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Media Changes, Judd Zulgad Is Always Himself

“The key is this, the thirst for content is actually increasing. It’s not decreasing. How people want to consume said content is changing. But that’s exciting.”

Tyler McComas

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It’s August of 1989 at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the biggest and most respected newspaper in the Twin Cities area. Inside the halls, there’s an ambitious 19-year-old by the name of Judd Zulgad who’s just been hired as a clerk. Since the third grade, which wasn’t too distant of a memory for the teenager, he wanted to be in sports media. 

However, his journey into the business isn’t the glamorous beginning he probably hoped it would be. Essentially, he was the layout guy.

“I was doing jobs that don’t exist now,” said Zulgad”

He had to have photos sized. Sometimes he had to travel to the morgue to grab photos. He was at the bottom of the Star-Tribune. But he didn’t care. It was his chance to chase his dream.

By the late 90’s, Zulgad had made his way to the sports copy desk and then eventually started writing a sports media column for the newspaper. 

“I enjoyed that a lot,” he said. 

In 2003, Zulgad was assigned to help pitch in with coverage of the Minnesota Wild’s playoff run. It was expected to be brief, but the team surprised the league and made a run to the Western Conference Finals.  

“Then, the internet came around, and then it was an initial boom and then a crash,” Zulgad said. “Our publisher at The Trib, decided he wanted to compete to get Wisconsin readers. So he decided they needed a person to cover the Packers full-time. I got that opportunity for the Minneapolis paper.”

For the 2003 and 2004 NFL seasons, Zulgad was living in Green Bay and covering the Packers for a Minneapolis newspaper. Needless to say, the locals weren’t thrilled about the paper covering the Vikings’ biggest rival on a daily basis. In fact, a lot of fans were mad. But with a local base of Packers fans in the area, Zulgad understood the move and gladly covered one of the most storied teams in the league. 

After two seasons, the controversial experiment was dropped. In 2005, Zulgad was moved to the Vikings beat, working behind Kevin Seifert at the time. He did that for several seasons before finally moving to radio. 

“I came to SKOR North during training camp of 2011,” Zulgad said. “The station started in 2010 and was branded as 1500 ESPN.”

Today, Zulgad is still with SKOR North and is helping lead the charge of the station’s massive push towards digital. It’s interesting to think that the guy who started in the business with jobs that no longer exist, is now at the forefront of the industry with unique content tailored towards digital. 

But to those around him, his willingness and ability to adapt to the changing landscape of sports media is not surprising at all. 

“I think what makes it fun is that it changes, evolves, I love this,” Zulgad said. “The key is this, the thirst for content is actually increasing. It’s not decreasing. How people want to consume said content is changing. But that’s exciting. If you’re like, ‘well, I’m an AM radio person, that’s what I do!’ No! You are a creator of content and reaching people as quickly as possible is the most fun. Just because how it’s delivered changes and morphs, that’s not a bad thing.”

His thoughts on the changing landscape of sports media mirrors exactly what SKOR North has done with its content. The brand has gone from being just an AM radio station to something that can be consumed as a podcast, a TV show or a video on social platforms. 

“I think it’s fantastic,” Zulgad said. “And we literally get pictures of people who put us on their TV.”

With an extensive writing background, it would only make sense that Zulgad writes columns for SKOR North. But outside of that, he also co-hosts Mackey and Judd, Purple Daily and Judd’s Hockey Show, which can all be consumed via podcast. On top of all of that, he’s still covering games for the local teams.

His plate is full, seemingly everyday. But doing digital content as opposed to the strict clock of terrestrial radio, means he can more freely navigate the demands of his day. 

“The freedom of the podcast is great,” Zulgad said. “Keep in mind, for several years, Phil (Mackey) and I did a four-hour radio show. That’s busy. It started at 9:00 and went until 1:00. I have a lot going on but the freedom of podcasts is liberating.”

Zulgad is still a big believer in going to games. He wants to see the action in person, he wants to talk to people, it’s how he does his best work.

What also works for him is being the same person, whether he’s on a podcast or talking to a friend. His personality doesn’t change. Judd Zulgad is the same guy in every single format. 

“I basically talk to people and do the show very much how I live because I think for me, that’s what works. They’re going to be people that don’t like you, but even with that being said, they’ll still like that you are genuine and not trying to alter things.”

There’s a unique twist to Mackey and Judd. You may not notice it unless it’s mentioned on the show, but Mackey isn’t currently based in the Twin Cities. Instead, he lives in Seattle.

It seems like an incredible task to consistently have a great back-and-forth and put together great shows when your co-host is two time zones away. But not with these guys. They make it work. 

“The way I talk about this is simple,” Zulgad said. “Phil and I started to do a four-hour show together the day after New England beat Seattle in the Super Bowl. We did that show for four years and then a drive time show. Doing a radio show for four hours a day is an eternity. I liken it to bands that play small clubs. We didn’t agree all the time, but we got to know each other’s mannerisms, strengths, and weaknesses, so when Phil moved it didn’t change a thing. If Phil and I had been working together for six months and he moved, it’s probably difficult. It’s doable but difficult at times. But we are in lockstep. It’s as seamless as it could possibly be.”

At 52 years old, Zulgad can honestly say he loves his work as much as he did after his first big break. He’s stayed at the top of the game by adapting to all of the changes thrown his way. 

It’s helped he’s been so versatile as both a writer and a host. He’s excelled at both. And yes, his writing has made him a better host. 

“It helps me personally to sort my thoughts out and to take a path,” Zulgad said. “I find I’m at my best when I take a tactical approach to a topic, as opposed to hey, let’s just talk about this. My ability as a writer has allowed me to pick up on things and create a thread.”

SKOR North will continue to push digital. Zulgad will continue to help lead the charge. Not just because it’s the company’s vision, but because it’s his vision, as well. 

“The podcast gives you the freedom to only do segments on things you know that are hot topics,” Zulgadsaid. “People will say ‘you should talk about this more’ or ‘you should talk about this less’. When you’re doing a radio show it’s a lot more difficult to pick and choose what’s right. There are people who will say, you did an hour on the Wild? You’re crazy! But when it’s a podcast, you literally can cherry-pick the best things and have conversations that don’t go to break.”

Barrett Blogs

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Jason Barrett

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Each year I’m asked if there are ways to save money on tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit. I always answer yes but not everyone takes advantage of it. For those interested in doing so, here’s your shot.

For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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Demetri Ravanos

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Demetri Ravanos has questions about Disney going back to the future with Bob Iger. This entire episode of Media Noise is all about what the change at the top of the Walt Disney Company indicates about the future of ESPN.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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Demetri Ravanos

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On this special holiday edition of Media Noise, Demetri Ravanos dives into the controversy and criticism surrounding FOX’s coverage of the World Cup in Qatar.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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