Further Explanation of RR Paywall

This is a continuation of the post on the site announcing subscriptions where we gave an overview of the rationale. This post will dig a little deeper so our readers understand where we’re coming from.

Ultimately, we would like to see RR become a company where people can rely on to make a decent living. People need security and predictability in their income, and we want RR to provide that for our writers. They work tirelessly researching topics and spend countless hours producing the content you enjoy so much. In return, they should feel secure and not have to worry about how to pay next month’s rent. If we hit our subscription goals we will be able to compensate people which in turn will result in even better content for you. That is why we anticipate most revenue going back to our writers.

Sports journalism is a tough business, and its gotten tougher because the market rewards short, click-bait articles ridden with plenty of ads so that advertising intermediaries like Google can make money. We are obviously not that site and have never been. For us to maximize our earnings from display advertising, we’d have to essentially split up what is usually one article into three, which doesn’t sit right with us. 

The irony in all of this is that our traffic has never been better, yet we’d have to show 30-40% more ads just to make the same amount of money we made 3 years ago. This is because of display ad prices falling due to advertisers having more options on how to distribute their marketing spend, e.g., TikTok, YouTube, podcasts.

For every dollar we make, Google takes 50%, and the result of the rest is what you have seen over the last decade. Imagine what we could do if we had that 50% at our disposal? As an efficient organization with low overhead, subscription revenue will enable our writers to elevate our content to levels you have not experienced yet.

Middlemen like Google are only half the problem. The cost of producing content has also increased. Gone are the days when we could get away with just written editorial content. More and more people prefer video content, which is more time-consuming and expensive to produce. The written word will always be our bread-and-butter but we wouldn’t be doing our readers justice if we didn’t also focus on video, especially our younger audiences.

This is a problem that everyone in the industry is having. Creating content is often a loss-leader, i.e., a product sold at a loss to attract customers. Think of it as Apple Music – they bleed money but that’s OK as long as you keep buying iPhones. Closer to our industry, Sportsnet and TSN are that to Rogers and Bell. 

RR is different because we are an independent publication and don’t have a benefactor. We rely on our readers and a few local small businesses as sponsors (Get Goldfinger Today!!!). This forces us to look at sustainable revenue streams like subscriptions rather than be at the whim of advertisers.

In the past we have been called the “NCAA of sports journalism”. We’re happy that many of our former writers and producers go on to have careers in the industry, and welcome the reputation that brings. However, it doesn’t materially impact our revenue and we’re often left to start over fresh. Since our inception we’ve relied on the sheer will of our founders to create consistent content and recruit people; we have been blessed with great editors in Blake Murphy and Louis Zatzman who have helped carry the torch, but finding new talent this frequently is cumbersome, difficult and unpredictable. 

We’d like to increase our planning cycle by extending our financial runway, and that can only happen if we have the right talent secured. A subscription model brings in a consistent revenue stream which allows us to focus on content creation, rather than constantly worrying about talent retention and recruitment.

We also care about user experience and privacy. You will notice that we redesigned the site to be lightning fast, have reduced the number of ads, and also gotten rid of the video player which chewed up bandwidth. For those of you on a desktop with an ad-blocker, you may not notice these things, but many, including mobile users, do. In the end, these changes benefit our reader as they get a faster website, better privacy and an improved reading experience.

Finally, there’s something to be said about independent journalism. My 12-year old daughter wants to be a journalist when she grows up and when she told me this, on the tip of my tongue I could only find words of discouragement. “Don’t do it, it’s not worth it” was what I was primed to say but I held back. Why can’t journalism make a comeback? In the age of disinformation and information bubbles, we need media independence more than ever. We need journalists that separate the truth from the propaganda, the reality from the narrative. Although in sports the stakes are lower than politics or economics, the principles are the same. This site was created because we wanted to give an honest account of what we saw on the court regardless of who we might agitate or if it went against public opinion. Our readers respected that, and 14 years later, we ask you to let us continue our mission.It is our promise to you that whatever we put under Premium will be worth it. Subscribe to keep independent journalism alive.