Forgetting that radio is a visual medium

A Chicago radio station I frequently listen to is airing a spot (radio slang for a type of commercial) that bothers the heck out of me.

The spot was recorded by a producer who works for one of the station’s most prominent show, though the spot can air at anytime during the day or night.

In this particular spot, the producer endorses a hair care product. She mentions that as a result of her using the product, she regularly receives compliments from listeners on how great her hair looks.

I have two problems with this.

1. She doesn’t often speak on the air so it is unlikely that anyone other than a devoted listener to the show even knows of her.

2. Even if she was on the air more, radio is not a visual medium. It is highly unlikely that people walking along Michigan Ave. or around a random mall in the suburbs are going to recognize this person and tell her how great her hair looks.

In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t too big of an issue because most listeners won’t pick up on this. Excusing my radio nerdom, my full-time job involves marketing, so I also see this spot as somewhat odd from the vantage point as someone who works in marketing.

A non-soccer fan’s observations while semi-watching the World Cup

Can’t say I’ve made much attempts in my life to watch soccer, but I did pay half attention to the “extra time” World Cup quarterfinal game on ESPNU between sets at the gym this morning.

A few observations…

  • I wonder if the playing field was narrower and/or shorter, more goals might be scored and that perhaps might draw more viewers from the U.S. An indoor soccer game I watched a few years back very intense and goals were more frequent. The action was intense and dare I say exciting. The field was much narrower and shorter.
  • At one point when one of the Korean players was nearing the net, ESPN at that moment displayed a large graphic which ended up covering him and anyone else hovering around the ball.
  • Further evidence of just how important this game was to ESPN… it was on ESPNU.
  • Why do goalies wear completely different colors than the rest of their teammates? If hockey goalies can wear the same colors (just sayin’)…
  • I may have watched more World Cup then I have White Sox games this year.

Sports highlights on the radio have got to go

Recently, a co-worker of mine who listens to WGN-AM 720 each morning complained how he hates when sportscaster Dave Eanet plays highlights from the previous night’s Blackhawks game. A Hawks highlight usually consists of  play-by-play man John Wiedeman screaming “he shoots, he scores!” to be immediately followed by the jarring horn.  This co-worker insists the loud voice and horn is not the most pleasant sound to hear shortly after waking up.

While sports highlights are essential for television, they often don’t work on the radio. Unless the highlight is of something monumental or the actual context of the broadcast is noteworthy, such highlights during a radio sportscast are not necessary.

I sense such highlights are often used just for the sake of having a sound bite and/or to take up content space in the given update.

When listening to Fox Sports Radio, update anchor Tomm Looney (who by design is obnoxious and outlandish) is one of the worst offenders. While the updates are only a minute long, Looney is notorious for wasting 15 to 20 seconds by playing a meaningless highlight. Not only do they sound sound horrible over the air (especially Knick games at Madison Square Garden where the organ blasts at full strength), they also waste valuable seconds in an update that may already be too short (for evenings on a sports radio network, I’m thinking a minute and a half or two minutes is more appropriate).

I’m not going out of my way to specifically criticize Eanet or Looney. The playing of such highlights is a bad practice used by radio veterans throughout the country.  Improve the overall sportscast by elimination of the poor sound bite and fill that space up with an added tidbit or other content more useful. A few seconds can go a long way.

One thing the newspaper still does better than any new media

Earlier today, I came across a column arguing that the newspaper still has importance. When I clicked the link and saw the title “Old but hardly irrelevant,” I have to admit I was quite skeptical. The piece, written by Michael Bradley, was posted on Indiana University’s As I began, the author was quick to admit that Twitter is the most superior method at delivering news and that the newspaper’s demise is not a question of if, but of when.

So what is Bradley’s argument for newspapers supposed to be?

Bradley surmises that in today’s fast-paced world of information, whatever content we are consuming at the moment will be done away with as soon as we move onto the next piece. In a digital world, there is no hanging onto old pieces of paper for archival purposes.

Bradley insists that the newspaper cover is the one component that simply cannot be replaced. Think the day after a monumental news event or the day after your favorite team wins a championship.

In light of last week’s Boston Marathon bombings, Bradley writes:

Despite all of that, the most powerful reminders of the bombings were the day-after front pages of newspapers from around the world. They were permanent chronicles of the moment and will forever transport us to that time and place. The headlines were chilling, and the photographs were iconic. To many, the first thought of the day will be the image of the three police officers running toward the fallen runner, with smoke heavy in the air and the sense of chaos palpable. No matter how much video footage one watches or informative tweets one reads, none of it has the staying power of a front page.

Bradley is 100% correct. I’ve always been enamored with historic newspaper covers. I was reminded of that over the weekend when visiting the Museum of Science & Industry’s submarine area. In the entrance hall were all the major newspaper covers from the World War II time period. To no surprise, my wife ended up having to patiently wait as I slowly made my way through that hall.

In October, 2005, the night the White Sox won the World Series, I went to all the major Chicago news websites and major sports websites and took screen shots of each home page. For all I knew, webpage screen shots could be a trend in the future. Over eight years later, I still got them, albeit stored on a hard drive never to be looked at (I may have done the same thing after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010. Ironically, I don’t remember).

Even if I were to print and frame just one of those webpage screen shots, I have the feeling it still wouldn’t be quite the same as the newspaper cover.  Not even close.

Taking a Look at CBS Sports Radio

CBS Sports Radio Logo

I’ve listened on and off to CBS Sports Radio since its Jan. 1 debut. Overall, there isn’t much about CBS Sports that separates it from any of the other sports radio networks. However much you like national sports on the radio will probably be the main decider if you like CBS or not. Folks in larger markets will likely prefer more local alternatives.

That said, based on my own listening, here are a few random opinions…

  • First and foremost, Jim Rome leaving Premiere Radio to go to CBS  Sports Radio was a big deal. Despite any snafus with the juggling of affiliates as a result of his exit from Premiere, Rome’s star power is large enough to make up for it in short time — if it hasn’t happened already. Love him or hate him, he brings new ears to each affiliate, giving the other shows potential for immediate exposure.
  • The morning show with Tiki Barber, Brandon Tierney and Dana Jacobson is somewhat of a mixed bag. As lead host, Tierney is solid but his surroundings doesn’t give him much to work with. While Barber seems to rarely speak, Jacobson tends to overcompensate by trying extra hard to be witty. More times then not, her attempt at sarcastic humor comes across as mildly annoying. It’s also worth noting that I sometimes have a hard time telling Barber and Tierney apart. Their voices sound alike.
  • I haven’t had the stomach to give either John Feinstein (late middays) or Doug Gottlieb (afternoons) any extended listening. I hear enough of them recite their awful CBS Sports Minute segments, which are heard on various CBS-owned sports stations throughout the country, including 670 The Score/WSCR-AM in Chicago.  That may be an unfair assessment on my part, especially since the few hours of Feinstein I have heard were not as bad as I expected. With a blend of co-hosts around him, which is what he appears to have, may make the show OK. I will make an effort to listen to more of his show.
  • Bringing Scott Ferrall from Sirius XM for late evenings was another positive move. The combination of Ferrall’s raspy voice and unique personality allow for a more fast paced and fun show, which is just perfect for late evenings.
  • The CBS Sports updates (branded simply as Sports Flash) run three times an hour. In 2013, that is far too much, especially when they can run over two minutes long (or three minutes on weekends). ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio have both reduced their respective updates from three times an hour to two. Why CBS opted for three, I don’t know.
  • The CBS Sports Radio jingle or the jingle’s instrumental bed is overplayed tremendously.  You’ll hear it at the beginning and conclusion of each sports update and usually at the beginning or end of a show segment. If listening to the network for any extensive period of time, the listener is likely to get tired of the jingle plenty fast.
  • The CBS Sports Radio web presence is a colossal mess, for many reasons. First and foremost, why they have been unable to secure the URL by now is beyond me (the network was first announced last June!). For the first few months while on the air, their official website,, were a few simple webpages with relatively little information about the network or their  shows. A few weeks ago, the site was re-launched to include newer headlines and podcasts. From a technical standpoint, the re-launched website is very bizarre as they chose to build each individual show page under its own sub-domain. Anyone familiar with optimizing websites for search engines will know how backwards this is when developing a website.
  • Since CBS Sports Radio doesn’t have a dedicated Chicago affiliate, I’ve been listening either on my smart phone via the Tune In app or on the computer via live stream. Ed Sherman of recently interviewed Chris Oliviero, senior vice-president at CBS Sports Radio. Oliviero said that while they are working to get the network in every major market, they have no business plan for having a channel on Sirius/XM. Even though I believe satellite radio will be a losing venture in the long run, I think it is a colossal mistake to ignore such an easy opportunity for expanding their presence.

As I wrote above, CBS Sports Radio doesn’t seem that much different than a Fox Sports or Yahoo Sports Radio. At least CBS doesn’t come across as trying to be “holier than thou,” unlike ESPN — which is a huge a positive.  At this point that’s good enough for me — I’d prefer CBS to ESPN for that reason alone.

NBC Sports Radio launched their 24/7 schedule on April 1st. I will have thoughts on NBC in the very near future.