*Editor’s Note: This episode was recorded prior to CoronaVirus.
Joining me today is TK Gore, Digital Executive and Media Consultant, as well as a day job at Comscore, one of the leading companies in the world on measurement. TK and I go way back, and love to jam about all things content. Today, we’re talking about addressable ads and the separation of linear and digital in the sports media world. TK, welcome to the show.
TK Gore: Really appreciate to be here. Super excited. Congrats on the launch of your podcast. I feel like it’s been… you’ve been talking about this for a couple years and super proud that we’re here and I’m sitting in your house recording this podcast with you on Sunday.
Jay Sharman: Yeah. We’re taking it to the next level on the personal side here. So, it’s great to have you. I mean, we actually crossed paths but never our careers cross paths. You’re at NBC Sports Chicago, running digital. I was at the predecessor Fox Sports Net. So, that the intersection of where contents going where it’s been in sports is a likely nexus place for us. And we were just talking before you came on here about the state of sports content and would love to get your take on where things are, and where do you see them going?
TK: Yeah. And before we start, when you talk about that crossover of careers, and I guess technically and I’m such a media nerd, I was at Comcast SportsNet Chicago, then it evolved in NBC Sports Chicago, and then another connection point is how you and I know each other with our good buddy, Dan Shanoff, who you went to Northwestern with who’s one of the experts in digital content, a real futurist, if you will.
And he and I had a crossover at AOL, even though I never worked at FanHouse, which was the Greenhouse entity back in the day. I did arrive at AOL Sports, and it’s funny. That’s the connection.
Jay: Yeah, we’re getting old. We’ve been to a lot of places and a lot of people to explain.
TK: Right. We are getting old. But as I remind people, I’m a Gen Xer who operates like a millennial because I’ve been in the digital business. And when you speak of really integrating personal as I have my eight and 10-year-old here in your house somewhere, I learned that my 10-year-old this week at school announced for good news that he was coming here to your house to check out your game room because his dad was being interviewed for a podcast. And I just found that out on the way over here. So, the pressure is on.
Jay: Trying to make it good.
TK: Yeah. Yeah, trying to make it good.
Jay: So, where do you see things that we’re recording this just at the onset of March Madness in 2020. Sports has always been at the forefront of content disruption on where things are going. And it’s fair to say that the content businesses almost at the same state of chaos as March Madness basketball, but where do you see where we are now, whether it’s through your personal lens, Comscore. And what’s on the horizon?
TK: Chaos, mass chaos. But chaos that pushes us to innovate and try new things. And you’re absolutely right. The thing I love about sports and Sports Media is it’s a true incubator where people love to play in a sandbox of sports. And people really bring really edgy, innovative, they’re willing to try things that maybe they haven’t tried in other areas, specifically around events and content. And I am serious about chaos. And it’s a great analogy as we’re knocking on the door of March Madness right now.
When I first started, at least in digital, was still in the 90s, and we talked about, “Wow, this is the Wild West.” And I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, it is still the Wild West right now in this how we’ve been evolving and what does disruption mean. In media, it’s still so important as it’s ever been. And as it’s been growing, it’s really interesting to watch this ebb and flow of making media, bundling it, unbundling it and getting the people.
And we are in this golden age of content. It’s not peak content, it continues to grow because there’s so many different platforms, and there’s so much good content out there that’s being made. I think it’s just a little bit challenging to go and find it. If you have the hunter-gatherer mentality, you can go get it. But in terms of convenience, it’s harder. It’s just not turning on the set and linear TV set that is and just going and discovering and finding.
Jay: Well, I want to jump in there for a second because I think you in your day job have an interesting purview, right? You’re spending significant time on linear right, from what I understand, you can maybe talk about that a little bit. And then, it’s your passion to follow digital media, but you’re also consulting in digital media as well and you’ve run a division of digital media of a media company for NBC Sports Chicago. And it’s almost like it’s bifurcated, right?
We always talk about as if they’re two different things like you’re digital and I go down that road. I look at things like digital and I get frustrated because I see inefficiencies out there or I’ll see the human factor. What I mean by that is the team works on a day to day basis when we’re working with our clients, trying to help them get their Brand Story to connect with the end consumer. You see things like we’re people have no problem spending nine figures with an ESPN or traditional linear network, and they put such few resources into connecting with their consumer on a digital front, right?
And I’m not saying it’s an either or. Obviously, the money is going to shift at the rate it’s going to shift. But to me, I think just… and sometimes, being an ageist here, there’s that element of a large company, pick a large media company. That’s the way they sold in the agencies. It’s been the way the business model is. You’ve got people running those divisions that have been there for 30 years. And so, there’s a lot of headwinds in terms of how things are going to change.
And few people that I see, you probably see more of them, step back and look at things in a more integrated approach. And I’m curious what you see from your position, do you see this bifurcation or this split of your linear or digital? Or you’re seeing much more integration happening? And where?
TK: There’s a lot there, I’m going to try to unpack. But let’s start with the first part, which hits into my sweet spot of what I’ve been doing today in my day job at Comscore, which is really measurement and data. And do I see that bifurcation? Absolutely. And sometimes, I’m still amazed in the world that there is still the separation of linear TV and digital at the agency level and other levels. And I feel I’ve been living it in terms of convergence in integration for years. And sometimes, I’m amazed when people and entities don’t get it yet, right?
And I know for years, back when I was at AOL, even in the 90s and early 2000s, it was so fast-paced. It was like lightspeed. And the saying was, “Does he or she get it?” How much do you need to educate or inform someone as you’re walking through some dealer partnership of where we’re going? And we, as an industry, really have to sometimes, even though we’re moving faster than we did in the 80s, the 90s to 2000s, to slow things down to explain and educate and inform because it is critical in what we’re doing and where we’re going.
So, let’s go back to your part about this whole bifurcation and where we are in measurement. So, my whole career has been Sports Media, as you know. We’ve talked about it a lot, really, digital media has always been my focus, but I’ve worked at two separate linear TV programming networks. The industry is really changing. And I’m fascinated in looking at it now through this lens where I now work for a data measurement company.
And I like to think of it this analogy and our CEO, Bill Livek, says this all the time. We’re in the oil business, right? And so, what we do is we go and knock on the door of a cable and satellite operator and we harvest their oil. We license that data. So, that oil, if you will. And then, what do we do? Well, we’re a refinery, we bring them in our system. And we take out all the bad stuff. We do some projections, and we come up with this great data set, if you will. And we do that with all the heavyweights in the industry.
And who do I mean the heavyweights in the industry? Even though the industry is changing, and we’re going to this very direct to consumer streaming world, heavyweights like AT&T and DIRECTV, Cox, Charter. Charter who is the number one based on subscription cable operator out there. Couple years ago, recently acquired Time Warner Cable. And side note, it’s fascinating when I worked in the Comcast NBCU or because I really thought that we were acquiring Time Warner Cable.
And that’s a whole separate discussion, I worked on a lot of things back then. We also get data from Dish Network. And about a week and a half ago, we made a major, major announcement. I’m proud to say we just cut a deal with Comcast. So now, we’re getting data from all these folks. And right now, I mean, you could say that we’re… and no, this is a fact, we’re the first and only measurement company to have total coverage of satellite and cable households and all 210 local markets. So anyways, I mean, what does that mean?
And I know that sounds like a bit of a PR line, and it is but it’s a fact. But we go out there and we provide data on who is watching what and when true measurement. When you go back to that oil, we’re getting the oil directly. And so, how we go out and measure is we measure passively by collecting data from the cable and satellite companies and it’s real viewership data. I mean, it’s-
Jay: We’re not talking about the old logbooks from the Nielsen days back in the day?
TK: Yeah. And I’m going to be careful here and I’m always politically correct. But I will say that there is another entity out there who’s been collecting data and reporting on it. And it’s just a different methodology. And it’s based on sampling. And certain households, it’s a smaller universe, and how that methodology is in sampling. So then, take it back to your point of making decisions at media companies and agencies, sometimes it’s hard to evolve and change because you’ve been doing things a certain way.
So, you’re making deals on content. You’re making deals on advertising. Or spending or selling inventory to go after a certain audience. And you’re making it based on old thinking and old methodologies. And I think there’s a better way to go and do it in this world we live in in how we go and collect data and how we analyze it. And yes, you can overwhelm yourself with data. And it’s analysis by paralysis.
Jay: Well, so let’s stay in it for a second. And I know you can’t talk about specific clients, but you talked about like an AT&T, right? You just talked about large media entities like that, right? They’ve got… heck, they own Turner now, right? The Warner media, and you think about all the tentacles, it’s enormous, right? And they’ve also got access on every phone. So, with your T-Mobile or AT&T, you’ve got this linear cable data.
And then, obviously, everyone got a… the current phone is by far the place where money and consumption is continuing to increase at ridiculous rates that we came about. Help us understand how can people be thinking about the continuum of both cable satellite television and digital together? How does that come together from people trying to analyzing this data and how best to reach and connect with people, various audiences?
TK: There’s a lot there because you’re talking about various platforms, whether they’re proprietary, or I guess when you look at what we do, we syndicate licensed products out there. And it’s challenging because, you’re trying to sometimes take apples to oranges in different… either if it’s methodologies or different products that you’re using. I mean, without touting our horn too much, we are doing linear TV measurement in digital.
Because when I look at the history… and by the way, let me take a step back like when I started at AOL in the late 90s, it was my first ever career move from a traditional programming network. And I certainly understood how the business of distribution and linear TV was working. But when I worked at AOL, I worked on and we used a lot of internal proprietary tracking systems and clicks and impressions and things like that. But I also grew up in using media metrics.
And I was certainly aware of who Comscore was. And I use Comscore a lot because at the end of the day, it always matter, especially in sports, were you a top 10 website, were your top five, that meant something. So, when I look at it right now, you look at Comscore grew up in the digital space. And then, there was a company called RentTrack that grew up in the box office theatrical, linear TV space. And both of those entities came together in 2016.
So, we are truly a cross-platform measurement company. The world is so fragmented, it is so hard to go and track audience but what I know and what I see… and I can’t go into all the details about it but we are collecting data, and we’re licensing data from all the various screens and putting it together. And to me, that’s something compelling because I think about it when I sat on the other side, working at a programming network, or working at a publisher, or working at a startup, knowing what are people consuming.
Why are they consuming it? How do I go? And can I monetize it? Can I really sell it? We understand we live in a world where people are skipping ads. People are putting ad blockers out there. I mean, it’s really a complicated world. But I think it pushes you to be even more creative. And I think there are still so many opportunities when I talk about this golden age of content where we’re in right now that you can go and still market things and sponsor things and be really smart and savvy about it.
And I think the data is there. It’s certainly available as people are data mining on their own. And certainly, obviously, we’re providing a lot of tremendous services out there as well. And I think the other interesting thing right now is Google and Facebook has just dominated digital. It makes it hard for everyone else. And algorithms change in terms of Facebook feeds and people who’d live and die by a certain amount of traffic coming in from Facebook.
When I was at Comcast Sports and I was running the P&L for digital, and we would talk about all the time playing the volume game, right? And businesses, really good content businesses, died because they changed the algorithm based on certain things that were going on in the news cycle and politics in the 2016 election, which sucks for those particular companies, but they put too many of their eggs in that basket of going after it.
So, I think you need to be smart in terms of going out and driving a lot of that particular traffic to support your business, but also getting a holistic view of the audience you’re going after. But now, finally, I would say, the cable and satellite in the linear TV world is becoming super smart, super savvy in terms of selling their inventory, much like Google and Facebook in terms of targeting. And that’s where we spent a lot of time, it’s called Addressable. A lot of people still learning about it. We’ve been in-
Jay: Give us the 101 on Addressable for people. And keep in mind, a lot of people that are listening to this are probably CMOS or vice presidents of Marketing. But I think it’s an important thing because the baseline understanding and context. Dummy down for me Addressable.
TK: Sure, sure. I mean, the same way that you go and you do targeting in a digital publishing world, if you want to go after a certain, let’s call it, audience segment, right? And traditionally, for years, we’ve basically have sold on… when you say demographics, it basically means age and gender, period. Stop, right? We have so much more data out there, and you’re aware of that, I’m aware of that. And what a lot of linear TV entities are doing, and we’re literally at the epicenter of this right now, is we’re helping them develop and go and define audience segments.
And what I mean by the audience segment, I mean, going beyond just age and gender It’s like. “Hey, I want to go and target left-handed plumbers, can you help me?” Well, we actually have that data, right? And maybe that’s a little bit of a corny segment. And it’s something that my boss and I have talked about all the time, but you can go out and Comscore does this a lot right now. We create a lot of timely segments around whether it was World Cup Women’s soccer, Olympics, politics, whatever side of the political spectrum you sit on, new moms, the data is out there.
And we’re going out and we’re harvesting a lot of this data back to the oil analogy, we bring in that oil, and we’re the refinery and we work with all of these cable and satellite companies as they go out and they’re talking to brands and advertisers and especially the agencies who are working on their half, right, they have to work harder in this day and age.
And then, what Comscore does in terms of this Addressable world, we provide accurate measurement, right? Because if they’re buying it from you and your immediate company, are you going to report on that? We always talk about, you shouldn’t be grading your own homework. So, the role we play is we offer third-party trusted verification, and we deliver what are the measurements around it in terms of impressions.
Do you want to go a step further? Attribution. Did this person take an action because they saw this particular spot or dot or impression and whatever it is? And then, you can get into there’s Addressable. And then, there’s also this whole world of called under Addressable because only so many people can actually receive Addressable ads. So, as you go and deliver those addressable ads, then you have inventory underneath.
Jay: How does Addressable get served? When you say serving Addressable ads? Not from a technical standpoint, from a layman’s term, what does that mean?
TK: Basically, when you go and you look at the MVPD or what we used to call the cable MSO world in terms of connected TVs and subscribers, think about the set-top-box universe that still exist or there’s a lot of smart TVs in there. The cable companies have built better platforms, right? I know when I worked at NBC and Comcast, I mean, X-1 is just an outstanding platform. They’re integrating a lot of things in there. But they’re collecting data, they know your viewership habits and other things. And they-
We have Xfinity here, right, in this house. And so, Addressable is they know my consumption habits. They know I’m Northwestern sports freak. And so, that data has become much richer of which Comscore is able to work with those partners to extract that data.
TK: The Comcast web have their own first-party data, so they know certain things about your household consumption habits in terms of video, also abiding by privacy, which we haven’t talked about, or CCPA and what they’ve done in the state of California. So, everyone is very protective of privacy and personally identifiable information, PII. Then they come to Comscore who can help them measure such things.
But, yeah, a lot of the cable and satellite companies today can go out there and serve Addressable to a certain audience, based on a lot of the new tech that they’re building, which is now they’re starting to finally catch up to what’s been going on with digital. And it’s just fascinating to watch that right now. Because they’re finally, I believe, starting to make some inroads in terms of this particular specialized targeting, much like I go back to digital with how Facebook and Google have just absolutely dominated.
Jay: It’s interesting. One thing we’re seeing with our clients as it relates to engagement, right, which has become the holy grail of how good is your content? Well, how many people are engaging with it, right? And views are becoming much less valuable because there’s a BS factor to it. People are on to, right? Three seconds on Facebook counts as a view. You can’t get out of your scroll. So, length of time, but more engagement like sharing, right? That there’s a pecking order of that.
So, we’re seeing that. We’re even seeing our conversations get much richer around a level of engagement over scale. Scale still is always part of the conversation. And I’m curious for you, because you mentioned it before, and even three years ago, Comscore was the holy grail, being in the top 10. I can’t tell the amount of decks I’ve seen or presentations where it’s like, “Hey, Comscore in number seven.” And they’re calling out your third-party verification and where they’re ranked. And it was usually around website traffic.
And I’m curious, your take on websites because to your millennial side, the concept for someone under the age of 25 actually going to a website on a phone, right, it’s not even a thought pattern for them. So, I’m curious, you’re out speaking to a ton of media executives at various levels. And then, some of the behemoths out there and advising them. Where do you see consumption on whether on platform and where do you see the website in the current… if you look at through content consumption?
TK: Yeah. It’s interesting. I thought a lot about this, especially when I was at Comcast and NBC Universal, and my role there was I was overseeing basically the digital department or the P&L of the digital business for the Chicago regional, right? And so, it’s funny, I will show my age, I still go to a homepage right now in the web, and I love going into the New York Times, or Wall Street Journal, or ESPN, or wherever and just discovering, I still do that. And I know I’m completely showing my age, but that’s the way I’ve grown up in this space for our generation who did not grow up with the internet and digital, through our college years, if you’re one that was just maybe starting out.
But so, I still believe in discovery, but how are people finding content today, it’s getting pushed to them, right? Through push alerts, through SMS, which is great if you’re an entity that someone wants to subscribe to and raise your hand and opt in. That’s extremely valuable. They care about you. I was thinking about this the other day or I even think I wrote a tweet about it. And actually, not to be a plug but to be genuine, a gentleman out there, John Wall Street Sport who I’ve gotten to know through our good buddy Joe Favarito (Editor’s Note: check out the Brand Story Inc. podcast with Joe Favorito here), who decided like I see a need and a space for sports and finance information.
It’s his convergence and he picked that lane, and man, he owns it and he now has a deal like with SI but my point with him is he sends out a daily e-newsletter, Monday through Friday, and I made the comment that I really enjoy that content, because I look at it like an e-newsletter is like a friend and I want a relationship with a friend. And when I see that in my inbox with other e-newsletters I get, I feel like it’s a friend is reaching out, and it’s going to inform me and tell me something, I’m going to learn something and I learn something all the time from John Wall Street Sports.
But my point is that more people are finding content because it’s getting pushed to them because they opted in, or they’re obviously going through this through social media platforms and channels, and people are pushing things out. And we talked about this a lot. I was educating a lot of the people at Comcast that traffic comes in through side doors. There was that Facebook side door that became a big front door for a lot of traffic, right?
But that traffic has slowly disappeared. So, you have to work harder to go and get that. And before I started going down in the rabbit hole of Comscore and data measurement and being this whole oil refinery, you made another interesting comment about this, or a question of this bifurcation, right? And I was actually having a discussion with somebody about media last night. A known, if you will, personality at a youth sports event. We have these sidebar industry conversations that are kids’ sports events.
And I was thinking back when newspapers were launching their websites as a companion, I mean, I’ll give you an example right now, which I still think back and scratch my head, right? And I subscribe to the journal New York Times, also subscribed The Washington Post. I lived in DC for 24 years, I grew up with the post. I aspired to write for The Washington Post. And I was like, “How do I get in writing on high schools, and that’s going to be my career.”
My point is when they figure it out and started to launch their site, The Washington Post is headquartered there, and they’ve moved now since then, but they’re iconic location around the 15th Street. That’s where the paper was, if you will, when they launched washingtonpost.com, it was in Arlington and Roslyn, Virginia, in a separate building. And that basically right there just tells you everything you need to know about where the newspaper industry was in terms of viewing the web.
They were literally separate entities. When you talk about trying to knock down walls, there you go. And I also know that because so many smart people came on to The Washington Post, the washingtonpost.com, who I got a chance to work from and learn from early on at AOL, people like Jason Seiken and a bunch of folks out there. And it’s amazing. And now, you think about it, they certainly have got anything about The Washington Post right now.
They’re one of the few entities out there. Because Bezos, in the smart team he put in place there, they’re really pushing the envelope, driving quality content. They’re driving subscriptions, and to the point that they’ve gone out and they’ve created an Arc Publishing platform. But now, they’re licensing that and that’s a whole other discussion.
Jay: Their own tech platform.
TK: So, when we go and talk about it here, I know I’m going to get it like this is a bit of a passion of mine, people who get it. So, I got brought in a Comcast SportsNet because ESPNCHICAGO.com launched. And Comcast executives were worried that ESPN, the worldwide leader was going to come into every backyard of every Comcast Regional Sports Network and start making noise and maybe going after rights, regional rights. And ESPN never got into the RSM business. I can pause there and chuckle for a second because obviously, when Disney acquired the Fox assets, they did get the RSMs and immediately had to spin them off.
But I know for a fact, ESPN always wanted to get in RSM business way back when, I would say, not right now, for obvious reasons. But when I got the Comcast Sports in Chicago, I was amazed. And maybe I didn’t give it as much thought as possible. I thought it was going to be harder to go and create original content in a joint venture where the teams, the Bulls, the Blackhawks, the Cubs and the White Sox on the network, we’re going to have to actually be publishing words about teams.
It’s one thing to go on pre and post-game in maybe offer some analysis. Be critical over a particular team because the idea of an RSM is to promote the teams and sell tickets and sell interests. And when teams are winning, things are great. When teams are losing, it becomes harder and you have to-
Jay: Editorial is really restrained.
TK: Yeah. And I-
Jay: It’s a unique one. You’ve got the owners owning the distribution. There’s a little bit of a communism play going on.
TK: Yeah. And I would basically be scared shitless if the phone’s going to ring and it’s going to be Jerry Reinsdorf or Rocky Wirtz, and, “How dare you write that about my team,” right? And I assure the GM at the time, Jim Corno Sr., rest in peace, a great mentor. We lost him too early in this business. When I started there, he shook my hand. He’s like, “Just remember, TK, work for the team’s first, Comcast second.” He’s like, “This is what I told Steve Burke.” Steve Burke is aware.
And like, “I get it, I get the model.” And then, he’s like, “You’re not going to create a newspaper.” And I’m like, “No, sir.” With him, it’s always, “No, sir. Yes, sir,” right? So anyways, the hardest thing about that job, I learned so much from him, he could be hard on you. But I learned so much from him in terms of the relationships he’s had with the teams. And sports is such a relationship-driven business. We think about rights negotiation and properties and things like that.
The hardest thing was actually getting full buy-in from the network on what we’re doing in terms of digital, because a lot of people drew the line because they thought that linear TV was more important, that we shouldn’t be spending resources. It’s all about, can you imagine this, we get some information or news that we want to maybe try to break or put out there. And there was actually conversations that would happen saying, “Well, we should hold this and take that piece of news or content and release that in our live linear TV show.”
There were so many days, I wanted to scratch my eyes out and I put myself on other people’s shoes. I certainly understood that because they were very siloed in their thinking and they weren’t bad people. I just questioned the decisions because I’m like, “We’re late to the game.” When I got here, or when I got there in 2009, no real social media presence. No app, no SMS strategy, no content strategy. We were late to the game and everything and I’ve got ESPNCHICAGO.com on my mind.
I’m like, “Okay, don’t worry about ESPN. They’re going to put links up to all their own city sites. And drive it from the mothership, the homepage, right? If there’s a story about Derek Jeter, if you click on it, 100% sure you’re going to ESPNNEWYORK.com. So it was brilliant. The hub-and-spoke model. I’m like, “Don’t worry about that. Let’s just do what we do,” right? But it’s so hard to sell in the digital mindset that people… I remember the first time I started streaming live Bulls games.
I had people showing up in my office saying, “Dude, you’re taking a wrecking ball to our business. Dude, you’re taking away money from my plate because I need to be selling linear TV and you’re taking impressions or your taking away TV ratings.” TV ratings based on old sampling and methodologies that everyone had to use. And I’m like, “We’re so late to the game. We have to…” by the way, we’re the second RSM, I’m proud to say, that stream live NBA games.
The process was just unbelievable. We worked with a company out in Tel Aviv of all places. Took me back to my AOL days because we had an AIM service globally called ICQ that was based in Tel Aviv. So anyways, we started streaming games. This is like bowls were what, 2010, they weren’t that 2011 team. But we did nine games Derrick Rose was there but it was the mindset. My point is, it was so hard, so hard. I think back to that.
Jay: I mean, look, you covered a team and when I was there, you’re covering a team, where the owner from a television perspective, Wirtz, old man Wirtz did not allow Blackhawks games to be televised because he thought there were finite fans and he wanted them in the stadium to buy tickets, right? So, it’s not a new phenomenon. Look at Napster, look at Spotify, right? You’re stealing radio market share, and the model will never work. And so, and I think that’s my point.
And in the interest of time, as we wind down here, I think I’d be curious, you have such insight into all these different… base on your large media companies, small media companies, digital media publishing, linear, if you’re standing up right now in front of 100 CMOS or vice presidents of marketing, right, who are thinking about what’s next and what’s coming as it relates to the content studio, right, about taking your brand and trying to… your Allstate or your Home Depot, you’re trying to better connect with a college football fan.
I always use that example. We say, “We’re not trying to get you to not spend money with an ESPN or Fox who spends money to college football.” You’ve already identified them but how are you going to more deeply and richly make your college football fans lives better directly, direct to consumer? What would be some of the either best practices or mentalities you would talk about these brands that are actually in the content making business now that are trying to get to their end consumer, what should they be thinking about right now?
TK: You know, I mean, when you first say Home Depot, obviously, I think about college football and I think about ESPN game day, right? And I think that’s just been such a winning formula. But it’s also a winning formula because ESPN invest heavily into that show for years and decided to take it on the road and it becomes like this traveling circus in all these college towns and just have college footballs like no other, with a rabid fan base and how Home Depot is woven their brand and what they build.
And I’ve been around the set enough times not through some credential, but just as a fan, that I might be privy to a fortune to go to some big college football game. So, your question, I mean, it’s interesting because as brands… and brands, obviously, have been starting to think of themselves as more of a media entity, because they are just beyond a product or service. And they’re out there, hammering it out with other people trying to make noise.
And I think as they, I would say, continue to double down on content, but not just content for the sake of content, but think about stories, right? And really work hard to develop quality content, whatever that genre is, but obviously, it has to fit into what their core beliefs are, their mission statement, and have some fun with it. And then, figure out a way to go and maybe distribute that with media companies, publishers that’s woven in with them or go to the media company, their publisher and brainstorm with them.
And be more willing and open because you’re also seeing the shift right now where a lot of brands are taking in-house agency, in-house capabilities, or, excuse me, the agency capabilities in-house. And I mean, that comes down to like, I would say, a build-it-or-buy thing that we think about too in the content world, how expensive is to go and build and do that versus me just going out and buying. And not everyone has the deep pockets to buy something. But that certainly does happen.
So, if you’re a brand, you really need to think about as simply like taking a step back, what are you trying to accomplish? Who is that? If you will target demo, how to go reach them, and what’s the best way to go do it? So, I mean, obviously, these conversations have happened for generations, but in terms of this, now, where we are, I mean, it is such direct to consumer, right? And for everyone fighting it out right now, how do we reach the younger generation audience because their heads are down in smartphones.
I mean, I’ll give you the best example. I was having this discussion in my kitchen with my wife. And sometimes, she’s like, “Don’t look at our kids as this focus group.” I try not to, but I look at how the lens that they view content and I’ve got a 12, a 10 and an eight-year-old. And I told my 10-year-old who’s very savvy with tech, and I was like, “Don’t you understand?” I’m like, “When I was a kid, there were three channels, three networks, and that’s it.” And he’s like, he’s quick with responses. He’s like, “I don’t watch channels. What’s a network?”
And I think he was being serious because he looks at everything, it’s instant gratification. It’s on demand. He doesn’t think live, or VOD. He knows what he wants and he goes and he gets it. And so, if you’re a brand, as these kids become of age with spending power and making decisions, how are you reaching them and how are you connecting with them. Whoever can figure that out right now today can just start printing money.
Okay. I’m going to do one last segment here, a new segment. I know you are an avid reader. And how many books did you read? Would you do 100 book challenge or something like that in a year?
TK: No, it’s not 100 book challenge.
Jay: 50? What was it? What’s the number?
TK: So, every year, I try to read 50 books.
Jay: Fifty, okay. So, I’m going to call this, we’re going to make it up right now, Top of the Bookshelf. What’s on TK’s Top of the Bookshelf?
TK Gore: My book stack? Because I love and we all like stacks, we talk about tech stacks. My book stack continues to grow.
Jay: You just renamed it. We’re going to go with the Book Stack.
TK: Yeah, yeah. And maybe if I play my cards right, I can come back and do another appearance on the pod!
But I say that the most impactful books I’ve read this year, the number one book was called The ONE thing. And actually, credit you because why I read that book was… and I’ve never met him. I know of him, Rich Routman of Minute Media. He mentioned reading that book as being just an eye opener. And I was from afar because I know Rich and Jason Coyle worked together back in the day, Silver Chalice.
Jay: You’re Just having a nice ride, huh? His ride’s 40 million?
TK: Oh, my goodness. I mean-
Jay: 40 million valuation for Minute Media then you don’t care right now.
TK: I would love to go out right now and just gather and buy websites. And it is still such a neat business. And I think if you can cobble together the right sites, but I think he’s really smart. And Digiday just wrote a really nice piece about it, but it speaks to what Vox does with Chorus, what Washington Post does with our publishing. Minute Media has been smart to say, “Hey, we believe content should be made a certain way through a certain CMS and through certain tech platform, why not go out there and license that to people and drive that as some revenue?”
And they’ve done a tremendous, tremendous job. And I love all the sites that he’s gone out and gather. But anyways, during that podcast with Simon Owens of The Business of Content, and here’s my sidebar thing. So, for those who are actually listening, I don’t know how many minutes we are and if you’re listening this far, I texted Jay, and I said, “Hey, I’ve got an idea. You should go on Simon Owen’s podcast because you’re perfect, The Business of Content.” (Editor’s Note: Check out Jay’s Brand Story Inc. interview with Simon Owens here). And Jay introduced me to Simon, not, if you will, maybe through a Twitter mention. And I’ve built so many relationships through Twitter. It’s crazy, quality relationships. So, I’ve been addicted to Simon and his The Business of Content.
TK: And your response to me was like, “Great idea. But I’m launching my own podcast. And I was like, “Way to go.” And now, here I am on your podcast, which I’m fortunate. So anyway, so Rich Routman bragged about the one thing and literally after I heard it, and what I know about Rich, I went out right away and I was tweeting about it this weekend, if you follow me, and I bought it. And it was a game-changer for me because I’ve grown up in media and I’m like, I know how to multitask. And I know how to juggle. And I know how to, I like to think, be productive in a distracted world of media.
And basically, the one thing said, “Don’t ever multitask.” It’s a four-letter word. It’s bad. Just focus on one thing, plow through it, accomplish it, and move on, right? That was my key takeaway. And it was a bunch of other anecdotal things in there, tremendous book. If you’re interested in betting and the whole DraftKings versus FanDuel, Albert Chen, who was a, I think, longtime Sports Illustrated writer, again, I don’t know him personally, but I follow him, Billion Dollar Fantasy.
I think I read that in one flight, loved it, because I’ve been wanting to learn more about betting and at business. And then, most recently, I would say is David Epstein who wrote The Sports Gene. I just read Range. Shout out to my good buddy, Lake Bluff neighbor, Ryan Duncan, for recommending it. And that was amazing because it talked about how he studied successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, and scientists. And what he came out with is that people in this complex and unpredictable world of stuff, generalists are able to succeed a little bit more than specialists, which is interesting. (Another editor’s note: check out the Brand Story Inc. episode with Michigan State University’s VP of Communication and Brand Strategy on generalists vs. specialists).
And I think, obviously, it’s like the old saying, “I’m a jack of all trades, master of none.” I think you could be a jack of all trades and whatever you do, but you are continuing to master certain specializations. So, it’s just a really interesting thing in terms of mindset of being a generalist. It’s a good thing and we all have different specialties. And I think having that general knowledge and whatever that industry is, you can bring some of the others some fresh thinking new ideas that can be impactful as you work with specialists.
Jay: Awesome, man. My Goodreads is exploding. You just added three more of the deck and thanks for coming on, TK. And I want to thank folks listening. TK is an awesome follow on Twitter, @TKGore. So, make sure to follow him on Twitter. TK, thanks for doing this. Let’s do it again then.
TK: Thank you. Appreciate it.
Jay: Thanks for listening to Brand Story Inc. We’ll be back next week with another conversation digging into the ways companies are becoming like media companies. Be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and give me a follow on Twitter, @_JaySharman and on LinkedIn.