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Matt Jones Teaches You to Podcast

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Social media has changed everything when it comes to sports media. That’s not news to most people, but I was reminded of it as I scrolled through Twitter recently and came across several links to various podcasts on my timeline.

These days, anyone and everyone can make their voice heard. If not by a daily radio show, then by a podcast that’s centered on anything the host prefers to discuss. For someone that can’t be heard every weekday over the airwaves, a podcast is the perfect place to cut your chops and build a following.

But for the sake of this article, let’s say you do have a daily radio show. Should you still venture in the podcast world? What are the advantages of putting even more on your daily plate by making yourself available on another platform?

One of the many things we try to accomplish at BSM is to make everyone in the industry more informed on certain happenings in the business. But sometimes, we try to challenge the reader to reach outside their comfort zone and try something new. That’s where starting a podcast comes in.

Some of you reading this are very accomplished hosts with a large following in your respective markets. So, if there’s no money immediately attached to a podcast, why would you take on the extra stress of trying to start one from scratch?

To find that answer I went to a source that’s turned his podcast and radio show into big business. The founder of KentuckySportsRadio.com, the largest independent college sports blog in America, Matt Jones, has a radio show with 35 affiliates across the Bluegrass State. In addition to that, The Matt Jones Podcast has become a huge hit and a bonus to his loyal followers. If anyone knows the benefits of giving the listener an additional way to consume your thoughts, it’s certainly Matt.

If you’re a host and thinking that starting a podcast is a good idea, I assure you, Matt’s comments will do more than enough to help you get started.

TM: Let’s start with the obvious question. Why do a podcast if someone already has a successful radio show?

MJ: Well, I originally started my career doing podcasts and got into radio through that. Even as a radio host, I think podcasts really help you connect to your audience in a different way. I think radio is by far the most intimate form of media, but podcasts, in many ways, are even more intimate.

The listeners hear your thoughts, kind of unvarnished, you don’t have to worry about getting in and out of breaks and all that stuff. If you want your listener to know you, which I think is the key to a really successful radio show, I think, honestly, there’s probably nothing you can do that’s more helpful than a podcast.

TM: For instance, let’s say I do a radio show in Lexington, Kentucky where I talk a ton of UK football and basketball. Would my best bet be to center all my discussions on those two topics?

MJ: I think you do the podcast on a topic that’s slightly different than you do on your radio show. For me, my show is two hours of primarily UK sports. My podcast is basically everything else that I care about and the idea is, okay, if you listen to me just because you like UK sports, then you need to listen to the radio show. But if you listen to me because you like Matt Jones, here’s a chance to learn some of the things I think are interesting and cool. It’s almost like a service to hardcore fans. I really like it for that reason. The other thing I do is long form interviews and I found podcasts are the perfect place for that.

TM: What if you’re in a situation to where you have a successful radio show, but also a podcast that’s starting to gain momentum and somehow, you have a really big-name guest that you can only get on one of the platforms? How do you decide which one?

MJ: I always would say, would you get the best out of the guest in a 10-minute form on radio or would you get the best if you have 30 minutes or an hour? If it’s the second, then I’ll do the podcast. For me, it’s just about how long I need to talk to this person to make it good. If you were telling me I got to have John Wall, then okay, I’m probably going to have him on radio, because unless he really wants to open up to me I can get everything I want to get out of him in 15 minutes. But if I’m going to have Lebron James to talk about his entire career, I’m going to want the hour in a podcast form. I also think the podcasts are good for people that are interesting but ones that you have to introduce to your audience. Like, people who are going to take a while to show the audience that this person matters.

TM: Is a good radio show host automatically going to be a good podcast host?

MJ: I think they’re two completely different skill sets. There’s some people who are good at both, but then there are people who are good at one but not the other. I hate to call people out, but there are people out there that are radio hosts and when I listen to their podcasts, they’re just trying to do their radio show on a podcast.

I think that’s a mistake. Then there’s someone like Bill Simmons who I think is the best at sports podcasts, at least, but I don’t think the best at hosting radio shows. But there are people who are good at both. If you are, then I think it’s a good medium for you.

Radio is part about telling a story, but it’s mostly about being entertaining. I think podcasts are about telling a story and are sort of more long form. I tend to think that the smarter the person, the better the podcast. That’s because the podcast is better at going in-depth with on a subject. I can’t think of anyone’s podcast I like that isn’t smart. But there are certain people who I like their radio show but I don’t think are really smart.

TM: I think a lot of people that want to start a podcast run into an issue of not knowing what equipment to use. Let’s say you’re working off a small budget. What would you recommend?

MJ: The most basic equipment is plenty. You can get one set of headphones and one little box and you’ll be fine.

TM: What if you have a big budget and are willing to work with multiple pieces of equipment?

MJ: Then I think you can add editing and things like that. Probably the most well-produced podcasts are your NPR podcasts, or the ones that can add context. For instance, if you talk about a quote, you can add in the quote. If you have that amount of equipment and if you have that amount of talent. In terms of people who are willing to work with you, that’s what I would do.

So I could just say, John Calipari said in the presser yesterday…blank. And then I just insert the audio. I’ll be honest with you, I’d only do that if I was doing what I call a story podcast. Like, the things that are really big time stories. Other than that, I just think it’s a little bit of a waste. All you need to do is talk and if you’re good at it, you’ll be good at it.

TM: I think another pushback for show hosts is knowing they won’t immediately make any money off a podcast. How do you monetize one?

MJ: You have to get a lot of listeners, a lot of listeners for it to be worthwhile in terms of money. It’s hard to make a lot of money off a podcast.

Now, if you have a national platform, like the big time podcasts they make a ton. But if I’m a local radio host, I’m not doing a podcast for money.

I’m doing a podcast to engage with the audience and hold up my connection with them. The secret of KSR, the secret of our success is the audience feels like they know us, they’re our friends, we’re nice to them, they trust us, and podcasts are a big, big part of making that connection. But if you’re just like, I make X amount of money as a radio host and I want to make a little more, I don’t necessarily think that’s a reason to do a podcast.

TM: As hard as someone may work to promote a radio show on social media, do you really have to bust your ass to promote a podcast even harder on social media?

MJ: It depends. I think a lot of it depends on what other platforms you have. Will your radio show allow you to promote your podcast? I’m a big believer in that if you’re going to do it, you should try to own it yourself and not let your radio company own it.

Social media is the best way to get people to listen to your podcast, because you can link it and tell them to subscribe. It’s just one less step. On the radio, it’s hard because someone has to be listening, stop what they’re doing and go to their phone or their computer to subscribe. Whereas on social media, they just have to push a button. I think it’s much easier to build a podcast following if you have a strong social media presence.

TM: If you have three-hour show somewhere and you’re wanting to start a podcast, is it best to be a solo act or have a co-host along with you?

MJ: I think you always need to have a second voice. On my podcast, every show is me with someone different. So I take every single show, I’m either interviewing someone or bringing someone on to talk about an issue. I do not think a good podcast is just talking for 30 minutes. I think that’s really awful. But I do think you need a second voice, but it could the case that a second voice is a co-host or it could be the voice of a guest. I think either of those work.

For me, it’s a guest, but I’ve never found someone because I use my podcast to talk about a zillion different subjects. I’ve never found someone that’s interested in all those subjects, so I just pick a different person on each subject that I’m talking about.

I go from a radio show, which is kind of hyper-narrow, and I use my podcast to expand my world. But I can see a situation to where I was a New York radio host and my world was kind of broad, in terms of being around 8 or 9 teams, but I do a hyper-narrow Nets podcast. I could see that working, it just depends. The key is whatever you do on the podcast, it needs to be different than what you’re doing on the radio show.

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 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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