So, We've Been Acquired
Some big news here today. We’ve been acquired by XLMedia– a multinational, publicly-traded media company that specializes in maintaining brands focused on the sports and betting niches, which, in case you haven’t noticed, is exactly what we do here.
Here’s the link to the press release.
This has been a long time coming. We’ve had numerous acquisition and partnership opportunities over the past two years. It’s frankly not something I ever envisioned when I founded this site on the day the Phillies traded for Roy Halladay in 2009. But the Supreme Court decision to overturn PASPA, which paved the way for states to legalize online sports betting, changed our business model almost instantly. It took what was a sustainable lifestyle business – of running a local sports blog – and turned it into a scaleable opportunity, allowing us to both improve the content (hello Kevin, Bob, Russ and the gang!) and the potential to grow into something bigger. Which is where we are today.
Before getting into more details, I want to say first off: none of this would be possible without you, The Reader, capital T’s and R’s today, and the loyalty you have shown to Crossing Broad over the years. I am always most proud to tell people that our most visited page, without question, is our homepage. Even after mobile phones, social media, and the proliferation of news apps have upended the way people “surf the web”, our audience never stopped typing CrossingBroad.com into their browsers (or Googling “Crossing Broad”, as it were). It tells me that for all the SEO optimization, social media plugs, and general marketing we’ve done over the years, you simply can’t replace a loyal, dedicated audience.
And that’s what’s put us in the position we’re in today.
When I started this site in 2009, I had the intention of somehow turning it into a full-time job– monetizing sports blogging and allowing me to work for myself. That was Goal 1. It took about a year until I was able to quit my real job to do this.
In 2011, I filed my taxes for, I think, $11,000, or $17,000. It wasn’t much. But I always felt that if I could continue growing the audience, there would be a way to turn the site into a sustainable business (and income).
It grew steadily over the next few years thanks to a patchwork of revenue streams, from direct ads, to quizzos, to t-shirt partnerships, and more. Eventually, I got it to a point where the site paid me a respectable living and allowed me to bring on other regular writers.
Things began to look uncertain in 2017. Remember those survey questions you had to answer to read an article? Google decided to pull the program from most publishers and place the surveys on their own inventory– like on YouTube (you’ll still occasionally see them today).
That cut our revenue in half basically overnight. For a while there, I considered finding a “regular” job. But I was able to piece things together, find some other revenue sources – which became an invaluable experience – and build out our store, which would become a valuable source of income as the Eagles started to get good.
Later that year, two local investors, Jeff Wuhl and Mike Iredale, who loved the site, decided to kick in a modest sum of money so we could bring Kevin, Bob, Russ, Phil, Coggin, Anthony and others on board in various capacities to build out what was supposed to be a “freemium model” supported by subscriptions.
We knew almost instantly it wouldn’t work (as a business model), but we stumbled upon an unbelievable and dedicated group of writers who lived and breathed Philly sports and the site itself.
Kevin, for my money, is the best writer on the Sixers beat. More than that, he is a dedicated, hard-working machine who runs the site on a day-to-day basis and somehow has time to be a great father.
Bob, for my money, is the best writer covering the Phillies (and betting). He sleeps less than a cricket (I actually don’t know if crickets sleep, but I’m so tired right now it feels like it works).
Anthony and Russ are like the… choose your insane duo… of Flyers coverage, somehow landing interviews with it seems every player, coach, and GM.
And on it goes.
Our t-shirt revenue picked up, and came to a head on February 4, 2018. You want Philly Philly?
I spent the next six weeks in my garage, stuffing envelopes and driving a rented U-Haul van to the post office each day. Knew the guy by name. Drop-offs morning and night. By the time I came up for air, Villanova was winning another National Championship. And after that, it was the spring… when the Supreme Court overturned PASPA, an antiquated law that effectively prevented states from setting their own laws related to sports betting.
It was immediately clear that Pennsylvania and ever progressive New Jersey would be first out of the gate to legalize online sports betting. I knew, having a background in affiliate marketing, how much sportsbooks would be willing to pay to reach sports fans. We were positioned perfectly to match our audience with them.
That became our business model and it’s what I’ve spent the last two years doing, while Kevin and the gang handle the day-to-day on the site.
An industry contact recommended I get in touch with Jason Ziernicki, a local guy who happened to be one of the top daily fantasy affiliates. He thought my sports content experience would pair well with Jason’s digital marketing expertise. We hit it off right away, opened an office, hired Craig for video and creative work, and got to work. Jason is insanely smart, intuitive, and an unbelievable business partner who pushed me to think bigger.
Earlier this year, we bought EliteSportsNY.com, which is basically Crossing Broad but New York. And then we struck partnerships with similar sites in other markets that have legalized online betting to help them monetize their audience.
And that’s how we got to today.
So What Changes?
Not much. I’m not going anywhere.
Kevin, Bob, Craig and Danny, who runs ESNY, all get full-time jobs (and benefits!). Kevin will continue to run the day-to-day here while I work mostly on the business side of things, as I have done for the last two years. The plan is to double down on what works – building a loyal audience of sports fans – and monetizing it effectively.
On a personal note: You don’t get these sorts of opportunities without support in your life. Besides the people I mentioned in this post, I want to call out a few others.
I am forever grateful to my parents, who allowed their 27-year-old son to move back home and literally blog in his parents basement for two years until my now-wife and I could buy our first home. Despite thinking I was completely crazy and not understanding how more readers translated into paying rent, they always supported what I was doing and are the site’s biggest fans.
And then there’s my wife, whom I met in 2010 just after I started the site. I was embarrassed to tell her about it – I’m a sports blogger, and I live with my parents – but from the moment I did she encouraged me to pursue it. I promise you, Crossing Broad would not exist if not for that conversation. And through 10 years of being with a sports blogger, which meant quizzos, video game tournaments, and packing t-shirts to make ends meet, she never once questioned what the hell I was doing, even when I worked for a full year in an adult onesie (it was warm). She is an incredible women, great wife, and an even better Mom to our two young boys, Kyle and Chase. They’re a real homerun.