What if I asked every show host reading this article to continue doing their daily show, but also taking over sales to monetize their content. Could you do it? Some have and they’ll be the first to tell you it’s not easy.
Austin Stanley and Zach Bingham are a two-man band that’s doing exactly that. Based in Nashville, the duo built from the ground up, a unique way to provide sports talk content through social media. Every day at 8 a.m. you can find Stanley and Bingham on Facebook Live as the hosts of A to Z Sports Nashville.
For one hour, the two hosts talk anything and everything that’s going on in the sports scene around the Nashville market. Everything you see and hear, including graphics, live reads, content and more, is all created by duo themselves.
The idea came about after both Stanley and Bingham found themselves out of sports radio in the summer of 2016. They had done radio shows and podcasts together in the Nashville market, but were now looking for their next big break in the sports media business. They soon decided to create their own break, after the duo stumbled upon the power of Facebook Live. The tool was still relatively unknown when Stanley and Bingham received a ton of hits and comments during a Titans-Chiefs preview show the following fall, but soon realized they had a way of getting back into the sports talk scene on their own accord.
In theory, it’s great to be your own boss, especially in this business. Amongst other things, you get to create your own schedule, as well as your own content, but it also means you have to create your own revenue. Luckily, the team had experience as Bingham dabbled as a sales rep during his time in sports radio. It gave the team more of an understanding of what it was going to take to profit from their own coverage.
For the first six months of A to Z Sports, the two made no money as they tried to sell their own sponsorships. However, their luck started to change as the calendar turned to 2017. Stanley and Bingham decided to partner with a local digital media business that developed their website and helped get their coverage off the ground.
Soon after, they were gaining clients and staring to bring in real revenue. While the two were constantly grinding away throughout each day with both show content and sales, they caught a break that proved to be key to their ascent: captivating local storylines.
All of a sudden, the Tennessee Titans went from a 3-win team to a 9-win team which flirted with the playoffs. Along with strong NFL coverage, Stanley and Bingham were able to capitalize off the drama of the Tennessee football head coaching search that made national news, as well as the Predators making a run at the Stanley Cup. The Nashville sports scene had never been more relevant and the two were building off of it, as the A to Z Sports Facebook page went from zero likes to now over 28,000. All of it from organic growth.
Stanley and Bingham figured it’s better to be in the listener’s phone, rather than their radio. That strategy has been key in implementing an internet-based show that’s turned profitable. The two are full-time with the operation and focus all their efforts on improving their product and seeking new clients.
If you watch an episode of A to Z Sports Nashville, it’s easy to see why Stanley and Bingham have been successful. The graphics are exceptionally well done, the topics are creative and local, plus, the two have great chemistry and energy which makes for an entertaining show.
Though I have no fan loyalties to any teams in the Nashville area, I can sit and enjoy a great product. Not only do these two have that, they have one that should be commended for its originality. I would expect nothing but big things in the future from A to Z Sports.
TM: Between you and Zach, whose responsibility is it to plan the show and who takes the reins on the sales side?
Austin Stanley: We’re both involved in everything together. Whenever we’re in studio you’ll notice our graphics. Zach puts that together while I put the show run down together. Each of our sponsors gets a live read and we’ll do creative things with topics to imbed the sponsors into them. That’s kind of my job along with creating headlines and creating questions for viewer interactions. We try not to talk too much before the show, because you want organic reactions and opinions from each of us.
TM: How have you two found selling advertising for an internet-based show, versus an actual sports radio show?
AS: It’s different because our livelihood depends on how much we sell. Radio stations have endless inventory and we don’t. We don’t want to have 10 sponsors on our show, because then it feels like a NASCAR package. We try to be creative and cater to the needs of the client.
What Zach always says, when he was in radio, there are a few rules: There’s limitations on what a sales person can do for a client. Well, we try to focus on doing everything we can to benefit the client, because they’re our first priority and we want to make sure each sponsorship works perfectly for each client. It’s definitely more flexible than selling at a radio station.
TM: Is there one particular social media platform that’s been more critical to your success?
AS: They all serve their own purpose. Businesses like Facebook and they’re also really starting to like Instagram. Twitter is a necessity but it’s not what clients are really looking for.
We have Twitter because news travels fastest there and we can tweet out links to our show. Instagram is becoming more and more popular and is more of a creative type feel. We don’t have our show on Instagram, but we try to build around it with more content. We’re focusing a lot on growing on that platform.
TM: What’s the long-term goal for you guys? To continue to grow your own brand and keep your unique platform? Or would the two of you be open to joining a station in the future?
AS: We have thought about that. We have some ideas on what we can build this into that are kind of behind the scenes type of ideas. We’ve talked with some radio stations before about getting a show, here and there, but also keeping our business open.
There really isn’t a ceiling with our company and how we’re doing it. We just need to continue to grow and grow, and make sure that we’re using our time the best.
Doing a radio show requires a ton of prep work and we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin. We don’t like being repetitive and during a three-hour show you kind of have to be.
TM: Radio stations have callers, texters, etc. for interaction? Do enjoy that your interaction is more digital?
AS: Yeah, that was the thing we really wanted to focus on the most. As we noticed, in the first eight months we were doing this, that was when so many platforms and companies were trying to do sports talk on Facebook Live. They weren’t engaged with their audience, they were mostly just trying to talk with each other. Our primary focus was to talk to whoever was watching.
The comments are instant, and just like regular callers on a radio station, you get to know certain people that always watch and comment. It’s really cool.
We always try to say the names of the people commenting, along with their question and comment. We call it a virtual room, because we want to include everyone and that only makes it more likely they’ll want to continue to watch and interact. Plus, it’s more fun. They come up with funny stuff and rip on us sometimes.
TM: What’s one thing you know now that you wished you did when you started?
AS: Doing a sports talk on this platform is not near the same as doing it on radio. It’s very different. You have to play to your audience more, than you do just filling time. Now, in radio, you still want that to be good content, but I think with this platform you have to be more directional with your topics and discussion.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.