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Coaches And Producers Have To Know Their Talent

“Every host brings his or her own level of ego and ability to take direction into the equation. A good producer is one that recognizes the differences and adjusts to them.”



What is the most important weapon an executive producer can have in his or her arsenal? A deep rolodex gives you an advantage, but it isn’t a necessity. A creative mind is a little more important, but plenty of shows succeed without a producer that tries to package every story in a unique way.

It is far more important that a producer is a good people person. Last week, I wrote about how trust and empowerment can give a producer the ability to truly impact his or her show. This week, I want to talk about the best way a producer can use those things when they are given to him or her.

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Any time two or more people work together in the same department or on the same project, those people have a relationship. Their overall success will usually depend on how well they work with one another. Everyone doesn’t have to be best friends. They just have to be willing to take criticism and know how to get the message across when they need more from their teammates.

In my piece last week, I said that a program director has to trust a producer to be his or her voice in the room. The flip side of that is that a producer has to look at his or her role as the program director of a single show.

There is a reason so many program directors started out as producers. When you’re behind the board you have to think about everything that can make a show better, but your primary role is building and managing relationships. When a producer has a strong relationship with his or her host(s), the producer knows what buttons to push to get the most out of them.

Like with any relationship, what buttons to push and how to get the most out of your host depends largely on the host’s personality. Every host brings his or her own level of ego and coachability into the equation. A good producer is one that recognizes the differences and adjusts to them. If a host is going to respect you enough to treat you like a partner, you have to respect him or her enough to learn how he or she best takes direction.

Think of it in terms of NBA coaches. I’ve been a fan of the Boston Celtics since I was about six years old. I like the young core that the team has right now, and if Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were the biggest stars on the team, then I would be very comfortable with Brad Stevens being the coach for a long time. But Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been different this season than they were last season when the Celtics came within a game of the NBA Finals. They have the confidence that comes with being 20 and 21-years-old respectively and coming off of a season where they lead their team on a great run through the playoffs.

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Now let’s add another wrinkle to the equation. Kyrie Irving is healthy this year as the NBA Playoffs begin. Gordon Hayward is healthy too. Those were the guys that were brought to Boston to be the leaders. Tatum and Brown are supposed to take a backseat to them and watch and learn as the veterans lead the way. That hasn’t always happened this season, which is why Marcus Morris referred to the Celtics locker room as a “toxic situation.”

It is a situation that Stevens may not be cut out to handle. I mean he came to the NBA from the college ranks, and not even a marquee college program. Before he was in Boston, Brad Stevens was coaching a Butler team that was still in the Horizon League and over-achieving its way to back-to-back national championship game appearances. The first Celtics team he coached had just jettisoned all of its stars. Before Kyrie came to town, the biggest name Brad Stevens coached in Boston was Isaiah Thomas.

Brad Stevens knows how to get the most out of guys whose “most” has been doubted by so many others. He may not be the right guy to manage a roster of star egos though. That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if a quick playoff exit leads to a coaching search in Boston.

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In producer terms, Stevens would be a guy that commands the respect of younger, unestablished talent. When the bar is low, he could guide a show and make it sound better. He may not have much success trying to get superstars like Mike Francesa or Ken Carmen to correct what he sees as mistakes.

Miami’s Erik Spoelstra is better equipped to handle the roster turnover that happens in the NBA. He’s proven that he can achieve at the highest level and command the respect of the game’s biggest names. He has also proven that he knows how to get through to young guys being pushed into bigger roles. Sports radio producers should pay attention to his example.

Spoelstra didn’t back down in the early days of the Big Three’s run with the Heat. When Dwayne Wade shoulder bumped him on the sideline and rumors swirled that LeBron wanted Pat Riley to take over as head coach, Spo pushed back. He made it clear that those three were stars and would be the leaders on the floor, but he was going to call the plays. He wasn’t heavy-handed. He was willing to let the stars do the things that made them stars, but he wasn’t going to be pushed around and ignored either.

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When LeBron and D-Wade both went north and health problems prevented Chris Bosh from returning, Spoelstra and the Heat were left with an inexperienced roster. He had to be more hands-on and rule with less flexibility. The Heat weren’t a championship team anymore, but he didn’t let them turn into a cellar dweller.

A good producer recognizes a host’s quirks and how to manage a host’s mood and expectations. I’ll continue last week’s theme by reiterating that there is so much more to a producer’s job than just pushing buttons and potting mics up or down. If you want your hosts and bosses to know that, then you need to be prepared to be judged on your performance in every aspect of the job. If you’re a producer, you have to be flexible. You won’t get the best results if you approach every person and problem the same way.

If your show utilizes audio perfectly and always has a killer guest list, that is great. If your host isn’t better now than he or she was the day you took over, you have only done half of your job as a producer.

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 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:

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

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



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.



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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