MediaTips: Leo Beas, From the RSJ to Becoming a Sports Media Entrepreneur

Leo Beas, 24, a 2015 Reynolds School of Journalism graduate, is now the managing editor for Cowbell Kingdom, covering the Sacramento Kings NBA basketball franchise. Even though the team Beas covers day in and day out didn’t make the current playoffs, the Stockton native had an all-star season with social media stats to back him up. He recently spoke with Sarah Parks from the Reynolds Sandbox.

When courtside and in front of the camera, Beas is known for his dapper looks. Screengrab from the Cowbell Kingdom YouTube site.

Q: What exactly is Cowbell Kingdom and what do you do?

Beas: Cowbell Kingdom is an ESPN TrueHoop website. We provide front line coverage for the Sacramento Kings. We have been around since 2009 which is when ESPN came up with the name. As a matter of fact, David Stern, the ex-commissioner of the NBA, he called Sacramento Cowbell Kingdom once, so that is where the name stemmed from. I became the managing editor of the website in 2015. I oversee everything from the content, interviews, video, social media and the business side of it, all of it.

Even though the Kings aren’t in the playoffs, they’ve remained busy making plans to get there next season. The website Beas manages is closely following the offseason action. Recent screengrab from the Cowbell Kingdom website.

Q: What is it like to be a young media entrepreneur?

Beas: Anytime you take over a big position like this it is stressful but it is fun. I was meant to do this. I really enjoy it and this past (season) was awesome with way more ups than downs. But those downs have really helped us grow as a whole and it just makes the stuff that I’m doing more fun. Right now, I am doing a breakdown video on a college prospect, so it makes it that much better when we have so much support and people asking for us to give them analysis on these guys. I have been watching basketball since I was 9, and I have played it. I have been around the NBA for four years now, and I went to Nevada and I was around college basketball. I just bring my knowledge of the game and I convey it in video and articles or whenever I interview people.

Beas previously worked on a similar website called KingsScoop.com, now in the dustbin of website history, as he moved on to bigger, more polished and ESPN affiliated content.

Q: How did you get to this point in your career, especially since you got this position so young?

Beas: I was doing something similar on a different website when I was a sophomore, junior and senior at Nevada. It was called KingsScoop.com, and that was my ‘in’ into Kings media. It was Sacramento Kings coverage, just on a much smaller scale. The only thing I wasn’t in charge of was the business side, taking care of sponsors and convincing the sponsors to jump on board and believe in us and the product we provided for a lot of people in Sacramento. From there I just earned my name and my stripes and networked with a lot of people. I did really good work and that caught on, so I developed an audience. Then when the opportunity presented itself to takeover this position at Cowbell, I took it.

Beas has been doing ‘breakdown videos’, like the one above, analyzing college prospects ahead of the upcoming June 22, 2017 NBA draft.

Q: What’s next for Cowbell Kingdom? Is it harder to run the website in the offseason?

Beas: It’s offseason now, so our main focus is all of the college prospects. The Kings have two top ten first round picks. So right now, our main focus is to have articles on the prospects, have video breakdowns, and providing coverage for our audience in a fun way. Video is everything now, because people are visual. Most people would rather watch than read, so our main focus is on video breakdowns. All the local outlets, we all tend to do the same thing in the sense that we will all talk about the same topic. Just like in Reno, you have channels 2, 4 and 8, and they are all going to talk about the same crime scene, but which station, and in this case which outlet, will do it better in terms of creativity and really executing the actual message. I honestly believe that we are the best at it, when it comes to graphics and visual storytelling.

Cowbell Kingdom has a huge following on Instagram, is building its Twitter and podcast fan base, and is also trying to engage with fans face to face in the community.

Q: Anything else which is new for your website?

Beas: We are trying to engage with the fans, and we have some ideas of trying to host some events and just trying to be in the community. I feel like Cowbell is really resonating with people anywhere from 18–30. This past season we have had so many people tell us that we inspire them to get into the industry. We stay out until two in the morning after getting interviews with the coaches and players and then getting the story done. I like to inspire people through my hard work and dedication, and that’s why our Instagram grew so much, because people can resonate with us. Anything digital now is the big thing. That is why ESPN is struggling, Bleacher Report is better and their app is amazing. ESPN’s app is average. The only reason people watch ESPN is because they have to in terms of they are the only ones who have the power to broadcast games, but people are always on their phones and on Facebook, watching small snippets and visual things on their phone, and that is where Bleacher Report excels. Bleacher Report is also a company that we look up to and that we try to emulate, but obviously (with) our own creativity. A lot of what they do is successful, is what’s ‘in’ and is what the future is.

A screengrab of an article addressing a beef between Cowbell Kingdom and the now traded former Kings star DeMarcus Cousins.

Q: Can you take us through this past season’s drama with DeMarcus Cousins and how it affected your website?

Beas: It’s like they say, good or bad publicity is still publicity. This is what happened, we ran an article talking about how technical fouls really hurt the team, and DeMarcus Cousins is on pace to shatter every record because he is always getting in trouble on the court. We ran a story saying that per 36 minutes, his stats get better, but what those stats don’t tell is the points that they give up when you get a technical foul and the other team gets to shoot a free throw and possibly a possession, and possible the momentum of the game. So he didn’t like this story and he called us out on it and went after me. He got mad at that story and that’s where it all started. First, he would exclude me with interviews, then it got worse. Before a game, he came up to me and it got pretty heated, the video is on the Sacramento Bee. We had backlash because he was the most popular player in town. We just ran an article that he didn’t like, but we got dragged into this mess with what the Sac Bee was reporting on it. This got us a lot of publicity, but mostly negative publicity from the people that were misinformed. So, we lost a couple hundred followers, but little by little we got them back because the content is there and the quality is there.

The link above has a video of DeMarcus Cousins refusing to speak with Cowbell Kingdom by his locker.

I came out with my story in my own column and I talked about why the Sac Bee dragged me in and I pinpointed exactly what happened on every single occasion and I just tried to be professional and just try to put this stuff away. We had a lot of people praise it and side with us, whereas others said what we did was wrong. You are always going to get stuff like that when you have such a polarized figure like him.

The banner of the Cowbell Kingdom Twitter feed also promotes the website’s podcast.

Q: Besides your podcast, Instagram and Twitter, is there anything else you are working on? What tips do you have for running social media platforms?

Beas: We had a Snapchat, we just don’t use because Instagram came out with their stories, which is pretty much the same thing. When you have such a small team, it is difficult to focus on so many platforms. So we decided to focus on our biggest strength, which is Instagram, and we just decided to go from there.

I think that you should focus on improving your strengths, and not as much your weaknesses. If you are really good at something, keep on working at it and perfecting it. It’s always trial and error. We started doing slow-mo videos on a player doing a dunk or something like that, we slow it down and people really like that. Right now we are really focusing on Instagram stories and trying to engage with people there.

Q: Any takeaways from your time in the Journalism School that help you in your position now?

Beas: (People) such as Nico Colombant, Paul Mitchell and Bob Felten…they really set me up with other connects and I learned a lot from them. But the things that I know now, I really self-taught myself, like Photoshop, Premiere and Final Cut. It was really the people and the relationships I developed that helped me. I wasn’t a very good writer, now I am. One time Paul Mitchell sat me in a room and he told me that I had a lot of potential and that I had to put the work in now. He told me to go to Barnes and Nobles and just read and that the more I read, the better I was going to get. And I did exactly that.

Beas goes for a more informal look for the videocast of the Cowbell Kingdom podcast.

Q: What advice do you have for students currently in the journalism school?

Beas: Focus on your experience in the field and not so much in the class. I know that sounds bad, but any sports outlet, like ESPN, will hire a straight C student with a lot of experience, over a straight A student with minimal experience. Our business is clear cut- if you’re good, then you’re good, and if you’re not, then you’re not, grades mean nothing. They want to see what you are made out of and what you can contribute as an asset to that company. They won’t hire you because you have straight A’s, they will hire you because you are good at something. I was a straight C student, but I had so much experience and I sacrificed so much. Literally, leaving at 3 p.m. from Reno and getting to Sacramento at 5 p.m., and then I would leave at midnight and get back to Reno at 2 or 3 a.m., and then wake up for school. I did that for forty games.

When an opportunity presents itself, you better be ready for it because there are going to be so many opportunities and some people just won’t know how to handle them, and I was ready for it. When this opportunity presented itself, I was ready to take over. Obviously, I have made mistakes, but those have really helped us grow. Going from 0 to 16,000 on Instagram is not easy, but it just comes to show that hard work and dedication really works and it does pay off.

Beas also has content in Spanish, and is continuously growing his team of contributors.

Q: Are you hiring?

Beas: When it comes to interns, absolutely. The people that write for us, I am very honest with them. I tell them what their weaknesses are and I am very clear cut. Some people don’t work like that. As far as interns, writing is always good, but graphic designers, every outlet is looking for one. Also, we are looking into getting a marketing team, we just released an online store and we have really cool designs.

We are just trying to grow every single day, that is our goal. If the (NBA D- League) Bighorns stay in Reno, I will be looking for interns who know how to do video and edit. For kids at the RSJ, really focus on your editing skills on Premiere and Final Cut, if you can master that you will always have a job. The same can be said for writing, but right now, I honestly think that video is more important. It’s all digital. If you know how to edit video you will always have a job.

Q and A by Sarah Parks for the Reynolds Sandbox

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Reynolds Sandbox

Reynolds Sandbox

Showcasing innovative and engaging multimedia storytelling by students with the Reynolds Media Lab in Reno.