If you are being asked more and more to do more and have fewer resources to work, you could be in sports talk radio in 2021.
We all strive to grow our brand while creating great content, satisfying sponsors, and keeping management happy in the process. In some cases, you are the management. The reality is that doing all of this at a high level is getting harder and harder. We are all pulled in many directions and in addition to work responsibilities, there is probably also a family or a life that you are trying to maintain.
This is not an attempt to create a “woe to me” sob story. Believe me, no one will shed a tear for those of us who make a living talking about sports for a living. However, if you take pride in what you do, it can be incredibly taxing when you feel like you don’t have the energy to do the job right.
I was fortunate enough to get out of the management frenzy just recently, but trust me, I understand where the industry is going. Many in this business are invited to be the boss, talent, producer, guest deliverer, sales manager, and digital content coordinator. There are simply not enough hours in the day. I used to look at my schedule with some frustration, knowing that there was no way in the world that I could tackle my to-do list before I got home and went. ‘try to be a present husband and father.
In order to deliver a quality, well-booked, well-researched, well-thought-out sports radio show – whether it’s 3 or 4 hours long – you’d better devote at least 3 hours of solid (uninterrupted) preparation time. If we’re being honest, 2 hours is probably what you can actually do at best. Assuming you have a 3 hour show, with 3 hours of prep where you’re not working on any other project, that gives you at least 5-6 hours cut out of your day. So in an “8 hour work day” you have 2-3 hours to do everything else. It’s unrealistic, but it’s real life for a lot of us, and I wonder if we make our lives harder than it should be?
Here are some tips to simplify the preparation of a 3 to 4 hour live show.
Involve the public: The beauty of having a live show in the first place is the ability to draw inspiration from your audience’s inspiration and interaction. If you try hard at the start of your show to ring the phone lines or vibrate the text line, you’ll create a flow of momentum that can bring the show down quickly.
In one of the first two segments of each show, consciously address a topic that creates the desire for interaction. That way you can draw a response from your bleeding audience into the show and most of the time you’ll land on a listener’s thought or two that become a spontaneous topic in itself in the hours to come. This makes the tedious nature of repeating yourself hour by hour a little less redundant.
Re-run good content from 1 hour: All sports hosts want to believe deep in their hearts that your audience is there for the long haul, that they listen to throughout the show, and of course some are, but most are not. A large majority of talk radio listeners are window shopping. Statista.com sites indicate that the average radio listener consumes 39 minutes of content per day according to a 2020 report. Broken down among parts of the day, that’s about 13 minutes per hour on air, and that’s about 13 minutes per hour on air. is if they don’t turn around. Translation: What you do at 6:30 a.m. or 3:30 p.m. will not be relevant or known to a large part of the audience listening at 8:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m.
We all know this which is why we try to hook up with teases or promote great guests. We want those extra few minutes. It can be the difference between hitting that bonus or getting that next contract. But again, don’t overexert yourself. If you have an interview or a great segment that has a lingering character from the first words to the last match, do it again hours later.
For the record, this isn’t just something to think about if you’re an overworked local radio host. This strategy is deployed by national radio hosts. One is Colin Cowherd. Almost every day, his opening rant is not only regurgitated two hours later at the peak of the hour, it is replayed in its entirety.
Give your producer / set operator a segment they can call their own: Due to time, budget and personnel constraints, our shows are shrinking and finding real workers to create a show that you can perform is getting harder and harder. In essence, that’s the whole point of this article, but for those who still have someone running the ship from a technical standpoint, use it. There is no reason why you should be the only voice heard or the only creative mind developing content for your show. We tend to say that’s our name on the product, so we have to do all the work. Think how much time you could save knowing that you could eliminate one segment per day from your creative process. It adds up and it can potentially train new talent in the process.
Keep a current tab of content created during your show: Often we can find ourselves creating topics on the fly through the art of just having an open dialogue. The funny thing is, sometimes it’s our best content. Don’t sleep on sidebar topics or different angles of the stories you cover in the heat of the moment. If you keep a tab running of the topics developed on the fly, you can then reuse them later in the show, and what you do is potentially prepare for the last hour or so of your program. When you get into a good rhythm and are sure it works, you’ll actually find yourself leaving the last hour of the show entirely open to the clutter of pre-show planning. Use commercial breaks to get your thoughts in order and take notes for future segments, using the content you created in the original discussions.
Blog post before the show: Two birds, one stone. Often times we’re not just asked to create live show content, but digital content as well as. It’s different for everyone, but if you stay relevant in this space, the content you create on air isn’t the only content you create. Do yourself a favor, allow one to feed the other.
Take a topic you like for your show, take notes on it, write down your thoughts and opinions, and post it on your show’s website or social media. I think a lot of sports talkers fear the idea of writing something and then spitting it verbatim on the air. But it brings me back to the time I spent listening to the discussion, this fear, it’s just our ego speaking. Most listeners aren’t going to put two and two together, and you know what? If they did, who cares anyway? Good content is good content, don’t create double work for yourself.
Ultimately, my point in writing this is to say that it’s easy to get lost in the ocean of content creation. It’s especially easy to get overwhelmed when content creation isn’t the sole responsibility of your plate. Most people don’t realize how time-consuming preparing for a sports speech can take, sometimes not even your employers.
What you can do to help with the rushed time of each passing day is just find a way to make your life easier. Reuse, recycle, reuse. If your content is good enough, listeners will keep coming back for it.