Bill Shaikin, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, has written an article that was given a very contentious headline: “How social media is killing the post game radio show.”
Bad social media. Bad boy. (Swats social media’s nose with rolled-up newspaper.)
Reading through the article, I don’t really see that hypothesis fully supported within. What the article does discuss is how the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (I can’t believe I still have to write that whole team name out) made the decision to eliminate their post-game radio show, hosted by play-by-play announcer Terry Smith, only for road games this season, and that hardly anyone has noticed. The decision was made because the calls to the show have been declining precipitously during the past few years.
Yet in the next paragraph, one of the hosts of the post-game show for in-market rivals Los Angeles Dodgers says their own post-game show is “thriving”.
So, whom to believe?
Reading through the piece, it appears to me that the problem might lie with the Smith’s unwillingness to both pre-engage Angel fans through social media to stoke interest in the show, and to expand the discussion beyond the game itself to the state of the Angels team in general.
I do agree that the post-game call-in show has ceded its preëminence as the place for fans to make their opinions known to others, given the rise of online forums, Facebook, Twitter and other digital avenues by which people can make themselves heard. But as with any other medium, it doesn’t have to be an either-or decision: that is, either call in to the radio show, or tweet or post your thoughts instead—choose one. Human expression has never limited itself in that way. We humans use all the tools at our disposal to make ourselves heard, for the simple reason that most of us are hard-wired to make ourselves heard.
So why not use social media to augment the reach of your post-game show by proactively posting thoughts and opinions to stoke discussion? That’s how Marty Lurie does it in San Francisco, and judging from Shaikin’s article, it seems to be working well for him.
If a host is still not willing to do this, the station can pull back on the show instead. But if that’s the decision, it wouldn’t be fair to blame the rise of social media for killing off the show. It would be fairer to acknowledge the inability to utilize social media effectively to increase the audience for the show. That’s not on the social media itself—that’s on the host.
Shaikin’s piece is below. If you’d prefer to read it on the LA Times site, click here.
How social media is killing the post game radio show
It is a rite of baseball, like singing in the seventh inning, or military jets screaming overhead on opening day.
It is the postgame radio talk show — Angel Talk, Dodger Talk, pick your team and talk. After the game, the phone lines open, and fans call in to celebrate, to debate and to complain — about the manager, the general manager, the players, maybe even the hot dogs.
The Angels are trying something new this season. They have eliminated the call-in show after road games — and hardly anyone has called in to complain about that.
“I’m not the only one who feels that way.”
A generation ago, a fan’s voice might only be heard by a call to the talk show, or a letter to the local newspaper.
With the rise of the Internet — with blogs and message boards, with Twitter and Facebook — the hosts of those talk shows are debating whether technology is enhancing their programs, or slowly killing them.
On Angel Talk, Smith said, the volume of callers has declined significantly in recent years.
“You don’t want to have the same people on every night,” he said.
David Vassegh, one of the hosts of Dodger Talk, said his program is thriving. In the car culture of Los Angeles, with fans driving home from the game, he said a postgame talk show is a natural fit.
Beyond that, he said, the program engages a much wider swath of fans than a message board would.
“Baseball is built around that feeling of community,” Vassegh said. “Listening to baseball games on the radio is part of that feeling of community.”
Lurie, one of the hosts of the San Francisco Giants’ call-in show, said social media has presented a challenge for him and his colleagues.
“You have to work harder to engage the audience,” Lurie said, “because they have other ways to express themselves.”
Before a show starts, Lurie sometimes takes to Twitter to ignite a debate. The other night, he asked fans via Twitter if they would trade Madison Bumgarner, Mike Leake and Jake Peavy for the top trio of starters on any other team in the National League.
“I must have had 150 people right away,” Lurie said.
He read the best responses on the air, then invited callers to weigh in.
Smith said he would be reluctant to solicit fans to call in and identify, say, their all-time favorite Angels second baseman.
“The idea of Angel Talk, for me, is to talk about the game,” he said.
On the last trip, the Angels invited fans to use Twitter to ask questions during Smith’s broadcast of the game, with replies from as far away as Australia, England and Italy. Smith said the Angels could consider similarly incorporating Twitter into the call-in show.
He said the Angels have made no decisions about the call-in show for next season — including, for that matter, whether he will be part of the radio team. His contract expires at the end of the season.
Smith, whose 14-year tenure is the longest of any radio broadcaster in Angels history, said he understands the team is focused on finding a new general manager and he expects to resolve his situation in the off-season.
“I have no desire to retire,” he said.
Radio was supposed to die when television was born, but the radio industry continues to prosper. Lurie predicted the call-in talk show would continue to prosper as well.
“Calling in on radio is part and parcel of baseball on the radio,” he said. “I think that is something that will live on.”
In that case, Vassegh is well aware of another tradition that will live on.
“When the team wins, you’re not going to get as many calls,” he said. “When the team loses, everybody wants to call in and voice their frustration.”