There’s a growing number of sports podcasts fighting for listeners attention, and sports media consultant Jason Barrett has a pretty good theory for why they’re finding success. He says listener calls to sports talk radio aren’t the big draw that you might think. “When you look at why people are gravitating more to podcasts, it’s because there’s a premium placed on people’s time,” says Barrett. “Podcasts don’t overload the audience with less important bullshit. If they can hear 20 great minutes without obstacles or 20-minutes on the radio with constant disruptions, why would they choose your radio station? Nobody is rushing to add updates, calls, and service elements to podcasts. That should tell you something.”
Barrett Sports Media recently posed to listeners in an online poll the question: “What do you value least when listening to a sports radio morning show?”Four choices were offered: callers, guests, sports updates, and news-traffic-weather. Nearly 22,000 voted on the question via Twitter. The biggest tune-out, according to the results, is callers. That’s something sports podcasts rarely have. And while some have toyed with voice mail to bring listener voices into a show, the survey suggests it’s something podcasters may want to embrace judiciously. The survey found respondents were turned off by phone-in callers, with 51% choosing the option. Another 34% said they don’t want to hear news, traffic or weather on a sports station; while 8% dislike guests; and 7%, curiously, don’t want sports updates.
“What this poll should make obvious is that people aren’t in love as much these days with shows being driven by the audience,” Barrett writes in a blog post. “The sports format’s first 20 years were built on turning the airwaves over to listeners to voice their thoughts, but often shows lacked direction and focus. With social media, texting and podcasting a bigger part of our lives now, interaction is still important, but it’s done differently.”
Barrett also says another factor for the dim view listeners have to phone calls on a show may rest with how young people use their phone. Text messages rule with young people showing less desire to talk on the phone. He points out the majority of voices you hear call into sports talk shows tend to be older, and often times they call back a few times per week. “Listeners under 35 are less tolerant and loyal than those of us who are older and have grown up with the format, and younger hosts tend to be less adamant about needing calls than older hosts who’ve made it part of their routine for years,” Barrett says.