Four weeks into gambling on college football, and I have good news and bad news. The good news is I am firmly not an addict. You people that find this fun are a mystery to me. Never once have I thought “You know what would make me like sports more? If it included homework!”. The bad news is that I am still down overall.
But look, as I have said over and over, this is about observing how my behavior changes in terms of consuming information. We’re at a point where gambling is just part of sports now. Even in states where legalization has virtually no prayer, we have seen legislators make the pitch and try to sell their colleagues. As a programmer, dismissing bettors with “I don’t get it” or “it’s just not for me” aren’t really options anymore.
Now, four weeks into consuming information, placing bets and winning upon occassion, I have noticed three things about the way I am consuming media and information. I think they are worth sharing and remembering.
1. IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO TALK ABOUT THE NEXT GAME
I have listened to traditional sports radio shows that make time to talk about gambling and make picks. I have listened to gambling specific shows. When I am listening on a Monday, I always have the same thought: reviews are a waste of my time. That money has already either been collected or lost. Who cares what you think about it now?
Conversley, I want to know how quickly to jump on early lines. My book of choice publishes its lines for the upcoming week of college football every Sunday at 8 pm. I don’t often make a bet that early, but I do want to get a lay of the land.
On Monday, I want to hear if the experts are seeing value where I do or if they have some stat or information that I was unaware of and could make me reconsider what my gut is telling me. As a listener, my wallet matters more than your ego as a host.
Do we think of entertainment as a service industry enough? That is what sports radio is. We want our listeners to be happy they spent time with us. Approach that goal like a waiter or bartender would. Make it your goal to meet their needs.
2. WE ALL HAVE FAVORITES
Every host’s goal should be to be his or her listeners’ “guy” – the person whose opinion they cannot wait to hear on the biggest stories. Well, I certainly have noticed that my picks are not set until I hear from my guy – ESPN’s Bill Connelly.
I have been a fan of Bill’s since he and Steven Godfrey were hosting Podcast Ain’t Played Nobody for SB Nation. I have always found his SP+ ratings to be one of the most accurate ways to determine who the best teams in the country actually are. I usually don’t start sprinkling my money around until he drops his numbers on Wednesdays.
That doesn’t extend so much to show hosts that talk gambling. I heard one show that brings a different handicapper on every week. Speaking for myself, that just doesn’t work. Pick one expert. Use your audience’s trust in you to build the audience’s trust in him or her. Decide what matters most to your show (record, personality, access, etc.) and lean into it!
3. PERSONALITY STILL MATTERS
This last one is so very important. If you don’t have a personality or a sense of humor, you’re doing this wrong. Being focused on numbers and outcomes and being entertaining do not have to be mutually exclusive. It is all in delivery.
Content is king, right? We say that in every sector of the entertainment business. Sports betting is no different. Give me a reason to think about two teams I do not know enough about. Don’t just load me up with stats. Give me some history of a particular rivalry or a team in a specific situation.
Does your pick fly in the face of what the numbers say? Tell me why. It has to be more than just “I have a feeling”. A couple of weeks ago, I heard someone (honestly, I do not remember who) say that despite what the conventional wisdom was, he was taking Texas over Oklahoma straight up. He knew Oklahoma was more talented. He knew they were favored. His reason was that he didn’t trust Lincoln Riley to make a hard decision about his quarterback because he had never had to. He expected Riley to not waiver from the idea that Spencer Rattler had a better chance of turning his luck around than Caleb Williams did of digging Oklahoma out of a hole.
It was a point I had not thought of. Oklahoma wins the Big 12 Championship so often that it is easy to forget that Lincoln Riley hasn’t been there very long and hasn’t been faced with much real adversity. I was sold and also put a little cash on the Texas moneyline.
Now, turns out that Riley was willing to make that tough call. It turns out that Caleb Williams was very well-equipped to dig Oklahoma out of a hole. The expert was wrong. I was wrong, but as someone looking at this from a content and audience behavior perspective, I consider this a win for me and him because it got me engaged in a game that I was planning to stay away from.
Overall, I am in the red around $25 for the season. That’s not too bad, right? Look at my performance last weekend. I am definitely getting better at this!
College football has always been my favorite sport and I have always treated it like our Native American brothers and sisters did the buffalo – using and enjoying all parts. Gambling has not made this a better experience for me, but it has opened my eyes to the way those that do gamble experience and consume sports talk.
That audience is growing, and so cataloging these lessons is important. I’ll do this again in another month as the sun is beginning to set on the regular season.
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.
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.
The Client Just Said YES, Now What?
We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES.
One of the most significant moments in radio sales is when the client agrees to your proposal and says YES. But, when they do say YES, do you know what’s next? We better have an answer!
We spend a lot of time getting ready for clients with research, spec spots (thank you, radio sales trainer Chris Lytle-go to 22:30), proposals, and meetings. All of our focus is on getting the client to say YES. We should spend as much time on what we will do after the client says YES. For example, getting newer sales reps to sell annual advertising contracts would be ideal for building a list. They would have less pressure, more job security, and could spend more time making the advertising work for their clients. But, since most newer reps don’t know the business yet, they don’t bite off more than they can chew and sell a package of the month.
When a client says yes to the weight loss promotion, it’s pretty clear how to write the ads, what the promos will say, etc. BUT, if a newer sales rep starts selling annual contracts to a direct local client who needs a resource, how will that work? Let’s make sure we paint the picture right upfront. More experienced reps know that they need to assume the client will say YES to the weight loss promo and have a plan accordingly.
They have the next steps to building copy and promos, a credit app or credit card payment form, and any other detail the client must provide. But, when we ask a direct local client for an annual advertising contract, watch out! You have just made a partnership. Why not lay out, upfront, what that will look like. And I understand not every local client needs the same level of service.
A car dealer has the factories pushing quarterly promotions, agencies producing ads, and in-house marketing directors pulling it all together sometimes. Other clients need your help in promotions, copywriting, or idea generation. Make a plan upfront with your client about when you will meet to discuss the next quarter’s ad program. Include your station’s promotions or inventory for football and basketball season, a summer NTR event, digital testimonials with on-air talent, etc., in your annual proposal. Go out as far as you can and show what you have to offer to the client and how you can execute it. This exercise is good for you and, once mastered, guides the client on how you will take care of them after the sale. It also opens your eyes to what it takes to have a successful client partnership inside and outside the station.
Media Noise – Episode 74
This week, Demetri is joined by Ian Casselberry and Ryan Brown. Demetri talks about the NBA Draft getting an ABC simulcast, Ian talks about Patrick Beverley’s breakout week on TV, and Ryan reminds us that Tom Brady may be the star, but Kevin Burkhardt is the story we shouldn’t forget.