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Josh Innes Just Wants To Kick Some Ass

“There are things I’ve learned everywhere I’ve been and you take things you’ve learned at all these stops and you hope that it improves you as a person.”

Matt Fishman

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Josh Innes has been off the radio for nine months. This follows a career featuring stints in Afternoon Drive at WIP in Philadelphia and Morning Drive at Sports Talk 790 in Houston. He’s very active on Twitter and has his own podcast “The Josh Innes Show.” I caught up with him earlier this week to talk about what he’s learned from those experiences and what’s next for him. You can check out his podcast and latest information at: https://joshinnesshow.com/ 

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Matt Fishman: You tweeted around Thanksgiving about how thankful you were this year to no longer be in a toxic work environment and you have added perspective. Can you elaborate on this?

Josh Innes: I was working at iHeart in Houston and I had been from October 2016 until March of this year. There were moments that were good, but ultimately it wasn’t an ideal situation for me. It wasn’t what I thought it was gonna be. There were a lot of times I wondered why that particular station hired me because I didn’t know if they really wanted me to do what I do. There were always a lot of problems it that way.  It wasn’t by a lack of effort of trying to see things their way. We just had a philosophical difference.

I like to create waves and bring attention to the medium. I think that’s good for everything. Whereas I think where it was kinda a lay low, don’t bother anybody, don’t upset the broadcast partners. Let me put it this way I would go to work sometimes and my boss would sit my down in his office and tell me, “By the way no one at the radio station likes you.”

It was just a really bad situation mentally. I wasn’t having very much fun. I worked my ass off and spent a lot of my own money trying to make the show successful. It was just a really catty kind of place. I think management, at times, tried to pit people against each other. They enjoyed that in a weird way. It was really just not a good situation. 

While it’s unfortunate that I don’t have a job at the moment, I feel fortunate that now that I’ve had time to step back for the past 8-9 months, I can say it’s probably for the best because that wasn’t a good situation for me. It probably wasn’t a good situation for me mentally. There were just so many things about that situation that were toxic so now that I look back on it, I’m glad that time in my life is over. 

MF: How does this new perspective change you going into the next conversation you have with a radio station? 

JI: I can say this. There are things I’ve learned everywhere I’ve been and you take things you’ve learned at all these stops and you hope that it improves you as a person. While it was a toxic situation there, that station was really sales heavy and you learned how to focus on things that made the station more money. 

Same as when I left WIP, sometimes they felt that I was so driven by ratings that I kind of ignored the sales part of it. When I came here (Houston) I focused on making things happen. I was down in sales everyday working on ideas to make the station more money.

How to handle certain intra-office situations. There was a guy there who worked for the Rockets–he was one of their broadcasters. One time I was wearing a t-shirt for another team and he took a picture of me in the shirt and said this is for the Rockets knowing that this would upset the Rockets and I would get a call from my boss about it. I just went out and tried to destroy that guy because I felt that he was completely out of line. By trying to destroy that guy it probably pissed off some of his sales buddies to me and they didn’t sell me as much. Did I need to do that, I didn’t. You learn from that and move forward. 

When you are out of it for nine months and your phone doesn’t ring it changes your perspective as well. You get humbled when your phone doesn’t ring and you look back at things that you could’ve handled situations better.

MF: Do you feel like your phone hasn’t been ringing as much because you get let go by WIP and then in Houston and people think “this guy must be toxic” and the phone doesn’t ring?

JI: Recently the phone has started to ring more, but to answer your question, I do think if people don’t know you and if all they know is what they read about you from certain situations they can think that. It’s incumbent upon me to change that. I just have to have the opportunity to do it. Anytime I talk to anyone in management I tell them that my situation is different because you mature a little bit and being out nine months that the opportunities aren’t always going to be there. There were times hey maybe I’ll never have that big job again and I will be known as the guy who blew it. I was the guy who had these big gigs and I pissed it all away. 

There is a certain element of being humbled that plays to my benefit because they’ll be getting a different guy in the sense that I think I know how to handle situations better than I used to. Going back to our initial point that when I got fired here or fired there my phone rings, you just assume what you are doing is 100% right because people are always looking to hire you. When it doesn’t happen that way anymore you kinda think, “maybe there’s something that I need to change, something I need to do differently.” 

MF: I saw that you did a couple of shows last week at the ESPN station in Memphis. How did that go? How did it feel?

JI: I loved it. Memphis is one of my favorite places. My dad had worked there in the late 80s. It’s funny, I had just randomly texted the PD at that station, Brad Carson, and I told him how fortunate he is for that being such a great market. It’s a small enough town but not too small where it’s syndicated all day. I have always wanted to be on the air in Memphis at least for a day because my dad was on the radio there. When I was growing up I went to Memphis a lot, I like the Grizzlies and I felt like I kinda knew the town. It was cool. It’s weird not being in the city as I did the shows from Houston. It was fun! I had a really good time doing it. Brad is a really great guy and made it a great experience.

MF: Do you think that’s something you’ll be doing more of, especially with the holiday season right around the corner? 

JI: I would hope so. I am available to do whatever. I know a lot of people on your site are program directors. I can be available anytime you need me and I can find the studio to do it from. It’s kinda neat. You never know what market you would do a fill in at. If people will have me on their stations. I think that’s good because I know that people have questions about me.

One thing I get from PDs is “I never question your talent we just question how things will work at this place and this situation.” My guess is that if you’d ask Brad Carson he would tell you that it was a very easy thing. Just to give him a compliment–he’s fantastic to work with. It was a great experience. I hope it leads to other opportunities.

MF: Speaking of other opportunities, the Fanatic in Philadelphia just fired their PD Eric Johnson. What does it mean potentially for you and what does it mean for Philadelphia sports radio?

JI: I don’t know. I can tell you that Eric is a very nice guy. I feel like they could find themselves in a position to get closer to WIP. My guess would be they want to get into a position where they could just be closer. I would certainly answer the phone if The Fanatic called. I certainly think I could add to what they do there. Now people will say “You had that big radio fight with the afternoon guy.” That’s a radio fight. When you’re a competitor you’re in a radio fight. If you’re on the same team you have a common goal to beat the competition–WIP. If the Fanatic were to call me I would say “What do you want me to do? Let’s make something happen and go beat WIP!”

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People assume because you talk about this guy, this guy, this guy that you could never work with them. When I was in Houston we went after the (other stations) shows. They didn’t take it as a joke. It really upset them. After I got fired I reached out to them. I was trying to make radio interesting. We’re in Houston there are three sports stations that combine for a four-share. 

If the Fanatic were to call me and ask me if I could reconcile with Mike Missanelli. Here’s what I would say. Mike has obviously accomplished a lot in that market. He basically launched that station. He’s the Angelo (Cataldi) of 97.5. If you look at it, the one constant there has been Mike. I can respect that. As a radio guy I can respect that.  I beat him for awhile, he came back and beat me for awhile. We had a really good battle there. But if the Fanatic would pick up the phone and ask if I would have an issue working with Mike Missanelli.  Hell no!! The guy has been there for a decade. The guy has done great things ratings-wise. He’s basically their bell cow financially and ratings-wise. I just want to go somewhere and be part of a team and kick some ass. I don’t know what they’re going to do at the Fanatic. I haven’t talked to them but I’d be all about it and I’d go in there and say, “Hey Mike give me a hug and let’s go figure this thing out.”

If Joe Bell from the Fanatic were to pick up the phone and call me and say, “Josh Innes come to Philadelphia we want to make something happen, but we need to make it work in the building.” I’d say “Get Missanelli on the phone or get me in person with him and I’ll tell him I admire the stuff he’s done it was just a stupid radio war and let’s go out there and beat the shit out of WIP.” 

MF: When you were on the air in Houston was there a lot of pressure to be easy on the teams? 

JI: I’m going to give credit to (Sportsradio) 610. I never felt that people at 610 went easy on the Texans, and they were the Texans’ station. Where I worked at 790 was more like romper room. There were times when I’d be critical of the Houston Rockets and I’d get a text from the Market Manager, not the PD, and this is one text I got in the middle of a show that pops into my mind saying “You’ve said enough. Let the callers handle it.” You paid me all this money to send me this text and let the callers “handle it?”

Here’s what I’d get all the time: my management would tell me all the time that the teams don’t like me. I get it would be nice if they did. Part of sports radio and appealing to a mass audience is saying what fans are thinking. You have to be able to be critical.

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Here’s what our rule was: say whatever you want about the Texans but don’t do the same with the Rockets. One  time I said the Rockets GM could get fired if they didn’t turn things around. Got a call from the boss who said “How do you know he’s going to get fired?” I said, “I don’t but it’s my opinion if they don’t turn it around after how they finished last year they’re probably in trouble.” The boss said, “Well we don’t want people on the air saying people could get fired because that’s a personal attack.” 

By the way, it’s not wise to tell the talent that the teams hate them. How am I going to react to that? Am I going to get on the air and say these guys are great people. I never had this problem at 610/Houston or at WIP/Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, the PD Andy Bloom did such a good job of shielding me from anything the teams were complaining to him about. In Philly it’s expected that you get on the radio and dump on them after you lose to the two-win Dolphins. You can’t say enough bad shit about them when that happens. In Houston that’s not exactly the case. 

MF: Given this experience, does this mean you would be more likely to go somewhere that allows you to be critical of the teams? 

JI: I get that there are rules in certain cities and with certain teams. I’m not hell bent on being in this market or that market. I just want to be on the air, make a living and have fun doing it. Would I like to be in Chicago or back in Philly again or in Dallas? Sure I would. But if the station happens to be in Memphis, Kansas City or St. Louis and they dig what I do and want to pay me to do it, I’m interested. 

MF:How do you like doing your podcast?

JI: I’m weird that I have to change things every month. The sponsors don’t seem to mind and it’s a little looser. Sometimes I’ll do it at night. Sometimes after consuming many beers on a Sunday. We’ll see where it goes. I’ll continue to do it when I get a job. You can do a lot of things in a podcast that if you did it on the radio they might tell you to pump the breaks. 

MF: What do you think of the current state of sports radio and its future? 

JI: It might not be what it was 7-8 years ago where you lost a lot of classic rock stations that became sports talk on FM. To me, sports talk radio is the best format for someone who wants to talk and entertain. It’s the closest to guy-talk you’re gonna get. It’s the closest to what Howard Stern, Opie and Anthony and Mancow were doing 20 years ago. Depending on the market and the daypart of course. 

20 years ago everyone was looking for the next Jim Rome. Now everyone is trying to find the next Colin Cowherd. What I don’t like is when I can listen to a guy and he’s about to go into one of these “Cowherdian” comparisons and I can almost tell you before he says it what the comparison will be. The other issue is a lot of young guys not finding their own voice. The art of creating your own thing is taking a little bit from everyone, learning the market and making sure everyone doesn’t sound the same. 

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I think you need to have more visionary programmers out there. You’ve got Armen Williams in Houston, Gavin (Spittle) who is one of the best and Mike Thomas, who’s going to Chicago, who is brilliant and Andy Bloom-Brilliant. You’ve got a really good group of guys who came from rock or hot-talk who know entertainment. Those are the type of guys who will keep it going. 

Plus you need to put me on the radio. Or it will die.  

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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