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Good Ole Fashioned Hard Work Helps Kellner Climb The Ladder

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Being young in the sports radio industry isn’t always easy. More times than not, young people are asked and required to do the jobs nobody else wants to do, all for the opportunity to gain invaluable experience. Nights and weekends may be spent alone in a studio with the non-glamorous job of running the board for a high school football game or Minor League Baseball game. It’s in those times where you may ask yourself, is this really worth it?

Hard work and determination really do pay off. That’s what Brad Kellner kept telling himself as he woke up every morning as an unpaid intern to be a board op for a morning drive show in Austin, Texas. While his friends were routinely questioning his life choice over drinks on Sixth Street, Kellner never wavered on chasing his dream of becoming a sports radio host.

That relentless attitude is what helped ‘BK’ land in the host chair at the ripe age of 22. Just months removed from graduating college at The University of Texas, he was hosting weeknights and weekends at 104.9 The Horn in Austin. But just because he caught his first big break, didn’t mean the hustle was about to stop for Kellner. By making himself available for any and all duties at the station, he made himself a big asset to his employer and proved he was capable of any position. Once he proved his talents as a skilled show host, The Horn moved him to a mid-day slot with co-host Trey Elling.

Today, Kellner is only 24 years old, but is celebrating the one year anniversary of “Middays with Trey and BK” at 104.9 The Horn. BK is a prime example of someone that started from the bottom, did everything he could along the way to help himself, and earned the rewards that come from hard work. Though this business is cutthroat, tough times don’t always last, but tough people do.

Though better days are surely to come. Happy one year anniversary to Trey and BK.

TM: You started out as a host at 22 years old. How difficult was it to gain respect with listeners or co-workers because of your age?

BK: I was really fortunate, because I was able to intern at four different radio stations in college, including the two I worked for in Austin. So I had some connections at The Horn, the station I work at now. I’m lucky, because people here were really supportive and receptive of me. Obviously, I was just doing weekend stuff in the morning, so it wasn’t like I was going to screw anyone over if I had a bad show. I worked hard to prove myself and had everyone at The Horn in my corner which gave me confidence and meant a lot.

TM: Did you have a chip on your shoulder at that age? Especially when you first started hosting?

BK: Oh man, I’ll always have a chip on my shoulder. That’s what motivates me. I’ve been lucky in life and had a lot handed to me, sure, but I just live by the motto to never be satisfied. I think the people who get content, whether it’s in sports radio or any other line of work, that’s when you start losing at life. You become too satisfied and content with what you have and it causes you to stop working. I want to be better every day and continue to move up in this business.

TM: You interned at four different stations. Did you find that starting off at a smaller station where they give you more opportunities is better? Or at a bigger station where more people get accustomed to your name and who you are?

BK: Two of the stations I worked at were in Austin and the other two were in Dallas. I got put on the air at least once or twice at each station. For the most part, it was behind the scenes work. I knew the main purpose of doing these internships was to make connections. That was important to me. I knew it was a case of who you know versus what you know. I put all my eggs in the internship basket and tried to meet as many people as I could. In terms of what’s better, bigger station or smaller? It was all pretty similar, I just wanted to learn from as many people as possible, so when it was time to get a job, I actually had a couple contacts I could go to.

TM: I’m sure you probably ended up working alongside a lot of the hosts you grew up listening to. Who were some of the guys you found yourself wanting to pattern after?

BK: The station I grew up listening to was Sports Radio 1310 The Ticket in Dallas. I got the opportunity to intern there in college and I’d say any of the hosts they have. That’s a self-made, self-grown station that started in the 90’s and it’s pretty much the same hosts from when they started. They just won the Marconi Award for best sports radio station for the third time. I’ve always been fond of those dudes and try to listen to them every day. I try to hone my craft off of what those guys do. Nationally, I’d say Colin Cowherd does a pretty solid job. I know he irks people sometimes, but he’s incredibly good at his craft and he’s one of the most successful guys in our business. He’s someone I listen to and take pointers from. But I’m pretty receptive, if anyone has words or tips, I’m always willing to listen. I try to study as many sports radio hosts as I can across the country to pick up things and learn.

TM: What about frustrating times in the beginning? Did you ever have any as an unpaid intern?

BK: Sure it’s frustrating, but you have to remember that you’re getting a chance to talk about sports or push buttons as a producer and listen to sports for a living. Before I got this job at The Horn, I was just out of college and looking to get away from The Zone. Not because I didn’t like it there, I loved it there, I just wasn’t making enough money and I didn’t want to pick up a second job, because I was just producing at that time. When it came to applying for jobs, that’s the frustrating thing. You feel like you’re talented enough to be in one spot, but because of a lack of experience and a lack of age, you don’t always get the respect outside your station that you deserve.

TM: With that being said, what advice would you give to someone young who hasn’t caught their big break yet?

BK: You just have to put in work. You’ve got to grind and do whatever is asked of you. Go around the station and talk to as many people as you can. See if you can help out in other ways, because people think fondly of that. If you can make yourself multi-faceted in terms of talent…if you’re good at producing, find ways to be better on air. Work on making promos for the station. You can even go beyond radio and see if you can write stories for the station’s website. Get some video, do some TV stuff, whatever you can do is always going to help. The more time you put in, you’re going to catch some breaks. A couple of my internships were at 5am. I was doing morning drive shows and making no money to be an intern at the station. My friends were calling me crazy and an idiot, they didn’t understand why I’d wake up so early while I was still in college. I’d be up at 4:30 in the morning on a Friday after a night out on Sixth Street. I just told them it was going to pay off down the line and I knew at some point it would. Just keep grinding and doing everything you can to make a difference with people at the station and good things will come.

TM: Waking up that early, still in college and not getting paid. While you were gaining a lot of experience, do you think you also gained a lot of respect from fellow show hosts for doing that?

BK: Yeah, I think so. I just put my head down and did whatever I could to make the shows successful. To quote the great LaVar Ball, I stayed in my lane. I did what was asked of me and tried to please the hosts and make their jobs easier. But yeah, I think I was able to gain their respect by working hard.

TM: Your co-host Trey Elling seems like a really good dude and a talented guy. Seeing as he’s your partner for your first-ever weekday show, how important has he been to your growth?

BK: It’s been great. Trey and I are great friends and we even hangout off the air from time to time. I know his two kids, they call me Uncle Brad which is pretty cool. He’s been in the business for a while and worked in places like Chicago and Portland before coming to Austin. He’s got a good grasp on how things work in this industry. I think we’re doing extremely well, and have a strong connection on air and great chemistry off air. That has helped us create a quality show and I’m fortunate to have a guy like Trey as my first co-host.

For more on Brad Kellner and 104.9 The Horn click here.

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 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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