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Seller Profile: Janet Rogers – 95.7 The Game

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For this sales profile we head way out west to 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, which has been in the sports format since 2011. Janet Rogers has sold a lot of radio in her day, both in English and Spanish, but this was her first foray into the sports format. As you’ll learn, it doesn’t seem to matter which format she is in, the common denominator has been success.

DG: How did you get started in radio?

JR: I met the Public Affairs director for KCBS Radio way back in the day in the early ‘80s. I met her at an event and she said I should apply for a job at KCBS because I’ve always loved radio. I applied for a receptionist job and the interviewer said, “You don’t want a receptionist job, you would never stay in that job!” Fortunately, about six months later, I got a call from the CBS National Rep Office and Rocky Cosgrove who ran the FM National Sales Office. It was a two-person office and Rocky taught me all about radio and radio sales, how to put a program together and how to conceptualize an idea and sell it.

I then got a job inside CBS at a classic rock station and then was recruited to work for KBLX radio where I spent nine years working with Barry Rose and Harvey Stone, two legendary names in the San Francisco market and ended up being Retail Sales Manager. Then, I was recruited to be a Regional Sales Manager working for a group of stations that covered the San Jose area. At one point, I worked for five owners in one year, going through a lot of changes during consolidation. I worked in Spanish radio for a little bit and then came back to general market. It’s been a long and interesting ride, selling a lot of different formats. I feel very fortunate to have started my career in radio when I did and worked in radio when I did and its led to, coincidentally, working with the CBS stations again because of the merger with Entercom.

DG: When you first started, do you remember how long it took you to really feel comfortable?

JR: It probably took me a good six months. I had to get over the sheer terror of picking up the phone and calling to talk to someone, that was not natural for me. I had to understand how to find a good, qualified prospect and that takes some time. I won a new business selling contest at the end of my first year of selling. I did that because I had done a lot of prospecting and was able to close some business that had never been on the station before and some that had never been in radio before. After six months I really started to feel like I had something to really offer the customer.

DG: Do you do things today to continue to make yourself better?

JR: I feel like I really do. One of my former sales managers taught me a long time to ask yourself, “What did you do right and what would you do different next time?” That is something that always stuck with me. I love that, and I still use it to this day. I had to learn how to sell sports when I started here, because I had never sold sports before. There are things that I’m still learning from veteran sellers that have sold sports their entire careers such as the types of targeting you can do and the types of programming and integration you can do. So, asking myself those questions, associating with people that are successful and bring new ideas to the table help make me better. I am a big believer that you can teach old dogs new tricks as long as the old dog wants to learn the tricks!

DG: What makes you good at what you do?

JR: I am a great listener, I ask great questions and I really work at developing relationships. People can buy from anyone and the differentiations can be so small. I truly believe that at some level they are really buying the trust and faith and relationship they have with me. I’ve had some customers for a very long time and I truly get a kick out of having success for the customer, that gives me a great deal of job satisfaction and joy. The ability to look someone in the eye and really feel like we’ve done a good job for them.

DG: Do you think having support from programming is more important when selling sports versus another format?

JR: Absolutely, because of the ability of product integration. It’s so much more robust than music stations. The ideas can just flow. It’s so important to have those relationships, not just so you can get things done, but also to tap in to that creativity of your co-workers and people from other departments. I am super fortunate that I work for a General Sales Manager who is very creative and has great ideas. We have a new program director that has a willingness to partner with sales and understands that it’s all a circle – if sales is happy, programming is happy and if programming is happy, sales is happy. I think its hugely important in sports and when it works it’s such a great tool.

DG: What is the main difference in selling play-by-play versus regular programming?

JR: With play-by-play, you find the fan! Finding that fan and allowing them to peek behind the curtain and the opportunity to bring their business and co brand and partner with one of their favorite teams or players – that is really fun and can be very productive.

DG: What’s the main reason you’ve noticed of why new sellers don’t work out in our industry?

JR: I don’t know if there is any one reason, but a lot of it is not having the understanding of how hard it is to do this, especially the first couple of years. Also, you have to have a strong manager that is willing to roll up their sleeves and get in the trenches and guide you to help with ideas, overcome objections and close business. I have been really lucky that I have had some great managers. Also, it’s having co-workers that are willing to share their experiences and pay it forward the way they were mentored and molded. If you don’t have that supportive work environment and some place to come back to and be able to ask questions and get help, it is really challenging to do this.

DG: What piece of advice would you give to new sellers in sports media?

JR: To understand the passion that drives your listeners, so you can connect with that – the personalities, the partner teams – and to understand and tap in to that passion so you understand why people are listening and then formulate your strategy around that. You really have to understand your product and be an evangelist for the product. Be passionate – that authenticity really comes through to people. They can feel that when you are passionate and believe in it.

DG: Your manager told me that you are great at finding what keeps business owners up at night. How would you advise others to be good at that?

JR: I think it goes back to what I said I was good at – listening. I can really shut up and listen to what is being said and then ask good follow up questions. You can’t stop, you have to keep digging one level deeper as you build that relationship. When I go to a new business meeting, I start very broad and then let the conversation dictate where it goes. Just keep digging and then get the consensus and ask if you heard what they said correctly so they agree that it is a problem and now you come up with the solution.

DG: I was told you are the station’s top biller, so what continues to drive you?

JR: My credibility and my ability to help and to be a team leader, that is my biggest driver. Sometimes that comes with being the top biller, but let’s face it you have to be somewhere near the top to be a leader. The most important thing for me is to feel like I have the respect of my teammates and that they feel like they can learn things from me and I can offer knowledge and experience.

DG: How do you feel about the state of our industry?

JR: On the product side, for those companies that believe in live and local – I say keep going. The word relevant is so meaningful – you have to be relevant in people’s lives and just because the vehicle has been around a long time, doesn’t mean the content is still relevant. The companies that aren’t doing live and local, I think they are doing a disservice to themselves and most importantly to our industry. From the personnel side, I think their needs to be a much stronger effort to involve younger people in this career. We really have to mentor younger people. It used to be okay to throw the yellow pages at people, and if you’ve been in this business a long time you remember that. People could do that and find new business and afford it and grow and make a living, but I don’t believe that is the case anymore. I think people have to be mentored and trained and given an opportunity to have a stable financial base that allows you to not flip out after three months and wonder if you can afford to stay with this job. I think our industry needs to take a really hard look at that and understand what it costs to do business these days.

What They Say:

Janet is the top biller at the station because she finds ways to build meaningful relationships with the ultimate decision makers. She is relentless in finding out exactly what is keeping that business owner up at night. She uses their managers, spouses or any other source she needs, in order to find information that helps her build a solution for their business. Janet’s success is one of ideas and relationships, and does not rely on audience size.Jim Richmond, General Sales Manager, Entercom San Francisco.

BSM Writers

Now Is The Time To Build Your Bench

“There’s a good chance you have a producer, production person, or even a salesperson who has a big enough personality that they can hold your attention.”

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As we crawl towards the Thanksgiving holiday week, many content managers are likely in the middle of figuring out what they’re going to put on the air.

The Power Of Dead Air
Courtesy: Jacobs Media

Since most marquee talent take the entire week off, this can present scheduling headaches.

Some stations (who can) will pick up more syndicated programming. Hey, why not? It’s a cheap, easy solution that’s justified by the fact that business is slow in Q4, and your GM doesn’t want you spending any more money than what you have to.

Other stations will hand the microphones over to whoever happens to be available. This usually ends up being the same array of C and D listers who aren’t that great, but they can cover when needed and usually tend to be affordable.

Both of these decisions, while usually made out of convenience, are terrible mistakes. Quite frankly, it’s one of the many frustrations I have with spoken word media. 

Content Directors should be using the holidays as an excellent opportunity for them to answer a particularly important question: DO I HAVE A BENCH???

One of the most common refrains I hear from other content managers is that they have no talent depth. Everyone constantly is searching for the “next great thing,” yet I find that very few people in management that take the time or the effort to seriously explore that question.

My response to them is always, “Well, how do you know? Have you given anyone in your building a chance yet?”

Often, the answer is sitting in their own backyard, and they don’t even know it.

Years ago, Gregg Giannotti was a producer at WFAN. Then Head of Programming Mark Chernoff gave him a chance to host a show because of how Giannotti sparred off-air with other hosts and producers in the building. Chernoff liked what he heard and gave his producer a shot. Now, he’s hosting mornings on WFAN with Boomer Esiason in what is considered one of the best local sports-talk shows in the country. 

Carrington Harrison was an intern for us at 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City. He worked behind the scenes on Nick Wright’s afternoon show and had a fairly quiet demeanor. It was rare that we ever spoke to each other. On one of his off-days, Nick was talking about Kansas State Football and Carrington called in to talk to him about it. I couldn’t believe what I heard. Not only was his take on the Wildcats enlightening, but he was funny as hell. Soon after, we started working Carrington’s voice into Nick’s show more and eventually made C-Dot a full-time host. He’s been doing afternoons on the station for several years now with different co-hosts and (in my opinion) is one of the best young voices in the format. 

There’s a good chance you have a producer, production person, or even a salesperson who has a big enough personality that they can hold your attention. Why not give them the opportunity to see what they can do? Honestly, what’s the risk of giving someone you think might have potential, a few at-bats to show you what they can do? If your instincts are proven wrong and they aren’t as good as you thought they’d be, all you did is put a bad show on the air during a time when radio listening tends to be down, anyways.

If you go this route, make sure you set them up for success. Take the time to be involved in planning their shows. Don’t leave them out on an island. Give them a producer/sidekick that can keep them from drowning. Be sure to listen and give constructive feedback. Make sure that these people know that you’re not just doing them a favor. Show them that you are just as invested in this opportunity as they are.

Drowning

I understand that most Content Directors are overseeing multiple brands (and in some cases, multiple brands in multiple markets). Honestly though, using the holidays to make a potential investment in your brand’s future is worth the extra time and effort. 

Treat holidays for what they are; a chance to explore your brand’s future. Don’t waste it.

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BSM Writers

Digital Platforms Should Signal The End Of Niche Linear Networks

“Whether it is niche sports or exclusive shows, the streaming platforms have proven to be valuable catch-alls. They haved turned hard-to-sell programming into part of what you get when you are motivated to subscribe by Premier League Soccer or UFC.”

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CBS Sports Network just isn’t built to last. It seems obvious, but it was really hammered home for me on Friday when Jim Rome went off on the network for preempting the simulcast of his radio show for coverage of swimming.

“You idiots are going to preempt this show for swimming?” Rome said. “Stupid.”

You don’t even have to watch the video, right? You can just read the quote and his voice is immediately what you hear in your head.

John Skipper went off on a number of topics during Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators Conference last week. Some dismissed it as sour grapes. Others said his comments were those of a man that is completely unencumbered by rights deals and corporate interests.

One thing the Meadowlark Media leader said that was dead on was that there are only a few properties in sports television that truly matter.

“Until you can get the NFL, or the SEC, or the NBA on a streaming service, it’s going to be marginal in this country,” Skipper said in a conversation with John Ourand.

He was answering a question about the relevance of streaming services, but the fact is, he could have been talking about any outlet in the world of sports television.

With that being said, it isn’t just CBS Sports Network that isn’t built to last. Comcast got this message last year. That is why NBCSN is about to go dark. Sure, every niche sport has its fan base, but can you build a profitable and powerful brand on swimming, lacrosse and 3-on-3 basketball? You probably can’t.

BSM’s Jeremy Evans recently wrote about life in the metaverse and what it means to sports media. So much happens digitally now. Think about the last time you felt like you HAD to have a physical copy of a movie or album. It always made sense that television networks would get to this place.

Peacock, ESPN+, CBS Sports HQ and Paramount+ all have plenty to offer. Whether it is niche sports or exclusive shows, the streaming platforms have proven to be valuable catch-alls. They haved turned hard-to-sell programming into part of what you get when you are motivated to subscribe by Premier League Soccer or UFC.

CBS Sports Network isn’t the only cable sports network whose existence may be on borrowed time. You know about FS1. Did you know there is an FS2? Did you know beIN Sports still exists? Don’t worry. It seems most major cable operators don’t know it either. The same can be said for networks with names like Eleven Sports, Maverick, and Pursuit.

In fact, when you look at that group of channels, CBS Sports Network is probably in the best shape. It may carry the low end of college football and basketball, but it at least has sports with large, national followings.

Radio simulcasts have always been cheap programming. Once the production costs are recouped, there is a straight-line path to profit. Sports networks on this level will always be interested in carrying radio simulcasts, and that is a good thing. It means better studios and more exposure for the hosts involved. When the suits can have a legitimate debate whether the live sports their network carries will draw as many viewers as the simulcast of a radio show, it may be time to rethink the path forward.

Streaming platforms weren’t built exclusively for niche sports. ESPN+ launched with college football and college basketball at its core. Now that streaming platforms are here to stay though, it should start a conversation and migration.

The cable sports network was never anything more than a prestige play. It was a way to show that a broadcast network was so serious about sports that the few hours it could devote to games would never do. The problem is that ESPN got that memo decades earlier and established a juggernaut.

Even FS1, which has major talent and rights to major college football and basketball and Major League Baseball, is behind the eight ball compared to ESPN. They got a 34 year head start in Bristol! CBS Sports Network is behind FS1 and it has college football, basketball and hockey. It also has the WNBA and the NWSL. Still, it seems like it is on borrowed time. What does that mean for networks that can’t get a league comissioners to take their call?

I like some of the programming on CBS Sports HQ. I think Paramount+ has been a valuable tool this college football season. There would be nothing wrong with CBS shuttering CBS Sports Network. It is just the reality of where we are headed.

CBS aims to grow Sports HQ within its network of streaming channels -  Digiday
Courtesy: CBS

CBS is run by smart people. I have faith they will see the forest thru the trees in sports media and find the right solution before they start losing money. Streaming means consolidation and unfortunately, that means there may not be room for the FS2s, Mavericks, Pursuits, and Eleven Sports of the world. That doesn’t mean the sports those networks carry cannot find a new home. They may even find a home that makes more sense for them and their fans.

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BSM Writers

Can Your Station Create Its Own Holiday?

“Did you see social media on Friday? Did you see any media at all leading up to Friday? Disney created a 24-hour commercial you could not escape.”

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A belated happy Disney+ Day to us all!

Disney+ Day: Kareem Daniel Says “Momentum Building” At Streamer After 2  Years – Deadline

Did you see social media on Friday? Did you see any media at all leading up to Friday? Disney created a 24-hour commercial you could not escape. The best part, from a marketing standpoint, is fans were captivated by it. They either didn’t realize it was a commercial or they just didn’t care.

The execution was masterful. Granted, we Star Wars fans were left wanting a bit, but Disney dropped teasers for series and movies we didn’t know were coming and showed the first footage from one we have been anticipating for more than a year now.

I started thinking how a radio station could do this. How could it go out and create its own holiday? How for one day, can we make our fanbase excited and glued to social media eagerly anticipating announcements about what is coming next?

This is going to take some creativity. Disney+ is a platform full of multiple brands with multiple fanbases buying in. A sports talk station is one brand. It has varying levels of fanbases, but largely, your dedicated audience are the people that not only love sports, but also like your programming enough to be called P1s. Is that enough people to build an event like this around?

Who cares if it is or not! Go for it.

One thing that Disney did masterfully on November 12 is it brought partners into the fold and made them a key part of Disney+ Day. Fortnite announced that Boba Fett was coming to its game. TikTok announced Disney character voice changers would be available on the platform. Disney found the kind of partnerships that could spread its holiday to even the Disney+ Day equivalent of Ebenezer Scrooge.

You can do the same. Surely you have a local brewery as a partner. Can they brew a one day only beer for you? Partner with a restaurant. Can they put your station’s name on the day’s special? Would other partners offer discounts and promotions for celebrating the day? There are a lot of options here.

Now, what are YOU doing on your holiday? Disney has a deep well of franchises. It could squeeze Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, its own studio and more for content and announcements. Again, you are just one brand, but there is still a lot you can do.

Build the day around announcing your special contributors for the football season. Drop new podcasts and play an extended clip on air. Announce new podcasts, the kind of things that will only be available digitally.

Look at 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh. Joe Ovies and Joe Giglio have created great, multi-episode series that are events for their audience. Like any narrative podcasts, those don’t come together overnight. As long as you have enough audio to build a solid 90 second to 2 minute long preview, you have something worth bringing to the air as part of the celebration.

Do you have a contract you are waiting to expire to make a change in a prime day part? Make your station’s holiday the day that the new talent or show hits the air for the first time. You can do the same for new weekend programs. Whether it is someone new coming to the station or just a new pairing, put them on air for your prime time audience to meet and have your weekday hosts help create some buzz for them.

As for the shows that are on every weekday, you have to make them special that day. Give away a big cash prize. Make the guest list epic – I mean everyone that is on air that day has to be a home run.

The other thing that Disney did so well was work to get all of its divisions involved. Check out this tweet from the Disney Parks account. Every single park around the world lit their iconic building up blue in celebration of the streaming platform’s holiday.

Can you work with other stations in your building? Maybe they won’t give you full on promotion, but between songs, if a DJ brings up a sports topic, would the PD be willing to have them mention that their sister station is celebrating all day? Would a news/talk PD let your talent pop on air to talk sports with their hosts and promote what is happening on your airwaves today?

The answer to these questions could be no. You don’t know if you don’t ask though. Also, if the answer is no, there is nothing wrong with asking for a little backup from your market manager. A station holiday is a major sales initiative after all.

The final piece of this puzzle to take away from Disney is you have to be everywhere. Any local show you air from 6 am until midnight needs to be on location. Fans should have easy access to them. How can they celebrate you if they are not allowed to be where you are?

Use the broadcasts however the sales department sees fit. Take them first to long-established clients to celebrate their loyalty on the station’s holiday. Use them to draw in new clients. Show off what your station can create with its fanbase.

Money has a way of motivating everyone. So, even if your hosts don’t like leaving the studio, these would be remote broadcasts priced at a premium and should have larger-than-usual talent fees attached.

Finally, let’s do something Disney didn’t. I was shocked that a company with this many iconic characters at its disposal and with a CEO that came from the consumer products division, didn’t have a line of merchandise ready to go. Don’t make that same mistake.

Create cool station shirts (not the cheap giveaway crap). Throw the logo on unexpected things like water bottles, bottle openers, facemasks, whatever! Have a merch tent wherever you go. Maybe set up a site to sell it for the day. Make the people come to you to get this stuff.

Twitter is a huge part of promoting what you do. Constantly show off what you are offering and what you have created. That is how Disney sold their event to its most dedicated fans as something not to be missed.

What were we celebrating with Disney+ Day? Nothing. Disney wasn’t even really celebrating anything. It was just a series of commercials wrapped up in fun packaging. Actually, there are a lot of holidays that are just a series of commercials wrapped up in fun packaging.

Valentine Day Digital Ads on Behance

Not every holiday has to celebrate something once in a lifetime. Not every holiday has to even be real. Building your own will take a long lead time, but it is doable. Get sales, promotions and programming in a room and build a plan together. If Disney+ Day taught us anything, it is a valuable way to motivate your fans to spread your message too.

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