All grown up

A CEO's message: From humble beginnings, our company has grown up

David Gow, right, with Houston Astros president Reid Ryan. Photo by Michele Lee Sparks/Archer Sparks

Last week, the son of a good friend came up to our office. It had been a couple of years since I had seen him, so I still envisioned that he would be an 18-year-old high-school kid. But, when he walked in the room, I did a double-take, as he was now a mature young man. The kid had grown up, and he was standing before me ready to talk business.

In some ways, the story illustrates Gow Media. Sometimes I come across people who will ask me: "How is 1560-The-Game doing?"

We are not that young kid anymore. We have matured from a sports radio venture to a multi-platform media company. And we, too, stand before you ready to talk business.

Here's the story of that grown-up company, with the following highlights:

  • ESPN 97.5 FM: Dominant sports ratings.
  • CultureMap: A large wave of growth.
  • SportsMap: New content and record traffic.
  • InnovationMap: A banner start.
  • SB Nation Radio: Elimination of a competitor.
  • The Team: New faces in leadership roles.

ESPN 97.5 FM

A year ago, we secured the No. 1 sports ratings position. This past quarter, we dominated. In the latest Nielsen book, we have the top four sports shows in the city, and five of the top six. The top four: (No. 1) John and Lance; (No. 2) The Blitz; (No. 3) The Usual Suspects; and (No. 4) The Charlie Pallilo Show. In morning and afternoon drive times, our ratings share was higher than our two competitors combined. And more good news: this quarter the Houston Press announced "The Best Radio Station" in Houston. The winner: ESPN 97.5FM.

CultureMap

Last week, more than 1,000 people in Houston turned out for our Tastemakers event, which sold out for the second year in a row. It is an amazing sight to see hundreds of folks line up early at the door. The turnout embodied the growth of CultureMap, where online traffic is soaring. Our Houston editorial team of Steven Devadanam, Eric Sandler, Ken Hoffman and others is on a roll. For that matter, the same is true of our teams statewide. We are experiencing double-digit growth year-over-year, yielding a very large and loyal following.

SportsMap

Our deep pool of sports experts has led to record traffic levels. One fun feature: We get to try new combinations such as videos featuring Raheel with AJ and Granato; Lance paired with AJ; Faour and Pallilo. Other must-see videos include Charlie Pallilo and Joel Blank (aka "one-take-Jake"). And we continue to get great written contributions from Barry Laminack, Joshua Jordan, Jermaine Every, Cody Stoots, Jerry Bo and, of course, SportsMap editor Fred Faour.

InnovationMap

Due to the collective efforts of many, Houston is experiencing a great wave of innovation. And now the city has a media outlet to tell the stories. Launched late last year, and backed by blue-chip sponsors, InnovationMap is off to a great start.

When we were planning the site, we were continually asked: who would be the editor? We found a good answer: Natalie Harms, whose fingerprints are all over the site. Last week Natalie was honored by AAF Houston, given the "Rising Star" award.

SB Nation Radio

In this business where we provide sports shows and updates for other stations across the country, we have faced a very competitive landscape the past four years. Finally, in January one of our competitors, NBC Sports Radio, withdrew from the market — enabling new growth and increasing our reach. Our SB Nation Radio Network is now heard on 600 radio stations across the country.

The Team

This has been an exciting season of growth for our people also.In the past quarter, we promoted Josh Jordan to assistant editor of SportsMap; Tyler Scott became assistant programming director. And, most notably, we tapped AJ Hoffman to become program director for 97.5 FM.

Most everyone knows Fred and AJ as leading show hosts, but they are proving to be far more. As Editor of SportsMap for the past 18 months, Fred has been a catalyst for our growth and success online. With AJ, we are tapping into his natural programming instincts and leadership. I have enjoyed watching their talents extend beyond the show and into management.

Another double-take

Let's give sage Ken Hoffman the last word. Some may recall that Ken was with us for a short while in the early 1560-The-Game days. Two years ago, he returned to write for CultureMap — so he has some perspective, having seen both our youth and maturity.

The other day, he wandered into my office. Looking at Gow Media, it appears Ken had done a double-take. He declared: "I have something to tell you. You have the best group of people and talent now. You really do. This is different than before. You are a real grown-up company now."

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David Gow is CEO of Gow Media, which owns ESPN 97.5 FM, CultureMap, SportsMap, InnovationMap, and SB Nation Radio. He is also host of The Boss and The Gloss on SB Nation Radio.

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Gow Media launched a new platform and sister site to InnovationMap with a reception at The Grove on Nov. 5. Photo by Jacob Power

On a crisp Election Night evening, Houstonians motored to The Grove to mix and mingle at the exclusive launch party for the hottest new destination for car lovers, AutomotiveMap.

The newest site from Gow Media and the team behind CultureMap, InnovationMap, and SportsMap, AutomotiveMap will steer passionate readers to the latest car news and inside looks at the hottest rides, from an army of in-the-know experts.

The exclusive event featured a host of business leaders, social stars, and motoring enthusiasts. Gow Media CEO David Gow welcomed guests, explaining the "wild ride" growth of Gow Media's platforms and introducing the new site and founding editor, Eileen Falkenberg-Hull.

"What I love about Eileen is that she knows everything about about autos, she's a great writer, and she's savvy," Gow noted.

Falkenberg-Hull laid out the map for AutomotiveMap. "AutomotiveMap appeals to the average customer with the goal of informing their purchasing decisions," she explained. "It engages with enthusiasts and works to encourage enthusiasm among those discovering their passion. And it covers a wide variety of material from new cars to auto industry innovations to sexy cars and car culture."

While trading cool car stories, guests noshed on a feast provided by The Grove, including bacon-wrapped quail, fried truffle macaroni and cheese, tuna tartare tacos, avocado toast with lentils and radishes, and fried fish fritters. A smorgasbord in the form of a massive antipasto station with cured meats and cheeses greeted diners.

Attendees also snapped pics at the selfie booth and clamored around ESPN 97.5 hosts Fred Faour, A.J. Hoffman, and Glenn Davis as the teams broadcasted live from the event.

"I don't think people realize how many people have a passion for cars in this city," said avid car collector Alan Stein, whose collection ranges from a 1935 Chrysler AirFlow to new Ferraris. "A lot of it is under the radar. I think people love their cars, their collections, and so this will be interesting."

Seen in the crowd were NBA legend, Elvin Hayes; Nick Florescu; Elizabeth Stein; Lawson Gow; John and Leah Manlove; John and Mary Craddock; David Stevenson; Scott and Linda Burdine; Steven and Andi Berkman; Mark and Meredith Barineau; Audrey Gow; Natalie Harms; Chris Dvorachek; Justin Makris; and Neal Patel.

Revved-up enthusiasts can follow AutomotiveMap daily as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

"The launch party is just the beginning," said Falkenberg-Hull. "AutomotiveMap will evolve to be a true multimedia destination for everything automotive."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.