All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday and today is my birthday. I’m officially 39. Yep, this is my final year before I enter the 40’s.

And I think this year is the going to be the biggest one yet for Outkick. I’ve got a new book coming out in September and I’m planning Outkick the Weekend, the first year of what I hope will become an annual event, in Las Vegas.

Right now we are planning it for August 24th and 25th in Las Vegas.

I’ll let you know when you can begin to sign up for that weekend and more details surrounding that event, but my plan is to have speakers and cool events. I think we will sell out on it pretty fast and we will do a reduced rate presale for Outkick VIP members. So you will actually save money and guarantee yourself a spot if you sign up for Outkick VIP today. (In fact, it’s possible that the Outkick VIP members, if they act fast, may gobble up all the tickets and we never even offer tickets to the general public.)

So stay tuned to my Twitter feed and the website if you don’t want to miss it. Or go sign up for Outkick VIP and you’ll find out the first moment you can sign up.

With that in mind, let’s dive into the mailbag:

Rob writes:

“Great show man. What advice would you give to someone just getting started with a podcast, and trying to grow their audience and brand, into something like what you have going on?”

 

I get questions like these all the time because people believe I have some sort of magic elixir to sprinkle and guarantee that boom, you suddenly have an audience and will be able to make a living doing what I do.

The reality is this, there is no great secret: I have worked incredibly hard and my timing was very fortunate. When I started writing online in 2004 the sports blogosphere hadn’t really begun yet and there was no social media. The market was relatively young and I attacked it.

You can’t ever control timing, fortunate or otherwise, — nor could I control that the SEC began a run of dominance in 2006 that led to it being the center of the college football universe — but what you can control is hard work.

You also have to be smart about finding a market and serving it, especially when you are just starting out. Early on I wrote a ton about Tennessee football, but I knew I didn’t just want to write about Tennessee football for the rest of my life.

So I eventually expanded that to SEC football.

When I wrote “Dixieland Delight” in the fall of 2006 — published in 2007 — I basically stamped the conference as my footprint. But go back and read “Dixieland Delight,” I didn’t get a single media credential or have any access that every person reading this mailbag this morning couldn’t have gotten. I slept on friend’s couches, bought tickets on the street for the games, the entire purpose of that book was to write about the SEC from a fan’s perspective.

Yes, I wrote that book, but millions of other SEC fans could have done it too.

But they didn’t and I did.

What I have always had is the courage of my convictions. Lots of people have ideas and don’t act on them, I had the idea and did it.

There are tons of smart, funny, hard working people out there in the country. But the vast majority of them won’t actually do the work. They’ll have the idea, but they’ll get discouraged along the way and quit. Pretty much every week for 15 years now I’ve shown up and done the work.

Do you know how many other people have?

Not a single person that I’m aware of.

As a result of my start in SEC football and subsequent years writing about it — which just came out of an abiding passion for Southern college football — eventually there was no one in the South who has a bigger audience for combined written content and listenership than I do. Frankly, I’m not even sure who a close second is. (Paul Finebaum has a big radio audience — and he’s a good friend of mine — but he doesn’t write. Other than the two of us who is even mentionable in this discussion?)

But I’m not just a Tennessee guy and I’m not just an SEC guy either, I’ve continued to expand the reach of Outkick through radio, Periscope, Facebook and this site. Now the most popular articles I write are either the anonymous mailbag or sports media and business columns. And I can produce as big of an audience talking about Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels as I can the Tennessee football coaching search.

Now I’ve got one of the biggest national radio show audiences in the country, the biggest daily sports Periscope and Facebook show — people may laugh at this, but it’s the future — and a thriving business in general. Now it’s just the biggest audience in the South, I have the biggest audience in the nation for anyone who writes and does radio.

And, again, there isn’t even a close second in the entire nation.

That’s because most writers don’t also do radio full time. But I’ve always tried to expand what I’m doing ever since I first established a niche in writing in a humorous fashion about Tennessee football.

So my advice whether you’re doing a podcast or writing on the Internet or trying to break into sports in general would be to find a niche you’re passionate about and serve that audience. Then, if you have success serving that audience, start to expand that niche by moving into subjects connected to it.

That’s what I did and I think that works no matter the subject.

Essentially, find an area that you can be an expert in and be better at writing or talking about that than anyone else.

Then work as hard as you can and don’t worry about the size of your audience for several years.

And also remember that I worked for years and years without making any substantial sums of money doing what I do now. I mean, just grinding away non-stop trying to produce daily content for an audience that literally started at zero.

All for no pay.

You can’t expect immediate results at all.

Now I’m fortunate to be making good money, but I had to invest years where I made nothing to get to here. And, frankly, I always wondered if I’d ever get here at all. Most people, honestly, won’t invest years of labor with an uncertain economic return. If you’re willing to do that then there are still opportunities everywhere.

My final bit of advice would be this — don’t compare your start to other people’s finish. I feel like it’s easy to do this, to compare your career or your efforts at inception with other people who have already “succeeded.” You don’t do this in sports. So why would you do it in sports media? You should expect for people who have 15 or 20 years of a head start to be way better than you are. And you should expect their audience to be way bigger than yours too.

Don’t worry about them at all.

Just put your head down and grind.

And remember, you’re reading a guy who wrote his first book and showed up at a book signing and not one single person was there.

Almost every single person who has achieved any measure of success has experienced something like this — a book signing or comedy club or music performance where there was literally no one who showed up to see you. Very few people become overnight successes. It may seem that way, but the truth is the grind doesn’t get the attention. Most people have spent years — or decades — of quiet apprenticeship before anyone sees what they are doing and recognizes their talent.

Finally, you should never believe you’ve made it either. When you get comfortable is when you stop getting better. I don’t rest on my laurels. I’m grinding away on a new book this year, two years ago I added early morning radio, and last year we launched Outkick VIP.

Late this summer we’re going to have our first Outkick the Weekend.

Every morning my alarm goes off at 4:15. How many people out there do you know who are willing to get up at 4:15 every day to do their jobs? Most aren’t.

If you’re the kind of person who is seeking a destination rather than a journey, this kind of life isn’t for you. But if you love the grind then get to work. Time spent asking for advice is time better spent getting better at whatever you do.

Steve writes:

“I wonder how many people were inadvertently watching ESPN on Thursday/Friday morning thinking they were going to be watching Masters coverage and ended up watching WokeCenter instead?

I have a waiting room and normally i don’t have the tv on ESPN but I changed it to ESPN in the morning so people waiting can see intermittent golf before the coverage begins. I didn’t want to forget to change it later in the day.

I think whatever ratings they get for Thursday and Friday need to be lowered to factor in masters coverage.

And BTW— why can’t all the players entire rounds be on TV? I can’t watch tony finau until coverage starts later? Isn’t this 2018?”

On the first three days of WokeCenter AM the audience looked like this: Monday, 283k viewers, Tuesday, 243k viewers, Wednesday, 198k viewers.

That’s a disaster, the worst debut of a new show for ESPN this century.

Nearly half of the audience abandoned this show so far this week compared to how many people watched SportsCenter last year. It’s an epic disaster and now the question is how low will they go? Have we seen the floor or could it get worse?

The ratings did pop back up a bit to between Tuesday and Wednesday on Thursday morning because Masters overall ratings on ESPN were up 35% with the return of Tiger.

I’m sure that shoulder programming will help ESPN’s ratings all day.

And I’m with you, the fact that every shot of the Masters is not televised is insanity.

But back to audience, I think we’re in an era when total viewers matter much less than intensity of viewer support. For instance, I have nearly 600k people who follow me on Twitter. Of those 600k, how many are real people with only one account? I have no idea. Of those 600k how many people love what I do? I have no idea. Of those 600k how many hate what I do? I have no idea.

Now I can see how many people immediately click through on the site to watch what I do on Periscope or Facebook or how many click through to read my articles — and I know those numbers are substantial — and that’s important data to have, but the most important thing is how many can I directly monetize through Outkick merchandise, VIP sales, book sales, and the like?

I think that’s the future of Internet content, direct monetization from brands of their fans.

I know the answer on that now — tens of thousands of you have been willing to spend money on Outkick products.

And isn’t that what really matters for any business? Not the total number of people who pay some attention to what I’m doing, but the total number of people who love what I am doing and are willing to support Outkick with direct money spent on our content.

That’s what I’m focused on in 2018, unlocking the Outkick audience and monetizing them directly.

I think that’s what Internet media has missed — when you just focus on total numbers, you’re missing the engagement levels, which is what actually matters. McDonald’s doesn’t care how many people come to their restaurants, they care how many people come to their restaurants and buy something inside.

In fact, if McDonald’s found out that only a tiny percentage of people who came into their stores were actually willing to buy things there, wouldn’t they change the way they did business? They certainly wouldn’t build the business around trying to serve people advertisements while they were standing in the restaurant.

Yet that’s what the Internet has done.

The entire website traffic counting debacle — and the advertising industry in general relying on this data — has resulted in a misguided fixation on total numbers that they’ve used those as a proxy for quality of numbers. The reality is this — there’s a difference between quantity of viewers and quality of viewers, just like there’s a difference between people who drive by McDonald’s and those that buy hamburgers.

I love everyone who spends their time on Outkick, but I REALLY love the people who spend their time and money on Outkick. I’m focusing on the latter in 2018, not the former.

Ben writes:

“Can you please comment on when Stephen A Smith said, “Josh Rosen would prefer New York over Cleveland because of the Jewish community?” What would happen if a white sports commentator said a black athlete would prefer Atlanta over Minnesota or Green Bay? A Hispanic person wanting LA over Portland for soccer? Or any other race/religion comments that would go nuclear if this was not a black sports analyst commenting about this.”

I thought Doug Gottlieb had the most interesting comment here — he said he believed Josh Rosen was an atheist.

Which would make Stephen A. Smith’s comments even more nonsensical.

But even if Rosen weren’t an atheist and was a devout Jew instead there are a ton of Jewish people in Cleveland too. It’s not like he’s being sent to China to play football.

So I didn’t think Stephen A. Smith’s comments here were offensive, I just thought they were very dumb.

It makes me wonder if he bounced this idea off the First Take producers and staff before he said it on air. I would almost guarantee you there are Jewish people working on his show. Did none of them feel like they could speak up and point out how dumb this comment was?

The New York Giants may well be a better fit for any quarterback in the country than the Cleveland Browns. That’s because the Giants have historically been a highly successful NFL franchise and the Browns have been awful. Regardless of your religion, wouldn’t most of us rather work for a successful company than an unsuccessful one?

As for the racial dynamic applied in other contexts, I don’t know that it’s necessarily that controversial, I think it’s more dumb than racist. For instance, if Cam Newton were an NFL free agent, would it be racist to say that Cam, who is from Atlanta, might like playing in a city with more black people like Atlanta than in Green Bay or Minnesota where there are no black people? I don’t think that’s racist; I think there are lots of people who choose to live places where the people are like them. Hell, look around your neighborhood. Most neighborhoods in America are filled with people of the same educational levels, races, and incomes.

We all self-select, to some degree, to surround ourselves with people who are like us. And if you’re not doing it in your neighborhood look at your spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend. Odds are you have similar educational backgrounds. There aren’t very many Harvard Law grads married to gas station attendants.

But in the example above my advice to Cam, or anyone else, would be to look beyond the types of people in the city and pick the place that’s paying you the most money and offers you the best chance to win a title. Any other factor should be secondary.

At some point quality of life factors in for all of us, but that shouldn’t be much of a consideration for an athlete, who will have a relatively short career and can then live anywhere for the rest of his life.

Now, for me, I say all the time if I were a top high school athlete I’d never go to the Big Ten because I wouldn’t want to go live in crappy weather for four years. In fact, if you were trying to get me to move right now, you’d have to pay me much more to move to Minnesota than you would to move to Miami. That’s just a reality.

In fact, you’d have to pay me a lot more money to leave Nashville than you would for me to stay here.

That’s because we love our life here.

Now is there an amount of money that I’d move my family for? Certainly.

Is it way less money than I would have moved myself for back when I was 25? Of course.

But now I’m 39 years old and I’m going to dive out of the mailbag and go kick back and celebrate becoming nearly forty by watching the Masters.

Thanks for your support of Outkick and I hope all of you have great weekends.

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