There’s a unique but special history in the city of Chicago when it comes to print media, though it’s hard to pin down exactly why. Maybe it was because both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times were so respected during their heyday, or maybe it was because there were so many iconic writers in the city that brought personality and strong opinions to their columns. Regardless of the main reason, Chicago was truly a great newspaper town for several decades.
Dan Bickley lived through the golden era of print media in the city. He grew up infatuated with the regular columns from Mike Royko, as did so many other Chicagoans. It was such a memorable experience of his life, that he can still recall the exact smell of the cold newspapers he read at night, after his father brought them home from his shift as a bartender at a Chicago steakhouse.
“Every night my father would come home with an armful of newspapers for me,” Bickley said. “Mike Royko had an incredible way of relating to the common person and I thought it was the most liberating and incredible thing I had ever read.”
Needless to say, those nights lit a fire under Bickley. There was no confusion as to what he wanted to do with his life. The newspaper industry was his true passion.
Fast forward a few years and Bickley is now the guy he always dreamed of being. He was a beat reporter at the Sun-Times and was assigned to cover the early championship runs of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The city was on fire. The newspaper industry in the city was on fire. Bickley didn’t want to be anywhere else.
“I remember covering Bulls games at Chicago Stadium and then driving down to the Sun-Times building to pick up newspapers that were literally hot off the press,” Bickley said. “I would take them to Callahan’s, which was a neighborhood tavern a couple blocks away. I’d walk in at 1:30 in the morning with tomorrow’s paper and people would look at them like they were from another planet. They looked at it with such reverence and they didn’t understand how they could have tomorrow’s paper in their hands while sitting at the bar.”
Bickley recalls those years as being magical. A time when people looked at reporters and reporting in journalism as a noble profession. The industry meant a lot to Chicago. So much so, that local newspaper writers were often looked at as celebrities.
As long as Bickley could remember, he wanted to be a columnist. He was living a great life as a beat reporter in late 90’s Chicago, but being the guy everyone in the city looked forward to reading was a step he always dreamed of. The problem was that writers such as Jay Mariotti and Rick Telander created a heavy log jam at the Sun-Times that made upward mobility hard to see.
“Say what you want about Jay Mariotti, but he lit the town on fire.” Bickley said. “His columns were hard-hitting, they were fearless, they were topical and it really kind of galvanized everything.”
Meanwhile in Phoenix, the city was about to get a new MLB team. The Arizona Diamondbacks would be the fourth pro franchise in town, along with the NBA’s Suns, the NFL’s Cardinals and the NHL’s Coyotes. This meant the local newspaper, The Arizona Republic, needed to hire an additional columnist to the one it already had. Bickley probably thought he would never leave Chicago, but in 1998 he moved to the desert to realize his dream of being a columnist.
For the guy that had such a deep love and admiration of newspapers, it would be wildly entertaining to tell him in the late 90’s he would someday be doing a daily radio show and writing exclusively online. His reaction would have been priceless, but Bickley is incredibly happy with how his career has turned out. The co-host of Bickley and Marotta and writer for ArizonaSports.com has turned himself into an Arizona institution and one that local sports fans both listen to and read on a daily basis.
He’s exactly the guy he looked up to as a kid. The only difference is that he traded the cold Chicago wind for the dry heat of the Phoenix desert.
“Over the course of time, as you saw the industry start to die, and more to the point, as I started to work for Bonneville, and I started to work for Scott Sutherland and Ryan Hatch, the workplace culture where I’m at is off the charts in a positive way,” Bickley said. “People who work there know there’s no better place to work in Arizona than for Bonneville and those two gentlemen I call my bosses. I started to realize, this is the synergy and this is the energy and the team I really want to be a part of. It kind of made it easy for me to make that transition.”
Every weekday morning from 6 to 10 a.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, you can hear Bickley alongside co-hosts Vince Marotta, Sarah Kezele and Jarrett Carlen. Was radio ever a thought for him during his time in newspapers? Actually, yes.
Bickley did fill-in work in Chicago as well as the regular guests segments on local stations in Arizona. Radio was something that always appealed to him, because it was a way for him to show his creativity, along with his personality.
“I always thought, I really, really like this,” Bickley said. “One day I finally got an editor at the Arizona Republic, who is a great man, his name was Ward Bushee. One day I came to him and asked, would you mind if I did this in addition to my role as a newspaper columnist? He said yeah, if it’s something you really want to do. Go run with it.”
Sports radio opened a lane in another platform for Bickley to express himself. He soon found out that being a writer and a radio host dovetail nicely into one another. Essentially, he was reporting 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He loved every second of it. It was a labor of love.
“It’s rare to have a talent who has such strong opinions and a unique perspective that makes them a must-listen on the broadcast side, a must-read with thought-provoking columns on ArizonaSports.com and delivers exceptional results for our clients and marketing partners,” said Ryan Hatch, VP of Programming and Content for Bonneville, which owns Arizona Sports 98.7. “Dan is the complete package.”
What’s most impressive about Bickley is that he made the decision to pursue radio and then made sure he did everything necessary to become a huge success at it. That didn’t come without a strong intent of learning the how-to’s of the business. He made it a point to get better by constantly listening to himself to help refine his craft.
Creative spaces are where Bickley excels. In fact, it seems like he really surrounds himself with those opportunities. His writing space definitely gives him that freedom, as well as the daily radio show, but he’s also in a band that’s pretty good.
“I started a band over 10 years ago called Whiskey’s Quicker. I’m surrounded by four incredible musicians. I’m above average at best but it’s something I always wanted to do. Somewhere along my journey, I realized that if I never tried this it would be a regret I always had. 10 years later I have a band that is surprisingly really, really good. It allows me the opportunity to jam with my 20-year-old son. We played our first gig together, which was just a sublime, incredible experience. I’d like to challenge myself and I like to stretch out in a lot of different directions, that’s something that’s brought me a ton of enjoyment.”
If you couple in the Suns’ recent NBA Finals run and the Cardinals’ looking like the most exciting team in the NFL, few years have compared to the current landscape of sports radio in Arizona. Bickley worked in the golden era of newspapers in Chicago, just maybe, 20-plus years after, he’s working in the golden era of sports radio in Phoenix.
“Radio allows you to cover a lot of different topics and it allows you to show other areas of your personality,” Bickley said. “It’s really enjoyable having a team to work with, in terms of a radio show. I have to say this all the time, it’s one thing to experience individual success but it’s so much more rewarding to go somewhere with the team. When you rely on others to reach certain levels of success, there’s a synergy about that and there’s teamwork about that, which makes it really powerful.”
Chicago is where he grew up and cut his teeth, but Arizona has been home for over two decades. If Bickley has it his way, it’ll be home for several more decades. He loves his role with Arizona Sports 98.7 FM and is truly passionate about the people he works with. The desert is home.
“As of right now, I’ve got so many things in place here, I’m not sure what other city or job would appeal more to me than the one I have right now,” Bickley said. “You always want to keep growing and I’ve had people in Chicago over the years ask me, why don’t you come back home? But that feels like going backwards to me. I like to keep moving forward. I have such a great infrastructure around me of coworkers, bosses and a job that’s highly rewarding, as well as a highly earned reputation that I built over the course of the past 20 years.”
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.