"I'm a fan of whatever is in season," says LaPotin. "I wouldn't call myself a hard-core sports fan, but I'd say I'm upper-medium. And I listen all day - except when I'm giving (my wife) Cheryl a ride to work sometimes.
"What I like is that it's light and enjoyable. Sports talk doesn't use up your whole brain like listening to news."
Maybe you have to understand what a Paul LaPotin is to the world of radio, especially to the world of WIP. It also would help to understand what WIP, once one of the highest-rated stations in town, is today.
Once the home of Ken Garland and a hit parade of middle-of-the-road music, WIP now is almost all sports - largely sports talk - and that puts it out on a limb. Only one other station, WFAN-AM in New York City, does more sports, and it is doing miserably in the ratings. In the Big Apple, a major-league sports town to be sure, WFAN has a 1 percent share of the overall audience - which is only slightly worse than what WIP got in the winter Arbitron ratings, released last week.
So the question in the industry is: Are there enough hard-core sports fans to support all-sports radio? No wonder, then, that across the country radio and advertising executives are monitoring the WFAN and WIP situations to find out whether all-sports can breathe new life into the ailing AM band.
With only one ratings book published since WIP made the switch to sports radio on Dec. 7, the jury is still out. But there is no shortage of radio experts with opinions on the subject.
"I don't see it being a commercially viable format, because I don't think there is enough product or appetite to sustain all-sports radio," says Chuck Schwartz, owner of WWDB-FM (96.5), another all-talk station. "If you listen, you hear the same people calling over and over. These people have nicknames on the air."
On the other hand, Cody Anderson, general manager of WDAS-AM/FM, thinks WIP can make a go of it. "I happen to be a fan of the station, and I think they do a fantastic job," says Anderson. "I don't think the niche is too small. I think they've found a void in the market."
That dichotomy of opinion within the industry explains why Camiolo spends a good part of his day shagging phone calls.
"I get interviewed every week by people in the industry, trade magazines, newspapers in other towns," says Camiolo, WIP's general manager. "And I tell them all the same thing: 'I wouldn't try this in any other market.' "
What makes Philadelphia special?
First and foremost, says Camiolo, WIP's ownership. Camiolo and Brookshier, a former Eagle and vice president for programming, each own 15 percent. But controlling interest is owned by Spectacor - the Snider family, in other words, who also happen to own the Flyers, the Spectrum, the Hughes Television Network, Showcase stores and other sports-related ventures. No question, they are committed to sports.
Camiolo also believes WIP has an advantage over WFAN because Philadelphia fans are more united in their support of the local teams.
"In New York, when WFAN is talking about the Mets, all the Yankees fans are tuning out. So they lose half the audience. . . . When we talk about the Phillies, every baseball fan in Philadelphia is interested."
And there is still another problem in New York, says Camiolo. In Manhattan, with all the demands on athletes to do interviews and public-service gigs, plus the lure of commercials, many athletes do not find it a priority to sit down for yet another radio interview.
"I talk to some of the people at 'FAN and they complain that, say, they want to get (Giants linebacker) Lawrence Taylor on the air. They call the football team and they get a call back saying, 'Here's his agent's name.' If 'FAN wants to do an interview, the (players) want to be paid for it.
"Conversely, Mike Schmidt contacted us and said, 'Gee, you guys are doing a good job and I'm interested in doing more in broadcasting, so I'd like to have a show on the air.' Big, big difference."
While Schmidt is a major attraction at WIP, he is by no means batting cleanup.
In the mornings, to get you up and off to work, there is Mornings With Martorano, hosted by Steve Martorano, the resident wit and soft-shoe act, who does virtually the only show of the day that isn't all-sports. Certainly, he delves into sports, but the theory is that at that time of morning, you also need a jolt of news, traffic and weather.
At 9 a.m., heavy sports kicks in. The Morning Sports Page, an hour-long talk show, features a parade of Inquirer sportswriters. The writers, clearly out of their element at first, have gotten much better of late and Camiolo's latest concern is that they are sounding too professional.
"I like it when they hit the wrong buttons," says Camiolo.
At 10 a.m., Joe Pellegrino, the former Channel 10 sportscaster, takes over until 1 p.m. From 1 to 4 p.m., it's Bill Campbell, formerly of WCAU-AM (1210) and one of the sportscasting deans of Philadelphia radio. From 4 to 5, Pat Croce, a local fitness guru, sits in.
From 5 to 6:30 p.m., the irascible Howard Eskin slides behind the microphone, going toe-to-toe for an hour against the other major afternoon rush-hour sports talk show, hosted by Steve Fredericks on WCAU.
Once Eskin heads off to Channel 29, sportswriters from the Daily News have a 90-minute show.
At night, as often as not, there is some kind of play by play, be it a Flyers game, a Big Five basketball game, or some other top college or pro game plucked off the satellite dish. Next year, if negotiations now under way work out, WIP will add Sixers games.
And none of this includes spot coverage of events such as last Sunday's NFL
draft, auto and horse racing and the various special shows, including those hosted by Sixers coach Jimmy Lynam, Flyers coach Mike Keenan, Flyers play-by- play man Gene Hart, Mike Schmidt, Ron Jaworski, Dallas Green and Sonny Hill. And, starting next season, a post-game show with Buddy Ryan.
Only in the wee hours does WIP move away from sports, turning the airwaves over to syndicated talk-show giant Larry King.
On paper, that's a formidable ball club for sports fans. And on the air - if you're careful not to overdose - WIP has a certain listenability. But that doesn't mean it's going to work.
That brings us back to Paul LaPotin. He is exactly the kind of listener WIP must attract if the format is going to succeed.
Men, from 18 to 54, are the second-most sought demographic group in radio, only slightly behind women of the same age. The problem for WIP is that few men have the kind of jobs that enable them to go about their business while listening to the radio.
As dispiriting as WIP's overall 1.1 audience share is, there are signs in the latest Arbitron book that the station is making headway with the LaPotins of the world.
According to Arbitron, since WIP went virtually all-sports, its share of male listeners 18 to 34 has risen 122 percent, from a 0.9 share to a 2.0. Among men 25 to 54, the share has risen 17 percent, from a 1.8 to a 2.1.
From 6 to 10 a.m. - meaning Martorano and the Inquirer writers - the station's share has rose 220 percent, from a 0.5 to a 1.6, among men 18 to 34. And among men 25 to 54, the share has risen 31 percent, from a 1.3 to a 1.7.
But the biggest gains have come in the heart of the day, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Pellegrino and Campbell), when men traditionally don't listen to radio. Among men 18 to 34, WIP's share has risen 360 percent, from a 0.5 to a 2.3. Among men 25 to 54, the share has risen 214 percent, from a 0.7 to a 2.2 share.
Eskin also is faring well in his battle with Fredericks. From 5 to 7 p.m., when their shows overlap (Eskin's airs 5 to 6:30 and Fredericks' 5:30 to 8), WIP wins the battle for the male listeners.
But Camiolo's proudest achievement is that, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., 64 percent of WIP's listeners are doing just what LaPotin is doing: driving around town for work, listening to WIP (Arbitron measures in-car listeners).
But all these Arbitron numbers may not be what ultimately saves or kills WIP. The station's salvation may have to do more with image.
"They aren't selling numbers; they're selling a concept," one local media says of WIP. "And that concept is that men are hard to reach, but you can reach some of them through sports radio."
"Sure, I'd be sad if it went under," says LaPotin. "I've got friends who would be, too."
Yo, Mr. LaPotin, Brookshier wants to know if you can drop by the house for dinner.