Being the executive producer of a show comes with a lot of duties. There is the prep. There are the drops that need to be deployed at just the right moment. There are guests to book. Before you enter your booth and take a seat behind the board, you have already put in more than a full day’s work.
Once you are in the booth though, there is plenty more to do. All of those duties mentioned in the previous paragraph are important. You owe the hosts you work with your very best. That’s how you can guarantee they are set up for success, and after all, that is the primary function of the producer.
A producer that is truly giving his or her very best has an obligation to be the show’s single most engaged listener. I call the position “the show’s ultimate P1.” He or she is the listener that not only hangs on the host’s every word. He or she is the only listener in the market with the ability to influence what is being said or talked about.
It isn’t a job that can be done passively. I asked two friends in the producer’s role how they handle the aspect of the job that is all about living in the moment. How much do they trust their host(s) to know how to deliver quality content and how much do they step in to steer the ship?
“We have long 20 minute segments and a conversation we thought would take off doesn’t, so I won’t wait the full 20 minutes to let it run out,” says ESPN Radio’s Evan Wilner. The producer of Keyshawn, JWill and Zubin told me that working with three hosts and extended segments means he has to always think on his feet and make snap decisions about how the conversation is unfolding.
“If something isn’t working I’ll give the hosts a billboard and play a production montage to help us transition to a new topic so that the show can continue to move at a good pace. That’s why listening is so important because this could work both ways. If we had one topic planned for 20 minutes because we think it will be a great discussion and it doesn’t, we need something to move to or if something that was planned for two 10 minute discussions and the first one is takes off, we won’t just change to something else just because it’s in the rundown, we’ll let the hosts keep going.”
Alec Campbell produces the Adam Gold Show, which airs across North Carolina, but originates from 99.9 the Fan in Raleigh. For him, thinking about how the listeners are best served is part of building your show clock.
“My boy Los Medina down in ATL once told me ‘make the clock work for you,'” he says. “I know when we have the most listeners and we’ve customized our clock to that. Adam and I have a general show format that we think works so we already know how we’re going to execute the topics of the day in different segments.”
Being the ultimate P1 for KJZ doesn’t mean Wilner thinks he is the only listener that gets a say. In a time when so many shows have decided to eschew phone calls, Wilner says they are helpful for him to know where the audience’s pulse is on a topic.
“I’m not one who believes because people are calling everyone is listening,” he told me. “But I do believe that if our phone lines light up then we must be doing something that people find interesting and adding callers opinions is worth changing a rundown for when the callers are adding to the conversation or making us think of something differently than we may have before.”
Wilner also sees part of his job as making the conversation sound natural. That isn’t always easy. What conversation with your buddies includes pausing for sound clips? How often do you stop a discussion of homemade steak rubs for a quick word from Progressive?
It just doesn’t happen in real life. Wilner doesn’t expect guys trying to have as natural a conversation as possible to think that way. That is why as producer, he does a lot of butting in that the listener will never hear.
“I’m a big believer that the billboard needs to fit into the conversation as much as possible so I will be very vocal in the talent IFB to read the billboards at certain times so they fit into the show naturally. For example if we are talking about Game 2 of the NBA Finals and it airs that night on ESPN Radio with a billboard attached to the game, I will make sure the billboard is done within the conversation of the game instead of a random spot in the rundown where we might be talking baseball instead of the NBA.”
Campbell told me that he is trying to keep the listeners’ attention for as long as possible. That is why he needs the sound of the show to change regularly.
“We know that we have to keep things moving more than ever today so most segments are generated to be fast paced because we know we need to jostle the listeners attention every few minutes. This is done by changing subjects and using production elements like sound bites, drops and effects. I think sound and production are a really important part of jostling the attention. We try to use as much of that as possible every day.”
When you are a producer that focuses on pace and making the most out of shorter segments, it can affect the way you feel about all kinds of content. Campbell says he doesn’t value guests the way he used to because he has a particular pace he wants to maintain. Not every big name can help he and Adam Gold accomplish what they are trying to.
“I’d rather use a sound bite from something somebody said and form a segment around it than have a guest. That way we can intro the topic for a couple minutes, play the sound bite, and then react to the soundbite all in a pretty succinct fashion. Before you know it we’ve jostled you three times. Boom. Segment.”
Producer is one of those “ain’t no rest for the wicked” kind of positions It can be very easy to feel like you never have the opportunity to turn off. You’ll be convinced that every second you aren’t thinking about the show is a second you have wasted and can’t get back. With that kind of schedule and mentality, I asked Wilner what is the best way a host can show a producer his or her appreciation.
“There is nothing better than when a hosts recognizes you on air and says ‘this point our producer Evan put in the rundown or brought up during the show is really interesting’ but I know that’s not going to happen all the time. So for the me the best way to show recognition is honestly just mentioning something in your rundown or using a stat you provided to support an argument,” he answers. “Even if I am the only one who knows that the information I’m providing is helping I think that’s showing recognition. They don’t always have to say my name or credit me for something I provided for them, just using it is good with me.”
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.
Grant Cohn is a media member who writes for the FanNation 49ers blog on SI.com. 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:https://youtu.be/4Hf9sjBttFY
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 SFGate.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.