Last week, Galaxy’s Edge, a Star Wars-themed land opened at Walt Disney World. This is the second of these areas to open in the US this year. Disneyland opened its version of Galaxy’s Edge back in May. The reviews for both have been overwhelmingly positive. Still, Disney has considered the California-based Galaxy’s Edge something of a failure.
Consider the popularity of the Star Wars franchise. I don’t just mean the movies. People love the toys, the video games, and the merchandise. Fans get tattoos and name their kids Luke, Leia, and Han.
With the power of a franchise with that kind of fanatical devotion, Disney executives expected their new land to spur a rush at Disneyland. They restricted its annual pass holders’ access to Galaxy’s Edge until after what was expected to be an incredibly busy summer. Disneyland spent the spring preparing guests to expect long lines. Perhaps you saw the commercial for Galaxy’s Edge that featured a disclaimer that read “Some attractions and experiences may be closed due to capacity”.
So what effect did all that prep have? It didn’t result in more orderly crowds. In fact, it resulted in no crowds at all.
In a recent interview, Disney CEO Bob Iger acknowledged that the company had given potential Disneyland visitors the impression that there was no point in even trying to get into Galaxy’s Edge during its first summer of operation. In trying to prepare people for potential disappointment, it sent the message that anyone that tried to come to Galaxy’s Edge would almost certainly be disappointed, so don’t bother coming at all for a while. Surely there were other factors, but Disney acknowledged that its own messaging was to blame for the disappointing public response.
This is admittedly a long story, and if you’re wondering how it relates to radio, I’m getting to that right now. Maybe not every host or station can take a lesson from Disney’s problems in opening Galaxy’s Edge, but if your show relies on listener interaction, how do you make your topics sound like something everyone wants to talk about without accidentally giving the listeners the impression that trying to call is pointless because they are just going to be met with a busy signal?
First, stop counting how many lines you have open. There are a couple of reasons this is a useless practice. First, it sounds so dated. We live in the age of texts and Tweets. Unless your station is stuck in the Stone Age, listeners shouldn’t have to wait for an open phone line to share their opinion. Second, if you are telling listeners that a phone line has opened up, some may be motivated to call right away. Most will think “What are my chances of getting through?” and not even bother to pick up the phone.
Next, screen your calls. It is great to have regular callers, but they don’t need a platform every single day. If you have the same three, four, or five people getting on the show everyday, listeners that don’t regularly call could get the impression that you don’t take calls from people that aren’t “in the club” so to speak. Hearing other callers lets listeners know it is okay to call. Hearing the same callers over and over tells listeners that maybe those are the only people you want to call.
What about the text line or Twitter? How do you make sure listeners know their feedback is always welcome on these platforms? You can’t very well devote five minutes to reading Tweet after Tweet and text after text. That is boring as hell.
First, anytime you decide to incorporate texts and Tweets, thank listeners for contributing and note that you don’t have time to read every submission. Again, you can’t rely on the same texters and Twitter followers for every topic. You’re definitely going to notice people you can rely on to be funny and offer insightful commentary. Just keep that lesson about your show turning into an exclusive club in mind.
Try and get to the texts and Tweets quickly too. Your listeners put in the effort to make their opinion funny or noticeable in some way. Don’t hold onto them until you bring that topic up again in 90 minutes. Give them the payoff of hearing you read their Tweet on air.
Hell, give the people a carrot occasionally. Throw a like or retweet their way for something particularly funny. Text back that they made a good point and you are going to use it on air.
A lot of shows rely on audience interaction. Hosts that thrive in conversations with listeners have so different many ways to get what they need from their audience now. How you package your show will determine how many people line up to be a part of it.
Disneyland learned this lesson this summer. You get to learn it right now and it won’t cost you billions in lost revenue. It is good to be popular, and if your show or park is popular, it makes sense to assume people will want to be a part of it, but the message you send should be about them, not you.
The difference between telling listeners their texts, Tweets, and calls are welcome and telling them that everyone wants to text, Tweet, or call the show may be subtle, but the difference in payoffs is huge. One says “You should come check out Star Wars land! It’s going to be awesome.” The other says “Why bother? It’s going to be so crowded.”
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.