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Jomboy Media and the Power of Positivity
All kinds of journalists can learn from a company built on two friends talking sports.
Sree’s newsletter is produced with Zach Peterson (@zachprague), with the Digimentors Tech Tip from Robert S. Anthony (@newyorkbob). Many thanks to our sponsor, Armory Square Ventures (cartoon Sree via Bitmoji app).
🗞 @Sree’s Sunday #NYTReadalong: The readalong will return on April 16 with guest Brian Stelter. You’ll find three years’ worth of archives at this link (we’ve been reading the paper out loud on social for 7 years now!). The Readalong is sponsored by Muck Rack. Interested in sponsorship opportunities? Email email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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BASEBALL IS BACK. Lazy afternoons in the bleachers, bottom-of-the-ninth pressure, average hot dogs that cost $12 are here until the fall. That also means that sports talk radio has something to talk about for the next six months.
Sports journalism has had a strange run over the past three decades. In 1979, ESPN launched its first broadcast, kicking off the modern era of sports news and entertainment. Its effect has been undeniable, and not always positive.
As with all things, the sports news cycle shrank exponentially when the concept of 24-hour coverage became a reality. But sports are different, and the rise in negativity from the hot-take economy found its way to sports media in a big way. Sports talk radio shock jock-types have always been around, and much like their right-wing political doppelgangers, they have a tendency to be overwhelmingly negative, mean-spirited, and just… boring.
That’s where the Jomboy Media comes in. Founded in 2017 by Jimmy O’Brien and Jake Storiale, the company has had an amazing 24 months. They’ve raised millions in funding from investors that include several top-tier professional athletes, including World Baseball Classic hero Trea Turner, former Yankee pitcher C.C. Sabathia and NBA great Dwyane Wade. They’ve hired aggressively, they’ve created a business that makes money, and by all accounts, it’s a place that people genuinely enjoy being a part of.
It’s a great story of a company being built out of seemingly nothing more than a mix of passion and originality. More importantly, it’s a media company built almost exclusively on a culture of positivity. It may not sound like much, but how many successful media organizations can say that?
If you listen to (or watch) the flagship podcast Talkin’ Baseball, you’ll notice it right away. Jimmy, Jake, and co-host Trevor Plouffe (a former Major League Baseball player) are true fans of the game. They never attack players or managers, they never launch into tirades, and they genuinely root for everyone to be healthy, competitive, and get paid as much as possible. There’s no “these millionaire players” this-and-that. There’s no controversy conjuring. There’s no hint of anything like that, and it’s remarkably refreshing.
It’s even more refreshing to see such a model succeed and thrive. ESPN has gone through a very strange metamorphosis in which it creates stories or “controversies” so a couple of people can have a faux argument about them. Here’s a perfect example:
For context, Mike Trout is undeniably one of the best players to ever play the game, and his Angels’ teammate Shohei Ohtani has cemented himself as the game’s biggest global star. That isn’t hyperbole or homer-ism (no Angels fans on staff here, we promise). It’s a simple truth that anyone familiar with the game would endorse.
That clip encapsulates ESPN’s mission drift — a drift that has created the space for a company like Jomboy to rise. That, combined with the utter awfulness of other sports commentary personalities, has given Jomboy the space to truly thrive. Despite my criticism of ESPN’s evolution, I am a regular watcher (or listener via podcast) and fan of two shows, “Pardon the Interruption” and “Around the Horn.” And Pablo Torre’s “ESPN Daily” podcast is a smart, positive look behind the headlines of the day. Two shows I especially loved have been canceled: “The Sports Reporters” and “Highly Questionable” (to which I wrote a love letter in 2012).
It’s a story similar in a lot of ways to that of Defector Media, an employee-owned media company built by former Deadspin staffers after a private equity firm destroyed the original site seemingly unaware of how loyal the audience was.
Both are built on the potent mix of a loyal audience and generally good vibes, and I think there’s something to that. It’s remarkably difficult to maintain a successful media company, let alone build one from the ground up. It’s even more rare for such a thing to be done on the basis of general positivity.
The world is awash in bad news, much of which is presented in bad faith, for the hate clicks, or some combination of both. It’s great to see people bucking that trend and finding success, and it’s a very valuable lesson to other would-be media entrepreneurs.
Sure, if it bleeds (or is about Trump), it leads. But it’s possible to do better. Jomboy Media is a shining, and very welcome, example of just that.
Thank you for the incredible response to the recent essay that Zach and I wrote about losing our mothers at 18 and 52 respectively. Your comments, notes and stories showed us that we are not alone. 🙏
A Message from Armory Square Ventures
This week, we have two messages for Sree's readers:
1. ASV Partner and Head of Strategy Pia Sawhney has been following the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) closely. The bank played an outsize role lifting up startups and, with Dina Sherif, executive director of MIT's Legatum Center for Entrepreneurship, she just penned an op-ed for CNBC about its effects on the innovation ecosystem. SVB's impacts are far from over and could alter tech for a generation. cnb.cx/3z175Yd.
2. ASV Platform Advisor Elizabeth MacBride visited Indianapolis last month. As part of that reporting tour, which ASV sponsored, Elizabeth learned of a startup based in Westfield, Indiana that uses AI, computer vision technology and the world’s largest fleet of drones to survey farmland and analyze crops. The company has secured seed funding from iconic entrepreneur, Mark Benioff, founder and CEO of Salesforce. https://bit.ly/3lHt0R8
Until next time,
DIGIMENTORS TECH TIP: Hollywood Comes to Brooklyn at the Cine Gear Expo New York
By Robert S. Anthony
Each week, veteran tech journalist Bob Anthony shares a tech tip you don’t want to miss. Follow him @newyorkbob.
The Oscars are over, the last of the winners’ parties are over (we hope), but filmmakers can’t rest on their laurels if they expect to stay relevant. How do they keep up with video technology as it quickly evolves? They sit down and talk about it.
While the recent Cine Gear Expo New York cinema technology conference was primarily aimed at professional filmmakers, there was plenty of educational information and tips offered in the panel discussions and workshops that were useful for amateurs. Nestled between the massive lighting setups, robotic camera dollies and fog-making machines were gadgets consumers could benefit from.
For example, the Hobolite Mini 20-watt LED light could be used as a simple teleconferencing light, but it’s a sophisticated professional portable lighting unit compatible with a wide range of options. An adjustable lens lets users limit the light angle while accessories like the included diffuser, color filters and “barn doors” attach magnetically, thus making them easy to swap in and out during photo or video shoots.
The $299 unit can be mounted a tripod and has an LCD display and two large control knobs on the top, making it easy to adjust settings like brightness and color temperature. The battery-powered Hobolite Mini can also be controlled wirelessly with a free mobile app which can be configured by tapping the mobile device on the unit, which supports NFC (near-field communication) and Bluetooth.
While it’s an excellent professional full-frame 24MP mirrorless still camera, the Panasonic Lumix S1H, introduced in 2019, has evolved into a favorite workhorse of professional videographers because of its stellar 6K video capabilities and wide assortment of lenses available for it.
The $4,000 unit, “designed and developed especially for film production,” according to Panasonic, can take 6K-resolution videos in a 3:2 aspect ratio (three units wide, two units high) at 24p (frames per second) and up to 5.9K at 30p in the widescreen, TV-friendly 16:9 aspect ratio. Unlike other mirrorless cameras which need to shut down after 20 or 30 minutes of video recording due to overheating issues, the fan-cooled Lumix S1H can record for hours.
During one panel discussion, filmmaker Sean Davis aired an elegantly shot short video which could have been recorded in a studio but was actually filmed outdoors with a Panasonic Lumix S1H under the nearby elevated Gowanus Expressway.
Cine Gear Expo New York, held at Brooklyn’s once-moribund but now-trendy Industry City neighborhood of former warehouses, was just the first Cine Gear Expo for 2023. Other events will be held in Los Angeles June 1 to 4, and in Atlanta Oct. 6 and 7