In one week, the greatest sports radio event of the year will take place in New York City. I can say that because they’re not my words. They’re the words of several talented hosts across the country that will come together in The Big Apple next week for the two-day BSM Summit.
There will be familiar faces that will recognize each other from last year’s summit in Los Angeles, as well as new faces from several markets across the country. Whichever you fall under, everyone attending is coming with the same two intentions: To learn and to network.
“What Mel Kiper is to the NFL Draft is what Jason Barrett is to sports talk radio,” said Marc James of WEEI in Boston. “Really, when it comes down to it, this is Radio Row on steroids, because there’s opportunities with industry people and decision makers to get one-on-one time. You can actually talk to some of the big wigs out there and people don’t have to necessarily worry about their live show going on.
“This is like what the National Association of Broadcasters do every year in Vegas with the TV side. That’s what Jason has done for sports talk radio. This will be my first time here, but from everything I’ve heard about it, to me, it’s not why should you go, it’s why would you not want to go?”
Like James mentioned, this year’s summit will be his first. But regardless, his expectations are still high. Mark Zinno of Atlanta Sports X also has high expectations of this year’s event, because of how much he took back to his station from last year’s summit in Los Angeles.
“Why do people in radio love going to the Super Bowl?” said Zinno. “I know it’s not because they love interviewing people with Campbell’s Chunky Soup, razor companies, deodorant and everything else. They go there because they’re around everyone else in the industry. It is the prime networking event for people in the industry. It’s the same with BSM. But it goes beyond that. When I first went I didn’t know what to expect and I took a ton of notes on everything. I came back with a thousand ideas and I sat down with the program and sales director when I got back and went over everything with them that I learned from the conference. All of it was discussed.”
So in those two quotes you can sum up most of what talent can get out of the BSM Summit. One, the most prime networking opportunity of the year. Two, a chance to learn from the best, hone your craft and even take new ideas back to your station. If you’re in New York City next week, that should be your focus.
But admittedly, it’s not easy to just walk up to someone and start a conversation with someone that’s a well-known executive in the business. Yes, Bruce Gilbert may be one of the nicest guys in the business, but it can be intimidating to try and rub elbows with the best sports radio has to offer. So how do you approach it?
“Just let them get to know you,” said Zinno. “Joke, laugh and hangout. It’s those type of things that puts you in mind when someone needs something. Let’s see if he’s available. That’s the type of relationship you’re hoping to create there.”
“My advice would be to do it in a way that isn’t ‘I want this from you.’” said Heath Cline of 107.5 The Game in Columbia, SC. “Make it feel more like, hey, we’re colleagues and we’re talking. It gives you a chance you’re not normally going to get to build a relationship with somebody.”
“I think it can be a little intimidating when you first step in because you see all these people running major radio stations, corporations and companies,” said Jim Costa of 1130 WDFN The Fan and 96.1 ESPN. “But it’s done in a way that’s pretty laid-back and it’s done in a way that everyone is very approachable and wants to be approached. Last year in Los Angeles, that second day, I was much more self-aware that I needed to go up and talk to more people and they were very receptive to it. I would tell anybody attending the conference the first time to just shake hands and start talking radio. People who are at this conference eat that stuff up.”
Though networking can lead to opportunities down the road, it’s not the only way it can be beneficial at The BSM Summit. In fact, many, if not most, of the people who attend are perfectly content with their current hosting roles. Networking can mean different things to different people.
“I think when people hear networking they automatically assume your future,” said Brady Farkas of The Game in Burlington, VT. “But for me it’s gone a long way towards meeting people in the business that have helped me exchange contacts for getting guests. I’m looking forward to meeting some of the talent that are speaking at the summit to hopefully get to know them and establish a relationship. I’ve met people on Radio Row that have turned out to be recurring guests on our show. If I could just pull out one person from the BSM Summit I think I’d be amazing for our small station.”
“I was just chatting it up with John Goulet at the mixer,” said Zinno. “After a couple of minutes I said I’m Mark Zinno by the way, he looked and said, I know who you are. I was like, how does he know who I am? He works at a national radio show with Colin Cowherd in California and I’m in Atlanta, how the hell does he know who I am? But it’s those kinds of things where they see your work and say, ok, I know that guy.”
“For me, it’s about furthering the connections that I have and to also make new ones,” said James. “And here’s the thing: you get a chance to have face time with so many people. It’s one thing to send an email and say, hey, I haven’t seen you in a while. It’s another thing to talk to someone where it’s off the record and so much more personal and casual.”
“For me it’s not about going to look for other jobs,” said Zinno. “I’m content with where I am, but it could be one of those things where I run into Justin Craig and he says he has some weekend shifts coming up with people out and he asks if I’m willing to do it. Absolutely. Its things like that, which can make all the difference in the world.”
If you don’t walk out of the two-day BSM Summit with several ideas on how to improve, it’s your own fault. The opportunities are endless and the insight is second-to-none. Spending money out of your pocket and showing up is only half the battle. Make a plan to take notes, ask questions and be as engaged as possible. What’s great about this event, is even though you walk-in with a certain level of expectation, you’ll walk away with something you never previously considered, be it on the social media, talent, sales or management side.
“There were conversations about Twitch last year,” said Cline. “And it got me thinking, not so much about Twitch, but technology that you’re not thinking about that can apply to something else. So for the South Carolina spring game, we did a Twitch stream of us in the booth, which, wasn’t some sort of monster hit, but it just shows that you always need to be trying new things. It can’t be like, well, I’m not on Twitch because I’m not a video gamer. If your listeners are on Twitch you better at least try to see if you can meet them on their turf.”
“It was really cool to see the camaraderie the industry has,” said Costa. “Whether it was someone from Cumulus or iHeart or Entercom, they may be rivals outside of that conference, but inside those walls it was about collaboration. Just seeing how established people still wanting to learn and grow, I mean that’s why I was there, to learn and grow.”
“I have a unique role, and one that a lot of people in small markets have, as a host and a program director,” said Farkas. “I’m really excited about the fact there’s something for everybody, especially since I fall into a bunch of different categories. I’m looking forward to learning from some of the top programmers in the country about managing a staff and talent. Working with the sales team better, coming up with better promotions, how to operate a budget better and stretch it farther, things like that. And then from a talent standpoint, just looking forward to learning about social media and what we can do to engage the audience.”
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.