The CEO at Hot Paper Lantern, Ed Moed, joins Ryan on the show today to discuss his latest sports betting industry research and how it applies to this Covid-19 shutdown. Ed also talks a bit about how he got started in the industry and where he see’s things moving going forward.

Video from Ed Moed Interview

Show notes from Ed Moed Interview

Ryan Knuppel: All right. Welcome back to another episode of the Knup Sports Show. I’m your host, Ryan Knuppel here with you each and every episode. Today, we’re joined by a very special guest. I have Ed Moed, the CEO of Hot Paper Lantern with me. Ed, welcome.

Ed Moed: Ryan, it’s fantastic to be here. Thanks for having me.

Ryan Knuppel: It’s my pleasure. I’m glad you’re here with us today. For everyone tuning in, I appreciate you giving us a few minutes out of your day. We won’t take a whole lot of time out of your day, but I appreciate you tuning in and hearing Ed’s story, hearing a little bit about Hot Paper Lantern, and what they’re doing. I know you have other places you could be, so I definitely appreciate you guys all tuning into this each and every time. Ed, give us a little background. First of all, just tell us what’s Hot Paper Lantern. I mean, it has a unique name, so give us the down-low on what Hot Paper Lantern is.

Ed Moed: Happy to do so. Hot Paper Lantern is a firm that helps different types of companies, organizations make their brands more relevant. We use advertising, branding, communications marketing, kind of integrate it all together. And in the digital sport area, we do a lot for companies to help them acquire new customers, to differentiate themselves, and to make their brand … to kind of amplify their brand out there. It’s been a lot of fun.

Ryan Knuppel: Sure. That’s awesome. I mean, so give us a little background of I guess your history, your story, what you’ve been through, and why you started Hot Paper Lantern. I guess a little background story on where you got started in this industry.

Ed Moed: Happy to do so. Well, I’m sitting here in Montclair, New Jersey like everybody else who’s going to hold up in their home.

Ryan Knuppel: Sure.

Ed Moed: But everybody’s good, and looking forward to our offices in New York City. Eventually we’re going to get back in there, but we’re all doing well. My background is I’ve been in communications and marketing my whole career. I ran an agency for 20 years, which was a larger one that was really focused around communications. A few years ago, we took about 45 people from that agency [Brothers 00:02:04], and we spun off to create Hot Paper Lantern.

Ed Moed: To really help small, medium, and large companies in this really fast moving digital time where you need small groups that can consult with you, strategize, and then execute on how your brands can get out there and how they can acquire clients, customers quicker … So, we took this group and started about two years ago, and it’s been really fantastic. We represent a lot of consumer brands and others. Now, I’ve moved really into the digital support area. But I’ve been doing this for my whole career. And with the event of digital and everything being digital for so long, it made sense to create kind of a smaller group of people that could do this specifically for gaming and fantasy-type companies.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say. I mean, I know you’re a wide, diverse company working with a lot of people, but we’re really focused on our gaming, and sports betting, and that stuff here. Give me I guess your … We’re in a weird time right now with no sports going on. It’s such a weird time. I’d never dreamed of a day where there would literally be no sports. As a business owner myself, I check off all the boxes. “Okay, this could happen. What am I going to do? This could happen. What am I going to do?” One of those “this could happens” was not no sports will be available. What are your thoughts on sports in general, and how have you guys … I mean, has that really affected your company, this whole COVID-19 pandemic? Has it affected you guys at all?

Ed Moed: Yeah. Well, I’ll say first of all I used to be an athlete many years ago. I played baseball and basketball through high school. I have three teenagers, two boys, and we live and die for sports. We’re [inaudible 00:03:53] sports fans. Dating myself, I grew up in the ’80s, loving the ’90s, the Knicks and the Mets of ’86 … I know you’re a Cardinal fan.

Ryan Knuppel: And a Bulls fan. I’m a big … yeah.

Ed Moed: There you go. You dusted us continually. I’m a big Giant fan, a New York Giants fan as well.

Ryan Knuppel: Oh, cool.

Ed Moed: Not having sports betting with my younger son, who’s 16, just kind of took the wind out of our sails like so many people who are listening to this … because you don’t know what to do with yourself. COVID-19 has absolutely affected my company, because we’re all working from home, and trying to figure out how we help our clients, consult with them to make sure their brands are irrelevant. With our clients, which include fantasy sites, and e-betting sites, and technology companies, and content companies that all deal in this space. A lot of things have just stopped, because they’re all sports.

Ed Moed: Some of that has halted. But with a lot of our clients … what they’ve asked us to do and what we’ve come to them to do really is: how can they still stay relevant even when sports is stopped? What can they do to make sure they’re engaging with their clients, their audiences, even though they’re not making as much money, or doing as many things they’re valued at? For some of our clients where they have platforms, they’re teaming up in the eSports area. They’re now partnering with gaming sites where you can still do that. Others … really innovative ones are creating their own types of games, and doing betting, and fantasy play around those.

Ed Moed: We’re trying to help them, one, figure out what they do to be relevant. Two, we know we’re getting out of this. Golf is … knock on wood, [inaudible 00:05:46] classic coming up in a couple of weeks. Golf will then be open. Hopefully baseball, knock on wood, by July at some point. So, we’re working with them sometimes to look at: okay, should we look at your brand and refresh it? How you position it to betters, to fantasy players? Should we do things with your website that makes more sense. Should we look at even how you leverage content, what you do with it, how you talk to your customer or your end user from social media?

Ed Moed:

All those things, we’re helping them with right up to the point where golf comes out and then it’s, “Okay, we’re building our brand. How do we go back to what we were doing before?” There is a lot of action going on behind this. A lot of the players who are most innovative are trying to make changes, and to make themselves that much better. You just have to make sure you’re doing what is necessary when things open up, basically.

Ryan Knuppel: Yeah. It’s amazing to me. You said some things in there that kind of sparked my mind for more of a business side of things. A lot of times businesses get caught in this maximizing … everything has to be highest paying, and all maximizing what the earning potential is. But the long-term vision … the companies really have to step back here and think, “Okay. I may be tight money-wise, but I can’t just stop. We can’t just stop and do nothing. How can we reposition, knowing we may not make a lot of money from it, or it may not be … We may not see the rewards right now, but in the long-term, this is the right move for us to do.”

Ryan Knuppel: I’m guessing it takes a special business, and kind of takes a certain type of business that can think that way. It sounds like the ones you’re working with are kind of in that camp where they’re thinking long-term. We know it’s going to be hard, but we’re not going to just stop. We’re going to do something different. That’s kind of what you’re helping them get to.

Ed Moed: We are. And the space is so young. It’s a little like the wild, wild West. There’s a lot of new players out there that … some of them, this is the first time they’ve experienced any type of crisis. This is obviously the biggest one of all of our lives. So, they get a little paralyzed. We’ll talk through them with them strategy, and things they can do without having a lot of money that can change them, or at least adapt and evolve. And other ones know right away. They understand that now’s the time to innovate. There’s some out there, they’re using this downtime to leap ahead, and they see this opportunity.

Ed Moed: What we try to do is … we do a lot of research. One of the things we’ve done is through COVID, we decided to go out there. I think we may have done … I didn’t realize this until after the fact. The biggest study of its type aimed at the sports better and the fantasy sports player, where we actually interviewed over 4,500 better according to [crosstalk 00:08:50] across the country understand how life has changed, and what matters to them most post … when sports opens up, and what they’re going to care about. That became our state of the sports better study, and it’s really interesting some of the things we found.

Ryan Knuppel: Well, you led me right into my next topic. That’s exactly what I was going to bring up is the fact that this research has been getting some buzz, and it’s amazing research. What is one of the … I mean, I’m sure you have hundreds of things you’ve learned from interviewing that many sports betters. But give us one or two, I guess, things that you learned that maybe the audience would find interesting or even be surprised at.

Ed Moed: I’ll give you a couple of them that I think are most interesting. One is … first of all, I think everybody thought this, but we kind of confirmed it. 90% of sports betters play fantasy sports. They’re almost duplicative, and I think the question is how many parents sports players will be moving into sports betting. That’s really where the opportunity is, I think, for many who are out there to learn it, to understand it. Big thing that we saw … You’re going to see a couple of things.

Ed Moed: One, there’s probably less disposable income unfortunately, because there’s a lot of hardships out there. But sports betters and fantasy sports players, they miss it. They miss it so much. [inaudible 00:10:19] back with a vengeance looking to play, but they don’t see a lot of differentiation between so many different sites and platforms that are out there. To engage with them and build loyalty, these sites, these platforms are going to have to think totally different. It’s not as easy as, “I’m going to do a campaign through Facebook to go build my awareness,” and they’re just going to come. It’s not fueling their dreams. Build it, and they come.

Ed Moed: There’s a couple of things they really told us that we honed in on. One is they want more in their experience. While they want to play fantasy sports or bet, they would love to have experiences where they’re also able to get relevant content on that site: advice or counseling, community … where they can then talk over with other sports betters or other fantasy players, and the ability not to have to go do tons of research in all these different areas to then have to go on the site and figure out what they want to do, basically. This all-in-one approach I think is going to be really important to how platforms adapt as they move forward.

Ed Moed: A second thing that a lot of them want is … one is security is really important. But what’s even more important which we thought was interesting … pre-COVID, they were okay with going to some of the biggest platforms out there and doing whatever, even if they had issues sometimes pulling their money out. Believe it or not, some of them can’t pull their money out. It’s just [inaudible 00:11:56] absolutely make it easy. Now, it’s the number one thing they care about. Not easy [inaudible 00:12:04] my winnings or my losses right afterwards, I’m not coming back. It’s really interesting.

Ed Moed: The third thing is brand, and what that brand means. When these platforms are marketing to them, or sending out information, or targeting them … really explaining, and understanding, and getting with their logo, or understanding what key differentiators, why they should go there, and why they should use it. Because it is a little bit of a sea of sameness out there with so many of them. That’s going to help them decide where they want to go to, basically.

Ryan Knuppel: I can’t … Excuse me. I can’t imagine the amount of information you gathered out of that. I mean, just those three points right there, I think, are so telling of the research you guys did. Is that something you guys do a lot of? Like, that type of deep research like that?

Ed Moed: We have a really nice sized analytics … deep analytics group, and research group within Hot Paper Lantern and within our digital sport area. A lot of times these clients ask us either to really learn more like we just did about who their potential audience is, or to do research that they can also use to push out their brand that really makes sense.

Ed Moed: We did a first study about a year ago, which was kind of interesting. It was more lighthearted. It was looking at the fantasy sport space, and we literally ranked 15 different platforms that are out there. Asked fantasy sports players to rank them on what they liked the best, which they’re most loyal to, why they liked them. And they gave us all different types of reality of who they liked the best.

Ed Moed: We are deeply rooted in this industry. We love it. We have a lot of people that specialize in it. To really understand it, what our clients, what the media care about, we do a lot of PR for our clients as well. They didn’t really understand what’s the profile of the sports better and the fantasy sports player. If you get us real hardcore information about what they care about, that’ll mean something to us. That’s why we did this type of research.

Ryan Knuppel: Amazing. Amazing. Let’s shift gears real quick. I know you have a schedule. I don’t want to keep you too long. But hey, I got a couple of questions for you that are a little off topic here, a little more around the sports side of things. Do you think when sports comes back, if there’s not an audience in the crowd … That’s kind of the rumor, right? Baseball may come back. Basketball may come back. May not have a crowd. May not have anything. Do you think that hurts the engagement level, or the product on the field or the court? I mean, what does that really do, or is it going to be kind of business as normal? From a [prospector 00:14:49], you’ll watch it on TV. Is it going to feel the same? Is it going to look the same? Or will we really be able to notice that, “Man, this isn’t the same without that energy in the building.” What are your thoughts on that from just an outsider perspective?

Ed Moed: I mean, I think broadcasters, the networks, ESPN … they’re adapting too. And what they’re really good at is making sure the way they show the game isn’t going to be showing the lack of sound or empty seats. The players are going to feel it, and they’re going to get used to it. But I think the fans sitting at home watching it on TV … after a while, it’s going to be no difference to them. I think the irony is even in our study taking it one step further, we asked the 4,500 people: how do you feel about going back now, or sometime soon? 79% said, “I’m really uncomfortable going back right now.”

Ed Moed: You can have places allow them to go back. I don’t know if they would in three months, or four months, or five months. I think that we’re just going to have to be living with this for a while. I do think there’s an opportunity with all these people sitting on the couch for all these fantasy sports and betting platforms to get that much more attention though. That’s the irony for those people, those men and women are sitting on the couch. But I think the experienced sports fans will still be really good as they watch it at home.

Ryan Knuppel: Agreed. Great answer. I 100% agree with you on that. All right. Well, what else? Is there any last words you have for the audience or anything? I mean, I guess one question before we go is kind of what’s the future of Hot Paper Lantern? Is there anything you guys have that you’re really looking to do, or to grow, or anything like that? Then I guess just end with any kind of last words you’d have for the listeners here.

Ed Moed: Really appreciate it. Yeah. For us, we’re absolutely looking to grow. I think especially in this area as sports are coming back, we’re helping so many companies … and brands as well who are outside the Unicity, who are tapping sports, to really make them more relevant. It’s a big part of who we are, and we have people really devoted to it, and understanding their consumers. We’re actually holding a webinar based on our study [inaudible 00:17:17].

Ryan Knuppel: Oh, good.

Ed Moed: [crosstalk 00:17:18] at two o’clock. You can go to Hot Paper Lantern, digitalsport.com, or hpldigitalsport.com. You can see it. You could sign up. It’s a big part of us. I would say to fans that are out there, I think that on the one hand, it’s a great time. When it comes back, you’re going to get excited about all that you can watch, and you can still participate in so many ways digitally, organically through your sports team, because they’re going to provide you new ways to participate in what they’re doing. If you’re a fantasy sport player or a better, you’re going to see that it’s going to be that much more catered to what you want, because these organizations are really smart. I would say hang in there. It’s coming back, stay tuned, and have fun. As golf is coming back and other things are coming back for all of us, I know I’m missing it and I can’t wait, basically.

Ryan Knuppel: 100%. And all those links that you mentioned, we’ll put in the show notes. Everybody, don’t scramble and write them down. We’ll get them in the show notes and make sure we link up to, one, that webinar. We’ll make sure everybody participates in that. That should be very interesting. I’m looking forward to that. And then all your links and connections. All of that, we’ll put out there in the show notes. Man, Ed, it was really a pleasure to talk to you. I really thank you for coming on. Hey, before we go, is baseball coming back before the end of July or no? Yes or no?

Ed Moed: Yes.

Ryan Knuppel: Let’s go! That’s what I want to hear. That’s what I wanted to hear.

Ed Moed: It’s been great talking with you. Love your show.

Ryan Knuppel: My pleasure. Anytime. If you need anything, just holler. All right. Take care. That was Ed Moed, CEO of Hot Paper Lantern. Thanks again, Ed.

Ed Moed: Okay.

Ryan Knuppel: All right.

 

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