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Sean Salisbury Is Going Where His Listeners Are

“I think most people prefer transparency to pandering bullshit.”

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The former NFL QB turned sports broadcaster has been a natural; in the SportsTalk 790 AM host seat flourishing as a natural Texas truth teller. 

The unique dynamic that Sean Salisbury embraced comes easy to him, being that it is rooted in 100% transparency and authenticity. You won’t find the uncomfortable silence that accompanies those insincere attempts at providing listeners with a “hot take” and falling flat when listening to The Sean Salisbury Show. Still, there’s no shortage of hot takes, unique or unpopular opinions or candidly organic moments on the show with guests, listeners and his team. 

Sean Salisbury Talks Mahomes vs Garoppolo, Rivers & More with Dan ...

The ‘Unfiltered’ moniker that precedes his name on social media, has been honored by BSM among the Top 20 Shows of 2019. Sean’s style is not solely being recognized by the radio programming elite, but listeners are gravitating to Salsibury’s programming and social media activity to point out the quality content that’s exposed a void within the format. Many listeners of the sports media platform have been struggling to identify the other honest, unapologetic quality content that can represent the opinion shared by many; especially, regarding the return of sports. 

Dan Bongino, former secret service agent to Presidents George W. Bush & Barack Obama, and sports talk pundit was among the guests on Sean’s show. 

“I think what you’re seeing, Sean, is a newfound respect for individual liberty,” Bongino said to Salisbury about the end of quarantine and shelter in place isolation ordered.

Salisbury and Bongino made a strong case that there’s never been a time in modern American history where we needed sports more. An opinion that may not be popular with everyone but was made respectfully, intelligently and it absolutely stands to reason. 

Additionally, in light of the pandemic, Salsibury’s desire to truly engage, appreciate and interact with his listeners through a social-distance approved roundtable with listeners via Zoom. 

“I don’t know many people that want to invite their friends and fans to come in and I want to hear your opinion. It’s why I do it. Not only to get to know you better and some things that you know about, whether it’s sports or life that you guys may have a perspective on that I’m like ‘damn, I never thought about that,’” Salisbury explained to the Zoom roundtable. 

“It’s good for all of us to hear it. It’s good for banter, it’s good for fun, and it’s good for the soul. We need this since we can’t do the things we’re normally used to doing right now,” Salisbury continued, before posing his first question to the listeners involving him yelling at Jeff Van Gundy that he would attend a professional sports game tomorrow if that were an option.

The format involves Sean kicking things off with a topic or question, his thoughts on the issue and then tagging in the group of between 15-20 listeners.

“The fans are what make this go. Just because I have a mic in front of my face during the day for my job sure as hell doesn’t mean I know more than you guys on a lot of topics. That’s why I do it: for the listeners.”

Sean's Listener Roundtable Discussion | SportsTalk 790 | Sean ...

“I’m grateful. I’ll just say this. I am forever grateful to do what I do and have this gig and I never take this for granted. The whole idea is to bring you closer to what I do and for me to be closer to you guys,” Salisbury shared directly with his listeners in one of the recent roundtables.

He cited his football career in order to spark a lively debate, both provoking conversation and respectful arguments stating, “You don’t have to hold back when it comes to me, I’m thick skinned here. Trust me, I’ve thrown enough interceptions to be booed enough, so I’m good to go with this.”

While it’s easy for some to get lost in ratings, numbers and success in the sports radio industry, this challenge does not register or resonate with Sean and what makes him tick. Sean’s focus remains the listener and providing the best possible programming for the audience. His gratitude, transparency and sincerity are fundamental to his identity. 

Chrissy Paradis: What‘s most important to you in determining what content to include in your show?

Sean Salisbury: The important things to me are preparing for the topics everyone is talking about, bringing on topics others aren’t talking about  and being in tune with my listeners and their interests because listeners are the most important and they matter. My finger is on the pulse of what moves the needle. Most importantly, fun and entertainment are my priority.

CP: How much content have you been able to utilize as a result of the discussions you’ve had with listeners in the Zoom roundtables? 

SS: An enormous amount and they will continue. I get great insight from great listeners.

CP: You have been one of the few sports hosts who’s been known for unapologetically but respectfully, discussing a wide range of topics on the show. You had everyone from Dan Bongino to Jeff Van Gundy to Dan Patrick on the show over the last few weeks, alone. How do you think the Unfiltered philosophy has been received by listeners in light of the pandemic?

SS: You will always have disagreement and I embrace it. But I will NEVER change my core beliefs because of naysayers. Plus, I will always put on guests with varying yet different opinions that are powerful. My unfiltered approach during this Pandemic or any other national situation will never change, but it will adjust. I think most people prefer transparency to pandering bullshit.

CP: What kind of message do you hope listeners are taking away from the program?

Former NFL QB Sean Salisbury to join 790 AM afternoon slot ...

SS: The message I hope listeners take away is I want them to feel like this is home regardless of what’s going on around the country. My show is like eating grandma’s breakfast; that you’re going to get it right, fresh and it’s going to taste good. It’s also a place to get away from the daily struggles and enhance your day while also recognizing important issues and to keep you excited about sports.

Respectful, compassionate, grateful, transparent. 

BSM Writers

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.

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grant cohn

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.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 75

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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.

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BSM Writers

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.

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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.

Bron Heussenstamm, CEO Bleav Podcast Network

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.

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