I love podcasts. I love radio too, but in recent years, I have found the hosts and shows I am most passionate about, most dedicated to, are the ones that give me long form, thought-provoking content. Besides, when I run or go grocery shopping, Apple has made it easier to listen to podcasts than terrestrial radio.
Every week here at BSM I read what Tyler McComas has to say about the podcasting world. I like Tyler. If I may be so bold, I dare say I think he likes me too. So it seems like a natural thing for us to collaborate on an article.
What follows is a conversation, not an interview. We discuss why strategies that work for podcasting don’t always work for radio, the natural advantages of each format, and how stations can get the most out of their own digital products.
DR: Since you started reviewing podcasts for BSM I have been thinking a lot about the difference between podcasts and radio. Don’t get me wrong, radio will always be my first love and Lebatard and Bomani will always be appointment listening for me, but there’s a perfect example. Bomani is making the move exclusively to podcasting. I know Bo well, and I believe him when he says that ESPN didn’t push him out and he recognized that what he does works better as a podcast than on the radio.
My question is “why?” Why, if we agree that shows like Shutdown Fullcast or JJ Redick’s Chronicles of Reddick are entertaining in podcast form, would they not work as radio shows?
TM: I do think those would work as radio shows, but not as well. I find myself thinking that I learn more about someone’s true personality on a podcast than I do a radio show. Also, I think there’s a lot of podcasts that thrive on being unfiltered. Obviously, there’s a line to what you can do on radio, but there’s something about the feel that you can say and do whatever you want on a podcast. Being unfiltered doesn’t mean just dropping F bombs whenever you want to, it’s also the feel of being able to say certain things and be critical towards certain people that may earn you a suspension if you’re doing a radio show. Something else I’ve wondered, do you think there’s an element of the unexpected? Does it make it more fun and entertaining to listen to certain podcasts over radio because anything and everything is in play and you don’t know what’s coming next?
DR: That theory makes some sense. I think the best podcasts feel like listening in on friends hanging out. In the history of the format, that’s kinda how so many great shows come together.
I often wonder if that is a flaw of radio that podcasting has exploited or just pointed out. Radio shows are so often “cast” in particular ways. Rarely is it two friends that were buddies that just liked the same team and started recording their conversations. The lack of natural chemistry, or the building of chemistry, can force talented people into roles sometimes. That’s why we have so many expert-and-former-jock shows or buttoned-down-professional-and-unhinged-voice-of-the-fan shows.
TM: That’s a really good point. Think about it, for a new radio show, establishing chemistry is often the most difficult obstacle to overcome. It can’t be forced, it has to come natural. When you’re combining a former athlete and someone who’s never played sports at a high level, you often hit challenges. However, a couple of regular guys doing a podcast just feels more natural. Mostly, like you pointed out, because they’re familiar with each other and often get along. Podcasts really do the trick for me because I can listen whenever I please. Most nights, I’m listening to 2-3 a night, trying to pick up on something I can use for my own career. The accessibility of podcasts puts the listener in charge in terms of when they consume it. That’s important in today’s age.
DR: Accessibility is a huge difference! I would also argue no clocks is an advantage of podcasting. I think as that format has become more professional you have seen more shows set a hard cap. Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody, for instance, often apologizes for going over the 45 minute mark.
On a whole though, podcasts are allowed to do deeper dives. It would never work on radio because radio has to keep appealing to as many people as possible, and that is the right move for radio. I love what the 30-for-30 podcasts are doing though. Radio doesn’t give you time to get lost in a story or interview the way podcasts do.
TM: Since attention spans are short and most people just read the headlines, do you think podcasts need to set a time limit cap? Or are you fine with a podcast episode that lasts over an hour? Again, bringing up accessibility, I have no problem with longer episodes. And when I’m lost in a good story or good conversation on a podcast, I’m fine with listening to one that extends over an hour.
DR: As long as the story is a good one or the hosts are particularly compelling, I don’t see a need for a cap. That was always my frustration working in the rock format, where I had a three minute cap for bits. It was hard for me to imagine anyone was sitting in his car thinking “Demetri is doing a really funny bit. I sure hope he shuts up and plays “Paradise City” for the fifth time today soon.”
Let’s change the direction of this conversation for a moment. What do you want from a radio show’s podcast? You mentioned accessibility being one of podcasting’s advantages over radio. Is a best of show enough? I always advocate for giving the guy that is dedicated to the show a reason to go to the podcast too. If I listen to you all three hours, I am going to want some original content on the podcast in order for me to consider downloading it.
TM: That’s tough but it’s a good problem to have. If you have a big-name guest on and they provide a great segment, I’d suggest including that in a radio show’s podcast. But how do you cater to the person that’s loyal and listens to your show on a daily basis? Most successful radio shows I listen to, either podcast the entire show or do a one-hour best of. Personally, I like a one-hour podcast that hits the best segments of the day. You can appease more loyal listeners in other ways such as a pre-show video on Facebook Live or Periscope. To me, that may be the best way to get the best of worlds.
DR: I think we’re on the same page. Supplemental content is a better way to grow your show’s digital presence than strictly best of material. Hell, even recording introductions for some of the day’s best content would count.
So let me ask you this. Where do you stand on stations producing their own podcasts that are never meant to be played on air? What is the right environment and situation that could produce the best podcast possible? I look at what Lauren Brownlow did earlier this year for 99.9 the Fan in Raleigh with her NC State Stuff podcast. It was amazingly good, and I don’t know if it could have been if Lauren were doing a three hour show every day. She is an on air contributor, so that gave her more time to work on this project. If a station wants to create its own prestige podcast, what are the conditions that have to exist in order for it to live up to management’s vision?
TM: Great question. I recently reviewed the Purple Podcast and thought it was outstanding. What they did, was use their Vikings reporter to steer the podcast. However, they’d also bring on an on-air host, as well. I think that’s a great balance. Do a podcast with the reporter that covers the team and isn’t on for three hours a day. Pair them up with one of your on-air hosts and you should end up with a pretty good product.
So there you have it. Radio = good. Podcasting = good. Radio + podcasting = gooder.
Podcasting obviously isn’t going away, but it’s not exactly competition for radio either. It’s a whole separate medium, so there’s no reason you cannot view it as supplemental material. Think of it sort of like having a radio or print partner.
You should always strive to produce great content for your podcasts. I still stand by my thought that exclusive content for a podcast is better than just a replay or best of. Understand though that great podcasting content takes as much prep, if not more than creating great radio content does. So, if you want your talent to produce engaging and unique podcast content, give them the support to make it happen.
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.