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Stations Adjust To A Fall Without College Football

“We’re amid one of the most compelling and maybe controversial times in sports history. I’ll do the same high quality, entertaining show that I’ve done for the last 15 years.”

Tyler McComas



Football season is the money maker in sports radio. That’s especially in markets where college football is king and the entire local economy depends on six to seven Saturdays in the fall, which supplement the entire year.

Penn State fans show strength, support on game day |

Seeing as the Big Ten and Pac-12 can’t figure out they each want to do, several radio stations across the country have been left in a state of flux, which leaves several program directors and hosts with more questions than answers. 

“It’s forced us to prepare for anything,” said Todd Markiewicz, VP and Market Manager at 97.1 The Fan in Columbus, “We’ve gathered our team together and strategized constantly, almost daily, to figure out new ways to drive revenue in case college football is not going to happen. Covid really put us in a position to be prepared.

“As important as Ohio State athletics is to us, as the flagship for Ohio State, we had to prepare for the possibility of it not being there come fall. We’ve come up with a variety of new assets and refocused, from a sales perspective, and other areas, including podcasting and digital. We’ve revamped our on-air line up. We’re in the best possible situation we could be in considering the possibility.”

From a sales aspect, not having the income that football season provides could prove to be devastating in some markets. For the hosts, the situation will be unique and difficult, because of the unclear direction of where to get content from. Sure, anytime you talk football it’s almost guaranteed to be a hit, but without having the local team to talk about, hosts may need to be more well-versed and expand their region on the teams they discuss. 

“We have an advantage at the station for live games, as we’re an affiliate for both the Giants, A’s, Raiders and the 49ers,” said Christopher Gabriel, host at 940 ESPN Fresno, which is home to the Fresno State Bulldogs, one of the traditionally more consistent group of five college football teams.” We’re also an affiliate for the Lakers. We’ve been able to have our media friends at those stations, as well as people connected with the team, come on with us a number of times to keep the dialogue going. As far as college football, not having the Mountain West or the Pac-12,  we’ve been focusing our attention on places like the Big 12, ACC and the SEC, who are actually playing. We’re a college football centric program here, so we’ve been keeping our eye on what’s been going on.” 

Like Fresno State, the Boise State Broncos won’t be playing this fall, either. But in some markets, like Fresno, you can at least defer to the pro teams in the area, That’s not the case in Boise, seeing as the Broncos are the only major show in town. So what do you talk about when nobody in the state is playing?

“That’s a hell of a good question,” said Mike Prater, host at 93.1 KTIK The Ticket in Boise. “For today’s show, our lead today is, Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin would’ve been having his last press conference before the season begins. We came up with a fake press conference, such as what Harsin would’ve said under normal circumstances, as well as the questions from the media that would’ve been asked. We’re going to air a Game of the Week for the next 14 weeks. We may do a little bit more NBA, NHL, and of course the NFL.

Fresno State vs. Boise State live stream: Time, TV schedule, and how to  watch MWC Championship online -

“I lost my partner of 20 years, this summer, and we’re launching a brand new show that centers on the NFL. We’re going to focus on all the former Boise State players that are in the NFL. We added a Fantasy Football segment to pick it up. The voice of Boise State football is going to come on and do a full segment every single day. We’re just putting little things together, nothing great or fantastic, we’re just trying to fill our time with good content.”

For executives like Markiewicz in college markets without football, this will be one of the more challenging seasons any has encountered. Their time will be split on trying to find ways to bring in money to the station, as well as assisting their talent on what content is best. Luckily in Columbus, NFL content also plays well. Without the Big Ten is that the direction The Fan will go?

“We’re going to have to let Covid dictate that,” Markiewicz said. “The NFL is going to be very important, and yes, we have both the Browns and Bengals in Ohio. We have a 60/40 fan split between Browns and Bengals fans, so that will keep us busy. If Ohio State resumes some semblance of the season in November or December, obviously we will welcome that with open arms. The reality is, as radio professionals, we had to reinvent ourselves. Not since just Covid, but the last 5 to 10 years we had to figure out new ways to compete. I think we’re in a pretty good position with that.”

Oddly enough, this confusing time has positively affected listenership in otherwise slow times. With the Big Ten seemingly reversing it’s course every week on when or if it wants to play, Nebraska was the most outspoken school in the conference with its desire to play. That played especially well, and led to an increase in listenership in Lincoln. 

“On like August 11th or 12th, there was just a major, major spike that day,” said Connor Happer, host at 93.7 The Ticket in Lincoln. “Ever since then, we’ve been kind of steady, because there’s something new that’s happening every day. Honestly I haven’t even had a plan for a show for like the past three weeks. But we’re kind of settling in for if it’s going to be three months before we start or four months. We’re ready if it gets dead around here, but for the last three weeks it definitely hasn’t been that.”

Connor Happer on Twitter: "Thanks to @jimmyjohns for fueling us during the  game and helping put on the postgame show @937TheTicket! Big fan of the  Country Club.…"

While the Big Ten has had an epic level of in-fighting between presidents, commissioners and athletic directors, the Pac-12 has seemingly been in lockstop agreement with each decision the conference has made. But that doesn’t change the fact that markets such as Portland, Tucson and Seattle, to just name a few, won’t have Pac-12 football to talk about. 

“I’ve never relied on the box scores for content,” said John Canzano, host at 750 The Game in Portland and Fox Sports Eugene. “That’s a low bar. I think the listeners are smarter and more well versed than ever. They don’t come to my show to learn who won the game. They come to me to understand what it all means, what happens next, and what I think about it. Maybe to be entertained and get lost in the diversion, too.

“Ratings have been up since the pandemic started. I don’t think it’s accidental. There’s more to talk about than ever — especially with so much still up in the air for the Pac-12. I’ll continue to have the head coaches on my show, talk about compelling stories, and try to figure out if the Pac-12 made a tragic misfire by not playing or maybe if it just indicated to us all that its mission is different than some of the others who are playing.

“I keep hearing people say, ‘No sports — what will you talk about?’ Are you kidding me? We’re amid one of the most compelling and maybe controversial times in sports history. I’ll do the same high quality, entertaining show that I’ve done for the last 15 years. Some of it will be about sports. Some of it will be about homeschooling kids, working from home, and trying to keep perspective. I’ll pay attention to the other conferences. But also, the Pac-12 is knee deep in what I think is the most compelling time in its history. The audience is locked in.”

In Salt Lake CIty, the Utah Utes Should be preparing to build on it’s 11-win season in 2019. Not only are the Utes not playing, but they had to sit and watch their bitter rival just 45 miles down the road, BYU, play on primetime television and dismantle Navy. That played well on Tuesday in Salt Lake. 

“There was a lot of jealousy,” said Hans Olsen, host at 1280 The Zone in Salt Lake City, “Utah fans want to discredit the schedule and the opponents BYU put together. Basically, claiming that it’s against a glorified high school team. BYU kind of returned the favor saying, well, we would’ve opened the season against you, like we were supposed to, instead of Navy, it probably would’ve been the same outcome. BYU fans also went on the offensive and said, remember, it was you that canceled and here you are talking about our opponents, when we had to reschedule because you canceled. There’s been a lot of interaction between the two fan bases.”

BYU-Navy: Three observations from Cougars' rout of Midshipmen

Like the entire pandemic, hosts will find ways to keep things entertaining without any football in the fall. Challenging, sure, but it’s almost a given. But it’s much harder to fill the sales gap, than it is to fill the content gap. That’s the No. 1 goal for every radio station that won’t be able to lean on the local team to help with sales: Find creative ways to keep money coming in the building. 

“Our company is local so we have ties that go back 20 to 25 years,” said Gabriel. “While it was frustrating at first, those folks are all coming back. We have a great sales team here and they are out there, doing anything they can do, as far as sales packages, and doing a great job with it. We’ve started to put some remotes together when restaurants and bars opened back up here in California. If anything, it forced us to be creative and we’re trying to find ways we can package things to make it beneficial for the people that have always supported us. We are supporting them in every way we can.”

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Sports Radio Advertising is a Great Alternative to Expensive Team Sponsorships

There are plenty of creative ways to tie into sports radio stations, where the fans listen daily, and the investment is often much less than team sponsorships.

Jeff Caves



Photo of Citi Field in New York
Photo Credit: Stadium Sponsorship

Not everyone can afford to sponsor a local NFL or college football team. However, there are plenty of creative ways to tie into sports radio stations, where the fans listen daily, and the investment is often much less than team sponsorships. Here are some ideas:

Pitchmen for Hire: Leverage Local Personalities

Thousands of listeners tune in to hear local sports personalities discuss their favorite teams. Hiring these “football expert” personalities to represent your business can significantly boost your ad response. Their endorsement can help you rise above the fray and double your ad response.

Get More Bang for Your Buck: Stand Out

Tie into station activities that make your brand stand out. Sponsor the local team poll on the station’s website, host a remote broadcast the day before a big game, or sponsor a charity promotion and donate to the cause. Breaking through the clutter of commercial breaks requires creativity and involvement in station activities.

Tie into Local Teams Without Sponsoring Them

You don’t have to sponsor the local team to run a promotion about them. Consider running ads offering discounts if the team wins and even more significant discounts if they lose. Your ad rep can help you phrase these promotions to avoid legal issues. True fans listen to sports radio weekly for team-related content, so tap into that passion.

Become a Title Sponsor

Be the title sponsor for interview segments with local players. If the station is conducting regular player interviews, sponsor these segments. If shows don’t run many interviews, consider sponsoring newscasts that feature excerpts from these interviews.

Hire Retired Fan Favorites

Retired players beloved by fans can be an excellent asset for your business. They are often less expensive than current stars but still hold significant appeal. Think of players like Mike Alstott, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, or Nate Newton. These personalities can do spots or appear at your location, adding a memorable touch to your advertising efforts.

Adopt a ‘Mattress Mack’ Strategy

Make an offer based on the local team’s success, like Gallery Furniture in Houston‘s Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale. In 2022, he offered customers double their money back if the Astros won the World Series. Such promotions generate significant publicity and engage the local community, even if the offer is temporary.

Sponsoring a local NFL or major college football team may be out of reach for many clients. Still, numerous creative strategies exist to maximize a sports radio advertising investment. By leveraging local personalities, participating in station activities, and creatively tying your promotions to local sports teams, you can effectively break through the clutter and make a lasting impression on listeners. Engaging fans with innovative offers and memorable endorsements enhances your brand’s visibility and builds a loyal customer base.

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Caitlin Clark Media Coverage is Good for Everybody in the WNBA

By tuning in to see what Clark does, viewers are also noticing the many other great WNBA players.

John Molori



Screengrab from ESPN's Get Up covering Caitlin Clark
Screengrab: ESPN Get Up

It’s time to talk about Caitlin Clark. The rookie guard for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever has become a legit phenomenon in the media. She has singlehandedly, and I repeat, singlehandedly put the focus on a league that has been largely ignored by mainstream sports talk shows for a quarter century.

Nobody wants to admit that one person can change a sport or a league. It is viewed as a slight to people who came before that special athlete and that special athlete’s contemporaries, but it has happened on numerous occasions, and we’ll get to that.

From a marketing and media standpoint, Caitlin Clark is a human tidal wave of interest, excitement, and anticipation. She quite literally brought tens of millions of eyes to the 2024 Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, and deservedly so, she will most likely earn tens of millions of endorsement dollars from a variety of corporations and their products. She has inspired congratulations and controversy, especially with her recent exclusion from the USA Basketball Women’s National team.

The reaction to Clark’s success and attention from some members of the media and WNBA players has been shocking. Tremendous commentators such as Andraya Carter, Chiney Ogwumike, and Rebecca Lobo have, at times, come off as apologists for WNBA players who are just plain jealous of Clark’s unprecedented popularity.

As ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has explained eloquently, these critics are missing the point from a marketing and economic perspective. Clark has not only helped herself with her play, but has also brought attention and focus to women’s hoops as a whole.

By tuning in to see what Clark does, viewers are also noticing the many other great WNBA players. Clark is that rare breed of athlete who is truly changing the game, making it better and more profitable not only for herself, but for everyone involved at all levels.

On recent editions of ESPN’s First Take, Smith has gone toe to toe with Carter, Ogwumike, and Monica McNutt on the Caitlin Clark issue. The fascinating exchange between Smith and McNutt on the June 3 edition was a watershed moment in recent sports television.

Smith, McNutt, and host Molly Qerim were discussing the hard foul/shove that Chicago’s Chennedy Carter laid on Clark in a WNBA game. The course of the discussion moved toward the rise in WNBA ratings mainly because of Clark’s presence in the league.

The debate eventually came down to a back-and-forth between Smith and McNutt. Smith reiterated his longtime dedication to the WNBA and women’s sports in general. In response, McNutt said that with Smith’s platform, he could’ve been talking as much about the WNBA three years ago, long before Clark’s debut.

Smith was visibly angered and disappointed by McNutt’s comments. On The Stephen A. Smith Show podcast that same day, he defended himself and his show, saying that First Take has been at the forefront of promoting gender, race, age, and all forms of equality and respect.

Smith is 100% correct. This chap has been a champion of women, minorities, and even older media personalities, such as Christopher Russo, whom he has brought to a whole new audience on First Take. Stephen A. Smith is the Arsenio Hall and David Letterman of sports talk. When the syndicated Arsenio Hall Show hit the airwaves in 1989, he was the first late night host to bring hip-hop artists to center stage on a regular basis.

Similarly, Letterman’s “Late Night” on NBC showcased new talent in comedy and music, while bringing irreverence and originality to the tired old talk show format. Smith has done the same. He has made stars out of Ryan Clark, Mina Kimes, Marcus Spears, Kimberley Martin, and many others. He has also raised the profile of already renowned commentators such as Shannon Sharpe, Qerim, and the aforementioned Russo.

Smith has been a stalwart of equity, but that’s not what McNutt was saying. She was saying that with his audience, Smith could’ve talked about the WNBA thereby creating popularity and exposure for the league long before now.

McNutt’s jarring comment put Smith in a humbled position and really hit at his very core, but he took his game to a whole new level the very next day. McNutt was back on First Take, which right there shows the utter gumption that Smith possesses. He could’ve easily let things settle down a bit before he brought McNutt back on the show, but he didn’t. That’s classic Smith – encouraging discourse and disagreement.

When you get to the level of a Stephen A. Smith, you welcome a debating challenge. The last guests you want are sycophantic suck-ups who cowardly agree, no matter what the subject. Smith’s high point on the June 4 episode was when he said in a loud voice, “Caitlin Clark is white.”

He acknowledged the fact that it makes a difference. He also stated that black players who have been just as talented as Clark have not been given their rightful attention – also true. Regarding the perceived negative treatment of Clark by some WNBA players, Smith made it clear that they should not go easy on Clark on the court, but their mindsets need to recognize that Clark is benefitting the WNBA and putting dollars in their collective pockets.

Whether you agree with Smith or not, the fact is that this is what special players like Caitlin Clark do. They raise the level of discussion and simultaneously raise the profile of their respective sports. The WNBA is now in the A-block on highly rated shows like First Take and ESPN’s Get Up.

The league and its players are on the front burner of discussion for Smith, Nick Wright, Colin Cowherd and many other top-tier, multimedia sports debaters. This fact was straight up impossible one year ago. This is what Caitlin Clark has done.

Clark’s impact and stamp on women’s basketball is not unique. There are precedents where one person has made such a difference.

Larry Bird looked different, played different, restored a dead Celtics franchise, and made his mark in a sport that was on life support in terms of media coverage and fan interest. Bird and Magic Johnson rescued the league – a black man on the west coast and a white man on the east coast, two wunderkinds who changed the NBA forever. Caitlin Clark is Larry Bird.

Tiger Woods burst onto the PGA TOUR and won the Masters in 1997, embarking on a run that would see him change the game of golf from a competitive, performance, historic standpoint, and social standpoint. He was charismatic, focused, and yes, an African American phenom smashing records in a white-dominated sport. Caitlin Clark is Tiger Woods.

In 1965, Alabama quarterback Joe Namath eschewed the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals and signed with the AFL’s New York Jets. He raised the profile of the league and garnered more attention and dollars than established AFL stars which made him a target. As the league’s popularity grew however, opposing players recognized his significance beyond the field. They did not go easy on him during games, just ask his knees, but they knew that his success was theirs as well. Namath was the key figure in the eventual AFL/NFL merger. Caitlin Clark is Joe Namath.

Serena Williams was smart, savvy, athletic, fashion conscious, and just plain great. Williams shattered the traditional mold and became an iconoclastic figure in women’s tennis with both her play and personae. The lineage with her sister Venus ushered in a new era in the sport. Serena attacked the game in a unique way. She was exciting and original, and lifted her sport and fellow athletes. Caitlin Clark is Serena Williams.

I am not saying that Clark will have a legendary or Hall of Fame career akin to these illustrious athletes, but the immediate impact she has had on her sport and the media coverage of her sport is similar.

As Smith so often states, Clark is “box office.” You can debate the reasons why, but you cannot debate the fact that she has supremely raised the profile and the financial prospects of women’s basketball and its players.

I understand that other WNBA players want their share of the credit for improving the league. I also understand that WNBA commentators want fairness and equity in terms of attention and the spotlight. However, both groups need to realize that Clark is the main reason that they are getting this increased exposure. On the court, be competitive against Clark and try to beat her and her team. On the air, be critical of Clark and analyze her game, but on a larger scale, understand, accept, and embrace that Caitlin Clark’s most important assist might just be to you.

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Joe Tipton Turned Sports Graphics Into a National Reporting Role With On3

“There’s definitely a competitive aspect of it, which I really enjoy actually because it just kind of keeps you on your toes.”

Derek Futterman



(Illustration) | Courtesy: On3

In the moments when athletes make a monumental decision about their playing careers, news outlets frequently try to cover the story in a timely and accurate manner. Whether it is signing with a new team in free agency, inking a new endorsement deal or retiring, basketball has plenty of these occurrences annually. These announcements are sometimes accompanied by graphics, adding visual elements of branding and allure to the development. Joe Tipton learned the nuances of photo editing and graphic design at a young age, leading him to create images of NBA players and share them on social media. Observing a lack of interest within the space, he considered doing the same for high school players nearing college commitments.

Tipton Edits, an independent business venture that he began shortly after starting in sports graphic design, provides athletes with a free edit in which their new uniform is superimposed onto an image divulging their new team. These recruits then share the photos on social media and tag Tipton. Especially at the start of the entrepreneurial property, he viewed gaining followers as remuneration, an invaluable currency as digital media continues its swift proliferation.

“I didn’t start making the graphics at 17 to have a job in it – I was just kind of doing it on the side for fun and then just kind of [seeing] where it would go,” Tipton said. “Since I was one of the first people to make graphics for these high school players in their recruiting decisions and now transfers, and now that I’ve built up the presence online and the credibility and the reputation, a lot of them will flock to me, and I think that’s what’s so sustainable about it now.”

The transfer portal keeps Tipton busy in creating and delivering graphics to collegiate athletes moving to a new school. Remaining prepared to create an enticing visual featuring the player in their new uniform and distributing it on social media requires a commitment to the craft. Even though he was a marketing student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, he was still trying to determine the best path forward and ended up transforming his hobby into a sustainable career.

“I was able to communicate with high-level basketball players and create something for them – and all of it free of charge – in exchange just for a tag on Instagram and Twitter, which helped propel me and grow my brand and following online,” Tipton said, “and over the years, [it] got me to where I am now.”

By designing these graphics in advance, Tipton was privy to coveted information and recognized that he could effectively reveal where players were signing. His work has been featured on various sports outlets such as ESPN and Bleacher Report and shared by NBA legends including Shaquille O’Neal and Scottie Pippen.

On3, a digital sports media brand that delivers news, analysis and insights to consumers regarding college sports, recruiting and NIL, added Tipton as a national basketball reporter after he graduated from college. Since that time, he has established himself as a distinguished journalist covering high school and college basketball.

“[I] had an opportunity to join On3 because basically what I was doing when supplying the graphic to a high school recruit and even transfers now in the portal, I am being gifted the knowledge of where a player is going,” Tipton said, “so I’m able to report that information, and that’s basically what I serve as now for On3.”

Joining On3 provided him with another platform to disseminate this information and expand his audience while assisting the company in its own growth. Shannon Terry founded On3 in 2021, and the platform has continued to expand with dedicated coverage of NIL, the transfer portal and the NFL Draft, along with adding subsidiary verticals such as On3 Elite and On3 HER.

“When it comes to the transfers and their decision making, it’s so rapid fire, and there’s so many players that enter the transfer portal because of NIL, because of instant opportunities and also the ability to play right away and not have to sit out like the previous rules stated,” Tipton articulated, “so it increased the need for what I do and just the coverage of the transfer portal in general has taken a significant leap, which is great for those who cover the portal and recruiting in general.”

Tipton earned a contract extension at On3 earlier in the year, but he has always operated with a chip on his shoulder to prove that he is more than just a graphic designer. While he is a recent graduate and continuing to shape his identity and forge relationships, he believes the process has been considerably slow to this point. Nonetheless, he remains optimistic that working with On3 will be able to propel him to the next level.

“They didn’t view me as a reporter even though I was breaking news, so especially in the earlier stages, I wasn’t getting credit for breaking the news just because I guess they didn’t view me as a reporter [or] traditional media outlet,” Tipton said. “But ever since joining On3, that’s kind of painted me in a new light, and people will look at me a little bit differently, especially with the coverage that I’m able to provide for On3 and then just the overall stories broken.”

There is an aspect of fluctuation that has become more embedded in college basketball, rendering it fundamental to verify information ahead of its circulation. For example, if a player informs Tipton that they are committing to a certain school, he will oftentimes call the coaches or athletics department to safeguard against complicating miscommunication between the two entities. In the end, he is never releasing graphics or reports without extreme confidence in its veracity.

“There’s definitely a competitive aspect of it, which I really enjoy actually because it just kind of keeps you on your toes,” Tipton said. “It’s kind of a rush as well to be able to get it out first, but the first year on the job with On3, there was an incredible amount of pressure that I put on myself to just achieve this at a high level, but there’s also a great deal of stress that comes with it because a lot of what I do is time sensitive.”

Although he has a stellar reporting record dating back to his days solely creating graphics, there are moments when other reporters or outlets beat him to the story. In these situations, the power of his brand and its identity assists in overcoming these impediments, indicative of his broad appeal and widespread reach. Establishing himself as a brand rather than being a graphic designer or reporter within a larger entity has been a key differentiator within his formative years in the business.

“I think it’s the key to sustainability and a way to separate yourself from other people, so I’m incredibly fortunate that the players believe in me, trust in me and then On3 does the same because I’m a source for the player that they can come to and trust, and we all grow together,” Tipton said. “I help grow the player, [and] I help grow On3. On3 helps grow me [and] the player helps grow me because they’re all posting my stuff, we’re posting them, so we’re all on this together, so it’s really nice.”

Tipton never envisioned himself appearing in front of the camera, but he is now doing so regularly for On3. As part of its content, he frequently discusses the latest news regarding recruitment, the transfer portal and NIL in addition to synthesizing player rankings.

“[I am] obviously only just scratching the surface of the on-camera stuff, but I think that is a strong potential avenue for me moving forward in my career,” Tipton said, “but then also my ability to break news at a high level and also the relationships that I have just when it comes to the recruiting insider portion of my job as well.”

Later this month, Tipton will see some of the players for whom he has created graphics soon enter the NBA when the NBA Draft takes place from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Although he has not assimilated into reporting on the NBA, he is competitive and has thought about his future work. Yet he understands that a majority of his verve is in college basketball and is focused on breaking news beyond recruiting.

“The good thing about me and kind of how I was brought up was I wasn’t raised in a family that was a fan of a specific team; in fact, my parents aren’t even sports fans at all,” Tipton said. “Sports was just not on at all growing up, so I never grew up a specific fan or a diehard of any specific program.”

Reflecting back on his journey thus far, Tipton feels that he stumbled into his career with fortuitous timing. The versatility he has developed, along with his persistence, networking and inexorable work ethic, has contributed to the growth of Tipton Edits and his role with On3.

Tipton found a way to cut through the media ecosystem, investing his time and effort into a niche that did not exist with the level of cache and emphasis that it currently possesses. The industry moves with unrelenting momentum and can seem imposing to shrewdly understand and cover, but Tipton aims to masterfully keep up while enjoying his journey to an unknown destination.

“We live in a world where, especially younger people, they’re keen on growing their social media presence,” Tipton said, “so On3, Tipton Edits and others alike are able to grow their channels, so they’re encouraged to utilize services like mine to help kind of propel their following and for it to reach a large number of people.”

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