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Sports Radio Needs To Follow How Young People Follow Sports

“Why shouldn’t we take a stars-first approach with local sports talk?”

Demetri Ravanos



During his panel alongside Gordon Borrell at the BSM Summit, Steve Goldstein pointed out that news/talk radio’s median listener is 59-years-old. Like Major League Baseball, both are in trouble for the long run and refuse to acknowledge it.

Steve then asked if we knew what sports radio’s median age is for listeners. It’s not as bad. Sports is sitting at 49-years-old. Still, it is time to do a little problem-solving.

“You need to reinvent this stuff,” he said. “No question about it.”

I thought about that a lot throughout the two days of the Summit. As I listened to speakers share their thoughts and panelists answer questions about industry concerns, it dawned on me that “reinvention” could take a lot of forms. Realistically, if sports radio is going to successfully reinvent itself to attract younger listeners, there won’t be a single answer. It will happen as a result of taking steps to address multiple problems.

Today, I only want to focus on the on-air product.

Are we talking about the right things? For the most part, I think so. There is one change I think local radio could make that would have us talking about sports the way younger people consume them.

Why shouldn’t we take a stars-first approach with local sports talk? That’s how all the national platforms talk about the NBA, right? They aren’t talking about the Warriors, Lakers or Bucks. They are talking about Steph, LeBron and Giannis. Any mention or analysis of the teams starts with a mention of or thought about the names that are going to make you stop and pay attention.

My son is 10. He has never sat down and watched a full NBA game with me, but he loves Giannis and Luka. Seriously, he would call Giannis Antetokounmpo one of his favorite players, and it never dawned on him to sit down and watch a full Finals game with me last year.

Now, we aren’t marketing to 10-year-olds, but his isn’t the first generation to consume sports like that. More importantly, they aren’t going to hit 30 and suddenly change their consumption pattern. This is the way they are learning to experience and love sports. We have to acknowledge and serve that to remain viable.

Plenty of network leaders talked about this at the Summit. I believe it was Scott Shapiro of FOX Sports that said he told his hosts that he doesn’t want to hear the words “Packers offensive line” unless it is followed by a sentence including the words “Aaron Rodgers”.

Why wouldn’t that work at the local level?

I live in Raleigh, NC, home of the Carolina Hurricanes. It took us a long time to fully embrace NHL hockey. In fact, I would argue that the majority of the city still looks at the Canes as a bar rather than as a team.

There aren’t many stars here, but there are good players that have been here for a while. Wouldn’t it make sense for 99.9 The Fan to worry more about Sebastian Aho and less about defensive pairings?

It makes more sense than even talking about the standings. That just isn’t a factor for millennials. They experience sports in clips, not games, let alone winning and losing streaks.

An hour in sports talk radio usually includes somewhere around 40 minutes of talk time, right? That is a lot, so certainly there are places to go in-depth and explore different thoughts and observations, but this is a short attention span culture. This is a world with an immeasurable amount of entertainment options. No one under 35 is sticking with your entire two, three, or four-hour show. They probably aren’t sticking with your whole hour. So, if you want to keep things fresh for yourself, fine, but you are probably best served with multiple thoughts on the same A-block topic.

Sports radio doesn’t need to suddenly be competing for an audience with YouTube videos of kids opening toy boxes. This is about doing something that can open you up to a younger audience without alienating the middle-aged people that already come to you.

“Local celebrity” is a term that often gets thrown around with jest or scorn. I have a friend in a Dancing With the Stars competition in her market. She is a nighttime host on a sports talk station. The other competitors are lawyers and school principals. That is a real point-and-laugh kind of local celebrity classification where the “local” is written in bold, 25-point font and “celebrity” may be hard to read without glasses.

The star players on your hometown teams are a different kind of local celebrity. For them, especially for the very best players, “local” and “celebrity” are on equal footing. They are stars, but they also make the listeners feel real pride. Think about all of the times you have heard people complain that the local guy would be an MVP contender if the national media paid attention to your market! That is something to mine for content in a thousand different ways.

BSM Writers

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.


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.

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BSM Writers

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.

Jeff Caves



Radio Sales

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.  

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BSM Writers

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.

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