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Craig Swagler Finds a Learning Opportunity In Everything He Does

Swagler admits he fell into many opportunities and didn’t say ‘no’ to anything when an opportunity presented itself; he made the most of it.

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A photo of Craig Swagler
Creator: Rose Anderson

Craig Swagler seems like a low-temperature guy that doesn’t let things rile him up too quickly. A level head that guides him through the congested highways of today’s contorted media landscape.

Swagler grew up in Wellsboro, PA, a community today with a population of just over 3,000 people. In school, Swagler ran cross country and track while finding time to work a morning newscast in high school. “I executive produced and made sure the weather and lunch menu was on the broadcast,” Swagler said.

Swagler said he had a good childhood and enjoyed where he grew up. “I went to Mansfield University of Pennsylvania,” he said. “It was a small art school, and I enjoyed being there because of the small size. I didn’t want to be a number among thousands of other students. Early on, I had an interest in story-telling, journalism.”

He found a learning opportunity in everything he did. “When I was with the Golf Channel, I was always running around the course with the camera guy. I’d ask questions; they’d teach me things. Like anything else, you get out of it what you put in. The job itself wasn’t glorious. It was an opportunity to be side by side with unbelievable talent. You learn things by listening or by osmosis.”

Swagler knew a former student who became a production manager for Monday Night Football.

“They hired kids to be grips and runners,” he said. “Basically, a runner is a glorified grip. You got the opportunity to get your hands on everything. We learned how to problem-solve. We’d fly into the cities and address all sorts of problems we had to solve. 

While most students get into the business of being on-air personalities, Swagler leaned the other way. “I always felt that behind the scenes was the place for me. I never saw myself on air. I did some on-air work in college. I hope those tapes never surface,” he joked. “It was never a source of passion for me. I didn’t think I wasn’t very good at it. What I found out I loved was what it took to get something on the air. I wanted to build a career through those ideas.”

Swagler worked for ABC Sports as a production assistant. He traveled around the East Coast, helping to set up live remotes. 

“There were usually three or four young hires doing these duties. To me, it didn’t matter if it was menial or important,” Swagler said. “You’re given a task that you know nothing about, and you address the problem; I found that to be very fulfilling. I had to take the opportunity, and on a resume, it all looked good. When I interviewed for jobs, these were experiences I could speak to. Not just book knowledge. I was always willing to get my hands dirty.”

Swagler admits he fell into a lot of opportunities and didn’t say ‘no’ to anything. When an opportunity presented itself, he made the most of it. “Some of the things I did required me to spend money out of my own pocket. “It was about sacrifice, driving to New York for an assigned shift, showing up in order to get to the next assignment.”

Swagler knows a lot about radio. He said it’s essential to understand everything across the board, just as a restaurant manager must understand all the tasks. “A lot of leaders have a good sense of moving parts of their organization,” Swagler said. “These are diverse individuals who understand the scope. A good leader needs an effective understanding of how things work. That’s true in many professions, but radio in particular. I wouldn’t ask anyone to do something I wouldn’t do myself.”

Swagler said there’d been a change in today’s job-seeker. “There’s definitely a generational gap in how things are approached. I’m aware of that. We used to say somebody had a ‘fire in their belly.”

He’s accountable for formulating and directing overall facets of processes such as sales, operations, and content management for CBS Podcasting, CBS Audio Streaming, CBS News Radio, and CBS News Radio on SiriusXM. 

To make coverage more efficient, Swagler said they took control rooms out on the road. “We brought back the concept of ‘being there.’ Everything old is new again. We had some amazing floor reporters that benefited the affiliates.”

All the time he spent with MNF and other events made Swagler skilled at producing wall-to-wall coverage from a scene, mixing the entire show right where it’s happening. “That helped me prepare as an editor working on such large events.”

Podcasts are a massive component of communications and will be a force. “We have a new leadership structure with podcasts,” Swagler said. “It’s massively successful in long-form content. That’s the unique part of it. We’re trying to create content that creates consumer engagement.” 

Swagler cited a particular podcast called Mobituaries, which forged a new path in podcast branding. “It’s based on a book by Mo Rocca. We came up with the podcast to help promote his new book. It was genius. We had a half-million downloads after the book came out.”

They didn’t just put out a podcast; they tied it to a Sunday morning audience. They found a sponsor and pitched ideas. Essentially telling listeners, here’s the segment, buy the book. It was a cross-utilization of driving an audience. In that way, it’s powerful.

Swagler said podcasts present massive challenges. “There are millions and millions of episodes out there,” Swagler said. “It’s changing too. It used to be if you had a phone, you could have a podcast. What some podcasters don’t understand is there is a value in branding. Reintroducing information to a younger generation who consume content on the go.”

People take different approaches, Swagler explained. “Some throw spaghetti against a wall to see what sticks. A heritage brand says something. Means something. CBS means a lot.”

He said years ago; that there used to be a clear understanding between op-ed and what was news. Those lines have become blurred. “Voices of trust are fewer and fewer in the media landscape,” Swagler said. “The landscape also has its problems internally.” Many reporters don’t ask themselves if they’re unbiased, he explained. “There’s a belief there is a liberal elitism. That doesn’t help. People on the coasts are so far away from the mindsets of the Heartland. People that present news on the left and right are both trying to convince the American people of their truth.”

Swagler said years ago; they probably wouldn’t have given much attention to Brittney Spears’ conservatorship. 

 “I think the moment where entertainment crossed over into news was the story about the death of Anna Nicole Smith. That became a national moment. A lot of very legitimate news outlets covered that story.”

He says radio is still the first social media people turn to when something happens. “It’s about local stories that are national in impact. We can be more effective than social media,” Swagler said. “We’re talking about something as it’s happening in real time. We have a huge reach, and it’s more efficient.”

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Amy P.

    June 21, 2022 at 7:44 am

    Very insightful. Good interview.

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The Latest Example of How to Not Produce a Debate

If there is a blueprint on how not to put on a debate, it was Wednesday evening.



A photo of the Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, and Vivek Ramaswamy in the 2nd debate
(Photo: Sachin José)

As if it couldn’t get any worse, it did. For the first time since it’s been my job to watch a Presidential debate for a living, I turned one off. After 82 minutes (9:22 p.m. CST, not that I was watching the clock or anything), I had enough. I couldn’t subject myself to the torture that became the second GOP Presidential debate on Wednesday night from the Reagan Library.

If there is a blueprint on how not to put on a debate, it was Wednesday evening, and there are multiple reasons why, beyond the usual bemoaning of “the candidates won’t stop talking over each other.”


The debate was overproduced. In the opening there were videos of Reagan (nice and well done, don’t get me wrong), each anchor had various lines they were reading between each other, which felt forced and unnatural, and as a result, it took over three minutes from the opening of a debate to a candidate finally speaking.

I understand TV isn’t radio, but in a PPM world, imagine taking three minutes to get to your content, when people are tuned in at that moment to consume the content you’ve been hyping up and promising for weeks. Time is a zero-sum game. Every minute a candidate is not speaking, because a moderator is, or a pre-produced piece is playing, can’t be gotten back.

Give people what they came for. A 15-second welcome, a 60-second introduction of the candidates, if that, and dive into the questions is a 90-second process. Keep these things moving and give the viewers what they came for. And that’s the candidates.

No Direction

The debate lacked direction and clarity. Anchors spent far too much time asking long-winded questions with ridiculous and unnecessary details. As a viewer, it came across like the anchors were trying to impress us, rather than asking a question, getting out of the way, and letting the candidates — you know, the people running for President — try to impress us. They’re the ones who I want to be impressed by because they’re the ones we’re being asked to vote for.

Also, the topic direction had little flow and was disjointed. On certain topics, only one to three candidates would get to answer questions on the issue. I’ve laid out the case for keeping the flow of a debate and moving it along, but only giving half the stage the chance to answer questions on the most pressing issues in the country is a disservice to the voter who is there to here what everyone had to say.

At one point in the debate, Chris Christie was asked about a looming government shutdown, which was followed by a childcare cost question to Tim Scott and then it was an immigration/dreamers question back to Chris Christie. And that was in a five to seven minute span. Huh?

Rather than finding the six to seven big topics and diving into them with each candidate, while letting the candidates then organically and respectfully spar, it was like watching an ADD-riddled teen try and bounce between topics with no clarity or purpose.

And Yes, the Candidates

Of course, there were plenty of these moments that typically derail debates, notably primary debates, where multiple people are talking over each other and no one is willing to give in to be the first one to shut up. Then, the debate begins to inevitably sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher and suddenly the obnoxious noise even makes your dog look at you and wonder what in the hell you’re watching.

There were too many candidates on stage and then the moderators also ended up losing control, like what happened last go around.

But as I wrote last month, this debate format is a broken system. But for some reason, we keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. 

Ronald Reagan was rolling over in his grave watching that debacle last night. It’s too bad he’s not still here to try and help fix it. 

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3 Ideas to Turn CNN Max Into a Streaming News Juggernaut

The last thing CNN needs to do is to have CNN Max hiding in plain sight.

Jessie Karangu



A photo of the CNN Max logo

It is so easy to find a gamut of stories and opinion pieces within the past year or two criticizing many different aspects of CNN and the way it operates. Many of those evaluations have been absolutely fair. 

Now though, it is time to give CNN credit where it is due.

This week marked the launch of CNN Max and it has been as seamless as a fresh glazed donut coming straight out of the oven. The stream’s video quality is crisp. Commercials are inserted properly. Most of the exclusive programming feels exactly like something you would see on linear CNN.

But the most fascinating thing Warner Bros. Discovery has been able to pull off is the ability to stream most of the same programming that airs on domestic CNN via Max. It is a stroke of business genius and puts the company and network ahead of its counterparts when it comes to offering a quality streaming alternative. As has been mentioned in the past, the network has been able to bypass MVPDs and stream their primetime anchors without permission from cable operators because CNN Max is mostly a direct simulcast of CNN International which airs U.S. programming live overnight while Europeans are in bed. 

Despite the successful launch, there are still some tweaks that could improve the product exponentially. One major benefit would be to have replays of programs that viewers may have missed from earlier in the day. Each show on serves a specific purpose and although similar coverage of news is told throughout the day, each anchor has a unique way of stringing the narrative together. Viewers deserve to get the chance to see how a story develops throughout different parts of the day and see specific segments in its entirety that may not get clipped for social media.

Viewers also need a chance to fully sample CNN Max’s exclusive programming and at the moment, if you don’t watch it live you’ve missed it forever.

Speaking of clips, it’s important for highlights of the day to be available quickly within the Max ecosystem. On CNN Max’s first day, Kasie Hunt scored an exclusive interview with Sen. Joe Manchin that made headlines.

Unfortunately, the only way a viewer could see it if they missed it live was if they scoured the network’s website for it or waited for a clip that the social media team would eventually put out. Part of being a modern-day news organization requires accessibility to be at its best at any given time of the day.

If viewers have a difficult time finding out the major highlights of what’s been on air, it may be harder to convince them to try a new product.

Viewers also deserve the opportunity to subscribe to alerts. News breaks on a consistent basis and unless you’re scrolling through your social media feed all day 24/7, it is almost impossible to follow everything that’s happening. Max needs to provide an option for specific types of alerts dealing with breaking news or major storylines that have developed live on air on CNN Max with the option to tune in now or to see clips or full episodes that deal with a specific headline. Alerts will increase engagement and maintain a relationship with the consumer they may not be able to get at another major entertainment app that streams similar programming as Max.

Promotion within the app is also important. While Max did an awesome job of showcasing the various shows that are live at any point during the day, it used the same graphics of the same hosts with the same descriptions every day. Viewers who read promos on entertainment apps are used to seeing different plot lines and convincing pictures showcased once a week whenever a new episode of their favorite show is ready for viewing. Max needs to treat news stories in the same fashion.

As stories break throughout the day, Max needs to promote their live programming with information blurbs containing new developments and questions that viewers might get answered by tuning in. Show previews could also promote featured guests. Using the same stale graphic of a host, show name, and generic show description will eventually become stale and annoying for viewers. Viewers will unfortunately train their minds to ignore the static messaging.

Warner Bros. Discovery also needs to take advantage of CNN Max’s predecessor. CNN Plus was able to maintain a decent amount of followers on social media – at least 35,000 on Twitter. Turn that page into a promotion spot for CNN Max that aggregates clips, promos, and previews of what viewers can expect on Max or what they may have missed.

As the brand develops a presence on social media, it will also develop name recognition among future cord-cutters who are deciding between Max and other services. The last thing CNN needs to do is to have CNN Max hiding in plain sight. CNN Max can be additive to cable ratings if people have an understanding of where and how to access it. 

CNN Max is creating a direct relationship between the consumer and CNN. It’s a relationship that has always had a middleman. Unfortunately for the cable industry, the middleman is slowly dissipating away.

With this newfound bond, the network should take advantage of the digital real estate it has access to and create real interaction with viewers. Optional polls, factoids, written descriptions of stories on screen, or even biographies of the guests on air at any given time could provide viewers with an extra reason to stay tuned in. It keeps viewers occupied and helps elongate the amount of time viewers spend on the stream and the app as a whole. 

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Re-Watch The 2023 BNM Summit, On Demand Tickets Are Now Available

“If you weren’t able to make it to Nashville for the 2023 BNM Summit, I invite you to purchase an on-demand ticket to watch the show. The cost is just $49.99.”

Jason Barrett



When one of our Summits ends, it’s over for the attendees and speakers. The work is far from done though for yours truly. After packing up a SUV and driving home, the immediate focus turns to posting photos, gathering video of the sessions, sending out final invoices, making sure all ads on our websites and newsletters promoting the conference are updated, adding watermarks to the video footage to support our sponsor, editing clips for social, and then building a web page for folks to be able to go re-watch the show.

It’s a mountain of work and I dive head first into it because I want to make sure that anyone who attends one of our shows has an opportunity to catch a session they may have missed or go back and re-watch a speaker to make sure they have the right information before passing it along to help an individual or entire staff.

When you buy a ticket to one of our shows, I try to provide maximum value. You get an action packed two-day event featuring difference makers in various roles across the industry, access to multiple parties including free drinks, and a FREE on demand ticket to re-watch the show. The ticket price itself is also kept lower than many other events because I’d rather see folks in the room benefitting than worrying about whether or not we crushed our revenue goals. I don’t create these conferences to keep myself busy, boost my ego or get rich. I run them to try and improve the media business. It isn’t easy especially given how reluctant many radio folks are to get out of their buildings and routines to learn something new but someone has to try.

There’s an old Benjamin Franklin quote that I’ve loved and adopted over the years, which says “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” That’s what our conferences are about. We discuss opportunities and challenges and have open and candid conversations with smart people, share information, and provide examples that have hit and/or missed because the goal is to make improvements, and you can’t do that without deeper inspection.

With that said, if you weren’t able to make it to Nashville for the 2023 BNM Summit, I invite you to purchase an on demand ticket to watch the show. The cost is $49.99. Just click HERE to sign up. Once you press the Subscribe button down below, it will take you to the next page to enter your information to gain access. Those who attended the Summit have already received instructions on how to watch the show for FREE.

We will return with a 2024 conference in either Chicago, Dallas, New York City or Washington DC. Given that next year is an election year and we’ve got one of these shows under our belts now, I’m sure the next event will be even bigger, and better. If you’d like to vote on where the 2024 BNM Summit should take place, log on to You should see the poll question just below our main section.

Thanks again for supporting the show. Until next time, may your revenue and ratings continue to rise.

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