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If You’re Going To Do Interviews, Do Them Right

“The listeners choose your show because they want to be entertained by you. Maybe interviews are a part of your entertainment strategy, but they aren’t a selling point or a deal breaker for most listeners.”

Demetri Ravanos

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Last week I caught a screening of Martin Scorsese’s new movie The Irishman. If you aren’t familiar, it is a mafia movie starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino. I know, Marty isn’t really venturing outside of his comfort zone on this one.

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The movie is long…like 209 minutes long. It was made for Netflix by one of our most beloved living directors. That means that for the most part, normal rules about runtime and theater turnover don’t apply. In fact, it is only in theaters in certain markets to qualify for Oscar nominations.

My screening started at 10 am on Friday. By the time I walked out, I only really had time to eat a late lunch before going to pick up my kids from school. The movie was enjoyable enough. I mean, the best compliment I can give a three and a half hour movie is that I was never bored. Still though, it was hard to shake the feeling that I had wasted my whole day.

I started thinking about this feeling as it relates to sports radio. Where is it that we most frequently make the mistake of wasting a listener’s time? I don’t mean the dicking around at the top of a segment before a host gets into the meat of his or her topic. I mean where do we really run the risk of a listener feeling like we are really taking his/her ears for granted?

You might be quick to point to traffic and weather (the listener likely checked those apps before he/she left the house this morning) or sports updates (What are we? The newspaper?). But I want you to think more about how producers and hosts can better use the time on their show. Sometimes those elements above are sold or an old school PD is dug in on them and there isn’t much you can do about that.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that the place we can be more conscious of the listeners’ time is in interviews. Look, plenty of successful hosts built their brand on doing good interviews. They clearly have their place on sports radio, but does the guy stuck in Dallas traffic put on The Hardline on his drive home to hear some writer from The Athletic breakdown the Cowboys’ contract negotiations with Dak Prescott, or does he tune in to be entertained and informed by Rhyns and Snake?

How do we waste listeners’ time with interviews? Well, bad guests are the most obvious problem. There is nothing more frustrating than being able to tell, as a listener, that a guest is a bum within 30 seconds, and then having to hear the host try to spin this turd into gold for another 10 minutes.

A bad guest isn’t the only sin. It can be the most high profile guest on the planet. If they aren’t bringing top notch content, the listener would rather be hearing you. In fact, for the most part, the listeners would always rather be hearing you.

Let’s jump into the BSM time machine for a minute. Don’t worry. It’s a business expense.

Remember 2007? What a year, right? Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPhone, we watched Peter Parker go emo and dance down the streets of Manhattan, and Britney Spears lost her damn mind. Remember that last one? She shaved her head, lost custody of her kids, and eventually checked herself into a rehab facility.

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During the final quarter of 2007, it seemed like there was a new story of America’s former pop princess doing something weird nearly every single day. Right in the middle of all of that, Z100 morning man Elvis Duran got an exclusive interview with Britney that he aired on the station.

It didn’t effect the ratings one bit. Here was the biggest name in the news for Z100’s target audience on their airwaves answering every single question those listeners wanted to ask, but when then-Clear Channel looked at the meters, there was no significant spike in the numbers.

What is the lesson? Your audience is your audience. The listeners choose your show because they want to be entertained by you. Maybe interviews are a part of your entertainment strategy, but they aren’t a selling point or a deal breaker for most listeners.

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Shows make all kinds of mistakes with interviews. Some do too many. If you’re a solo host, try capping the number of guests at one per hour. If you’re a show with multiple voices, do at least one hour guest-free. There’s nothing worse than a clock with four segments that goes phone calls, guest, phone calls, guest. That is a whole hour without the voice(s) I come to the show to hear being featured.

The greater and more common sin is going too long with interviews. Any idiot can put a guest on the air and ask him or her questions. What makes you unique is what you do with the answers you get.

If your segment is twelve minutes long, try capping the interview at eight minutes. Use the remaining time to seize on one of your guest’s statements. Was he or she right or wrong about something? Did they bring up a good point that then you can share your thoughts on.

I know you can talk to someone and use them to fill time. Show me what you can do next to create a through line and build a narrative and conversation from one segment to the next.

As I wrap this column up, I realize that I have strayed pretty far from what inspired these thoughts. Maybe all I wanted to do was brag about getting an invite to a cool movie event thanks to my other gig. Whatever the case, let’s forget about The Irishman and focus on the larger point here.

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You have an audience that is loyal to you. They come to your show everyday to be entertained by you. That doesn’t mean other voices shouldn’t be welcomed or that you should never answer or make a phone call. It means that everything you put on the air should come back to highlighting you and your team. That is what the listener wants.

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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