Before we called it iHeartMedia, the company was named Clear Channel and Mark Glynn was working in its Minneapolis building. That doesn’t mean it was a straight line to his current position leading iHeart’s Seattle cluster.
He changed companies while in the North Star State. While he was a National Sales Manager at KATZ Radio, he had a boss that encouraged him not to put down roots too early. See what else is out there.
That is how Mark Glynn ended up in Seattle twelve years ago. Two years after arriving, he came back to Clear Channel, which again, became iHeartMedia.
Mark is the latest subject of our Meet the Market Managers series presented by Point to Point Marketing and there is plenty to discuss. He and his team just moved the legendary KJR to the FM dial. They also are the flagship radio partner of the Seattle Kraken, which just wrapped up their first season in the NHL.
Our conversation hits on both of those topics as well as the advantages the iHeartRadio app gives him with clients, marijuana advertising, and the future of audience measurement.
Demetri Ravanos: I’m sure moving KJR to FM is something the programming staff had been telling you they wanted and were ready for a long time. But from your vantage point, what happened in the spring that made you say, “Okay, now it’s time to make this move”?
Mark Glynn: That’s a great question. You know, frankly, it was a game-changer. It’s something that Rich Moore, my Senior VP of Programming, and I had been talking about. But it really starts with going and looking at our play-by-play contracts and what we’ve been able to develop through the pandemic.
We knew that if we could pull this off, it was going to be huge, not only for our staff but for the sports fan in Seattle. And certainly watching our sister station, KFAN in Minneapolis, have such huge success was a confidence booster for us. I think this is the world’s greatest sports fanbase in Seattle, evidence to the fact that Seattle Kraken sold out their inaugural season so quickly. It was a no-brainer, but it takes time to build and you’re always concerned when you’re leaping from one branch to the next with what are all of the pitfalls that could happen or if they were going to happen, how would we react. So obviously it took time, but after we made the decision to finally go, it was a matter of how we go and when do we go with the new format on FM.
While we were working through some of our final tactical execution in a meeting, our great APD, Kevin Shockey, was on Twitter doing prep, and suddenly he’s like, “by golly, Russell [Wilson] was traded to the Broncos.
Rich and I looked at each other and we said simultaneously, this is our moment. We had to act. And in 40 minutes we moved up our timeline and our brilliant team put together really, truly an incredible strategy to get on the air, launching at 12 for the 12s, and from there on was born Sports Radio 933 KJR FM Seattle’s Sports Leader.
By moving our legendary KJR to the FM dial, we were able to start growing really, truly the next generation of Seattle sports fans and now with the FM and the AM, we were truly able to enhance our sports platform to be the number one destination for the sports fan here in Seattle and change the game.
DR: What makes the Seattle fans the best in the country, as you say, and what is the place for sports radio in day-to-day culture in Seattle?
MG: I think that the consumer here in Seattle is so hungry, 24/7, for information about their teams. What will the Drew Lock era with the Seahawks be? Who are the Kraken going to pick up in this coming draft? What’s going on with the Mariners?
With this move, we’re able to become bigger and louder and be a place of destination for the fans’ reaction. It does give us an opportunity to really be the home of the fan and drive that interaction like we did on the AM but just in a bigger fashion, if that makes sense.
DR: Let’s talk about the Kraken, because I’m very interested in what the decision-making process was like in deciding that this is a property you were going to doggedly pursue. I mean, did it begin with the excitement around the name, or were you guys deep into your planning long before that?
MG: We were definitely in it long before that. We actually have to back up to the University of Washington. It was really a centered and concerted play-by-play strategy we presented them. The University of Washington is a key franchise in this market. It was truly the catalyst to everything else because of how important UW is to the Seattle community. You talk about passion, right? It was important for Rich Moore and me to bring the university back under our roof.
Simultaneous to working with the great folks at the university, we started working with NHL Seattle, and we built out a joint programming/sales strategy to help with the inaugural ticket drive. The strong success that we had in helping the Kraken sell out their season in, I think, 12 minutes really helped us get to the table and have a different conversation for the play-by-play rights.
Truthfully, it goes to the relationship that Tod Leiweke and Rich Moore had that dates back to the Seahawks. Those building blocks were really what cemented the partnership in that we were working on a different playing field. Yes, the financials all needed to make sense, but without Tod’s vision and Rich’s vision, and myself, we couldn’t get to the table to truly have this partnership that we do. And if you’ve ever read anything about Tod, there is an extreme passion to everything that he touches, whether it’s the Maple Leafs, the Lightning, the Seahawks, the Sounders, and the Kraken.
We knew that this was a franchise that we wanted to be part of because we could see the passion growing within the community. I believe that the Kraken is still the number one NHL franchise from a merchandising standpoint. That’s important, right? That speaks volumes about passion.
DR: Maybe I’m simplifying this, but it certainly seems like iHeart really values play-by-play partnerships, particularly flagship partnerships. I would guess you got nothing but support from the corporate level about pursuing both UW and the Kraken at that time.
MG: Yeah, absolutely. The company is really interested in exploring more of this. You know, we work intimately with both Greg Ashlock and Kevin LeGrett in this strategy development. It is important that we continue to look at this.
We are continuing to look at and analyze different play-by-play opportunities within the Seattle market because I don’t think that we’re done here. We’ve got three stations that can support really solid play-by-play content. And as we all know, content is king.
DR: So speaking of “content is king,” the digital side of the business, obviously, has never been more important than it is right now. I wonder this not just about the iHeartRadio app, I would ask the same thing about the Audacy app. When you are dealing with what is on someone’s phone, being part of a larger national app, is that advantageous for people to be able to find you from outside the market, or do you have any concerns about getting lost in such a big ecosystem of content?
MG: That ecosystem only makes us better. The iHeartRadio app allows for incredible distribution of any content. So with the Kraken and with the NHL, there are no geofencing restrictions. With that structure, snowbirds going down to the Phoenix area or to Palm Springs in California in the winter and getting away from the rain, if they are passionate about the Kraken, they can still tune in to the iHeartRadio app, go to KJR and consume that Seattle Kraken content whether they’re on a golf course or whatever it might be. I think it makes us more connected.
DR: That is a very interesting aspect of NHL play-by-play. Is that something that is worth bringing up with clients in Seattle or is the focus kept on how the station and the team reach the local market?
MG: The app in itself is always something to brag about. I mean, we are very proud of the app and being able to be distributed through the iHeartRadio app. It’s definitely a game-changer from that standpoint.
But again, it goes to the network that we’re building out. Rich has done a phenomenal job, along with Mike Benton, who is one of our hosts within the Kraken broadcast, and Kevin Shockey in building out a robust affiliate network for the Kraken. So I think that when you look at distribution vehicles, the affiliate network along with iHeartRadio is something that we definitely brag about when we’re talking to our clients because it’s about reach, right? It’s a part of how we maximize the reach for our clients and build the best possible program so that they can harness the power of the fans.
DR: I want to ask you about generating revenue at this particular moment in history. I think if anybody outside of Seattle knows anything about it, they know it is an expensive place, right? It’s hard for me to fathom what we’re going through right now with inflation has done in that aspect. So what does that do to your kind of advertising community? Is it is it possible for some of those small businesses there to have the budgets to make the big buys that we see in some other markets?
MG: I think it’s possible, but I think it starts with strategy. It starts with what are the goals of the client. Then from there, backing into what the best possible product it could be. It could be play-by-play. It could be shoulder programming with one of our great commentators like Ian Furness, who is a hockey wonk. It’s about finding the right programming to tie them into. There are always going to be ways for us to build programs. It really just comes back to what are the client’s goals, and then how we help them achieve it. It might be a different vehicle than their initial idea.
I think the other thing is, is that our partnership with the Oak View Group and Seattle Kraken has been something I’ve never experienced before. We walk hand-in-hand somewhat married together in opening doors, whether it’s us opening doors for them or them opening doors for us. That has been something that has been pretty unique throughout this process that has separated us from the pack.
DR: What are some of the challenges now and maybe even contingency plans that you have had to deal with and develop as Covid changed this industry?
MG: Yeah, I think it’s a good question. The leadership team that’s with me is pivoting. We have to be able to pivot. And if a plan that we built isn’t coming to fruition, we’ve got to be able to identify it really quickly, but then in the same breath, build a strategy that we believe is going to overcome it and help drive the success that we need. Nothing is ever going to be perfect.
It doesn’t matter if it’s this industry or it’s a medical device industry. It’s always is always evolving and always changing. There’s always going to be a competitor that’s going to come in and it’s going to shake things up, and you always have to be on your toes. I think that’s something that we take a lot of pride in being in this market, is we’ve really changed that philosophy of going from our heels to our toes.
DR: Think about the way listener behavior shifted during the pandemic. You see all of these stations, regardless of format, reporting 50% and more of their listenership now coming through streaming platforms, directly from the website, whatever.
Does that give you any kind of optimism in your chair as the market manager that someone, whether it’s Nielsen or another company, somebody is going to wake up to having to sort of simplify the measurement process for audio audiences, because you’d have to figure out how to do both broadcast and digital, right, in order for it to paint a complete picture.
MG: Yes. I am hopeful that Nielsen will evolve their measurement practice. We’re already seeing our agency partners shift how they buy media to mirror more of a digital approach with CPMs. The reality is that consumers’ media consumption is rapidly changing and it will likely continue – so how we buy and sell media will also evolve. But, speaking in depth about Nielsen’s evolution is something I can’t do…
In regards to iHeartMedia’s evolution, I believe we have put ourselves in a great position to reach the consumer where ever and whenever. Our company has developed a holistic platform capable of reaching the masses along with the ability to reach down to a single device into a more 1:1 relationship. With our robust platform, reaching over 90% of Americans, I am confident that we’re going to continue our evolution in mirroring what the consumer needs and wants as our consumers continue their media consumption evolution.
DR: I’m going to wrap up by delving into what you talked about with your team, always being ready to pivot. You know, it wasn’t that long ago that marijuana became legal to purchase in Seattle.
I wonder how much you think about the day that might come when you can take advertising money from that industry, even if iHeart says you can’t do it right now, have you started thinking about how that might happen for you in the future?
MG: I know that the company itself is working with legislators to figure out how to make that work. It’s obviously a federal situation right now. The Washington State Broadcasters Association I know is very heavily involved with lobbying for that because it is an opportunity, just like gambling is in other states across the country. We’ve obviously taken our fair share of that business here through the Native American tribes. But this is new and it is a category that we’re closely watching.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.