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Barstool’s CEO talks TikTok technique, Sway Home, and OnlyFans – Enterprise Insider

For years, Barstool Sports activities has adjusted to shifting web tendencies with the intention to keep related.
Its newest focus has been on TikTok, the place the corporate noticed 45% of its new viewers progress final yr.
Insider spoke with Barstool’s CEO, Erika Nardini, concerning the firm’s TikTok technique.
Go to Enterprise Insider’s homepage for extra tales.

The media model Barstool Sports activities has commonly reinvented itself throughout its practically two-decade existence.

It began as a handout newspaper for Boston sports activities followers, fantasy soccer gamers, and gamblers. After going digital, it expanded closely into podcasting, social media, and extra not too long ago pizza and playing (once more). And now it is betting on TikTok.

“45% of our new viewers progress in 2020 was from TikTok,” CEO Erika Nardini instructed Insider.

Nardini mentioned Barstool has devoted workers who “spend all day occupied with TikTok.” And the corporate is eyeing the short-form video app when it is contemplating the place to rent new on-air expertise. 

“I need to discover personalities who’re fascinating and who out of their very own propulsion have been capable of create followings on TikTok,” Nardini mentioned. 

Amongst its media friends, Barstool’s presence on the app is enviable. The corporate has over 12 million followers on its fundamental TikTok account and thousands and thousands of individuals following the accounts of its on-air personalities and podcasts. It is also built-in TikTok into its podcast technique, teaming up its founder Dave Portnoy, 43, with an 18-year-old TikTok star named Josh Richards for a weekly present known as “BFFs.”

On the present, the pair speak about web tradition and TikTok drama, a few of which entails Richards and members of his TikTok collective, the Sway Home (a gaggle began by the TikTok expertise company TalentX Leisure the place Richards is a founding companion). Portnoy first visited the Sway Home in October to raise weights alongside Richards and Sway members Bryce Corridor and Blake Gray.

The duo could look like an odd match on the floor.

“There’s 20 years distinction in age,” Nardini mentioned. “There is a distinction in the place they stay on the web [and] what they’re concerned with.”

However the cohosts have some in widespread. Each are web stars and entrepreneurs. And each have risen to prominence by navigating controversy with the intention to develop much more well-known. In Portnoy’s case, the media exec has had to answer criticisms round on-line bullying and using racist language in his movies. Richards and the Sway Boys have drawn the ire of the media (and the town of LA) for throwing events through the pandemic, a storyline that has equally helped the group achieve consideration on-line.

Within the third episode of “BFFs,” the pair chatted briefly about how all media consideration — even unfavourable tales — might be helpful for social-media stars.

“Normally we’re like, ‘Media, press, let’s f-ing run it,'” Richards instructed Portnoy.

Dave Portnoy and Josh Richards

“BFFs” cohosts Richards and Portnoy.


Josh Richards/Barstool Sports activities.

Why a podcast that blends Barstool Sports activities and Sway Home works

The parallels between the Sway Home and Barstool Sports activities aren’t misplaced on Nardini.  

“Barstool is sort of the corporate model of the Sway Home,” she mentioned. “You are creating storylines. You are creating personalities. You are creating a standard place the place issues can occur and chemistry can happen. You are creating a life-style. And we have executed that at Barstool Sports activities.”

“Do I believe that it helps them that they are seen as considerably controversial? Completely,” she added. “Do I believe that TalentX is making an attempt to create an alchemy that breeds stars? 100%. Are they going to attempt to productize that and monetize it the identical approach we do? Undoubtedly.”

Members of TalentX and Sway Home have already made strikes to monetize their model in ways in which mirror a few of Barstool’s methods. They promote merchandise. They launched their very own power drink model in July. And the group did a broader podcast push late final yr, launching three different reveals alongside “BFFs.”

“I am a bit little bit of a shock seeker and loads of the fellows are too,” Michael Gruen, VP of expertise at TalentX Leisure, instructed Insider in October. “I am extra enthusiastic about making these fascinating pairings. Breaking the web. Making individuals go, ‘What the hell?'”

Learn extra: Contained in the podcast push of TikTok group Sway LA, who’ve launched four reveals in Apple’s prime 100 as they intention to shock followers and detractors

With the launch of “BFFs,” each Portnoy and Richards are capable of attain new audiences and age teams that may have been tough to amass on their very own.

And the flexibility to achieve new customers — somewhat than generate income off of them — is what’s most interesting about TikTok to Barstool within the quick time period, Nardini mentioned. 

“TikTok would not must bear the strain of monetization,” she mentioned. “I am extra concerned with TikTok on creating content material that individuals like there that works there after which discovering methods once we do monetize that it is accretive to the expertise.”

As with different media corporations like The Washington Submit, The Infatuation, and Brother which have constructed followings on TikTok, Barstool has targeted on personality-driven movies and leaning into current TikTok tendencies.

Learn extra: A media firm explains the way it’s gotten consideration on TikTok with music, worker personalities, and lo-fi manufacturing

“You have to research the platform,” Nardini mentioned. “For those who take a look at a extra conventional firm or a legacy firm or a league, they give it some thought the other approach. They’re like, ‘What do we now have rights to and the way can we reduce this factor up and put this factor in all of the locations that we are able to?’ They begin by themselves, and we begin by wanting on the platform.”

And whereas TikTok is a spotlight space for Barstool this yr, the corporate — which has lengthy prided itself on its capacity to adapt to the altering tastes of the web — can be eyeing one other up-and-coming social app: OnlyFans.

“They’ve created a phenomenon,” Nardini mentioned of OnlyFans, a subscription content material and messaging platform that has not too long ago taken off within the influencer world after gaining reputation amongst intercourse staff. “A subscription-based phenomenon that may be very good. They are going to transfer out of the intercourse class or bikini picture class, so I believe they’re one to observe. We’re occupied with them quite a bit.”

Learn extra: A wave of startups is betting that textual content messaging will surge as a approach for influencers, media corporations, and types to achieve followers — and generate income

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