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A PODCAST DELIVERS TUCSON'S BEST SPORTS-GUEST LINEUP

In a city with two AM stations dedicated to sports—including two local weekday radio talk shows—two 20-somethings with a podcast routinely provide listeners with the best sports-guest lineup in the market.

Matt Minkus and Victor Rodriguez have wrangled an impressive list of guests on a program that doesn't get near the listenership of its terrestrial-radio counterparts.

Radio talk shows tend to be made up of some combination of two components: host commentary, and interviews. Locally, Happy Hour With Jody Oehler, which airs on KFFN AM 1490 weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m., and In the House, with Glenn Parker, Kevin Woodman and Rob Lantz, which airs in the same time slot on KCUB AM 1290 (the station that employs me for UA sports pregame and postgame shows), tend to opt for a commentary-heavy approach. (In the House used to have a much more significant guest presence, but has drifted away from that approach.)

Reasons for a lack of guests can range from philosophical considerations to a lack of resources. Indeed, behind-the-scenes assistance from a production crew—whose responsibilities include things like lining up guests—is not a priority in the streamlined world of modern local radio in a Tucson-size market.

That said, Minkus and Rodriguez are a staff of two, and they have shown a relentless commitment to tracking down well-known names for the interview segments of the Victor and Matt Podcast, which airs weekly at radioexiles.com.

"To get anyone to come on is a bunch of work," said Minkus. "You have to find the time to do it that works for everybody, and to get everyone on the same page can be difficult, but the main thing is to find the right person who has access to that guest ... (and) pitch them a little bit as to why they should come on. Everyone today has something to promote, whether it's a Twitter account, or something they're endorsing, or a charity they're involved with. We take that approach: Bring you on the show, talk about a bunch of different things, and obviously promote whatever it is you want to do. That has usually worked pretty well."

In addition to guests with UA ties, Minkus and Rodriguez have welcomed names like Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and disgraced former NBA official Tim Donaghy.

"When we started (in April 2009), we took the local approach there for a little while, (with) national names with a local connection, like (golfer) Annika Sorenstam, (Chicago Bears linebacker) Lance Briggs and (golfer) Natalie Gulbis. We landed some of those and it sort of built from that," Minkus said. "From day one, we wanted to have some guests on each week to keep the show kind of fresh. Since we're on the podcast, and it's a national sort of platform—anyone can hear it anywhere—we figured, 'Let's not try to just keep it local to Tucson stuff. Let's try to branch out as much as we can.' Slowly but surely, we were able to get them to come on."

A couple of weeks ago, the podcast got national play and a response from the NCAA when former UA men's basketball coach Lute Olson criticized the college-oversight body for its investigation of the university and subsequent sanctions regarding the tail end of his coaching tenure.

The hosts have been friends since kindergarten. Minkus now works in the family's business, Minkus Advertising, which focuses on imprinted promotional items. Rodriguez played golf at UTEP and recently concluded an internship with the Pac-10 Conference. Among his numerous activities, he coaches basketball part-time at Rincon High School.

In short, they have no radio experience in the traditional sense, which is counterintuitive to the concept of radioexiles.com, originally created as a platform for popular radio hosts ousted from their terrestrial gigs in an era of massive industry cutbacks. (Full disclosure: I also do a podcast for the website.)

"We want to thank radioexiles and (founder Brian Baltosiewich) in the sense that we really didn't have a radio background or anything like that. A lot of the hosts had radio shows, and radioexiles took a chance on us," Rodriguez said. "We've proven our way by the work that we've done in the short time. It's kind of neat when you see where we came from."

Baltosiewich credits their persistence for the success the show has garnered.

"I'm really proud of what Victor and Matt have done," said Baltosiewich via e-mail. "They came to me with a demo, and I gave them a slot. They've literally done the rest themselves. They're fearless when it comes to booking guests, and they're beginning to get recognized for their work."

That recognition carried over to tucsoncitizen.com, where they were recruited to assist with the "citizen journalism" website's sports presence.

"(Tucsoncitizen.com) has been great, because we've gotten a whole lot of new traffic," said Minkus. "It's a local website, but it has great Google rankings, so if someone types in (Atlanta Falcons tight end/podcast guest) Tony Gonzalez or something, we're likely to come in as one of the top stories. They see the link and see the interview talking about the Falcons' season, and it takes them to our podcast at radioexiles. That's been a great thing that has helped us get new listeners and continue to build traffic."

Meanwhile, radioexiles.com has grown significantly as well, in terms of traffic and podcast offerings.

"We also appeal to a wide variety of people—literally a show for everyone—and I think we're seeing some sampling across our lineup, too. The growth hasn't been just for one particular show; it's been across the board, and even the archived shows are seeing a large bump," said Baltosiewich, who moved to Charlotte, N.C., earlier this year. "Admittedly, our focus has strayed a bit from strictly a home for radio personalities who have lost their gigs, but that will always be the main focus of what we do. We have to continue to grow our audience, and we can do that best by bringing in personalities with a distinctive voice who also have an established following tagging along."

More by John Schuster

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