Barstool Sports star Kayce Smith signed an extension with the sports and entertainment media hub, announcing the news alongside Dave Portnoy early this year. The announcement of Smith’s future with the online powerhouse has been met with excitement (of all ways, shapes, and forms) from Barstool’s fanbase and crew, alike.
Smith was an immediate favorite with fans and the innovative content creators, producers, directors and fellow hosts/analysts that she works with. The Stoolie team have become some of the best follows on social media and most relatable personalities in the industry as they follow the blueprint laid out by Dave Portnoy. That is transparency.
She’s also been one of the most dynamic and wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of working with since her TexAgs days. The star that you hear daily on Clancy and Carribis with Kayce Smith shines just as brightly off the air which is a depreciating asset.
I spoke with the Texas native and Barstool Babe for a Q&A about her experience in sports media, finding the perfect fit with her career and what she thinks about her Barstool colleagues.
Chrissy Paradis: With a résumé including ESPN/SEC Network, SB Nation, Gridiron Now, NBC Sports, now Barstool—Your journey has involved a lot of hard work in stakes environments in various capacities- what advice have you learned in your career that has been most helpful?
Kayce Smith: I think the best advice I can give is that when you’re pursuing a job, the worst thing you can hear is “no.” And more importantly, that doesn’t mean you will always hear “no.” This industry can be brutal to crack into and a lot of people give up if an opportunity doesn’t come immediately or if it’s not exactly what they envisioned doing.
If this is your dream, it’s worth the grind. You may have to take a different job to get your foot in the door, but you never know where that door will lead you. And always be yourself. That’s how you stand out. Nobody wants a clone of something that already exists.
CP: You also hosted a podcast with Johnny Manziel—what was it like working with a Heisman Trophy Winner from your alma mater?
KS: It was a total full circle moment for me. My first job out of college was covering A&M for TexAgs and it happened to be Johnny’s Heisman year, which as you can imagine was WILD. Actually, my only ESPN audition was a live TV hit talking about covering him on the local level. He won the trophy, I got the job and then we did a podcast together and became friends. Very cool career storyline.
CP: Dave Portnoy said “Barstool is the best place in media at building stars and building personalities. If you are funny, interesting and opinionated we let you flourish. Kayce is all of the above.” Which I couldn’t agree more with, and in terms of highlighting talented men and women, Barstool truly offers a variety of shows/columns/podcasts including Chicks In The Office, and your shows, Clancy & Carrabis with Kayce Smith & Unnecessary Roughness. What do you want people to know about Barstool?
KS: If you can’t find content that entertains you on our platforms, I’m convinced that you just can’t be entertained. Between the blogs, the podcasts, video and radio shows…. there is something for EVERYBODY. A lot of times when people say they hate Barstool, I can guarantee they’ve never actually consumed what we do. Oh and also, as a woman in this company, I feel very safe and have never been treated better. So that whole “Barstool treats their women employees poorly” narrative is just flat out incorrect.
CP: What are some highlights from your time working with the team at Barstool Sports?
KS: By far my favorite moment is my first live College Football Show in 2018. We were on the road at Michigan for the Wisconsin game and when I walked up on stage and saw the gigantic crowd cheering for us, I realized I was exactly where I wanted to be.
Our fans are INSANE and honestly, those live shows give us life. Getting to sit next to Dave, Dan and Brandon every week – and be the one who gets to host the entire thing – is a dream come true. It mixes my TV background with the Barstool flavor covering my favorite sport… and maybe a beer or two thrown on us.
CP:I know that you‘re great friends with ESPN’s Laura Rutledge outside of work—There is a stereotype about women not necessarily being supportive of other women, given the competition in the sports broadcasting industry. How has Laura been as an ally/resource in your career?
KS: Laura and I became FAST friends. Sure we were both trying to climb the same ladder at the time, but it’s not like there’s only ONE job for women in sports. There are plenty of jobs!! I’ve never understood why people play into that stereotype.
The way I see it is why wouldn’t I want to become close to someone who loves the same things that I do and is in the same industry and understands what I go through on a day-to-day basis?? Fun fact that not many people know: when I left ESPN, Laura was my biggest cheerleader and it was actually her idea to start my own radio show which ended up landing me a job with NBC Sports in Boston. I’m forever thankful for her and she’s absolutely KILLING it at ESPN. I’m so proud of her and vice versa.
CP: Who else has had a significant influence on your career, as a whole?
KS: Gabe Bock at TexAgs has been one of the most important people to me – not only for my career but in my personal life as well. He gave me my first shot on radio when I graduated college and has helped me create a brand that I never would’ve known I wanted. I always thought being a sideline reporter was my end goal, but Gabe helped me fall in love with radio and I’ve clearly never looked back. The show I did in Boston was three hours long, five days a week. Without my radio background, there’s zero chance that I could’ve succeeded the way that I did. Radio is something I think everybody in sports should do at some point in your career. If you can talk for hours on air about sports and be interesting/entertaining, I think you can make it anywhere.
CP: With a beginning in college sports, was it difficult to make the choice to transition into covering all sports, especially in the middle of Patriots Nation?
KS: It actually wasn’t because I took on the challenge head on and treated it like I was going back to school and studied like CRAZY. I fell in love with Boston immediately. I spent my days listening to local radio, reading every book I could and leaning on my coworkers. It’s the best sports city in the world and it’s not close. I just wish they liked college football a little more!
CP: Working in a predominantly male industry, in a predominately male demographic at Barstool, what’s the biggest misconception(s) that you’ve seen/heard about Barstool that you would like to set straight?
KS: I mentioned it earlier, but anyone who thinks that Barstool treats women who work here poorly is just flat out wrong. I know we can’t change everybody’s minds – nor do we try to – but I promise being a woman at this company is not what the headlines tell you it is. I’ve never had more freedom to create content AND been treated with more respect than I have here.
Sure there are certain things that have been said in the past that I definitely don’t agree with, but as far as how I’m treated, I have no complaints. I love these guys and I’ll defend them until kingdom come, both as coworkers and friends. Erika Nardini has been an unbelievable piece of that as well. She’s amazing to work for and is just flat out a boss at everything she does.
CP: What would people be most surprised to know about you?
KS: I grew up playing the harp! I started taking lessons in kindergarten and have played dozens of weddings and parties. Weird hidden talent of mine.
CP: Co-worker word association: one to four words, whatever comes to your mind first, about the following Barstool teammates…
KS: Best In The Game
CP: Dave Portnoy?
KS: Unapologetically authentic
CP: KFC / Kevin Clancy?
KS: A MISERABLE sports fan (but incredibly talented)
CP: Jared Carrabis?
KS: One of a kind
CP: Brandon Walker?
KS: A hilarious walking encyclopedia
KS:My idiot best friend (but really… a weird, super creative brain)
CP: What’s your favorite thing about Barstool listeners/fans?
KS: How ridiculously diehard they are! We get recognized everywhere we go. It still seems weird when I’m walking on the streets of Manhattan and someone stops me. I’ve always said that Dave is a cult leader because of the following we have. We are basically a reality TV show at this point and that’s not something we take for granted.
CP: What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the Barstool team?
KS: The freedom to do and say whatever I want. Dave and Erika don’t put rules on us as personalities. They also don’t care if we publicly disagree with them, which is incredibly rare. Where else can you argue with the CEO or President of the company you work for without being worried about losing your job?? We are a gigantic, f***ed up family and I love being a part of it.
Imagine If Sports Media Had To Justify Its Own Tucker Carlson
“Of course Tucker Carlson lies. Even his most dedicated fans think he lies.”
Last week, our partners in the news media department posted a story about Tucker Carlson. It was about a recent interview the FOX News host did with some guy on YouTube. In the interview, Carlson admits that there are times he blatantly lies on his show – the most popular show that is broadcast by what is ostensibly a news channel.
“I guess I would ask myself, like, I mean I lie if I’m really cornered or something. I lie,” Carlson told Dave Rubin. “I really try not to. I try never to lie on TV. I just don’t – I don’t like lying. I certainly do it, you know, out of weakness or whatever.”
When I first read this story, I just dismissed it. Of course this jackass lies. Even his most dedicated fans think he lies. There is just no way he is actually as stupid as he pretends to be when he makes that “I am shocked by what I just heard” face. You know the one. It looks like he just discovered there’s a Batman movie where the suit has nipples.
I tried to dismiss it, but then later in the week came his impassioned plea to Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend to come on TV to discuss his balls after the rapper tweeted a story about how the Covid vaccine made this guy’s testicles swell and thus ruined his potential wedding.
It is a clip that was passed around Twitter thousands of times. It showed up in my feed over and over with comments like “This is THE NEWS in 2021” and “I never want this man to stop talking about Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s balls.”
Can you imagine if Carlson’s bullshit was acceptable in sports media? I could write the same thing about FOX News in general, but let’s keep this focused on Tucker, because this past week he crossed the rubicon into a special category of absurd.
There are plenty of people in sports media that will go on TV and explain to you why a loss is actually good for a team or why undeniable greatness is actually unimpressive. This is someone going on TV and telling you that it doesn’t matter what you saw with your own two eyes on Thursday night, the Giants actually beat Washington or that the Brooklyn Nets can be dismissed as title contenders because there is no proof that anyone on their roster has even been to the All-Star Game.
I have written in the past that news commenters, be they on radio or television, do not impress me. Those people are not original or interesting at all. They aren’t even talented. I’m only bringing up that opinion to be completely transparent.
Sports Tucker Carlson would be a totally different animal. In fact, such a thing would be unacceptable.
Now, I am sure some of you are out there shouting that sports media does have a Tucker Carlson. In fact, the sports Tucker Carlson works for the same company that the real Tucker Carlson does. His name is Skip Bayless.
Look, I hear you. Skip brings no sincerity to anything, but I also don’t think Skip has any values he is trying to push. His takes are ridiculous for the sake of being ridiculous. ALL HAIL THEM CLICKS!
Besides, the great thing about sports broadcasting in general is that the stakes of what we are talking about are pretty low. Creativity and absurdity are welcome. None of this is important, nor is there any illusion that it may be. No one is showing up at the Capital with zip ties and bear mace demanding the Chiefs be re-instated as Super Bowl champions or screaming at doctors that the Covid vaccine is a scheme to return Miami to relevance in the college football world.
Putting on my programmer hat for a second, I just cannot imagine how to justify a Tucker Carlson. Then again, my programmer hat was not made and fitted by people trying to pass performance art off as news. So, maybe me not getting it is the strategy.
Either way, this, to me, feels like very good information to take to advertisers next time they question the desirability of a sports radio audience versus a news audience. Our listeners are passionate, intelligent people looking to be entertained and engaged by conversations about their favorite teams and they’re willing to support the people that do that for them. The most popular name in news talk admits that he lies when the facts don’t match up to the story he wants to tell. The reaction from the public is “well of course he does.” Which one would you rather have your brand associated with?
Back To Basics: Teases
“If we think about this from a very basic level, we need listeners to hold onto our signal as long as we can possibly keep them.”
I think one of the things I love about radio is how theoretical a lot of our strategies can be. We assume a lot in this business, and its largely because we have to. We assume we know what topics our listeners want to hear, we assume they know things that might actually need more explanation, and sometimes we assume they’re just going to stick around because they like us. Sure, there are metrics that you can follow, trends you can keep track of, and social growth that helps gauge your impact, but largely a lot of the content we put out, and specifically the way we put it out, we’re just hoping it lands.
I think one of the easy tactics to lose sight of when you’re going through the daily gauntlet of hours of talk time, is the good old fashioned radio tease. In an ever-increasing world of digital tracking and analytics, the value of a tease going into a commercial break can be difficult to track. And because we don’t know its true impact it can easily be forgotten or just ignored altogether. To me, this is a massive mistake and a big opportunity lost. Sometimes, we just need to let common sense prevail when determining what is and is not worth our time.
If we think about this from a very basic level, we need listeners to hold onto our signal as long as we can possibly keep them. How do we do that? Compelling conversations, debates, interesting interviews, and personality they can’t find anywhere else. All of that is great, but at some point you’ll need to go to commercial break, and no matter how likable or entertaining you think you might be, 6 minutes of commercials is likely going to take your average listener across the dial to a new location. So, how do you keep them or at least ensure they’ll find their way back? Give them something they need to know the answer to. Again, I’ll ask you to think about this logically: Which one of the examples below is more likely to keep a listener engaged through a commercial break?
Example 1: “More football talk, next!”
Example 2: “Up next, the one move that will guarantee Brady another ring, right after this!”
We all know the answer. Example 2 gives the listener something to think about. You’ve provided just enough information that you have them thinking, while creating a gap of information that they will hopefully want filled. Yet, we opt for Example 1 way more than we should. Myself included. It’s lazy and more than anything it’s a lost opportunity to keep a listener.
The most loyal/die-hard members of your audience aren’t going anywhere, so it doesn’t matter how you go to break for those individuals. The least loyal, who maybe like your show, but they are just jumping around every day in their car or online, they aren’t sticking around no matter what you say. It’s those in the middle, the one’s who are looking for, usually subconsciously, a reason to stay or comeback. That’s the audience you’re providing this tease for.
Teases are not for your most loyal listeners, teases are for people that are stopping by to see what you have going on, which is the majority of your overall CUME. If you can hook those casual listeners, even just a few, to stay through a commercial break and listen to a fertility clinic commercial, then you’ve done your job as a host.
I find the best radio tease is direct, a good description that leaves the audience hanging for an answer or your opinion on the issue. Nebulous or nondescript teases don’t give the audience enough to sink their teeth into, you want to leave them guessing but if they guessing too much they’ll probably lose interest. You want to make them think, you don’t want them to have to solve a puzzle.
Example 1: “Could Aaron Rodgers be subtly hinting where he wants to play next?”
Example 2: “A player makes it known he wants out, but where does he want to go?”
Both examples above are fine, it’s certainly a step up from the “more football, next” tease but Example 1 provides the listener with something specific enough for them to start thinking of answers in their own mind, thus creating that desire to see if their idea matches up with what you are about to tell them. Giving the listener a player or team that you know most of them care about, plus a level of mystery, equals a good/solid tease that is more likely to keep them hanging on through the break. Example 2 is good but the problem I find with those is that they’re so nebulous that you aren’t sure you care as a listener. You might want to know the answer, but without a solid description, you give the audience a chance to decide that they don’t care or you just simply miss the opportunity to elicit a response by not drawing attention to an item that they are passionate about.
The next step in all of this is making sure you follow up on what you tease. You might only get a couple opportunities to mislead a listener before your teases mean nothing to them in the future. If you say you are going to talk about Alabama’s dominance in the SEC around the corner, make sure you do it, and if you aren’t able to, I think its only fair to draw attention to the fact that you couldn’t follow up on it. Apologize and move on. It’s live radio, things happen, and I think people listening understand that but you also have to be respectful of the time they are giving you.
Bottom line is, teasing is a radio parlor trick and it’s an easy one to lose sight of. We don’t prioritize them as much as we go along in this business, whether that be for egotistical reasons, laziness, or just not prioritizing them as part of the show prep process. Treat your teases with seriousness and a level of priority, the same way you do with the topics and content you create. We all know we’re not reinventing the wheel, there’s nothing that we can say that hasn’t been said 100 times in the sports talk sphere, but portraying that to your audience is doing them and yourself a big disservice.
Athletes Are Making Their Money In Content
“Jordan’s example has led to the next generations’ emergence in entertainment, media, and sports. It is an emergence that is beyond in some ways what Jordan has accomplished.”
In many ways, the voice of athletes started its exponential growth with the introduction of social media, where every human being has access to a personal broadcast channel to express themselves, their passions, stories, and ideas. The athlete as an artist immediately expanded from highlight reel to Hollywood film and television reel as a content producer. However, it was The Players’ Tribune, founded by Derek Jeter in 2014, that jumpstarted the athlete-driven voice of content, first in writing, and later in video, polls, and podcasts.
Michael Jordan was the first international athlete that made millions in sponsorship money—selling his name or attaching his name to products for the purpose of endorsing them for a profit. He also starred in the Warner Bros. live-action/animated film Space Jam. Jordan turned those partnerships into ownership of an NBA basketball team and a partner and focus of one of the most iconic athletic brands in the world, Jordan/Jumpman (Nike). More recently, Jordan was the focus of the Emmy award-winning The Last Dance docuseries about the NBA Chicago Bulls six championships and more specifically the sixth and final trophy for Air Jordan his Bulls team. He also co-owns a NASCAR team with Joe Gibbs.
Jordan’s example has led to the next generations’ emergence in entertainment, media, and sports. It is an emergence that is beyond in some ways what Jordan has accomplished. However, that is the point—the mentee should always outperform the mentor with proper, training, guidance, and a little luck too. Where many athletes have pursued broadcasting work as color analysts during and after their professional careers in sports, Jordan did not pursue these avenues or seek to open a television or film production studio to develop entertainment, media, and sports content.
The direct-to-consumer approach of Hollywood and sports networks through streaming platforms, combined with the introduction of athlete voices through social media and podcasts has led to more opportunities. Los Angeles Laker LeBron James launched his SpringHill Company in 2020 not long after joining showtime in Tinseltown. SpringHill is a content studio that develops and looks to other studios for major production and distribution. LeBron has the sponsorship advertising prowess, but can also add documentaries and feature film content to his resume.
Kevin Durant launched a podcast titled “The Boardroom” through his company, Thirty-Five Ventures. With YouTube on par with Netflix in revenue (minus the paywall), it provides another direct-to-consumer platform for everyone and more opportunities. Steph Curry launched Unanimous Media in 2018 as a content and production studio, originally in partnership with Sony Entertainment, now the studio is partnered with Comcast owned NBCUniversal in the $10 million dollar range.
The media has deemed the Curry deal a first, which is noteworthy, but so is the faith and family focus of Curry’s programming that will span many brands in the NBCUniversal entertainment family. Curry will join the NBC broadcast for the Ryder Cup as an analyst and host and interview guests for an educational series, which does not include film projects and the second $200 million dollar basketball contract Curry signed in 2021. Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, and Dwayne Wade have been involved with film projects of their own. Tim Tebow is a nationwide celebrity and motivational speaker, not to mention a world-renown athlete and person with a big heart towards faith and philanthropy.
Peyton and Eli Manning also have their own broadcast for Monday Night Football. Peyton also starred in the very successful “Peyton’s Places” that will have season two launched soon on ESPN+. Both are produced by Peyton’s Omaha Productions.
Speaking of Disney brands, the company’s 30 for 30 is still one of the main catalysts for highlighting the struggles and triumphs of athletes. Hard Knocks, Ballers, and Jerry Maguire also gave insight into the world of sports beyond the field, statistics, and championships.
The growth of entertainment, media, and sports has been and continues to be exponential. Some additional areas to watch include development of series and docuseries in baseball, hockey, soccer, and in other popular, but not the big five sports in America (e.g., lacrosse, cricket, etc.). With women’s sports receiving more attention on television, there are tremendous opportunities for growth in entertainment production particularly in women’s soccer.
To date, NBA players have dominated the entertainment, media, and sports landscape for Hollywood production. However, to each their own, because some stars love developing content, others love speaking about content, and still others love to own content (particularly in the form of brands and franchises) (see Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter). Indeed, the era of athlete as Hollywood producer is upon us.
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