Barstool Sports: The Start-Up Media Company Rapidly Gaining Traction

What Barstool is

Barstoolsports.com is a blog website that is geared towards young males from the ages of roughly 16-35, the longstanding slogan of the company stated as “By the Common Man, for the Common Man”. They sell merchandise as well as cover the most recent viral videos, current events, pop culture, sports, and pretty much anything else that their target audience would be interested in via blogs, online videos, Snapchat stories, and podcasts. Barstool Sports doesn’t just report on what’s viral, they make things go viral. #RIPHarambe and #SaturdaysAreForTheBoys are both very well-known viral internet hashtags/topics popularized by this company within the past 2 months. If you’re talking about it, Barstool Sports has already made a t-shirt about it and sold a large quantity of them.

harambe-tank-top

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Red Sox Outfielder Andrew Benintendi wearing a SAFTB (Saturdays Are For The Boys) t-shirt during warmups

David Portnoy AKA “El Pres” started the company in Boston, purely as a hard-copy newspaper in 2004 until the website was launched in 2007. In 2010, Portnoy cancelled the hard-copy newspapers, hired Kevin Clancy AKA “KFC” from New York City, and the site launched their first branch targeted towards sports fans from an area outside of Boston. Since then, the site has expanded and hired more bloggers from other areas to target readers from Chicago, Philadelphia, DMV, Iowa, BarstoolU (A College themed blog) and their newest branch, Dixie, their first step towards luring in a more southern demographic.

Social Media Following

As of January 2016, barstoolsports.com gets over 8 million unique users on a monthly basis. The @Barstoolsports Instagram account currently has 1.3 million followers. Here’s a few of the Barstool twitter accounts and the amount of followers for each account.

@BarstoolSports: 400k

@StoolPresidente: 300k

@BarstoolBigCat: 226k

@KFCBarstool: 158k

Controversy

Despite the success, there is no doubt that Barstool Sports has had its fair share of controversy throughout the years.

On Super Bowl Media day in 2015, Portnoy told Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick “Moving forward, if you need anybody murdered this next week (lists several names of people who have publicly antagonized the Patriots for Deflategate scandal), I’m your guy. You just tell me who to take out, no questions asked”. This was on live TV during one of the most viewed National TV events of the year.

In March of 2015, the  group of Boston bloggers staged a sit-in protest inside the lobby of the NFL Headquarters in New York City, demanding a meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss Deflategate. They were asked to leave multiple times, refused, and were promptly arrested. Portnoy, a Jewish man himself, has publicly compared the NFL commissioner to Adolf Hitler on multiple occasions. Barstool Sports has not been able to get media passes for any NFL events since this happened.

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Barstool employees being escorted out of the NFL Headquarters.

 

Notable Former Employees

While the Barstool Sports empire has grown exponentially throughout the years, it hasn’t been without a few notable employees using the company to establish credibility and jump-start their own careers before leaving to chase more lucrative endeavors. Here’s a few examples

Name Maurice Peebles

Most Prominent Social Media Profile @Tallmaurice on Twitter

Notable Accolades Current Deputy Editor of Complex Sports

 

Name Jenna Mourney AKA “Jenna Marbles”

Most Prominent Social Media Profile https://www.youtube.com/user/JennaMarbles/featured

Notable Accolades 2.1 Billion total YouTube views, 16.4 million subscribers

 

Name Jerry Thornton

Most Prominent Social Media Profile @Jerrythornton1 on Twitter

Notable Accolades Current Radio Personality for WEEI Radio, Appeared in HBO’s Emmy Award-winning short film “Curse of the Bambino”

 

Popularity Among Professional Athletes

It’s no secret Barstool Sports is extremely popular among professional athletes. There have been hundreds of guest appearances from professional athletes on the site’s multiple media platforms from the NFL, NHL, MLB, and NBA. In 2013, when the site’s traffic was about 50% of what it is now, San Jose Sharks Center Logan Couture stated If you polled all the players in the [National Hockey League], I’d say 25 percent of them read Barstool”.

 

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Here is a picture of @BarstoolBigCat who is the head Chicago personality of the website (back row, plaid shirt) with the Chicago Blackhawks on Wrigley field the day after they won the Stanley Cup as they take the team photo with an additional few players from the Chicago Cubs.

The Business Side of the Company

Merchandise-Barstool Sports gets a large portion of their revenue from distributing merchandise such as t-shirts, coozies, hats, etc. relating to the latest events and trends in sports, viral internet sensations, and pop culture all over the country.

Product endorsements/advertisements on their videos, podcasts, and blogs each generate hundreds of thousands of views on a daily basis. Out of the top 100 sports podcasts available via the Apple App Store, Barstool Sports is in charge of 3 of them (Most notably Pardon My Take currently ranking at #7). Some of Pardon My Take’s notable guest appearances include Martin Shkreli, AJ Green, Blake Griffin, Dontrell Willis, and Landon Donovan.

The Chernin Group headed by Venture capitalist Peter Chernin purchased a 51% stake in the company in January of 2016 for an undisclosed amount between $10 and $15 million. Peter Chernin currently sits on the boards of Twitter, Pandora, American Express, and several other companies.

The Future

Since 2010, the site has more than quintupled their monthly users. In August of 2016, the company changed their headquarters from their original location in Milton, Massachusetts (My hometown) to New York City. This is the first time that all the bloggers from the multiple different areas will be working under the same roof. With the newfound partnership/funding from the Chernin Group, I don’t see this company slowing down its growth any time soon.

 

 

Sources

http://fortune.com/2016/01/07/the-story-of-how-barstool-sports-got-sold/

http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2010/11/david-portnoy-profile-is-this-really-bostons-next-media-mogul/

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/229401

https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2015/05/12/barstool-sports-employees-arrested-during-sit-in-at-nfl-offices

 

 

 

6 comments

  1. Learned something new-never knew about this company. Sports fans are devoted, so why not make a unique business targeting them? The popularity of their podcasts and blogs is probably difficult to understand for someone not as enthusiastic about spectating as the writers. 8M unique users/month is stunning. What do you think is their secret sauce?
    Thanks for informing me …

    1. The thing that I believe separates them from other media outlets is their lack of desire to be politically correct. The typical formalities in other other sources of media are nonexistent with this company. At times, they’re crude, they’re blunt, and may even offend people. They talk about topics as if they’re not being recorded. They really do stand by the creed of their company “By the Common Man, For the Common Man”.

  2. francoismba · ·

    It was great to learn more about this company as I’ve heard people reference it several times. I found it interesting that Barstool employees went to such great lengths in order to secure interviews. However, do you think this was just a ploy to gain readers and fans? I’m sure the employees’ protests made social media headlines and drove readers to their blog.

    1. They had a substantial following before they protested or signed the deal with the Chernin group. Up until that point, a majority of their notable guests were just fans of the site and would ask Barstool if they could come on for a guest appearance. It wasn’t until after they signed that deal that they began to have a steady stream of high profile guests who didn’t follow the site closely. It definitely doesn’t hurt their chances of gaining new readers though.

  3. Huge fan of the stool, and awesome to see you covering them here on the blog. I believe the future for Barstool is limitless with the Chernin group backing them now. Before it was just Pres and the guys working out of a small office in Milton with no real infrastructure or idea of how the business works (ie the DraftKings deal). But, now that they have so heavy VC hitters in their back pocket and a state of the art office in NYC, the content they will produce will start being of more regularity and higher quality. Can’t wait to see what the future holds for the site, or in typical Barstool fashion if everything just crashes and burns.

  4. I’m also a huge Barstool fan, especially the “Pardon my take,” which seems to take a slightly less offensive tone overall and is something I can feel okay listening to at work…

    It’s been super interesting to see their advertising and advertising partners develop over the years. Even just a few years ago, major brands were unwilling to align themselves with a brand that prides themselves on saying what they want regardless of the backlash. Over the last couple years though, and especially after the acquisition, I’ve now started to see ads from major brands such as Amazon’s Audible. They’ve clearly taken on a more professional tone on the business side, along with maintaining the content that appeals to their 50% viewership by the very sought after 21-34 male demographic (see for details: https://marketing.barstoolsports.com/).

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