Digital media executive Sam Savage got a surprising endorsement of his decision to invest in Clay Travis’ Outkick media company on what should have been a sleepy summer Friday.
Newly hired columnist and equity partner Jason Whitlock attracted so many readers that he crashed its website on June 26. Within hours, the site was back up. But Savage was shocked Whitlock’s debut content helped drive 3 million unique visits in 10 days.
“There’s been so much traffic it’s been insane,” said Savage. “We’re scaling our servers as quickly as we can. But I’m shocked. It’s been crazy.”
So goes an eventful couple of months for the growing media outfit. Over the last few months, Travis brought Savage and Whitlock aboard as equity partners. He also beefed up his editorial team by hiring reporters Ryan Glasspiegel, Bobby Burack, and Michael Shamburger, who’ve broken multiple sports media stories since joining.
Savage, who is an operating partner, leads the business operations of Outkick. The founder of Savage Ventures and former chief revenue officer at 247Sports has several growth initiatives planned, ranging from expanding the current three podcasts to 10-15, including one hosted by Whitlock, to tripling Outkick’s headcount to 30 staffers from 10 by the end of the year. The planned hires will include writers/podcasters fans “are going to recognize and get excited about for sure,” he said.
Meanwhile, Travis has rebranded the formerly known “Outkick the Coverage” as “Outkick.” Besides being easier to type, the change aims to make the company more brandable and less sports-specific than the old moniker, which reflected the site’s original focus on college football.
Savage is also overseeing an expanded membership platform, opening up an option to become a VIP for $99 a year. Subscribers will get access to special events, a VIP call-in line to Travis’ radio show, unique online content, among other things. Savage declined to specify the current number of VIPs, but sign-ups have risen 3,366%, he said. Outkick’s goal is to reach 100,000 VIPs by the end of the year.
Similarly, Savage declined to comment on Outkick’s total revenue. But he optimistically predicted a tenfold increase this year vs. 2019.
Whitlock and Travis are two of the most opinionated voices in sports media, positioning Outkick as a “fearless” media brand, according to Savage. He believes they provide an alternative to more politically correct sports coverage.
According to Savage, Outkick’s strategic repositioning is already paying dividends. During June, he expects Outkick to crack 7 million unique visitors compared to its previous average of half a million uniques per month.
That has been bolstered by Whitlock’s arrival and his refocusing on topical sports columns, which is expected to project the site’s July traffic to 15 million uniques.
“He is coming out swinging. His content is phenomenal,” Savage said. “People have been longing for this. He’s getting back in the saddle, he’s fired up and he will continue to just crush it.”
Whitlock declined to comment on whether he invested his own money into Outkick. But he said he wants Outkick to become one of the top 10 most-trafficked sports and culture web sites by the fall.
“We think we offer a perspective that’s missing in the marketplace. The perspective is honest, fearless, unconcerned with pleasing Twitter, and more in line with traditional sports values,” said Whitlock. “Sports are fun, uniting, masculine, and celebratory of what’s best about America. If you love sports and a smart dissection of the issues involving sports, you’ll love Outkick.”
That future growth may also come via a closer tie to sports betting. Travis told Front Office Sports in May that the company would look to form a business alliance with a company in the betting industry. That stance has not changed with Savage’s arrival.
Jason Barrett of Barrett Sports Media said that Outkick has several of the ingredients necessary for success including its leadership, writers, and thought-provoking opinionists with large social media followings in Whitlock and Travis.
“During an election year, that should help them stand out, especially given how much of the media attacks stories from an opposing viewpoint,” said Barrett.
But to reach Savage’s lofty growth goals, Outkick will have to develop new talent, better promote the brand, and placate nervous advertisers who might be pressured by Travis and Whitlock’s critics to jump ship, Barret said.
Outkick has to “prove it can generate results, once bigger clients start comparing them to other brands like Barstool, Bleacher Report, ESPN and The Ringer,” he said.
Outkick may be a sports site now. But as Savage talks with his partners, they envision a website that appeals far beyond sports fans.
“Clay called me and asked me, ‘How big do you think this thing could be?’ I was l like, ‘We’re hitting the cross-section of sports, a massive audience. We’re hitting the cross-section of politics, which is another massive audience. Then general pop culture,'” he said. “You add all that together, and this is probably a 50 million to 100 million unique-visitor-a-month property.”