State of the Union
It’s that time of year again. Yup, it’s time for El Presidente to write another State Of The Union article. Just as a reminder, the reason I write these things is because I view our readers as part of the Barstool Sports family (Lame right?). Many Stoolies have been with us a long time and have gone out of their way to help support us. Therefore, I feel like it’s my responsibility to keep everybody in the loop as to what is happening with us, whether it is good or bad. So without further ado, here is where we are at and what El Presidente is thinking.
As many people know, Barstool Sports threw a March Madness Party this past Friday at The Place. The party started at noon, which meant that people would have to take a day off from work in order to attend the festivities. This was the second year in a row that we hosted a March Madness event. The first year we did it at Cityside Bar and Grille in Cleveland Circle. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the first party was an unmitigated disaster. The total attendance was 2. That includes me and The First Lady. I was so embarrassed by the turnout that I actually zipped my jacket up so nobody could see I was wearing an Ugly Shirt and know that I worked for Barstool Sports. That day was one of the darkest days of my life. However, after this past Friday all those memories have been erased. I feel like Steve Young must have felt after he won the Super Bowl and awkwardly removed the monkey from his back. While the 1st Barstool Sports March Madness Party was an unmitigated disaster the 2nd one was an unparalleled success. I’m happy to report that there were at least 125 people in attendance and probably more. I’ll guarantee that The Place was the only bar that was filled with heavy drinkers at 1pm on Friday afternoon. The reason the turnout was so encouraging is fairly obvious. I’ve always believed that Barstool Sports has the best and most loyal readers in the city. I consistently tell our advertisers that if they do something with us, our readers will try and support their ads because they feel connected to The Stool. We still may not have the biggest circulation or biggest readership but we have the most active and connected readers. And the fact that we could draw 125 people on a Friday afternoon with no prizes or giveaways proves this point. Do you really think if somebody saw an ad in the Boston Sports Review, [email protected] or Improper Bostonian they’d feel compelled to go to the party because of the publication? No freaking way. The reason why Barstool Sports has survived this long, and continues to grow is because of reader support. The party proved this point. As a side note, before the party started, I secretly told the First Lady that if only 10 people showed up I was quitting the paper.
In addition to the March Madness Party, The Stool has scored some victories in the technology arena over the past few months. First was the advent of the Barstool Sports message board. Apparently I had the ability to put this thing online all along and just never knew this option was available. Thank god I figured it out because it has been wildly successful. Our message board is the perfect place for people to kill time while working. It basically covers everything the paper does which is sports, entertainment and gambling. The message board has been invaluable in helping strengthen and build Stoolie Nation. I’d say that 80% of the people at the March Madness Party were active message board guys and gals. (Yup, we have a few female stoolies as well if you can believe that.)
The second major technological breakthrough is the format of the actual website. And we owe this all to a transplanted Stoolie. A guy by the name of Ian White contacted us after he moved from Boston because he was getting so frustrated trying to read our PDF’s online. Basically Ian said screw it and took it upon himself to build us a whole new link-based system for free so he could read the paper more easily. The results are astounding and the increase in website traffic has really been mind boggling since the switch. El Presidente can’t say enough good things about Ian. I’ve had a few people try to help me with the website before and Ian is by far the best. If I could hire him full time I’d do it in a second. But that will have to wait until I pay my gambling debts and can pay myself a salary. Anyway, in the mean time Ian is trying to start his own web design company so if you ever need any work done in the future I HIGHLY recommend him. His email address is [email protected]
Finally the last technological triumph is the daily Random Thoughts email which is back in action. In case you have been living in a closet, I’ve been sending out a small version of Random Thoughts to people Monday through Friday. Essentially I was forced to shut this down at one point because the list became too huge and our web hosting company started considering it spam. It only took me 3 months to figure out I could sign up with an email marketing company to make it go live again. The reason why the email blast is so important is because it’s the easiest way for new people to find out about the paper and become part of it. Our readers are loyal to begin with so if everybody just gets one new person a week to sign up for random thoughts, the growth will continue to be unbelievable. I can’t stress how important this is to our survival. The hardest obstacle we face is still getting new readers to pick up the paper for the first time. Since we can’t afford to advertise, we are completely dependent on our readers spreading the word about The Stool. This email blast is an easy and great way to do it. Don’t be afraid to sign up your friends and enemies without even telling them. I can always take people off the list if they hate it. So far only one guy has reported us to the spam police and my guess is that he is a loser.
On to the next subject that I always complain about: our lack of advertising. I’m happy to report that as we approach our two year anniversary, advertisers are starting to notice us. We just signed up our first beer company which is a major victory for us. We’ve been chasing the beer companies from Day 1 here. It seems like a fairly obvious fit right? I mean the name of the paper is Barstool Sports for god’s sakes. Anyway, I’m psyched to report that Miller Lite will be coming on board in the beginning of April. From now on you will not catch El Presidente drinking anything but Miller Lite. Also, we are starting to get some local support from bars around Boston. An Tua Nua, The Hill, The Place, and Phoenix Landing have all jumped on the Barstool Sports express and are very happy with the results. What we are finding out is that we have much better success with bars where the people who make the decisions actually work in the bar. The reason is because they get to see how quickly copies of Barstool Sports move compared to other publications. I’m not exaggerating when I say that 85% of the bars we deliver to all say that people read us first and talk about us the most. The problem is when we have to deal with the corporate offices of companies like the Glynn Hospitality Group, Briar Group, Summers Pubs and the Lyons Group’s of the world. It seems like they own 97% of the bars in Boston and we still can’t get those guys on the phone. Hopefully, one day that will change but until then I’ll continue to support and hang out in only the places that support us. Yes, that limits my social circles, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
And now on to the issues that keep El Presidente up at night. The major issue that I continue to deal with at The Stool is cash flow concerns. I started this paper roughly two years ago. In my mind, The Stool is way ahead of schedule in terms of what anybody could rationally expect when starting something like this with no money. I just didn’t think ahead so I had no idea what to expect. As I’ve said a million times, I really had no clue what I was doing or getting myself into. If I knew then what I know now, I never would have tried to start a newspaper. You’d have to be an idiot. I’ve caught so many lucky breaks along the way that it is a virtual miracle the paper has made it this far. Despite the fact that I am very proud of the paper and think it has taken an act of god just to get it this far, the bottom-line is that the paper doesn’t make enough money for me to live on. It is slightly profitable but every penny I make either goes to Macaroni and Cheese or back into the paper. The printing bill is like an insatiable freaking monster. The fact that I’m dead broke is probably the hardest thing to deal with on a day to day basis. I’m rapidly approaching 30 years old and have more debt than you can imagine. As a side note, I’ve learned the hard way that gambling is not the answer to debt problems. In fact, it tends to make things 300 times worse. Anyway, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t get worried about the fact that I’m dead freaking broke and spending all my time working on something that still may not work. The problem is that I just can’t tell. As I mentioned earlier, the paper is way ahead of schedule and continues to grow at a steady rate. People seem to love the thing and I really think it will explode somewhere down the line. But that day probably isn’t in the immediate future. My best guess is that I won’t be able to really earn a living from The Stool for at least another 4 years. For the short term it will continue to be a daily war trying to make rent and get more advertisers on board while keeping the quality of the paper high. But as Ed from Easton said “you’re born poor and you die poor.” I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, but it is depressing to think that all this work could still end up for not.
Because of the money headaches I have recently been flirting with the idea of getting an investor on board. Of course, this is easier said than done, although it nearly came to pass several weeks ago. Some people may remember that around Christmas I wrote an article which was entitled “Barstool Sports Christmas Wish List.” Well one of the things on the list was an Angel Investor. A loyal stoolie who worked in an investment firm read the article and handed it to a partner in the firm. Next thing you knew I was on the fast track for cash. I honestly thought the deal was going to go down for quite a while. I probably met with the firm about 5-7 times over the course of a month. In reality they were kind of jerking me around, but I didn’t realize that till the end. The moral of the story is that it made me think more about the investor possibility. I still don’t know how the Stoolies would react if we suddenly had money. After all, I always make fun of the Boston Sports Review for the fact they tried to run me out of town with slick merchandise, fast talking sales guys and loads of money. I don’t know what I’d do if somebody offered to pay my debt and give me a job as the CEO of The Stool. I kind of feel like Barstool Sports is my baby and I know what is best for it, but it is a question I wrestle with every day. Who knows?
The bottom line is that right now I’m very happy with the way Barstool Sports is going in terms of content and readership. I really think we have an excellent group of writers. I honestly think our paper is the best free publication available despite the typos and grammatical errors. I also think we’ve created a great base of readers that continues to grow. What other paper can claim to have a community of people like the Stoolies? Unfortunately despite how much progress we’re making it still doesn’t seem like it matters for lots of advertisers. I feel like we could have 500,000 people reading us and the Briar Group still wouldn’t pay us any attention. Really the only thing left to do is stay the course and continue to try and build our readership and break into more companies like Miller Lite. Regardless of what happens, I appreciate everybody’s support and know we wouldn’t be anywhere without it. And I can say confidently that The Stool isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.