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ESPN Radio Never Knew What It Had In Dan Le Batard

“What is disappointing about Le Batard and his Marching Band to Nowhere leaving ESPN Radio isn’t necessarily that the show is gone. It is that ESPN Radio will sound incomplete when without it.”

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Dan and Stu

At 10 AM on January 4th, you’ll turn on your radio or pull up the ESPN app and click on the “live radio” setting. What you will hear will be a 180 from what has aired in that time slot since 2015 that it may actually hurt your ears and your brain.

Mike Greenberg will take over the 10 am – noon slot that day. There’s nothing wrong with Greeny. He’s smart. He has a mastery of broadcasting fundamentals. If this were a broadcasting school, you would expect him to be the straight A student.

If Dan Le Batard and Stugotz were in that class, they would be the kids that never study, never pay attention, and somehow manage to pull off a C on every single test. It’s not that they aren’t smart or talented. They just aren’t interested in getting an A if it means they can’t do the things they want.

Teachers of literally any other subject would take a class full of Greenberg’s. Anyone that knows radio would look at Dan and Stu and say “I need them.”

What is disappointing about Le Batard and his Marching Band to Nowhere leaving ESPN Radio isn’t necessarily that the show will be gone. That group will pop up on another platform soon enough. It is that ESPN Radio will sound incomplete without them.

Every content factory, regardless of the platform, needs at least one difference maker. If you don’t have a person or group that the public can point to and say “they are special,” you’re just noise, and noise is usually ignored.

Sometimes that difference maker is a real pain in the ass for management. But ask yourself this, do more people want to tune in live or download podcasts of a host that’s willing to put a billboard up in Cleveland mocking the homecoming of the biggest star in American sports, call Major League Baseball’s commissioner a liar to his face, and beat up on some of their most high-profile colleagues or someone who’s smart, topical and delivers really good teases?

Dan Le Batard is a special talent. He is a unique thinker and he is utterly fearless. Stugotz is a special talent. Plenty of sports radio shows have an asshole. Stu’s the only person in the format that had mastered the role of the foil – more Disney villain than Stifler from American Pie. He’s the butt of the joke that he is in on.

ESPN can take my opinion with a grain of salt. There are plenty of people there more talented and more accomplished than I am. What I write here though, isn’t from Demetri Ravanos: Assistant Content Director of Barrett Sports Media. It’s from Demetri Ravanos: fan of radio. Without The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, ESPN, I don’t think you have much to offer me.

I’m not from New York or Boston. I don’t care about X and O sports talk or car wash interviews. I want more from the shows I listen to than just not being offended. In fact, I would trade being offended half the time if I am laughing my ass off the other half.

Look, this was an amicable parting of ways. Well…maybe it’s best to say that both sides knew this was going to happen sooner than later. It’s not like any of the ESPN brass barged into a board room one day and shouted “THAT DAN LE BATARD IS TOO INTERESTING! HE HAS TO GO!”

It’s Rajon Rondo still in Boston to start the 2013-2014 season after the Big 3 left. Really good, a potential difference maker and über-competitive. It’s just that’s not really what we do here anymore.

ESPN Radio will be fine. It is still a valuable brand name, even if programmers and GMs look at the lineup and see fewer options that will play well in their local markets. The confidence in the network may be rapidly decreasing due to two big lineup changes in less than six months, but many of those stations will live with it because they want the World Series, NBA Finals, College Football Playoff, call-ins from ESPN’s talent, and use of the four letters.

Letting Dan, Stugotz, and their crew walk out the door, moving Greenberg into their slot, and filling the vacancy at noon with a show syndicated out of their local New York affiliate sends a pretty clear message to the rest of the country though: the Northeast is the center of the sports universe and stations in other cities can either deal with it or spend more money on local talent.

Le Batard and his crew are different. No one on the show holds a degree from Syracuse, Northwestern, an Ivy League school or anywhere else that predetermines you have a spot in the sports media. They were plucked from Miami. Their style isn’t polished. They’re open about the holes in their sports knowledge. It’s made them more like their listeners than any other show on national radio. It is a shame ESPN is letting that kind of difference maker walk away.

BSM Writers

Asking The Right Questions Helps Create Interesting Content

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

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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.

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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

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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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