It’s a simple question that doesn’t have a wrong answer, but you’re sure to find that many different stations have many different philosophies. Some stations take it very seriously and hire staff that exists solely to provide online content such as blogs, news articles and opinion pieces. Others put little emphasis on it and use it solely as a tool for people to listen online.
Regardless of your station’s philosophy, you website can still be an effective tool to help drive more content, listeners, and most importantly, dollars for your station.
For example, take a look at what SKOR North in Minneapolis is doing. This is a brand that’s putting a lot of effort into its online content. In turn, the station has found a way to make the website profitable by putting out content that’s both local and original.
“It’s less about being a news source and more about creating a website that specializes in being a destination for Minnesota sports fans — for audio, video and written content,” said program director Phil Mackey. “Our goal is to entertain and inform Minnesota sports fans in as many ways as possible. The website is our main hub.”
Selling digital space is still something, we, as an industry, are trying to fully grasp and figure out. But SKORNorth.com seems to have a solid strategy of how to profit off the content they’re putting online. Let’s remember, good content is great, but there still has to be a way to make it profitable.
“We have found a very good stream of digital revenue,” said Mackey. “But I think the mistake companies make is de-emphasizing platforms that don’t generate revenue directly. If you can build a large audience on a lesser-revenue platform, there’s still a good chance that audience will spill over into the platforms that DO generate more dollars.”
The Horn in Austin, Texas is currently revamping its website. Though the locally owned station gets a ton of online hits from people around the country wanting to hear about the Longhorns, program director Erin Hogan wants to put more emphasis into what the station is putting out on the web. That includes more content put out by the on-air staff, but it also means a unique approach to how the stations deals with live reads.
“One of the things, programming wise, that we’re looking to do is stream line our live endorsements from our on-air staff,” said Hogan. “We’d like to be able to shorten the live spot and say…hey, we’re telling you about a certain car dealership, check out hornfm.com and you’ve got the brand new Ford F 150 and you can check it out there, as well as videos behind the scenes with the clients that really drive people to the website. I think all businesses are looking to be more digital and that’s what we’re trying to do. We want to create less commercial time on our local shows but also use the power of digital to offset that and be a more powerful branding message for our clients.”
I’m a firm believer that terrestrial radio is always going to be important. No matter what the trends say, at the very least, people are always going to be in the car during their commute to and from work. However you also can’t ignore how easy it is with smartphones to listen to a station’s content with the simple push of a button.
Big market, medium market, even small market radio stations have some sort of app that serves as a live stream to the listener. But the majority of the time I go to a website, I’m doing so in hopes of finding an easy way to listen live to that station’s content. Articles, pictures and ads make a station’s website look great, but don’t undervalue the importance of having a giant LISTEN LIVE button at the top of the home page.
“That’s huge,” said Hogan. “Ours is right in the top corner and I turn it on every morning when I get to the station at 5 a.m. I’m always checking it. We have that and an app that you download to your phone that’s easy to use. For stations like ours that are a flagship for a big university like Texas, it’s a huge push for us to be able to attract a huge audience from around the country and the world. The Longhorns are a worldwide brand and people are looking for that coverage, so as easy as we can make it to listen to our shows is an absolute goal.”
“It’s definitely important,” added Mackey. “We like to drive people to our customized SKOR North mobile app, which gives people the option to listen live, on demand (to everything on our network), and read all of our written content. It’s a one-stop shop for Minnesota sports fans.”
Again, there’s not necessarily a wrong way to approach your online website. But it does seem that more and more stations are figuring out ways to monetize their digital presence. That’s much easier to accomplish when you can get participation out of the on-air staff. Ideally, they have their own set of fans and listeners that want to consume any additional content they provide. When they write and push their blogs on social media that can certainly help a website draw more traffic.
“We have multiple on-air hosts that write,” said Mackey. “But we also have dedicated digital staffers that work almost exclusively behind the scenes.”
I like the idea of a host or online contributor putting out an opinion piece on a station website, then using that as content for the next day’s show. Not only could that segment bring great content, but it could also really push traffic on the website. That’s one way to promote what your station is doing online, but what are others?
“Any number of ways, but mostly by talking about it on our shows,” said Mackey. “Social media links help to some extent, but there’s also a point of diminishing return if your Twitter feed is just a constant stream of links. We also make sure our stories show up in Google News, which can be a huge source of discovery.”
A station website doesn’t just have to be about articles written from contributors and on-air hosts. Ideally, it also has recent podcasts from that day’s shows as well as relevant interviews that have recently occurred on the airwaves. It’s important to provide on-demand audio, but it also may not be what drives the most traffic to your website.
“Articles draw more traffic than on demand audio on the website,” said Mackey. “Mostly because the majority of our podcast listens come from the SKOR North app, Apple or Spotify. From there, articles become a window into everything else we do.”
If you’re a station that’s wanting to ramp up or even re-create your website, both Mackey and Hogan have pretty good ideas on how to do so. In fact, I’d even check out SKORNorth.com and the soon to be revamped hornfm.com to see how they’re managing things. I personally love the idea of a station putting blogs, videos, opinion pieces, etc. on a website to give the listener even more content outside of what they hear on the daily airwaves. But as creative as you may be with online content, your creativity with how to sell it is even more important. Remember, the best ideas are the ones you can monetize.
But most importantly, it’s still all about finding ways to monetize the product.
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.