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Have Faith In Bomani Jones And His Audience

“Your audience can handle more than you think your audience can. Your audience just wants entertaining content, and entertaining content can come from a broad range of people”



It was 2006. The Carolina Hurricanes were on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Versus, the pre-cursor to NBCSN, carried the games and made a big deal out of just how into hockey Raleigh had become.

Bomani Jones lived eleven miles west of Raleigh in Durham. He was writing for ESPN’s Page 2 while attending grad school. Where he was, not only was there not the hockey fever the national media was describing, he never even noticed the games on at bars when he would go out at night. Like any good writer, Bomani turned that into content.

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At that time, I was hosting the morning show at 96 Rock in Raleigh. Our sister station, an oldies station called Y102.9, was the team’s flagship, so most of the ra ra stuff fell on us. I saw Bo’s article and knew we had to get him on air. That was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted 14 years. I think it was also probably the last time we talked about hockey. That friendship, I would guess, is the reason he agreed to appear on a panel at the BSM Summit in New York this week.

I wasn’t the only one that called Bomani to talk about that column in 2006. Adam Gold and Joe Ovies were hosting the afternoon show at what was then 850 the Buzz. That was Bo’s first exposure to a sports radio audience.

“Joe Ovies called me and said ‘we want to get you in studio on this’ and then Adam Gold found out I lived in town and was like ‘Okay, we need to have this guy in more.'”

For a guy that is as smart and thinks as quickly as Bomani Jones does, it would be easy to think talking about sports was a lifelong ambition.

“Nope. Never considered it even for a moment,” he says when I ask if that in studio appearance was the first step towards one of his goals.

Bomani eventually went on to host shows on 620 the Bull in Raleigh and Durham, the Score in Toronto, and ESPN Radio. Now though, his audio content is off the airwaves and on the internet. That is why I wanted him to be on stage at the Summit.

Bomani is smart. He is creative. His takes come from consuming diverse sources and considering the points laid out in front of him. Radio may not be hurting necessarily, but the national sports talk scene is a lot less interesting without him. As his television show High Noon was about to launch, Bo realized that if he wanted to keep doing The Right Time, it would have to move out of afternoon drive on ESPN Radio and into the podcasting realm.

“It was just the time constraints that came up when the television show started. Three hours per day, five days per week of radio. I didn’t really realize until I stopped how consuming it was and how much energy it took,” he told me.

When Bomani speaks about why he moved away from radio at the BSM Summit on Wednesday morning, one thing that will undoubtedly come up is the lack of diversity on sports radio. He told me that not only did it effect the way programmers looked at him, it made some of them skeptical of his content choices.

“Program directors get so obsessed with programming to who they think their median audience is: someone middle aged and usually white. What has always frustrated me about radio programmers is they don’t have much faith in their audience’s ability to deal with somebody that is not like them. 

“I swear, I have seen enough to indicate this to me, man. Your audience can handle more than you think they can. Your audience just wants entertaining content, and entertaining content can come from a broad range of people. Now, you do need someone that can relate to the audience and understands where they come from, but I could relate to those audiences through shared experiences. Me being black and them being white didn’t mean that we didn’t have things in common, and I think that a lot of programmers struggle to recognize that can be the case.”

With The Right Time podcast, Bomani has found a place for his audience to get his show exactly how he envisions it.

“Since it’s an opt-in product, we get a lot more flexibility on what it is that we can do,” he says. “Part of what I think makes me good as a radio product is the ability to go and do a bunch of different stuff and talk about different things that maybe aren’t exactly in sports, but are tangentially connected. Maybe it has nothing to do with sports. Now we can do that on a podcast, because we aren’t worried about somebody scanning the dial on a sports station, hearing a tech story and wondering ‘what am I doing here?’ With a podcast, they know what they’re doing there.”

That audience has a potential ceiling in Bomani’s eyes though. That is why it was so important the show came out of the gate strong and maintained a consistent level of quality when it transitioned away from being a radio show. With podcasting, Bomani doesn’t have the advantage of catching the attention of someone just scanning the dial.

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“You really really need the first people who listen to love it. They can’t just like it. They have to be out here telling everybody ‘Man, this is a great show’ every time you send it out.”

Make no mistake though, Bomani Jones doesn’t hate radio. He isn’t the type of guy to tell you radio is dying. In fact, he was quick to tell me that he still considers himself “in many ways, a tried and true radio dude.”

That is why, in addition to reconnecting with old friends, Bomani has a list of people he is excited to meet and hear from at the BSM Summit in New York. He speaks glowingly of Pat McAfee. The duo share an agent but haven’t really interacted very much, so he is looking forward to getting some face time with another ESPN star.

And then, there’s the Sports Pope.

“I just want to see Mike Francesa in the flesh,” he says laughing. “I’ve never met Mike Francesa. What he is is your standard local radio guy. It’s just his local has 20 million people. I am really fascinated by the idea of that and how you sustain that.”

Radio still, very much matters in the eyes of Bomani Jones. He even says if all things were equal, he would still be doing a radio show. “No question.”

It’s not that Bomani doesn’t believe in the digital space. He will be the first to acknowledge that podcasting isn’t just the future. It is the present for a large audience. Maybe in said future radio won’t have the impact it once did, but in 2020 radio matters, particularly in the sports world.

“I think about some of the long, flowing things people have written about Dan Le Batard’s radio show. They aren’t doing that if that’s just a podcast,” Bomani says of the praise heaped on his former TV partner. “Radio still carries a caché. It still has that intimacy. To me, the best part of radio will always be the connection with the people that listen to you.”

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When Bomani talks on Wednesday about why he chose to move away from radio, it won’t be with animosity or bitterness. This is a guy that clearly loves the medium and the format. He just wants to see the voices we don’t hear from enough get a microphone and room to grow and thrive. Creating that environment and improving the sports radio landscape is something he says is “hugely worth the fight.”

BSM Writers

Mike Greenberg Asked a Fine Question, But He Can Do Better

Asking questions that can get a subject to talk about their feelings is a much better way to get an interesting answer.



USA Today

When ESPN’s Mike Greenberg interviewed Paolo Banchero in the lead-up to the NBA lottery on Tuesday, he asked what I’ve concluded is the single most maddening question that can be asked of any athlete preparing for any draft.

“Why do you believe you should be No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft?” Greenberg said.

Before I point out exactly why I have such a visceral reaction to such a harmless question, I want to point out the positives because Greenberg’s question avoids some of the most common pitfalls:

1) It is an actual question. That’s not as automatic as you think given the number of poor souls who are handed a microphone and say to their subject, “Talk about (whatever issue they want a quote or a sound bite on).” This is the mark of an amateur, creating the opening for an uncooperative subject to slam the door by saying, “What do you want me to say?”

2) Greenberg’s question can not be answered with a yes or a no. Questions that start with the word “Can you …” or “Did you …” may sound like they’re tough questions for the subject, but they’re actually fairly easy if the subject wants to offer an answer. Now, most interview subjects won’t take that one-word exit, but some will in a touchy situation.

The problem with Greenberg’s question has to do with the result. Why do we ask questions of the athletes we cover? Seriously. That’s not rhetorical. What’s the goal? It’s to get interesting answers. At least that’s the hope whether it’s for a quote that will be included in a story, a sound bite to be replayed later or — like in this situation — during an interview that is airing live. The question should be engineered to elicit interesting content, and there was very little chance that the question Greenberg asked Banchero was going to produce anything close to that.

I know that because I have heard some version of this question asked hundreds of times. That’s not an exaggeration. I attended the NFL scouting combine annually for a number of years, and if a player wasn’t asked why he should be the first overall pick, he’d get asked why he should be a first-round pick or why he should be one of the first players chosen at his position. Never — in all that time — have I ever heard what would be considered an interesting or informative answer. In my experience, players tend to talk in incredibly general terms about their own abilities and then seek to compliment their peers in an effort to avoid coming off as cocky.

Here’s how Banchero answered Greenberg’s question: “Yeah, thank you all for having me, first off., I feel like I’m the number one pick in the draft because I’m the best overall player. I feel like I check all the boxes whether it’s being a great teammate, being the star player or doing whatever the coach needs. I’ve been a winner my whole life. Won everywhere I’ve went, and when I get to the NBA, that’s going to be the same goal for me. So just combining all those things, and knowing what I have to work on to be better is a formula for me.”

There’s nothing wrong with answer just as there was nothing wrong with the question. It’s just that both are really, really forgettable. ESPN did put a clip on YouTube with the headline “Paolo Banchero: I’m the best overall player in the NBA Draft | NBA Countdown” but I think I’m the only who will remember it and that’s only because I’m flapping my arms and squawking not because there was anything bad per se, but because there was nothing really good, either.

First of all, I’m not sure why it matters if Banchero thinks he should be the number one overall pick. He’s not going to be making that decision. The team that holds the top draft pick — in this case Orlando — is. Here’s a much better question: “How important is it for you to be the number one overall pick?” This would actually give an idea of the stakes for Banchero. What does this actually mean to him? Asking him why he should go number one is asking Banchero to tell us how others should see him. Asking Banchero how important it would be go number one is asking him to tell us about his feelings, something that’s much more likely to produce an interesting answer.

The point here isn’t to question Greenberg’s overall competence because I don’t. He’s as versatile a host as there is in the game, and anyone else in the industry has something to learn from the way he teases ahead to content. What I want to point out not just how we fail to maximize opportunities to generate interesting content, but why. Interviews are a staple of the sports-media industry. We rely on these interviews as both primary content that will be consumed directly, and as the genesis for our own opinions and reaction yet for all that importance we spend very little time thinking about the kind of answer this question is likely to produce.

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BSM Writers

The Client Just Said YES, Now What?

We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.



One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!

We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.

When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.

They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.

A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 74



This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.

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