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What Makes Listeners Care About National Stories?

“The football topics are worth talking about, but ask yourself how much your audience really cares about an x-and-o breakdown of the Colts’ future.”

Demetri Ravanos

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I’m sure a lot of us spent Saturday night and most of Sunday thinking about what to do with the Andrew Luck story on Monday’s show. Despite the fact that so many people were locked into two exciting college football games on Saturday night, the second the 29-year-old All Pro quarterback announced his retirement from the NFL the headlines and our attention shifted to the NFL.

Image result for andrew luck retires

This is one of those stories that you’re going to talk about on Monday no matter what market you’re in. Even if you’re in Gainesville or Honolulu and you have to devote significant time to a close win to open the college football season, Luck’s retirement was such a dominant story on television and social media that you have to make time for it on Monday.

So what is the right way to talk about the story? Well, it really kinda depends on what your goal is, but there are two clear angles you can attack from – the football angle and the human angle.

Topics relating to what happens next on the field are a bit limited. How does this effect the Colts’ playoff chances? Is Jacoby Brissett just keeping the seat warm, or is there a chance he could establish himself as the team’s long-term answer at quarterback? Who is the new favorite in the AFC South?

The football topics are worth talking about, but ask yourself how much your audience really cares about an x-and-o breakdown of the Colts’ future. If you’re on the Fan in Indianapolis or SiriusXM’s NFL Radio, your audience probably cares a lot and is coming to your station to hear that content. Maybe the same is true if you’re on in Houston, Jacksonville, or Nashville. Anywhere else though, and it is tough to imagine that yields you anything more than an 8-10 minute monologue.

Storytelling is the lifeblood of talk radio and human connection is at the center of building an audience. There are human interest angles to Andrew Luck’s retirement that not only cover what goes into a 29-year-old deciding he is too mentally worn down to continue in the NFL, but also will hit your listeners right in the feels.

Image result for right in the feels

How did this effect your listener’s fantasy teams? How about their futures bets? When did they first have that “everything hurts all the time” feeling? These are simple questions tailor-made for Twitter polls and text topics.

What about the guy that never got off the bench in high school? Surely he has some thoughts on how soft Andrew Luck is or how he lacks class. Those are two comments always bubbling just below the surface for football fans. Ask your listeners if they understand Luck’s decision or if he let his team down and watch the pendulum swing back and forth between empathy and contempt.

Even responding to hot takes is pure human interest radio. Surely you saw the flaming takes on Saturday night from either Dan Dakich or Doug Gottlieb or probably both.

https://twitter.com/dandakich/status/1165454716739956736

Let’s take these one at a time. First, Dakich’s Tweet is pure hot take nonsense that I am not even positive he buys into. Steel work, policing, and teaching are all hard work and are all tiring. None of them involve getting drilled into the ground over and over again by 300 lbs linemen. I am not saying playing football is harder. I’m simply saying that there is plenty about football that makes you just as tired as steel workers, teachers, and cops.

With Gottlieb’s Tweet, the word “millennial” absolutely sets off a visceral reaction in people. That reaction comes from both sides. The point is, it guarantees a reaction. Something tells me that is exactly what Gottlieb was thinking when he composed his Tweet.

Whether you are reacting to someone else’s over the top opinion or delivering your own, hot takes are all about emotion and reaction. That is exactly what you want from your audience. So, if you’re calling out Dakich or Gottlieb, let the listeners have their say too.

It’s not that the football angle isn’t important to the story of Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement. It just may not be the most important angle in your market.

Great sports radio that doesn’t come from ESPN, Fox, SiriusXM, or one of the other national outlets is built on passion from a local audience. There’s room for national topics, but before bringing national topics to a local show you need to ask yourself how you can get the best reaction from your audience.

The guy that calls into a sports talk radio show probably isn’t going to give you a coherent and well-thought out breakdown of the Colts’ QB depth chart. Give ask listeners how they feel about a story or an opinion though and you’re more likely to create interesting content.

All sports fans like action, some sports fans like stats, but everyone loves a good story. If you want to create maximum interest in a topic and give people that may not be die hard sports fans a reason to stay on your station and hear what you have to say about a story that has no local connection, focus on the human interest parts of the story and use the stats and football angles to deepen the narrative.

BSM Writers

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.

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WRONG BAD

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.

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BSM Writers

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.

Jeff Caves

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Radio Sales

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.  

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BSM Writers

Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table

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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.

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