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Posts Tagged ‘Colin Cowherd’

Eight Ingredients of Remarkable Radio Shows

There are a lot of remarkable radio shows in America and they each have found success their own way. Which means there are far more than eight things to consider when trying to build a show up, but this is a great start.

These tips ring true to me which is why I isolated them from original interviews I conducted with each of these hosts. All the conversations can be found on the Radio Stuff Soundcloud page.

Notice none of the talent talk about billboards, bumper stickers or social media. Great shows can benefit from those things, but bad shows cannot be made great with marketing.

RELATED: SEVEN INGREDIENTS OF GREAT RADIO TALENT

And now, eight ingredients of remarkable radio shows.

beanyellowtee (1)

Gene “Bean” Baxter

Be consistent, but not predictable. “Show up every day, be prepared, and evolve.” Gene Baxter a.k.a. Bean of Kevin & Bean explains, “We’re not the guys, generally, that are doing the same bit we did 10 years ago or 20 years ago. We’re looking for new things to do and new things to talk about. As hard as it is to get young people to listen to FM Radio these days I think that’s why we’ve had some success bringing them along because we are still trying to talk about contemporary things.”

Be authentic. “There’s a lot of fake conservatives on the air, a lot of comedians disguised as political pundits, and I avoided the temptation to do that,” Tom Leykis remembers when he was offered an opportunity to be a conservative talker. “I chose to go my own road and that means to not lie about who I am, to not pretend about stuff, to say what I mean and mean what I say.”

Build a team you can trust. I chatted with Elvis Duran about this at Radiodays Europe this year, “Being surrounded by people who get the message and understand that what we do is monumental to so many people. The people we work with and support us are the most important people without them I could never see myself going to work every day by myself. I couldn’t do it.”

Strive to be interesting. ESPN host Colin Cowherd advises host to stop worrying about being right, “Just try to be interesting. It’s not about being right. Guys tend to want to be right instead of get it right. Just be interesting. Try to get it right. Try to find compelling topics that everybody can play along with.”

BJ and Larry

BJ Shea, Larry Gifford, Producer Steve

Everyone knows their role. The BJ Shea Morning Experience in Seattle has a big crew, but everyone has a job. “What I do right is not get in the way, because what I used to do is get in the way” BJ explains his job is to be the host – NOT the producer, “I would think that I have to run the show, I’d have to be part of the planning and I’m an attention-deficit mess. I disrupt everybody else. My ideas are good in the moment, in that manic, bi-polar high moment where, “Holy Cow! This is the greatest idea ever!” and my entire life I have ruined everything because I really shouldn’t be that guy. I should be performing. So, Steve truly is a producer. He is in charge of the whole show. If Steve doesn’t like it, it doesn’t air. And I would say probably – honestly – 10% of my ideas get used. And I give Steve a lot of ideas. But, I also empower him to say this is it. I’m kind of afraid of Steve now. It’s kinda cool. I’ve made Steve the boss of the show to the point that I don’t want to disappoint him.”

Appreciate the audience. “More radio hosts, especially new ones getting into the business, have to get back to basics, understand sports and connecting with their audience,” JT the Brick of Fox Sports Radio refers to sports talk, but his point is actually format-agnostic. “I think there is a big disconnect now between the super successful sports radio hosts who don’t go to any games, don’t meet their audience, and preach to their audience about how good they are or how good their show is or what they believe is the future of sports. Compared to the hosts, hopefully like I am, who continues to want to touch, and shake the hands and kiss the babies and meet these guys, because that is the connection I think you need to have.”

Tom Leykis in his Burbank studio.

Tom Leykis

Create a show filter. A filter helps your focus on the right stories and influence HOW you talk about them. This may not seem like a formula for success for an active rock morning show, but BJ Shea swears it works, “The soul of the show is relationships. Whenever we’re talking about anything I’ll always bring it back to relationships and basically the key relationships are familial, you got your husband/wife, brother/sister, mother/father, and then that of course can translate into the work place. That’s the soul of our show, because it hits everybody.”

Remember radio’s mission. “I’m a radio personality,” says Tom Leykis. “I’m not here to get people elected or get people impeached. I’m here to generate revenue. So many people in our business now have forgotten what our mission is. My mission is to get as many people to listen to your station as possible and then to get advertisers to buy those ears and compensate us so were drowning in money.”

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The Real Difference Between Colin Cowherd & Dan Patrick

Patrick v Cowherd 3It is well documented now that ESPN’s Colin Cowherd and DirecTV’s Dan Patrick have their differences. But, this article isn’t about which guy displays superior work ethic. This is about how truly unique and differently talented they are.

As background: I worked with both guys at the ESPN radio network in the early 2000’s. I arrived as a program director in Bristol, CT in January 2005. I oversaw four shows; Mike & Mike, The Herd with Colin Cowherd, The Dan Patrick Show and SportsBash with Erik Kuselias. At that time, Cowherd was still relatively new. He replaced Tony Kornheiser in 2003. Patrick’s show was the established show and evolving; Rob Dibble was let go in December 2004.

Creator vs. Reactor

What I discovered after working with both hosts is that they are different animals. Colin is a natural creator. He’s constantly writing, working on angles and metaphors, and figuring out where sports and life naturally interconnect. He would bounce ideas off of anybody who would listen. He’d come to my office and throw a few things at me, gauge my reaction, grab a piece of candy and be on his way. His goal is to provoke you, to make you think differently or as he told me in an interview on Radio Stuff, “be interesting.” He’s an extrovert who will talk your ear off.

Dan is a classic reactor. He loves hearing what other people have to say; friends, callers, producers, commissioners and then parse it for what’s interesting, find inconsistencies, and explore it further. He’s rather introverted, formulating thoughts, opinions and angles internally. He’s a collaborator whose opinions are often masked through his curiosity. In show meetings, we would stand around in the bullpen and throw topics and suggested angles at him. If you didn’t have anything to contribute, you weren’t needed. Even me. He would stand there, listen and react. When we started working together he would open each show with 5 or 6 big questions. His true opinions, suppressed for years behind an anchor desk, were apparent only by the phrasing of the questions. He’s evolved, but that is where his strength lies. That’s why guests, regular contributors and the “Danettes” are so valuable to his show. He lets them shine, because he loves reacting to them.

The difference is exactly how this “feud” has played out. Colin ripped Dan for his work ethic and Dan responded.

Creators and reactors are equally talented and valuable to a radio station. It’s more complicated than this, but in essence; Colin creates unique content, Dan curates unique content. Keep in mind, Dan’s ability to react is what makes him so effective during live TV broadcasts whether it’s the Super Bowl, the Olympics, or SportsCenter. Colin’s skill as creative opinion-maker allows him to be more of a character on radio which opened doors for him on TV, Pixar, and writing a book.

They’re both smart guys, they both have healthy egos (which is a critical element for their jobs), they both work at their craft and demand excellence around them, and they both are finding success beyond their radio shows.

It was an honor to work with and learn from them and I hope over time they can put aside this pettiness and be comfortable with each other’s success. There is plenty of room for everyone at the sports buffet.

I also discuss this and play audio of the feud in Episode 88 of the Radio Stuff Podcast.


Subscribe to the Larry Gifford Media “Radio Stuff” email and each Tuesday you’ll receive an email with all sorts of stuff about radio. Sign up here.

Ask Larry! Episode 14

Larry Gifford answers three questions about radio: What do you listen for on an air check? How perfect should a pre recorded show be? How do I become the next “Colin Cowherd?”

I Didn’t Die in 2013 and Other Great Things

taking stockIt’s the time of year where I like to take stock. How’d we do? At Larry Gifford Media this burgeoning empire based on a blog, we – and by “we” I mean I – had a great year and I appreciate all the support. Just last week the blog hit a milestone of 25,000 page views. 10,000 of those coming in 2013.

THE WORLD IS WATCHING

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When you dig into the numbers, visitors to the blog originate from 88 different countries. The most hits come from the USA, followed by UK, Canada, South Africa and Greece. (Side note: I’ve been to US, Canada and UK this year – looking for invites from friends in South Africa and Greece – hint, hint.)

SEARCHING FOR SOMETHING…

How are people finding the blog? Knowing this can be disturbing and fun.

Somebody searched “larry gifford obit june 2013” – Apparently, someone thought I died – or wished I had. That person was either heartened or bummed upon discovering I was alive and well. Another searched, “you’re mean go away cat.”  And for some reason the blog popped up for this search “if you spill something on yourself chance you’ll miss ‘mary tyler moore.’” I have to believe the people searching those terms were very frustrated in what they found. Hopefully that wasn’t the case for everyone.

I find people’s names attract the most people to the blog. Here are the top 13  search terms used to find LarryGifford.com

  • Complaint
  • ways in which radio  has embraced social media
  • tom leykis
  • steak shapiro
  • larry gifford
  • the nba
  • keep looking up because that’s where it’s at (Kidd Kraddick)
  • jim cutler voice over
  • lex and terry fired
  • life is good radio
  • paula deen parodies
  • jimi hendrix vocal range
  • bruce gilbert fox sports radio

endofyearTHE TOP POSTS OF 2013

In the coming days I’ll be unveiling the top 25 blog posts of the year.

Here are #25 through #16

25. Covering Colin Cowherd

24. Eight Things I Takeaway From HIVIO

23. TV Writers Taking Cheap Shots at Radio

22. Beware of “The Line”

21. How Do You Get Better? Improv(e).

20. Unsolicited Advice: Don’t Do This

19. How to Handle Host’s Controversial Comments

18. Lessons from NextRadio, London

17. Four Things Hosts Can Do To Improve Ratings

16. Seven Take Aways from Mike McVay

DON’T JUST READ, LISTEN TO ME

Radio Stuff Podcast LogoThis year I also launched THE RADIO STUFF PODCAST with co-host Deb Slater this year. It’s been tons of fun and really interesting. A couple of the blog posts listed above were inspired by podcast segments. It’s been great flexing my “hosting” muscles again and extremely rewarding talking to so many interesting and remarkable people around the world who make radio so special.

Thanks to you and everyone who has read, listened, talked about, shared, liked, commented, or agreed to be interviewed. Wishing you and yours a great holiday and a safe, happy, ratings-filled 2014!!

Ideas Are Overrated

“We’ve all got great ideas. Everybody on the street has an idea.”

– ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd

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What’s the difference between a good show and great show? Topic development. At least that’s the case if you ask ESPN Radio Network host Colin Cowherd who discussed it at length in an interview with the Radio Stuff podcast.

“The one thing I’m really proud of is topic development. We love Wednesdays. Monday and Friday we’re trapped talking about football, but we love Wednesday shows. You come in and find a little blip on a transaction wire and we’re like, ‘that’s funny!’ and ‘that makes me think…’”   

4 KEYS TO TOPIC DEVELOPMENT ACCORDING TO COLIN COWHERD

Don’t worry about being right, be interesting.

“I take stuff from my kids, I take stuff from sit-coms, books, ideas. I always think – just try to be interesting. It’s not about being right. Guys tend to want to be right, instead of get it right. Just be interesting. Try to find compelling topics that everybody can play along.”

Personalize the story

“I think how would I react? I think about that with athletes; Would I retire now? Would I take less money to be surrounded by better teammates like Kobe Bryant now? Because, we’re all human no matter if you’re rich or a school teacher or a basketball player or you’re a local dentist or a baker. We’re all human beings. Men have the same basic needs and wants and ego. Women have the same needs and wants. We’re all the same. It’s just some people have different economic stratus and different interests.” 

Put in the hours

“I think about my radio show a lot. Radio never leaves you. It’s not like being a garbage man where your run is done for the day and you’ve done it — or a mailman and then you go home and you don’t have to worry about it until the next day. Radio is with you almost like being a doctor. You’ve got clients, you’ve got things that are constantly swirling in your head and I write down notes several times a week.”

Get a producer who wants to produce

“A really good radio producer, to me, doesn’t want to be an on-air person. They want to be a producer. And they get really good at it. And they try to elevate the on-air person with good guests, playing to his strengths, playing to her strengths, staying away from weaknesses.”

LISTEN to Colin Cowherd on The Radio Stuff Podcast

You Are A Brand

Cowherd GraphicIn 2013, it is no longer good enough for talk hosts to be a faceless voice in a dark room talking into a microphone.

“I’ve got a book now, I’ve got a twitter account. I’ve got a radio show. I’ve got podcasts. I do a TV show on Sunday.”

Colin Cowherd, ESPN Radio Network host talked about the importance of developing your brand during an interview with the Radio Stuff podcast.

“I realize at this point and time in 2013 I’m not going to be your only source of information, I just want to be one of them. And so I’ve got to give you as many opportunities to find me as I can. We live in a multi-layered world of media. So, I’ve got to be on Facebook and twitter and radio and podcasts and TV and at different times of the day; morning-drive and afternoon. People are busy. My job is to find other avenues to connect with the public. And that’s what the book is and that’s what my Sunday morning show is.”

Colin’s book is “You Herd Me! I’ll Say It If Nobody Else Will.” He tells Radio Stuff it’s an important brand extension.

“I think, more than ever, now it is important — even Rush Limbaugh just came out with one (a book.) I mean Rush is making so much money it doesn’t matter, but he has the tea brand and the book. I look at twitter and I post a couple times a day. If I can get you to think about me once-a-day, when I’m off the air, that’s not a bad thing. I’ve got a book now, you’ll think about me during the holidays.”

So how does a guy like Colin have time to do it all?

“It seems like I put in these infinite, bizarre hours, but no more than an attorney, a doctor, or an executive. I’m very time efficient with things I do. I come in and grind my radio show and then I have time for a good 90 minutes a day to talk to radio stations and talk to advertisers. I think we all have time in our day; you just have to be more efficient.”

How to Handle Host’s Controversial Comments

controversial

This week, Perry Michael Simon at AllAccess.com interviewed me for his “10 Questions with…” feature. One of the questions he asked lead to a more complex answer than I’m sure he was looking for, but it bears repeating.

What’s the best way to handle a host’s controversial comments — when is it best to unequivocally support the talent and when is it best to apologize or suspend or cut bait and run?

Well, I’ve encountered quite a few controversial on-air moments from dealing with Rush’s comments on Sandra Fluke to local hosts who get too graphic, push the envelope too far, or fail – offensively – at an attempt at humor. When I was at ESPN, Colin Cowherd used to say his job was to walk so close to the line each day that I’d be uncomfortable at times. He did his job well.

If I hear it and don’t get any complaints, my main reaction is to pull the audio, listen to it again, pull the offenders into the office, listen to the piece, have a conversation, and explain why I believe it was out of line. I usually offer suggestions on how it could be handled differently.

complainersIf you’re dealing with listener complaints it’s tricky. If you apologize too quickly, it shows a lack of faith in the product. If you’re too defensive it appears the station is deaf to criticism. While at KIRO FM, my GM Carl Gardner shared a great document with me on how to deal with listener complaints and I still have it. Here are the main points.

  • Take all calls seriously. Respond to everyone. You may learn something new about your product.
  • Don’t exaggerate and don’t let others exaggerate. People like to say, “we’re getting TONS of complaints…advertisers are cancelling business!!” – when, in fact, it maybe a handful of complaints or less. Seek the truth, don’t let people spread myths.
  • Resist the temptation to apologize, argue or debate. Listen carefully with empathy. Most callers just want someone to hear them out.
  • If something was said factually wrong — own it. If you were wrong – apologize. If someone is offended, explain the nature of some programs is to stimulate debate and discussion.
  • If you haven’t personally heard the remarks at issue, insist on hearing them yourself before responding. It’s impossible to respond intelligently to something you’ve never heard, in context, yourself. Many times what is ‘heard’ is taken entirely out of context.
  • Likewise, determine if the person complaining actually heard the comments or are responding to something they were told.
  • Don’t share every complaint with the air staff. Any show working to break through will be noticed and at times disrupt listeners and advertisers. Sharing every bit of feedback can have a negative impact on their confidence.
  • Believe in your product. Even though complaints can be uncomfortable, be confident and positive about your station, while remaining open to constructive feedback.
  • People will tell you they’re boycotting your customers and writing them letters – they rarely do.