Dodgers radio play-by-play announcer Charley Steiner was seven years old when he first heard Vin Scully calling Brooklyn Dodgers baseball games while growing up in New York. Today, he is friends and colleagues with Scully and has dinner with him before every Dodgers home game.
“I pinch myself. It can’t be much cooler than this.”
In an interview with Larry Gifford Media, Steiner’s voice is filled with all the excitement of the same little boy who huddled around an over-sized Zenith radio in his Mom’s kitchen to listen to Scully’s poetic description of the Dodgers all those years ago. And at times, Steiner finds it hard to put what it means to him into words.
“It’s one of those things where I can’t tell you how lucky I am to have done what I’ve done, to end up where I have been and to have dinner with whom I have dinner. It’s…it’s…it’s….it’s Alice in Wonderland.”
“I freely admit I get to play pepper with Babe Ruth every day. It ain’t bad.”
Every Dodgers home game, Steiner, Scully, Rick Monday and Billy Delury sit down at the same table, in the same seats at the same time (“5:30, like clockwork”) at Dodgers Stadium. For 45 minutes, the four men talk about the issues of the day.
“Vin reads every section of the newspaper every day. So we will spend as much time talking before a game about life, about a political issue or whatever, as well as how well ‘he’ hung the curve ball in the sixth inning last night.”
Spending so much time with Scully has helped Steiner develop a wicked good impersonation of the Hall of Fame announcer. His voice jumps from the depths of his belly to the top of his nose and dances out of his mouth like ice cream cone dripping down your hand on a hot summer day. Imitation is the finest form of flattery and Steiner doesn’t hold back.
Steiner continues, “You know that old sports cliché: the game speeds up for young guys and slows up for veterans? The game comes slow to him. I mean that in the highest regard. His brain is working a mile a minute. It’s like Keanu Reeves’ character in Matrix, deflecting bullets in slow motion, that’s Vin!”
The lessons learned from Scully for Steiner reach far beyond the broadcast booth.
“I’ve learned as much off the air and how he conducts himself as I have on the air. There’s a sense of composure both on and off the air. There is a separation between the on-air persona and who you are and being able to leave that other stuff at the door when the game begins.”
On March 31st, Steiner will be in the booth as Scully opens his 62nd season as the voice of the Dodgers. Scully will call the first three and last three innings on Talk Radio 790, KABC radio in Los Angeles, with Steiner and Monday doing the middle three innings.
Charley Steiner on Vin Scully - Listen to Steiner’s comments on Scully
Charley Steiner Interview Podcast-40 minutes - Listen to complete interview with Steiner
By now you’ve seen the coverage of Charlie Sheen on the Dan Patrick Show. It was on CNN, Fox News, Vanity Fair, The Hollywood Reporter, Entertainment Tonight, USA Today, New York Post, LA Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and the Times of India to name a few. Not bad exposure for The Dan Patrick Show on one guest.
So how’d they book him? They asked.
My sources say the Danettes had Charlie’s number from a previous appearance, gave him a ring, and asked if he’d come on the show. He said yes.
So what are the lessons to be learned from Charlie Sheen?
- Ask for what you want. Sometimes the biggest obstacle in front of your success is just asking for what you want; asking a guest to be on your show, asking your boss for a promotion, asking anyone for help of some kind, etc. In this case, asking Charlie Sheen to join the DP Show for a few minutes. Just make the call, ask the question – the worst thing that can happen is that you’re told “No.”
- Keep records. Hosts and producers need to keep every number of every guest, regardless of how important you deem them in the moment. You never know when you may need it again.
- Spread the word. When a guest makes news on your show, in this case Charlie Sheen saying he’s ready to go back to work, tell everyone about it. Don’t assume everyone who cares about it heard it on your show. Immediately, the audio and a news story about the interview appeared on www.danpatrick.com, the producers were twittering about the interview, and undoubtedly a press release was quickly written and released. This is cheapest, most impactful promotion you may ever have for your show.
So you may ask how this guest was appropriate for the Dan Patrick show. Charlie is a big sports fan, resonates with the core demo with his movie and TV roles, and recently talked with the UCLA baseball team (a.k.a. the timely hook.)
When it comes to winning a championship Kobe Bryant knows a thing or two or five. And after listening to him today, on 710 ESPN’s Mason & Ireland Show in Los Angeles, I believe Kobe can help talk show hosts be better too.
Kobe talked about how the basketball season is an evolution.
“It’s about getting better,” said Kobe.
“It’s a gauge; what areas have we improved and what areas have we slipped? It’s always a gauge. You have to check your compass everyone once in a while.”
Kobe is also constantly thinking about the little details. When asked what one thing the team needed to improve on between now and the playoffs, Kobe couldn’t narrow it down.
“There’s like 20 things. All of them are important; defensive rotations, offensive execution, rebounding patterns, the list goes on and on in my head. There are three things; defending, field goal percentage and not turn the ball over. Whoever does that best will be champion.”
What sticks out to me is that at the highest levels of pro sports, players and teams continue to challenge themselves to be great. Kobe Bryant is regularly analyzing his play, focusing on the details and looking to improve every game.
How many radio hosts do this? Are you?
- When was the last time you gauged your progress or checked your compass?
- Are you getting critical feedback or conducting critical self evaluations following each show?
- Are you regularly applying new strategy, skills or techniques when hosting?
- Do you consider your show a static element or an evolution?
- Do you recognize and address the details of your show?
I know from experience on both sides of the mic that these things don’t happen nearly as much as they could or should. Kobe is a proven winner; a champion and future hall-of-famer. And he still wants to be better, still gauges his performance from game to game to game, and still sweats the small stuff.
Seems like a good game plan whether you’re on the court or behind the microphone.
Two hours and fifteen minutes. That’s how long ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd says it takes him to actively prep for his show. “I go into a show ready with eight different ways to approach four topics.”
Cowherd talked exclusively with LarryGifford.com about how he prepares each day for his show “The Herd.” His active prep time estimate does not include watching games at night, catching up with SportsCenter in the morning, or all the work that his team puts into the show before he arrives and after he leaves each day.
Colin says he leans on three guys: board operator “Fish” is the ears of the show and in charge of audio; associate producer Tom finds stats, stories and support information; producer Vince is helping Colin with creative writing and content development.
Out of the two hours and fifteen minutes, about twenty minutes is used to write the opening rant. He also previews the available audio and works with his team to develop multiple angles to the big stories of the day.
“You’re writing a sitcom. Everyone is throwing out ideas, and I’m editing saying, ‘Yes! That’s good. Vince that’s a good line.’ We just keep building,” Colin says, describing his 7:15 am meetings. So, when the dust clears and the ‘on air’ light turns red, what’s the goal? “I do believe, going into most segments, you have to take the audience somewhere. Take them somewhere emotionally. I say this often, ‘Make them ‘blank.’ Make them laugh, make them mad, make them annoyed, make them think, make them cry. Make people ‘blank.’ Take them somewhere.”
Armed with the same information about the same teams and games that everybody watched, the same stats and the same audio as every other host in the nation, how does Colin create something new and different that takes his audience somewhere?
Colin explains one of his strategies: “It’s not about the team, it’s about the star player. People like Kobe, not the Lakers. It’s not about the Giants, it’s about Eli. It’s not about the Packers it’s about Aaron Rogers. I get criticized for it and get a lot of attention for it. I take on the athlete. So, I will find a player and I’m with him or against him. I’m on his side or I’m not. It gets really personal. I think everybody in this business talks about the team, but research shows people buy the jersey of the player. I find, the more you talk about a player it’s much more interesting radio. People take sides, there are lines in the sand, it’s a verbal tug-o-war and it’s very compelling.”
He also says he creates a theory or strong opinion for each branch of each topic and writes it down. He refers to this during breaks and then has it in front of him while he’s talking about it so he can refer back to it periodically during the segment and stay on topic.
Colin stresses the importance of playing the hits. “ESPN is very much like the weather channel. When a hurricane hits we all go to the weather channel. When Michael Vick’s in trouble we all go to ESPN. In my business, I’m rooting for dumpster fires. I’m rooting for messes. I’m rooting for controversy, because that’s what my audience loves.”
Listen to the full interview here, including Colin’s revelations on PPM, how personal you should get on the air and how he judges his own shows.
As a programmer, my response to this common host complaint was, “I don’t care.” It’s true. I don’t care what Joe on the West Side thinks about a topic. I want to know what the host thinks and why. If you want to use callers as one of the weapons in your arsenal, to further emphasize why you believe what you believe and advance the discussion of the topic, that’s great. If you want callers so you can judge the success of your show, you are misguided. Most listeners don’t and won’t call the station. The ones who do are likely calling the other stations in town too.
However, if your goal of a segment or show is to get callers, here are some tips.
1. Don’t throw out empty solicits. Here’s what that means, “If you want to call the show, here’s the number…we can talk about anything you want!” – This is lazy, unfocused, and not entertaining. It also isn’t often too successful. You are in control of your show and what’s discussed, not the callers. Play the hits and make sure the callers stay on topic.
2. Take a position and defend it. Too often I hear talk hosts asking questions out loud as a way to “cover” stories (Why is this team so bad? How did this happen? Is this good or bad? What do you think they should do?…). Stop it. These are all valid questions, but instead of asking them, you should be answering them. Your answers, formulated before the show, become the topics / angles of your show. People are much more likely to have an opinion about your opinion than about the topic itself. It’s the difference between asking someone what they think of flowers … or saying, “I hate flowers. They are a waste of money, they’re messy, and they make me sneeze.” The statement is going to evoke more of an emotional response than the question
3. Put the listeners to work. When asking for phone calls, put your listeners to work with a specific task.
- BAD Example: What are your thoughts on Brett Favre?
- GOOD Example: What will Brett Favre‘s legacy be?
- BETTER Example: If Brett Favre were to die today, what would be the first sentence of his obituary?
4. Make lists. Rank stuff. People love this stuff and will argue with you about it for hours. You want callers? Rank the top 10 sports moments of 2010. Make sure you declare and defend what is #1.
5. Give the phone number. Say the phone number slowly. Repeat it. I have air-checked shows after a host complained there were no calls only to realize he never gave out the number or said it so fast and infrequent, I couldn’t even write it down. *remember Smart Phones don’t have letters associated with the numbers like older phones do…so 1-800-Say-ESPN doesn’t work as well as it once did.
That’s how you get callers. How to screen them is another story to be told later.
PPM is about four years old and we continue to learn more about how to use the insane amount of information it provides and what strategies to use to maximize ratings. Inside Radio and Research Director Inc. just released a new study on PPM based on the top 30 markets. Research Director Partner Charlie Sislen talked to LarryGifford.com about the study (click here for the full study) and he provides strategic tips for programmers who are struggling in this new world.
One of the findings in the study which may be disturbing to programmers of spoken word formats is that CUME is more important than was first thought. “Everybody knows in the PPM world CUME is important, but when you look at top skewing radio stations they are all really CUME and not TSL driven. We really believe it’s the P1 CUME that’s doing it,” says Sislen.
Sislen notes that play-by-play can help the spoken word format draw in CUME, but it is not a magic bullet; the success of play-by-play depends on the team and the market, and in many cases it can be a detriment. “What a programmer has to recognize is that this event is an important launching point for your radio station to recycle this audience back in. Take them from being P4s and get them into regular listeners. Give them a reason to come in to the other day parts and give them a reason to come back the next day, the next week, some time outside of that play-by-play.”
So how can you win with PPM? Sislen offers the three “C’s” for talk hosts;
“If you’re not crisp, concise and compelling and you’re spoken word, the listener is going to go away, and the moment the listener goes away the PPM knows it.”
For programmers, Sislen stresses the importance of building occasions. “For sports, to put it in perspective, the typical P1 spends 6:44 with the radio station (per week). You get four more occasions (of at least five minutes within a quarter-hour) from those people that 6:44 has gone to 7:44. That’s massive. We’re just talking about your P1s and we’re getting them to come in just four more times in an entire week.”
The other hot issue is clocks. How many spots are you running and where are you running them? Some suggest two breaks per hour straddling the top and bottom quarter-hours and Sislen doesn’t disagree. “In a vacuum, absolutely that’s true. However, we don’t live in a vacuum and the spoken word is different than a music format and you’ve got to know what your competitions clocks are. Study your clocks and make sure you understand the rules that you need to garnish to get credit for a quarter-hour.” Once you figure out your competitors clocks, Sislen says you should be going into content when they go into commercial break. It’s that simple.
Listen to our entire conversation, including the importance of marketing your show and station, how buyers and sellers still need more education and what’s next for PPM.