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Local Stations Need To Drop Network Expectations

“Unless you’ve got a seven-figure budget, it is unfair to tell your new host that they need to create all the bells and whistles of a show with network distribution and a TV simulcast.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Have you ever heard this phrase in a job interview: “We’re looking to build a local version of The Dan Le Batard Show“?

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I’ve heard that a lot. On its face, it’s an exciting thought. The station is looking for someone creative to build something fun.

For a different type of host, hearing that a program director or market manager wants to build a local version of The Herd can be just as exciting. It means the station values strong opinions, great guests, and good research.

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Hang on though. Keep those emotions in check. There is a question you need answered before you know whether this is a situation worth pursuing or not.

What kind of support staff will I have?

If the answer is anything short of five producers, you need to dig deeper to find out what it is about the national show the managers want to model their new, local show after.

This is not an indictment of Dan Le Batard, Colin Cowherd, Dan Patrick, Golic & Wingo, or anyone one else doing national network radio with the benefit of a room full of producers. It is just simple math. Take Le Batard for example.

He has Stugotz as a co-host, Allison as a guest booker, and Mike Ryan, Billy Gill, Chris Cote, and Roy Bellamy as producers. That is seven different people that can generate ideas, chase down guests, and create elements and imaging for every segment. Again, it is taking nothing away from Dan. It is merely noting his advantage and how it makes his show very tough to re-create.

I was 24 when I got my first morning show. It was 2005 and I was still in rock radio. During that time, the thing I noticed in a lot of ads on the All Access job board was “we want to do The Daily Show on the radio.”

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Forget trying to do everything an ESPN Radio or Fox Sports Radio host does with fewer resources. Try keeping up with Jon Stewart, a legit comic genius who has a huge staff of producers, writers and correspondents. Also, instead of having to fill 30 minutes four nights a week, the station wanted me to fill four hours, five days a week. Oh, and the entire show was just me and a single partner.

Look, everywhere you turn in this business hosts are being asked to do as much or more than they were doing before, but now they have fewer resources and smaller budgets. Being asked to make content miracles is nothing new and there are plenty examples of teams or solo hosts in local radio doing shows every bit as compelling as those on the national networks.

Program Directors and Market Managers need to zero in on what it is they like about their favorite network shows. Unless you’ve got a seven-figure budget, it is unfair to tell your new host that they need to create all the bells and whistles of a show with network distribution and a TV simulcast.

Instead, think about what qualities you are looking for in a show or in a host. If you want someone that won’t back down from their opinions, say that in your ad and in the interview. Don’t tell potential hires that you want them to do what Colin or Stephen A do. That is an impossible bar to clear on a budget that allows for a single producer.

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Better yet, drop the comparisons all together. I mean drop them from your job description and your mind.

Do you know why you’re so attracted to shows like The Dan Le Batard Show or The Pat McAfee Show? The programming executives that were putting those brands together weren’t looking for the right person to host the show they wanted on their network. They found a host they wanted and then supported him with the producers and other support staff he needed to shine.

Next time you have an opening to fill, do yourself a favor and clear your mind. We all have favorite shows, but trying to copy those shows or do dime store versions of them is guaranteed to end in disappointment. They’ll never sound like what you had in mind.

Instead, look for talent. Focus on finding a unique sound or point of view, then ask yourself what the best show you can reasonably build around the host that meets those requirements sounds like. Do this for a dozen or so people before you start lining up interviews. That will give you a much better chance of finding your unique star, which is what you really want.

News Talk radio was rarely creative when looking for talent. That is why every nationally syndicated host is a Rush clone. That is why every local host is a Rush clone.

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The format got lazy and made stars of copycats. Now it’s full of angry, white baby boomers that are indistinguishable from one another. Sports radio can do so much better. So drop your preconceived notions of what you want your next hire to sound like, and let’s do better!

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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