How Laurence Holmes’ podcast evolved from class project to nearly 1 million downloads
Holmes appreciates a good origin story, and “House of L” has one. But the hero isn’t Holmes. It’s his graduate school professor at Alabama.
Laurence Holmes is an unabashed comic-book fan. If you catch him on the right day — or the wrong day, depending on your taste — you’ll hear him opining about Marvel movies or science-fiction flicks on his noon-2 p.m. show weekdays on 670 The Score.
Holmes appreciates a good origin story, and he has one for his burgeoning podcast company. But the hero isn’t Holmes. It’s his graduate school professor at Alabama.
“I was taking an entrepreneurial journalism class, and I had a great professor there, Wilson Lowrey,” said Holmes, who earned his master’s degree in journalism online in 2019. “He wanted everyone to look at what they like doing in the world of media and see if they can figure out a way to make money off it.”
Holmes had been thinking about starting a podcast, so he made that his project. He applied Lowrey’s idea of minimal viable product (MVP). The premise is, you’ll want your project to be perfect before making it public, but that’s not possible. You’re better off putting out the MVP and going from there.
“I really dug that,” Holmes said. “And he said why don’t you make this more than just a class project. Why don’t you explore it?”
Holmes did, and for his first episode, he interviewed White Sox TV voice Jason Benetti, a fellow Homewood-Flossmoor High School alum.
“It allowed me to get that MVP out, and then I could start building,” Holmes said.
He hasn’t stopped. The “House of L” podcast will complete its third year in June, and its 200-plus episodes will break 1 million total downloads later this year.
The show’s name is an extension of his love for comic books. The logo is reminiscent of the Superman logo, and the name is from the Marvel comic book “House of M.” Make it an L for Laurence, and you have it. (“House of M” is relevant today for its connection to the Disney+ show “WandaVision,” but you don’t have to understand that to understand Holmes.)
The podcast’s initial purpose was to give listeners an inside look at the media and the chance to meet the people they follow. It got off to a great start with its first three episodes: Benetti, Score host-turned-Bulls TV host Jason Goff and ABC7 meteorologist Cheryl Scott.
“The Goff interview actually made my podcast hot, when he had just been let go [by The Score] and he came over to my house and sat down with me for two hours,” Holmes said. “Between Benetti, Jason and Cheryl Scott, I’m a month into the podcast, and it had over 30,000 downloads.”
Holmes has maintained an eclectic group of guests, derived from relationships built at his various media jobs. As a junior and senior at DePaul, Holmes covered high school sports for the Daily Southtown. As a senior in 1997, he interned at WGN-TV, which hired him after graduation to be a field producer. A year later, The Score hired him to be a part-time producer for Les Grobstein’s show.
He has been at the station ever since, but along the way he has appeared on NBC5, 120 Sports (now called Stadium) and NBC Sports Chicago.
“House of L” has evolved, as well, turning into a network of podcasts. Holmes now shares his platform with others in Chicago sports media to provide listeners with different experiences and perspectives.
NBCSCH Cubs reporter Maddie Lee hosts her own show, “Not Just a White Man’s Game.” Chicago Sun-Times Bears reporter Jason Lieser and Cubs reporter Russell Dorsey dropped their first podcast, “Sports Adjacent,” on Thursday. Both can be found in the “House of L” feed.
“I found out that I really enjoy producing,” Holmes said, calling it a byproduct of watching students’ progress in the radio class he teaches at DePaul. “But I also feel like, in Chicago in particular because media people are considered stars, people are interested in them.
“I can see a not-too-distant future where we’re putting out a podcast a day.”
But the podcast became an issue during Holmes’ recent contract negotiations with Entercom, The Score’s parent company. Holmes faced a question that’s becoming more common in media: What rights does an employer have to a person’s content when that person isn’t creating the content for the employer? Holmes even brought the situation to light on his podcast.
“The whole podcast, in its truest form, is supposed to be about media, and we talk about these things throughout all of my interviews,” he said. “I talked about being laid off from NBC Sports Chicago. So I felt like it would be disingenuous for me to not talk about it because [The Score and the podcast] are really important to me.”
All’s well that ends well. Holmes said Entercom was amenable to him continuing his podcast independently while working for The Score. He expects to sign a new contract soon.
“I’m really happy to stay on with The Score,” Holmes said. “I love it there. My home for 23 years. If you had told me at 22 I’d be there until I was 45 … . I’m happy that ‘House of L’ gets to keep doing what it’s doing and The Score keeps moving in the right direction.”