So how badly did the NCAA mess up this March?

The latest Going For Two talks about NCAA TV contracts, the Women's Tournament, a potential NCAA split and more

Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.

Before we get into today’s news, I’d like to share a quick announcement from an Extra Points sponsor, The University of Texas Sport Management Program.

Join sports industry professionals, academics, and students worldwide as they discuss current trends and the future of the sports industry at the inaugural Playing the Long Game conference presented by The University of Texas Sport Management Program.

YOU are invited to join panel discussions on the immediate and long-term impact of COVID-19, innovation, and the long-term future of the industry, diversity, and culture and ethics in the workplace.

The event kicks off on Monday April 12th, with a keynote conversation featuring former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and will continue on the 13th and 15th.

For a complete list of panelists and sessions, as well as free registration, please see our website: https://longgameconference.com/

I plan on checking that conference out myself, and I think many of you would enjoy the discussions as well.

If you want to listen to folks talk about existential questions of the college athletics industry, but aren’t sure if you can make that conference, good news!

We have another episode of Going For Two!

In today’s episode, I chat with my co-host, Bryan Fischer, about some of the biggest off-the-court storylines from the early rounds of both NCAA basketball tournaments. This conversation covers:

  • A closer look at the Flutie Effect, and what impacts just how much “value” a school can derive from all that media attention.

  • Whether the outcry over the massive equity issues between the men’s and women’s basketball tournament will be the catalyst for substantial change.

  • Why we had those equity issues in the first place.

  • Whether Mark Emmert and NCAA leadership really screwed up the TV deals for the men’s and women’s tournaments, and what that would mean for NCAA institutions.

  • And more!

Going For Two is absolutely free, and meant to supplement this newsletter. You can download it wherever you get your podcasts. If you enjoy it, boy, I think it’d be swell if you shared that podcast with your buddies, or maybe gave the podcast a nice rating and a nice review. That helps other folks find the podcast.

I didn’t get a chance to read this story before we recorded, but I think it dovetails nicely with what Bryan and I were talking about.

Apparently, most athletic directors really don’t like Mark Emmert

Yahoo Sports published a story on Tuesday that openly wondered if Mark Emmert had messed up so badly that now he’d finally lose his job, as large swaths of athletic administrations are very frustrated with him.

Yahoo Sports spoke to multiple commissioners who estimated that there’s at least an 85% disapproval of the job Emmert is doing among college commissioners. Among Division I athletic directors, his support is about the same. And those estimates are considered conservative. All are quick to point out that his job is hard and thankless because it lacks unilateral power, but there’s a consistent message that they want more for the $2.7 million he was paid in the last reported year.

The story also wondered if perhaps this could be one of the catalysts that pushed power football programs to eventually leave the NCAA completely.

This is a popular offseason column idea, but I think that would be highly unlikely, even now, with so much discontent among NCAA membership. The biggest reason gets to the very heart of the column…presidential control.

I’m not surprised that most athletic directors and conference commissioners are highly frustrated with Emmert and other NCAA administrators. The organization has failed to effectively manage the NIL issue, and now various statehouses and attorneys are leading the charge. It’s possible that the television deals for many events, including the basketball tournaments, are undervalued. And hey, whenever something goes wrong, reporters call up the athletic directors and the conference leaders and ask them nosy questions.

But while athletic directors and senior athletic officials are critically important to the day to day operation of athletic departments, the NCAA is run by university presidents. And Yahoo is correct to point out that this can be a cause of real frustration, since university presidents are generally not trained to manage athletics, and have to spend most of their time on issues that have nothing to do with athletics. They should spend their time on stuff that doesn’t have to do with athletics! Budgets for things like medical research centers dwarfs that of even the largest athletic departments.

Splitting away from the NCAA doesn’t really solve that conundrum. Even if you take all of the P5 institutions and a handful of others away and create their own special organization, well, the presidents are almost certainly still in charge! They’d just end up creating another NCAA, unless presidents decide to dismiss any remaining vestige of amateur athletics and go to a full fledged semi-pro model. And if that was on the table, shoot, why not just do that now?

I get why administrators are upset. I don’t think NCAA central leadership has done a good job either. But the power to change that rests with leaders at the local level…and if the schools aren’t capable of demanding and executing change, I’m not sure why we should expect better outcomes if they ditch Emmert and replace him with another haircut that answers to the same people.

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If you enjoyed this newsletter, or other Extra Points newsletters, please consider supporting this operation with a paid subscription. You can get a year’s worth of newsletters for just $70, or a month by month subscription for seven bucks. I also hear rumors that if you listen to various podcasts, there might be a few discount codes floating around. Can’t confirm. But that’s the rumor.

If you’d like to sponsor future Extra Points newsletters or podcasts, the rates are more affordable than you’d think! Drop me a line at sales@ExtrapointsMB.com.

For article ideas, story feedback, FOIA requests, booking inquiries or anything else, I’m at Matt@ExtraPointsMB.com or @MattBrownEP on Twitter.

Quick reminder. I am taking next week off. I’m going to take some time to work on a few business things, work on the sequel to the Where In the World Is the Civil ConFLiCT Trophy, and just reset my brain for a few days. I’ll publish another paywalled newsletter this week and then see you again on April 12. Thanks for understanding!

One year in, here's how Extra Points is doing

What's working, what isn't working, what I HOPE happens, and what to expect next.

Good morning, and thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.

I’ve got a very cool sponsor message and some editorial announcements at the bottom of this newsletter, so stick around until the end.

But first, I want to give everybody an update.

Every quarter or so, I’ve been sharing financial data on how Extra Points is doing. I think that sort of transparency is useful for my readers, potential freelancers, business partners, and an industry that is badly trying to figure out how to get away from display ad-driven publishing platforms. Newsletters are in, but we’re all still mostly trying to figure out how to make this all work.

In a few weeks, Extra Points will hit one year as a paid product, and two years as a newsletter. In that spirit, I wanted to take a few minutes to share a status report about this whole operation, and talk a bit about what I’d like to do next.

So how is Extra Points doing financially?

As of March 28, Extra Points has 4,621 free subscribers and 714 paid subscribers.

According to Substack, that comes out to a little over $50,000 a year in annualized revenue from subscriptions. When you add in revenue from merch, book sales and sponsorships, my annualized revenue is slightly over $53,000. My goal is to hit $60,000 by the end of 2021, and while that might be a stretch, I think it’s at least possible.

As far as other key metrics, a typical open rate for a free newsletter varies from 38-43% and 44-56% for a paid newsletter. CTR varies from 6-15% per email. Churn is typically under 3.5%.

When I look at these figures and charts, I see good news and bad news.

What’s the good news?

Extra Points is profitable! That’s pretty good, right?

I’m intellectually aware that it’s a real accomplishment to build a profitable small media business in a year. That it happened while I was stuck in my basement, working in the middle of a global pandemic, and while in-person elementary school wasn’t really offered, feels like a big deal.

What’s the bad news?

I’m not sure that topline financial data tells the whole story.

For one, that $50K isn’t all profit. Big picture, the margins on a newsletter are still pretty good, but there are non-trivial expenses. I’ve had to pay for expensive internet upgrades to accommodate Zoom First Grade, Extra Points and my wife working from home, all at the same time. I just had to replace my laptop, and I imagine I’ll need to make other technical updates this year. I read a lot to make Extra Points, and subscriptions to various newspapers, trade journals and archival systems add up. Substack takes 10% of my revenue, and Stripe takes another 2-3%.

I also spent a fair amount of money trying to grow my audience. Newsletters can be highly profitable if you’re already famous, but I’m not famous. I’m not even in the top five most famous Matt Browns. So I’ve had to spend money on advertising, sales support, growing my professional network, and on really understanding my analytics data. While I anticipate those costs will go down in 2021, they won’t drop to zero.

There’s also cashflow concerns. I wish that subscription growth followed a linear or at least a predictable pattern, but it doesn’t. I made roughly 20% of my revenue last year within three weeks of launch, so renewal season in a few weeks is going to be a big deal for me. I might go three weeks with virtually no growth, then add $1,000 in revenue over a weekend. The site has grown every month, and growth is still outstripping churn, but this pattern can make budgeting a challenge.

Still, that’s more good news than bad, in my humble opinion.

What are the short-term goals for Extra Points over the next few months?

Last quarter, I wanted to focus on diversifying revenue streams, starting a podcast, and improving the infrastructure of this business. That mostly worked! I am optimistic about my ability to sell more ads over the next few months, Going For Two has published ten episodes and is growing, and I have more potential sources and a deeper sales pipeline.

For the next few months, here’s what I want to focus on.

Sustainability.

I have to be honest with you: I’m absolutely exhausted.

Under conventional circumstances, I think I’ve written quite a bit. I’ve written over 150 newsletters over the last 11 or so months, which would be over 300,000 words. I suspect that I’ve written more than most other single-author newsletters.

I’ve also been working as a sales director. And an audience engagement editor. And I’ve been speaking to classrooms. Helping other reporters with their FOIA requests. Doing consulting. All while being interrupted every 40 minutes to solve a school problem or chase a two-year-old from my Twitter account or to force my brain to work when I want a nap and eat Popeye’s.

I’m burning out!

That’s not good for you, since burned out Matt doesn’t produce interesting content. And it’s not good for me, for obvious reasons.

I’m taking next week off, and moving forward, I’m really going to focus on ways to make running Good Spot Publishing LLC more streamlined. I’m going to really focus on figuring out what business tasks I can outsource, and how I can tweak this product to make it more sustainable. I love doing it, but I can’t sustain exactly what I’ve been doing under these circumstances.

A new website

Extra Points is a newsletter, but it’s also more than a newsletter. It’s a Discord chat room. It’s a podcast. It’s merch sales. And in 2021, it might become even more things, from video to consulting to computer games.

I plan on creating an honest-to-goodness website this quarter so everything in the Extra Points universe can live in one place. I want to make it easier for you to search the Extra Points archives, talk to each other, buy discount subscriptions, chat on the phone, and anything else. I hope to have this ready this summer.

I also plan on tweaking the core functionality of this newsletter. I want to have a referral program that wasn’t as clunky as the last system. I want to tweak the design a little bit. That may very well mean that I leave Substack. I haven’t completely decided yet, but hey, if you run a different newsletter service, I’d be happy to talk to you.

I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew. Other than those two goals, this quarter is also about operational excellence, and building the best newsletter experience possible. None of this other stuff matters if I’m not giving you something you want to read.

What about long-term goals?

Now that we’re a year into this experiment, I think there are three possible ways this can all go.

One ending? I sell Extra Points. I didn’t start this newsletter looking to cash out, and that’s not why I continue to work on it. But I am also very aware of exactly what I am good at, and what I am not good at, and if I could sell off my ownership so somebody else can take over the stuff I’m not good at, then I think it would create a better product for everybody. I’ve had several conversations about selling Extra Points, and I’m happy to have others.

Another ending? I grow my revenue enough for me to hire somebody to help me with the stuff I’m not good at. I only want to do this if I can offer enough to pay to pay grown-up wages, help with health insurance, and do this properly. Right now, I’m not at that point. But if I grew large enough for me to either hire somebody to help write the dang thing or help grow it, I’d love to do that too.

The third possibility is that this is just as good as it gets, and Extra Points can’t grow any larger or add additional functionality. I plan to do everything I possibly can to avoid that outcome, but if that’s the truth, I’ll pivot accordingly.

I really like Extra Points. Is there anything else I can do to help support it?

I’m glad you like it! I love making it!

The best way to support Extra Points is to subscribe. Paid subscriptions pay almost all the bills around here. A paid subscription gives you access to our Discord, plus four newsletters a week. Subscriptions are $7/mo, or $70 for an entire year.

I completely understand times are tough, and not everybody can afford to pay for a subscription. The other thing folks can do, besides introduce me to your eccentric rich uncles who might want to buy content companies, is just to spread the word about Extra Points. Tell your colleagues about it. Share it with your message board buddies. Tweet a few stories and @ me. Link to it in your reporting. Help spread the word.

I don’t have a massive media company amplifying my stuff. I’m not on TV or national radio. I don’t have a six-figure ad budget. I cannot overstate how helpful word of mouth and earned media is to the growth and sustainability of Extra Points.

Thank you again for everything. I’ve learned a lot this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed it!

I’m going to finish up this week, take a few days to go hiking and fiddle around in the ol’ workshop, and come back to give you more interesting stories that I think you’ll like reading.

*****

Quick reminder, our Community Interview guest this week will be John Ashaolu, the athletic director at Point Park UniversityPoint Park is an NAIA school in Pittsburgh that competes in the River States Conference.

John has worked as a director of basketball operations at ECU, and in athletics administration at the high school and community college level. He’s a graduate of one of the most unique colleges in the US, Xavier University in New Orleans, the only Catholic HBCU in the country. He’s happy to answer questions about Point Park, working in NAIA, basketball operations, athletic administration, and anything else on your mind.

Please submit questions via email, comments, Twitter DMs or Discord. If you’re interested in participating in a future Extra Points Community Interview, please fill out this quick form.

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This newsletter is sponsored by the Playing the Long Game conference, presented by The University of Texas Sport Management Program.

Join sports industry professionals, academics, and students worldwide as they discuss current trends and the future of the sports industry at the inaugural Playing the Long Game conference presented by The University of Texas Sport Management Program.

YOU are invited to join panel discussions on the immediate and long-term impact of COVID-19, innovation, and the long-term future of the industry, diversity, and culture and ethics in the workplace.

The event kicks off on Monday April 12th, with a keynote conversation featuring former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and will continue on the 13th and 15th.

For a complete list of panelists and sessions, as well as free registration, please see our website: https://longgameconference.com/

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If you’re interested in sponsoring future newsletters or podcasts, or want to lock down a 50% institutional discount code, drop me a line at sales@extrapointsmb.com. For story ideas, feedback, FOIA requests, media inquiries, generous offers to buy Extra Points and more, I can be reached at Matt@ExtraPointsMB.com, @MattBrownEP on Twitter, or at:

Good Spot Publishing LLC

C/O Matt Brown

PO Box 411023

Chicago, IL, 60641

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