From pageviews to t-shirts

“Most media brands will start selling merchandise in 2018, if they’re not already.”

Until recently, going back to 1999, every real paycheck I’d received was thanks to digital content and display advertising. Now, I sell t-shirts.

I get that that sounds weird and may be a scary glimpse at your own future, but they’re really cool t-shirts.

The company is called BreakingT, and each shirt celebrates a trending sports moment. We put great care into tracking social data to generate ideas in real-time, getting the design (content?) just right, printing on quality fabric, and giving customers a great experience.

We also partner with media brands to promote the shirts and share the revenue. I guess that’s what matters here.

This year was a bloodbath — gory media layoffs everywhere, and talent flooding the market. One of the brands that fared well, though, was Barstool Sports. Look at what they did on Black Friday alone: “single-digit millions” in branded merchandise sales.

It would take hundreds of millions of page views (or even video views) to get to that level of revenue via traditional advertising.

Barstool wasn’t alone, either. BreakingT also had record-high Black Friday sales. And thanks largely to the media brands we’re partnered with, our annual sales were higher than ever, too.

We expect to double that in 2018, primarily because digital media brands need e-commerce now. Why not sell things that strengthen your brand while bringing joy to people and revenue to your company?

(Of course, this may work best and most consistently in the world of sports, but I’ve seen my share of “Friend of the Pod” shirts out in the wild, too.)

It’s new money, it delights readers/followers/viewers/listeners, and the merch can be content, too. When Justin Verlander and José Altuve wore our shirts during the World Series, it wasn’t just a great moment that ended up on SportsCenter, etc. — it also made for over-performing posts and great business for the publishers we partnered with (e.g., Houston Astros sites Crawfish Boxes and Astros County).

It created a closer connection with their audiences. Their readers now get to “wear the moment” and take their media diet into the world around them. It’s one thing to tell a friend where you’re getting your news and information; it’s another for them to see you wearing it.

So yeah, that’s all great, but what’s the prediction?

Simply put, most media brands will start selling merchandise in 2018, if they’re not already. That could be anything, but the most obvious place to start is with a combination of branded apparel (i.e., what Barstool and Crooked Media are doing) and trending apparel (i.e., what we do with others at BreakingT).

And hopefully it helps make it so that the people making the content keep getting real paychecks.

Jamie Mottram is president of BreakingT and former senior director of social content for Gannett.

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