2020 was probably not the year for sports publishers as COVID-19 caused a massive, worldwide shutdown of any sports activities.
For several months, sports publishers faced a tough time trying to monetize their websites as programmatic inventories failed to bring any profitable results.
Even websites such as The Athletic which have relied on subscriptions since their day of inception were highly uncertain about their survival.
All in all, sports publishers had some challenging times but they are now on the road to recovery with sports events being carried out behind closed doors.
We caught up with Matt Rodriguez, Founder at Ballislife.com, a popular American sports website focusing exclusively on basketball.
In our conversation with him, we spoke about reader patterns that may have emerged amidst the pandemic, how sports publishers can monetize their websites, and what have been his greatest learnings with Ballislife.com among other things.
Describe your journey as an entrepreneur and executive in the digital media industry. What have been your greatest learnings?
If I had to best describe my journey as an entrepreneur, I’d have to go back to an age old question. Which path do you take? Do you take the path that is well lit and well paved or the one that has no lights and is a dirt road? One is the easy road and one is the hard road, and what comes at the end of both is just as different as where the paths begin. My greatest learnings come from incorporating a successful sports team type belief in our business model. You cannot have a successful and winning team without everyone buying into the program. You cannot get everyone to buy into a program without effective leadership at the top.
How has Ballislife.com’s growth and revenue coped with COVID-19 severely restricting sport events, especially last year?
The best way I can answer this question is by first talking about my childhood. My family was very poor growing up which meant me and my siblings had very little. The only trajectory I could go was up. While there are a ton of statistics out there that say if you come from this type of background with less resources etc. then your chances of success are this low. I had no clue about any of those statistics nor did I care to educate myself on them. I carry that same mentality with Ballislife. We made it through a recession and now we will make it through a pandemic. We adapted with the times early on and did not harp on the cons of the situation.
What are some growth strategies that you have applied differently at Ballislife?
Repurposing more of our older content during important moments is one of the key strategies that we use. For instance, when an athlete goes viral for one reason or another in college or the NBA, we go into our library and re-release our own video content of that player to capitalize on this new moment.
What kind of revenue does Ballislife rely upon the most?
We like to be as diverse as possible with our business. Due to the pandemic and events slowing down, we had to flip this negative into a business brainstorming opportunity. Yesterday, our business was reliant on programmatic/direct ad sales and merchandise. Today and tomorrow we will carve out 2-3 new areas of revenue which are soon to be under way.
Do you have any important advice for sports publishers on how they can grow their business and maximize revenue?
Don’t just pay attention to clicks and looking “cool”. Carve out a real identity for yourself that the audience can relate to. There are too many sports related accounts on the major social platforms to choose from. If you’re just doing what the next guy/girl is doing, what makes you different? If Twitter or Facebook disappeared tomorrow why would fans want to look you up to find you elsewhere? Would they at all? Revenue will come with authenticity and a clear vision for what you want to accomplish. Don’t chase the dollars from day one.
We are sure that some of the insights that Matt offered us will prove useful for sports publishers worldwide. His insights on repurposing content and diversifying revenue models are some tips that we encourage all publishers to take advantage of.
About Matt Rodriguez
Matt Rodriguez is the Founder and CEO of Ballislife. Ballislife was founded in 2005. It was the Top 25 Performing Sports Media Company in 2019 and 2020, according to Shareablee. Originally from Santa Rosa, CA, he now resides in Irvine, CA where Ballislife has been headquartered since 2014.