Seen & Heard – Quick Hits Edition

Good day sports media fans. Jonah and I are both working on special projects, so consider this a quasi-open thread with a few items to guide discussion.


Traffic here is up pretty significantly over the last few months. If you’re new, welcome to TSM. A lot of what I write is informed by discussions with people in the industry. I have been fortunate enough that most of the respected media members in the market have an ongoing professional relationship with me. (Some people only write to yell at me.) as such, before I write I talk to several people to get on-the-ground insights. This helps discussion here remain connected to how things “really work” in sports media.


Despite the inside baseball nature of what we talk about, this is primarily a site for listeners and readers and viewers. I want people to come here and talk about their experience as consumers of sports media. Lots of writers claim to be the vox populi when they castigate management or criticize a player. I want this place to embody the voice of the people on sports media. If we lose that then we’re just an industry blog and that’s a really boring thing to be.


Please contribute to the conversation. The more opinions there are the better. My only request is that you try not to call people out. If you see a point of view with which you disagree, debate the premise not the person.


Contact me @mikeinboston or by email with any story ideas or feedback on anything you read here. As always, thank for pointing me in the direction of good and bad interviews, segments, and articles. Ok, enough of that. Let’s get to work.


Sports Media Consumption Habits


We ran the following poll back in March: what is your daily routine when it comes to getting up to speed on the sports stories/topics of the day? I wanted to know the places you go for sports news, not for live sports. Here are the results.



Unsurprisingly Twitter was #1. I want to try this again, but leave Twitter out and ask a modified question. Think about how you consume sports media. Where do you go when you want sports opinion and news?


I’m not interested in passive entertainment, where you’re not really paying attention. I’m specifically asking what you do when you want to engage with sports media. Do you flop in front of the TV? Are you on an app on your tablet? Are you at your computer? Is it radio? Is it a podcast? Keep that in mind and pick 1 option below as your main destination. Obviously, most of us will have many but I want to know your #1.



If I left something out, post in the comments and I can add it in.


The Athletic Flexes its Muscle



In its first few weeks in the Toronto market The Athletic scooped up most of the unemployed newspaper folks. I interviewed EiC James Mirtle back when they launched. Since then they have amassed enough subscribers to be able to expand their salaried roster, and today brings news that they are expanding yet again, this time into Montreal.



As someone who has chronicled the ongoing loss of traditional sports media jobs, this is tremendously exciting. As a Canadian, I am especially thrilled to see money being poured into keeping sports writers employed in local sports markets where Rogers and Bell own a significant number of reporting and broadcast outlets.


One of the most fascinating tensions I see in their model is that their marketing strategy is built around the premise that the old ways of doing things don’t work. That applies to the funding structure, but also to the kinds of stories that are written. The Athletic sells itself as “independent” and there is no reason to doubt that based on the body of work so far. Sean Fitz-Gerald‘s excellent piece on the different values at TSN and SN when it comes to political expression is one data point. No one else is going to write that piece. So that is one place where they are doing something different.


Another place is that they also are trying to capture the “intelligent” sports consumer. I’m not exactly sure where this fanbase is currently getting their sports news. However, Implicit in The Athletic’s message is that the traditional outlets – print, TV, radio – are not doing a good job of delivering content that is up to your level, smart sport fans.


The oddity is that most of The Athletic’s roster is staffed by people who used to work for papers … you know, the places that are delivering the lousy click-bait lowest common denominator dreck we all hate. Perhaps these same writers were constrained by meddlesome editors and now they will be unshackled to write the cutting edge stories that smart fans crave.


It’s too early to tell but it’s a question worth keeping in mind as you sample their content over the next few months. The Jays will miss the playoffs, 2018 was supposed to be the year we got grass in the Dome, the Leafs will start a training camp with newfound playoff expectations, the Raps enter a season that is supposed to break the mold of the previous few, NHLPA is at war with itself and the league, the Argos can’t draw flies, Rogers is going in to Year 4 of 12 and ratings are still not good, TSN now owns all the NFL TV broadcast rights … there are a lot of stories to be told and there will be a lot of outlets telling them.


Over to you: is The Athletic doing something noticeably different from the competition? Are you still on the fence about the value they provide?


(full disclosure: I bought a subscription around their launch when they ran a 20% off promo)


Quick Hits


The Star spent thousands of words on the tale of Cash Pomer. Steve Simmons is heavily quoted throughout. It’s an interesting peek into the rich kid culture of some domains of sports media. I wondered while reading why Bob McCown was not quoted. He worked with “Cash”, has the same interest in gambling and Vegas, and they are in a similar age group. I can’t imagine they didn’t overlap significantly at The Fan.


The NHL/Olympics story has the potential to be a catalyst for vulcanization within the NHLPA. Whether that goes in the direction of dumping Fehr or lining up behind him is yet to be seen. There is sadly a dearth of good reporting on this topic.


SBJ has a great report on the state of the industry when it comes to streaming rights. We keep waiting for Amazon/Apple/Fb/Twitter to come in and disrupt business as usual but so far that has not happened to a large extent.


Low Hanging Fruit


  • Mailing it in, chapter 918: why would anyone want Bryan Hayes’ sponsored picks as a 19 second standalone podcast segment?



  • On his way out of town Andrew Walker took a pretty big shot. I can think of two people specifically who loved making mascot remarks: Jeff Blair and Dirk Hayhurst. Not sure who Andrew was referring to.



  • There is no lower hanging fruit than trying to discredit an opinion by attacking its source rather than its substance. I don’t face daily hateful responses to my tweets (in part because I know how to use the mute button) so maybe everyone cracks eventually. But I do wonder why people in the media feel the need to tweet this. How would knowing what a person looks like affect the validity of what he says?



  • Hard to occupy the moral high ground when you’re hurling insults at people.



  • Have not listened to much sports radio over the last month. How are the fill-ins doing? I find it hard to pay attention when there are so many fill-in folks. Need a clearer hierarchy. Lots of Joey Vendetta on radio as far as I can tell. The FAN should just give him a slot and see once and for all if the market is buying what he’s selling.


  • Over at TSN1050, the hierarchy seems to be, in no particular order … Matt Cauz, Gareth Wheeler, Mike Hogan.


  • Random blocks are my favourite kinds of blocks:



  • To the best of my recollection I have never tossed a tweet anywhere near Mr. Pagan. How does he even know who I am, let alone bother to take the time to search me out and block me? Thanks for reading, I guess.


  • Still working out the bugs of the moderation system. If you make an account – using a real email which always remains private – your comments are approved more quickly. We are still the training phase While the system gets to know all of us. Eventually users will have a quality rating based on their body of work, and those who fall below a certain threshold won’t be able to post. Work in progress for now. Will keep you updated.


  • Last item: I’m looking for a sponsor for my column. The donation scheme wasn’t worth doing. As I have written in the past, we don’t drive enough clicks to be interesting to anyone other than porn advertisers or the Come Visit Peterborough! campaign. If you can think of a good fit, email me [email protected]



thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)

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