easy enough.

The demos offered weren’t Men 18-34, but men, women or adults, young adults, seniors, adults, or the dreaded all ages. Next was selecting when I wanted to run and how much I wanted to spend. It wasn’t a challenge because you choose your dates, and then you’re given three choices for a weekly budget. In my case, it was $500, $750, or $1,000 per week. iHeart AdBuilder bills you less if the whole week isn’t used.

Impressions, frequency, and reach were highlighted, and they showed the logos of the two stations my $500 was going to be spent on. I noticed there was no information on when the ads would air, how many times per day, or any of that! “You give us $500, and we will spend it over the week on these two stations when and where we want! And it will work!” 

The pages dedicated to creating copy are straight forward and, as salespeople, we have filled those types of forms out plenty of times. iHeart is highlighting that they are waiving the $100 production fee. Maybe, that will change in the future. After going to the checkout, your credit card is given a temporary authorization (which will be reversed), and you are told your ad will be emailed to you in a few days. You won’t be billed until your ads air.

What are the odds this $500 campaign over two stations in a few days will work? Who knows, but I bet the automated emails and follow-up calls will be relentless. I think it’s a great platform and can see a decent percentage of smaller new business deals go this direction. Some clients may even prefer to never “deal” with a salesperson again, kind of like most of our agency buyers. That leaves us with a whole lotta middle ground. For now. 

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 58

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Demetri welcomes Brandon Kravitz and Derek Futterman to the show this week. They talk about Hub Arkush, Aaron Rodgers, Michelle Tafoya, and Pete Thamel.

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