Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Lucrative World of Sports Blogging

I was reading a post on Cheesehead TV, an excellent Packer blog written by fellow Appletonian Aaron Nagler, in which he published an email from a disgruntled reader who accused him of doing the site purely as “another way to make money.”  The suggestion that anyone would write a sports blog as a way to make money caused an audible guffaw.  Or, in e-speak, a ROTFL.  Maybe even a ROTFLMAO.

I used to be under a similar na├»ve impression.  Just build up a community of loyal readers, and I’d be printing the Benjamins.  But I’ve since learned the cruel reality that the world of sports blogging is far from the glamorous images you see on TV.  There are no paparazzi-lined red carpets, super models pouring Cristal or solid gold urinals here.  Just you, your bare knuckles and a keyboard.  This was quite a dispiriting realization for me, particularly since I’d already burned through a $100K marker at Bellagio and made a down payment on a yacht when I launched TriggPack two years ago.

The TriggPack yacht.  Since Re-possessed.
For those of you still hanging on to your romanticized ideal of the sports blogga's life, let me hit you with a little e-math.  (Note: this used to be called “new math” until some marketing genius discovered everything’s better with an “e” in front of it.  Now they teach things called "number bonds" in grade school, which are part of a liberal Teachers' Union conspiracy to make all parents appear to be complete idiots when assisting their kids with homework.)  I do this as a community service to my fellow Packer fans out there in the blogosphere.  I don’t want young bloggers on the streets to make the same mistakes as me.

If you’ve never worked for a consumer internet company, let me elucidate some of the inner mechanics of how the business works.  For any ad-supported web site, as TriggPack and most other blogs are, there are two main factors that determine how much revenue you make:

  1. How many times people view your blog (referred to in the biz as “Page Views”)
  2. How much money you get for the ads on that page (referred to as an “Ad Rate”)

Revenue = Page Views x Ad Rate


On the first variable, Page Views, I’m pleased to say that TriggPack has been experiencing some healthy growth lately.  Last year, most TriggPack articles were read by approximately 3-4 people, including me.  This year has seen strong month-over-month increases in readership – with many articles now generating over 1,000 Page Views.  Good stuff -- just look at that growth chart!  I’m psyched that a population nearly as big as my high school might be reading what I have to say.  Either that or they were trying to surf porn and accidentally stumbled upon my site.

Variable number two is where things get dicey.  Following the practice of the newspaper industry, Ad Rates for internet sites are typically quoted as “CPM”, which stands for cost per mille – where “mille” equals one thousand impressions (i.e. Page Views).  CPMs on the internet are quite… low.  If you use a partner like, say, Google to serve your ads, you might expect a CPM of around $0.25.  That’s 25 CENTS!  In other words, each time you view an ad on TriggPack, I’m banking 0.025 of a penny.  Cha-ching!!!  If you’re smart, you team up with a vertical ad network, like YardBarker which aggregates sports blogs sites (you may have noticed their ads here at TriggPack), who pays much better – about a $0.79 CPM last time I checked.

Now, you don’t need to be John Nash to figure out that the math of this equation is unfavorable to the blogger.  My 1,000-impression articles I mentioned earlier earn me… about $0.79.  So far this month, I’ve banked $6.83 for the 12 articles I’ve written – about $0.57 per post on average.  Given each article probably takes 2 hours to write, I’m taking in just under $0.30/hour.  Who wouldn’t quit their day job?!?  And you wonder why newspapers are going out of business.

You'll find yourself reaching for the Vicodin if you start contemplating the kind of audience numbers you need to make this a sustainable business.  If I filled Lambeau Field to capacity every day with readers, I’d only bring in $57.77 per day, or $21,086 per year – just below the poverty line for a family of four.  To make this a million-dollar annual business, I’d need to reach 1.26 billion impressions per year.  That’s billion.  With a “B.”  That’s a shitload of Packer fans.

So my realization is that I can’t reach my dream of covering the Packers full-time on advertising revenue alone.  I need to devise some additional revenue models.  Here’s the top 10 list of ideas I have so far:

10) Merchandising – the Packer Pro Shop probably rakes in more on Sunday home games than the ticket booth.  Who wouldn’t want “TriggPack” emblazoned on their hat or shirt?  Check out the new TriggPack online store today!

9) Book deal – I’m already working on a manuscript titled, “My Rise to Blogging Obscurity: The Untold True Story of TriggPack.

8) Billboard sponsorships – I think I can just barely fit a Jumbotron in my front yard, which I can then use to sell placements to big-name advertisers like Shopko and Hillshire Farms.

TriggPack Action Figure in the Mouse Grip
7) Pose-able action figures – What kid doesn’t want to pretend he’s a famous sports blogger??  I've prototyped this version that comes with a patented "mouse grip."

6) Naming rights – If the Redskins can have FedEx Field and the Chargers can have Qualcomm Stadium, why can’t I have the "Bank of America TriggPack blog?"  The URL is available

5) Obscure blogger awareness day – I’m tired of all the diseases, campaigns and causes I’m supposed to be “aware” of.  How about showing your bloggers a little love??  Maybe players could wear swatches of green for the money they’re going to donate to bloggers.

TriggPack Worldwide Headquarters Fan Tour
4) Fan tours – If people will shell out $20/person to tour Lambeau Field, why not a tour of TriggPack headquarters?  See where all the magic happens.  Maybe we could encase particularly noteworthy artifacts.  “Kids – that’s the keyboard that Trigg typed his “What’s a Packer” post on!”

3) Cookbook – For the TriggPack fan who has everything, give him a book of his favorite TriggPack recipes.  From brats to Buffalo rolls, even Thanksgiving turkey it’s all here!

2) Sex scandal – As Brett Favre can attest, nothing gets you publicity like a good old fashioned sex scandal.  I just need to crash my SUV while sending suggestive text messages to Kim Kardashian and I’ll be on TMZ in no time.  I can then parlay that into selling "leaked" photos to Us Magazine.  Does anyone have Kim's cell number?

1) Movie rights – if they can make “The Social Network” then there’s got to be someone champing at the bit to make “The Packer Blog.”  The rights alone should be worth $2-3 million.

If you have other revenue-generating ideas, please post them in the comments below.  Who knows?  Maybe a little more cash flow from some of these, and I’ll discover dreams really can come true.

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