NY Radio Owes Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter’s final days as a Yankee boosted Sports Talk Ratings in New York. There’s not conclusive evidence in the article linked that it was entirely a Jeter phenomenon, but media aren’t allowed to post daily ratings and I suspect you can track the listening patterns directly to his farewell tour. Sure, no doubt NFL is helping these stations too.

But, taking the idea that Jeter’s final days drove ratings increases at face value; what are the lessons for radio here? That was the first question issued in Tuesday night’s sports radio twitter chat (#srchat). Refreshingly, there are many.

Play the hits. That was my first reaction along with @TimFisherOnAir. But there’s more to this than that.

 

Connecting with your community is paramount to success. Radio hosts must capture the passion, imagination, and conversation of the listeners and reflect it back to them. The “hit” is knowing WHAT to talk about, knowing HOW to talk about — the context — is what makes it resonate and stick with your listeners.

 

I agree with @bksportstalk that stories are powerful tools to drive listening especially when a community has a common or shared experience. Few hosts are telling great, compelling stories instead they just skip from fact to fact to fact leaving out the emotion, the details, and the arc of the story which are the most compelling parts.

 

@ChaddScott makes a great point here. Personalities drive ratings. Find the WHO in your stories and start from there. I used to work with a host who insisted all stories be pitched to him with this opening line, “There is this guy/gal who…” Stories about people are more engaging than stories about things. Stories about famous people provide a quick hook.

I’ll also add that the Derek Jeter story is one of legacy, celebration and at the very core; heroes and villains. Everybody enjoys a story about a hero or a villain. And Jeter filled both roles for New York baseball fans.

 

Ask Larry! Episode 12

This week, Larry Gifford answers three questions about radio; When I’m interviewing a guest YOU say I switch roles from outputter to inputter, but I’m still the host right? Why isn’t talk radio more commercially viable in UK? and what’s the rule of thumb for length of interviews on a demo?

Takeaways from a day in LA

Things I heard, overheard and thought about while driving around listening to radio and visiting radio friends in Los Angeles.

A perfectly good pair of earbuds sacrificed for 3D effects. (see picture)Beast5

Newscaster uses the phrase “via social media.” Reminder to self: never use the word “via.” It’s not conversational. It’s newspeak. It especially sounds ridiculously antiquated next to “social media.”

I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to referring to “top” and “bottom” of the hour, but it’s also really just radio-speak. Most clocks are digital now and the reference is lost on anyone under the age of 35.

After some consideration, I find it creepy that a male morning host is doing live endorsements for a doctor who performs hysterectomies and other invasive, personal surgeries on women. The creep factor increases when he invites his female listeners to a weekend seminar and promises he’ll be there to greet you. Ew.

30 minutes is a long time to talk to one guest.

Spending five minutes to go through “what’s coming up on the show” doesn’t entice me to listen longer, it just leaves me frustrated for the time I just spent listening.

I’m a fan of what KFI is doing with customizing spots per day part. John & Ken (PM Drive) were heard addressing Bill Handel’s listeners (AM Drive) with an insurance endorsement. Good cross promotion and customization.

Beast3I spent some time with Fred “the dean of LA Sports” Roggin (center) and among our topics of discussion was the advice he offers young broadcasters.

“Be true to yourself. Radio is not going to make you rich. Do it for the love of radio. Do it because you want to communicate.” Fred continues, “Radio is a family. It bonds people. And it has to be in your blood. You’re not doing it to be a star and you’re not doing it to be rich. Never do anything for money. Do what you love and you’ll end up loving what you do.”

VIDEO: Ask Larry! Episode 11

Larry Gifford answers 3 questions about radio; What do you do when news breaks? What do I think of the Doug & Wolf segment that almost came to blows? and Should the FCC ban the word “Redskins?

 

VIDEO: Ask Larry! Episode 10

Radio consultant Larry Gifford answers three questions about radio; A college senior asks about starting a job hunt, should your radio show make a viral video, and should ex-athletes refer to their playing experience while on air?

Game Announcers Are Storytellers

Ross_at_Century_Link_smallerThere are a lot of young broadcasters who are in need of guidance when it comes to play-by-play. You may have been listening to games on radio since you were “knee high to a grasshopper,” but listening and doing couldn’t be farther away from each other when it comes to calling games.

Enter Ross Fletcher.

Recently, I hosted a conversation with the Seattle Sounders FC play-by-play announcer and some young broadcasters and he offered up some terrific advice and even shared his game charts.

He talked about giving the score every two minutes, making sure listeners know which team has the ball and where on the field it is and be prepared. But, what interested me more was how Ross defined the roles of the play-by-play announcer and color commentator, how he preps each game and his passion for telling stories. He’s given me permission to share some of his comments and sent some pictures to help deomonstrate how he approaches game prep. Soak it in.

Know your role. “The play-by-play guy is there to shape what’s really going on and the color guy is there to embellish, to add that little luster and explain things in a bit more detail from a step back seeing that overall pattern. I always think the best combination of color and play-by-play is where the play-by-play is comfortable throwing the color guy a few things and asking questions. I love to ask my color guy questions, because generally the color guy who is there has a breadth of knowledge to answer those and it gives you a good back and forth, a good banter. It keeps the color guy on their toes as well. I would say generally the mix for radio is 70% play-by-play, 30% color. And so the analyst can really focus on the bigger picture stuff adding the “WHY?” to the play-by-play announcer’s “WHAT?” For exciting moments, it is 100% play-by-play until the moment has fizzled out. I’m a bit of a purist. I don’t like the color guy cutting into the play-by-play because on radio you’re still painting that picture and if it’s an exciting moment that chances are the action is going to be very, very quick and so that is a really intense moment for a play-by-play announcer to be able to punch stuff out. Then the color analyst can come in with analysis of the play; why it happened and how it happened.”

Preparation: “I’ve developed over 15 year really how I want this page to look. The actual sheet I have for the in-game the in running play-by-play is a folder (11×7). It has the home team on one side and the opposition on the other. The way I’ve built it up there are individual sticky notes for every player on the squad. That’s a lot of preparation but it comes into its own.
Player LabelEvery single player has their own sticky label and then when I know the confirmed team news I can very simply stick it on to my piece of paper the players who are in the starting 11 in formation order and so that makes it easy to identify both where the player is on the field and which sticky label to look at depending on who you want to talk about. On the sticky labels are the players number, name, age, height, games played, goals and assists, that’s the very basics and that can get you through any play-by-play. Beyond that I do three little bullet points for every player below the basics which give me three different talking points on every player on the field.

Team PagesAbove that I’ll have the current record, where they are in the standings, and recent results with the goal scorers, and next to the players sticky labels some very brief points or simple stats about the club. On the bottom left hand point of the home team I’ll have information on the refs, a sidebar on the head-to-head records of the teams playing, and then I leave about a 1/2 page blank for the storylines I mentioned. I jot them down in capital letters so I can quickly easily read what I need. On the other side, the bottom half of the paper are in-running notes that I keep which is the score, who scored, and the chances it created. Usually, I’ll have enough room for all significant chances, which is a good way to remind listeners what’s going on through game, or recap action during a slowdown of play. You’ll be able to jot down those notes because your color guy will be talking about what happened and analyzing how it came about. That gives me everything I need to know on two sheets of paper.”

On Telling Stories. “You are storytellers and the more stories you have the better. As long as it’s relevant to the game, tell your stories. People love stories. Quite often the athlete’s back story is what is most compelling and not the season stats. People love to get to know personalities. If you feel you have a connection with the people who are out there performing on an emotional level then you’re going to buy into the broadcast more. When the time is right, tell stories, and build the characters, because great sports are built on great characters. It’s called “the beautiful game,” soccer, because it doesn’t really lend itself that well to statistics so in opposition it does lend itself well to good story telling.

What I would say is that great story telling can start in the pre-game show and then you can come back to it during the game. I’m comfortable with people telling stories during the match itself. A substitution is a great time to tell story, because somebody is coming on and the people who are listening want to know about the guy that’s coming onto the field. It is important that you know your “in” line and know your “out” line, and being able to tell your story in probably 15 to 30 seconds. Always have that in your mind about how you’re going to tell that story so it fits into the commentary and doesn’t interrupt the flow of the play-by-play.”

Ross Fletcher started his career at BBC Radio Darby when he was 16. He was the Saturday intern who spent his time filling out soccer score sheets when he wasn’t making the host’s tea. He’s been calling soccer on radio since he was 19. He did some commentaries of lower league and it’s how he got his break. (“I got my break actually by doing games in front of 300 guys and 7 dogs. But you bring that same kind of work ethic to it. Seriously, there may have been more dogs at some of those games than people.”) He spent his early career with the Premier League team Darby County, in addition to national radio reporting and play-by-play on all four divisions of English soccer. He’s been in Seattle for nearly three years.

Radio Co-Host Confession

tony215x215There is an issue facing thousands of radio co-hosts and sidekicks across the country; the radio station values the main host of your show more than it values you. That was the revelation this week for Fitz in the Morning sidekick Tony Russell when the host of his Seattle-based morning show got a new deal.

“I realized Fitz signed for another 5 years, but I didn’t. No one came to me to sign a contract for another five years.” Tony, who is documenting his mid-life crisis on the blog www.TheNextHalf.com, confessed his frustration on this week’s Radio Stuff. “Basically, Fitz’ decision was my decision. I had no say so in it what so ever. So I’m here for another five years too, basically. It’s kinda like Brooks & Dunn.”

It was a swift kick in the gut.

And then another does of reality hit.

“Hell, I’m not his co-host, because if I was his co-host this would be a 50-50 deal. Thus the word “co.” I’m a sidekick. And I thought, ‘Wow. I don’t really want to be here another five years if I don’t make more money.’ The truth of the matter is while I make great money for the rest of the country, for here (Seattle), I don’t even qualify to buy the average home. I thought, ‘This just sucks.'”

So he wrote a parody of a country song about it. (Listen) Fitz and the morning team had a good laugh. But, there are lessons for all us in Tony’s story.

“The biggest mistake I made early on was not saying, ‘Hey I want my name on the show.’ Because, if your name is not on the bumper sticker your equity goes way down and so does your pay in comparison to a host. Get your name on the show when you’re starting out. Make sure you’re part of the brand not just part of the team.”

If all this sounds a bit mopey and “woe is me,” Tony has a caveat. He’s not bitter with Fitz or even blame him. He owns it. And as a licensed mental health counselor and ordained minister he offered himself some advice;

“Watch your attitude. Because it’s easy to get bitter. Remember you get to do something everyday that thousands and thousands of people would love to do. Walk in everyday like your pants are on fire and do the best you can do and again brand yourself. Find what your good at and don’t go ask to do it, don’t wait to be asked, initiate and show your value if you want to stick around.”

RS 72 cover

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 50 other followers