Look Who’s Talking: Colin Cowherd

by Larry Gifford for “Let’s Talk About It’ Newsletter (sign up for free at www.larrygifford.com) and based on an interview with Colin Cowherd (Colin Cowherd Interview Podcast)

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.”

 The Herd with Colin Cowherd weekdays 10a-1p ET/7a-10a PT on ESPN Radio and ESPNRadio.com  

 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.

  1. January 14, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    Great interview, Larry.

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