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.

Luke O'Neil   The end is already here

Mariana Moura Santos   Think local, act global

Jared Newman   Venture funding and digital news don’t mix

Jessica Parker Gilbert   Design connects storytelling and strategy

Craig Newmark   Working together toward sustainable solutions

Corey Johnson   The pro-fact resistance

Jassim Ahmad   Thriving on change

Laura E. Davis   Writing answers before you know the question

Dan Newman   A return to trust

Joanne McNeil   Gatekeeping the gatekeepers

Nikki Usher   The year of The Washington Post

Molly de Aguiar   Good journalism won’t be enough

Basile Simon   We need better career paths for news nerds

Sydette Harry   Listen to your corner and watch for the hook

John Keefe   Scooped by AI

Carrie Brown-Smith   Transparency finally takes off

Mike Caulfield   Refactoring media literacy for the networked age

Mira Lowe   The year of the local watchdog

S. Mitra Kalita   The arc of news and audience

Lanre Akinola   Making noise is not a strategy

An Xiao Mina   Memes and visuals come to the fore

Kyle Ellis   Let’s build our way out of this

Claire Wardle   Disinformation gets worse

Michelle Ferrier   The year of the great reckoning

Mario García   Storytelling finally adapts to mobile

Jacqui Cheng   Retailers move into content

Ray Soto   VR reaches the next level

Joyce Barnathan   It will be harder to bury the news

Tanzina Vega   It’s time for media companies to #PassTheMic

Marcela Donini and Thiago Herdy   Collaboration is the way forward for Brazilian journalism

Sam Sanders   Shine the light on ourselves

Umbreen Bhatti   The trust problem isn’t new

Errin Haines   At the ballot, it’s time to count black women

David Skok   Finding an information-life balance

Alastair Coote   The year of self-improvement

Eric Ulken   The year local publishers get smart(er) about change

Andrew Ramsammy   The year ownership mattered

Tamar Charney   We get serious about algorithms

Kinsey Wilson   Facebook and Google: Help out or pay up

Alan Soon   The rise of start of psychographic, micro-targeted media

Kelsey Proud   No, no, no

Amy Webb   Listen to weak signals

Amie Ferris-Rotman   More female reporters abroad (please)

Pablo Boczkowski   The rise of skeptical reading

Rubina Madan Fillion   Unlocking the potential of AI

Carlos Martínez de la Serna   The new journalism commons

C.W. Anderson   The social media apocalypse

Justin Kosslyn   The year journalists become digital security experts

Matt Boggie   The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

Matt Thompson   Here come the attention managers

Yvonne Leow   The rise of video messaging

Eric Nuzum   Beyond the narrative arc

Almar Latour   Conquering calm

Andrew Haeg   The year journalists become relationship builders

Cristina Wilson   The year of the Instagram Story

Alice Antheaume   Are you fluent in AI?

Will Sommer   The year local media gets conservative

Lam Thuy Vo   Breaking free from the tyranny of the loudest

Daniel Trielli   The rich get richer, the poor scramble

Borja Echevarría   TV goes digital, digital goes TV

Alexios Mantzarlis   Moving fake news research out of the lab

Sam Ford   The year of investing in processes

Debra Adams Simmons   And a woman shall lead them

Trushar Barot   The Jio-fication of India

Jamie Mottram   From pageviews to t-shirts

Sara M. Watson   Feeds will open up to new user-determined filters

Christopher Meighan   Passive partnership is in the rearview

Ståle Grut   Reclaiming audience interaction from social networks

Dannagal G. Young   Stop covering politics as a game

Doris Truong   Computer vision vs. the Internet vigilantes

Sue Schardt   Jump the niche

Richard J. Tofel   The platforms’ power demands more reporters’ attention

Jesse Holcomb   Information disorder, coming to a congressional district near you

Bill Keller   A growing turn to philanthropy

Rachel Davis Mersey   AI, with real smarts

Julia Beizer   A longer view on the pivot

Jim Brady   With the people, not just of the people

Kristen Muller   The year of the voter

Kawandeep Virdee   Zines had it right all along

Pia Frey   Address users as individuals

Paul Ford   Go global

Taylor Lorenz   Social and media will split

Nushin Rashidian   Publishers seek ad dollar alternatives

Charo Henríquez   Training is an investment, not an expense

Manoush Zomorodi   Self-help as a publishing strategy

Hossein Derakhshan   Television has won

Feli Sánchez   The year for guerrilla user research

Dan Shanoff   You down with OTT? (Yeah, DTC)

Nicholas Diakopoulos   Fortifying social media from automated inauthenticity

Monika Bauerlein   The firehose of falsehood

Mary Meehan   Real lives are at stake in rural areas

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   Skepticism and narcissism

Adam Thomas   Sharing is caring: The year of the mentor

Aron Pilhofer   We can’t leave the business to the business side any more

Mi-Ai Parrish   Blockchain and trust

Raney Aronson-Rath   Transparency is the antidote to fake news

Helen Havlak   Keywords, not publishers, power the world’s biggest feeds

Rodney Benson   Better, less read, and less trusted

Mandy Velez   texting is lit rn, fam

Usha Sahay   Wallets get opened

Tim Carmody   Watch out for Spotify

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Publishing less to give readers more

Jennifer Brandel and Mónica Guzmán   The editorial meeting of the future

Nicholas Quah   Stop talking trash about young people

Jennifer Coogan   The future is female

Frédéric Filloux   External forces

Brian Lam   Sketchy ethics around product reviews

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Women of color will reclaim and monetize our time

Burt Herman   Things get real

Damon Krukowski   Reviving the alt-weekly soul

Elizabeth Jensen   Show your work

Kathleen McElroy   Building a news video experience native to mobile

Federica Cherubini   The rise of bridge roles in news organizations

Tanya Cordrey   Finally, the seeds of radical reinvention

Rodney Gibbs   Tech workers turn to journalism

Jake Levine   The return to now

Matt DeRienzo   A recession, then a collapse

Juliette De Maeyer   A responsible press criticism

Caitlin Thompson   Podcasting models mature and diversify

Alfred Hermida   Going beyond mobile-first

Zizi Papacharissi   Women come back

Susie Banikarim   R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

Steve Grove   The midterms are an opportunity

José Zamora   Revenue-first journalism

Jarrod Dicker   Honesty in advertising

Neha Gandhi   Filler killers

Cory Haik   Suffering from realness, pivoting to impact

Ariana Tobin   Too tired to tap

Jim Moroney   Newspapers have to be good enough for readers to pay for

Vivian Schiller   Pivot to tomorrow

Julia B. Chan   Looking for loyalty in all the right places

Renée Kaplan   The year of quiet adjustments (shhh)

Sarah Marshall   Loyalty as the key performance indicator

Mariano Blejman   News games rule

Dheerja Kaur   Fun with subscription products

Millie Tran and Stine Bauer Dahlberg   (Hint: It’s about your brand)

Andrew Losowsky   The year of resilience

Raju Narisetti   Mirror, mirror on the wall

Emily Goligoski   Looking beyond news for inspiration

Matt Carlson   Attacks on the press will get worse

Rachel Schallom   Better design helps differentiate opinion and news

Rick Berke   Value is the watchword

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Seeking trust in fragmented spaces

Marie Gilot   No assholes allowed

Jennifer Choi   Standing up for us and for each other

Corey Ford   The empire strikes back

Edward Roussel   Eyes, ears, and brains

Michelle Garcia   Navigating journalistic transparency

Hannah Cassius   The year of the echo-chamber escapists

Joanne Lipman   Journalists inventing revenue streams

Evie Nagy   Pivot to mobile video frustration

Mary Walter-Brown   Show a little vulnerability

P. Kim Bui   The reckoning is only beginning

L. Gordon Crovitz   Serving readers over advertisers

Francesco Marconi   The year of machine-to-machine journalism

Nancy Watzman   Know thy TV

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The Snapchat scenario and the risk of more closed platforms

Amy King   Let’s amplify visual voice

Imaeyen Ibanga   Longform video leads the way

Niketa Patel   Live journalism comes of age

Tracie Powell   The muting of underserved voices

Pete Brown   Push alerts, personalized

Sally Lehrman   Trust comes first

Emma Carew Grovum   Newsroom culture becomes a priority

Michael Kuntz   The only pivot that might work

Cindy Royal   Your journalism curriculum is obsolete

Felix Salmon   Covering bitcoin while owning bitcoin

Caitria O'Neill   The new court of public opinion

Nathalie Malinarich   Peak push

Ruth Palmer   Risks will grow for news subjects — especially minorities

Vanessa K. DeLuca   Women’s voices take center stage

Kim Fox   Audience teams diversify their approach

Monique Judge   Letting black women tell their own stories

Lucas Graves   From algorithms to institutions

Miguel Castro   The arrival of the impact producer

Heather Bryant   Building the ecosystems for collaboration