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Andrew Fillipponi May Be Ringo, But Ringo Is Still A Beatle

“If I had a 9-to-5 job, I still think I would spend an inordinate amount of time watching and following sports. I think it would probably be a detriment to whatever professional life I had if the sports radio thing didn’t work out.”

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Andrew Fillipponi has had a solid career in sports radio thus far. He hosts a successful afternoon drive show on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. He also does some national radio for CBS Sports. One of the many things that stand out about Andrew is that he has a who’s who of close contacts in the business. His college buddies from Syracuse include FS1’s Nick Wright and Danny Parkins from 670 The Score in Chicago. Plus, he sprinkles in a unique dynamic between his close friend, Gregg Giannotti, as well as Craig Carton for good measure.

Here’s the thing; I love comparisons, but sometimes they lead to poor conclusions. If you compare Fresno to Los Angeles, of course Central California doesn’t stack up to SoCal. However, if you then compare Fresno to Topeka, Kansas, all of a sudden Fresno looks like an exotic vacation spot. The point is that although Andrew hasn’t reached the same level of success as some of his friends — yet — that isn’t where the comparisons end. Andrew isn’t just looking up at the success his friends have achieved; many sports radio hosts are chasing the success Andrew has enjoyed.

93.7 The Fan: Andrew Fillipponi Wiki, Age, Wife, ThePoniExpress

There are plenty of interesting subjects that Andrew covers in this interview — from Pittsburgh’s personality and his Mets fandom, to big bets and Ringo Starr. Let’s get to it already. Enjoy.

Brian Noe: What’s this I hear about you being college roommates with both Nick Wright and Danny Parkins? Is that even true?

Andrew Fillipponi: I like the urban legend. That sounds better. If you want to say that, I’ll continue to push that narrative. Nick is a year older than me. Nick graduated a year before me and Danny graduated a year after me.

I think we were roommates in the sense that your kid might say that one of his parents’ friends is an uncle, but is not a blood relative. I would say we were quote-unquote roommates because of the amount of time we spent together. It was probably a two-year period where the three of us hung out every day. I would say as far as the sports radio guys went at Syracuse — me, Nick, Danny and then a guy who did mornings in Houston for a long time, Mike Meltzer, was in that group a lot too.

BN: Did you have any idea that you guys would reach the level of success that you have?

AF: Yeah. That sounds like I’m bragging, but to me there are three important things in this business; it’s work ethic, talent, and networking. I could tell with Danny and Nick that they were incredible at all three. I, at least, thought back then that they were better at those three things than I was. It was motivating actually. It made me — even at that immature, green age — it did make me want to strive to get better at this. In between hanging out with those guys and probably drinking and gambling too much, there was some constructive work that was getting done there.

BN: My ears perked up when you said gambling. What’s your worst beat ever?

AF: Oh, I love questions like this. My worst loss; I convinced my old man to give me my college graduation present in the form of a $10,000 check to put on a baseball future. My argument to him was I know more about baseball than I do stocks or any kind of investment strategy so why wouldn’t you just let me — it’s not just one game, it’s a full season — why wouldn’t you trust me to take that money and bet it on a baseball team for an entire year? He went along with it. I bet the Mariners to win more than 87.5 games. I think this was 2008. They lost 100 games and the bet was dead on like June 1st.

I had made this very impassioned plea to my father like this is the way that I should be investing money. I’m good at this. I’m telling you I have skill. It’s not just betting with my heart. It’s betting with my brain — yada, yada, yada. It was dead not even halfway through the season. So that one was painful.

BN: [Laughs] Oh, man! What would you say is the biggest strength of yourself and also Nick and Danny just as hosts?

AF: That’s a good one. With Nick, I just think that he is able to process his thoughts and articulate them better than most people I’ve ever met. That doesn’t mean just sports media, that’s across all fields. He comes up with ways of saying things and relating things to people, or persuading people of certain ideas. I know that he obviously does his homework and he’s well researched, but what always impresses me about him is he’ll say something that you can tell was a reactionary point, something that got said and he had to come up with his rebuttal to it in real time. I’m super impressed by how he’s able to do that as effectively as he does. I’m very jealous of his innate ability to do that. To me a lot of that is God-given and I just don’t have quite that way of doing things and making them sound as good as he does in such a reactionary, on-the-fly sense.

Danny, he to me is such a radio nerd. As much as he appreciates and enjoys sports, I think that watching sports and talking sports for him you can’t separate the two. I don’t think he can exist in a world where he just could watch sports and then didn’t have the platform to talk about them. I think he’s always been even more of a radio buff than a sports buff. I think what’s made him great is that he has listened a lot and paid attention a lot. He’s heard things or seen things from other hosts. He’s borrowed some ideas and made them better, which is not to say he’s a copycat of anybody or he’s trying to do somebody else’s shtick, but I just think he’s very well aware of what works and what doesn’t work in this business, what gets a reaction and what doesn’t. I think that he’s really good at that.

It’s a little bit harder for me to talk about myself and what I’m good at. I’m just really passionate about the whole thing. I have a harder time differentiating what I love more. If I had a 9-to-5 job, I still think I would spend an inordinate amount of time watching and following sports. I think it would probably be a detriment to whatever professional life I had if the sports radio thing didn’t work out. I just care about it and it’s all-consuming for me.

Darren and Derrick: Andrew Fillipponi Interview (3-29-16) by  thegamenashville.com on SoundCloud - Hear the world's sounds

I also love the spoken word. You’re the conduit or the moderator or you’re the authority voice on things. I’ve always admired and critically thought about the people who have done that well. Since I was in my early teens and I discovered this was a medium, these types of people that have had either national or really important local sports talk radio shows; I’ve always had a curiosity with those people. Studying them and listening to how they did it and what made them as popular or as controversial as they were. For me it’s just really an unconditional love that I have for sports talk radio and sports debate that really fuels me and allows me to put 100 percent into this at really all times.

BN: What is your 60-second bullet point resume?

AF: I went to Syracuse. I worked at WAER while I was there, which a lot of people that come up in this business do. My senior year I was the director of the sports talk staff, which is the position that Nick held before me and the position that Danny held after me. Then I went to another radio station, which is kind of like the competing student radio station at Syracuse. I went to one of their dinners. They did an alumni dinner every year and I met Craig Carton there. We went out for drinks and out of nowhere he decided that he liked me.

He contacted on my behalf the program director at WGR in Buffalo who had been his producer at WIP in Philly, Andy Roth. It was completely serendipitous. I’m eternally grateful to Craig that after a two-hour encounter he took that chance on me and paid it forward. That got me an interview in Buffalo. I worked at WGR and did afternoons, reporting, updates, and weekends for almost two years. Then when The Fan launched here in Pittsburgh in 2010, I came down here and I did nights. Then I did middays, and now I do afternoons.

BN: Your first real gig was GR in Buffalo, huh? That’s a big station to start at.

AF: It was perfect. That being my foray into this business, I couldn’t have asked for a better start. I think the PD there, Andy, was tremendous as far as coaching younger talent, wanting to develop younger talent, taking chances on younger talent, but also he could be critical and he would not just be your friend as a coach. He would tell you things that you screwed up and things you needed to get better at. That was obviously important for me when I was breaking into the business.

I predominantly worked with the afternoon guys there, Schopp & Bulldog, who I think for a mid-market sports talk show are as good as anything I’ve heard. I listen all the time. I listen to sports talk stations all over the country. I don’t think there are many afternoon drive shows that are better than theirs just in terms of being able to do everything, sports and non-sports. Having that as my introduction into the business was hugely important in my career path. Without that I don’t know if I’m here right now. 

BN: You’re a diehard Mets fan. How does it play in Pittsburgh being a fan of an outside team?

AF: Here’s the thing about that. We had a guy here when we first launched who liked another team in the AFC North that wasn’t the Steelers and another team in the NL Central that wasn’t the Pirates. He never said it on the air. He was afraid to do it. One time we were in a debate with each other and I slipped up and said it on the air just as a witty comeback. I forget the exact argument we were having. We got done with the segment and he lost it on me. He went nuts.

I don’t like when the transparency or the honesty about sports isn’t there. I don’t really do this because I’m pretty much an open book with my personal life. I like my listeners to feel like they know me and I know them. If I hold things back from them, I think it’s harder to establish the trust level that you want with your listeners on a day-to-day basis. You want your listeners to spend four hours a day with you, 20 hours a week, which is a ton. It’s hard to get that kind of P1 listenership, but that’s what you strive for. If I kept secrets or hid things from them about which sports teams I like, I just think that’s so stupid.

People know I’m a Mets fan and people know I went to Syracuse and they’re kind of a Pitt rival, but whatever. It’s sports. I hope that fans or listeners here appreciate me because I have the teams that I grew up with and I still love. I think any Pittsburgher who would leave here and go somewhere else wouldn’t abandon their teams, so I think they appreciate that about me, at least I hope they do. I’m also passionate about the teams that we have here too. It’s not like I’m a complete robot or I’m completely emotionally detached from the teams in Pittsburgh because when they lose I’m as upset as anyone.

BN: How would you describe the personality of Pittsburgh listeners? What works for them in that market?

1 again! Pittsburgh tops list of best city for football fans for second  year in a row

AF: That’s a great question. I don’t think shtick works. I think these topics that are kind of silly and fun and redundant, maybe kind of cookie cutter or something you may hear on a national show, I don’t really think that plays well here. I think authenticity does. I feel like as long as you have expressed to the people here that you care about the teams — I don’t think being anti-Steelers works here. I think if you zigged when everybody else zagged and said I think I’m going to be the one guy in town that hates the football team here. I have a feeling that would not work. I have not seen it done before, but I just have a feeling that that would probably backfire greatly.

I do think that they’re parochial, which is fine. I do think that they’re provincial, but I don’t think it comes from a bad place because I think sports here is kind of like a religious experience. It’s so ingrained in people that I think they want you to match that enthusiasm and that passion. When you fake it, I think that’s the worst thing you can do.

The people here that have been successful have been able to ratchet up the intensity about the teams here, not always agree with the teams here, but have a lot of passion and a lot of emotion about what’s happening. You don’t always have to be right. You don’t always have to sound like you’re the smartest guy in the room. I think you just have to show that you’re into it and that you really care. I think those are the people that work. The ones who don’t, who might have come from other markets, don’t last as long here.

BN: Over the next decade, is there anything in particular that you would like to accomplish?

AF: Oh yeah, definitely. I’ve got goals for myself. I want to continue to build my brand. I want to continue to make bigger impressions nationally. I want to continue to make the most and take advantage of the opportunities that CBS Sports Radio has given me. I want to continue to grow here because I don’t think we’ve maxed out. I don’t think we have hit our ceiling yet. This market, they have habits that die hard.

People pass down a tradition of listening to certain shows and different hosts. I hope to one day be one of those people here that kids will say as they grow up that I listened to you when I was high school. I listened to you when I was in college. I want to be a presence in this city where when there’s a big sports story, I’m the person that listeners turn to. But also when it’s just a lazy Wednesday and there’s not much going on, I’m the host that people turn to just to be entertained because they like the way we do things.

I’m not content with things yet. I’m somebody that continually wants to get better at things. I push myself. I’m competitive about things. There are a lot of my friends that have done amazing things in this business and I’m so proud of them. It’s really cool that I have those people in my life who have really achieved things where if they retired now you would say they had a great career in this industry. I want to keep up with them. I want to continue to run that marathon with them and not have something derail me or keep me from getting to the finish line. That’s what it’s about. It’s not only about money. It’s not all about ratings although both of those things are very, very, very important. It’s also about the camaraderie and the competitiveness that I established with friends when we were in our late teens and early twenties.

BN: Is there anything that I should know about you? It could be radio, your personal life, or anything that’s interesting about your journey.

AF: I think there are a lot of Kevin Bacon comparisons there. There are just a lot of people that I’ve met in my life here. I’ve worked really just in two places. I was in Buffalo for a very short time and I’ve been here for now more than a decade. The amount of people that I’ve had the fortune of meeting and developing great relationships with, I’m incredibly blessed in that way. Not only Danny and Nick but Gregg Giannotti and I started here at the same exact time. He’s one of my best friends. I was in his wedding. He’s somebody that I lean on not just professionally but personally too. We’ve shared so many ups and downs together and now he’s killing it. He’s back in New York where he wants to be with Boomer.

How about that whole dynamic where he replaces Craig Carton and that’s the guy that helped me get my first job. It’s just wild how many people I’ve met in this business that have gone on to have incredible careers and have had an affect on me. That’s to me the part about this that’s been really cool is I’ve been able to watch people that I have really strong friendships with, go on to really bigger and better things. I’m hoping that eventually I get there with them if I’m not already there now, which I kind of hope people think that I am. I told Danny and Nick I hope that people don’t think I’m the Ringo Starr of that crew in college, but I kind of feel like I am, which I’m totally all right with.

8 Ringo Starr style lessons: From polka dots to square shades | British GQ

BN: Yeah, you need some friends that have just flamed out and done nothing in sports radio.

AF: [Laughs] I’m definitely the Ringo but he was still in the Beatles, you know?

BSM Writers

The Craig Carton/FanDuel Deal Is Undeniably A Good Thing

“Since returning to WFAN, Carton has been very upfront about who he is, what he has done and how he is trying to do better.”

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Craig Carton is destined to forever be a polarizing figure in the world of sports media. Long before he was arrested, he had plenty of detractors that considered him less of a talk show host and more of a shock jock. Add to it a conviction for his role in a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors in order to pay back gambling debts, and it is clear that the guy’s approval rating will never hit 100.

Charities of disgraced shock jock Craig Carton say he let them down; lawyer  calls it a 'gross misunderstanding' - New York Daily News
Courtesy: New York Daily News

There are understandable reasons not to like a guy and then there are grudges. Grudges don’t have to be personal. They don’t have to spring from some sort of affront. They can easily be born out of feeling like someone has figured out a way to live a life above the rules and free of consequence for their awful actions.

Grudges can (and often do) blind us to reality. I think that is a big part of what is happening when people point to Craig Carton’s new deal with FanDuel and say that there is something wrong with it.

If you missed the announcement last week, Carton is joining FanDuel as the company’s first “responsible gaming ambassador.” He will create content about gambling responsibly and also work with FanDuel engineers to create AI to spot problem gambling patterns. The deal gives Craig Carton a seat at the table with one of the biggest mobile sportsbooks in shaping their responsible gaming policy. Isn’t that a good thing?

I probably cannot convince you to view the guy in any particular light. When it comes to former inmates being rehabilitated and getting a second chance, we tend to be very dug in with our opinions, whatever may influence them.

Undeniably, Carton did a bad thing. Swindling people out of huge chunks of money is always bad. In America, it somehow seems worse. As costs of living increase and wages remain flat, every dollar is accounted for and allotted to something for most of us. The guy should be ashamed of himself. And here’s the thing: he clearly is.

Since returning to WFAN, Carton has been very upfront about who he is, what he has done and how he is trying to do better. Hell, what other station in America dedicates any time at all, even just a half hour on the weekend, to issues of addiction and recognizing problem habits? This deal with FanDuel seems perfectly in line with his previous attempts to atone.

Hello, My Name Is Craig
Courtesy: Audacy

You don’t have to like Craig Carton, but you do need to acknowledge that everything he has done in terms of highlighting his problem with gambling and offering help to those that he sees a little bit of his own struggles in has been sincere. There is no reason to believe it isn’t.

Under the terms of the deal, not only will Carton advise and create content for FanDuel, but the company will also make sure Hello, My Name is Craig finds a bigger platform. You can be cynical and say that this is just part of a bigger deal between FanDuel and WFAN parent company Audacy, but FanDuel’s Chief Marketing Officer, Mike Raffensperger explained that it is good for the gaming industry to promote betting responsibly.

“I think what we recognize we needed is to add some humanity as to how we get this message across,” he said when explaining why Carton was the perfect face for this campaign.

We see it every time we post a story about sports betting. Someone will comment that it is an evil practice and that the advertising has made sports radio disgusting. The reality is that it is no different from alcohol. For most people, it is harmless. Plenty though, cannot handle it. Still, you tell me the first time you hear an ad break on sports radio or see a commercial break during a game without a beer commercial.

If you really believe sports gambling is evil and want people to stay away from mobile or physical sportsbooks, who do you think the ideal person to be delivering that message is?

You can go with the puritan approach of tisk-tisking strangers and telling them they are flawed people that are going to Hell or you can have a guy that has literally lost it all because of his addiction out front telling you “I know I cannot place a bet and here is why. If that sounds familiar, maybe it is time for you to seek help.” It seems pretty obvious to me that the latter approach is exactly what Raffensperger is talking about – using humanity to reach the people they need to.

Craig Carton committed a crime. A court of law said he had to pay for that both with restitution to his victims and with jail time. He served his time. Deals like this one with FanDuel make it possible for him to stay on schedule with the restitution payments. Even if you think he is unforgivable, that should make you happy, right?

It is admittedly strange to see a mobile sportsbook hire a “responsible gaming ambassador.” I would argue though that it is only strange because it isn’t something we have seen before. Be skeptical if you are the “I’ll believe it when I see it” type, but I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to congratulate and celebrate both Craig Carton and FanDuel.

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BSM Writers

Sports Radio America: The Starting Point When There Is No College Radio

“If we want to replace talent with talent, we have to develop talent at the lowest levels much more than asking for requirements at the highest levels. Every industry needs their farm-system.”

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It is a laboratory. A place to make mistakes. A spot to make friends. The hub of many communications schools. College radio stations are the pipeline by which young, aspiring broadcasters, engineers and producers carve their path to the pros. Broadcasters from around the United States credit college radio for helping them get to where they are today, and view it as a conduit for the next generation of talent.

“I can’t speak highly enough about my college experience doing radio,” said Evan Wilner, senior radio producer at ESPN and former member of WRHU-FM at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. “I realized in college that I am much better at fixing things rather than talking while other people tried doing something about it. Every place I’ve been, I feel like I’ve been ahead of the game because of the experience I got in college.”

Evan Wilner (@WilnerRadio) | Twitter

Wilner’s story is far from unique among professionals in broadcasting today, and proves valuable in ascertaining the role college radio plays in preparing broadcasters in their journey. Travis Demers, the radio play-by-play voice of the N.B.A.’s Portland Trail Blazers, shares a similar sentiment regarding the opportunities college radio afforded him, and how it helped him work in the industry he had a nascent passion for.

“In sixth grade, I was listening to WFAN, and when I realized I wasn’t going to be a professional baseball player, I started [radio] right away as a college freshman.”

Demers attended LIU Post in Brookville, N.Y. beginning in 1999, and eventually served as the sports director of WCWP-FM. In his time at the station, Demers was given numerous opportunities to broadcast football, basketball and lacrosse games on campus, eventually leading to an internship, and corresponding full-time job, at ABC Radio in New York City.

“Everything I could do specifically with sports is what I was trying to do right from the start,” reminisced Demers, “and I was fortunate enough to do that.”

Dan Zangrilli, who serves as a play-by-play announcer at West Virginia University and host of the M.L.B.’s Pittsburgh Pirates’ pre- and post-game shows on 93.7 The Fan, got his start in college radio at Clarion University in Clarion, P.A. The 4,000-watt WCUC 91.1 FM was Zangrilli’s place to get practice broadcasting live basketball games, and hosting a morning talk show.

Dan Zangrilli (@DanZangrilli) | Twitter

“I had free reign; it was basically like my easel,” elucidated Zangrilli. “I started out as a freshman and became the sports director, and ascended to the general manager position by my junior year. That’s just such invaluable experience to be immersed in every aspect of the radio industry, and I wouldn’t trade that place for anything.”

 In a media landscape full of changes accelerated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lifespan of college radio as a subset of the industry is at greater risk of being classified as ephemeral than ever before, a harrowing realization that one former operations manager for a mortgage company had in Memphis, Tenn. had just over a decade ago.

Ayokunle Spencer, a graduate of the University of Memphis and former paralegal, was working for the Rawlings Company in Louisville, Ky., when he happened to overhear a conversation that forever changed his life. One of his co-workers was apprehensive about how his daughter, set to graduate from the University of Louisville, would leave as the school’s radio station would be shut down due to a lack of funding. At the onset of the 2008 economic recession, college radio stations were slashed from budgets around the country, stymying the development of prospective talent and rendering vagabonds heavily involved, and invested, students. Forsaken from the ability to develop the skill set and collect the air checks needed to land a job in the industry, Spencer decided it was time to make a concerted effort to resuscitate an ostensibly-dying concentration of the evolving medium.

“When the need presented itself… we [tried to] put something together [to give] people opportunities to sharpen the skills, and develop the next broadcast talent,” said Spencer. “We posted on the message boards at the colleges and, in about a year’s time, there was an influx of different students we were getting a chance to work with.”

Sports Radio America was founded by Ayokunle Spencer in 2008 as a digital broadcasting network intended to give college students attending universities without a campus radio station the chance to polish their on-air skills and perfect their craft. A member of the jazz-format WUMR while attending the University of Memphis, Spencer had previous experience in pitching up-and-coming hip-hop and R&B artists to local radio stations, including the likes of All-Star and Yo Gotti, through his promotional company and record label, Dynasty Digital Entertainment. Progressive in his thinking, Spencer was one of the first to stream radio broadcasts on the Internet, assisting Bishop G.E. Patterson in the dissemination of a small, A.M. religious station to the masses.

“Radio was always a passion for me as a kid,” said Spencer, “but I always took steps towards that passion before the University of Memphis. I felt, at that time, I was more at the forefront of what was going to come next. I wrote a paper that the Internet would be the place for media in thirty years, and twenty-five years later, I think I was dead on with that one.”

Conceived by means of necessity, Sports Radio America is a haven for young talent, broadcasting live games and talk radio shows on the Internet. The outlet, though, became more of a potpourri of commentators and journalists alike in order to help them evolve to the dynamic world of mediated communication.

“What it started out to be isn’t necessarily what it is now, although I want to get back to those roots of working with highly-talented students and getting them prepared for the next stage of their careers,” said Spencer. “Other journalists that were leaving FOX or ESPN, or older guys that had gotten kicked out of their radio stations because they didn’t know anything about digital, they ended up here. It kind of became a collage of different broadcasters and media personalities from around the U.S.”

As Sports Radio America celebrates its 10-year anniversary, Spencer remains focused on positioning the media venture ahead of the pack, cogently aware of industry changes and best practices to help its broadcasters land jobs and the company prosper after unforeseen circumstances over the previous year-and-a-half.

PsalmStream

“We just came through COVID, and in terms of advertising, all that stuff was crushed,” explained Spencer. “We are kind of almost in a rebuild mode now. We give people the opportunity to create something new, build up your audience and see if something works.”

Once Sports Radio America’s popularity began to grow around the country, the broadcasting outlet, to avoid being overwhelmed with participants, began interviewing and selecting talent to join them. Throughout his professional career, Spencer has had an innate ability to evaluate talent across all industries, something he calls “a God-given gift.” In his current role, which he compares to a professional football scout, one of Spencer’s jobs is to find the best people to join Sports Radio America, and help them get to where they want to go.

“The way my brain processes information, I can just tell certain people in certain things are creative enough to meet industry standards and excel,” said Spencer. “In sports radio, I evaluate voice, how interesting they are in being able to hold a conversation, the topics they pick out, etc. It’s really the only gift I think I actually have.”

Spencer has been successful in helping aspiring collegiate-level industry talent get the experience they need, with his organization serving as the pipeline many colleges have come to eliminate from their campuses. His method of evaluating talent aligns with principles employed by current hiring managers and industry professionals, such as Nick Cattles, host of The Nick Cattles Show on ESPN Radio 94.1 in Virginia Beach. Cattles highly values relatability and uniqueness in his evaluations of talent, along with if they are able to keep a listener actively engaged in their program.

“I think hosts around the country are better off when they allow themselves to be an open book,” said Cattles. “I always listen, probably more intently, to somebody who is willing to give the ‘secrets’ so to speak as opposed to somebody who is more guarded. The cool thing about radio is that there are so many talented people, and there is no one way to do it right. You try to find people who can do it their own way with the passion and the work-ethic that you can invest and believe in.”

Hardly esoteric in understanding, radio, and media altogether, is changing, and seismically in that matter. With today’s reliance on digital platforms for distribution, programs are, evidently, being adapted to fit the proclivities of the listening audience, including a shortening total attention span.

In a recent study by Microsoft, the average human being has an attention span of eight seconds, down a whopping four seconds over the last twenty years. This figure, which is shorter than that of a goldfish, is a direct byproduct of the principle of instant gratification, and the evolution of technology to enable its propagation. The inability to sustain focus has become an endemic in today’s society, and mediums of communication have had to adjust to fit this dynamic psychological paradigm.

Illegally introduced goldfish discovered in multiple Rock Springs–area  ponds - Casper, WY Oil City News
Courtesy: Shutterstock

Furthermore, consumers of mass media are more apt than ever before to selectively filter information; that is, specifically choosing what to concentrate on. As a result, media, in all of its forms, is less concentrated in scope, being narrowed to appeal to the target audience. The conflation of methodologies, simultaneously existing within a preponderance of content and a widening definition as to just who is considered to be a journalist, challenges the fundamental precept of what media is entirely. So how is radio adapting in this new landscape? By expanding its means of dissemination.

“It’s much more multi-faceted, social media-oriented and digital as opposed to [it being] siloed, [as it was] when I got into it,” said Brad Carson, operations and brand manager of 92.9 FM ESPN and Audacy Memphis Sports. “It used to be that you were a radio guy. Now in 2021, you are getting people that are entertainers. The latest joke is, ‘Hey, here’s our latest talent with one million TikTok followers.’ I think you can get people on a radio station or on our Audacy platforms from all walks of life. It’s a much more inexact science than [ever before].”

Spencer, whose progressive thoughts on the media landscape are openly conveyed in conversation, believes the introduction of streaming to be a considerable advancement that can play across multiple platforms. Unsurprisingly, he was ahead of the game at Sports Radio America, basing the online platform on this technology.

“The market for audio is always going to be there. The question is what medium we are going to use to deliver it,” said Spencer. “Everything will probably be streaming by 2030. I think that there will still be the public channels on the airwaves, but the majority of media will be consumed [via] streaming because [it is] a more accurate [platform] to measure who is listening. Whatever the next area of audio is, we will probably start it here first.”

Based on my conversations with these industry professionals, it is safe to say that Ayokunle Spencer, Brad Carson, Travis Demers, Evan Wilner, Dan Zangrilli and Nick Cattles attribute their college radio experience as one of the reasons they possess the skills to succed in their current jobs. Being able to have the flexibility to make mistakes, try new things and establish long-lasting professional relationships are invaluable to ambitious young broadcasters, and all evolving broadcasters for that matter. Belonging to a college media outlet is undoubtedly something many students savor, with many largely basing their choice of college on the quality of the media outlets if they are so fortunate. However, not all ambitious young broadcasters are equally privy to the same resources.

Not all ambitious young broadcasters are able to provide sufficient previous experience when trying to secure an internship or a job.

Not all ambitious young broadcasters are privy to changing industry trends, nor do they have the resources to render them an understanding as to how to achieve their goals.

Not all ambitious young broadcasters have a place to be mentored, and mentors willing to leverage valuable industry connections that could lead them to an internship or a job.

Experience needed: how to get a job with no previous experience -

For Ayokunle Spencer and his team at Sports Radio America, lessening the discrepancies between those with the ability to easily make connections and expend resources, and those looking to establish or collect them, has always been at the forefront of their mission — and they intend to keep shrinking the gap.

“I am surprised there aren’t more places like this where people can develop their skills before they reach the big-time,” expressed Spencer. “If we want to replace talent with talent, we have to develop talent at the lowest levels much more than asking for requirements at the highest levels. Every industry needs their farm-system.”

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BSM Writers

Covid Is A Convenient Excuse For Lowering Our Standards

“I am sick of hearing lag and noticeably different levels of soundproofing between two hosts on the same show.”

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I was probably four hours deep into my all-day football binge on Saturday when I started to think about the overall quality of what I was seeing. This isn’t a column about whether college football is secretly better than the NFL. This is about our industry.

While you may not notice a difference in the presentation on CBS’s top line SEC broadcast or on FOX’s Big Noon Saturday game, it is clear how few resources are being allocated to some of the games further down the networks’ priority list. ESPN doesn’t even send live broadcasters to its Thursday night college football game for instance.

Ohio State football broadcasts go remote amid COVID-19 restrictions
Courtesy: WBNS Radio

Covid-19 was the beginning of this. It forced every business in the broadcast industry to re-evaluate budgets and figure out how to do games when travel and the traditional set up of broadcast booths simply were not on the table.

This isn’t a problem limited to game coverage either. Plenty of hosts still are not back in their radio studio. Plenty of guests on ESPN’s and FS1’s mid day debate shows are still appearing via Skype and Zoom connections. It is as if we have started counting on our audience not expecting quality any more.

I want to be perfectly clear. I get that this pandemic isn’t over. I get that in many cases, networks and stations are trying to avoid overcrowding studios and in some cases, make accommodations for top-level talent that refuse to get vaccinated. “It’s survival mode,” is the answer from corporate.

Do we still need to be in survival mode though? We are 18 months into this pandemic. The majority of Americans are vaccinated. The ones who aren’t are actively making a choice not to do what they need to in order to put on the best possible show they can.

I am sick of hearing lag and noticeably different levels of soundproofing between two hosts on the same show. I am sick of seeing hosts on crystal clear HD cameras in a high tech studio talk to someone on a dirty webcam that can’t be bothered to even put in headphones so they don’t sound like they are shouting down a hallway.

A good example is the late Highly Questionable. I really liked that show when it was done in studio. I liked a lot of the ESPN talent that popped up on the show even after Dan Le Batard left. I couldn’t watch any more of the show than the two minute clips that would show up on Twitter. I didn’t want to see Bomani Jones behind a giant podcast mic. The low res camera that turned Mina Kimes’s house plant into a green blob gave me a headache. The complete disregard for quality made a decent show hard to watch.

Highly Questionable 4/12/21 - Changing History? - YouTube
Courtesy: ESPN

There was a time when the accommodations we made for Covid-19 were totally necessary. Bosses and broadcasters did whatever they had to to get a show or a game on the air. At this point, I am starting to wonder how much of the concessions are necessary and how much are the result of executives that “good enough” is the new standard.

It is totally reasonable to argue that in an age where microphones and editing software are cheap, slick production doesn’t carry the weight it once did. That is true for the podcasters and TikTokers that are creating content in spare bedrooms and home offices. If you’re ESPN or FOX or SirusXM, that slick production is what sells the idea that your content is better than what people can make at home on their own.

It’s soundproof studios, 4K cameras and futuristic graphics packages that make the standard setters in the industry special. Maybe your average Joe Six-Pack can’t put it into words. He just knows that a lot of home-produced content sounds and looks like play time compared to what he sees or hears on a network.

Sure, the anchors are the signature of SportsCenter’s heyday, but it was the stage managers, producers, and other behind-the-scenes staff doing their jobs that really made the show thrive. Those people cost money. The details they took care of may be something 90% of viewers will never notice. They will just know that they are watching a really good show. Those difference makers cannot do their jobs to the best of their abilities if everyone is being piped in from a different FaceTime feed.

In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic we did whatever we had to. As broadcasters, we made compromises. As an audience, we accepted compromises. We were desperate for familiar entertainment and if Zoom is what it took to get it, that was just fine. There was no cure, no vaccine, things were scary and we were all anxious not knowing how long it would all last.

Anxiety and Depression From COVID-19 – San Diego – Sharp Health News
Courtesy: Nuthawut Somsuk

More than 18 months later, things may not be back to normal, but we are considerably less desperate. There are signs of normalcy in the world. Make the commitment to bring back the standard that won you so many fans in the first place.

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