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Tony Gwynn Jr. Made His Own Name in San Diego

“People got a chance to see that I wasn’t my father and [that] I had a personality.”

Derek Futterman

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Tony Gwynn Jr.
Courtesy: Nelvin C. Cepeda, The San Diego Union-Tribune

The San Diego Padres have called Petco Park home since 2004, three years after the retirement of the franchise’s most accomplished player: Tony Gwynn. Within the park grounds, there is a statue of Gwynn, listing all of his career statistics and paying homage to the 15-time All-Star. After his career, he was the head coach at San Diego State University for 12 seasons, and also worked as a broadcaster for ESPN and Fox Sports San Diego.

Looking down on the field from the press level one spring day, Gwynn saw a Padres player donning a jersey with his last name on it. It was at that moment when Padres fans were formally introduced to Tony Gwynn Jr. – the major leaguer – after an early-season trade in 2009. In fact, Gwynn broke the news to his son that he was being traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the San Diego Padres. On the same day, Gwynn Jr. ended up scoring the winning run for the Friars, marking a special moment for the family. Yet he knew the San Diego community long beforehand and was familiar with the Padres’ fanbase.

When the junior Gwynn was young, he accompanied his father at Jack Murphy Stadium and was able to consume the game from a unique vantage point. When he was not at the ballpark, he would either watch the games on television or listen on the radio. As the years passed by, his love of sports broadened to more than just baseball, and he was simultaneously becoming more proficient in its vernacular. Sports media fascinated him.

“I didn’t necessarily know that I would want to do it when I got older,” Gwynn said, “but as I got close to retirement, I knew I wanted to be involved in the game of baseball. I also knew that my knowledge that I had gained over time and just being so interested in all sports could end up in different avenues.”

Gwynn’s father was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 2007 – his first year of eligibility. Seventy-thousand fans made the trip to Cooperstown, N.Y. and listened as they accepted baseball’s highest honor. Throughout the speech, Gwynn Sr. emphasized various lessons he taught his son and passed onto the sport as a whole regarding work ethic and overcoming challenges. Now, that son is looking to cement his own legacy as a broadcaster and be one of the best in the industry.

While Gwynn Jr. had the chance to interact with broadcast icons including Vin Scully, the conversations took place before becoming fully immersed in sports media. As the son of a superstar athlete, Gwynn was afforded unparalleled access and developed an innate knack for the game. Through interacting and listening to radio voices such as Jon Miller, Gwynn had somewhat of a basis to cultivate his own style; however, it was unbeknownst to “America’s Finest City.”

“I think on the broadcasting side, my baseball internal voice was built on listening to the games on the radio,” Gwynn said. “There wasn’t as much television time as there is now, so I was always intrigued [by] that element.”

Instead, Gwynn started his broadcast career nearly two hours north in Los Angeles as part of the DodgerTalk postgame show on AM 570 LA Sports. After departing the Padres as a player in 2010, Gwynn played two seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team’s archrival. 

“In LA, they don’t necessarily want you to sugarcoat it. They want you to be on the team when it’s not doing things specifically,” Gwynn said. “That was initially difficult – when you’re fresh out of the game criticizing dudes you know worked their tail off is not a comfortable place to be. Learning how to manage that, I think, was a huge help starting in that market in particular.”

Aside from determining the best way to discuss the game, Gwynn also learned about the business side of sports media and how to responsibly carry out his role. 

“I remember my first time just being too candid about a specific sponsor and then after we went to break, [they] said, ‘Hey, you can’t do that,’” Gwynn remembered. “It was a silly mistake, but it was one that I learned early.”

Following the 2016 season, Gwynn Jr. returned to San Diego and took on a similar role his father had held. The next season, he split his time between FOX Sports San Diego on its pregame and postgame show, and joined Jesse Agler as a color commentator for select games on 94.9 KBZT-FM, an alternative station serving as the team’s flagship home.

The city was recovering from losing its football team to Los Angeles, and others perceived its fans as disloyal. Where many saw a glaring deficiency, Gwynn saw an opportunity to help reshape the sound of sports talk in the area – coinciding with the launch of 97.3 The Fan.

“It’s made it a little bit easier that the folks here in San Diego have to focus really only on one major sports [team] and their college teams,” Gwynn said of the Chargers’ departure. “I think because of that, it’s almost kind of directed everybody’s attention in one direction, whereas when the Chargers were here and you had the Padres, there was always kind of diversions going on.”

Gwynn joined the station from its inception in April 2018 after it reformatted from a talk, comedy and music format, and has been working with Chris Ello in afternoons ever since. As a co-host on Gwynn & Chris, his goal is to tap into the conversation in the area, which spans both locally and nationally. During the baseball season, the Padres are the primary topic, and while some people may think he loathes the offseason, he embraces it and uses it as an opportunity to expand the discussion.

“There was a period of time where everybody was pissed at the Chargers, but everybody also loves football,” Gwynn said. “In some ways, I enjoy that part of the year just as much because doing the analyst side on the radio and talking about it from April to October, I like the change-up. We definitely do our part come the end of baseball season to really show our diversity in terms of our knowledge of sports.”

The natural progression of the program is a fundamental aspect of maintaining the show’s appeal – especially after finishing with a 9.0 share at the top of the most recent ratings book. While ratings and advertising revenue are critical to engendering success, the fiscal markers do not encompass the definition in its entirety. 

“When people can turn on the radio and tune in and they can hear a conversation that they would be having with their friends, I think ultimately is just as important as those ratings,” Gwynn said. “They’re one in the same – if you have those types of conversations consistently, you have the ratings that you’re looking for.”

Gwynn was not the full-time radio analyst for Padres games until the start of last season – which have been broadcast on 97.3 The Fan since 2018 – creating a complicated situation involving balancing his commitments with the outlet. In traveling with the team, he needs to prepare for both the program and baseball game every day throughout the season. There is overlap between the two since the Padres are a frequent topic of discussion on the radio show, and Gwynn feels the job became more facile upon finding a rhythm. When he first arrived in San Diego as a broadcaster though, there was somewhat of a learning curve to become acclimated to his new role. 

“I think in some ways when I first started out, [I] kind of [had] that kind of just ‘eyes wide open,’ and [I was] so naïve to things that you don’t even necessarily pick up,” Gwynn said. “To me, coming to work and talking [about] sports was just fun.”

The impetus to continue the delicate balance is embedded within his intrinsic enamorment towards sports. Being a former player and the son of a Hall of Famer, he has a deft understanding of all things baseball. Some of these perspectives, however, can be incomprehensible to the average listener, hence why he works at expressing these complex points in a lucid manner. It is something Gwynn’s father was able to discern and accomplish as a player and broadcaster.

“If there’s a gift that I did get from him, it certainly has been being able to explain some of the more nuanced parts of the game in a way that the common man who’s never played can understand,” Gwynn said of his father. “I think that’s important, especially as we get into so many more analytical, data-driven statistics that are difficult to understand if you haven’t played. Part of my job is being able to break those things down and give our fans a way to keep up with the game as it’s evolving right now.”

Gwynn does not consider himself to have an ego on the radio. Even so, he tries not to limit future opportunities on television regularly. He also sees the value in having his radio show syndicated on a national platform, bringing San Diego sports talk to speakers across the nation. 

“I genuinely love sports, and I don’t see that changing any time soon,” Gwynn said. “That’s my motivation – I think as long as I continue to have that feeling, I could probably do this job for a very, very, very long time.”

Despite being a former member of the Padres and frequently appearing near the organization, working in sports media has allowed Gwynn to further establish his own identity. Over the years, many baseball fans saw him solely as the son of “Mr. Padre,” diminishing the anomalies that render him unique and a true savant of the game. As a sports radio host and color commentator, he has had the opportunity to routinely speak for himself.

“People got a chance to recognize outside of baseball that I know my stuff when it comes to sports,” Gwynn said. “I think that kind of allowed for there to be a space where people weren’t viewing me as Tony Gwynn’s son, and I think part of that also is the fact that I played eight years in the big leagues. People got a chance to see that I wasn’t my father and [that] I had a personality.”

Even though Gwynn and Agler work on the radio broadcast, they noticed what transpired regarding the team’s television broadcasts. Earlier in the summer, Bally Sports San Diego’s parent company, Diamond Sports Group, neglected to pay the team its media rights fee on schedule. After a month-long grace period without payment, Major League Baseball assumed control of the media rights, seemingly the first example of Diamond Sports Group selectively rejecting a contract under Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

While the scenario merely eschewed the radio broadcast in terms of sheer cume, it epitomizes the fleeting stability of traditional, local broadcasting and makes a search for the best path forward rather ambiguous.

“For a long time now even before I got into radio, people have been telling us that radio was dying – and here we are 10 years later [where] radio’s still going strong,” Gwynn said. “You can make a point that it’s actually gotten stronger in that time. I don’t worry about it as much, [but] certainly as the unfortunate situation with Bally happened, you knew that there could be more listeners.”

Following a 2022 season where the team was just three wins away from a World Series appearance, the Padres have had a frustrating 2023 campaign. The return of Fernando Tatís Jr., who was suspended for using a performance-enhancing drug, along with the acquisition of Xander Bogaerts altered a batting order anchored by Manny Machado, Juan Soto and Jake Cronenworth. 

While the lineup is one of the league’s best on paper, it has fallen short of expectations and classified the Padres among the most disappointing teams in the National League. Any quality broadcaster needs to know how to deliver criticism devoid of impetuous attacks, and Gwynn has diligently ensured he stays within those boundaries.

When Gwynn first began playing baseball, there was a stigma pertaining to athletes with asthma, which he suffers from, being able to compete at a high level. By the end of his career, that narrative was silenced – and his son, who also deals with the lung disease, continued to play with that fortitude. Gwynn passed away four years after his Hall of Fame induction following a protracted battle with parotid cancer. It was a devastating moment for the Gwynn family, fans of the San Diego Padres, the baseball community and the world spanning beyond sports.

Once the public learned of his death, they laid flowers in front of his statue behind the ballpark, granting the community a place to mourn and gather. Oftentimes fans at the ballpark use the statue as a meeting place, exuding reverence for Gwynn and cognizance that he is their franchise player. Today, Gwynn Jr. is a national ambassador for the American Lung Association and a member of its leadership board in San Diego, through which he uses his platform to inform others of the significance of lung health.

“I think that is a super important thing, especially for the underserved communities out there,” Gwynn said. “A lot of it is access – when you get the information out to those communities, they can make better choices from there.”

Gwynn is not eligible to join his father in Cooperstown, but he is on a trajectory to be among baseball immortality – something that could, perhaps, come as a future recipient of the distinguished Ford C. Frick Award. The honor is typically bestowed upon a play-by-play announcer, but it does not define the parameters of what it considers to be a broadcaster. Tim McCarver was the last analyst to be given the distinction in 2012, and Gwynn hopes he is not the last.

Heeding his father’s advice from the time he was young, remaining prepared, adaptable and equipped with a fervor for the craft has served Gwynn well. In spite of the success, he resists becoming complacent and yearns to improve with every broadcast whether that is at the ballpark or in the studio. Sports media is continuously getting to know Gwynn, and he is determined to further emerge in the content ecosystem and, ultimately, leave an indelible legacy.

“Wouldn’t that be something to get into the Hall of Fame as an analyst on the baseball side?,” Gwynn said. “I think that’d be pretty cool.”

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NBA Basketball Media Continues to Pile On The Boston Celtics

These Celtics have yet to win a ring and that is on them, but the media criticism levied against them has been inane.

John Molori

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Logo for the Boston Celtics and screengrabs from ESPN
Screengrabs from ESPN's First Take and Get Up

They are the most unfairly criticized team in the NBA, a team that cruised to 64 victories and earned the number one seed in a very tough Eastern Conference. They have taken two NBA playoff series in five games respectively and lead the Eastern Conference Finals 2-0 versus Indiana.

I speak of the Boston Celtics, and despite these sterling facts, their two superstars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and the team as a whole, continue to garner criticism from the roundball media.

These “experts” say that the Celtics cannot be trusted and that they have not played to their potential. The Celtics have been to the Eastern Conference Finals six times since 2017 and made it to the NBA Finals in 2022, losing to the Golden State Warriors, but to listen to the basketball cognoscenti, you would think they are a bunch of green-clad slugs.

I get it, the Tatum-Brown Celtics have yet to win an NBA Championship, and I agree that if they don’t win it all this year, it will be a failed season for sure. After Boston defeated Cleveland in the Eastern semifinals, TNT analyst Draymond Green stated that no one cares that the Celtics once again made it to the conference finals. He is 100% correct, but that does not mean that the Celtics are utter garbage.

It’s really hard to win an NBA playoff series in five games. The Celtics have already done that twice in these playoffs, but instead of giving the Celtics credit for taking care of business, many commentators have denigrated them for how they are winning and the teams they have faced or did not have to face.

Joel Embiid was hurt. Giannis Antetokounmpo was hurt. The Knicks were banged up and the Cavs lost Donovan Mitchell. Well, too bad. Injuries are a part of the game. Are we forgetting the Celtics have been crushing playoff series without Kristaps Porzingis? When the Celtics get attention from the national media spotlight, it is usually with an air of disappointment and disgust. I’m wondering why.

ESPN and FS1 give endless attention, hope, positivity, and forward-thinking to the Los Angeles Lakers. Simply put, the Lakers are a mediocre to decent basketball team at best. They were dumped in the first round of the playoffs and if not for their history, LeBron James, and the city in which they play, they wouldn’t even be in the discussion. They are the New Orleans Pelicans with Snoop Dogg at courtside.

Still, the Lakers remain in the A block on many network hoops shows. Do you want to talk about a lack of trust, disappointment, and not reaching potential? How about the defending champion Denver Nuggets?

Yes, they have a two-time MVP in Nikola Jokic, but what about his team this year? They fell to a bunch of playoff neophytes called the Minnesota Timberwolves, losing Game 7 at home. Meanwhile, the Celtics took out an always tough Miami Heat team and a highly competitive Cavaliers team, 5 games each. All these Celtics do is win. Does it matter if the wins are pretty? Since when is that the media litmus test?

In a recap of Game 1 of the Eastern finals, a thrilling 133-128 overtime win for Boston, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps said that the Celtics almost “coughed up” another game at home. He went on to say that all the Pacers had to do was inbound the ball and hit a free-throw, and they would have won. Fine Tim, but guess what? They didn’t get it done and the Celtics did. Mistakes and capitalizing on mistakes are a big part of basketball.

Bontemps went on to say that if the Celtics don’t win Game 2 vs. Indiana, the Game 1 win will not matter. This is quite possibly the most foolhardy statement uttered in this year’s NBA playoffs. When four games win a series, every win matters. I understand that the Celtics lost Game 2 at home in their first two series, but so what? They righted the ship and swept both series the rest of the way.

During Game 1 against the Pacers, the Celtics jumped out to an early double-digit lead, but Indy came back to tie the game as good NBA playoff teams are known to do. ESPN’s Lisa Salters asked Boston guard Jrue Holiday how the Celtics lost the early lead. Holiday calmly replied that the Pacers are an NBA team as well. Exactly.

At the end of Game 1, after Boston stormed back in regulation and dominated the OT, ESPN play by play announcer Mike Breen said that the Celtics “survived” Game 1. It was an interesting choice of words that underlined the unfair criticism of Boston.

Coming back in a game, hitting big shots, and winning when it matters is not surviving. It is stepping up, closing the door, and being clutch. Breen is probably unfamiliar with these words because he’s been hanging around the Knicks too long.

On the May 21 edition of ESPN’s First Take, the talented and eloquent Andraya Carter questioned whether the Celtics can be trusted pinpointing Jayson Tatum in the conversation. Austin Rivers vehemently disagreed and the two engaged in a lively debate. The morning after the Celtics won Game 1 vs. the Pacers, ESPN’s Get Up crew still dogged them.

The eminent host Mike Greenberg asked the panel how Jaylen Brown could get open for the “easiest” three-point shot of the game to tie the game with just seconds left in regulation.

If you watch video of the shot, however, it was hardly easy. Brown was in the far corner with the 6-10 Pascal Siakam in his face and the Indiana bench just a couple of feet away most likely yelling Dicemanesque obscenities his way. These are the types of unmerited insults tossed at the Celtics. Brown hits an amazing shot with everything on the line and it is somehow considered the easiest shot of the game. Really?

Much of the rancor toward the Celtics is based on their stacked roster and the perceived lack of talent in their opponents, but let me get all historical on you for a minute. The nearly unanimously coronated greatest player in the history of the game, Michael Jordan, did not play all-time great teams in winning his six NBA Championship series.

In 1991, it was an old Lakers team. In 1992, it was the utterly forgettable Portland Trailblazers. In 1993, it was an aging Phoenix Suns team with Charles Barkley trying to get a

ring. In 1996, it was a good, but not great Seattle Sonics club, and in 1997 and 1998, it was the Utah Jazz. I’ll give the Jazz Karl Malone and John Stockton, but the rest of the team did double duty in a men’s weeknight league at the Northern Utah YMCA.

In fact, a team’s competition is trivial. If you win, you win. It doesn’t matter who is on the opposite side of the court. The Celtics have yet to win a ring and that is on them, but the media criticism levied against them has been inane.

Even the legendary Michael Wilbon piled on saying that if the Knicks were completely healthy, he would have picked them to beat the Celtics. All due respect to Mr. Wilbon, but a fully healthy Knicks team still may not have beaten the Pacers, sharpshooting like Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon.

On Get Up this past week, ESPN’s Alan Hahn said that Jayson Tatum is not in the same league as LeBron James. No kidding, Alan. LeBron James is the leading scorer in NBA history, a man who has defined the sport for two decades. Hahn doubled down however, stating that Tatum is not in the same league as Luka Doncic.

Doncic is an immensely skillful player, but that’s about it. His Mavericks are in the conference finals for only the second time in his career. He has taken his team absolutely nowhere. Doncic is the is the Josh Allen of the NBA. Super stats, but not a sniff of a conference championship to his credit. His name is Luca, and he lives on the second bill to Tatum.

On the May 22 edition of First Take, Stephen A. Smith noted that Jayson Tatum scored 12 points in the Game 1 overtime period, but also added that Tatum shot 2-10 in the fourth quarter and early in overtime.

Fair enough, but he then stated, “You’re looking for him, and he was nowhere to be found when it really counted.” Huh? So, it didn’t really count in overtime? Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals between the Celtics and the Pacers was a tremendous NBA playoff game, one that should go down in history as a classic.

Instead, it became a springboard for continued unfounded Celtics trashing. Not every competitive NBA game is perfect. Teams make mistakes and miss shots. That’s basketball.

Game 2 saw the Celtics drub the Pacers 126-110 making them 10-2 in the playoffs with multiple trustworthy players delivering in the clutch. This series might end in 4 or 5 games, or could go 7, but to once again paraphrase Draymond Green, nobody cares as long as you win. Despite the baseless media negativity, that is exactly what the Celtics have been doing.

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Ken LaVicka Looks Ahead Following ESPN West Palm Exit

“The last thing I wanted to do was bus throw.”

Derek Futterman

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Ken LaVicka
Courtesy: ESPN West Palm

Although April Fool’s Day had recently taken place, the message Ken LaVicka was delivering on the air early in the month was hardly a joking matter. In an announcement that came as a shock to listeners and LaVicka himself, he revealed that he was leaving ESPN West Palm after 17 years with the outlet. For the last three years, he was the co-host of the popular LaVicka, Theo and Stone midday program, which provided local listeners with discussion and revelry surrounding sports in South Florida and in the United States as a whole.

While it was insinuated to LaVicka that there were financial reasons for the exit, the entire move left him uneasy and uncomfortable, suddenly finding himself out of regular hosting work and looking for a new job. After all, he had been appearing on the air for the Good Karma Brands-owned radio station since 2007, one year after he completed college at Valparaiso University. Over the years at the outlet, he augmented his standing through shifts as an update anchor and fill-in host to eventually being granted his own full-time hosting slot.

The audience within the West Palm Beach and Treasure Coast marketplace had become accustomed to his voice and opinions for more than a decade, making the move difficult for both parties involved. In fact, as LaVicka was divulging the news in the last 20 minutes of what was his final show on the station, he articulated that it was not only he and his partners losing the midday show, but those listeners that encompass the audience as well.

“It was ultimately a corporate decision,” LaVicka said. “It was definitely not mutual. I would prefer to still be at ESPN West Palm. I am unhappy that I’m not at ESPN West Palm, but hey, we’ve been in the business a long time. I’ve seen a lot of friends end up losing jobs over decisions that come from a much higher paygrade, and so I think that ultimately that’s what happened to me.”

When reflecting back on the circumstances that led to his departure from the station, LaVicka believes that he was seen as expendable. Outside of his hosting work, LaVicka is a play-by-play announcer for Florida Atlantic University and calls NWSL soccer matches on various digital platforms. Although LaVicka is appreciative of the company’s belief for him to find his footing again, he is crestfallen to be off the air but conducted himself with professionalism throughout his egress.

“The last thing I wanted to do was bus throw,” LaVicka said. “Was I disappointed? Absolutely. Was I bitter? For sure, and I still feel bitterness towards the situation that unfolded. But I also think that the positives of the opportunities afforded to me by Good Karma Brands for almost 20 years, and also at the end them trying to, while making a tough decision that was going to have an adverse effect on me, try and do it in the most professional and classy way possible that you could in that spot, it kind of allowed me this freedom.”

There exists a dichotomy between LaVicka’s time at ESPN West Palm ending and that of the midday program itself. Upon discovering that he would not be retained, he made this distinction and felt despondency towards having to leave his co-hosts Theo Dorsey and Stone Labanowitz. The broad age cohort on the program and varying perspectives on sports was an aspect that LaVicka believes engendered a unique offering on the air. LaVica has been at the station the longest among the trio, and his partners understood the importance of having the ability to say goodbye to the listeners through the platform.

LaVicka remembers starting at the outlet and describes the first office he worked out of as an “absolute closet,” but it proved to be a place where the business continued to flourish. Originally being from Chicago, Ill., he adjusted to living in southern Florida while also having an ability to focus on growing his career.

The perception that he had of sports talk radio when he was studying in college and participating in the student-run radio station differed from what he ultimately experienced working at ESPN West Palm. It was preceded by a year working at then-FOX Sports 100.5 FM in Madison, Wisc., also owned by Good Karma Brands. LaVicka accepted the role three days before he was supposed to move to Dickinson, N.D. to work as a sportswriter for The Dickinson Press, deciding to pursue his passion in radio.

Nearly two decades later, he evinces an ongoing, axiomatic shift pertaining to multimedia consumption and content creation. LaVicka believes it has become more difficult for terrestrial radio outlets to find businesses who want to associate with their work and delivery methods, although it is dependent on the marketplace. The apprehension he possesses in this regard, however, is in whether talented young people will be able to secure and subsequently capitalize off opportunities.

“Local radio will not die,” LaVicka prognosticated. “It’s still too much of a bonding entity for it to go away completely, but the expectations of how much money a local station can bring in just using traditional means as its way of bringing in income – there’s going to have to be some forward thinkers in that local radio space because you can’t just go, ‘The person goes on air – sell sponsorships’ It doesn’t work like that anymore.”

LaVicka himself is currently looking for a new role in the industry and is not opposed to moving out of south Florida if the opportunity is right for him and his family. Since losing his job at ESPN West Palm, he has endured many sleepless nights and pondered over the amount of fortitude and patience he has within the process.

Even though he is not ruling out an eventual return to ESPN West Palm, he views the outcome as unlikely. The value working there, however, comes in being able to relate and appeal to a diverse, transient audience residing within the locale. Good Karma Brands is assisting him with the process by promoting his work and providing him with financial assistance as he prepares for his next career move.

“I don’t want to come off as cocky, but I’m very confident in myself that given an opportunity; given a role – a sizable role that is something that’s going to be consumed by a lot of people – I get that opportunity, I’m going to excel in it,” LaVicka said. “There hasn’t been any point in my career on air where I haven’t been given an opportunity and then it didn’t completely expand past I think what the initial expectation was, and this includes my time at Florida Atlantic.”

While LaVicka is open to opportunities in terrestrial radio, he is also exploring working in the digital realm and recently started a YouTube show with WQAM digital content producer Zach Krantz titled By All Accounts. LaVicka first met Krantz at Miami Dolphins practices and training camps when he was working on The Joe Rose Show, and they shared several laughs and memorable moments.

When LaVicka and his wife welcomed their second child into the world, it required a stint in the neonatal intensive care unit at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Fla. Their newborn daughter ended up spending 72 hours there where her health improved. Krantz discovered the circumstance shortly after it began and reached out to LaVicka to offer his support, understanding the stress with the situation after his son was in the NICU for several months.

“[He] made sure to come find me at the hospital and put me at ease [and] talked me through the process,” LaVicka said, “and that was massively important to me, had a major effect on me and also gave me an idea of the type of person Zach Krantz is.”

Krantz came up with the idea to start a program with LaVicka, reaching out to him shortly after his exit from ESPN West Palm. Within his proposition, he explained that they already possessed strong chemistry and rapport and would work together to begin a show from phase one. Despite the program still being in its early stages, LaVicka can sense palpable growth potential that could perhaps turn into its own sustainable entity if it continues to grow. The venture is not evanescent, but rather something he is committed to growing in the long run as he discovers the media landscape and searches for the most optimal long-term solution.

“I want this thing to be broad,” LaVicka said. “I want it to be fun, but I think that I also want to make sure that it at least plays to our strengths, which is being petty sports fans; which is showing favor to South Florida sports, making sure that we’re being extremely relatable in the grand scheme of things.”

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How Advertisers Can Protect Their Digital Ad Spend

Invalid website traffic from automated scripts and “bad bots” will waste $71 billion this year.

Jeff Caves

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Graphic for digital advertising

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) partnering with digital marketing companies for their ad spend can enjoy significant advantages. Digital companies, such as many radio stations’ digital departments, often have more expertise than SMBs in spending money wisely to generate website traffic and, crucially, in avoiding the waste of ad dollars on fake traffic. Fake website traffic has increased by 33% in just two years. Invalid website traffic (IVT) from automated scripts and “bad bots” will waste $71 billion this year. Here are some questions advertisers can ask their digital partner to help eliminate fake ad engagement:

Make Data and Machines Work

Ask your digital partner if they use advanced data analytics and machine learning to optimize your ad spend. By employing predictive analytics—predicting future outcomes—savvy digital marketers can identify audiences most likely to engage genuinely with your ads. Inquire if they use Google Analytics and how it can help flag potential fraud and protect your investment.

Blockchain Technology for Ad Verification

To ensure transparency and security in your ad campaigns, some digital marketers leverage blockchain technology. This technology records every click and impression, guaranteeing that each interaction is genuine and that payments are made only for verified interactions. Blockchain makes it more difficult to change, hack, or manipulate data.

Advanced Attribution Models

Check if your partner uses multi-touch attribution models, which consider all touchpoints in the customer’s journey to your website. This approach provides a comprehensive view of how each ad contributes to conversions. Algorithmic attribution models apply sophisticated algorithms to improve ROI measurement.

Partnerships with Anti-Fraud Organizations

Ask if they collaborate with anti-fraud organizations to reduce fraud in digital advertising. Some digital companies ensure that campaigns and partners are certified by organizations like TAG, guaranteeing that ad placements are genuine and not plagued with fake engagements.

Private Marketplaces

Ensure that ad placements are with trusted publishers, reducing the risk of fraud. Some digital companies use private marketplaces, where a limited number of advertisers can buy and access premium inventory that is less susceptible to fraud, ensuring higher-quality ad placements for your business.

Real-Time Bidding (RTB) and Enhanced Filters

Your digital partner should set criteria for real-time bidding to ensure only high-quality, vetted traffic is considered. Real-Time Bidding is an auction setting where ad impressions are sold and bought. And transactions occur within seconds. Once an advertiser’s bid wins the auction, their digital ad is instantaneously shown on the website or property of the publisher.

Dynamic bidding strategies can adjust in real time based on the quality and performance of the inventory, maximizing the efficiency of your ad spend. Attempting this on your own can be challenging and less effective.

Focus on User Engagement Metrics

Ensure that deeper engagement metrics are employed, such as time spent on a page, scroll depth, and interaction rates, to provide a clearer picture of ad effectiveness. Analyzing post-click behavior helps determine the quality of engagements, ensuring that clicks result in meaningful interactions.

By partnering with well-established digital marketing companies, SMBs can access advanced technologies and strategies to ensure that digital marketing efforts are practical and efficient. Make sure your website conversions are as high as possible. YouTube and Google Search are leading the way in combating bot traffic, while LinkedIn, Google Video Partners, and X are less effective at blocking “bad bots.” Finding a reliable digital partner is crucial to protecting your ad spend and maximizing your returns. Beware of the bad bot and ensure your advertising efforts drive genuine value.

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