Logan Swaim has seen the media industry evolve since he began working in it during the early 2000s. He has served in a variety of roles with several prominent brands that led to him becoming the director of content at Colin Cowherd’s digital podcast network The Volume.
Swaim worked as the executive producer of Good Morning Football on NFL Network, and got his start on the digital side of media working as an executive producer at DAZN. Swaim also produced the NBC Sports series Heart of a Champion with Lauren Thompson, which showcased athletes overcoming hardships to achieve moments of grandeur and contentment, along with the UNINTERRUPTED digital series Mr. Impossible with Matt Liston and CBS series Game Changers, which was hosted by Kevin Frazier for the three seasons it ran from 2013 to 2016.
Swaim has adapted with the changing industry since he received his degree, especially over the last few years emblazoned by a devastating global pandemic and has become instrumental in paving sports media’s path going forward. Since last January, he has helped build and maintain an eclectic podcasting lineup featuring network founder Cowherd, comedian Alex Monaco, former WWE television host Renée Paquette and basketball social media influencers LaJethro Jenkins and Dragonfly Jonez.
Additionally, the network has brought on both former and current professional athletes as show hosts, including Draymond Green and Aqib Talib. The Volume was also one of the first national groups to sign college athletes to NIL deals once the NCAA amended its rules, inking four Notre Dame football players to host their own podcast Inside the Garage, along with 2021 Heisman Trophy winner and Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young hosting his own podcast called The Bryce Young Podcast.
It is always important to continue to learn about the industry. That’s a seminal reason why Swaim is set to attend his first Barrett Sports Media Summit next week in New York City. He will participate in the panel “Planting Your Flag In a Digital World,” in which he will discuss his view of digital media’s evolution up to now and where he sees it going in the future. Joining him on stage will be Blue Wire Podcasts CEO Kevin Jokes and Meadowlark Media’s Executive Director of Audio Carl Scott.
Ahead of this imminent, long-overdue gathering of media professionals, I caught up with Logan Swaim to discuss his time at The Volume thus far, what it is like working alongside Colin Cowherd and the evolution of podcasting in the 21st century.
Derek Futterman: How does your role at The Volume differ from roles you have had in the past?
Logan Swaim: My previous roles have focused on developing one show and its audience at a time. My role with The Volume is helping develop an entire company. Thankfully we have a visionary leader in Colin [Cowherd], amazing and supportive partners at iHeart and FanDuel, a killer team and a killer product. Interesting people say interesting things about sports.
DF: How do you evaluate talent? How has the way you evaluate talent changed since you began?
LS: Every decision begins with Colin and from our ethos of ‘same sports, different angles.’ We look for big thinkers and unique opinionists who are covering sports in a different way – like Colin has throughout his career.
Like Colin, Jenkins and Jonez use real-life analogies to help connect with the audience. They had a take last year about what Kyrie Irving needing a mental reset [would] lead to him playing better – [which] it did – and compared him to employees going on vacation and coming back recharged at the office. That’s as informative as it is entertaining. Like Colin, Renée Paquette is fearless and can engage with guests who might make other podcasters uncomfortable.
DF: Can you describe working alongside Colin Cowherd, and what perspectives you and he share regarding the future of sports media?
LS: Working with Colin has been extremely rewarding. A big theme throughout his career has been ‘what’s next’ – he is fascinated with innovation and mobility, and he empowers his team to apply that to The Volume.
He sees where people are consuming content and wants us to serve those audiences. For a guy who is renowned for strong opinions, Colin is quick to pivot when he sees the industry evolving. As more states have legalized gambling, he’s encouraged to produce more gambling content. He asked us to hire a head of gambling – [and] we did [in] Sean Herlihy, and we’ve built out a robust gambling vertical including The Favorites with Chad Millman and Simon Hunter, Moneyline Monaco with Alex Monaco, and daily social content with Liv Moods.
DF: What led to the decision to bring Warriors forward Draymond Green on as a podcast host?
LS: Draymond embodies The Volume. He is emphatic, smart as hell and different. He was looking to start his own show, say the things that he wants to say and build his platform from the ground up.
He’s fascinated with every part of the process and willing to do the dirty work to grow his show. I mean that. He helps book and schedule his guests. He was excited to set up his microphone and webcam. He sends his audio files to his producer Jackson [Safon]. He has the same dedication and passion you see on the court. Even in our earliest conversations, Draymond realized The Volume was a perfect home for him.
DF: What led to the decision to bring on Heisman-winning quarterback Bryce Young and other athletes through NIL deals? What were the discussions like once you realized it was possible?
LS: Colin is all about empowering and amplifying the next generation of media talent, and the NIL gave us this unique opportunity to give active student athletes a real platform to share their perspectives on life as college football players.
Both shows we launched were around the biggest brands in the sport. On Inside the Garage, you hear four active Notre Dame players react in real-time to Brian Kelly leaving. On The Bryce Young Podcast, Bryce can detail real conversations he has with Nick Saban throughout the season. We had seen this ongoing trend with pro athletes, but not with college athletes. Both shows feel like the first of their kind.
DF: One year after the launch of The Volume, have you changed your expectations regarding the ceiling of the platform?
LS: Absolutely. It’s been fun to look back at where we were a year ago and see all that we accomplished in just 12 months. We launched with five initial podcasts and thought of ourselves as a more traditional podcast network. We have 13 shows now, and are just as focused on video as we are on audio.
We’re moving in the direction of an ‘always on’ content network – where you can watch our talent on essentially every platform – YouTube; Twitter Spaces; TikTok; Instagram Live. We’ve found video to be a meaningful revenue stream for us and that will be a big focus for us in 2022.
DF: How has the sports talk format evolved since you began, specifically its movement into the digital space?
LS: The idea of ‘immediacy’ and ‘authenticity’ have completely taken over the game. For immediacy – fans don’t want to wait for opinions and analysis. They want an immediate reaction. ‘Okay, this game just ended and my team got smoked; someone give me their take and help ease the pain.’ That is something we are big on at The Volume. We launched Lakers Tonight with Jason Timpf specifically for Twitter Spaces so Lakers fans can hear analysis as soon as a game ends.
As for authenticity – you no longer need a million-dollar studio and a bright, shiny desk to make content that cuts through. Some of our most engaging content will be Colin recording a selfie video about Aaron Rodgers while driving on the 405.
DF: What are the similarities and differences between sports talk radio and sports podcasts?
LS: People talk a lot about the differences between the two, but it seems like success for both is defined by their similarities. A good radio show and a good podcast ultimately depend on compelling voices who can capture you immediately, and can build an audience and community over time.
DF: How can podcasts and radio shows coexist in today’s media landscape?
LS: Colin is a unique voice in sports media. His opinions proved interesting first in sports radio, then on TV, after that on social media and now on podcasts. All these platforms can not only coexist; they can help you build a bigger brand.
DF: What are you looking forward to most about the BSM Summit?
LS: Meeting and learning from some of the smartest people in the industry. Hopefully getting to wear a Madonna mic. And a big hug from Jason Barrett.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.