You have to know your stuff and be good at your job to run Entercom’s (now Audacy) Atlanta cluster. It’s made up of some of the city’s best performing stations. So when a company finds the right leader, the last thing they want is to lose them, which is probably why Rick Caffey’s time at the top of the group predates even CBS Radio’s ownership.
Caffey is a native of Chicago, but he’s lived and worked so long in Atlanta, and grown such a strong understanding of what the city’s citizens respond to, that it’s become home for him. Having that connection and love for the city is why, even in the beginning when the road was bumpy, he never doubted 92.9 The Game would get to where he and original program director Terry Foxx wanted it to go.
When you look at the current Atlanta sports media climate, 92.9 The Game has become a dominant brand. It’s the flagship station for the Falcons, Hawks, and United, and routinely leads the market as the city’s top rated local sports radio station.
In the conversation below, Rick explained how building the station required regular tinkering, where radio should be going to find unique and diverse voices both on-air and in leadership roles, and what it’s like being in the market manager’s office when a talent discusses social issues on air.
This interview was conducted prior to the announcement that Entercom was rebranding as Audacy
Demetri Ravanos: You have been the market manager for this cluster since 1994, going all the way back to when CBS was called Infinity. What do you remember from the time leading up to that? What made you say “I want this job” and what made you feel ready for it?
Rick Caffey: Actually it started with Graham Communications. They owned the station for a year before Infinity bought it. I got a call out of the blue from Herb Accord and Peter Ferrara. They called and said, “our market manager (at the time the position was referred to as general manager) Rick Mack informed us that he is resigning to move back to Washington, D.C. and we’d like to talk to you about coming over to be the general manager of WVEE and WAOK.” That’s how I got over, first as general manager of V103 and AOK, then a year or year and a half later, it was sold to Infinity. Then I acquired ZGC at that time, which was was a rock radio station. We changed it from rock to a more alternative station and Dave FM for a few years and then we decided to go into sports talk.
DR: The industry has changed so much in the time since you have been in this position that I would guess a lot of the things that you focused your presentation on early in your career would be considered outdated now. I wonder, from the position of running a cluster, does it feel like the business you are in is completely different than what it was thirty six years ago?
RC: I wouldn’t say completely different, because it still comes down to the fundamentals of creating great, compelling, interesting content, regardless of what format or how it’s distributed. The same is true on the business side, where it still comes down to engaging the business community, and helping develop solutions and ideas that can help them move product.
I think one of the things that has changed a little bit is internally, we in our industry are focusing more on providing solutions and ideas to our customers instead of the ‘my ratings are better than their ratings’ banter. I think that’s a good thing. It’s been a great evolution in our business because it’s really moving the needle from the advertising side. That’s what matters – delivering results for your advertisers.
From a content standpoint, it’s probably more challenging because whatever format that exists in radio, whether it’s a music format or a sports talk format, there’s such an abundance of other places to find information and content. So the challenge each year is to make sure that we stay competitive in that area. Radio, for the most part, does an outstanding job in that area and especially in the world of sports talk.
DR: I want to talk about 92.9 before it became The Game. You mentioned Dave FM before. You guys had the Falcons on that station for a good long run, but I read an interview around the time the station flipped, where you told Rodney Ho that even though you had the Falcons during that time, there was never a thought that you would flip 92.9 to sports talk. I don’t think I can name another triple station in the country that has sports, let alone the NFL. So I wonder what that partnership was accomplishing for Dave FM at that time that it was worth going so far out of format for big chunks of Sunday afternoons?
RC: Well, what happened was the Falcons came before we changed to Dave FM. We were a classic rock radio station then, which was more compatible. We were male leaning, and so having the Falcons fit with the brand. I think from the Falcons standpoint, what they saw value in was our ability to provide full coverage with our FM signal that that the AM stations at the time couldn’t. So that was sort of a good point of mutual interest for both parties at the time.
DR: Atlanta may not necessarily have been a crowded sports radio market when you decided to make the flip on 92.9 in 2012, but Steak Shapiro and Andrew Saltzman were generating big revenue over at 790 The Zone back then. The Dickeys were also a big part of the Atlanta sports scene. The Fan was sort of a staple in the city because of its association with the Braves. Was the FM signal the catalyst for saying this could work or did you recognize some specific niche the competition had left open that you were capable of filling?
RC: Great question, but it mostly was the opportunity that was there for FM. Both of those stations you mentioned had very limited coverage, especially at nighttime when games are playing. So we saw a big opportunity there to take that format and reach more people, just because more people have access to the station.
I give a lot of credit to 790 The Zone and 680, because I saw there that there was a good appetite for this content in the local marketplace. One of the things I think that kind of gets lost when people outside of Atlanta think of our city is they don’t see it as being a great sports area. I’ll tell you as a native Chicagoan, and nobody would ever say Chicago’s not a great sports town, but since I moved to Atlanta back in 94, I’ve been to the Olympics, two heavyweight boxing matches, a countless amount of All-Star Games, Super Bowls, and not to mention, we’re the cross-section of the ACC conference and the SEC conference. You always have the SEC championship here, which some years kind of predicts who’s going to be in the national championship game. You’ve got world class arenas, so we’ve had every major sporting event here in Atlanta. Even though the Hawks weren’t winning championships, the appetite for the NBA in Atlanta is huge. This is a this is a great sports town, from a professional, collegiate and even high school sports standpoint.
DR: Given the nature of Atlanta’s business community, so many international companies are there. Did the people you were talking to on the ground recognize that this is a great sports town, and there was room to put a sports station on the FM dial which could change everything? Or did you find a lot of people were operating with the assumption that Atlanta wasn’t a particularly great sports town and supporting a third sports radio station would be a challenge?
RC: Well, the proof of it is in how successful we’ve been. Right now when you look at 92.9 The Game, we’re consistently top three with Men 25-54. Certainly, that’s reflected in the adult numbers too. So that in itself, shows there’s great content here, and great interest in our local teams. When we decided to go into the sports format, there were three emphases that we’ve always had. We felt that if we could just nail these three things on a daily basis, we could win. Two of them are obviously sports. Provide the information on who won and lost. Let’s not take for granted that people already know because we want them to look to us as a place to go to find out, “Hey did the Braves win?” or “Did the Falcons win?”. Two was provide insight. Why did a coach decide to go for it on fourth and one? Why did we take the pitcher out in the eighth inning? Those are all things that we want to, with our reporters and talent, give people a peek behind the curtain.
But the first and the fundamentally most important thing that we have to accomplish is we have to be entertaining. I’ve always looked at executing a sports format like you’re creating the world’s biggest barbershop or sports bar. If somebody walks in and says, “You know what? LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan.” “Woooooahhh!” Half the room goes up saying, “you’re crazy.” The other half of the room says “Yep! That’s what I’ve been saying all along.” That’s the great nature of our format, is that it’s a place that people can go to and hang out with other people that they like, respect, and may disagree with, or because they want to hear what their opinion is. If we create that vibe, and focus on being entertaining, not just on being insightful and informative, we’ll do well. If not, we won’t win.
DR: I think a lot of people in the industry are probably familiar with 92.9 The Game’s climb. It wasn’t an overnight success. A number of hosts came in and left and you didn’t instantly catapult to the the top of the mountain. Was there ever a moment where you wondered if you made a mistake or got close to pulling the plug?
RC: To be honest with you, no I didn’t. I was very confident it would work. When we first went into it, there were two other sports stations already on the air, and myself and our program director, Terry Foxx, the first person I hired at the time, we had a big whiteboard in my office where we put down names of different types of individuals we thought would be great talent. They could be TV personalities. Former athletes. People who are into the sports base already. We would just write them all down and put together our wish list of different types of talent.
We went into it with the understanding, that just like a a startup franchise in football, baseball, basketball, the opening day roster would be different two to three years later, as things would evolve. Some talent would do better. Some talents that we thought highly of wouldn’t work out. So we knew it was going to be a process, and that we weren’t going to get it 100% right, the first time out. We needed a place to start, and so we tried to assemble the best available talent that we could at that time with understanding that, we’re not going to be married to one talent or one show. It was always going to shift and need to be adjusted. Even to this day, I think it’s my job to approach it like a general manager of a professional team. That is always looking at your roster and saying, “how can we continue to coach up our talent or is there new talent that we can add that can be a difference maker?” It’s an ongoing process all the time.
DR: Was CBS supportive of that process? Was there ever a moment you had to get some of the higher ups on board with “We need to stay the course. This will work”?
RC: Well, one of the biggest supporters we had at the time at CBS was Chris Oliviero. He was one of the VP’s of programing. Chris was behind the scenes, the one that said, “Hey, just keep blocking and tackling.” To their credit, they gave it time to find its legs.
Probably the biggest catalyst of that kind which really pumped steroids into the brand was when we brought the Falcons back. What they did was give us strong branding and marketing. For all the people who would come in on Sunday’s, it gave us an opportunity to recycle them into Mondays, Tuesdays and the rest of the week. From there, we’ve kind of just took off in and haven’t looked back since.
DR: If there’s a moment in Atlanta that sports radio is famous for, maybe infamous for, its probably 790 The Zone’s Steve Gleason bit. You could sort of argue that the beginning of the end for that station came from that controversy. Do you remember what your reaction was at the time and what the conversations were like in your building as you watched the fallout from that situation come to fruition?
RC: We were certainly aware of it, and I knew Steak because Steak had worked with me when I first got to Atlanta at WCNN. The station management had to make the decision they made. You know, I think it was warranted to have a suspension. They also could have used it as an opportunity, a learning moment, not to be quick on the trigger and just discard the talent.
I saw Steak go on CNN and apologize for everything. I thought he was very, very sincere. It was a good opportunity to admit a mistake and then all you can do from there is grow from it and be better. So that might have been a missed opportunity on their end to not allow that process to go on a little longer.
DR: I don’t want to sound morbid here, but was there ever a moment where you looked at it and thought, “This is our opportunity now to change the landscape of sports radio in Atlanta”?
RC: No. I’m a big believer that you focus on yourself. I don’t play chess with other other radio stations. I make sure that myself and our team are focused on the entities and people that matter. Those are our partners. Our audience. Our advertisers. Until our competitors buy advertising time on our brands or or walk around with a meter and listen to our stations, I’m not going to focus on them. We’ve got enough to worry about on our end. That’s always been our philosophy.
Other rival stations do great things that should be celebrated from an industry standpoint. And when they make wrong turns or have setbacks, that’s not for me to dance on their grave. We have to look at what we do on a day to day basis and look in the mirror and say, “Okay, how can we be better?” and then focus on that.
DR: Atlanta was at the center of a lot of the marches and demonstrations that happened last summer, particularly after the Rayshad Brooks shooting. Now the city is in the news again unfortunately, because of the mass shooting of the Asian spa workers. When these things are happening in your city it become part of the national conversation. Being involved as you are on the business side with clients and partners, how comfortable are you with those conversations, making it on to your airwaves? If nationally they’re part of the conversation, one can make a case that they should be part of the conversation for Atlantans.
RC: Well, I don’t think you can ignore the elephant in the room. Going back to the summer when there were protests in the streets, one of the things we did was talk to every one of our on air talent at the time and ask them candidly “Do you want to address this? If so, how do you want to address it?” Some talent felt, “You know, maybe I don’t want to say the wrong thing. I may feel a little uncomfortable.” Some said “I absolutely want to share my share my thoughts on it.” The key thing that we felt was important was to allow people to be authentic and honest.
So we didn’t ignore it. We didn’t put our head in the sand and just say, “Hey, it’s sports, as usual.” We talked about it. We had discussions about it on the air. I think one of the most remarkable things that kind of happened during that period were the comments that Hugh Douglas made on our morning show.
DR: I was actually going to bring this up because I think it is one of the most powerful moments that a sports station could possibly air in the wake of everything that was going on in the wake of the conversations we’re having as a country at that point. I know I am probably not alone in being someone that will tell you that I got choked up listening to that.
It’s interesting, when you talked about being authentic, I wonder what you hear, what the emails or phone calls from listeners or advertisers are in those moments because in our business that is exactly what we should want from our talent. It’s part of the reason why we put them on the air. But I also wonder if, given how sensitive people can be to not wanting to hear anything that challenges their world view, if these moments that are absolute wins on the air don’t feel that way sometimes when you’re the one having to field the phone calls.
RC: Right. The interesting thing is I didn’t receive any negative phone calls from sponsors or advertisers. If anything, I think the people that I did speak to that are clients of ours were just appreciative and in some cases moved, no different than how you said you felt. And we weren’t going to make a decision about whether we were going to be authentic based on if our advertisers or our partners should be upset about it. I think one of the things we really focus on is making sure we’re authentic to our audience. That even goes to if one of our sports teams, especially if we’re carrying that team, has a six, seven, eight game losing streak. We can’t just paint a rosy picture when the play on the field isn’t good.
Now, with that being said, we make sure that our talent realizes not to make it personal. If you want to say a general managers made a bad draft pick, that’s fair game. But don’t question if that person wants to win. That’s a character issue and you can’t make a judgment like that, nor should you be making a judgment like that because you can’t assume anybody in those positions aren’t there to win. It’s no different than you in your position. You know that you’re on air to win.
We always want talent to be honest and authentic with the audience. If you don’t have the trust of the audience first and foremost, then it doesn’t work for any of your partners, whether it’s the teams or your sponsors and advertisers.
DR: So last year the industry got hit hard by the pandemic and you guys were no different. Clusters everywhere had to make cuts. What it’s led to is 92.9 The Game operating with an OM and an APD, not necessarily a designated program director. Is that a trend you think we’ll see more of? Is there a different way, a more cost effective way to do the PD job in radio?
RC: Well, the program director or brand manager that I have overseeing the station is treating it as his other station, the music station, which is V103. He’s always had a love for sports and programing specifically. I think what helped him was that, in the case of V103, yes, it’s a music station, but it’s a a very personality based radio station. Some of the same dynamics that work on V also work in a talk format. So from that standpoint, Reggie Rouse is a great talent. That kind of trumps everything. We don’t have that set up you described just for a structural basis. We have it based on having the right talent that can provide direction to our staff.
DR: That makes sense. Surely you know, given The Game’s reputation, the second you post a PD opening, you’re going to have a flood of resumes from accomplished candidates coming in, right?
RC: Yeah. That’s right.
DR: So as you think about the who’s who of programmers in sports radio, outside of your former PD, Terry Foxx, there’s not been a lot of Black and Brown faces in that group. Every company has their diversity panel, and I know you’re now involved in helping Entercom (Audacy) improve its diversity footprint, so I’d love to know what you think needs to change for executives to start walking their talk in that way?
RC: Well, I think like anything else, you got to you just got to expand your pool of contacts beyond those that you know. I would also say that is true for women, especially in the sports talk realm. I mean, we’re in a position to add talent. I would love to add more female talent to our sports station. I think that it makes us better and there are some great candidates out there. Truly, the ESPN’s of the world have found that out over the last several years.
I’ll add that I think there’s great opportunity for both minorities and women in the sports world, but you have to be creative and do kind of like what we did at the very beginning when we first were trying to build the station. We relied on our whiteboard and went through different categories of individuals and tried to network in other areas to find people that fit the categories that we were looking for. One of those things that I was trying to build with our individual shows was complementing contrast, meaning that you want talent working together who are not all the same. I like combinations of talent where you might have an older person and younger person teaming up or a male and a female or a Black and white person, a former athlete and non athlete. Putting those combinations together, where there are differences and good, healthy debate, assuming the debate and discussion is respectful, can be very entertaining. I think you want your management and leadership to have that same type of diversity, because it just makes you better. It makes you more 360 where you’re able to see different angles. Going back to the question you asked earlier about how do you approach the protests that were going on last summer, the key word is once again authentic. I think you have a better opportunity to do that when you have more voices and perspectives in the room.
DR: We talk about this all the time with talent. You’ve got to go to different places to find different perspectives and different types of talent. I wonder if you have seen this, whether it is yourself, colleagues or peers. Terry certainly had a long track record of success in sports when he became your program director, but someone at some point looked at a music program director and said ‘that guy can do sports’ and that is how he got a shot. As an industry, do we get too hyper focused on specifically what format your perspective or success has come in when we look at these positions?
RC: Absolutely. I think you can’t look at things from an absolute standpoint. There’s some certain criteria and stereotypes that may fit a mold, but look at what it’s now becoming. It seems more acceptable to have a black quarterback, which fifteen, twenty years ago wasn’t the case. You had to look for that classic, drop back quarterback. Now, the game has seen that having individuals that could run is not a disadvantage. It’s a great, great advantage in that position. So things always evolve. The danger you always have is getting stuck in a rut or a rigid “this is the way it is”.
It goes back again to what I said: what’s the most important thing we have to do? We have to be entertaining. That changes from year to year to year. Things can become dated or stale. You’re always looking to either get better, get different, expand and grow, or you kind of die. Now we look for talent that can not only do great things over the air, but just as equally important, they have to do great things online and out in the public. You’ve got to be a 360 talent and be able to do it all.
DR: Speaking of 360 talents, I want to end with a question that I think deserves an answer that makes sense, and you’re uniquely qualified to answer it given your Atlanta radio experience and perspective. Many of us around the country are trying to understand why Doug and Ryan Stewart, The 2 Live Stews, aren’t on the air in the city right now. When they burst on to the scene, they became a phenomenon. I think there are so many talents around the country that could point to what they did and say ‘those two opened the door for others to be successful’. Why have they not resurfaced in the market, either on The Game or another station’s airwaves?
RC: I can’t answer why other people haven’t looked at them. For us, primarily it’s just been about timing. To be honest with you, at one time I was very interested in hiring them during the very early stages before they kind of blew up. I was looking at them for V103 to do the nighttime show. We thought we might be losing one of our key talents in that position, but that talent came back and so we kind of moved on. For us it’s just a matter of different timing. Why other stations haven’t picked them up? I don’t know.
Adam The Bull Is Giving Cleveland Something It’s Never Had Before
“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?”
After spending 22 years on the radio, Adam “The Bull” Gerstenhaber was ready for a new adventure. In fact, the former co-host of Bull and Fox on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland did not have a new job lined up when he signed off from his 11-year radio home last month.
“I was already leaving without having a new project,” admitted Gerstenhaber during a recent phone interview with BSM. “I left before I knew for sure I had a ‘next project’.”
Gerstenhaber was preparing for his final show with co-host Dustin Fox on April 1st when he was contacted by an executive producer for TEGNA, a company that was developing a Cleveland sports television show on YouTube. The executive producer, who had just found out that Bull was a free agent, made it clear that he wanted Bull to be a part of the new project.
It all came together very quickly.
“Let’s talk on Monday,” Gerstenhaber told the executive producer. “And within a week they signed me up.”
The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show on YouTube featuring Gerstenhaber, former ESPN personality Jay Crawford, 92.3 The Fan’s Garrett Bush, and rotating hosts to make up a four-person round-table show, made its debut last Monday. The show, which airs weekdays from 11am to 1pm, features passionate Cleveland sports talk, live guests, either in-studio or via Zoom, as well as interaction from the audience through social media.
“I’m very excited,” said Gerstenhaber. “It’s a definite adjustment for me after 22 years on radio doing television. For the last 11 years, I’ve been doing a radio show with just one other host and I was the lead guy doing most of the talking and now I’m on a show with three other people and it’s such an adjustment. So far, I’m having a ball.”
And so far, the reaction to the show has been very positive.
A big reason why is that it’s something that Cleveland didn’t have and really never had, unlike a city like New York, where there are local radio shows that are simulcast on regional sports channels.
“There’s nothing like that in Cleveland,” said Gerstenhaber. “And there was certainly nothing like this with a panel. Cleveland is such a massive sports town and now people that don’t live in Cleveland that are maybe retired in Florida or Arizona, now they actually have a TV show that they can watch that’s Cleveland-centric.”
The new venture certainly represents a big change in what Bull has been used to in his radio career. He’s enjoying the freedom of not having to follow a hard clock for this show. In fact, there have already been some occasions where the show has been able to go a little longer than scheduled because they have the flexibility to do that on YouTube.
Doing a show on YouTube gives the panel a great opportunity to go deep into topics and spend some quality time with guests. And while there is no cursing on the show at the moment, there could be the potential for that down the road.
Don’t expect the show is going to become X-rated or anything like that, but the objective is to be able to capture the spirit and emotion of being a sports fan and host.
“It’s something we may do in the future,” said Gerstenhaber. “Not curse just to curse but it gives us the option if we get fired up. It is allowed because there’s no restrictions there. The company doesn’t want us to do it at the moment.”
There’s also been the shift for Gerstenhaber from being the “point guard” on his old radio show, driving the conversation and doing most of the talking, to now taking a step back and having Crawford distributing the ball on the television show.
For a guy called “The Bull”, that will take some getting used to.
“Jay is a pro’s pro,” said Gerstenhaber. “He’s the point guard for this but he’s also part of the conversation. I’m not used to not being the point guard so I have to adjust to that. I think it’s gone pretty well and the chemistry is pretty good and with time we’ll get used to the flow of it.”
Gerstenhaber’s move from sports radio to an internet television show is a perfect example of how the industry is changing. A good portion of the listening and viewing audience these days, especially those in the younger demographic, are not necessarily watching traditional television or listening to terrestrial radio. For a lot of sports fans, watching and listening on a mobile device or a computer has become a very important way of life.
The desire to adapt, along with a shorter workday, was very enticing to him.
“It was only more recently that I was like why do I have to only be a radio guy?” wondered Gerstenhaber. “There were things about my job that I was unhappy about. I was doing a five-hour radio show. It’s too long. That’s crazy. Nobody should be doing a five-hour radio show at this point.”
Broadcasting on the internet has arrived and it’s not just a couple of sports fans doing a show from their garage anymore. The business has evolved to the point where the technology has provided more opportunities for those who have already enjoyed success in the industry and are looking for new challenges.
Kind of like Adam The Bull!
“I think years ago, probably like many people in the radio business, we looked at internet and podcasts as like whatever…those guys aren’t professionals…they’re amateurs,” said Gerstenhaber. “But the game has changed.”
Gerstenhaber, Crawford and everyone associated with the “Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show” should not have much of a problem attracting the younger audience. That demographic is already accustomed to watching shows on YouTube and other streaming platforms. The challenge now is to get the more mature audience on board. There are certainly some obstacles there.
I know this from experience with trying to explain to my mother in Florida how she can hear me on the radio and watch me on television simply by using her tablet.
Bull can certainly relate to that.
“My mother is still trying to figure out how to watch the show live,” said Gerstenhaber with a chuckle. “The older fans struggle with that. A lot of my older fans here in Cleveland are like how do I watch it? For people that are under 40 and certainly people that under 30, watching a YouTube show is like okay I watch everything on my phone or device. It’s such a divide and obviously as the years go by, that group will increase.”
With the television show off and running, Gerstenhaber still has a passion for his roots and that’s the radio side of the business. In the next couple of weeks, “The Bull” is set to announce the launch of two podcasts, one daily and one weekly, that will begin next month. But he also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to terrestrial radio at some point.
“I have not closed the door to radio,” said Gerstenhaber. “I still love radio. I would still, in the right set of circumstances, consider going back to radio but it would have to really be the perfect situation. I’m excited about (the television show) and right now I don’t want to do anything else but I’m certainly going to remain open-minded to radio if a really excellent opportunity came up.”
The landscape of the broadcasting industry, particularly when it comes to sports, has certainly changed over the years and continues to evolve. Adam Gerstenhaber certainly enjoyed a tremendous amount of success on the radio side, both in New York and in Cleveland, but now he has made the transition to something new with the YouTube television show and he’s committed to making it a success.
Why You Should Be Making Great TikTok Content
“We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds.”
It feels like there’s a new social media platform to pay attention to every other week. That makes it easy to overlook when one of them actually presents value to your brand. It wasn’t long ago that TikTok was primarily used by teenagers with the focus being silly dance trends filmed for video consumption with their friends and followers alike. Now, as the general public has become in tune with how this complicated app works, it’s grown far beyond that.
TikTok is now an app used by all types of demographics and unlike TikTok’s closely related cousins Instagram and Facebook, this app provides a certain type of nuance that I think people in our line of work can really excel in.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of how you can use TikTok to your advantage and how to make your videos catch on, I think it’s important to first mention why this matters for you. Now, if I’m being realistic, I’m sure there are some that have already stopped reading this or those that could scroll away fast enough when they saw the words TikTok. You might be thinking that this doesn’t fit your demo, or maybe that it’s a waste of time because productivity here won’t directly lead to an uptick in Nielsen ratings. But I’m not sure any social network directly leads to what we ultimately get judged on, and we aren’t always pumping out content directly to our core audience.
TikTok, like any other app you may use, is marketing. This is another free tool to let people out there know who you are and what you offer in this endless sea of content. And the beauty of TikTok is that it directly caters its algorithm to content creators just like us. Bottom line, if you are a personality in sports talk, there’s no reason you can’t be crushing it on TikTok right now. All it takes is a little direction, focus, consistency, and a plan.
Unlike Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where you can throw a photo up with a caption and be done for the day, TikTok’s whole model is built on creative videos that keep users engaged for longer periods of time. This approach works. According to Oberlo, a social media stat tracking site, people spend more time per day on TikTok than any other popular social media application. 38 minutes per day!
This is where this is good news for us in talk radio. We’re specially trained in the world of TSL (time spent listening), and the longer people view your content on TikTok, the more the app rewards you by shoving your content into more and more feeds. TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t care how many followers you have, your level of credibility, or the production on your video. All ir cares about is 1) Is your content good. and 2) Are people watching it. 3) How long are they watching it. The more people watch and the longer they watch creates a snowball effect. Your videos views will skyrocket, sometimes within hours.
So, how do you create content that will catch on? It’s really not all that different than what you do every day. Create thought-provoking commentary that makes people think, argue, or stay till the end to get the info you teased up for them. I’ve found through my own trial and error that it’s best if you stay away from time-sensitive material, I’ve had more success the more evergreen my content is. That way, the shelf life expands beyond just that day or week. This is different for everyone and there’s no one-size-fits-all, but this is where I’ve seen the most success.
Also, put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to say something that people are going to vehemently disagree with. Again, it’s not unlike what we do every day. It’s one thing to get someone to listen, it’s another to get them to engage. Once they hit you in the comment section, you’ve got them hooked. Comments breed more views and on and on. But don’t just let those sit there, even the smallest interaction back like a shoulder shrug emoji can go a long way in creating more play for your video.
If you want to grow quickly, create a niche for yourself. The best content creators that I follow on TikTok all put out very similar content for most of their videos. This means, unlike Instagram where it’s great to show what a wildly interesting and eclectic person you are, TikTok users want to know what they’re getting the second your face pops up on that screen. So if you are the sports history guy, be the sports history guy all the time. If you are the top 5 list guy, be the top 5 list guy all the time, and on and on, you get the point.
Other simple tricks:
- Splice small videos together. Don’t shoot one long video.
- 90 seconds to 2 minutes is a sweet spot amount of time.
- Add a soft layer of background instrumental music (this feature is found in the app when you are putting the finishing touches on your video)
- Label your video across the screen at the start and time it out so that it disappears seconds later. This way a user gets an idea of what the content is immediately and then can focus on you delivering your message thereafter.
- Research trending hashtags, they are far more important than whatever you caption your video.
- Use closed captions so that people can follow your video without sound.
Finally, don’t be intimidated by it or snub your nose at it. Anything that helps your brand is worth doing and anything worth doing is worth doing well.
Does Tom Brady’s Salary Make Sense For FOX In a Changing Media World?
“The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general.”
FOX is playing it too safe when it comes to adding Tom Brady.
That’s going to sound weird given the size of Brady’s broadcasting contract. Even if that deal isn’t worth as much as initially reported, it’s a hell of a lot of loot, especially considering Brady has remained steadfastly uninteresting for a solid 20 years now.
Let’s not pretend that is a detriment in the eyes of a television network, however. There’s a long line of famous athletes companies like FOX have happily paid millions without ever requiring them to be much more than consistently inoffensive and occasionally insightful. Yes, Brady is getting more money than those previous guys, but he’s also the most successful quarterback in NFL history.
The risk here doesn’t have to do with Brady specifically, but rather the business of televising football games in general. More specifically, the fact that the business of televising football games is changing, and while it may not be changing quite as rapidly as the rest of the sports-media industry, but it is changing. There’s an increasing number of choices available to viewers not only in the games that can be watched, but how they are consumed. Everything in the industry points to an increasingly fragmented audience and yet by signing Brady to be in the broadcast booth once he retires, FOX is paying a premium for a single component in a tried-and-true broadcasting formula will be more successful.
Think of Brady’s hiring as a bet FOX made. A 10-year commitment in which it is doubling down on the status quo at a time of obvious change. FOX saw ESPN introduce the ManningCast last year, and instead of seeing the potential for a network to build different types of products, FOX decided, “Nah, we don’t want to do anything different or new.” Don’t let the price tag fool you. FOX went out and bought a really famous former player to put in a traditional broadcast booth to hope that the center holds..
Maybe it will. Maybe Brady is that interesting or he’s that famous and his presence is powerful enough to defy the trends within the industry. I’m not naive enough to think that value depends on the quality of someone’s content. The memoir of a former U.S. president will fetch a multi-million-dollar advance not because of the literary quality, but because of the size of the potential audience. It’s the same rationale behind FOX’s addition of Brady.
But don’t mistake an expensive addition from an innovative one. The ManningCast was an actual innovation. A totally different way of televising a football game, and while not everyone liked it, some people absolutely loved it. It’s not going to replace the regular Monday Night Football format, but it wasn’t supposed to. It’s an alternative or more likely a complement and ESPN was sufficiently encouraged to extend the ManningCast through 2024. It’s a different product. Another option it is offering its customers. You can choose to watch to the traditional broadcast format with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in the booth or you can watch the Mannings or you can toggle between both. What’s FOX’s option for those audience members who prefer something like the ManningCast to the traditional broadcast?
It’s not just ESPN, either. Amazon offered viewers a choice of broadcasters, too, from a female announcing tandem of Hannah Storm and Andrea Kramer beginning in 2018 to the Scouts Feed with Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks in 2020.
So now, not only do viewers have an increasingly wide array of choices on which NFL games they can watch — thanks to Sunday Ticket — they in some instances have a choice of the announcing crew for that given game. Amid this economic environment, FOX not only decided that it was best to invest in a single product, but it decided to make that investment in a guy who had never done this particular job before nor shown much in the way of an aptitude for it.
Again, maybe Brady is the guy to pull it off. He’s certainly famous enough. His seven Super Bowl victories are unmatched and span two franchises, and while he’s denied most attempts to be anything approaching interesting in public over the past 20 years, perhaps that is changing. His increasingly amusing Twitter posts over the past 2 years could be a hint of the humor he’s going to bring to the broadcast booth. That Tampa Tom is his true personality, which remained under a gag order from the Sith Lord Bill Belichick, and now Brady will suddenly become football’s equivalent of Charles Barkley.
But that’s a hell of a needle to thread for anyone, even someone as famous as Brady, and it’s a really high bar for someone with no broadcasting experience. The upside for FOX is that its traditional approach holds. The downside, however, is that it is not only spending more money on a product with a declining market, but it is ignoring obvious trends within the industry as it does so.