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Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Somers, And The Death Of Appointment Listening

“As I saw that post, both last night and again the next morning, I immediately realized that the audio of this appearance would shortly be on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, the Audacy app, and a podcast that I subscribe to already.”

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For a radio station with the iconic history as WFAN possesses, comedian Jerry Seinfeld calling into the radio station isn’t a huge moment. But it’s not a small one either. On social media, people posted that Seinfeld was calling host Steve Somers.

I did not move a muscle.

Don’t get me wrong. Seinfeld is an icon. I am a massive fan of it all: the show about nothing, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Heck, I’ve even seen the Bee Movie.

I had just finished a live show Monday night when I saw the post. “Seinfeld is on with Somers right now on WFAN!!!!!,” Joan Chin of Sirius/XM Radio wrote. As I saw that post, both last night and again the next morning, I immediately realized the audio of this appearance would shortly be on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, the Audacy app, and a podcast that I subscribe to already.

Instantly, it became apparent that appointment listening was no longer a thing. If someone was in their car, they might have already been listening to the FAN. Forget the words demographic, rating, or share. Did a person find out Seinfeld was calling in, and go to a radio to listen?

If so, how old was that person?

Appointment listening has long been a staple of sports radio. I can remember when George Steinbrenner was a guest on Mike and Mad Dog in 1990. The station wasn’t clear on my radio in my room (I was 16 years old), so I borrowed the keys to my dad’s car to sit on the driveway (I only had a driver’s permit) to hear the Boss be grilled by Mike Francesa and Chris Russo. I distinctly recall my mother calling to me from the front door to come in for dinner, but I could not leave until Steinbrenner did.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” said former radio programmer Don Kollins who now works with Twitch. “That appointment radio is gone or going the way of the dinosaur. Digital is taking over and everything happens in digital-first and radio is playing catch up. Radio’s not going to be the platform to break things down the road. They are going to be a place where people react.”

This is not just on WFAN by any stretch. Their parent company, newly renamed Audacy, makes clips and podcasts all the time. They promote digital. While I wasn’t checking their app when I saw Joan’s post, they were promoting clips shortly after Jerry’s appearance concluded.

That sufficed for any Seinfeld fan.

Speaking of podcasts, that’s what I listen to more than anything else. I have my lists (future column on my must-listen podcasts coming to BSM soon). On my lists are many sports radio stations. However, there is a new trend where these stations are posting full hours on a podcast.

A podcast can be many things. Regurgitating whole hours seems to lack any creativity. Take the medium and bring something new to the table. Most stations have a staff of people. Someone must have an idea to make some of the station’s content appear unique.

I should note that KJR in Seattle does something really smart. They feature two separate feeds for Dave “Softy” Mahler and Dick Fain. One feed handles specific interview segments while a separate feed highlights whole hours. I check out their great segments, while those with more time might enjoy the latter.

Still, the new normal may be that people will turn to digital. It is not a bad thing in the slightest. The only issue is the transition. As companies that run radio stations turn their focus, the older generation still clings to a medium that doesn’t resonate like it used to. Of the magic 25-54 demographic, the emphasis seems to be more like 45-54, while the 25-44 are leaning towards finding digital-first.

“I feel where the switch is on between radio ratings, Nielsen and PPM, carrying a meter and finding out weeks, if not months later, how you did in the ratings is so archaic that it’s gone,” said Kollins. “It’s gone the way of the dinosaur already.

“In a platform like Twitch, you can do a show and find out what your ratings are within an hour of that show. You know, how you did. I think that’s the basic switch where radio has lost that ability to cash in on the advertising. It’s going digital, and it’s going to digital very, very quickly. Radio is suffering.”

Still, if corporations that are owning radio stations continue to change their focus, perhaps they can adapt from radio to digital like people moved on from AM to FM. 8-Tracks to cassettes to CDs to iPods to what we have now.

Just, if Jerry Seinfeld calls in, I’ll catch when I catch it. It’s not like that time when he answered his phone shouting “If you know what happened in the Met game don’t tell me I taped it! Hello!” 

Told you I was a fan.

BSM Writers

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

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

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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

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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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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