Posts Tagged ‘Sports radio’

Counting Down the Top Posts of 2013 #15 to #6

December 23, 2013 1 comment

LGM 2013 count down

As the New Year approaches we continue the 2013 Count Down of the year’s top blog posts (#25 to #16 here). Interesting to note, one of the blog posts below (#12) was written and posted in October 2010, yet still gets tons of traffic each year.  Another  (#15) was posted in May 2012.

#15 Brock & Salk Turn a Battleground into Common Ground

Despite being posted in May 2012, this post detailing the relationship and partnership of Seattle sports talkers Brock Huard and Mike Salk was popular, because Salk left the show for a gig in Boston this year.

#14 Does Internet Radio Value Radio More Than Radio?

Observations of a radio guy seeing signs of how the internet has hi-jacked the brand of “radio” that the industry has developed and earned through decades of blood, sweat and tears of building relationships with listeners.

#13 Recipe for a Paula Deen Parody

Oh, Paula Deen…

#12 Look Who’s Talking: Jim Cutler

Profiling one of the best voice artists in the world.

#11 The Producer Game Is Changing

I offer a response to a host’s open letter in Talkers about his producer and I offer 20 Tips on being a more effective producer.

#10 For Different Results – Change

In the wake of my resignation from KIRO Radio, I offer some observations. “Too often, I hear employees (hosts, producers, board ops, etc) want more, expect more, and demand more, but are unwilling to change to get it. There’s an overwhelming sense of entitlement in our business from the newcomers to the veterans…”

#09 Arbitron Panelist,”F— this!”

Real audio from a real panelist fed up with PPM.

#08 Wanted: A Passionate Disruptor or a Computer Literate Promo Assistant

One reason why traditional radio stations are having trouble attracting young, creative talent.

#07 77 Websites for Radio Hosts, Producers, Anchors and Reporters

A growing list of must-bookmark websites.

#06 The Keys to Sports Radio Success

The inspiration for this comes from a sports radio chat on twitter (#srchat). The question — what are your biggest pet-peeves of sports talk radio? — was posed to everyone on the chat including special guest Clear Channel’s VP of Sports Bruce Gilbert. I’ve taken their answers and turned-them-inside-out like a secret decoder ring to unveil the keys to sports radio success.

The top 5 posts of 2013 will be unveiled next week!

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.

Four Things Hosts Can Do To Improve Ratings

August 6, 2013 1 comment

I’ve been listening to a bunch of air-checks recently (see: Talent Session Summer Special) and based on what I’m hearing I want to share four ideas to improve your ratings. How will this improve your ratings? Listeners will find your show more valuable, more entertaining and worthy of more of their time each day and week.

Have a point.

imagesCAZSPZFXI hear many talk hosts who know they need to talk about the big stories; Weiner, A-Rod, etc., but not enough are providing a unique insight, perspective or clear takeaway for the listener. Know what point you want to make before you dive into the story and find the facts, details, audio, and guests that best support your conclusion. Use every tool you can to paint the picture you want the listener to see. As a host, you are a trial attorney… and the listeners are the jury. What are you going to say to convince them you’re right?

Solo hosts are not alone.

imagesCAU9SVWNAs a solo host, a three or four-hour stretch can seem daunting. Trust me, I know. I cut my sports talk teeth in Philadelphia hosting a show every Sunday in direct competition with Eagles play-by-play. Even I wasn’t listening to what I was saying. However, I learned a couple of tricks along the way to make sure you’re never alone, even when the phones aren’t ringing.

  • Talk to audio clips/direct quotes. This isn’t the same as “playing clips,” talking around sound or discussing what someone said. This is reacting to the sound in real-time and speaking directly to the newsmaker. You can yell at them, disagree with them, or even offer them advice.
  • Talk with your listeners. Pull them into your confidence, address them (as a singular “you”), be there for them, hear them in your head reacting to what you’re saying and acknowledge their argument for them. Create lists of things your listeners should remember about what you’re saying. “Here are three things no one else will tell you about Alex Rodriguez…”

Much of this involves some acting on your part, fully utilizing your voice inflection and intonation, and it takes quite a bit of preparation. However, when done correctly, it will be very impactful.

Listeners want the dirt. 35937_10151642319463982_1479812403_n

Do not shy away from sharing the colorful details of stories or digging up additional information to add context. So often, hosts brush over the fine points of a story to get straight to their opinion and then spend the next two hours and fifty minutes repeating their point. Do your research, read source materials, gather audio that helps tell the story you want to tell, be descriptive, provocative and pull the listeners into the world YOU are creating.

Be Curious.

This is an exercise in being 4-years-old again. Ask questions and seek answers. Ask why? Ask what’s missing? Be nosey. Do not take things at face value. Do not believe what someone else says about something – experience it for yourself. Believe your instincts and follow-up on them. Investigate. Probe. Discover. Uncover. Look at things differently. Test your hypothesis. Read between the lines. Look at what everyone else is taking for granted and look closer. Be present in life. Take better notes.

Hope it helps. Let me know how it goes for you.

Identifying Hit Stories

“Go find a group of guys in your target demo, eavesdrop on them, and listen to what they’re talking about.”

rick scottThat’s one way Sports Radio consultant Rick Scott of Rick Scott & Associates suggests you know if you have a hit story on your hands. I called Rick up after the arrest of ex-Patriot tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested and charged with murder. To me, it seems like manna from heaven for sports talkers who typically have a hard time finding talk-worthy topics in June and July.

“It’s life. Sports is a microcosm of life.”

Rick agrees, this is a whopper of a story, “When it happens in sports there is a magnifying glass on it because all of these athletes are special performers who make a lot of money, they’re in the spotlight, and like any other celebrity people have an interest of what’s going on.”

What surprised me is the lack of interest outside Boston and some other select cities. On the Wednesday night’s #SRCHAT on Twitter, hosts weren’t engaging with the story. Owen Murphy recapped the conversation on his “Steal This Idea” blog here, but among the highlights were these gems.

  • One host said: Scale of 1-10 it’s a 2 in my market. People are amazed it happened, but it won’t be a day to day listening driver.
  • Another said: it was a news story, but I found it a difficult topic to drive a show with today
  • And another said: it’s not that big in (my market). It’s fun to riff on but not attracting new audience

Rick doesn’t buy it,

“Anybody who says that I think is being naïve.”

During our interview on Episode 8 of the Radio Stuff podcast, Rick points to the speed of these stories circling the globe as being a major reason why markets who aren’t seemingly connected are still interested. Fans have access to all the news now and they’re interested in hearing what local hosts think about these big stories. (He joined us at 39:00 into the podcast to discuss a radio ideas festival and then Hernandez. You should listen to the whole exchange.)

Once you know you have a hit, what do you do with it? Rick has taught many hosts and PDs the “Topic Tree” method of topic development. Imagine the trunk of the tree as the core story and the branches are all the different ways you could talk about it.

“You sit down and say what are the various angles? You may want to take it from the angle of him being an athlete, you may want to take it from an angle that he’s had a troubled past and this isn’t the first time he’s been into trouble, you may take it from the standpoint that athletes don’t get exceptions — nobody gets a free pass, and  you just branch it out from there. There are so many different avenues you could go and that’s what is great about it – we each have different views and opinions and take it down a different path. And that’s really what the audience is looking for – that insight, that perspective — what does this mean?”

Hernandez Topic Tree

Aaron Hernandez Topic Tree Sample

There you go.

  • Play the hits.
  • Find a way into the story.
  • Make a topic tree.
  • If you don’t think your listeners care, eavesdrop on them.
  • Don’t be naïve.

Sports Radio Chatter

Twitter - Good and EvilLast night, I curled up in my leather chair with my iPad and an icy, cold beverage and participated in my first ever twitter chat.

And I liked it.

Every Wednesday night (10p ET/7p PT), sports radio hosts, producers, board ops, reporters, programmers and fans across the country are turning to twitter to chat about industry trends, new media, good guests, and share good practices, observations and tips.

Hmmm. Let’s sit with that for a second.

There’s a thought: use the power of twitter for good, not evil.

I think it is awesome that there is a weekly gathering of sports radio pros who help build each other up instead of tear each other down. And that is Chadd Scott’s intention behind the sports radio chats (#srchat), which started on May 8 with over 50 people participating.20130515104946_Chadd_for_web_ba

“I didn’t want it to be a bitch-fest. I didn’t want it be, ‘I wish I had more air time,’ or, ‘this show sucks,’ or, ‘this show should be national’, or ‘this guy doesn’t deserve a show.’ I wanted it to be positive, productive and respectful.” And it has been.

Scott, Assistant Program Director of 1010 XL in Jacksonville and former producer of The Herd with Colin Cowherd at ESPN Radio, told me on the Radio Stuff podcast, “I hope this connects sports radio professionals, brings them together, and serves as almost a fraternal organization or somewhere we can all go to meet each other and exchange ideas.”

owen-murphyScott hosts and moderates the weekly chats with KIRO Radio producer and “Steal This Idea” blogger Owen Murphy, who lives across the country in Seattle. They use the hash tag #SRCHAT, which you can access for past chats. One of the guys will throw out a question which is labeled “Q1” and anybody can chime in with a response by beginning “A1.”

It’s easy. Here’s a snippet of what went down last night.

Chadd Scott‏@ChaddScott15h Q1: How important is FM distribution to ratings success in sports radio? #srchat

Owen Murphy‏@TalkRadioOwen15h A1: FM distribution is huge, but AM shd not be dismissed. FM has much larger potential audience, but AM can win when combined w pxp #srchat  

Amanda Gifford‏@AmandaLGifford15h A1. Certainly doesnt hurt, but people find good content no matter where it is. Ask Rush Limbaugh. #srchat

Chadd Scott‏@ChaddScott15h A1: FM distribution is CRITICAL to ratings success in sports radio, especially for new stations, especially w/ younger demos #srchat  

Ingram Smith‏@IngramSmith15h @ChaddScott A1: content will always win – but the strength of FM signal, in particular when the sun goes down can not be understated #srchat

Owen Murphy‏@TalkRadioOwen15h A1: There are some markets where nearl 80% of the audience ignores AM. This makes MLB pxp a game-changer if you have AM stick. #srchat

The Gentleman Masher‏@GentlemanMashr15h @ChaddScott depends on the market. Good content will trump & streaming will eventually make it irrelevant. #srchat

Owen Murphy‏@TalkRadioOwen15h Hey @AmandaLGifford A1: A station needs marketing budget and q-rated hosts to win quickly on AM, as many listeners never visit #srchat  

Heath Cline‏@heathradio15h @ChaddScott FM’s huge. Competitor loves to tout their AM signal’s strength. Only people hearing it are 50 – we crush them on 40k FM. #srchat

Larry Gifford‏@Giffordtweet15h #srchat a1 fm distribution is where 80%+ of the audience is but AM listeners listen 4ever. WFAN will feel pinch when CBS takes AM 660

Sports MBA‏@SportsMBA15h As a consumer, Im one of those. RT @TalkRadioOwen: A1:markets where nearl 80% of the audience ignores AM. #srchat

Larry Gifford‏@Giffordtweet15h #srchat a1 content is king, but when majority of audience doesn’t visit AM you’re only the tallest dwarf.  

Owen Murphy‏@TalkRadioOwen15h A1: As w anything, it’s all about execution, budget and having great pxp partnerships, while poorly planned FM can stagnate. #srchat

Colleen Wall‏@ColleenWall14h A1: Since quality can be better on FM, that’s attractive to listeners. I tune to ESPN NY more often now that its switched to FM #srchat

Wells Guthrie‏@WellsESPN105114h A1: In small-mid size markets FM signal is vital. In large markets AM signals are more than enough. #srchat

You can read the entire #srchat transcript here. It’s exciting to me that smart people in radio are joining forces for the power of lifting the industry instead of tearing each other apart. It’s a trend I’m seeing more and more of and liking (see: Hivio. ) And the great thing is that anybody can set up a hashtag and a chat whenever you want. Do it. Invite your peers. Share ideas. Learn from each other. Lift each other up.

The Post-Super Bowl Sport’s Radio Host Pity Party

This is one of the times of the year when sports radio hosts like to go on the air and tell listeners that there’s nothing much going on in the sports world. I hear hosts calling this a “dead time;” right after the Super Bowl and before March Madness. When hosts do this they are not only turning off listeners and advertisers, they are telling them to go away.  

Listeners are tuning into radio, in part, to escape the realities of their everyday life. No one wants to tune in to hear someone whine about how slow their day is going and babble on about nothing in particular. Strange as it is, this idea of a “slow time” only happens in the sports format. You never tune into a talk format and hear Rush Limbaugh droning on about how slow it is in Washington. I’ve never heard a rock DJ say, “boy this is a dead time for music, I really don’t have anything worth playing today.” Think about it this way, if you turned on CNN and they announced, “No real news today to report.” You would turn to another channel. Same goes listeners of sports talk.

Not only will announcing to the listeners that is a slow time for sports make your radio station more of seasonal listen than it already it is, it could also lead to less revenue. Advertisers are looking for the biggest bang for the buck. If I was an advertiser on a station and I heard a host lamenting about how it’s a slow time and there’s nothing to talk about, I would have to reconsider how I invested my ad dollars. I likely would cancel my order and place my commercials on a station that is excited about its content and is compelling fans to listen.  

These are the days that hosts earn their money. This is when they prove their worth to a station and company. It’s a host’s job to make fans care about something. Regardless of what’s going on they have a responsibility to be creative, passionate and compelling.  It may be a slower sports day than they like, but that is a YOU problem. Hosts need to work harder to find great story lines, tease them, develop them and pay them off.

Programmers, GMs and sales teams need to hold the hosts accountable to help drive ratings and revenue, not drive it away.

Playing the Music Hits on Sports Radio

January 18, 2011 1 comment
 by Larry Gifford for’s “Let’s Talk About It” Newsletter.

Listen to the entire podcast with Rita Wilde here


Programmers are quick to parrot the music radio philosophy of “play the hits” when it comes to choosing topics each day, but that doesn’t extend to the bumper music being played into and out of breaks. Classic rock thrives in the PPM world and caters directly to M25-54, yet sports talk stations seem to have abandoned it. 

Rita Wilde

“I don’t hear anything that’s really compelling to be honest.” That’s Rita Wilde talking about sports radio’s use of music. For 26 years, as a jock and programmer she really did play the hits at the legendary KLOS-FM in Los Angeles. “I love sports talk radio. I love sports. I’m a P1 of the format. From a classic rock standpoint, I’m not hearing that incorporated at all. I hear people just trying to be cool playing rap and hip-hop. That doesn’t necessarily connect with who they’re trying to reach.”

Wilde cautions sports talkers to not become a classic rock bumper station. You still have to be current by incorporating new acts or mass appeal acts like Black Eyed Peas and Bruno Mars.

So what’s the best way to figure out what to play? Wilde suggests you consult a classic rock station in your cluster if you have one. But there are other ways.

“One thing that I always remember: The music you like when you’re 18 years old will resonate with you for the rest of your life.” Wilde continues, “Classic rock is incorporating 80s and songs from 20 years ago like Nirvana’s Nevermind (released in September 1991) and Pearl Jam’s Ten (released in August 1991). Those people are 20 years older now, so if they were 18 then, their 38 now and right smack in your demo.”

Wilde also suggests you watch crowds at sporting events and see how they react to the music. She thinks hockey is the best at really getting the crowd rockin’. She emphasizes that the music you choose should be familiar – stuff everyone knows. Why?

“The biggest complaints I’d hear from jocks when I’d take them to a concert was, ‘well, they just played all the hits,’ but what’s interesting to note is that when they played the newer stuff off the album people would head to the bathroom.”

Bottom line: Playing the hits is a great philosophy for sports talk radio; just don’t forget its origins or you risk losing your listeners to a potty break. 

Rita Wilde is currently looking for something in “jock and roll” – working in the sports or rock formats. She can be contacted at

Look Who’s Talking: Colin Cowherd

January 14, 2011 1 comment
by Larry Gifford for “Let’s Talk About It’ Newsletter (sign up for free at 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 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  

 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.

Do You Know Your Listeners?

Your listeners are regular guys with regular jobs, regular families and regular problems. They work hard and can’t afford to go to a lot of sporting events. They’ve likely never been court side, walked on a Major League Baseball field or even talked to a pro athlete.  You are their ticket inside. They crave local sports information.  These guys are smart, more media savvy than you think, and they know what they like when they hear it. They have high expectations for sports content whether it is on TV, radio, the internet or other. They likely know more about at least one local team than you do and certainly believe that to be true. They are passionate about these teams. They don’t want you to rely on the audience to provide your content, they won’t be calling in and they won’t enter contests.  They don’t want you to try too hard to be funny, smart or connected. They don’t want you to waste their time. They are listening by themselves and using you as an escape from real life. These guys are tuning in to hear YOU talk about the things that matter most to them. They want to like you, but often times think you are an idiot. They have no loyalty. If you are boring, they will find someone who isn’t. They want you to take a side, have an opinion, provide unique information, explore an angle, or a go in a new direction. Tell them a story. They want to know you, recommend you, rely on you, and trust you. They want you to entertainment them and tell them something they don’t know. They will steal your opinions and use them as their own in front of their buddies. They’re not as sick of Brett Favre, steroids, and BCS talk as you are, even if they say they are.  These are your listeners to lose. What are you doing today to win them over?

Who’s Next? Dave Rothenberg

December 3, 2010 1 comment

**UPDATE 05-01-2012: Dave Rothenberg is now hosting 7p-10p on ESPN Radio 98.7 FM in New York City.

Programmers are always asking me “Who’s out there?”, “Where’s the next talent?” So, periodically, here on the blog, I’ll be shining a light on rising stars in radio.

Dave Rothenberg is “who’s next” today. Dave, a New Yorker by birth, has recently picked up some shifts on 1050 ESPN in New York. He’s tells that he’s excited for the opportunity, “It means everything.  I am a born and bred New Yorker with a crazy passion for the New York sports scene.”

Dave has a familiar story. 13 years ago he started running the board and providing the halftime show on high school football broadcasts on WGCH-AM 1490 in Greenwich.  He was a weekly football expert on WALE-AM 990 in Providence, RI.  He skipped around with stops at Air America, Sirius, and Cablevision. in October 2007, he moved to Raleigh, NC to help launch 99.9 FM The Fan.  He was recently a casualty of budget cuts.

So, how’s a guy who’s laid-off in Raleigh end up on 1050 ESPN in New York?

Dave says, “The key to having any success in this business is perseverance.  I have always tried to make good connections and stay in touch with them.  The problem with sports talk is there are always decisions made that make you scratch your head.  I had the number one sports talk show in a market and lost my job.  My last check included my ratings bonus.  But, no matter how little sense things make at times, you need to keep positive and look ahead to bigger and better. I set up a meeting on a trip to New York City with Justin Craig, the PD of ESPN New York and I guess impressed him enough to land this great opportunity.”

Networking. Networking. Networking. Should I say it again? Networking.

Dave has a marathon on 1050 ESPN starting this weekend: Sunday, December 5th 7a-9a, overnight Sunday into Monday Midnight to 5am (part of the Jets 24  hour pre-game show), and then overnight Monday into Tuesday. Take a listen (online at

You can contact Dave directly at and his website is