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Wednesday Morning Is For Podcasting At NAB

Demetri Ravanos

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This morning, for me anyway, has been all about podcasting. Hang on. Let me rephrase that. The morning was all about trying to figure out the Las Vegas Convention Center, because HOLY SHIT, THIS PLACE IS HUGE AND CONFUSING!

By 10:40 I finally had my bearings enough to make it to a panel about how the most popular podcasters break through. It was moderated by Podcast Movement co-founder Dan Franks and featured some of the biggest names in the true crime podcasting world including Patrick Hinds of True Crime Obsessed, Rebecca Lavoie of Crime Writers On…, and Rabia Chaudry of Serial and Undisclosed.

This group covered every aspect of podcasting and how the people that do it the best…well, do it.

Hinds talked about getting his start in the podcasting world when his favorite Broadway podcast quit posting new episodes. He said that he thought the show and the content was so good that surely someone else would pick up the baton. After months of waiting for that to happen, Patrick Hinds realized he had to be that someone. It is a good lesson. Don’t assume the space you want to be in will be covered. Only you can deliver the content you want exactly the way you want it.

The expertise that Hinds really delivered was in how to grow an audience and create a dedicated listener community. He talked about the importance of learning to market on social media. Not only did that bring True Crime Obsessed a bigger audience, it brought an audience that was invested in the show’s hosts. 

Hinds is a gay man and said that he regularly discusses LGBTQ issues on podcast and its social media pages. He invoked sports radio when he said that because he and his co-host have invested so much time in engaging with their listeners, he has never experienced that “stick to sports” pushback that you might expect.

Rebecca Lavoie said she learned about audience engagement from Howard Stern. She saw so much value in the way Stern would pull back the curtain on what went into creating his show each day. That transparency created her loyalty to Stern as a listener because she felt like he was giving her access to everything.

The other way Lavoie said podcasters should engage with their audience is in analytics. Podcasters can see their direct download data. Using that to see what works and what doesn’t can help shows super serve their core audience.

Rabia Chaudry first came to prominence as the attorney for Adnan Sayed, whose case was at the center of the mega-popular Serial podcast. She said that experience taught her the importance of being aware of what your success can create for others. 

Chaudry told a story about being offered a book deal to tell Sayed’s story. Initially she turned it down, thinking it would be in bad taste. Later a friend convinced her to take the deal saying that the story had become so big that someone was going to write the book. Didn’t she want to make sure it was written by someone that knew the case inside and out?

The session wrapped with a discussion of premium content. All three agreed that in order to be a success with Patreon or a subscription service, you have to make sure that content is truly special. Lavoie said it was important to make sure it changes regularly. She said that there is a “tribalism to premium content subscribers.” If you treat them right, they are the ones that will spread the word about your product.

The second session I attended was all about Marvel’s podcast Wolverine: The Long Night. You are justified in wondering what sports radio can learn from a podcast that exists in the Marvel Comics universe, but the panel was their to discuss taking an already successful brand and using audio to enhance what its possibilities and limits are.

Amy Fitzgibbons of Stitcher moderated a panel that included Jenny Radelet Mast of Stitcher, Director Brendan Baker, and producer Daniel Fink, who is also Marvel’s VP of Business Development. 

The panel began with the trailer from season one of Wolverine: The Long Night. Immediately it is clear how different this podcast is from any other. First of all, it is scripted. Secondly, it transports you to a world. The audio is expertly crafted. You don’t need pictures. You can see it in your head because Wolverine: The Long Night is presented like an HBO series that just happens to be audio only.

Fink says that Marvel is always willing to test storytelling across different mediums. He realizes audio can be a stretch for his company, but podcasts have come so far. S Town and Serial showed him that effective storytelling can be done without pictures.

Radelet Mast was on board the second she saw the word Marvel in her email. Stitcher had experience with fiction podcasts before Marvel came to them. They have an erotica podcast on the way. She doesn’t want to leave anything unexplored when it comes to fiction podcasts.

Brendan Baker has worked in the sound design world for years, particularly with NPR. He knew that adding music and other production could create a theatrical presentation of any type of storytelling. He was most intrigued by trying to create an audio-only fight scene.

What this panel hammered home was the importance of using good audio and using it the right way. Five years ago no one would have imagined that a Wolverine story could be consumed as audio only. The character’s most die hard fans would have at best been willing to give it a chance. To convince them to stay with the show, Marvel had to make sure the experience was nearly flawless in execution.

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Dave Portnoy: Anyone With ‘Unbiased Mind’ Would Look at Accusations and ‘See There’s Nothing Here’

“I’ve come to grips it’ll never ever change.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Dave Portnoy
Courtesy: Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images

Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy opened up Thursday about his viral video confronting Washington Post food reporter Emily Heil, saying that it’s crazy that media outlets continue to come after him with stories and accusations from the past that he says are not rooted in truth.

Portnoy in recent years has been the subject of investigative pieces by outlets that paint a picture of Portnoy as a sexual deviant.

On Barstool Radio on Thursday, Portnoy wished people that continue to bring up these accusations would do a modicum of research.

“There is quite literally, if anybody sat down even for 15 minutes, and went through each accusation from the least important to the most important. Anybody with a clear, unbiased mind would be like, ‘There’s nothing here,'” he said. “That’s the only explanation to come from when you look at both sides. They just don’t look at both sides.”

Portnoy continued his assertion from the phone conversation with Heil that a negative story about him was already written by the Post and that they either had no intention of actually talking to him as evidenced by the cancelled interview Thursday morning, or they planned to reach out after they had formed their narrative talking to sponsors of his One Bite Pizza Festival in Brooklyn on Saturday.

He said it’s par for the course when it comes to journalists and outlets that clearly don’t like Barstool or him.

“I’ve come to grips it’ll never ever change,” he said. “Thats just the way it goes, but it is frustrating when you’re trying to do a f–king pizza event that has nothing to do with anybody and people are trying to destroy it.”

Dave has always said he’s caught flack from folks on both sides of the political spectrum, and that it doesn’t matter whether it’s FOX News, the Washington Post or the New York Times. He felt like they’re all of the same cloth.

“If you want to get a straight spin on a story, where do you go?” Portnoy asked.

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Dan Le Batard: Chris Russo is a ‘Caricature of a Sports Media Personality’

“He’s had a rejuvenation – a radiant rejuvenation.”

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Chris Russo
Courtesy: Bedford & New Canaan Magazine

Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo has turned heads lately in his First Take appearance, specifically through his “What Are You Mad About?” segment where he waxes poetic on various topics that agitate him. It was during a usual sit-down conversation though that produced a viral segment when he intricately outlined his Saturday plans with his wife being out of town.

Throughout his monologue, Russo insinuated the use of THC gummies, stating that he will have half at 12 p.m. and the other half at 3:25 p.m. in order to watch the college football games. The fact that Russo was allowed to divulge details of such, along with the fact that he is betting $10,000 on ESPN, a network owned by The Walt Disney Company, surprised Le Batard, one of its former employees.

“He’s had a rejuvenation – a radiant rejuvenation,” Dan Le Batard said on Thursday’s edition of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. “He did something yesterday that I’ve never seen, [and] on Disney television – on Disney television!… I have never seen a media member just say, ‘Yep, drinking, drugs and gambling – that’s my Saturday,’ and I’m jealous of him. I want that to be my Saturday.”

Mike Ryan Ruiz, the executive producer of the program, chimed in on the situation and reminded Le Batard that Russo went to many Grateful Dead concerts. In response, Le Batard referred to it as “circumstantial evidence” that did not directly support Mad Dog’s drug use.

“Yes, his performance showed that he had short-circuited and fried all of his brain cells in a way that was obvious, but he wasn’t saying out loud, ‘You know what I’m doing during my sports analysis consumption time? I’m going to come on next week and talk about Colorado, and I’m telling you right now, I was high while I was watching,’” Le Batard said. “Not usually part of the commentary.”

Le Batard referenced former NFL running back Ricky Williams, who smoked marijuana on the night before games and tested positive for the drug three times. The reason he brought him up was to assert that he thinks Russo would have been one of the most likely people to defame Williams’ character.

“[He is] one of the guys most likely to rip him as a character assassination for daring to do marijuana that all of it would get so normalized that my media member who’s on ESPN representing old-timey media [who] can’t shut up about Bob Cousy – that guy is out there saying, ‘Yeah, I’m doing drugs on a Saturday,’” Le Batard expressed.

Le Batard acknowledged his incredulity towards Russo betting $10,000 on a college football game, but understands that he has been successful throughout the years with his time on WFAN, SiriusXM and MLB Network. The style of sports television that has pervaded the airwaves in recent years lends personalities the ability to frolic in palaver and enjoy themselves, a stark contrast from when Le Batard was with the “Worldwide Leader.”

“What I see happening all over television now – sports television – [is that] there are so many people dancing and laughing and having a good time on sports television, genuinely enjoying themselves,” Le Batard said. “It used to be starched and stiff, and now I am watching.”

In a recent conversation with Stephen A. Smith on his podcast, The Stephen A. Smith Show, the First Take featured commentator called Le Batard “sanctimonious.” Reflecting back on the conversation, Le Batard agrees with him because he does not seek broad appeal and adheres to the principles and platforms he views as righteous and worthwhile.

Earlier this week, Le Batard revealed that he declined an interview with Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill when he was informed that he could not ask him about off-field issues. Although Russo is one of the most accomplished sports radio personalities of all time, Le Batard is not sure what to think about these types of situations and a new style of sports talk taking the airwaves.

“He has made a lot of money in this industry being a caricature of a sports media personality,” Le Batard said of Russo. “Skip Bayless – before Skip Bayless, man, that dude invented argument television. That started with [Mike] Francesa and Russo on the radio, and it infected everything in the coverage of newspapers, fandom [and] sports television.”

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Dave Portnoy Accuses Washington Post of Tortious Interference

Jordan Bondurant

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Dave Portnoy
Courtesy: Emmy Park

Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy went viral on Twitter Wednesday after posting video of him confronting a Washington Post reporter over the phone and accusing her and the newspaper of tortious interference.

Portnoy called Post food writer Emily Heil after he learned that she had been contacting advertisers of his pizza festival in Brooklyn this Saturday. Heil sought comment from those advertisers about doing business with Portnoy, who she wrote in one particular email that Dave “has a history of misogynistic comments and other problematic behavior.”

Heil said she was working with fellow food writer Tim Carman on a piece about the festival, which will feature over 35 pizzerias – all of which Portnoy has featured in his “One Bite” reviews at one point or another. But Portnoy felt like there was more to what she and Carman were up to.

“To me, it’s kind of like tortious interference,” Portnoy said. “Like we’re doing an event. Everyone’s happy about the event. I’ve raised $50 million for small business, I’ve helped pizzerias, none of that. It’s ‘Dave’s misogynic and problematic.’ And I’m happy to talk about it! Because to me nobody would like if someone’s going around sending that email to their sponsors. And again, you’re not questioning it. It’s almost like a statement of fact. This is what I am.”

“You said it in a way that is putting sponsors on the defensive!” he added.

Portnoy felt like Heil and Carman were going to publish something similar to what was posted on nj.com Tuesday calling out sponsors for working with Portnoy. He didn’t believe Heil and Carman would give him a fair shake, that they already had their minds made up about him and that they were only going to contact him after they’ve compiled a mass of negative topics to discuss.

“It seemed like you were going to try to shame sponsors for being associated with me and put them in a box when I know they all love me,” he said. “But nobody wants the Washington Post writing an article, ‘Sponsor associated with misogynic, racist piece of shit.’ Nobody wants that and that’s what you’re trying to do. And even on this call it’s pretty clear that’s what you were trying to do.”

“I’m afraid with what I’m seeing already here all it does is it validates a hit piece,” Portnoy added.

Dave challenged Heil further, who said the one particular email Portnoy was referring to was the most pointed of the emails sent to festival sponsors. She said it was worded that way to try and get a response.

“Sometimes you have to say something like this,” Heil said. “It’s like it’s sort of a reporting tactic. When you want someone to respond, you kind of have to indicate that there might be something negative and then you get them to engage. That’s all I was trying to do.”

“That is a sad state of journalism if that’s a tactic you have to, what I would say is make up something about somebody,” Portnoy responded.

Eventually they settled on a time of 10 a.m. today to conduct an interview. Portnoy said he would be recording the conversation like he was the one on Wednesday, and Heil didn’t have issues with that.

But later Wednesday, Portnoy tweeted that the interview had been cancelled. He said Heil attempted to reschedule for 5 p.m., but since Portnoy had previously agreed to 10 a.m., he stuck with that or nothing at all.

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