Good afternoon, and thanks for your continued support of Extra Points.
Thanks for your patience over the last few days. I came down with COVID shortly after getting home from the NIL Summit, and it has absolutely kicked my butt. I'm finally feeling well enough to write, but please forgive me as I try to catch up with everything. I'm sure I missed some emails, texts and news stories while I was sleeping for 18 hours a day and hacking up a lung.
While I'm catching up with everything I've missed, I did want to share something with you. I really appreciate how many of you responded to our audience survey. We know better understand who is reading this newsletter, why they're reading it, and what sorts of tweaks we ought to make in order to make Extra Points even better.
I wanted to share a few of the tweaks we're planning on making. But first, I want to get really inside baseball. I'd like to talk about pricing.
A lot of content on the internet is, after all, including a lot of college sports content.
Most free content on the internet is free because it is supported by digital advertising. The only way that most publishers are able to make any sort of meaningful money from digital ad sales is if they can offer scale, or lots and lots of page views. The most common type of digital advertising for publishers is to work with some sort of third party software solution to automatically generate ad units based on the user's browsing habits, like with Google Ads.
This system, in my humble opinion, mostly sucks. It leads to bloated websites that load slowly and are cumbersome for users. Much of the data that holds up this system is almost completely made up. The system pushes publishers to chase raw traffic rather than quality articles or engaged audiences. And without scale, the money is terrible. If I threw in Google Ads or a similar system on Extra Points, I'd make, like, $100 bucks a month.
This content is not really built to achieve scale. Part of that is because I don't have a team of audience engagement editors, growth marketers, black hat SEO people, etc. to help optimize my stuff for algorithms. But mostly, it's because what I write about is mostly niche. If Extra Points was built 100% around ads, I'd have to write a lot more about Alabama's QB. I'd never write another mid-major realignment article again because the math doesn't work out that way.
An alternative is to manually sell ads, which is what I do. I work with a marketplace (Swapstack) to find ad partners, but we also have a sales team at D1.ticker, and I also make these calls myself. I try to find ad partners who are mostly aligned with our audience, and whose ads won't detract from the newsletter or podcast. This is a very labor-intensive process, and we're still getting better at it. I love ads, but it's hard to see how our ad business ever grows enough for me to make EP totally free.
Right now, ad sales make up about 15% of my monthly revenue. Almost everything else comes from subscriptions.
Okay, but why eight bucks? Why can't you make it cheaper?
Well, let me address something else first.
I asked readers about why they read Extra Points. Well over 85% of respondents pointed to two things: original reporting that they can't get anywhere else, and a unique perspective on the news that they wouldn't find elsewhere. I do my absolute best to provide that each week on Extra Points.
I say this not to complain, but simply to let my audience know. Breaking news, or even advancing stories through commentary, can be expensive!
One of the beats where I've been able to break a few stories has been on the mid-major realignment front. Part of my success in that niche has been because I've been able to cultivate sources in league leadership, consulting, law and media. A lot of those relationships started because I met those folks in person...at conferences, at their offices, at games, etc. That requires spending on travel, hotels, etc. It also takes a lot of time.
I also break stories sometimes using Open Records requests....or when I'm not breaking stories, I'm using FOIA to provide context or advance other stories. Open Records, sadly, aren't always free. Getting the information about the EA Sports College Football game, for example, cost money in filing fees. Building our FOIA directory cost hundreds of dollars. I'm sure I'll spend more in the future.
I also pay for SBJ, WSJ, Sportico, Newspapers.com, ESPN+, The Athletic, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and built out a small library of college sports books in my office that I use for reference.
I say all of this to say that when I'm able to sit down and write 1,600 words each day on a sports business or history topic, chances are some real money and time went into that.
Given what I can make from ads, and my true reporting and operational costs, eight bucks is honestly a reflection of what I need to charge to keep the business working. I offer big discounts to college students and institutions, and I occasionally will run sales, but if I lowered the price to, say, four or five dollars, I couldn't afford to do Extra Points. The math doesn't add up.
I say all of this to be very transparent as to why I've made the decisions I've made. In the current media landscape, it's easy for consumers to not understand how things work behind the curtain. That can lead folks to compare my business model to outlets like ESPN or The Athletic, who have the benefit of scale and an established position in the market. Those places are great, but I can't run my business the same way they do.
This isn't a guilt trip or a passive ask for subscriptions, but to help readers be more informed consumers of media. But if you DO want to subscribe now, well,
What were some other big takeaways from the survey?
- For July, we're going to experiment with moving to a four-day-a-week publishing schedule, with two newsletters free, two paid. One bit of feedback we've heard a lot is that readers don't actually have the time to read all five newsletters a week. With July likely to be a "slower" month, we want to see if shifting to four helps my "load management" and allows me to make an extra phone call or two to make the other four newsletters a little deeper.
- Based on your feedback, we're looking into making some other tweaks with Going For Two. Starting in July, we'll move back to a one episode a week publishing schedule. We are also looking into providing a full transcript in the show notes, rather than topic summaries. I know that many of you prefer to read rather than listen, and we're working to make that easier.
- I understand many of you guys are sick of hearing about NIL. I also understand that for many of my readers, NIL is why they subscribe. I can't promise you I'm going to ignore the topic, but I am cognizant of reader burnout. I want to be careful that when I do write about it, I'm doing it differently than the many other stories you're probably bombarded with. If I don't have anything unique to say, I'll try to counterprogram.
- You gave me some GREAT ideas about other things to write about this summer, and I've already sent out some interview requests. I heard a lot of feedback from readers wanting more information on non D-I institutions, Olympic sport and athletic department budgets. I think we can accommodate that! I also heard a lot of feedback asking for more "stupid stuff", which, quite frankly, is my absolute favorite thing to write.
- I sort of accidentally fell into being something of a Serious Professional Journalist, but deep down, what I spiritually wanted to be was something of a Sports Business Journal for people who listen to the Shutdown Fullcast. I think we can do more to reach that calling.
Thanks for reading, everybody. I'll try out the new schedule in July. For other questions, comments, feedback, tips and more, drop me a line at Matt@ExtraPointsMB.com.
Now, I'm gonna take some cough meds and dig into these 78 unread emails.