All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday, rejoice.

This has been the busiest media week of my life and I don’t think we’ve even seen anything yet because the new book comes out on September 25th.

That week I will have a daily national radio show, a daily national TV show, and a national book release all happening in the same week. I will be doing a ton of additional national television as well.

I’ll certainly write about it more then, but I’m not sure how many people, if any, have ever even done this before in sports media history — release a book at the same time that you’re doing daily national radio and daily national television.

Maybe Colin Cowherd and Tony Kornheiser have done it? Otherwise, it’s an incredibly small list.

And, hell, I might be the first.

So I’m just trying to survive here during a wild and crazy September.

And while I’m working harder than I ever have before, but I also want to take a minute at the top of the Friday mailbag to thank all of you for helping to spread the word about what I do and what Outkick does.

I really do think I have the best jobs in America and I appreciate all of you for helping to make that happen.

Now, if you’d be so kind, please go buy a copy of “Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.”

I can’t wait for this book to finally be out.

Okay, here we go with the mailbag.

Chris writes:

“Holy shit, man. I am continually mind blown when people come after you accusing you to be a Trump supporter and waving your MAGA flag. You and I are very similar, I feel, in our thinking and how we feel in today’s climate. I do NOT consider myself political at all – but I did vote for Trump because I sure as hell wasn’t voting for Hillary. 

These days – by simply thinking in a common sense manner – I now feel like I am wildly political since everything I think is ‘wrong’ and I am suddenly a bad person. I’ll say it again – I am not political whatsoever and am one of those people who doesn’t want to waste my life getting all worked up about political issues – or anything really aside from caring for my family and friends – instead I want to enjoy my life and worry less (basically, enjoy life with my wife, family, friends and watch as much sports as possible!). 
I’m like you – the USA is the best country in the world and there is no better time to be alive and living here than right fucking now. It is truly remarkable that so many people are so miserable simply because Donald Trump is President. Relax. He’s truly not affecting you much at all when you really analyze it. Common sense.”
One of my law school buddies said recently that I’ve managed to become a multi-millionaire by being the most reasonable person in sports media.
Even more amazingly, the world has become so insane that merely being reasonable now makes you controversial. I always love when articles are written about me. Do you know what the first adjective applied to me always is? Controversial.
I don’t think I’m remotely controversial. I just say exactly what I think and don’t get that worked up about people who disagree with my opinions.
Look, here’s the deal, we have the lowest unemployment rate in my life, the highest per capita income, the highest stock market, the lowest minority unemployment rates, and we’re essentially at peace in the world. (The conflicts that exist now are tiny when compared with world history).
Murder and crime rates are lower than they’ve historically ever been, just about, in this country’s history — not to say they aren’t too high, just that they have never been lower — and we’re all safer in our neighborhoods than we even were in the 1950’s.
Now I think the country has challenges — the opioid epidemic is by far the most serious issue in this country and gets a fraction of the attention of police shootings of minorities in this country, for instance — but things are way better in 2018 than they ever have been in the nation’s history.
What’s changed is that people have bought into a tribalized media convincing them that everything is awful and that the people that disagree with them are also awful. Social media has put those media narratives into overdrive and the cacophony of negativity is hard to escape.
But I just fundamentally reject those narratives.
Why does this tribalized media not work as much on me? I think there’s two reasons: 1. I look at facts. I think if everyone spent less time focusing on individual stories and more time focusing on larger societal trends, we’d all be better off. 2. I read history. I’m reading about World War II every night before I go to bed. If you study American history what you learn pretty quickly is that 2018 is nowhere near the most challenging times we’ve faced as a country.
Not even remotely close.
Hell, 2018 isn’t even the most challenging time in the 21st century, the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the housing crisis were far more dangerous and threatening to the country.
I sort of feel like right now is a lot like the late 1990’s. The Trump craziness reminds me a great deal of the Bill Clinton impeachment mess. The economy was on fire and the nation was distracted by personal peccadilloes. The scary thing is what happened immediately after the Monica Lewinsky mess?
Did 9/11 partly help because we were distracted by much less serious concerns? I think so. I hope that version of history doesn’t repeat itself as well.
Anyway, comparing 1968 and 2018 is absolutely nonsensical. 2018 is much more like 1998 than anything else.
John writes:
“I was wondering what your thoughts were on “The Athletic”, but more so, on their business model. It seems like they are focused solely on putting an outstanding product out for the masses – which is good, quality writing. In today’s era of racial identity politics mixing with sports, it is refreshing to be able to go to a website and read about sports, written from actual sportswriters, not from political activists masking themselves as sportswriters. You comment a lot on the business model of ESPN, but where do you see The Athletic being in a few years? Do you think the product is sustainable on their subscription model?” 
I have lots of friends who work at The Athletic, but I’m not a subscriber.
Primarily because I don’t find myself in need of more sports coverage.

Between my Twitter feed and my print subscriptions to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal — I also have a digital subscription to my local Nashville paper, The Tennessean — I don’t find myself lacking for more sports opinion or analysis.

It’s interesting, the reason I got a Wall Street Journal subscription a few years ago was because I found myself trying to click on their articles to read what they were putting out on a regular basis.

I haven’t found myself doing that with “The Athletic.”

Now, that’s just me.

Many people, such as yourself, obviously disagree and like the content they provide.

But I do think it’s hard to get large numbers of people to sign up for subscription models. For instance, we’ve got the Outkick VIP and it has several thousand subscribers now. For $99 you get a full year’s subscription, an autographed copy of my new book, a VIP phone line to call into the radio show, access to our VIP events, early gambling picks, and assorted other things over the course of the year. 

That seems like a pretty good value to me.

But I specifically priced it at $99 and only sold yearly subscriptions because I didn’t want to deal with monthly subscribers and the hassle there.

That’s a good and growing aspect of the Outkick business, but it’s not my entire business model and if it disappeared tomorrow it wouldn’t impact us very much. I do national radio, national TV, and every article we publish on the main page of the site is and always has been 100% free for readers. The Athletic’s entire business model is predicated on the subscription model.

And so far no sports media company has managed to crack that business model other than fan message boards for college.

And what was the secret sauce of those sites?

Recruiting updates.

The diehards of the diehards could follow recruiting in a way that wasn’t being covered by other media sources. Recruiting obsessives were the secret sauce of the Rivals and 24/7s of the world.

What’s “The Athletic’s” secret sauce? What are they providing that I can’t get elsewhere? I’m not convinced there’s anything.

I think the subscription business model is really tough to manage and the success of Netflix, for instance, has convinced people that it isn’t that hard. The reality is, Netflix is a unicorn. And the most amazing thing about Netflix isn’t even the success it has now — because the company has so much new, original and unique content to drive subscriptions — it’s that Netflix worked when all it was doing was repurposing other people’s content. In other words, it’s not surprising to me that people are willing to pay for Netflix now, it’s surprising how many people were willing to pay when their content was available elsewhere and wasn’t new or original.

There’s also an interesting angle here, people love Netflix because you choose what you watch. People hate say, ESPN, because they only put one thing on television at a time. If you hate Stephen A. Smith or Michelle Beadle, you have no other option to watch while they’re on. If you hate Ozark, you can watch something else.

You never have to watch something you don’t like, which I think is hugely positive for the brand value of Netflix as opposed to say, ESPN.

Even insanely popular sports content, like the NFL Sunday Ticket, only has a couple of million subscribers a year. If only a couple of million people are willing to pay for NFL Sunday Ticket, how big is the market for The Athletic is there? I can see it working really well if they provide coverage to a niche sport that people love and is undercovered — hockey, for instance — but are there really that many people in Nashville who feel like they aren’t getting enough Titans news, for instance?

I have my doubts.

Everyone is trying to be the Netflix of sports, but in order to pull that off I think you have to have the original content. The Athletic isn’t making new content they are writing about content that other people produce. That’s a level of remove.

The Netflix of sports is tough also because sports is all best viewed live. Everything Netflix carries is already taped and has a long shelf life. Tonight’s Braves or Astroes or Dodgers game is gone forever and probably will never be watched again.

Now maybe I’m wrong about this and maybe the market is huge. Maybe I should put all of Outkick behind a pay wall. Are there 20,000 people out there that would pay $99 a year for everything I write on here?

Maybe there are and maybe I’m leaving money on the table by making my articles available to everyone and selling ads to advertisers.

I’ll certainly monitor the market, but my belief is there aren’t that many people who are going to pay for sports media subscriptions as a percentage of the overall marketplace.

So the best way to have a subscription model is to make it part of a larger business, which is mostly free.

But this goes into my larger question about podcasts too, are we blowing it in the radio industry by giving away podcasts of our radio shows for free? I don’t know, it’s a fascinating question.

As is the question of whether The Athletic will become a big business.

Will writes:

“Clay what is your game plan for when Nike reports earnings on 9/25? I’m sure you have some tweets drafted if earnings don’t beat and sales have dropped. Have you considering buying any puts? Personally hoping for a bad earnings so I can watch you defend your stance.”

My Twitter feed has gotten blown up over the past couple of days because Nike stock is up and so many people are Tweeting me about it, but my thesis here remains the same — I think Nike will experience reduced sales because they signed Colin Kaepernick.

I believe there are a lot of people like me who will choose not to buy Nike products for themselves and their kids over the next several months and I don’t think people like me will be cancelled out by people who love Kaepernick buying more product.

That’s my theory.

Could I be wrong?

Certainly, I’ve been wrong before. You’re reading a guy who lost $50k selling pants.

But I don’t think we will know about the impact, if any, until well after the first of the year when holiday sales numbers and quarterly earnings are announced. (It’s also possible, by the way, that the economy is so good everyone will be buying more gear so the impact is negligible either way.)

Regardless, despite what you will read on Twitter,  which will trumpet these earnings to the high heavens if they are good, these earnings being announced in September are for the quarter that ended in August, before Nike announced the Kaepernick advertising campaign.

So there will be zero impact on the company’s quarterly earnings ending in August from Kaepernick.

That’s why I say it will take until after the first of the year before we see any impact, positive or negative.

Marty writes:

“Regarding the Nike stock price, as a licensed financial professional, I think you’re half way there on the Nike stock price debate. When companies are in the spotlight they trade much more frequently on emotion and momentum, so when Nike came out and clearly took a liberal stance, who were the first people to react? The everyday conservatives who own Nike in their portfolio flocked to their advisors and demanded they sell the stock because they’d rather have their money elsewhere. They didn’t mind selling at a 2-3% loss because they don’t believe in the company’s beliefs. That led to the drop the day after.

Now here’s the place that I think you’re missing it. When the stock dropped 3% in one day, what do most professional traders and fund managers think? Fundamentals and financials of the company haven’t changed and I can buy it back on a 3% discount? Sign me up, even if it’s a short-term play, I can make a profit. So you have a bit of a ‘dead cat bounce’ from people buying back in at what they perceive as a discount. Combine that with the recent reports of “increased online purchases since the announcement” (which is ridiculously vague by the way and won’t be known for sure until their next earnings announcement), and the rise in the market as a whole over the past few days, and the stock price has hit ‘an all time high’. So LeBron and the people in your mentions are dancing in the streets on a short-term price pop as the people who actually disagree the most with this stance (the very affluent) are profiting. Sounds a lot like most of this world, doesn’t it? The rich are rich because they sit there and watch the dog and pony show that is what Nike is doing with the Kaepernick Ad and they figure out a way to make money off it.

Now you’re absolutely right about not knowing what is going to happen with the effect on the stock price for months. The run up in my opinion is inflated due to money pouring it from people buying it back at a discount and optimistic, if not uneducated, articles being written about how great the online sales business is. In the next year or so we’ll be able to see how the financials look and if there’s a long-term net positive or net negative effect on them for ostracizing a portion of their clientele. My belief: overall this will have a negative effect. Going against your shareholders in support of a controversial issue has never been a winning business mindset, and I think this will be part of Nike’s legacy every time someone goes to purchase their products. They’re sacrificing some of the conservatives they sell to for the alt-left that will buy their products just because they have Kaepernick. It’s a math game at that point and I just think there’s more conservatives that they’ll lose than liberals that they’ll gain.

Sorry for the rant, big fan. Think you’re onto something huge.”

This is well said.

These are also the kind of emails I get all the time, which is why I think it’s so funny when people with tiny audiences online try to attack my audience as made up entirely of redneck idiots.

Mike writes:

“Hey Clay, my Sunday social media timeline was full of liberals and conservatives alike all posting that they were not watching or interested in the NFL this season.

The ratings seem to reflect that these folks are not simply virtue-signaling — they’re both tuning out in a bipartisan fashion.
The left-wing posts I see are upset not only about Kaepernick and everything that spins off from that situation, but also about head injuries, too much masculinity, and too much patriotism. In other words, they wish this sport was a different sport. It’s not clear what exactly would make them happy at this point (perhaps other than Kaepernick signing with Buffalo and the league handing out bonuses for those who take an Anthem Knee).
Meanwhile, the right-wing posts are limited to being upset about Kaepernick and everything that spins off from that situation, and it is abundantly clear what they want: no more kneeling and Kaepernick himself to fade out of sports media.
I’m not convinced the left-wing folks will ever come back to football, but it seems the right-wingers could be won back with a few years without social justice headlines. 
Why can’t the NFL see this? Wouldn’t it make more sense to try to get back at least one of the two groups they’ve pissed off so much over the last three years, and wouldn’t the right-wingers be easier to win back AND be more in number than left-wingers? 
And if you were commish, how would you approach trying to win back either group over the next few years when you can’t control what ESPN or anyone else tries to make the narrative over the next few years?”
To the extent that any left wingers are actually boycotting, I agree with you, they aren’t actual football fans, they just want something to be upset about.
This shouldn’t be a controversial opinion at all, mixing sports and politics is almost always bad for the sports business.
Now, I do think you’ve seen a calculated decision by the NFL’s TV partners to spend less time on protesting players. There are two Dolphins players kneeling right now. Have you seen any profiles or panel discussions on their protest? Have you seen very many headlines about them?
I think the resulting collapse of ratings for ESPN, CBS, NBC and Fox has led the league’s television partners to finally agree that this controversy is hurting the product they’re paying billions of dollars for.
So why rip the NFL here? You’re spiting yourself and gaining nothing in the process.

Kevin writes:

“The biggest concern for Packers fans is the health of their Franchise QB, Aaron Rodgers. This week they face a Vikings defense that is one of the best (if not the best) defense in the NFL. Without question, Rodgers will be harassed, pressured, and hit during this game. There is a high chance he will hurt and further damage his already injured/sprained knee.
So, what if the Packers just play Kizer for the first 2, possibly 3 quarters. All you are looking for is for Kizer to keep the game close, maybe have the score 14-6, entering mid-late in the game. Then, with only 12-15 min left in the game, bring in Rodgers to see if he can engineer a couple of drives and steal a win. You reduce the chance of injury to Rodgers since he is only playing part of the game, and you have a fresh Rodgers playing against a tired Vikings defense. 
In other words, what if the Packers used Rodgers in a similar way to a baseball “reliever”. Game is close and the time is low, bring in a fresh arm to try and catch the other team off guard. This tactic has never been done in the NFL, and  would surprise the Vikings. 
I just think big picture, the Packers need Rodgers healthy for 10 games and for the post season. This strategy reduces chances of Rodgers getting injured, and if the game is close, deploy him in a way to steal the win. Worst case, Kizer can’t keep it close, so then it’s a loss, but at least you have a healthy rodgers for week 3. This strategy seems to keep your upside high, while minimizing the downside risk.” 
It’s an interesting theory, but I think what Rodgers did  — stage a big comeback in one half — against the Bears wouldn’t be possible against a better team like the Vikings.
I think if you’re not healthy enough to play the first snap of the game, you shouldn’t play for the entire game.
If Deshone Kizer starts I think the most likely outcome is the Vikings win by a large margin and the game wouldn’t be lose enough in the fourth quarter for Rodgers to come back in and save the team.

Courtney writes:

“It seems most of the tweets/instagram posts I encountered on social media the past months from New Yorkers were vehemently endorsing Cynthia Nixon, but Cuomo easily beat her in the primary 65% to 35%. Do you think it’s because liberals are shouting but not voting or because social media is not an accurate portrayal of real life?”

My answer is always going to be that social media isn’t an accurate portrayal of real life.

Some liberals are voting — there have been many progressive upsets this primary season — but I think the general rule is don’t use social media as an accurate barometer of the real world.

Zac writes:

“Sports betting is beginning to gain momentum, but I continue to stick with the bookie option. Two questions:
1. Do you see bookies going away down the road?
2. If you’re in the hole, is there such thing as battling back? Or do you chalk a week up as a loss, pay out and start fresh next week?”
I don’t think bookies will ever leave because they extend credit. Your more traditional books — offshore or in the states — are not going to extend you credit.
Now you can obviously bet on credit at major casinos, but you have to be super wealthy to do it.
As for chasing games, I try to decide what games I’m going to bet and what prices I like them at when the lines come out early in the week. If lines move in my way I’ll bet more on those games, but I try not to end up putting big money on the Hawaii game late at night — if I had no read on it earlier — just to catch up.
Now, I think you can certainly live wager if you think a game at halftime is a good bet, but I don’t consider continuing to bet on a game to be chasing it, necessarily. Hell, you might have a huge hedge opportunity because you’ve done so well on the over/under that you want to set up a middle.
Thanks for all the support of Outkick.
I’ll see you guys this afternoon on Outkick the Show and Let It Ride.

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.