Whether you are a gambler or just a fan of the industry, you should be familiar with the name Mitch Moss. Moss, along with Paul Howard, hosts Follow the Money, a three-hour show featuring informative and entertaining sports talk, actionable betting information and humorously legendary stories.
True story, but I first came across their show a couple of years ago after I purchased my new car. The vehicle came with a subscription to SiriusXM. I immediately became addicted to VSiN and religiously listened to, you guessed it, Follow the Money.
Moss’ journey into sports media goes all the way back to his Junior year of high school when he was trying to figure out what he wanted to do as a career. At his school’s career day, he discovered the broadcasting school Madison Media Institute in Madison, Wisconsin. That is when a light bulb went off for Moss, who used to do play-by-play on his own while watching sports on mute.
“I said to myself, I can actually come to your school, you can teach me broadcasting and I can turn into a play-by-play guy? I was like ‘absolutely, sign me up for that!’”
His love for Las Vegas and gambling came a little later, when Moss took a trip to the city when he was 21. Like many others who visit Sin City, he fell in love instantly.
“After that trip, I loved Las Vegas so much that I said to myself, ‘even if I can’t find a job in radio, I’m going to do something else here.’ I don’t know, like being a blackjack dealer or a mixologist. Whatever it takes’”.
Luckily, or unluckily, depending on how you see it, Moss never had to go that route. Instead, he was able to do what he always dreamed of in high school, sports radio. And, after spending thirteen of fifteen years of his career working for the Lotus Broadcasting radio stations in Las Vegas, Moss made the move to join Brent Musberger’s VSiN.
I spoke with Moss about his journey, the future of VSiN and his foresight to get into the gambling space long before many others.
How did you get into the gambling space in the media?
Many things transpired, but it was me being in Las Vegas that kicked it off. So, I had a Sunday morning pregame show starting in 2003. I’m talking to oddsmakers before a game kicks-off while the numbers are moving and I’m thinking to myself “This is so great. I love this.”
Then my Sunday morning show shifted to the WestGate. That show is still there now, but other people do it. But, that is where I got to know guys like Jay Kornegay and the Jimmy Vaccaro’s of the world. Just awesome dudes who had been doing this for a while. Then it just started rolling from there. I loved covering gambling and then I got to know the guys out here in Vegas and the industry better, which did it for me.
How did you eventually get to VSiN?
I have many people to thank. Guys like Jimmy Vacarro, Matt Youmans, Vinny Magliulo. Those three went to bat for me and kept telling VSiN that if they were going to be a full-time network with sports radio and eventually television content, then you need these guys. They kept going to the well and to bat for me and my co-host Pauly Howard. I also had talks with Brian Musberger before VSiN even started. He had listened and liked my Sunday morning show I used to do at the WestGate, so he knew about us. So when the time came, it all worked out. We did weekends at first, and then within a month they asked us to do this full-time at the network and offered us a time slot. Of course we took it, it was too good to pass up.
Tell me your thoughts on the future of VSiN.
I told the guys back then, this is before we were even hired, but I think the ceiling for VSiN is that it could be like ESPN. When you go back to the early 80s for ESPN and they were having the America’s Cup on, yacht racing and boxing, but now we know what ESPN eventually turned into.
I have the same feeling for VSiN because I know that the gambling content is going to be there and the industry is completely exploding. More people gamble on sports than they play the stock market. It’s inevitable and we are starting to slowly see it now.
You and Pauly have terrific chemistry on the show. How did that come about?
Paully and I worked at the same radio station in Las Vegas going all the way back to like 2001…I became the program director and when it happened I needed more help. So we decided to merge our shows together. We morphed Pauly’s show which he had with another host, into mine and then we did a three-man show. So we did that for a long, long time. In April of 2010 or 2011, we have the third highest ratings in the country.
It’s funny because we’re similar. Same age, same part of the country, same likes, same interests, so that chemistry has always been there since Day 1. It’s one of our strengths for sure.
You had the foresight to get into gambling before a lot of people, talk to me about that in a little bit more detail.
I loved it and had a feeling for it. I will tell you a funny story. If you go back six, seven years, I would have lost my life savings if I could have made a bet on the NFL ever having a franchise in Las Vegas. I’m not even joking. We covered 10 or 11 Super Bowls in a row and they hated the city. My friend John Hanson, who had his own show at the time, had the microphone one time to ask Paul Tagliabue a question about turning down Las Vegas dollars for Super Bowl ads and he compared it to prohibition. It was one of the weirdest answers and never made any sense to me ever. I remember when the host on NFL Network refused to say the city’s name and would just say that city in the desert instead and Goodell would laugh about it.
Another great story is about the Vegas mayor at the time. I was doing my pregame show at the WestGate and Mayor Goodman was on the air talking about parlay tickets.
But, living out here is so different, it is like the norm here. I was lucky, I guess, because in my 20s I lived in a spot that was within a hundred yards of the Palms. So I would walk there 5 or 6 days a week. I would just go out the side gate, walk to the Palms and would take me two minutes and I’m right there into the Sportsbook. And, the weather out here is so great.
Lake Green Valley Ranch is a casino where their big club at the time was called Whiskey Sky, I believe. They were known for 20 foot mattresses outside by the pools and it would be 75 degrees in January and we would make some bets and we would go sit on these mattresses and watch games. I’d be like oh my God, this is life! How is the whole city not out here right now?
It is so perfect and then just being here and living here and seeing it day to day. The more people that you talk to, the more bookmakers and bettors that you talk to, you can see the industry was ready to explode. But it became a part of my routine, like I brush my teeth in the morning and I look at the lines as well. So it was just a combination of me being in Vegas and believing that things were going to get bigger in the future.
What would you do if you were out of this gambling space one day?
Pauly and I joke about that, ‘like what other skills do we have’? I’ve been doing it since I was 19 years old. I know nothing else. Before I thought I’d go back to sports talk radio, but I don’t think I could do it anymore. I love covering gambling and love betting on sports, but I can’t stand hot takes and what the industry has become. I don’t have to say names, but some of the stuff we saw last week regarding Dak Prescott, I don’t want to be a part of that, where you have to be opinionated and get people mad and make them take sides. 50% of the audience is going to love you and the other 50% is going to hate you. So I don’t want to be a part of the hot take community in sports media.
If that ever happens to me, say me and VSiN we go our separate ways after four years for whatever reason, and I had to go back to hot take sports radio. I don’t think I could do it. I don’t enjoy it, it’s not fun to me. The idea of going back to school to learn a new skill is tough. My wife did that actually, she now has two degrees now and she’s amazing. Maybe I’d revisit that whole mixology thing we talked about earlier. Hopefully it never gets there.
COVID-19 affected everyone and everything including sports. How did it affect you from a work standpoint?
After March Madness was cancelled, in April it was obviously very gloom and doom. I’m not joking, we’d spend 90 minutes, if not more, talking about NFL draft props and betting on the NFL draft for 3 weeks leading into the draft. I mean it was to the point like what can you possibly say anymore? Then we did some futures talk. We really didn’t know what was going to happen.
Once we got UFC and Golf back, things got better. I think it was around May 9th with the UFC event coming back then Golf. Then that was enough at that time where we could just do UFC and talk about that 3 days a week, no problem. What else was anyone going to watch or bet on? Then European soccer eventually came back and we have Nigel Seely, who is an incredible soccer guest, so he helped by coming on for us. But, before that, it was the Russian table tennis. I tried to get involved, and I know Doug Kizierian was involved with that and I know others who stayed up to watch that and wouldn’t sleep. They actually changed their lifestyle to watch and bet that. That and the KBO. But, I couldn’t fake it. I couldn’t get involved in the KBO.
I will say though that golf has become one of my favorite sports to bet on. That’s one thing I’m going to take away from this. I always liked betting on golf, but now more so than ever, I like betting golf now almost as much as anything. I would say I like betting golf way more than baseball. But, yes, it was lean there for a long time. We did the best we could.
How do you put together your personal gambling card and picks for the show?
I mean there is a lot of good stuff that good people I trust put out there. I hope I don’t forget anyone, but VSiN does a great job. Their Point Spread Weekly is great as are their betting guides. There are a couple of good golf guys that I’ve been turned on to by Jeff Sherman. You have Joe Osborne from Oddsshark and sites like Kenpom for college basketball, teamrankings.com and FanGraphs for baseball. For football, one of our guests we have on every Friday is Adam Chernoff. He has a slack channel and I love reading his write ups and listening to his podcast.
Drew Dinsick does a podcast with Andy Molitor, and they are very good. Drew’s been coming on the show as a guest for a while now. There are so many good people out there and once you start to get to know them, it helps. Paul Stone is great. If I ever have a question with anything about college football, I’ll send him a text and he’ll get back to me. NBA.com has great data, you have to navigate it for a while, but still, and cleaningtheglass.com for the NBA as well. The information out there is endless, so you have to just vet it out.
Has the amount you bet per wager changed now that you’re in the industry?
That’s a great question. It’s remained the same for the most part. But, I will vary my bets, though. For example, I like betting futures bets and in-play a lot. The pregame stuff can be so tricky and so can betting baseball. I do vary my bets depending on how much I like something and what the number might be, but overall, throughout the years and even with me being in the industry, it has remained pretty much the same.
Looking back on your journey, is there a moment that helped you get to where you are today?
My buddy and I won the Last Man Standing Football contest in 2006. I’m going to wear that title for the rest of my life and I am going to bring it up until I’m 120 years old. At the time we split $17,000, people will say peanuts, but today that is worth around $85-100k … That helped me with my confidence moving forward.
Before we head out, what is one piece of advice you’d give to anyone trying to make it in the broadcast or gambling media industry?
Have fun with it for sure and the key is, get to know as many people as you possibly can. It might take some time, but I’ve been here since 2001 and now I know bettors, oddsmakers, etc. I think there’s a huge space for this in the media world.
Instead of saying ‘I want to be a talk show host’ or ‘I want to do play-by-play’, be more open. My whole dream was do play-by-play, but I would say absolutely concentrate on doing gambling right out of the gates. Read books about it, listen to radio shows, talk to people about gambling, listen to Follow the Money once in a while or listen to other podcasts out there. You are going to learn a lot.
Media Noise – Episode 44
This week’s episode is all about the NFL. Demetri explains why the league embracing kids is long overdue, Andy Masur stops by to breakdown the first Manningcast, and Ryan Maguire explains why some sports radio stations are missing a golden opportunity to shine on Sundays.
Interviews Thrive On Podcasts In A Way They Can’t On Radio
“Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.”
Live radio vs. podcasts seems to be a heavyweight fight that isn’t ending anytime soon. Podcasts are growing so much that companies that do radio are also now offering podcasts. This column is hardly about that fight.
Instead, this is about how a podcast interview is a better way to get the best out of the guest than anything live on a radio station. This is not about downloads or clicks or sponsors. Solely about the content that is being produced.
A podcast makes the guest more comfortable and is more intimate than a live radio show. Especially in sports.
Since 2015, I have hosted and produced 656 podcasts (yes it was fun to count them) and hosted many radio shows. My current shows are called Sports with Friends, Hall of Justice, and Techstream. That last one I host with tech expert Shelly Palmer.
On radio, there is a myriad of things the host has to do besides focus on the guest.
First, there are the IDs. Program directors have always told me ID the guest every chance I get. “We are talking with Eli Manning on WFAN,” is heard 7 times during an eight-minute segment.
On a podcast, the name of the guest is on the player or app that is playing the podcast. “Episode 1. Eli Manning, New York Giants” scrolls across smartphones, car radios, or other devices constantly. Never interrupt the guest with an ID.
Then, there’s the fact that it is recorded and not live. I have a standard preamble that I say to any guest before any record light turns on.
“I will push,” I explain. “I will see where the conversation takes us, but I do tend to push. However, I’m on your side. This isn’t some expose’. If something comes up that you don’t like your answer, tell me. I’ll take it out. If there’s something that I say that is bad or wrong, tell me, I’ll take it out. This is a conversation, not an interview.”
In 656 podcasts, only one player, Bryce Harper (then of the Washington Nationals) asked me to take something out of a podcast.
We were doing Episode 54 of Sports with Friends when the subject of Dusty Baker came up. He had just been hired to manage the Nationals. I mentioned in passing that Dusty had given the eulogy at my best friend Darryl Hamilton’s funeral.
Bryce was so intrigued that he recalled the comments I had made and asked if we could pause. We then spoke for a good 10 minutes about the kind of person Dusty was. Why Darryl held him in such regard. It was a really inciteful chat. Never was on the podcast.
Still, guests do relax when told that the editing option exists. They let their guard down. The host of a podcast can ask deeper questions.
“Who was the first person you called when you found out you were traded?”
“Have you seen a life for you after football?”
“How much do you hate a certain player?”
All questions, that if asked live, could seriously backfire. So not only does the guest have a guard up, but the interviewer also has to play it relatively safe, when they are not IDing the guest for the umpteenth time.
Time constraints also don’t exist in a podcast where they are beholden on live radio. The guest is just about to tell you they did cocaine during the World Series, and you are up against the clock.
I have hosted shows over the years where the guest was phenomenal, but I screwed up the PPM clock. That was the takeaway. The clock is important on a live medium that needs to get that quarter-hour.
I try to keep my podcasts short. You wouldn’t see it from looking at the lengths of my episodes. Still, I feel that if someone wants to talk and dive into a topic and it goes a little long, I will never cut the guy off.
Ken Griffey Jr. spoke for 45 minutes with a cigar and his feet up on the phone by his pool. He was telling jokes and stories. I wouldn’t have stopped that if a train was coming. When I hosted Mariner content at KJR in Seattle, our interviews usually last 5 minutes.
Jon Morosi broke down the future of clubhouse access and how he traveled during Covid. Then he told an amazing story of his wife working in the medical field and how that impacted all of his family. Shannon Drayer of 710 KIRO got so in-depth in her arduous journey from being a coffee barista to the Mariners on-field reporter. It was split into two episodes.
Former porn star Lisa Ann talked about her decision to quit the business. Even Jason Barrett himself was Episode 173 of Sports with Friends.
(When in the past has Jason Barrett been in the same paragraph as a porn star? Note to Demetri: please leave it in.)
The radio industry is seen to be cutting costs wherever it can. Mid-market stations are not doing night shows anymore, instead offering nationally syndicated programming.
Weekends are another avenue that perplexes me. Talent that is not deemed good enough to be on during the week is often given weekend shifts. Also, some Monday-Friday hosts add a weekend shift to their duties. Here’s a theory: play podcasts. Format them to hit your PPM time marks.
They don’t have to be my podcasts, but in the crowded podcast space, surely there are sports talk podcasts that are intimate, deep, and fun. Since we live in a data-driven age, let’s see how a radio station fares playing high-quality podcasts or portions of them, vs. weekend hosts.
Program directors often worry about the outdated nature of a podcast. That sells the podcaster short. As someone who has been in the podcast space since 2003, I know how to make them timeless, and companies make shows often enough, that rarely would they be outdated.
Quality shines through the speakers. The spoken-word audio format is continually evolving. Opportunities that a podcast creates open doors to audio that is simply superior to live radio.
The podcast industry is continually evolving. Radio needs to evolve as well. Then, it can be a fair fight.
National Voices Can Work For Local Clients
“Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder.”
Selling personalities is one of the hottest trends in media today. Sure, most of the buzz is around social media influencers, but radio has long had a relationship with its audience based on personal connections between host and listener. And nobody has a better relationship with their audience than a sports radio host.
I am sure you are leveraging your local hosts by now. Live spots, testimonials, remotes, and promotions are all great tricks of the trade, as well as sponsored social media posts. But does your station carry syndicated shows? I am sure you do either from 7 pm-12 am Monday-Friday or on weekends.
In 2018, The Ticket in Boise, Idaho brought CBS Sports Radio host Damon Amendolara and his co-host, Shaun Morash, to town for a Boise State football game. Damon had just switched to mornings from evenings, and his show aired in Boise from 4 am-8 am Monday – Friday. His ratings were decent, but nothing that stood out considering the daypart. It was thought to be risky to sell him into sandwich shops, pizza places, appearances at local legend hangouts, and so forth.
Boise State head football coach and QB Bryan Harsin and Brett Rypien did a live shot on the show from the on-campus bookstore. At dark thirty. It all worked. DA and Morash were hits! Everywhere they went, lines and crowds awaited them and they hit spots in a two-county area. The few days of appearances worked so well that DA is back in Boise three years later, this time for a week. Now, DA is doing his show from resort hotels 2.5 hours away, taking riverboat adventure fishing trips in Hell’s Canyon, craft beer tours for his sidekick Andrew Bogusch and hosting college football viewing parties at brewpubs. Every station that carries syndicated shows probably has a DA success story waiting to happen.
Start by listening to the shows, know the benchmarks and quirks of the national personalities or call the affiliate rep and ask. Does the talent discuss their love of beer, BBQ, pizza, whatever? If they do, then go ahead and sell them to a local client. The national talent can do the spot and endorse your client. If it’s a product, send one to them. Figure out how to get them a pizza. If it’s a service, do a zoom call with the client and let them start a relationship. Include some social media elements with video. The video can be used in social media and can sit on the client’s website. Yours too!
If you want to bring the talent to town, do it for a big game, local event, or 4th of July parade, and the sponsors will follow. Run a promo during the talent’s daypart asking local sponsors to text in to reserve their promotional spot. Have the talent cut liners asking the same thing. Take the NFL Sunday morning host and sell a promo to a sports bar where the host zooms in to a table or room full of listeners, and they watch a portion of a game together. Or sell the same idea to a national chain and do an on-air contest for a listener to have a home watch party with the zoomed-in host complete with food and beverages from your sponsors sent to both locations. How about sending your #1 BBQ joint that handles mail orders and sends some food for the talent? They can videotape themselves reheating the BBQ and make some great Facebook and Instagram videos.
Distance, like absence, can make the heart grow fonder. Try selling a nationally syndicated host inside your market. I promise you’ll like it.
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