The Jag Show

Interview: Stick and The Woodward Sports Network

Episode Notes

I've been saying this for a decade now.  For local media to survive and thrive, the corporate giants need to leave the space, and local talent needs to be free to cultivate their personalities and relationships within the community.

That's exactly what happened here in Detroit with Woodward Sports, the brainchild of former Detroit radio personality Sam "Stick" Day.   Stick takes us through the personal tragedy in his life that spurred him to finally start this passion project, his partners, and the personalities that left traditional radio to join the enterprise.

What started as an idea for a podcast blossomed into a full blown network, thanks to a partnership with Chad Johnson of Lady Jane's, a men's salon chain.  Woodward Sports currently boasts a three-person morning show, the aptly named "Morning Wood,"  broadcast digitally every day from 8-10am.  Stick hosts with Joey Namou and Krissy T.   Soon, Detroit sports talk veteran Sean Baligian will team up with former Detroit Lion Joique Bell for a midday show, and an announcement of an afternoon show will come soon enough.

Stick and I (and Joey, who joined us for the first half of the conversation), talked about the quickly changing media landscape.  Stick and Joey were able to leverage some of their relationships that started at the radio station - and turn them into station vehicles, paid sponsors, and more.  We talk about digital ad spend, and its value over traditional media.

We also covered the out-dated model of music radio stations, who often have room to cultivate only one personality, with the rest of the airstaff being a jukebox.  Woodward Sports hopes to bring dynamic personalities back to Detroit.  And as for the sports station in town - Stick sees plenty of weaknesses there too.

Finally, I asked the face of Woodward Sports who he thinks is capable of bringing the next Championship to the Motor City.

Detroit's newest media entity may only be a few months old, but sports teams and other media outlets alike are taking notice.   This will be a story worth watching.


Woodward Sports Website;

JAG In Detroit Website:

Episode Transcription

JAG Show Woodward Sports

Jag: For over a decade, I've been saying the only way for local media to survive is for smaller organizations to take the power back from giant corporate behemoths. We need companies that can connect with communities and create compelling content and did Detroit, one of the greatest fan bases in America, some of the most compelling content surround sports.

Enter Woodward sports, a new local media outlets started by Sam day. AKA stick. He's someone I've worked with in radio and whose career I've watched takeoff for the last decade from afar. He is my guest today, along with his co-host in the morning, Joey Neymar stick and Joey. Welcome. 

Stick: Hey, how you doing JAG JAG.

And I got to get on that intro. This is stick with JAG, 

Jag: man. Let's get you in there as well as the show continues 

Stick: to Ryan Seacrest. 

Jag: I, I got, I had some connections from the radio days 

Stick: and before we get too deep, Joey is also part owner of Woodward sports. 

Jag: All right. Blake, shall we have that accurate?

So thank you for clarifying. 

Stick: Yeah. Yeah, no, that's something that he's been very coy about it for some reason, but Joey is a big part of this and he is, he is, There's four owners to this. And Joey is one of them 

Jag: who are the other two. 

Stick: there's myself, our buddy, Adam, if you watch the morning woods show, he's kinda like our producer and tech guy.

And then the guy that's really just been the venture capitalist and all of this. That's pushing it forward as fast as it's going, Chad Johnson, the guy who owns all the lady Jane's nationwide. He's pretty much the financial backer behind this at this point, like we could have been doing this in our basement for a little while and grinding it out.

But now here we are in beautiful Birmingham on Woodward bad-ass studio. 

Jag: Yep. A maple and Woodward right across the street from, the JAG show home base as well. So we're going to come over and now get together after COVID here. Let me ask you guys this, and I want to come back to the funding and lady Jane's and all that.

And just a moment. Cause you're in the studio that. Is right next to lady. Jane's right there at Woodward and maple here in Birmingham. And then the studio was being used by a radio station at one point. But you guys have took it over for yourselves, right? 

Stick: Chad, a couple years ago, he, I guess he had always wanted a station and he spent a lot of money in radio getting morning shows to come to his stores, getting live broadcasts, and he.

I think he got sick of the pushback of, if we do it, you're going to need this, this and this. So finally it was like, fine, fine. I'll build the whole studio now. You've got no excuse. so he had the studio here for two years and he had a deal with Beasley where they would come in, one week a month and they rotated through the three stations and just broadcast one day part out of here.

So it'd be, from the lady Jane studios, it's one Oh five one the bounds. stuff like that. 

Jag: So let me ask you this stick. So you and I, and Joey and Chrissy, and all of us have done nights at one of the radio stations here in town. And then our travels have taken us all over the place. And I know you were programming out in the Western part of the state of radio station, and then you came back to Detroit.

How did this whole idea of what word sports start and take off? 

Stick: honestly it started with an a, my best friend passed away in July. she, she died in a car accident, it was like, it was solo car accident. She went off the road, hit a tree and literally split her car in 

Jag: half. Sorry to hear.

Stick: And me JAG, like we've known each other, like a decade. I've always been a sports type of guy. Like I've always loved sports. I've always been about it, especially my city. Like you couldn't put me in Boston cause I couldn't give you the starting lineup from 1984. Like I can here in Detroit, 


And Tracy was like my friend who would always be with me, she'd go with the games with me Thanksgiving, we'd watch the lions games.

Like, and sometimes when I'd watch games, I'd say something and then 30 seconds later, the commentator would say it. And she'd always be like looking at me and be like, why aren't you doing sports? Why aren't you? And honestly, she said that to me for the past 15 years of my life. She kept saying it over and over and over again.

And then once she passed away, I was doing marketing for some companies in the Detroit area. Just having fun, being creative. I love marketing, that's just what we do. As people, we create noise, we draw attention to companies. That's what you do at radio stations. That's what you do with marketing.

and I just really wasn't fulfilled. I was searching for something to get back into radio and to get back into just. Having an outlet to talk like, like you're doing with your podcast, just an outlet is so important. And I was just sitting there and I was like, it just hit me. And I was like, Tracy told me to do a sports podcast.

God dammit. I'm going to do a sports podcast. Like I got off my ass and I was sitting there. I was thinking about the website and what the name could be. I was just like, man, everything. Detroit sports takes place on Woodward. That's where LCA is. Comerica park is Ford field. It's not technically on it, but you could see it from Woodward.

So I was like, you know what, let me see if Woodward sports is available and I searched and Holy shit, it was available. And I bought it in that moment. I called Adam the partner. We were talking about a little earlier and I told him, Hey, man, I just want to do a sports podcast. Like I just want, I learned a lot about Google analytics and about how to create a, a good website to get good traffic.

And I wanted to implement that and really just have a fun feel to the Detroit sports again in animals. Like, bro, I love this idea. I've been wanting to do sports for two years and he goes, let me build your website. And I was like, Let you build mode. Sure. 

Jag: Yeah. 

Stick: you should be honored to be building my website.

Literally the next day we had content up articles up the website built and we were off and running as Woodward sports. And that was literally three months ago. 

Jag: So how does it go from an idea of a podcast and a website to an entire network where you've got the three of you guys in the morning? You just announced another big name in Detroit radio, Sean Belizian with former line that Joyce Bell doing mid days with you guys and an afternoon show, you've been teasing coming up to announce later on.

How does this whole thing go from a podcast to three daily shows? 

Stick: That's where Chad Johnson came in. So Adam and I were working on the website. We were getting great traction. Google started pumping us up in the rankings. Like it was really fun to watch organically grow. And I was putting a little bit of money behind Facebook and, put up a post and, just, just getting this thing rolling.

And then Chad Johnson, I've always been a fan of from a distance. He was really heavy involved in like morning show promotions at the station we all worked at and flying those guys out to the iHeart, radio music festival and all that stuff. And I never really hung out with them and, he he'd go gamble with all of them and me, like, I just hang in the back.

If, if Chad and I were to ever have a relapse, I wanted it to be like an organic relationship. Not just because he spends a lot of money on radio. And when I was at grand Rapids, I helped out Tim is GM with some charity. And facilitating that, like letting kids on air for them and just, just doing cool stuff with them.

And you know what? I was sitting there on the couch and I actually called UJ, this cause I was like, dude, I'm going to create a studio in my basement. And I called you and I asked you, I was like, what do I need as a starter set, 

Jag: essential microphones and stuff. Yeah. 

Stick: And you went over what I would need.

And I started doing the math and I was like, Holy shit. if I'm going to do this right, I'm going to need about five to 10 grand. If I want like. Perfect. Great studio quality stuff. Yeah. Then I knew this studio was just sitting here in Birmingham, not used half the time. So I was friends with Chad on Facebook, quick little flashback when my dad was battling cancer out of nowhere, Chad donated $5,000.

Wow. My dad. and honestly, I didn't know Chad at that point. So to me, he had, he's always been ACEs in my book, man. Like he doesn't know me from anybody and he supported my family with $5,000, just out of the kindness of his heart. And. I've since talked to him about that now that we have a relationship, but besides that, I messaged him on Facebook.

I was like, Hey man, I got a really cool idea. I know you're into sports. This may be something you like, luckily he was in town that week. Cause he lives in Florida, but he's up here one week a month. And he's like, you know what? I'm in town Tuesday. We'll stop by anytime between noon and five, I replied to the message.

I said, what about two o'clock. Didn't get a response. Didn't get a response. Didn't get a response. The next day, Cubs didn't get a response. I called Adam. I was like, Adam, we're going. I don't care. You didn't respond. We're just going. So we walked in here, they were in their meeting room. They were having to like eight people meeting.

He stops the meeting, brings me and Adam in. Wow. And I pitched them the idea. I tell them, look, this is what I want to do. I got a group of guys that'll like crush this city that already do club promotions that are already just fun people in the city. And we wanted to give that back in a sports way. And he looked at me, he's like, I like the idea, but, no, no, no.

I was like, Oh, Oh shit. 

Jag: That was my next question was how you sold him on it. Okay. 

Stick: he looks it's that man. He was like, I like it, but no, he's like, I don't want just to show out of you, I want to hold network. What will it take for you to deliver me a network cloud? And my eyes just lit up, he was like, do we need to buy a radio station?

Do we need to do this? And, me, I'm just like, hold on. I told him, I was like, no, we don't need to buy a radio station for what we're doing, because I think as we know, the future is digital. It's not analog radio it's taking and delivering the message straight to somebody's phone. Yep. it's right here.

This is where everything lives. And I Adam and I came up with a pitch. We asked them for a shit ton of money. he did not give us everything we asked for, but he's delivered on more, which is weird to say, cause like initially we pitched something, he was like, X, this X, this. If you need this, just ask and honestly, everything we've needed.

It's just been a great marriage, a great relationship. He's pushed us in ways and sped this whole process up to where we're literally moving at warp speed. 

Jag: So you've got the great partnership at lady Jane's, but I'm also seeing, you've got this station vehicle from Zack and you've got Detroit dog rescue in there and you've got all these partnerships.

Is that sort of come from the partnerships and relationships you forged in your time here in radio. 

Stick: A million percent and a lot of it, a lot of it's this guy right here, like I have good relationships with Joey is the mayor.

The thing is like, this is just the, it goes for everything in life. If you're a good person. Yeah. It's all coming back full circle. And when it comes to the Detroit dog rescue, we reach out, actually they reached out about wanting to do some thing and it was giving Tuesday yesterday and they were like, yeah, let's partner up and do some good for Detroit.

And we were like, dude, just come on in. We were actually talking about how stick wants to do a segment weekly with you guys, because we all got love for pets and especially dogs. And, and we were like, this is a perfect opportunity. So they came in, we had a ball and now we're going to turn this into a weekly thing.

So it's just the things that we've already been doing in our life. But now we can do it on our own network because when you're in radio, you don't have like. All day to just stop down the music and just talk to people. So with us doing this, it's just the open talk format. The people love it. So why not give it to them?

Jag: I first came to Detroit and I met you about 10 years ago. there was this whole idea, because I was an East coast guy, I grew up in Boston and Detroit is notoriously, have a chip on their shoulder. It was like, Oh, you're an East coast guy. Like, what do you think of Detroit? And I was like, I really liked Detroit.

Everybody here has been so welcoming. And as soon as I said, I like Detroit. People just welcomed me with open arms. They're like, Hey, okay, cool. Welcome. You're one of us. 

Stick: Yeah. As tough as people in Detroit are, or just so sick of hearing about how bad of a place this is. So when somebody actually shows love to this city, it's like, Oh my God, these guys get it.

cause everybody that talks about the city and all that, they're not from here. So they never really know, like, I'm sure you had a vision of what Detroit was going to be before you got here, right? 

Jag: Yeah, exactly. 

Stick: And it's not that at all, is it? 

Jag: No, but I always say is having spent the first 30 years of my life in the East coast, I didn't realize.

How many people were on the East coast till I came into the Midwest. I'm like, shit, everybody here is so nice. This is awesome. 

Stick: Yeah. We're a bunch of bad assets, but we will hold the door open for 

Jag: it. Exactly. Exactly. So stick what really caught my eye about what the sports that I've been following your journey as you've launched this whole thing, but at some point you started poaching talent from Detroit radio stations.

you got Joey from our old radio station and you got Chrissy from another station in town. I won't mention any radio station names, sorta CYA legally here, but you managed to lore people away from established commercial radio stations. To join Woodward sports. How did you do that? 

Stick: first I think you're phrasing this wrong.

Conglomerate radio has done a good job, ripping the hearts out of anybody with creativity and anybody with passion. So it's not so much. I poached them it's they wanted to be here. Obviously people have worked with me in the industry. I've run radio stations and markets. I was syndicated in like seven different cities and stuff like that.

And we've all done that side, but when you start talking to people who got into radio and where their energy was, when they first got there to where their creative energy is now, And what people won't let them do. They got ideas, corporate won't let them do it. Or you're working on a station where only one show is allowed to be the star and nobody else is allowed to get any love.

Jag: Sorry, I couldn't help, but laugh there. 

Stick: Yeah. But it's the truth. It rips the heart out of people who would literally run through a wall when they first started working through radio to now just like, yeah, I put in my four hour shift and then I'm out the door. And it's like, no, 

Jag: something I've said in my podcast many times before is talk radio when by talk, news sports talk and generally morning shows have that rain to have personality and connect with audiences.

But over the last 10, 15 years, if you were on a music station and you weren't doing mornings, much like in the roles that you and I have been in, it became shut up and play the music. And then radio lost the one way that it connected to audience, which is personality. 

Stick: Yeah. When I was doing nights here, I got a little lucky my program director at the time, let me do minute and a half talk breaks.

I could talk for a whole 90 seconds. Ditto, 

Jag: ditto, you and I did nights on the same station. And that was probably the, my favorite nine months of my career was doing nights on that station here in Detroit. 

Stick: And that's when we got to put our personalities on display and come up with cool bits and stuff.

But yeah, it all goes back to, I didn't poach any of these people. I didn't lure them away. like literally with Joey, Joey is one of my best friends period in life and everything like Joey is just a great human being. We've always had a good relationship and I respect the hell out of Joey.

So I called him as just my boy and just telling them about all the exciting shit I had going on in my life. And we hang up. It was, I just thought it was a normal conversation and about, I don't know, five hours later, Joey calls me back and he apologizes. He's like, I'm sorry, man. I'm like, dude, what are you sorry for like, I have no idea what this call is.

He's like, you know what. When my brother starts something that's going to be great. My first reaction should have been like, I I'm part of this. That's me and you. And literally it gave me goosebumps. we cried together. Like, you know what? Listen, I haven't been happy is I'd been when I was working with you type stuff.

Like the fun isn't there, the respect isn't there. People keep telling me I'm not good enough. And it's like, dude, anybody who tells Joey that he's not good enough. Doesn't know their ass from a hole in the ground. Like Joey is one of the most talented people I've ever worked with in my life and for him to get mistreated and for him to lose his passion for the industry just broke my heart.

And that's what we're providing here. Like we're bringing the energy back into media 

Jag: and this goes back to what I said at the beginning of the show here, which is that. I think because all these corporate, folks I've had to take over all these radio stations and you've got bean counters in New York or Philadelphia, wherever corporate headquarters is.

And they really see people as a commodity and as a lineup, Adam, on a budget, as opposed to making that actual connection, the only way that local media is going to survive is if upstarts like you guys, I hit, can I call you and upstart? Is that okay? 

Stick: you can at this point, but, very shortly we'll be beyond, 

Jag: fair enough.

But we need people to come in and do this sort of thing. You've got the partnership with lady Jane is you needed somebody to be able to put that money in, which is obviously so important, but also I have a lot of friends in radio, as I know you do too. And I'm hearing that, revenue is down with the pandemic and the economy and everything we've seen in 2020.

But I watched your show on Facebook live in the morning and I'm seeing ads for Meyer and I'm seeing ads for bud light. And I'm so seeing lady Jane's of course, but how are you finding sponsors and selling 

Stick: ads? the same way that we talked earlier, that we know where digital is going. I think your sponsors are smart too.

They see that, a lady, James, I told you we spent a ton of money in radio, early on. And they're starting to see when they used to spend money, it would be about $15, $20 a head to get someone through the door. Now they're seeing their return on investment is like 60 to $75. So the consumers is actually realizing that wait a minute, radio is no longer working, spending this money for a 32nd spot that just.

Plays and then runs out to the universe and goes wherever to never be hurt again. And if the person I want to reach isn't listening and that exact 32nd spot, I just wasted my money. I think that's the old archaic method. Like now when you buy an advertisement with us, as you see with video, we can give you video presence, but not only that.

Our content lives forever. If you buy an ad from us and we put it in the show, people are watching that show weeks down the road too. And they're almost treating them like podcasts in that way to where they're going to go back. And that your ad libs forever, forever, like in 10 years, if someone goes back and listens, they're going to hear about y'all.

Jag: No, it makes total sense. So you're expanding the network. You've got the morning show and now you're announcing Sean Belichick and enjoy bell coming on. You've got one of the big names in the history of Detroit sports talk and Sean, and of course a former Detroit lion enjoy bell. How did that happen? 

Stick: once again, it's another thing like, we, we created a buzz with Woodward sports and it's leaked its way into the sports entertainment industry.

And. Dude. I wish, I'm not going to disclose names, but the people that I've grown up listening to in Detroit sports and like I've respected given lions reports, given pistons reports, they get messages from them like, Hey, I see what you're doing with Woodward sports. It seems very exciting. I'd love to be a part of it.

Wow. Lets me know that we're on the right track and that that's, what's really been the cool thing about this. Normally when you come up with a brand new idea and you present it to people. Even if it's a great idea, 30% of the people are going to tell you it's shitty, right? This idea, literally everybody we've talked to you, right?

It's just been excited literally from former players to former personalities. And to me, the biggest part of this, the local sports teams have been excited. The pistons reached out to us. The lions have reached out to us. Just because they want new energy too. 

Jag: And I have discussed, radio and what radio is now versus what it used to be.

And again, nobody's listening as in, to know who I'm talking about. That's in Detroit, so I'm, but I won't mention names. There is a sports radio station in Detroit that is quite successful. How do you look at them? Do you look at them as direct competition? How do you feel about your relationship or lack thereof there?

Stick: so you know, me, I'm a bull in the China shop when it comes to you're my competition. I hate you, Really? I do look at them as competition, but I don't look at them as Uber successful. They're successful by default, in my opinion, who has really been here to push them. When do you see them out in the streets?

When do you see them reaching out and actually touching Detroit sports fans? When do you see them actually trying to cultivate young talent in this city on air? they've had two tremendous opportunities this year alone to fill prime day parts with up and coming young talent. And they chose to go with the old guy, which is fine.

I don't mind the old guy opinion, but eventually mid 30 somethings want their voice heard right. 20 year olds want their voice heard in sports. So these guys don't even speak to the people we're trying to speak to. 

Jag: I think that's a fair point. There's that stereotype of sports radio of the 55, 60 year old man calling in and being cranky hate and everybody.


Stick: it's not just the guy calling in, man. If you listen to that station, we're speaking of it's round the clock, Detroit bashing. Really? Yeah. I don't know, to me, that's another part of the reason I started this is I was just sick of that, man. It's like, listen, I'm a fan fan is short for fanatic.

like I love my teams and yes, Detroit has been in the worst stretch of our entire history for all four sports teams, but I still go to games. I still watch every game. Like it's still a huge, huge, huge part of my life. 

Jag: You talk about not shying away from a fight. And that's one of the things I love about you and the 10 or so years that I've known.

Can you fast forward for me after COVID? Once we have sports with fans coming to, again, you've got 17,000 at LCA for a wings or pistons game, or you've got 60 plus thousand at Ford field for Alliance game. yourselves being out there, doing stuff on the street for all those games and interacting with the fans, 

Stick: us JAG.

And to me, that's our strong suit. Like the thing about me, Joey and Kristi is we're not your typical radio. People like that are comfortable behind the mic, but not comfortable in public. Sure. We thrive in those crowd situations. So really once COVID and the world is able to open up again, I think it's just going to, we're just going to go gangbusters, man.

You put us out there against anybody, any crappy promo team that the competition is going to send out there with bored kids, they're paying $9 an hour. They're going to sit there on their phones, not loving what they're doing. And then you're gonna look over and see me, Joey and Chrissy, just going nuts.

Yeah. Activation is going to be a huge part of this. 

Jag: Okay. So you've got the morning show. You've got the midday show announced. You've teased and afternoon show coming as well. And these are broadcast on Facebook live as the primary way. 

Stick: Yeah. So eventually we'll have our app that should be done hopefully by the end of the year.

And that's where we're going to start driving all of our traffic, just so you know, you turn on the app and you can take us with you, listen in the car and whatnot. But as of right now, we're on Facebook, live YouTube live. we do Twitter. Alive, IETV is weird to do live because you can only do it off your phone.

So we stay away from that. But really right now, the strategy is be everywhere because nobody knows who the hell we are. 

Jag: That's fair enough. So as you get these new shows on the air, and as you bring in more sponsors and you grow this thing, What's next what's on your radar. 

Stick: To me, the biggest next step is making sure that we're affiliated with the Detroit sports teams, making sure that we're a legitimate sports enterprise, where people come to us for sports and entertainment.

and then beyond that, man, my five-year plan is to take this to other cities is to grow this nationally. 

Jag: I love it. I love it. My final question. I have to ask you a Detroit sports question before I let you go because you are the resident expert. Which Michigan team. And I know you said everybody's struggling right now, which is true.

I think you know where I'm going here, which Michigan team will be next to win a championship. Final question for you. Yeah. 

Stick: It's funny you ask that because I actually did a Twitter poll about that the other day. And the resounding favorite was the Redwings 

Jag: just based on history or where they're at now or.

Stick: I think everybody's at the same place right now, but I think it has a lot to do with Steve Eiserman being in charge, what he did in Tampa Bay and just what the red wings, the culture here. I would say, and I always say this to me, football is the quickest sport. You can go from horrible to champion in the next year.

So yeah. Obviously the lions have never gone to champion. We're hoping it happens at some point, but, and I'm always the biggest football fan. Like that's my favorite sport. So I would say the lions, just because of how quickly you can turn it around. But the pistons man was Troy Weaver coming in and making those moves.

And the tigers with their young prospects draft and Torkleson last year, like. Everybody's on the way up because we can't get much lower 

Jag: that's fair. That's fair. My friend. And we're going to have to get together. Once everything opens back up, whether it's going to a Bruins, wings game, or a Celtics pistons game, or a Tiger's red Sox game, we're going to have to do something with that.

When, when Boston has Detroit come back together, for sure. 

Stick: Oh, I'm a hundred percent doubt. And honestly, that's, that's another reason selfishly, why I started this. I want to be on the field for the lions games. Like I want, I want to be in the press box. Like, it's just, this is my childhood dream man.

And I get the opportunity to be a part of sports culture in Detroit. Without ever making it as an athlete, which I failed at in high school. 

Jag: you and me, both my friend, I realized that my place was behind the microphone and not on the field. 

Stick: It's just very humbling how much the city has embraced us so far.

It's very humbling. How, when the pistons show up to drop their new gear off to promote their new swag and their new attitude that they thought of Woodward sports. And honestly, like I said, this is a three-month old project. Like I literally bought the website July 31st of this year. 

Jag: Detroit is such a relationship-based town and anybody who has spent any time here because very quickly realized that.

And I'm thrilled to see that your hard work, your talent and your relationship building you, Joey Chrissy, and the entire team over there. Stick. I wish you the best with word sports and continued success. And we'll talk again soon. 

Stick: Hey, thanks for having me on, man. Let's catch up.