Interview - Martin Cook

Interview: Martin Cook, Director, The Media Game: 3rd April 2003

Media Man interviews The Media Game!

We speak with Martin Cook of The Media Game, whose studio we used for many months, before we upgraded our equipment.

Martin explains what The Media Game is all about.

(Interview kindly transcribed by Michelle Lovi, who is actually in the process of interviewing me, for a piece on Media Man Australia). It's a small world.

G: This is Greg Tingle from Media Man Australia. We're here with Martin Cook, Director of the Media Game. Welcome to the program.

M: Yeah, thanks Greg.

G: My pleasure.

So Martin, tell me, what's your sports and media background?

M: Well Greg, I've always been involved with sports, ever since I was a young fellow, growing up in the country. Sport has always been a big part of my life, both playing and watching. Rugby League, I've played that game since I was about eight years old. As far as the media goes, I've been involved with the media now for about four years, particularly with the Media Game, and I've moved to a bigger position now where I am the director of the company.

G: That's terrific. So tell me, what are the main aims and objectives of the Media Game?

M: Well, the Media Game, Greg, is a very unique service. There are probably two objectives, which are both, I guess, integral to the actual service and what it's all about. Our primary aim is to provide a service for our clients, whereby we can help with their promotion and their media coverage, and help with their media demands as well. And on the other hand, we're helping out particularly radio stations being an audio service with content for the news, so it's a two-fold approach. One side is obviously putting together content on behalf of our clients, and on the other side, passing that content on to the news providers.

G: Great, so you have already being dealing with a couple of my friends over at 2GB, 2CH, 2UE and so on?

M: Yeah definitely. All of the major radio networks across the country-side, and also abroad, regularly use our service.

G: Great. So please, explain the process of making audio grabs available over the website.

M: Well, basically we have to go out and attract the clients who are willing to pay us to help promote their sport, cause, events or particular message. We will, for example, our clients, our major clients involve sporting groups who may have a sporting event coming up they want to really push and promote, and in the lead up to that event, we might talk to their key player, personnel or representative, and conduct an interview with them, place it on our website. We'll then send out an email alert to all of the news providers across the country-side, letting them know that the grabs are available on the site to download. So they'll log on to our website, download the grab, and we can monitor who's downloading the grabs and when, because you need to use a name and password to logon to our site. Then we go back to our clients with a report, letting them know which networks and which news providers downloaded the grabs. So that's basically how it works.

G: That's terrific. So are there any plans to make video grabs available, and why or why not?

M: Yeah, certainly, we do have the ability to place video grabs on the website, but due to technology being the way it is at the moment, the quality of placing video grabs on the website is not up to broadcast standard to be used in news bulletins, which is DVD at the moment, but we feed that out via conventional satellite methods through one of the major networks.

G: Great. What are some of the key elements that see some of your major clients come aboard?

M: I think the main element is the promotion that they can gain from our site, and that's for both our sporting clients and our general news clients. However, sports like the Australian Cricket Board who are probably our biggest client, they don't only use us from a promotional point of view, they mainly use us to take a little bit of pressure off their players. By doing the one interview with the Media Game after each day's play, we can make sure that Steve Waugh is heard in every news bulletin in the country. So it certainly takes a lot of pressure off him. Instead of him having to do five, six, seven or maybe ten interviews after a match, he does the one with us and that has everyone covered.

G: Yes, it's easy to see the benefits of that. How would you say sports reporting and the publishing business has changed over the years and how do you see the relationship between online and offline media?

M: Whilst we are an online service we are servicing offline media, and I guess we're servicing a big change in the media industry in the fact that newsrooms are being downsized, there's less people on the ground to cover sporting events, and we're picking up this deficiency in the media, or not deficiency but just the way they're changing. I think it's just like anything Greg; newsrooms are trying to be run on small a budget as possible, so by offering a service like this we offer them content, with a minimal amount of work on their behalf, and we're ensuring that our clients are getting that same exposure they used to receive. Now that the newsrooms are being downsized, we're making sure that their sport, their organisation, or their messages are still being heard.

G: Definitely. What are some of the challenges you have faced, and continue to face?

M: I guess the biggest challenge, to start off with, was probably gaining the media's confidence in utilising our service, because a lot of media organisations see that we're only going to run stories that we've created ourselves. And a lot of media outlets perceive our service to be spoon feeding the news, it's not freedom of speech, or free news. That's been a bit of a hurdle but when we get back there and do business with our clients, we be as non-biased as possible.

G: So, how are most people becoming aware of your service?

M: Well, we promote ourselves directly, we approach central clients who we think would receive great use from our service, word of mouth is also great. Also we have a lot of media outlets talking to client groups, and saying 'why don't you try Media Game, they're a great idea'.

G: Fantastic. What your main Unique Value Proposition? Say someone says 'why exactly should we deal with the Media Game?' What is unique to yourselves?

M: The best value that we can offer our clients is the chance to get their message, their voices heard in places they wouldn't normally get heard. And also by the fact that we can let them know who is actually utilising our service. We're fully accountable and we can show them value for their money in the fact that if they do spend x amount of dollars on getting interviews conducted to help promote a certain event, we can then come back to them after that event and say 'these stations downloaded your grabs'.

G: Yes, accountability is certainly a huge factor in the media business, always the spotlight being on us of course. Back to the internet side of things, do you know how many website visitors you get, and do you mind disclosing with us, giving us a bit of an idea as far as the success of the site in both numbers of hits, the amount of time people are spending there and the general usability of it.

M: Yeah, definitely Greg, there are plenty of websites that make use of our service. We have a few restrictions from a couple of our clients who have their own web services, and they do not wish to provide their content to other web providers, which is quite understandable, because they think that the content that they're producing is being used by competitors and is attracting a little from their service. But apart from that we do get plenty of web subscribers who love using our service.

G: Getting back to action on the field, what's the most interesting story you have ever seen or actually reported on?

M: Well, from a Media Game perspective, we're obviously a little bit restricted to the actual stories that we report on, being that we only report on stories that come up within our client groups. The biggest results recorded on the Media Game, well, number one would be when Sir Donald Bradman passed away, we had an interview with Steve Waugh commenting on his death. That was definitely the biggest result as far as hits goes for the Media Game. Number two was probably when Tony Lockett had made a decision to make a comeback with the Swans. We had an exclusive interview there.

G: What responsibility do you think professional athletes have to the community and as role models?

M: Well, I think as role models for a start, they are treated like gods by a lot of young people. So whether they like it or not, they have a huge responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner which is responsible. So that the young people who admire them, we hope, if they do mimic the way they conduct themselves, it will be in a positive and responsible manner. So yeah, they are highly responsible.

G: That's right. Do you think there's too much pressure on Australian athletes in regards to what they do off the field?

M: It comes with the territory I guess. If they want to be a professional athlete, well this is all part of it. I'd have to say, no, there isn't too much pressure.

G: How do you think the credibility of sport has suffered in the past few years and what do you think the ultimate solution is? Like sometimes, unfortunately, the ugly side of sport conveys a sportsman doing the wrong thing, gambling, money under the table, all that kind of stuff.

M: Yeah, well there's been a few in recent memory, the ones I've just mentioned, as well as Wayne Carey's incident, Shane Warne and the drugs… I think that these sorts of incidents have always probably been in sport. I think that these days, because of media coverage the way it is, it's pretty hard for these sort of things to go by without mention. I think that's probably the difference between now and then, but even still in saying that, I think that sport will always survive these sort of glitches on their image, so I don't really see that there's a long term issue, but definitely the administrators of each individual sport needs to make all efforts possible to maintain sports credibility.

G: Emotion can reach all-time high levels in media sports, sports media, so tell me, have you ever received a death threat, or perhaps another way of putting that, have you ever pissed anyone off bad enough that they would really want to get a bit of biffo?

M: Ah, no. Well, for a start, just by nature of our service, our media is very friendly, I mean we're working on behalf of a client, so we're putting out nice stories. At the same time we do try and get that newsworthy angle, to make sure that the radio networks will run the story, but I'm not that type of journalist.

G: Not one of those that goes to the sporting ground and tries to pick fights with terrorists, that sort of thing, trying to create a story, it's all above board.

So, tell me, what's the wisest piece of advice you've ever been given?

M: Ah, do what you do do well. I think my dad told me that one, and it was a song he used to sing, I think Ted Miller used to sing it, something like that, and it's not a bad bit of advice.

G: Sounds like damn good advice. So tell me, what words of advice would you give to an athlete, looking to secure a sponsorship in these not-so-easy times?

M: Trying to secure a sponsorship? Well I guess, you've got to put yourself out there as a product, people who are willing to pay money or sponsorship dollars want something in return. So it's your responsibility to sell yourself and say well, this is how you're going to get return on your money, whether it is purely by your on-field performance, or whether it's by the way you conduct yourself off the field, or how you can help promote their business. So, that's the way you've got to look at it, I think, when you're talking about sponsorship dollars, is how you can help the sponsorship provider promote their business.

G: How do you manage the balance between sports reporting and having a social life? Do you find there is a certain element of crossover?

M: Certainly, there's a lot of crossover there, to tell you the truth. Especially covering a lot of cricket; the Australian cricket team has just won the World Cup, as you would well know, playing over in South Africa, and their games were finishing anywhere between one o'clock in the morning and six o'clock in the morning, and most of them were on weekends. So as far as social life goes, it put a bit of a dampener on it. A lot of the times I'd be down at the pub, watching the cricket on the telly, making mental notes of what's going on and then making sure I'm home in time to do the interview post match. You've got find the balance, but yeah, being a sports reporter, that comes first and it's all part of the job.

G: Yes, it gets like that, doesn't it? What role do you see traditional media playing in covering sport, and what are they doing both right and wrong? And also just the media in general as well, whether it be radio stations or TV.

M: They've got to cover it as they see it, but you see a lot of tabloid press blowing things out of proportion. But at the end of the day, I strongly believe that journalists are driven by what people want to read, so you can't hold them totally responsible. They've got to report on how they see it, whether that be the good times or the bad. And it's probably the sport's responsibility to make sure there are more good times than bad.

G: It certainly does. Who's the most controversial figure in Australian sport, and why?

M: In recent times, you could say Shane Warne, but then again, the Australian team proved that they could do it without him. There's been a lot of talk said about Shane over the years, because he is a wonderful sportsman, and also there's been a lot said about his off-field antics as well. I guess he's right up there. There's a lot of controversial sportspeople or people in sport, but he's one that springs to mind, mainly because he's probably been the most recent example.

G: He certainly has. How do you draw the line between what is actually a sport, and what is a pastime? Take for example darts, golf, chess, that kind of thing.

M: I think they're all sports; any sport can be a pastime as well. Primarily people play sport because they enjoy it first, and it's a sport second. I think those you've named, they're all sports, and why can't a sport be a pastime?

G: Yes, I can certainly see along your way of thinking. Do you think women should actually be barred from any sport?

M: I guess you're referring to boxing and that sort of thing. Well, I don't know. If it's proven medically that there is a serious problem with women getting involved in those sports, I guess so, but at the same time, if a women is prepared to get involved in that sport, I don't see why we should stop them. For example, boxing, I'm sure that there is plenty of danger for a bloke who gets in the ring as well.

G: Yes, I mean, they know what they're getting into when they go down that direction. It's sort of like a journalist or a soldier going through Iraq at the moment, everyone knows that they could suffer serious consequences.

What sports do you enjoy playing, or covering, the most, and what actually bores you to tears?

M: Well, I think I mentioned earlier, rugby league has always been a passion of mine; I enjoy playing it and covering it. Being an Aussie bloke I've always loved cricket; I played it as a young bloke and I love covering it now. I'm a sport lover of all shapes and forms. As far as sports that bore me go, I guess I'm a pretty boring bloke, I can pretty much watch any sort of sport. Ah, chess, that's fairly boring, not much of a spectator sport, so we'll throw that one in as the one that bores me to tears.

G: Yeah, we're thinking along similar lines there, even though I am quite a chess master in my own right. So, what's your view on gambling in sport, and have you got any hot tips mate?

M: I have no problem with gambling and sport, because I think it adds another dimension to it, from a spectator point of view, and another angle of excitement. And then obviously the issues are when people money gets involved, people are tempted to do the wrong thing, whether it be match fixing - we've seen plenty of that sort of thing with cricket in recent times. You've got to control that side of things, but don't stop gambling and sport. I'm a mad punter myself, but I wouldn't be stopping it , you've got to have some kind of control on it.

G: Part of the Aussie lifestyle, having a bit of a punt, isn't it? What's been your greatest sporting moment in football?

M: Rugby league? Probably the greatest thing I've witnessed would be Newcastle winning the 1997 ARL Grand Final, coming from behind, the try from Darren Elbert - I was there that day. I think it was the crowd record at the Sydney Football Stadium. Probably also, a little bit more special to me, was earlier in that day I also had one of my proudest sporting achievements. We won the under 20's grand final on the same day, playing for (undiscernible). That's a pretty special day for me.

G: Absolutely huge. So, just in conclusion, what are the future goals for the Media Game, and perhaps even some personal goals that you are yet to attain?

M: Well, with the Media Game, we would like to, perhaps, move overseas. We're not only a sporting news provider; we also do have general news clients as well, so probably expand ourselves more into the general news market. As far as personal goals go, I just want to be successful in whatever I put my hands to (undiscernible). I don't plan too far ahead; I don't have too many long term goals. But at this stage, my goal is to develop the Media Game as far as I can, so that basically where I'm at.

G: Alright, terrific. Well, thanks for joining us today, we really appreciate it and we very much look forward to further work in place for the Media Game in the future.

M: Yeah, no worries Greg. Thanks very much for your time, and all the best to you too.

Listen to the interview

Transcribed by Michelle Lovi (founder of The Surface)


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