10 Questions with ... David Gow
April 28, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
I began my business career as a management consultant at McKinsey & Co. My focus was in technology, and so I ended up taking a job as Director of Corporate Strategy at Compaq Computers. I left there to become CFO of Ashford.com, an internet retailer in early stages of ecommerce. Ultimately I became CEO of Ashford, and served in that role until we sold the business.
A few years later, a few of us put together an investor group to buy a couple of radio stations in Houston and to acquire Sporting News Radio, which we converted to become Yahoo Sports Radio. Today Gow Media owns two sports stations in Houston, and Yahoo Sports Radio, which provides audio content to almost 550 radio stations and digital sites.
1. You got into radio ownership and management from an unusual background, working in executive positions at companies like Compaq and Ashford. What prompted you to go into radio with KGOW? Why radio
At the beginning, there were at least three motivations: (1) I am an avid sports fan; (2) I have always enjoyed radio; and (3) I was confident we could generate good investor returns. Since time has passed, those elements have all been rewarding, but I think the conversation now is bigger than radio, since digital platforms enable new types of content and distribution.
2. In a similar vein, when Sporting News Radio became available, what prompted you to step forward and buy the network, and how did you get Yahoo! involved?
Our group really liked the business model of network radio, as we were convinced it had more upside than owning local radio stations -- and acquiring Sporting News Radio gave us a good foundation on which to build.
Shortly after the SNR acquisition we pursued the partnership with Yahoo. From the outset, the partnership included three elements: (1) Sharing the brand; (2) Sharing a great deal of content â€“ Yahoo has some of the top sports journalists in the business; and (3) Promoting one another â€“ the Yahoo relationship, in particular, accelerated our digital growth.
Over time, we have identified other strong opportunities. As just one example, Yahoo-owned Rivals generates the best recruiting and collegiate sports content in the country. We work closely with Rivals on a number of fronts: (1) We will be broadcasting on site at the Rivals100 Five-Star challenge camp in June; (2) We consistently get on-air contributions from Rivals publishers; and (3) Rivals has provided a great weekday show host for us -- Geoff Ketchum.
3. The sports radio network field has gotten more crowded in the last few years, with CBS and NBC added to YSR, Fox, and ESPN. What, in your view, distinguishes YSR from the competition, and is there room for everyone?
We feel very good about our place in the landscape. Most notably, we are invested in strong content: Our lineup starts each day with Steve Czaban and includes talent such as Sean Salisbury, Travis Rodgers, Adrian Wojnarowski, etc. Our affiliate base has grown to nearly 550 affiliates. And we have developed strong, consistent relationships with sponsorship partners. In short, we have constructed a business model that is built to last.
I might also add that, in a world of consolidation, Gow Media is the lone independent sports radio network. I like to remind potential affiliates that they donâ€™t have to work with a network that is owned by one of their competitors!
4. How has the increase in digital competition for radio affected YSR and your Houston stations, and how has your approach to operating the network and stations changed, if at all, with the perceived shift to online and smartphone listening and podcasts?
Our partnership with Yahoo has supported our digital growth, and we think we are well positioned for the future. In addition to streaming and show podcasts, we have gotten significant traction by posting 5-7 minute audio files, excerpts of our top on-air interviews and features, on yahoosportsradio.com. The growth of openings/listening occasions of this â€œshort-formâ€, on-demand audio has exceeded all our expectations.
5. You're on both sides of the local vs. national sports talk divide, doing both in Houston. How do you make national talk palatable in markets with strong local sports loyalties? And how do you decide what the right balance is for which topics - pro vs. college, football vs. baseball vs. basketball -- work for national audiences when certain regions (like, say, SEC country) lean one way and others (say, the Northeast) are leaning the other?
There are four sports stations in Houston. Over the past 3 years the market has bifurcated: two sports-stations are, what I call, â€œhyper-local,â€ as they are nearly all-local, all-the-time. Gow Mediaâ€™s two sports stations are â€œbest-of-breedâ€ national/local, meaning we are seeking to air the best possible shows â€“ whether local or national. We like our position, as we have a broader number of shows from which to choose, we have a lower cost hurdle, and we meet the needs of those who are seeking national sports content (a large population in Houston).
6. Who are your influences and mentors, in business and in life?
My Dad. He was a serial entrepreneur who was unafraid to take smart, well-thought-out risks.
7. Of what are you most proud?
The makeup and commitment of our management team. It takes a while to form a group that is united, focused and working at peak performance. Our team has diverse talents, and has come together well. For many of them, our company is a unique chance to chase a dream â€“ and it shows.
8. Project 10 years into the future: What do you think radio will look like then? Will everything be streaming/podcasting, will something else take control, will the phone deliver everything, or will things be essentially the same?
The change will be evolutionary, not revolutionary. But it is coming. We are making the shift: from being in the radio business, to being in the business of creating diverse audio content (e.g. short-form and long-form) for distribution over a number of platforms (e.g., terrestrial radio, web, mobile, etc.)
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without _____________.
...starting the day with Steve Czaban. (And, apparently, many, many people feel the same way!).
10. What's the most important lesson you've learned in your career?