Posts Tagged ‘Fox Sports Radio’

One Thing Radio Has That Everybody Else Wants

liveEvery day radio DJs and talk hosts do something that strikes fear into others…

They crack a mic and talk to thousands of people at one time “live.”

That’s right, “live!” and without a net (other than a 7-second delay for dumping curse words.)

I can hear your sarcastic mumbling from here, “Woo hoo! Wowzers. Big deal, buddy. Why’s that something to write about?”

Well, it turns out people like “live” and radio has it in droves. However, for some reason we are taking this huge attribute and for the most part scuttling it.

Meantime, others are scrambling to capitlize on “live.”

knock-knock-liveRyan Seacrest is building an empire on “live.” He has “live” voting on American Idol and “live” performances, a “live” radio show (sometimes replayed and repackaged), a “live” countdown to New Year’s Eve and tonight he launches a new TV show called, “Knock! Knock! Live.” It’s billed by Fox TV as “the show where anything can and will happen.” They can say that because it is “live.”

“Live” is more thrilling. It makes it more dangerous, more daring, and more exciting. Though somehow radio doesn’t feel that way. We no longer view “live” as special, so our listeners don’t either and I believe that’s a mistake.

But even more than how it feels, “live” creates an instant community of people experiencing something at the same time. It makes it more special because we aren’t just watching or listening to something, we are bearing witness to it. There is something powerful to having a shared experience. Media companies of all shapes and sizes get that and are trying their best to capture it.

It is in fact one of the cornerstones of Apple Music’s Beats1 channel. It’s a shared, global, listening experience. It’s “live” from London, New York, and L.A. and you are listening “live” wherever you are anywhere and everywhere in the world.

After a successful and funny “live” show in the spring, NBC renewed the fairly average sit-com “Undateable” for 13 episodes this fall with the caveat that all the episodes are broadcast “live.” Let us not forget the enduring success of Saturday Night Live.

TV and radio networks also spend hundreds of millions of dollars for the rights to “live” sporting events, because historically those are the most watched and listened to events – ever.

Tom Leykis has a bit called “Be Funny Live” on his New Normal Network internet radio show and it is so successful he created a sold-out event at a comedy club around the premise.

You can listen to your favorite band or artist on your device as often as you want, but seeing them “live” is light years better.

What’s the attraction to Periscope? It’s “live” video that you can interact with in real-time.

“Live” tweeting events and pre-recorded shows is almost more entertaining and enjoyable than the actual event or show.

I could go on…

At this very moment in time when “authenticity” is one of radio’s buzzy buzz words, the industry has a real opportunity to own the “where anything can happen” moniker. Unfortunately, we seem so restricted by our companies, brands, managers, and stock holders that rarely anything does. And the audience doesn’t anticipate that it will.


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Radio Odds and Ends

November 5, 2014 2 comments

I drove a total of about 10 hours yesterday to catch up with radio friends and listen to the radio. It also gives you time to think, come up with new ideas and dream a bit. I have a renewed focus and a more positive attitude starting my day today. Here are some things I heard, saw and thought that may be of interest to you.


I heard a bunch of a election coverage. There was no greater test for my brain than flipping between NPR and Fox News Radio coverage of the midterm elections; different tone, different language, different storylines. Both were biased. Both served their audiences. Neither was misleading.

Non-stop election coverage is rewarding for anchors and reporters, but hard work. I heard national anchors and local reporters all lose their thoughts, get choked up by dry mouth, and fumble through names and issues they weren’t prepped to discuss. You can’t over prepare for a night like this.

I didn’t hear anyone fumble and most of the coverage was informative and timely with the right level of excitement and urgency.


I saw this on the 405-South heading out of Los Angeles. I had to turn around and drive by again to snap this photo going 60 miles an hour (not recommended).


TAKEAWAY: I think KFI is threatening me.

Two points here. It’s hard to be funny and I think they’re trying to be funny. Humor is tough and extremely subjective. Use it with caution. Secondly, how is “stay connected” any different of a benefit from most other radio stations? Keeping listeners connected (to news, community, music, etc.) is really the goal of most stations regardless of format. It doesn’t provide a differentiation point


“Best advice (I’ve received) is to go through life with an “F— it!” attitude. Nothing is as bad as you think it is at the time. You can survive practically anything. And the best way get through things is to realize that it’s all going  to pass.”  – Perry Michael Simon,, on the Hermosa Beach Pier Plaza.


A note to the country morning show host who opens each break with the double time check (11 minutes after 7, 7-11 on your home for…) stop it. The 80’s called and it want’s the analog time check back please. Stick with the digital read out. It’s shorter, simpler, and easier to understand. Rule of thumb: never have listeners do math in their head when you’re just trying to tell them the time.


“The Mayor joins us next to talk about the election” is a programming note not a tease. Find a way to make me want to listen. Instead of WHO you’re going to have on think of the WHY you WANT him on and WHAT he’s going to provide that’s worth sticking around for.


“There are some really good 40 second ads out there (in Los Angeles) that have been padded into a minute. If you could sell ads in multiples of :10 instead of :30s or :60s could the creative be rather better than it currently is? Because the creative of some of the ads I was hearing was not quite as high as I was hoping it would be.” – Radio Futurologist James Cridland on the shores of Laguna Beach


Bring a gift. I feel both special and inadequate meeting with James Cridland. He arrived with a thoughtful gift for me and all I brought was a camera so we could take our picture together. His was more useful to me than mine to him. 🙂

bookJames Cridland and Larry Gifford

Radio Brothers Bond over Sports and Chemo

August 30, 2013 3 comments
41pOd+u2ScL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BOOK REVIEW 
The Handoff: A Memoir of Two Guys, Sports and Friendship 
By John “JT the Brick” Tournour and Alan Eisenstock
Available on 

I admit I was reluctant to read The Handoff, because I know how the story ends – with the untimely death of sports radio’s bigger-than-life ambassador, mentor, friend and programmer Andrew Ashwood. However, I am better for having pushed through.

This is a book about brotherhood, determination, vulnerability, passion, certainty, self-confidence, self-awareness, and one guy’s successful rise from high-octane, motivated, passionate stock broker to high-octane, motivated, passionate sports radio host.

Through his journey of excesses, friendships, and passions, we accompany JT (currently a host on Fox Sports Radio from 1a-6a ET, 10p-3a PT)  as he comes-of-age over and over again. The reader witnesses his evolution into a man, a husband, a father, a friend and talk show host. We are there as  John transforms into JT and we are cheering with his buddies when he earns the name “Brick.” It’s funny, intense, authentic, emotional and ultimately hopeful.

Click HERE to LISTEN to JT the BrickJT rips his heart open for examination allowing the world to peer into his dreams, doubts, passions, and feelings. From being elected president of his fraternity to moving across country away from his boyhood home and then again when he quits his lucrative stock broker job only to pay his way on the radio – you will be rooting for JT.

Somewhat surprising for a sports host known for his scratchy, bullhorn of a voice and for banging the phones, JT is refreshingly self-deprecating, self-aware, and reflective. Even though I knew how it ended, it was a captivating roller coaster of a  journey. The book gives an honest behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to succeed in life and radio. You’ll be motivated by JT’s hustle and moxy, and feel the urge to reconnect with friends from the past.

One of the lessons Andrew passed along was to “make someone’s day.”

Reading this has made mine. Thanks JT.

“Payoffs” – Defining Moments of Your Show

March 27, 2011 1 comment

“Payoff” is quickly usurping “Play the Hits” as king of buzz words among news-talk and sports programmers and consultants. Both are important concepts for driving ratings, but the terms are used so frequently the meaning is becoming muddled.

I asked a handful of people — programmers, producers, and consultants — to help me define “payoff.”

Don Martin at Fox Sports Radio was quick to point out the first bit of confusion with the term.

“First blush when I hear the term ‘payoff’ in the radio vernacular, two definitions jump to the forefront and one is an FCC infraction.”

So let’s be clear. We are not talking payola. No money exchanges hands in the type of payoff we are talking about unless a listener wins a contest or your payoffs are so good your ratings go up and revenue flies through the door.

Martin continues,“My definition of a payoff from a programming stand point, is the call to action tease that your talent uses to keep your audience through commercial breaks.”

When I coach talent about payoffs, I describe it as something that prompts a response from a listener.  The goal is to take the listener somewhere they’ve never been so when they get to the destination they react unconsciously — audibly or internally. That very well could be the lack of action too or not changing the radio station for a commercial break, because you want to hear the story that was just teased. That’s the infamous “driveway moment.”

Pete Gianesini, a programmer at the ESPN Radio Network, defines payoff this way.

“A strong, genuine reaction from the listener… could be a belly laugh, could be anger, could be bewilderment, could be a piece of information that I now can’t wait to share with someone else (a real-life re-tweet).”

I love the idea of a real-life re-tweet. I also call it social currency. It’s what the listener earns in return for investing time into your show or station.

Rick Scott at Rick Scott & Associates adds, “A payoff is simply content that has value for the listener. It can be entertaining, informative, or insightful.”

The trick to this is that the value Rick talks about is perceived by the listener not the host or station. So it’s important to reinforce the value of your content to your listener through branding and positioning. Don’t be afraid to tell listeners that what they are hearing is special.

At 104.3FM The Fan in Denver, Programmer Nate Lundy adds another layer.

“Payoffs happen when the team has managed to achieve one of two goals.  Either building up the image and the brand of the station, or bringing a positive effect on the ratings.  The biggest and best payoffs accomplish both, but you don’t need to have both for it to be considered a success.”

Nate is right. The goal of payoffs is to increase listening to the station. Listening increases when people feel there is a value to spending more time with the station. So, as ratings increase it’s fair to assume revenue will increase and the brand of the station grows accordingly.

At 710 ESPN in Seattle, Brian Long expands the payoff to beyond the scope of the host.

“I would define a payoff when a promotion, tease, or on-air bit has the right amount of build-up creating interest and then is effectively paid off.”

This is an important point. Listeners don’t always discern the difference between payoffs. They don’t even know they are waiting for a payoff. We use that word; they don’t. So, a promotion can definitely provide a payoff. A station event or remote can also provide a payoff, as well as traffic reports, weather reports, and news or sports updates, but again only if the listener perceives it as a value.

So put all of that into a blender and here is the definition of a payoff as it relates to radio. 

One example of a payoff that stands out to Gianesini is how Colin Cowherd handled Aaron Rodgers following the Super Bowl.

“After not buying into Aaron Rodgers as an NFL superstar, Colin had him on the day after he won the Super Bowl. Aaron was very much aware of Colin’s position and put Colin on the spot during their piece. It was just the right mix of lighthearted, yet uncomfortable, to be very compelling. And completely unscripted. That’s the hard part. While I believe you have to plan your show and promote specific elements more than ever and further in advance than ever, you can’t be SO committed to the minute-by-minute that you don’t let spontaneity happen. That’s where the magic is.”

Talkers Magazine Slights Sports Talk

Talkers Magazine is out with its HEAVY 100 talk show hosts for 2011. The criteria are subjective, but they use a combination of hard and soft factors for evaluating candidates including; courage, effort, impact, longevity, potential, ratings, recognition, revenue, service, talent and unique-ness.  Here’s the breakdown for sports hosts.

#34 Boomer & Carton (WFAN)

#36 Jim Rome (Premiere)

#38 Mike Francesa (WFAN)

#49 Mike & Mike (ESPN)

#67 Glen Ordway (WEEI)

#88 The Sports Junkies (WJFK)

Determining a list like this is hard. It’s subjective. There are no “right” answers. But, based on this list, I believe the definition of what makes a sports talk radio host and show great is too narrow. The list leans awfully far to the East coast and half the list feels like a lifetime achievement award instead of a true representation of what is good sports talk radio in 2011. Yes, I’m looking at you Jim Rome.

I don’t believe Jim Rome deserves such a high ranking. Yes, I know he was a trail-blazer, he created a unique style and has longevity. Great, put him in the hall of fame. Sports talk has evolved behind his schtick and as far as I can tell he’s doing the same show he did in 1997. He’s the second best show in our format?   

Here is another question. Are there really only six sports radio hosts worthy of the Talkers 100? There are nearly 700 sports talk stations nationwide and three major sports radio networks that crank out programming 24/7. Yes, not every sports radio host is of the caliber of Rush Limbaugh or Phil Hendrie, but sports hosts are entertaining  and relevant enough to be worthy of more than 6% of the list. By my math, if there are 2200 talk stations and 700 sports stations, sports talkers should make up about 24% of the list.

It’s mind-numbing to me that Colin Cowherd, Dan Patrick, and Angelo Cataldi are also-ran on this list.  And where are Mitch Levy from Seattle, Gambo & Ash in Phoenix,  Herbstreit, Spielman & Hooley in Columbus,  Walddle & Silvy, Mike North or the Afternoon Saloon in Chicago and others? These shows are great.

There are a lot of great sports radio talent omitted from this list that deserve recognition. Who would you add and how would rank ‘em?

Thanks to Perry Simon at for some of the stats cited.

 OTHERS (in alphabetical order) Who made the Talkers 250

  • Ralph Barbieri & Tom Tolbert (KNBR)
  • Joe Benigno & Evan Roberts (WFAN)
  • Angelo Cataldi (WIP)
  • Colin Cowherd (ESPN)
  • Dennis & Callahan (WEEI)
  • George Dunham & Craig Miller (KTCK)
  • Howard Eskin (WIP)
  • JT The Brick ( Fox Sports Radio)
  • Dan LeBatard (WAXY)
  • Mason & Ireland (KSPN)
  • Loose Cannons (Fox Sports Radio)
  • Petros & Money (Fox Sports Radio)
  • Dan Patrick (Premiere)
  • George Plaster (WGFX)
  • Sid Rosenberg (WQAM)
  • Steve Somers (WFAN0
  • Two Live Stews (WQXI)
  • Dan Sileo (WDAE)
  • Mike Valenti & Terry Foster (WXYT)
  • Scott Van Pelt & Ryen Russillo (ESPN)

Sports Talk of the Town

stephen a smith

Stephen A. Smith

Sports radio consultant Rick Scott hosted a panel on sports talk with heavy hitters; ESPN’s Scott Masteller, Fox Sports Radio‘s Don Martin, CBS Radio‘s Bruce Gilbert and Fox Sports Radio talent Stephen A. Smith. Here are the consensus five keys to success for sports talkers.

 Talent, Talent, Talent  Talent is your life blood. It is what makes your station unique and creates all the original content you need for all the different platforms.

“A PD’s respect of talent is important to establishing trust.” – Stephen A. Smith

 “Hire really good people that are smart, engaging and compelling and let them do their damn job. Get out of the way.” – Bruce Gilbert, CBS Radio

“PDs need to understand: number one, you need patience and number two, you need courage. Patience for PPM and courage to hire people you’re going to back. Quit over-programming talent after you teach them how ‘radio’ works.” -Don Martin, Fox Sports Radio

Play by Play Obtaining rights are key to driving CUME. If you can get the NFL, get it.

“Football is king!’ – Scott Masteller, ESPN

Credibility Some sports stations venture into guy talk, which is fine as long as you don.t miss a big sports story.

“You can’t just do this job, you gotta live it… I came out of the womb opinionated… I’m a personality you can reach out and touch. I say what I say, I believe what I say and I stand up and defend what I said. I’m approachable. I go to games and interact with the people. I was a beat writer for a decade – I’m known for breaking stories. Hate me or love me, as long as your listening, I don’t care.” – Stephen A Smith

Seize the Moment When something is given to you, ride that pony until it’s out of breath. You may be sick of Brett Favre talk, but your fans can’t get enough of it.

Event Programming These will drive ratings (Super Bowl, Lebron Press Conference, etc.), but you must have a plan to drive listening and capitalize on the additional CUME through recycling.

Rick Scott posted the audio here