The Score is celebrating its 30-year anniversary this month. The iconic Chicago sports radio brand was launched on January 2, 1992. Initially, it was a daytime signal, meaning the power actually had to be shut off when the sun went down. I absolutely love this detail. Imagine if that were the case today. Think of hearing a station in Atlanta saying, “Georgia fans, what a win for the Dawgs. The 41-year championship drought is over. Well, it’s 5:28 so we’ll talk more about it at sunrise tomorrow.”
The Score has grown tremendously from those early years. It’s similar to the NFL; it’s hard to imagine when the Green Bay Packers were thumping the Kansas City Chiefs in what would eventually be called Super Bowl I, that the game would advance so much and become the spectacle it is today. There is also no way the person in charge of shutting off the power at sundown in ’92 could foresee the internet and apps and Twitch and streaming. The Score is in a much different place today.
Mitch Rosen is the operations director at 670 The Score and has been with the station for nearly 17 years. His vision and leadership have played a huge role in the overall success of the station. In addition to his duties at The Score, Mitch also oversees 1250 The Fan in Milwaukee, and Audacy’s BetQL network. We chat about all of the programming hats he wears, the it-factor when making a hire, and the evolution of the sports radio industry over the past 30 years. Enjoy!
Brian Noe: Now that we’ve arrived at the 30-year anniversary of The Score, from where it was to where it is right now, how would you describe the evolution of the station?
Mitch Rosen: It’s really incredible. I’ll be here 17 years in February. This is truly, I believe, an iconic Chicago sports brand. When The Score signed on in January of 1992, it was a day-timer. Literally, the station would sign on each day at sunrise and sign off at sundown. Could you imagine a Bears-Packers Sunday, great game, you’re on the air all day Monday, then the sun goes down at 4:50 on a fall afternoon and you have to stop talking? At that time the internet wasn’t really happening and no way to interact with your audience.
The evolution of this brand — and it’s been on three frequencies. It started off at 820 AM, 1160 AM, and now for many years we’ve been on 670 AM, a 50,000-watt blowtorch. The evolution of this brand has just been incredible. All the producers and on-air personalities and sales and marketing people, just to be part of it and to see it develop over all of these years is just incredible.
Add to that the sports franchises that we’ve been partners with. We were partners with the Blackhawks, partners with the White Sox. Then one of the most iconic franchises in all of sports, the Chicago Cubs had not won a World Series since 1908. Our first year of partnering with the Cubs was 2016, and for the Cubs to win a World Series their first year on The Score, a lot of people say we’d rather be lucky than good. How about that? It was just an incredible year. To hear Pat Hughes, the voice of the Cubs, literally say on The Score, the Cubs have won the World Series, you can’t describe the feeling.
BN: When you think about some of the names throughout the years that have helped build the station to what it is today, what comes to mind?
MR: One of the most valuable people that I can think of, Russ Mitera, has literally been here minus three months of existence at the station. Russ is our creative production director. He images the station I think better than anybody else in the country. Obviously, he and I have worked together every day that I’ve been here for 17 years. He makes this station sound great from an imaging standpoint. The sound, the music beds, the imaging voice, his voice. Besides being a great human being, he’s so talented at what he does.
The founding fathers of this radio station, Mike North, Dan Jiggetts, Terry Boers, Dan McNeil, Brian Hanley, and so many others. Doug Buffone, who passed away a number of years ago. The station hiring Mike Ditka when he was still coach of the Bears. Those are things that people still remember to this day. Modern-day Score, Leila Rahimi, a great asset who co-hosts our midday show with Dan Bernstein. Danny Parkins who joined us about five years ago from outside the market and has done a fantastic job in afternoon drive. Staples like Les Grobstein who hosts our overnight show. We’re fortunate to have a live overnight show. So many great things.
BN: What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced over the years?
MR: There have been a lot of challenges and good challenges along the way. For me, it’s continuing to follow new technology, new ways to interact with our audience, and finding a new audience for our station. Being a standalone AM frequency where sometimes new cars that are manufactured don’t even offer an AM band, so it’s the power of our audio stream, our video stream on Twitch. Our company does a great job from a technological aspect of finding new ways to communicate with our audience on all different platforms. It’s just great. Being a standalone AM, people find great content and they find it throughout all different platforms.
BN: Over the last 30 years of sports radio in general, what do you think has been the biggest positive evolution in the industry?
MR: I think the audience has become smarter. I think when sports radio in Chicago first started, it was caller after caller. Now people interact and communicate whether it’s via text or social platforms. I think the audience and the hosts have become smarter over the years, more intelligent. I think data shows that. I think it’s a more educated audience and we reach out to an audience that interacts in different ways. I think that’s how it’s changed.
I think people want to be educated. There’s an X’s and O’s factor to it, but they also want to be entertained. I think that’s what our brand does. On a Bears Monday, we’re going to talk some X’s and O’s, but I also think we’re going to entertain our audience. I think we provide great experts to analyze games, but our hosts are entertaining, they’re informative. Whether the audience loves or doesn’t always love our hosts, they respect them and they respect our brand. At the end of the day, The Score brand is a powerful brand that our audience continues to come back to.
BN: When you’re operating three different brands, in what ways does your message differ to each of your staffs?
MR: I think you react to different markets. Chicago is different than Milwaukee, but at the end of the day, I really think we’re in the opinion business. Hosts have to be opinionated and you have to interact. People here in Chicago, they have fun with it. I like to say we play the hits. What are people talking about today? If we were at a bar today in Chicago, it’d be about the Bears. The changes they are making with the head coach and the general manager. Those are the hits today. And the Bulls. The Bulls are in first place in the East.
We play the hits, have energy, have opinions, that’s the business we’re in. I think that’s vital. That’s really in any market. Whether it’s Milwaukee or BetQL, which I’m involved with in operations, it’s wager-tainment. We entertain people and we give them data to make them better bettors. Same type of thing; we’re talking NFL, we’re talking NBA. Those are the hits in that format too.
BN: Why was Ryan Porth the right candidate for the APD position at The Score?
MR: In my 17 years it was the most dedicated time I put into that hire. It was the most important hire I’ve made. I took my time. It’s the most people I interviewed for that position ever. I wanted to find the right person. The right person that had experience, that understood the medium, that quite frankly I could learn from and that I could teach some things to. This person will help me bring our brand forward to the future. Ryan really checked all those boxes.
I had great candidates both internally and externally. After really doing a lot of research on Ryan and the success that he’s had in Nashville, I felt that he’s the right person. Like anybody, time will tell. We’ll see how things go. He is a terrific person. I love having great people that I work with, and he’s a smart person in radio and in the audio business. I think he’ll fit right into our clubhouse.
BN: When you have so many good candidates for the APD position and on-air positions, what is that it-factor where you say I think this is the person for the gig?
MR: It’s hard to describe. Sometimes you pick the right person and sometimes I’ve made mistakes along the way. You point a thumb and not a finger. It’s someone that lives and breathes, someone that’s organized, someone that’s a great communicator, and someone that works well with people.
We have a lot of people that are fairly fresh in the business, some people that have been around the business for a while. But looking for someone with fresh ideas that can help bring our brand to the next generation. Thirty years is a long time. We look to gain and bring new listeners into our brand. How do we do that? What are some ideas from a digital perspective, from a station sound perspective, from a branding perspective? Those are all things that we’re striving to take The Score to the next level.
BN: With the industry always evolving, is there a particular area where you strive to be ahead of the curve?
MR: I think every day my goal is how do we sound better? How can our shows improve? It’s not always can we get the better guests. Is there a better topic? Is everybody prepared? Are the producers, who are a vital part of our success, are they prepping our hosts in the right way? Producers are really some of the most valuable people at the station. We have tremendous producers. All do a great job.
Are our hosts prepping for their shows? I think it’s everybody working together, that’s vital to what we do. Are we giving everybody the right tools from a digital perspective? From an equipment standpoint? Is everybody working together taking our brand to the next level from a competition standpoint and from our own brand standpoint?
BN: It’s interesting, man, because it’s a lot like coaching. I think of Matt Rhule with the Carolina Panthers. Right now there are a lot of people saying he’s a micromanager. For you, if something with your staff isn’t quite as good as it could or should be, what’s your approach to handle it where you’re tightening the screws but you’re not micromanaging every little thing?
MR: I tend to pride myself to be a good communicator. A lot of my staff likes to poke fun that I over-communicate with emails and talking. But if there’s an issue, we address it, we talk about it, we fix it together and we move on. We sit down and talk. If we feel that we could do something better whether it’s ratings improvement or working the clock better, we sit down and discuss and we work together on it. That’s my way of managing.
I want people to be happy. I think when people are happy they work harder and that’s what I strive to do.
I’ve been doing this for a long time. You want people to strive to come in and enjoy their work. It’s not every day people are going to be skipping down the hallway whistling and being extremely happy, but if you give them everything they need to succeed, that’s my goal every day. I love making people happy and when you’re happy you work harder. That’s been my philosophy and I love the team that we have here. I really do.
BN: The BSM Summit is in New York City in March. Why do you think it’s important to get out and be a part of events like that?
MR: I think for our industry it continues to change and evolve. Five, 10 years ago, sports radio was callers over the air. It continues to change. You see with podcasts and different forms of media, it’s not just over the air, there are so many different forms. We see what sports wagering has done and it’s part of that DNA of our over-the-air stations. We see what it’s done from a streaming perspective. I think it’s vitally important. I think what Jason and the team has done is just incredible. I think if you can afford it, if your company supports it, I think it’s vitally important.
BN: What’s something valuable that you’ve picked up at the conference from other radio people, or from monitoring other radio stations?
MR: It’s interesting. It’s good talking to people. It’s funny, the last conference that was in person in New York, Mike Thomas was just hired as a direct competitor across the street at WMVP. We were just talking and we were competitors. Prior to that we were friendly business associates. He was running the Sports Hub in Boston and I was here at the Score, and prior to the conference he was just named station manager at WMVP. It wasn’t awkward, it was just kind of weird that all of a sudden we were competing. Most recently he came to work for Audacy and we’re on the same team now.
Just talking shop with people like him and Bruce Gilbert who’s a terrific programming genius. That’s just terrific and seeing people like that is incredible. Then monitoring when I have time, I love to listen to stations from out of town or podcasts. It’s a great way to scout talent and listen to other people. Years ago when Danny Parkins was in Kansas City and people were telling me about this guy in Kansas City, someone from Chicago, and listening to what he did, it helped get him here to Chicago.
BN: Do you have any radio pet peeves?
MR: Not really. I’m trying to think, Brian. I like honesty on the air. I love truthfulness. Once in a while tension is good in sports radio. I love for teammates to get along. That’s important to me. I love people to have fun.
We’re in radio. Sometimes it’s going to be serious. We’re going to talk about serious topics and content, but content is king. Great content wins and that’s very important.
BN: How do you manage your time between three brands to make sure everything is taken care of and operates the way that it should?
MR: I love what I do. I’m passionate. I’ve been doing this a long time. By choice, I get up crazy early in the morning. I go through emails. I live my life by lists. I cross things off as the day goes. I get a lot of satisfaction out of that. I’m pretty regimented. I’m at Starbucks at the same time every day. I work out at the same time every day. I’m just very regimented. I try to do what I can every day. Bringing in someone like Ryan will really help me obviously grow our brand at The Score.
I have a great right hand person in Milwaukee, Steve “Sparky” Fifer, who is probably one of the most dedicated people I’ve ever worked with. He does five hours a day on the air. He’s the assistant brand manager. He’s incredibly helpful. Then on BetQL I work with a great team, Matt Volk and Jesse Linhares. It’s just terrific. I still love coming into work every day. I love thinking about work every day and it’s just been an incredible journey for me.
BN: By the way, what’s your favorite and your least favorite part about working out?
MR: It’s more mental for me. During the week, I try to do 30 minutes on the treadmill and then on weekends an hour. It’s a good time to listen to some podcasts or clear my head. It’s my favorite part. I don’t know, I don’t dread it. I don’t wake up and go ahh shit I’ve got to work out today. Nothing really negative.
BN: [Laughs] Got it. What ideally would you want your future to look like when it comes to your role in the sports radio industry?
MR: I don’t know. I’ve done this a long time. I think eventually an ultimate goal of mine would be to run a market, to be a market manager. I’m not sure if that window has closed for me. That would be an eventual goal of mine. Then if I ever step away from media, I’m on a couple of charity boards. To go run a charity one day would probably be the ultimate goal.
BN: Is there a certain area you’d like your charity work to be in?
MR: I’m involved with Special Olympics Chicago. I’m involved with the American Diabetes Association. I’d be open to that. Either of those, or open to others. I’m also extremely proud of our charitable efforts at The Score. It’s a big initiative for the brand. For example, in 24 hours this past July we raised over $700,000 to build a grocery store in a food desert in a challenging neighborhood in Chicago. Danny Parkins led the way for our “What About Chicago” radiothon. It really demonstrated the power of The Score.
BN: Last thing, what is it that keeps you so motivated? I know that you’re a grinder and love what you do, but is there something that you’re striving toward that gets you out of bed each day?
MR: I like competition. I love winning. I love a breaking news day. I love hearing great imaging on the air. I love seeing other people succeed. I love seeing a young producer get promoted to executive producer roles. Sometimes I love seeing people move on to other opportunities. As tough as it is, if someone has an opportunity outside of our market or into a different role, it makes me feel good. I love making people happy.
Recently we had an executive producer, Jay Zawaski, who was here for 17, 18 years. An opportunity opened up at our news station. It turned into a great opportunity. He oversees their podcast content. It was sad to see him leave The Score, but deep inside I was so happy for him that it was a great opportunity for him. That’s what really motivates me. When people can better themselves and if they can be happy, that’s really what matters to me.
What Should Radio Be Thinking About On Martin Luther King Day?
“Shouldn’t we be doing more than just waiting for resumes with “black-sounding names” on top of them to come across our desks?”
Monday, January 17 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A lot of you will get the day off of work. Some of you will attend prayer services or civic events to honor the civil rights leader and his legacy.
Dr. King, like all humans, had his flaws but is undeniably a man worth celebrating. In a world where the divide between the powerful and the rest of us seems to be growing out of control, it is good to take a day to celebrate and think about a man that made a career out of speaking up for the little guy – whether that means black and brown people during the Civil Rights Era or it means workers in times of labor unrest.
Across the media landscape, we will see stations and networks running promos touting their “commitment to Dr. King’s dream!”. The sentiment is great, but I do wonder what it means to the people making those promos and the stations and networks airing them.
Look at the archives of this site. Think about the BSM Summits you have attended. How often have we been willing to shine a spotlight on the amount sports radio talks about embracing diversity versus actually putting plans into action? Jason has written and talked about it a lot. Every time, the message seems to circle back to him saying “I am giving you the data. You are telling me you recognize that this is a problem. Now do something about it.”
It’s something I found myself starting to think about a lot last year when Juneteenth became recognized as a federal holiday. Suddenly every brand was airing ads telling me how they have known how special this day is all along. And look, I hope that is true. It seems like if it was though, I would have been seeing those ads in plenty of Junes before 2021.
I am going to put my focus on the media because that is what we do here, but this can be said about a lot of companies. So many brands have done a great job of rolling out the yellow, black, red, and green promo package to acknowledge that it is Martin Luther King Jr Day or Black History Month or Juneteenth. I worry though that for so many, especially on the local level, that is where the acknowledgment ends.
That isn’t to say that those stations or brands actively do not want more minority representation inside their company. It just isn’t a subject for which they can say they have taken a lot of action.
Look, I am not here to debate the merits of affirmative action. I am saying in an industry like sports radio, where we thrive on fans being able to relate to the voices coming through their speakers, shouldn’t we be doing a better job of making sure minority personalities know that there is a place for them in this industry? Shouldn’t we be doing more than just waiting for resumes with “black-sounding names” on top of them to come across our desks?
WFAN went out and found Keith McPherson in the podcasting world to fill its opening at night after Steve Somers’s retirement. FOX Sports added RJ Young, who first made a name for himself on YouTube and writing books, to its college football coverage. 95.7 The Game found Daryle “Guru” Johnson in a contest. JR Jackson got on CBS Sports Radio’s radar thanks to his YouTube videos and when it came time for the network to find a late-night host, it plucked him from Atlanta’s V103, one of the best-known urban stations in America.
That’s two guys in major markets, another on national radio, and a third on national television. In all four cases, the companies that hired them didn’t just sit back and wait for a resume to come in.
Some of you will read this and dismiss me. After all, I am a fat, white Southern man. If I were a hacky comedian, I would say “the only four groups you are allowed to make fun of” and then yell “Gitterdone!”.
In reality, I point those things out because I know there is a large chunk of you that will call this whole column “white guilt” or “woke” or whatever your talking point is now.
Whether or not we are about the be a majority minority nation is up for debate, but here is a fact. America is getting darker. I look at the radio industry, one that is constantly worried about how it will be affected by new innovations in digital audio, and wonder how anyone can think doing things like we always have is going to work forever.
I’m not damning anyone or saying anybody should be losing their jobs. I don’t know most of you reading this well enough to make that judgment. What I am saying is that our industry has lived on the idea that this business is always changing and we have to be adaptable. I think it is time we do that, not just with the content we present on air, but in how we go about finding the right people to present it.
What’s The Bright Side Of a Losing Team?
“What are you supposed to do if the teams you rely on to buoy your product aren’t holding up their end of the bargain?”
We’ve always said that winning is the great deodorizer in sports. Winning can take a dysfunctional locker room and make them functional, it can take an average coach and make him look great, and in our world it can make a bad product seem decent and a good product seem spectacular.
But what if the local teams you cover aren’t winning at all? What are you supposed to do if the teams you rely on to buoy your product aren’t holding up their end of the bargain?
It’s such a weird position for a host or programmer to be in because sometimes the success of your radio station or your show is so dependent on things that you have no control over whatsoever. The difference between a good radio station and the bad ones are the ones that are able to make chicken salad out of chicken scratch and also those that are able to capitalize when teams are good.
Just look at the growth of 95.3 WDAE in Tampa or the strength of the Boston sports talk stations like WEEI or 98.5 The Sports Hub after Boston owned basically every major pro sport for a 5 to 10 year period.
I’m the “Orlando Magic guy” on 96.9 The Game, the flagship of the Magic. We broadcast the games and I work on many of those broadcasts. I’m also the afternoon show host, so if you find your way to the arena that night and you want Magic talk, I guess I’m your guy. But as you can imagine, it is exceedingly difficult to pull good juicy topics out of a team that barely wins. There are so many markets that deal with this year after year.
Whether you’re in a multi-sports market that’s suffering like Detroit or a single pro sports town like Orlando or Sacremento, it can be incredibly frustrating. It wears on you because you know how different the landscape can be, particularly if you’ve experienced some level of success.
When I got into the sports talk radio scene in Orlando, the Magic were off the heels of an NBA Finals run and casual fans were everywhere in the city. Everywhere you looked someone was wearing a Magic shirt, the lady at the counter at your local grocery store wants to talk to you about point guard play, but when your team has less than 10 wins in January, casual fans have a convenient way of disappearing.
Local radio thrives off the positive production of the teams in their market. But when your team isn’t any good and fans lose interest, people aren’t gobbling up tickets or hanging on your every word about the team, how are you supposed to survive that drought?
First things first: honesty. As hard as it can be, especially if you are partnered with these teams, you have to be straight up with your audience. You can’t sugarcoat what they’re seeing. That doesn’t mean you stoop down to the level of the most agitated fan, but you can’t act like all is good either. That approach has been covered many times on this site, but honesty and authenticity are important no matter the record of the teams you cover.
As I look for the silver lining, here’s one that jumps out at me, ticket giveaways. There’s no shortage of available tickets when your teams aren’t winning and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about a radio audience, they love free stuff. I try and use this time as an opportunity to give away as much as I can, create memorable experiences for a dad and his kids that can’t typically afford to go to a game. They won’t care the team is bad, but they’ll remember that you provided that for them for years to come.
It’s also a great time to extend the positive relationship you have with the team (or teams) that are struggling. Everyone wants to cover a winner, everyone wants to interview the star player who’s a shoo-in for an All-Star Game. If you show love when the team is down, you can create a bond that will help you maintain your good standing when that product heats up again.
Everything is cyclical and I don’t want to find myself in a position where I can be left out from all the cool opportunities and great guests because I stuck my nose up at the team while the chips were down. I’ll take an interview with the backup center, I’ll do the day-long media day dance, all of that is an effort to curry favor when things are trending up again.
Then there’s draft talk! Lucky for us in the great U.S.A, our sports structure rewards bad teams with great picks. Fans might be down in the dumps during the season, but you can perk them right back up in the off-season when your team can provide something in the draft. It’s that magic four-letter word that keeps people on the edge of their seat: Hope. It’s the one thing winning teams don’t get to experience.
More than anything, I just try and stay the course. I figure that when things do turn around, eventually, I will have built up the branding and credibility needed so my audience knows where to go when they suddenly find themselves interested again. Simply put, lay the groundwork while the team is bad, reap the rewards when things turnaround.
What Can Programmers Learn From A Social Media Following?
“A large number of followers may be the result of using social media well, but if you think the size of someone’s following is proof they’ll be a good part of your lineup, that’s a set-up for failure.”
I first began using Twitter in 2009 when I was a reporter at The Seattle Times. Jim Mora was the Seattle Seahawks coach and I had a smart phone made by Palm. The Twitter app was so wonky I posted live updates from Seahawks press conferences via TwitPic, sending a picture of the person speaking with the news item included as a caption. We’ve all come a long way since then.
I like Twitter. Over the past 12-plus years, I’ve found that my sarcasm and sense of humor (if you can call it that) translated better on Twitter than it ever did in print or later as a radio host at 710 ESPN Seattle. I’ve made friends on Twitter, picked fights with other reporters and generally found it a good place to test out ideas and arguments and an increasingly terrible place to discuss anything important. I have more than 40,000 followers, which is not insignificant nor is it at all exceptional given the market I worked in. None of this gives you any idea about how well I’ve done my job in sports media, though.
Yet an individual’s Twitter following has become part of our industry scoreboard. It’s certainly not the final score and it definitely doesn’t decide the outcome, but it is the best way I know to gain a quick assessment of someone’s reach and/or significance. It’s a data point that is readily accessible. It’s the thing I check first when I encounter someone who’s part of the sports-media industry.
But what does it really tell us? More specifically, how much does it tell us about that person’s ability to do their actual job whether it is reporting news, writing stories or being part of a show? Because as important as Twitter has become in sports-media, no one is making money from Twitter and social media specialists are the only people who are really being paid to Tweet.
For most of us, Twitter is not a job, it is a tool. For a radio host, it’s a way to interact with listeners outside the footprint and time slot of the show. It also is a powerful opportunity to deepen audience engagement through two-way, real-time communication. These things may help a host’s job performance, but they should not be mistaken for the actual job itself. A radio host is not valuable because he or she was right on Twitter or because they were first on Twitter or because they had a viral Tweet. A radio host is valuable because of the ability to attract, entertain and retain an audience during a specific slot of time. Twitter may help you prepare to do that, but it does not actually accomplish the task.
Programmers need to understand this, too. A large number of followers may be the result of using social media well, but if you think the size of someone’s following is proof they’ll be a good part of your lineup, that’s a set-up for failure. Just look at what book publishers have found.
An article last month in the New York Times showed how publishers have used social media followings as a weathervane of sorts for books sales. The number of followers an author has is influencing everything from what authors are paid to which books get published. This is especially true when it comes to non-fiction books. The rationale is pretty straightforward when you look under hood of that particular industry.
A publisher is the business that buys a certain book from the author, essentially making a bet that the sales of this book the author is writing or has written will more than cover the money paid to the author as well as the cost of publication and promotion of the book. A publisher wants as much assurance as possible that this book will sell sufficient copies to not just make its money back, but insure a profit. This is where the author’s social media audience comes in. The follower count is being looked to as an indicator of just how many people can be expected to buy this book. After all, someone following the author is certainly a sign they’re interested in what that author has to say. Some percentage of those followers can reasonably be expected to buy a book by this person. Except social media followings turn out to be a fairly terrible tool of forecasting book sales.
Billie Eilish has 99 million Instagram followers. Her book — released last year — sold 64,000 copies. If I was being catty, I would point out that is one book sold for every 1,546 Instagram followers.
“Even having one of the biggest social media followings in the world is not a guarantee,” wrote Elizabeth A. Harris.
So we should all just stop paying attention to Twitter followings, right? Hardly. First of all, it is a data point, and anyone waiting for social media followings to become LESS important probably thinks the Internet is just a fad. More importantly, having a following is certainly better than not having one as it does indicate the ability to attract an audience.
The issue isn’t whether it’s good to have a large following. Of course it is. The issue is how reliable that is in predicting an individual’s interest or appeal outside of that specific social platform.
What programmers need to do is get smarter about how they evaluate social media followings by answering two questions:
- Why are people following this particular talent? Content is the catch-all answer here. Go beyond that. What sort of content is this person providing that none of his or her peers are? Will that type of content be valuable as part of my lineup whether it’s terrestrial radio, a podcast or other format? Someone who’s funny on Twitter may be funny in other formats. They may also just be funny on Twitter. Are there examples of how this kind of content has worked in the past or reasons to think it will work in the future?
- How likely is this talent’s social media following to migrate to my medium? This is one of the trickier ones. One of the reasons for acquiring a talent with a large social media following is the hope that some of their followers will become your customers. While this is always possible, the more important question is whether it’s likely.
Remember, that example of Eilish, who had 99 million Instagram followers and sold 64,000 books? Well, that number of books is actually not a bad result. In fact, it’s absolutely solid for book sales. The problem was the publishing house didn’t expect a solid sales performance. It expected incredibly strong sales because it paid a significant amount of money to Eilish in the form of an advance.
It’s clear the publishing house made a bad bet, but the principal mistake was not about Eilish’s ability — or lack thereof — to produce a book. She did produce one that was 336 pages long, loaded with family photos never seen before and while there wasn’t as much text as you might expect, the sales were solid. The mistake the publishing house made was overestimating how many of Eilish’s fans would become customers in an entirely different medium, and I think that’s a lesson worth noting in this industry.
Unless you’re hiring someone to do social media for your company, Twitter is not going to be their job. It’s just a tool. An important tool, a useful one, but just a tool.
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