Ethan Skolnick knows what the Miami sports fan wants. Even better, he knows the most effective way to get it to them. To have that strong of a belief, takes a whole lot of experience and a vision that nobody else has. Luckily, he has both.
To truly understand why Skolnick feels so strongly about what the Miami sports fan wants, you have to know about both his present and his past.
For 20 years, Skolnick was one of the best sports media talents in South Florida. Whether it was stops at the Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post, Sun Sentinel or even 790 The Ticket where he replaced Dan Le Batard, he’s always seemed to have a direct pulse on what content the sports fans in the city want to consume. Along with that experience, plus the tireless work of many others, Skolnick is brining Miami sports on demand in the form of podcasts, videos, news stories, etc. to the city like it’s never seen before.
The Five Reasons Sports Network has taken Miami by storm.
In 2018, Skolnick was out of sports media. After a successful career that saw him have, at one time, the highest rated radio show in South Florida behind Dan Le Batard, he was looking for his next venture. Then, Chris Wittyngham, a former host with Skolnick at 790 The Ticket, came with the idea to start a podcast. The duo started with one to try and get into the swing of things. It was a success. Soon enough, people were all over the idea of hearing the two back together talking sports. Then, things started to expand more once Skolnick took his new product to Twitter.
“I had built up over 75,000 followers at one point,” said Skolnick. “I’m at like 72,000 now, but I always engaged with people, because I thought it was a big part of my job. Basically I just started using my Twitter account again, created a Five Reasons Sports account, then retweeted a bunch of stuff on that page from my personal account to accelerate the growth and build a following.”
It worked. Shortly after, people who had built a social media following with the Dolphins and Heat started to reach out. But out of everyone that reached out, there was one in particular that stood out.
“Alfredo Arteaga, “said Skolnick. “He basically said that he and his two buddies, one of them living in England and one of them living in Tampa Bay, they had all this info about the Dolphins, it was incredible, but Alfredo came to me and said he and his two friends were thinking of starting a podcast and asked how I did it. I said I had a better idea, why don’t we work together?”
With that conversation, Three Yards per Carry was born. It took off instantly. Today, it’s one of the most successful podcasts in the Five Reasons Sports Network and considered as the possibly the best podcast when it comes to the Miami Dolphins.
“Those guys nailed 5 of the 7 draft picks a year ago,” Skolnick said “They’re just on top of everything and I don’t touch them. They have this chemistry that’s totally organic. It just works.”
Soon after, others in the social media space reached out to get a better understanding how Skolnick and his new team were creating an in-demand product. The people asking, quickly became a part of the Five Reasons Sports Network. The growth was happening.
Skolnick isn’t shy about his vision of winning Miami in the next two years. That’s not winning in just the podcast space, that’s winning over every single newspaper and sports radio station in the city. He wants to be the destination for every sports fan in Miami. But what’s his plan to get there?
Social media is a massive component with Five Reasons Sports Network. It’s probably even fair to say it’s the livelihood of the brand with how much emphasis is put on it.
“We generate anywhere between 5-10 million impressions a month off our Twitter account,” Skolnick said. “Basically by posting polls throughout the day, retweeting everybody’s episodes and posting other content.”
The Five Reasons Sports Network Twitter account has a little over 12,000 followers. With that page, as well as the other podcaster’s pages, Skolnick feels he’s captured every South Florida sports fan who’s on Twitter. The goal isn’t just to bombard the internet with local sports content, it’s to capture the audience in a way the other outlets in the city are failing to reach. That’s by owning Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and every other social media platform that’s out there.
“We want South Florida content that’s quick-hitting and draws people in,” said Skolnick. “That’s what I want and I also think that’s what people want these days. I know who we’re competing with, because I worked at all of them and they haven’t taken us seriously yet. We completely out-work them on Twitter and they don’t engage, just post.
“I’m a little stunned they’ve watched us do this, because everyone knows about us here now. We’re credentialed with all the teams. The arrogance of traditional media, which has always been the case, has been really good for us. We’re just building, building, building, and eventually as they regress the advertising money will start to come to us. That’s when things start to really happen.”
12 total podcasts can be found on the Five Reasons Sports Network. From covering the Heat with the Five on the Floor podcast to A Canes Thing that covers the Miami Hurricanes to even a few podcasts that focus more on culture, South Florida coverage is locked up with multiple podcasts. With Skolnick and other hosts having big connections in the sports world, you’ll often hear riveting content as well as big name guests that both play and cover a respective sport.
Five Reasons will put its ability to pump podcasts on social media against anyone. But, more importantly, it will put its content against anyone else, too.
“The consumers want content on demand,” said Skolnick. “They want content that’s tailored to them, on their schedule and they want to be able to stop it and go back to it later. The biggest thing I always tell people about podcasting, literally, if you’re in the car and you have your GPS on, the podcast will stop for you until the GPS is done talking. The radio doesn’t do that.
“Honestly there’s no reason to listen to radio over podcast anymore. I don’t listen to radio anymore and most people who have switched over to us don’t listen to radio anymore either. We studied the numbers on this. 40% of people leave when you go to a seven minute break. I won’t have a break that’s more than one minute on our podcast.”
More than Just Podcasts
Videos, quick-hitting local stories, there’s a lot you’ll find outside of the 12 podcasts featured on Five Reasons Sports Network. For instance, during halftime of last Saturday’s Miami vs. Florida game, two staff members posted a quick video on Twitter with instant thoughts of the first 30 minutes of action. That was met with 10,000 views and 50 retweets. All from a simple video that featured the quick, halftime thoughts of two fans.
Skolnick even brought in writers that have no podcast duties to write stories on the front page of the website that pertain to local teams. On the front page of fivereasonssports.com you’ll see several local stories with headlines that pop and catch the reader. This isn’t just about audio, the goal is to be the ultimate destination for south Florida sports fans.
“I brought in all these people and I’m not even paying them a salary,” Skolnick said. “It’s just people who want a platform. Now, I have more than 70 contributors total if you include the website folks. I’m not paying salary to anybody, it’s all self-generated and it’s all people believing in it. The people we have here are incredible.”
Last night on Twitter, a video was put up on the company’s official page that creatively highlighted the brand, along with all the podcasts the network has to offer. From the music, to the highlights, it truly had a professional look and feel to it. Most of the time, there’s money and resources that go into making a video like that but Skolnick revealed it was made by a newly hired intern who did it for free. Though it’s just one video, it’s the tireless work of free help that’s put the network in the situation it’s in.
Though the goal is to win Miami, that doesn’t mean the dream stops there. In fact, the end goal might be to win all of Florida. Initially, Skolnick wanted to be in Tampa Bay, Orlando, Tallahassee, Gainesville and Jacksonville by the fall. However, time ran out with so many things happening across the network.
That desire only grew deeper after Skolnick was recently approached by a member of the PR staff of the Atlanta Hawks. While he was inside the Hawks’ locker room, the PR man came up to Skolnick and asked when Five Reasons was coming to Atlanta. The thought behind the question, is that the team could use more coverage and the ever-growing network based in south Florida might be just the thing to help.
But whereas several other podcasts networks have chosen to go national with several different podcasts in several different markets, Five Reasons believes in a localized product.
“I think we’re the only localized podcast network in the country,” said Skolnick. “There’s a lot of national ones, but what I found with those, is that, and this is no disrespect to any of them, I’m friends with a lot of people who run them, but it’s very difficult to understand what the local podcast needs.”
Though expansion is in the cards for Five Reasons, don’t expect a move to a market considerably bigger than Miami. Why? Skolnick is adamant about not going to Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia or Los Angeles because it’s too competitive and the other media outlets in those cities are still relatively healthy.
“To me, this only works from the ground up in places like South Florida, north central Florida or Atlanta,” said Skolnick. “Places that don’t have the healthiest or most competitive media operations.”
If you’re able to sell merchandise in the sports media world, it’s a sure sign you have a pretty healthy audience. Almost always a profitable venture, Five Reasons Sports Network has ventured into selling merchandise such as shirts, hats, jackets and even socks on its website.
“It’s really done well and that’s an easy play for us,” said Skolnick. “I’m very lucky, because a lot of the guys we have are really talented in doing other things. One of the producers of our podcasts, happens to be an extraordinarily good designer that works really fast. When something happens in sports or Miami sports, he literally sends me a T-shirt in the next hour.”
Talk about a potential money making venture. With the cheap cost of making a T-shirt combined with a designer that’s already on staff and puts out creations at a given notice, Five Reasons has found a source of revenue that most in its spot strive for.
“Some of the stuff we do is for giveaways at watch parties to help with our name building,” Skolnick said. “But when we have a player who’s hot like Preston Williams for the Dolphins, who has taken off as an undrafted free agent, my guy will just send me a design in an hour and we get it up. We just react to trends. Some people may regret buying a shirt if he doesn’t make the team but we’re just trying to have fun with it and be current.”
Ahh, the real question, right?
Everything might sound good up to this point, but how do you make money with it. Well, for starters, Five Reasons Sports Network is already off to a great start with the merchandise sales it has. No, that probably can’t fund the entire network’s ambitious plans, but it’s a steady stream of revenue that can be used. But as for finding money for podcasts, there’s many out there wondering how they can be profitable, even if the download rates are high.
“Well, this has been the hardest part right?” said Skolnick. “It always is, the monetizing. We’ve kind of gone about it a couple of different ways. I had an ad firm and it didn’t really work out, they just weren’t in position to sell us properly. We didn’t have the numbers at that point to really make it worth their while and drop their other business.
But what I did, was I went to Twitter and found people with sales experience who are already engaging with us and I’ve been giving them commission to sell us, so they reach out to the companies for me.”
Five Reasons’ plan to sell has landed with good reception. Bigger companies such as AutoNation and BetDSI have signed on, as well as local car dealerships and several south Florida restaurants. Combine that with ads soon coming on the website and the network just might have a solid path to carving out a nice pay day.
“Are we where we need to be, no, but that is the big push,” Skolnick said. “But my point is that we’re not just selling podcasts, we’re selling content. That means video, tweets, podcasts, it means several things. There’s a lot of different ways you can make money off this.”
Final Word from Skolnick
Though Skolnick might be the face of the company, he strives to make it very clear it’s not just about him. In fact, he says it’s very little about him.
“There are so many people who are devoting a lot of their time, a lot of it for free, this is about having really talented contributors that should have been snapped up by other outlets. And we’re so fortunate to have them. It amazes me the work they put in.”
The journey is just beginning and nowhere near being completed, but thanks are still in order to the people who helped get the company off the ground.
“Chris Wittyngham is no longer with us,” Skolnick said. “He was my original partner and he did incredible work to get us started he just decided to pursue soccer play-by-play full-time, which he’s really good at. He’s a really talented person. His role was really major.”
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.