Wonder what Extra Points actually makes? Or wonder what that money is used for? Let me open the books

I figure you ought to know what you're paying for, right?

Good morning! Thanks for spending part of your day with Extra Points.

Normally, this is the part of the newsletter where I ask you for money. And rest assured, over the course of this newsletter, I’m still going to ask for you money. Just not right here.

I’ve had a fair amount of people reach out to me over the last month and ask me how this whole “asking people for money” business is going. Plenty of other underemployed journalist types were curious, because they may want to start similar projects. Folks who work for athletic departments were curious. A few media reporters were curious, and so were just regular ol’ readers and subscribers.

If I’m going to ask you for money on a regular basis, it seems fair that I’d tell you where that money is going, or how much of it there is, right? If you’re going to pay for a product, I think you deserve to know if that product is still going to be around.

So if anybody is curious…potential freelancers, folks on the fence about subscribing, fellow blogger types working on the next media trend piece or whatever, I’ll open my books for a second. Maybe i’ll do this again in a few months. Maybe that might be useful. Maybe it will be very stupid and I’ll come to regret it later! Who knows? I’m making this up on the fly!

Here’s my data:

How many people subscribe to Extra Points?

As of 9:13 PM God’s Time Zone on Thursday, May 14, Extra Points has 1,771 free subscribers. According to the metrics Substack shares with me, a typical free newsletter has an open rate of over 50%, and is read by more than 2,000 people.

Currently, Extra Points has 234 paid subscribers. The open rate for paid newsletters is usually around 65%.

How much money does Extra Points make?

According to Substack, May 13’s Gross Annualized Income from my subscribers is $19,354. Monthly, my gross revenue is around $1,600.

For a month, that seems pretty good! But I hope that this business can grow at least a little bit more.

Where do new Extra Points readers and subscribers come from?

Limited sample size to be sure, but I am finding that generally, my paid subscribers are coming from folks who have been reading Extra Points for a while. And that would make sense!

As best as I can tell, the single largest referral source for Extra Points remains Twitter. I have a decent sized following myself (around 10K), and some of my largest spikes in new readership have come from days when very large CFB Twitter accounts have shared my work.

I get some new readers from Google and search, and others from various message boards. Until recently, SBNation and various SBNation personalities and sites were significant referral sources. I occasionally also get referrals from industry newsletters, like D1Ticker, or from LinkedIn.

I think there’s a lot of room to grow in growing the free readership and audience of Extra Points. That might be from Reddit. That might be from other message boards. It might be from academia, or the media, or the athletics industry itself. I am continuing to investigate this, and open to suggestions.

I will say this though. Readers sharing this newsletter really does mean a lot.

What are some important financial benchmarks for Extra Points?

The first benchmark was making sure I could make at least $1,000 a month for the site. This doesn’t have a ton of overhead, but there are expenses that come from running this newsletter. I have an accountant. I pay for multiple news subscriptions. I pay for transcriptions sometimes. And while I am funemployed at the moment, I also want to track the time I spend on this vs other freelance work. I figured I needed to clear at least $1,000, and relatively quickly, to prove there was an audience for this project. We hit that in less than a week.

The more paid subscribers I pick up, the more I can pay freelancers, and the more freelance stories I can commission. Being able to do that is important to me for several reasons. There’s a TON of stuff about college athletics that I simply don’t know, and I want to give a space for folks with that expertise to share their stories and insight. I also want to give opportunities for young writers who may have story ideas that aren’t great fits for their school newspapers. I’ve published one of these, and hope to publish a few more over the coming months. I base my rates on the amount of money I would “make” from one of my own posts.

If there was audience interest in Extra Points content in different platforms (i.e video, podcasting, merch, etc), then additional monthly income would help pay the equipment costs to start those up. I’ll probably look at other investments I can make over the next few months, in advertising, in paying for additional subscriptions, and elsewhere, to make this a more rewarding experience for all of you.

I estimate I’d need roughly 700 paid subscriptions, assuming Extra Points doesn’t have other revenue streams, to make this my 100% full time job.

Would I consider other revenue streams beyond subscriptions?

Sure. I’m pretty against selling display ads. Not only does Substack not allow me to do that, but I think almost everybody who worked in digital media over the last few years is burnt out on those as a building block of a business. I don’t want to be in the business of chasing scale just for the sake of scale. I don’t think that works anymore, and it results in decisions that are bad for the consumer. It’s hard to imagine me going after those.

I’ve experimented with affiliate marketing a few times here, but the results haven’t blown me away. I think I’d only do it if I personally felt really confident that my readership would find that brand or product useful (like with Homefield). I’m always happy to talk with anybody that might be interested.

There might be other ways to find a few bucks here or there, and I’m happy to listen. But I suspect regular ol’ subscriptions are going to be my bread and butter, at least for the next several months.

I’m thinking of maybe starting a newsletter. Could you give me some pointers?

Sure. Shoot me a note at MattBrownOhio@gmail.com and I can go even more in the weeds. And hey, if you’ve done this yourself and have advice you’d like to share with me, please, I’m all ears!

Should I subscribe to Extra Points?

Eventually, I hope that you do! If there are things that you’d need from this newsletter in order to make $7/mo make sense for you, I’d be interested in what you think is missing. Feel free to drop me a note at MattBrownOhio@gmail.com.

If you’d like to subscribe, you can do so by clicking right here:

So what’s next?

I am going to do my very best to make this the best product it can be. I’m going to try and write interesting newsletters, find ways to grow this audience, showcase fun freelance stories, grow this audience and grow a community around this readership.

I’m not really ruling anything out at this point. If somebody wanted to buy Extra Points, I’d listen. If somebody wanted to partner with me, I’d listen. If I got a full time job and needed to make adjustments to this newsletter, I’d listen to that too. I’m listening to just about anything.

Finally, I just want to say thank you again to everybody who has been supportive. Thank you for your financial support. Thank you for your readership. Thank you for your advice, your RTs, your support and your encouragement.

This has been a tough month. It sucks to get furloughed, bought out, and for everything to end the way that it did. Figuring out what to do next has felt pretty lonely at times. I didn’t have a union to help me out. I didn’t have brands fundraising for me, or a massive, built-in audience, or even a job title that made perfect sense to everybody else within my industry. I just had this. And you guys.

Will that be enough over the next several months? I have no idea. I have no idea what the future will hold on a gazillion different levels. But I know I’ve got this now, and your support means an awful lot to me, and I’m going to keep doing my very best to make something that you will want to read, want to engage with, and spend part of your day with. And whatever happens will be whatever happens.

So those are my books. If this stuff interests you and you have additional questions, drop me a line at @MattBrownEP or at MattBrownOhio@Gmail.com.

Have a great weekend. I’m excited to talk college sports with you next week.

-Matt