Succeeding in radio as a market manager requires understanding how to motivate people, maintain relationships, elevate programming, and create solutions for clients to generate revenue. Few understand those things better than Matt Hanlon. A veteran of the industry for nearly 30 years, Hanlon has a passion for the industry that’s on display 24/7, and a desire to win that’s felt by everyone around him. He’s a leader who doesn’t assume his prior experiences will provide the answers to tomorrow’s problems. It’s why he continues to educate himself on new technologies in order to stay connected to local listeners. He’s also not afraid to shake things up whether that means introducing a new talent to a market, rolling the dice on a first-time programmer or adjusting the plan if something isn’t working and a new direction is needed. If the path to progress requires adjustments, Hanlon is going to do what’s necessary to win.
When you analyze Matt’s career, it reads like a tail of two halves. Part 1 is where Hanlon gained his introduction to selling media. He spent a decade working for both Backer, Spielvogel & Bates, and Katz Media Group, where he held multiple positions as a media buyer, before ascending to a sales management role. During that period, he worked on campaigns for familiar brands such as CBS, Campbell’s, Mars Brands, and Miller Beer, and did business with various radio companies. He also had the privilege of working with the late Bob McCurdy, who helped him learn more about the importance of making budget and balancing expenses.
But the second half of Matt’s career is where his background in media sales helped him take the next step into radio management. He joined Citadel in 2001, spending 14 years with the company, growing from Market Manager in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to company President. He was responsible for managing Citadel’s Midwest Region of 85 stations across 14 markets with 1500 employees, and helped develop, build, and grow ‘The Huge Show Radio Network’ with Bill Simonson, gaining affiliates across the state, while generating seven figure revenues.
Following his run with Citadel, Hanlon’s next radio journey led him to Charlotte to manage three of Entercom’s market leading brands, WFNZ (sports), WBT (News/Talk) and 107.9 The Link. In less than five years, Hanlon has helped all three brands evolve, while remaining a vital part of the local listener’s lifestyle, and producing wins on the business end. The collective success of his three brands caught Urban One’s attention, giving the company added incentive to expand in the market, which they did in November 2020 during a multi-market multi-station swap with Entercom.
Having had the pleasure of working with Matt over the years, he’s never been one to seek the public spotlight. He prefers to let his people enjoy the credit and his brands’ results do the talking. But after a little bit of pleading, he finally came around, and I’m thrilled to share with you some of Matt Hanlon’s insights from our recent conversation as part of our Meet The Market Managers series presented by Point To Point Marketing.
JASON BARRETT: I want to pick your brain on a number of things because you’ve had an interesting career full of many different experiences, but I have to start by asking you about managing a cluster thru a pandemic and tragedy as you have in 2020. I don’t know of anyone else who’s dealt with more challenges than you have over the past year. You changed WFNZ’s PD direction in March, right before the pandemic rocked the nation. A month later, a great man, talented OM and longtime friend Darrin Arriens passed away following a bout with Covid-19. Then, after bringing in new PD Terry Foxx and appearing to have tragedy behind you, WFNZ APD/EP Mark Seidel unexpectedly passed away in September (his death was not related to Covid). Two months later, tragedy thankfully didn’t strike a third time, but you did learn that your cluster would be changing ownership as a result of a deal between Entercom and Urban One. With all of that taking place in less than a year, how do you keep a staff feeling positive, confident, and focused?
MATT HANLON: JB, we have gone thru a lot as a staff. I have as well personally, but as strange as it may sound, I think going thru all of this has brought us closer as a group. I really do. It’s hard to develop and maintain relationships when you don’t work next to someone every day, and when you couple that with losing Darrin and Mark, it had a deep impact on our building. As painful as those losses were given what they both meant to all of us personally and professionally, and let me make sure I say this, those guys were loved inside our building, and we miss them both tremendously, somehow those difficult times have brought us together as a staff.
You mentioned the ownership change too, and going through that was seismic. As you can image, when people learn they’re going to be changing employers, all sorts of questions get raised. Fortunately, we were acquired by a great company that gives us tremendous support. The first few months have given me a great feeling about where we are and where we’re going. What helps a lot is that the management team at the top is small and accessible. We’re in complete lock step about our future because they articulate things very well. The directive that we have is to strengthen our brands by creating more solutions for our clients while providing a stronger listening experience for our audiences, so that’s where we place our focus as a staff.
As far as keeping our team on track is concerned, we have a lot of people on our staff who want to be successful. But when you’re dealing with Covid-19 and the loss of teammates, you have to adjust and over communicate. We’ve never been more active using virtual companies than we are now. If it means having to take more phone calls to activate the staff, then that’s what we do. We do have a good team here that has many of the answers so we just need to allow them to do what they need to do to help us the best they can.
JB: Since I focus a lot on sports media, I want to turn the attention first to WFNZ. Under your watch, the radio station has generated consistent success in the market. It’s also improved its reputation across the entire sports format. Why do you think that’s been the case? Is there some magic formula you’re using?
MH: It’s 100% due to being able to reactivate the people. WFNZ is a great brand that this market loved. We just needed to get them to believe in it again. We made a few changes to improve the product, and the audience has consistently rewarded us with #1 TSL because they like what they’re hearing. I think we have the right people in the right seats with Nick, Kyle, Mac & TBone. These guys are good enough to be on any sports station in the business.
JB: In terms of local sports radio though, WFNZ isn’t facing stiff competition. Do you wish it did? I know you love to compete, so do you miss the daily battle or do you prefer less stress and knowing you hold the dominant format position in your market?
MH: Well, we do have another station in the market that broadcasts sports on the radio, but the market does invest its time with us most and we’re grateful for that. The competition may not be the same for sports radio as it is in some other cities, but there is healthy competition from the marketplace. I think brands need to have the ability to capture the mindshare of the marketplace thru a mix of good content or talent. We have 14 hours per day of discretionary sports talk radio so of course we’re the leader in that space. I’m proud of that and see it as an important layer of our business, but competition does exist. It might be Barstool Sports, though maybe it’s not. It could be ESPN television, but maybe it isn’t. In order to be a legit sports station, you have to be a brand that extends beyond the radio dial. Audiences today have so many options to choose from when deciding who to watch or listen to. In Charlotte, we want WFNZ to be a brand that sports fans know, trust, enjoy, and want to spend time with.
JB: Before you moved to Charlotte, you spent time in Michigan where you worked for Citadel. At one point, you oversaw more than 80 radio stations in the company’s Midwest region. It was during that run that you helped launch Bill Simonson’s ‘The Huge Show Radio Network’ all across the state. We’ve seen other companies explore regional syndication but not all of them have had the success that you did. First, what was it that you saw that convinced you that a move like that could work?
MH: Well, first you can’t be afraid to take a risk JB. We had that part covered. Second, you need a passionate fan base. Michigan was literally a peninsula so sports in that state is very rabid and provincial so it just worked perfect there. Next, you better have a great talent. Bill Simonson was a generational talent, still is, and he was the right guy for us to build around with ‘The Huge Show’. I heard Bill on the air at night and I thought he was doing one of the best shows in the country. He was even better at that time than Mike Francesa was on WFAN. That’s how dialed in he was. We quickly moved him into afternoons which created a lot more interest from both advertisers and listeners. The last piece to that puzzle is that you need to have a strong business model. I got the idea for the network from Knight Quality in Boston. Norman Knight had taken AM radio stations, strung them together, and turned the model into large revenues.
When we put The Huge Show Radio Network together, it became a scarcity model for regional syndication. It was never a ratings play for us. We had a lot of clients and stations jump on immediately, and others were calling out of fear that they’d lose out. We even had stations in Chicago, Milwaukee and Indiana that wanted to air the show. That’s where I saw the power of it on display and how it could motivate others to grow their business.
Back then JB I had to knock on doors and tell a lot of people ‘Hey, I have an idea for you‘. I remember I’d take the Jim Rome contract, and white it out, and type in ‘The Huge Show’. That’s how I learned how to do syndication. It meant having to do things a little differently. It wasn’t uncommon for me to sign deals with affiliates in unconventional places. I remember going to Jim Sommerville’s house in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, he had a tower in his yard, and I had him sign the agreement at his dinner table. I had to climb a fence that day to get to him. In the end, we got business done and it all worked out.
Eventually we got the network on to a dozen stations and at one time we were generating roughly 8 million dollars a year in revenue. It was a heck of a run.
JB: To build a regional network of that magnitude though, you must’ve had to get stations on board who were owned and operated by other companies, some who likely saw you as a competitor. How did you knock down that wall?
MH: That’s true JB. I knew we had to get operators of other stations on board to really make it big, and to do that I had to get them to trust me. Every single one of them was my competitor at that time. I was in 8 of their markets. I think what it came down to is that there was mutual respect and they saw value in what they’d be getting in content, and how it could provide them greater value of their commercial units. There was a lot of trial and error for all of us but they stayed on. When they had conflicts we created solutions for them, and it seriously turned into a really good business for everybody involved.
JB: So having had success with a regional syndication model, I noticed that you haven’t taken that same approach in Charlotte where you operate a successful sports brand in WFNZ and have some personalities who’d likely be attractive to other stations across the state. Could a model like that work where you are now?
MH: In Michigan, we had all the right pieces in place at the right time. That’s why the model became very successful. When you look at other cities, not just Charlotte where I’m located now, they usually have a lot of people invested in teams from all over the place. You can do a regional network anywhere but so many factors come into play including the delivery system. There’s no way of telling what the future holds so I never say never, but right now we’re focused on maximizing what we have in front of us.
JB: As a Market Manager, you have to take into consideration a number of different things when deciding who the right fit is to program one of your radio stations. Many people have experience, relationships, ideas and leadership skills, so what ultimately matters to you most when evaluating candidates and deciding who to trust with the oversight of one of your brands?
MH: I think a programmer has to be a contemporary communicator. That means being able to understand where the listener consumes your product. If you don’t live that lifestyle yourself it’s tough to relate to it. You also have to be immersed in today’s technology and culture. In my case, I’m someone who looks at many different things. Are you creative? Smart? Are you good at building relationships with talent and the local teams? Terry Foxx for example who programs WFNZ is very mature and professional. He arrived here in July and instantly gained respect locally with the teams in our market, as well as with the talent in the building, simply by the way he conducts business. You have to be able to get next to all of them that way you can understand, support, create and innovate.
JB: You brought up the importance of being able to work with the local market teams in a positive manner. As you know Matt, some organizations are great to their radio partners, others try to use their influence to control the messages being relayed about the franchise across the airwaves. How do you balance that part with team owners and their key executives?
MH: When you’re in my job JB, I think so much of it has to be figured out early on. I believe you have to commit to sell the team’s product no matter what their record is. If they’re bad, you still have to help them. I’ve asked our partners to do the same for us. Obviously we all want to win, and we pull for each other to do well, and when times are good, the results and attention are ideal for everyone. But you also have to be honest with each other, and more importantly, the audience. We will never compromise a sportscast or newscast by ever adjusting content in someone’s favor just because we’re partners. There has to be trust on both sides to allow each other to do the job right. If trust is there you can work thru anything.
JB: I do want to ask you about something unrelated to sports talk because you do oversee an iconic News/Talk brand in WBT. This is a station that I’ve been able to hear in NY at night due to its massive signal. Like many other News/Talk brands, the format featured Rush Limbaugh in its weekday lineup. Rush unfortunately passed away a few weeks ago, so now stations across the country are trying to figure out what to do. Personalities on Rush’s level are impossible to replace yet you have an audience and advertisers who have been loyal to that timeslot and you’ve got to give them something to keep them with you. Do you see a capable replacement out there on the national circuit or do you see more news/talk stations going local to fill the void?
MH: I went thru something similar to this in Western Michigan with Howard Stern, and I’ll tell you JB, it’s not easy. I don’t think this will be the same though as Stern. There were places when Howard left that would just turn off the radio station. It was bad.
When it comes to replacing Rush, I’m sure the network will try to move forward just as we did with Adam Carolla, David Lee Roth, and Rover. It’s just hard and the odds of it continuing to work aren’t high. What made Rush unique is that he always had something to prove. Whoever comes on after him isn’t going to have that same chip on their shoulder or the history of having to take on big battles. It’s a totally different job now. I do think there’s an appetite for that messaging but there isn’t going to be another Rush Limbaugh.
For us, the impact on a station like WBT is mitigated by the fact that Brett Winterble is in our lineup. Brett is in afternoons for us and he previously worked with Rush so many of Rush’s local fans also appreciate Brett. We also didn’t promote Rush a lot on the station. We didn’t hide him, but we put most of our attention on our local programs so in this situation not much will change for us.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Chris Broussard Is No Longer Just A ‘Basketball Guy’
“There’s no doubt that gets attached to you and that can be good because you’re seen as an ‘expert’ in one sport which is great.”
After embarking on a career in sports, Chris Broussard made a name for himself as a writer, specifically as it pertains to covering the NBA. Whether it was covering the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, covering the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets for The New York Times, or doing television hits for ESPN, Broussard had always, whether it was justified or not, been pigeon-holed as a “basketball guy”.
That was the perception then, but today, the reality is different.
“There’s no doubt that gets attached to you and that can be good because you’re seen as an ‘expert’ in one sport which is great,” said Broussard, the co-host of First Things First on FS1 and the co-host of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio.
“But what was good for me was that at ESPN, I had done First Take with Skip Bayless a lot. There were a few years where it was a rotation and I was in that rotation. That enabled me to at least do the other sports.”
Broussard has certainly made a seamless transition from print to electronic media.
After joining The New York Times in 1998, Broussard started to get television exposure doing local hits and then appearances on the various ESPN platforms would soon follow. He joined ESPN full-time in 2004 as a writer for ESPN The Magazine, but that also included regular guest appearances and fill-in hosting opportunities on shows like First Take and the opportunity to be a co-host for NBA Countdown for the 2010-11 season.
With that gig came the opportunity to work with Michael Wilbon, Jon Barry, and his childhood hero Magic Johnson.
“I think that may be have been the pinnacle because Magic is Magic,” said Broussard. “He was my favorite player until Jordan came along and (with Wilbon and Barry), we just had great chemistry.”
After one season, Broussard and Barry were replaced by Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose. A few years later, Broussard would make the move that would bring him to the next chapter of his career.
In 2016, Broussard left what amounted to being just a reporters role at ESPN for a new opportunity at FS1 where he would also be an analyst as well as a regular panelist for shows like Undisputed, The Herd with Colin Cowherd, First Things First and Lock It In. In 2018, he began co-hosting The Odd Couple radio show with Rob Parker on FOX Sports Radio.
And then in August of 2021, Broussard was named the full-time co-host of First Things First, something that almost had happened when the network first launched.
“When they asked me to come on as a full-time co-host, it was great and maybe a long time coming,” said Broussard. “I know when Jamie Horowitz first brought all the people over from ESPN to be on FS1 in 2016, he was considering doing a show where Nick Wright and I were the co-hosts.”
Broussard now co-hosts the show with Wright and Kevin Wildes.
“I thought that I really just fit right in with the chemistry and it’s just been a great trio,” said Broussard.
Born in Baton Rouge, Broussard and his family also lived in Cincinnati, Indiana, Syracuse, Iowa, and Cleveland. He was a star football and basketball player for Holy Name High School in Parma Heights, Ohio and went on to play basketball for Oberlin College, an NCAA Division III school in Ohio.
Believe it or not, his first love was not basketball.
“My favorite sport growing up was football,” said Broussard. “I played football through high school. I played basketball at Oberlin College but they recruited for me football and basketball. I even played baseball up until I was about 16 years old.”
So much for being just a basketball guy, right?
After college, Broussard had a decision to make. He knew he wanted to be a sports reporter but wasn’t sure if it was going to be print or electronic media. When he was an intern at The Indianapolis Star, he spoke to people in the know about which direction to go.
“I was told that it’s just easier and there are more spots in print journalism than there are in television and radio,” said Broussard. “I chose print because I thought I had more opportunities.”
Broussard’s first taste of covering pro sports was in 1995 at the Akron Beacon Journal when he was a backup writer covering the Cleveland Indians who would go to the World Series for the first time since 1954. Then came covering the Cavaliers for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and then it was off to New York and a bit of culture shock for Broussard.
During his 2 ½ years covering the Cavaliers, Broussard typically wore a rugby shirt, jeans and sneakers at games. But he noticed that when the Knicks and Nets would come to Cleveland or when Broussard travelled to New York and New Jersey when the Cavaliers visited the Knicks and Nets, that the New York writers would typically wear suits and ties when covering the games.
So, when he interviewed for the job with The New York Times, Broussard had an important question for his future editor.
“I asked him when I was being interviewed for the job do they require that your writers dress up,” said Broussard. “He said no but they do generally in New York because they know television opportunities are there. So, when I started working at The New York Times, I started dressing up wearing a suit and tie or sportscoat and tie whenever I would cover games. Ultimately that led to television.”
And the rest is history.
This coming week, Broussard will be busy co-hosting his shows from the Super Bowl in Arizona. It’s one thing to host a radio show or a television show from a studio but it’s really something special to do it from a live event, especially on the giant stage of the Super Bowl.
And this week, Broussard will be center stage in front of a lot of ears and eyeballs.
“It’s always great,” said Broussard. “FOX Sports Radio always has one of the biggest and best platforms on radio row. It’s always fun when you’re doing these live shows at the big events and you’ve got an audience, it really can kind of bring out the best in you. I’m excited about it both for TV and radio.”
Chris Broussard has certainly come a long way in his career in sports.
From his days as an athlete in high school in college to getting his start as a write to a transformation into a radio and television personality, Broussard has worked hard to get to where he is today.
“I haven’t written a word since I went to Fox,” said Broussard. “I do feel fortunate that I’ve been able from morph from a writer into TV and radio. What you want to do in this business is stay relevant and you want an audience and a platform. There’s not that many people who get that opportunity to do it.”
He’s no longer just a “basketball guy”. He’s a “sports guy”.
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.
Radio Row Is One of The Worst Weeks For Our Listeners
Radio Row is a great opportunity for hosts, PDs, and executives. But it isn’t an inherently great opportunity for your listeners.
From strictly a listener’s perspective, sports radio the week of Super Bowl’s Radio Row is one of the worst weeks.
Before I was a sports radio programmer, I was a sports radio listener. And while I didn’t realize it at the time, I was listening to sports radio with a programmer’s mindset. And every year, I would spend the entire week listening to shows produced live — or pretending to be live — from Radio Row at the Super Bowl. And each year, I would wonder “What the hell is the point of this?”
And now, as a former sports radio programmer, I will sit this week and listen to shows produced live — or pretending to be live — from Radio Row at the Super Bowl. And each day, I will wonder “What the hell is the point of this?”
Who does it serve? Let’s take an in-depth look at that question.
It serves the NFL. Hundreds of media professionals are stationed at its largest event, talking about it, ensuring it stays at the forefront of the public consciousness and providing millions in value for its sponsors.
It serves NFL players. Both past and present. Dozens of current and former stars will flock to Radio Row to record dozens of interviews. They’ll be paid thousands of dollars to pitch their wares as often as possible while expanding their brands outside the cities in which they currently or formerly played.
It serves the sponsors of NFL players. Radio Row provides a one-stop-shop for sponsors to send their endorsers down a line of interviews to continually get in front of new audiences. Scale, baby!
It serves the hosts, PDs, and executives. You get a working vacation! It’s awesome! I live in the Midwest, and yesterday was one of a handful of days I’ve seen the sun since November. Being in Arizona in early February is phenomenal! Plus, you get to hob knob with celebrities, get your photos taken, go to awesome parties with extravagant hor dourves and open bars, and it’s fantastic. You deserve the little break Radio Row provides; better yet, it’s all on the company dime. You get some bonding with your co-workers, you get to network, and it really is an awesome opportunity.
But you know who isn’t served? Your listeners. At least, the vast majority of them. Because here’s the reality: While it’s really cool that you’re hanging out with other radio folks, and you’ll have a plethora of former and current players swinging by for interviews, your listeners really don’t care. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s the truth. While there’s a subset of listeners who are living vicariously through you — and that can’t be completely shortchanged, it’s a big deal — the overwhelming majority couldn’t be less invested in your Radio Row interviews.
Think of it from a listener’s viewpoint: Outside of the Bay Area, do you think anyone has thought “Man, I wonder who Kyle Juszczyk thinks is gonna win the Super Bowl?” I’ll tell you that, no, they haven’t thought that, and they don’t particularly care what he thinks. Furthermore, they definitely don’t care that he’s sponsored by Old Spice, which gives him the P-P-P-Power!™
And it would be fine if there was one interview here or there, but there are some shows — both local and national — that will completely fill out their rundowns with interviews with people your listeners don’t especially care about, ask questions that your listeners don’t especially care about, and end the interview by asking who they think wins Sunday, why they think that way, and allow them to pitch their boner pills or whatever else they’re schlepping. Every day. For five straight days. For two, three, four, or even five hours.
Self-serving isn’t bad as long as you recognize it’s self-serving. And that could be potentially the biggest issue. Now and then, you’ll get a host that is sanctimonious and pretends they’re doing the listener a favor by spending a week away from their family in a warm weather destination, rubbing elbows with some of the greatest players — both past and present — in the game. You’re not. You’re spending a week eating all the free food you can find, drinking all the free beer you can find, and taking pictures to post on your Instagram. And that’s fine, but don’t pretend like it’s something it isn’t. You can talk yourself into its importance, but it’s important to you.
Radio Row is a great opportunity for hosts, PDs, and executives. But it isn’t an inherently great opportunity for your listeners. You can turn it into one with thoughtful questions, a unique spin on the traditional interview, or avoiding the same boring questions your subject has been asked 1,000 times during the day, but you’ve gotta go the extra mile to accomplish that. And I hope that’s not something you lose sight of this week.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio. Reach him at email@example.com.
What Are The Right Social Media Answers For Sports Radio?
“What are the limits of social media for radio brands? Are there any?”
Social media does not stand still. The platforms that matter today can fall out of favor with the general public in the blink of an eye. Conversely, the right feature or attention from the right people can catapult a site’s importance in the social pecking order.
How does a radio company determine what matters? Are all formats received similarly on social media or is sports radio such a unique animal that brands have to be much more deliberate in how resources are allocated? To answer these questions, I turned to some experts.
Tom Izzo doesn’t exclude any platform when he is plotting WFAN’s social strategy. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter may each attract a different type of sports fan, but they all matter in building and serving the larger audience.
“There is sports radio audience on every social media platform, you just have to talk to them differently depending where you are,” he told me. “The language and audience on Twitter is different than the language and audience on Facebook, but there is audience everywhere.”
Audience is everywhere. That’s what is at the heart of the conundrum. How do you best utilize your assets in a landscape that isn’t just constantly changing? It’s also constantly growing!
Lori Lewis has overseen social media strategy at an executive level for Cumulus, Westwood One, Jacobs Media and iHeart among others. Now she coaches companies on creating great content with her own company, Lori Lewis Media.
She told me that the key for not just sports stations, but for any brand, is understanding what their audience prioritizes. That doesn’t mean it should be the brand’s only focus though.
“Obviously, for sports radio, it’s Twitter. But don’t sleep on short-form vertical video,” she said in an email. “When done right, you’ll see success (meaning converting views into new fans) with YouTube Shorts and/or Instagram Reels as well as playback videos on Facebook (those are visual replays from the audio show).”
Converting views into new fans was taken to a bit of an extreme in Nashville. 104.5 The Zone launched Zone TV in 2021. Will Boling took the lead in creating the product. He says that launching a proprietary video stream was never about moving away from other social platforms. It was about giving listeners more access to better content in more places.
“Our video platform affects a lot of our social strategy,” he said. “On Twitter, we don’t want to just be seen as a radio station, but as a media company. Our Twitter stream allows us to react to breaking news while also sharing our broadcast at the same time. And with Twitch’s video producer, we can create featured clips from shows whenever we want. That allows us to push video out of featured guests, funny callers and anything in between to promote our podcasts from each show too.”
Video matters so much more than ever before. It does not matter who you talk to or what platform it is you are talking about. The answer always comes back to using video to attract more eyeballs.
TikTok, our most controversial social video platform, is trying to figure out what its reach could be without the visuals. Last month the company announced that it would experiment with its version of podcasts – a mode on the app that would allow users to experience TikTok content as audio-only entertainment.
I asked all three of my experts what their initial impression of the story is. Only Izzo expressed reservations.
“Probably no need for us to be first anywhere if there isn’t any particular benefit to doing that,” he said. “We’ll watch and see what happens and if it turns out that people like consuming podcasts on TikTok we will certainly address that.”
That doesn’t mean WFAN hosts and bosses won’t keep a keen eye on the feature. I would anticipate that there may be some experimental posts that either don’t receive much of a push or perhaps never see the light of day at all.
Boling is adamant that any use of TikTok is a wise one for stations. He says anything set up with an algorithm that rewards creators for posting content the audience connects with is an asset that cannot be ignored.
“We use social media to push listeners to our YouTube channel because it’s an algorithm based platform. If we get someone to click on our page once, then our channel will get recommended to them the next time they get on YouTube. TikTok helps radio companies accomplish that and own every space in the digital market right now.”
Unsurprisingly, it’s Lori Lewis that approaches the feature in the most scientific way. Do TikTok podcasts represent a sort of new frontier for audio brands? Sure, but just like Grogu and the Mandalorian, you have to go there and poke around before you can figure out how it will work best for you.
“If TikTok expands to audio, how might you complement the mothership (The FM/AM stick) and build on the trust you’ve earned from your show? What’s a unique way to tap into new features? As social media evolves, so should our approach.”
What are the limits of social media for radio brands? Are there any? Since the onset of the pandemic, so much listening has shifted from terrestrial signals to digital streams. We have totally rethought what we are. Why should it stop with how our audience consumes our content?
I asked Lewis if we are too narrow in thinking about how social media can serve us. Are we so focused on what is that we have not considered what could be? Can a brand have one identity on air and use social media to create something that does not mirror it, but instead compliments it?
“Depends on why you’re using social media,” she answered. “If you’re leveraging social media for increased awareness and building trust to drive more engagement during your show, it might not make sense to be different on social than on-air. But, if you’re a vanilla brand limited to creativity on-air, why not? Throw yourself out there. Show your real, relatable self (assuming it’s legal and appropriate, ha-ha). Relatability wins every time.”
Do we have to be deliberate in sports radio with how we allocate our social media resources? Yes, but that doesn’t mean there is a single correct answer.
Strategy matters on air. It’s no different on social media. But in order to figure out the best strategy, you have to be open-minded and eager to play around with new offerings to determine what works.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.