Who could use some good news?
I’m sure we all could, seeing as the year 2020 has been an emotional and trying time that we’re all doing our best to navigate.
But there are good things happening in this country. Even better is that some of those things are happening because of the sports radio industry. The role in the local community for sports radio hasn’t changed. In fact, it may be more important than ever before. It’s extremely comforting to see that so many executives, PD’s and hosts are using the platform to help out those in need.
The most recent example is how ESPN Wisconsin and Milwaukee Bucks guard Pat Connaughton helped raise over $200,000 for Covid-19 relief during an 11-hour on-air Radiothon on May 21st.
Wisconsin’s biggest sports stars, such as Aaron Rodgers, Matt LaFleur, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Christian Yelich, to name a few, were just some of the athletes that came on the air and promoted the raising of funds to donate to Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin and Connaughton’s With Us Foundation.
So how do you pull of an all-day event where thousands of dollars are raised and the biggest sports stars in the region join your local programming, all in an 11-hour window?
“I would give a lot of the credit to a company called Capture Sports Marketing,” said Brad Lane of Good Karma Brands. “They come to stations like ours and given whatever is going on, they say, hey, do you guys have any big causes or charitable things that you would like to highlight more? Obviously, when they approached us, we were like, yeah, absolutely. We were all on board.”
That’s where Connaughton, who participated in this year’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest, comes in. Capture Sports Marketing often facilitates the relationship between the athletes in their stable they have done charitable endeavors with and local business who are willing to partner and help out. In this case, Connaughton seemed like the perfect athlete to partner with, seeing as he’s extremely well-known in Milwaukee and is a very community-minded individual.
Essentially, ESPN Wisconsin gave Connaughton a Comrex unit to use from his house, where he joined all the shows as a co-host during the all-day Radiothon.
“We did that so he would sound more like one of the hosts, rather than just dropping in on the phone,” said Lane. “Pat had a couple of pre-recorded interviews that he did on his own and he was on every show across ESPN Wisconsin, which includes both Milwaukee and Madison. We worked quite a bit on a lineup of guests that would join him on these different shows. Our hosts would do their show but they would make it sound as Pat was joining them as their co-host for the day. Structurally it was the same shows for the day, we moved a few around, but it wasn’t a huge shift in terms of what we were doing.”
The day was truly a win-win for everyone involved. Money was raised, morale was lifted, athletes and coaches were humanized and the content over the air was as rich as it’s been all year long.
“Matt LaFleur, head coach of the Green Bay Packers, joined us 5:45 in the evening and says, hey, where are we at with fundraising?” said Lane. “We said, we’re at like $195,000 and he says, I’ll give five more thousand let’s get $200,000. So it was that kind of stuff that took on its own momentum as the day wore on. People were telling stories and trying to match each other, in terms of gifts and how charitable they can be. It was really a true partnership.”
ESPN Wisconsin had all the right intentions in mind when it partnered up to help raise money for Covid-19 relief. That deserves all the praise you can give. But with that, comes advantages that the station will likely enjoy down the road. One of those, is a significantly better chance to land the big-name stars that came on the airwaves during the Radiothon. By giving them a chance to speak on something that’s important to them, those high-profile stars are certainly more likely to re-appear in the future.
“No doubt and I’ll even give you a great example,” said Lane. “Matt LaFleur hates doing interviews. He hates doing media, especially radio. When he came into the job his first year, last year, our news talk station WTMJ, which is the flagship of the Packers, when LaFleur signed on he refused to weekly appearances on the station. We were kind of incredulous, because the head coach the Packers usually does that show. It’s been going on since the days of Vince Lombardi.
“He’s a real close-to-the-vest guy and doesn’t do a whole lot of media. But he agreed to do the interview on the Radiothon and we were given some parameters, such as, not asking about the Jordan Love situation or Aaron Rodgers. He just wanted to talk about the Radiothon, raising the money and how much he believes in causes like this. We honored that and did that. He then came back on this week with Wilde and Tausch to talk about football. So that gives you an example that once you take care of these athletes and the coaches who are, to a certain extent, skeptical about going on shows, because not that they want their hand held, or for people to be easy on him, they just want shows that are going to be fair.”
Highlights of the day included Antetokounmpo talking about where the nickname “The Greek Freak” came from and Connaughton and Yelich discussing what dunks were going to come in the later rounds of the Dunk Contest, seeing as Yelich was a prop for Connaughton during this year’s event. To Lane’s knowledge, outside of the day he was drafted, Antetokounmpo had never done a radio interview before. “It was a breakthrough moment for both him and us,” as Lane put it.
The final amount raised was $212,625.78. That’s more than anyone involved could have predicted or hoped for. Sure, the money given is the main story, but the escape from reality and positive vibes it spread was a reminder of what this country is still all about – helping each other and banding together during times of need.
“We didn’t have a number in mind,” Lane said. “But someone came on in the morning and said that they’d be happy with 100 grand. We more than doubled that expectation. It’s cool because we went in not really knowing what to expect. I can tell you $205,000 on the day of the Radiothon is 1000 times of what we thought it could be. And that was kind of a fun part. It was really thrilling to see that number rise throughout the day. Especially we, as sports fans, who are used to scoreboard watching. The whole day was really fun and inspiring.”
Grant Cohn’s Trolling of Players is Unacceptable
After an altercation between Javon Kinlaw of the San Francisco 49ers and Grant Cohn, it became clear that Kinlaw was being trolled by a member of the media.
Grant Cohn is a media member who writes for the FanNation 49ers blog on SI.com. He also talks about the team on his YouTube channel, which has over 48,000 subscribers as of noon Thursday. His father, Lowell, was a longtime columnist in the Bay Area.
Javon Kinlaw is a defensive lineman, whom the San Francisco 49ers drafted in the first round despite concerns about the durability of his knee. He played four games last season, his second in the league.
The two were involved in two confrontations this week. The first one occurred off to the side of the 49ers’ practice field. Kinlaw apparently cursed at Cohn and knocked his hat from atop his head. Later in the day, Kinlaw again swore at Cohn, this time after joining a live stream on Cohn’s YouTube channel. (Side note: I have never felt so freaking old as I did while typing that previous sentence.)
OK. That’s my attempt at an absolutely straightforward and objective summary of a situation that scares the hell out of me. Not because a player was mad at a member of the media. I’ve had it happen to me and I’ve seen it happen to others. It’s my opinion that this has been happening for as long as human beings have scrutinized the athletic efforts of other human beings.
What scared me was that I was seeing some version of the future of sports media. A future in which media members behaved like YouTube trolls, acting purposely ridiculous or antagonistic to initiate conflicts that could be turned into more conflicts that would could be gleefully recounted as content for the audience. I thought that because that’s pretty much what Cohn did:https://youtu.be/4Hf9sjBttFY
Cohn essentially bragged about the number of different things he said that may have prompted Kinlaw’s reaction, and you know what? It worked. Kinlaw got mad. He confronted Cohn. Twice. TMZ published a story about it. So did SFGate.com.
This is troll behavior. You know, the online pests who say or do something intended to provoke a reaction, and once they get that reaction, they recount and scrutinize that reaction with an eye toward triggering another reaction. Lather, rinse repeat. Increasingly, entire online media ecosystems consist of nothing more than people who don’t like each other talking about how much they don’t like one another.
I’m not going to pretend this is entirely new in sports media. Sports columnists have been known to make reputations with their willingness to be critical of the home team. A huge part of Skip Bayless’ brand is his unwavering insistence on highlighting Lebron James’ perceived flaws. Stephen A. Smith has engaged in public feuds with players, namely Kevin Durant.
I do see a difference between this and what Cohn did, though. The reaction Bayless and Smith are primarily concerned with is from their audience, not their subjects. The subjects may get mad, but that’s not the primary goal. At least I hope it’s not.
What happens if that is the primary goal? What if someone is offering opinions not because it’s what they really think, but because they want to provoke a response from the subject? Media careers have been built on less.
I don’t know if that’s the case with Cohn. I’ve never talked to him in my life, and even if I had, it’s impossible to know someone’s true intent. But in listening to everything he said AFTER the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, I’m not willing to assume that Cohn was operating in good faith. Here’s how Cohn described the initial confrontation with Kinlaw, which occurred as practice was beginning.
“In the training room, I saw Javon Kinlaw, who is the king of the training room,” Cohn said. “He’s usually in the training room.”
Cohn said the two locked eyes, but were separated by about 70 yards at the time. Kinlaw then walked across the field to where the reporters were gathered. He stood directly behind Cohn.
“So I turn, and I say, ‘Wassup, Mook Dawg?’ “ Cohn said, referencing the nickname on Kinlaw’s Instagram account. “And he doesn’t say anything. And I say, ‘Why are you looking at me like that, Javon?’ “
“And then he said, ‘What are you going to do about it you bitch-ass,’ and then he said one more word that I can’t say,” Cohn said. “And then I turned to face him, and I said, ‘Oh, it’s like that?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s like that.’ And then he knocked the hat off my head.”
OK. Pause. In my experience, when your job is to publicly describe and critique the performance and attitudes of professional athletes, there will be times in which the athletes do not care for your description or your critique. Some of those who are displeased will make their objections known to you.
However, there are two things that are unusual here: First, the fact Kinlaw knocked the hat off Cohn’s head, which is unacceptable. Second, Cohn then posted a video on YouTube to not only talk about what had happened, but state he had been so critical of Kinlaw for so long he wasn’t sure what specifically sparked Kinlaw’s anger.
“Javon, what are you upset about?” Cohn asked toward the end of his video. “Is it the fact that I said you have an 80-year-old knee? Is it the fact that I said that you’re a terrible pass rusher and you’re just a two-down player? Is it the fact that I said the Niners shouldn’t have drafted you and should have taken Tristan Wirfs instead. Is it the fact that I said that you’re unprofessional and immature.
“It escapes me, which of the hundred negative things I’ve said about Javon Kinlaw the last couple of years, moved him to approach me in such a way, but you know what, I applaud Javon Kinlaw for coming to speak to me directly, and I ask you, what do you think Javon Kinlaw is mad about.”
Cohn was trolling Kinlaw. No other word for it.
That night, Cohn was conducting a live stream on YouTube, which Kinlaw joined, while apparently eating dinner, to make declarative statements about the size of Cohn’s genitalia — among other things.
Neither one looked particularly impressive. Not Kinlaw, who was profane and combative with a member of the media, at one point making a not-so-subtle threat. Not Cohn, who asked Kinlaw, “Do you think I’m scared of you, Javon?” He also said, “I don’t even know why you’re mad, Javon.”
I think Kinlaw would have been better off ignoring Cohn. If I was Kinlaw’s employer, I would probably prefer he not log into video livestreams to make testicular comparisons. But honestly, I don’t care about what Kinlaw did. At all. He’s not on a team I root for. He didn’t physically harm anyone. He used some bad words in public.
I am bothered not just by Cohn’s actions, but by some of the reactions to them because of what I think this type of behavior will do to an industry I have worked in for 25 years. Credentialed media members who behave like Cohn did this week make it harder for other media members who are acting in good faith. Preserving access for people like him diminishes what that access will provide for those who aren’t trying to use criticism to create conflict that will become content.
I think Cohn knew what he was doing. In his livestream, before Kinlaw joined, Cohn stated he was not scared because he knew — by virtue of his father’s history in the business — that if Kinlaw had touched him he would potentially be entitled monetary compensation.
By now, it should be pretty apparent how problematic this whole thing is and yet on Thursday, a number of 49ers fans online were sticking up for Cohn as just doing his job. Dieter Kurtenbach, a Bay Area columnist, Tweeted: “Javon Kinlaw does not know that @GrantCohn was built for this.” Built for what? Winning Internet fights? Kurtenbach also deleted a Tweet in which he called Kinlaw “soft.”
Cohn’s father, Lowell, is a former columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. He promoted the first video his son made on Tuesday:
Sorry, I don’t find it funny because it’s another step down a path in which media members seek reactions at the expense of information. Where they look to make fun of players instead of learning about them. They’ll stop acting like journalists and start acting like the trolls who make their money by instigating a conflict, which they then film: “Jake Paul, reporting live from 49ers practice …”
If that’s the case, thank God I’m about to age out of this business, entirely. I’m 47 years old and I can’t believe there’s anyone in our industry who thinks what Cohn did this week is acceptable.
Media Noise – Episode 75
A new episode of Media Noise is all about reaction. Demetri reacts to the ManningCast’s big win at the Sports Emmys. Danny O’Neil reacts to people reacting to Colin Kaepernick’s workout in Las Vegas and Andy Masur reacts to John Skipper’s comments about Charles Barkley.
Bron Heussenstamm Blends Bleav Podcasts Advertising with SiriusXM
Bron Heussenstamm, the CEO of the Bleav Podcast Network says blending podcasting advertising with satellite radio’s reach is a victory for both sides.
Last week, the Bleav (pronounced believe) Podcast Network announced a deal with SiriusXM to make all 32 NFL team-specific Bleav pods available on the SXM app. SXM can also air Bleav content on any of its sports channels. Each NFL Bleav show pairs a former player with a host to discuss team issues. Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, and Pac-Man Jones are amongst the former players Bleav has signed as talent.
I have hosted a Bleav podcast about Boise State football -the Kingdom of POD. I am usually provided 1-3 advertisers per episode by the network and get paid by the download. My subject matter is regional, so my take-home pay is usually under four figures. I have enjoyed the technical assistance and cross-promotion I receive and I enjoyed meeting Bleav CEO Bron Heussenstamm. Bron is Los Angeles-based, a USC graduate, and founded Bleav in 2018. We discussed the SXM deal, podcast advertising, and the future.
Will the podcast advertisers be carried on the SXM distribution platform?
Yes, Bleav baked-in advertisements and hosts read ads are distributed across all platforms. This enables the host to do their show once through, making it as easy as possible for the hosts and consistent for the advertisers.
How is advertising on Bleav different?
We want to be more than a ‘host read ad’ or a ‘digital insert’ with our advertising partners. When companies work with Bleav shows and talent, those companies can receive our omnichannel of distribution points—podcast platforms, YouTube, socials, streamers, TV, radio, and more. This allows for consistent branding across all platforms: great talent presenting great companies to fans and consumers no matter where they consume content.
What is the growth pattern for podcasts that you see?
The industry trades have presented 400%-800% percent growth over the next ten years. Once the COVID fog lifted, we really saw these gains. Sports are always going to be at the forefront of culture. The increases in all sports sectors have certainly carried into the digital space.
SXM has started with NFL shows but can also air more Bleav content – what does that look like?
We’ve started with our NFL network of 32 team shows hosted by a former player. We’ve kept the door open for our NCAAB, NCAAF, MLB, NHL, Basketball, and Soccer networks. We’re happy for our hosts to be part of such a tremendous company and platform. SiriusXM can continue to amplify its voice and give fans the access and insight only a player can provide.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau-IAB- says podcast revenue grew 72% last year to $1.4B and is expected to grow to $2B this year and double to $4B by 2024. Have you seen similar growth? What is driving the industry now, and what will be the primary cause of growth by 2024?
There is a myriad of reasons for the growth. I‘ll lean into a couple.
At Bleav, we launch and maximize the digital arm of industry leaders. The technology upgrades to allow hosts to have a world-class show — simulcast in both audio and video – from their home has led to an explosion of content. With this, the level of content creators has risen. Having a YouTube, RSS feed, podcast, and more is now part of the brand, right alongside Twitter and Instagram.
If a company wants to advertise on Bleav in Chargers, we know exactly how many people heard Lorenzo Neal endorse their product. We can also safely assume they like the Chargers. The tracking of demo specifics for companies is huge. It’s a fantastic medium to present products to the right fans and consumers.