The Vertical has sprung to forefront of NBA news
Adrian Wojnarowski — known as Woj to his 1.43 million Twitter followers — breaks quality NBA news in such a high quantity that anticipating him getting a scoop has become an essential part of following the league. NBA news — such as his seismic tweet Wednesday night that revealed Dwyane Wade had joined the Bulls — doesn’t seem official until he reports it, and he almost always reports it first.
That’s especially true during free agency and the draft, when transactions and blockbusters can occur in abundance or come out of nowhere. But it’s not always the in-the-moment stuff; Wojnarowski stood alone four months ago as the only reporter suggesting that the Warriors would make a serious run at Kevin Durant.
Wojnarowski, who launched his own offshoot site at Yahoo! Sports called The Vertical in January, occupies such a distinctive place in the sports media landscape that it was nothing less than amusing when ESPN’s Adam Schefter — the Woj of the NFL — chimed in with his own intel during the recent Durant sweepstakes. It was as if Wojnarowski had defeated all comers in his sport and thus ESPN found it necessary to send reporter reinforcements from other sports at him.
So it should come as no surprise that The Vertical is on its way to becoming as relevant to NBA fans as the reporter it’s built around. That became apparent on draft night two weeks ago, when The Vertical’s live-streamed online program proved to be more compelling than rights-holder ESPN’s conventional television coverage. Hosted by Chris Mannix — the Quincy native and former Sports Illustrated writer — and featuring former Nets front office executive/cap guru Bobby Marks, Indiana coach Tom Crean, and international prospect expert Mike Schmitz, the four-hour show (The Vertical also had a similar program for the start of free agency) was eclectic, informative, and, most important, built around its greatest strength.
The Vertical did what every other reporter and outlet does when it comes to NBA news: It followed Wojnarowski’s lead, especially after the first two picks — Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, neither of whom was a surprise — were off the board.
“[After the first two picks], that’s when it got interesting with Boston, and what we did was we reacted off Woj,’’ said Mannix, a BC High and Boston College grad. “Everything he reported, we reacted to, and he was great, is great, at reporting news in real time. When he would tweet, and I’m pretty sure this is how it went, ‘the Celtics now control the draft,’ or ‘the Celtics kick around potential offers,’ we would use that as the entry point to talk about prospects and the various possibilities.
“And as the information from Woj or Shams [Shams Charania, a 21-year-old budding star as a reporter in his own right] came in, we were able to react to it with what I thought was an eclectic, well-rounded group. We could all talk about something and it wouldn’t overwhelm what another person said.”
Wojnarowski hasn’t had a perfect shooting percentage the last two weeks — he tweeted that the Celtics were worried about the Hawks retaining Al Horford four minutes before breaking the news that Horford had indeed signed with the Celtics. But that was a very rare informational misstep amid one scoop after another, which is why, when Durant’s announcement was anticipated on July 4, it was Wojnarowski’s Twitter account that NBA fans constantly refreshed.
“When I was at Sports Illustrated, he was a competitor,’’ said Mannix. “But I don’t know that Woj has a true competitor out there. The ESPN guys do a great job, the [Sports Illustrated] guys, everyone else works their tails off, but his news-breaking speaks for itself.
“Woj put this thing together over probably 3-4 months, and he had a real clear, articulated plan for what he wanted this website to be and the people he wanted involved in it. He had a very clear vision. And I think NBA fans have really confirmed that lately by turning to him, and the site, when they want to know what is going on.”
Sports Hub on top
Sports talk continued its dominance of Boston radio in the spring as 98.5 The Sports Hub finished first and WEEI second during the three-month Nielsen Audio Ratings period.
The Sports Hub earned an 11.0 share overall in the men 25-54 demographic from March 24-June 15. WEEI was second with an 8.1. Last spring, The Sports Hub was first (9.0) and WEEI was fifth (6.8). The Sports Hub has been the highest-rated Boston station in that demo for the past seven three-month periods.
In morning drive (6-10 a.m.), The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich” program was first with a 14.6 share. WEEI’s “Dennis and Callahan” was second with a 10.5.
In middays (10 a.m.-2 p.m.), The Sports Hub’s program featuring Scott Zolak and Marc Bertrand was first with an 11.8 share. WEEI’s “OMF” program was fourth (7.0).
In afternoon drive (2-6 p.m.), The Sports Hub’s “Felger and Massarotti” continued its dominance with a 12.8 share. WEEI’s “Dale and Holley” program was second (8.3).
In the 6-7 p.m. window, The Sports Hub, which usually airs “The Baseball Reporters” hosted by Tony Massarotti in that window, was first (11.3). WEEI, which typically has the Red Sox pregame show in that slot, was fourth (5.9).
In the 7 p.m.-midnight period, WEEI, which carries Red Sox broadcasts in that window, was first (9.4), while The Sports Hub, which airs the “Adam Jones Show” weeknights, was second (8.1).
Notably, The Sports Hub tends to trend better in the younger demos, while WEEI draws more older listeners. Entercom Boston boss Phil Zachary has said WEEI is targeting the more mature side of the 25-54 demo to lucrative effect, and the station ranks first with men 35-64. The Sports Hub, meanwhile, finished first in morning, midday, and afternoon with men 18-34 and men 18-49.