This week the life of a football blogger in South London changed forever. Dan, the Crystal Palace fan behind Twitter handle, blog, and daily podcast HLTCO finally hit the subscriber numbers he needed to quit his job and focus full time on his popular channel. As a fellow Crystal Palace fan who has followed Dan for years I was delighted for him, and listening to his daily podcast the morning after he realised he could go full time it was obvious how much this meant to him.
What was also obvious is that this is not just about one guy living his dream, it is about a total shift in how media channels are created and funded and how influential voices and fans interact.
A bit more on Dan’s story…
In his first podcast as a 100% professional member of football media, Dan reflected on how he went to college and was told by a professor he would never make it in sports journalism. Trying not to be dissuaded, he then set up a blog but became increasingly dissatisfied by the advertising models that were his only way of monetising the platform and make an income from his writing.
He then discovered Patreon, the app that asks followers to pay a small monthly amount of money to access his daily podcasts and written pieces. Over the course of three years Dan grew to 700 subs on Patreon. He did so by interviewing a number of great Crystal Palace players and figures from the club who were happy to speak to him because he knew the club inside out and he delivered a quality of interview that interviewees and fans loved.
He did some maths and shared with his near 60k Twitter followers that if he got to 1000 subs he’d be able to do this full time. Within hours he had almost doubled his subscribers and finally, nine years after starting HLTCO, this was his full time job.
There are a number of reasons why this excited me.
First of all, as a fan, I would get more quality content from Dan. Supporting a club outside the big six I’ve found media coverage of my club sub standard for a long time. So more insightful fans like Dan providing me with analysis about my club is great news. Fans of anything – sport, gaming, music – are increasingly demanding tailored, personal content on their interest. The days of watching MOTD for an hour hoping they might spend more than 60 seconds discussing Palace are long gone.
Second of all, Dan’s journey to becoming a full time, financially secure sports reporter is interesting on a professional level. Not dependent on ‘getting a job’ he created his own stream of income. In the same way as YouTube’s open platform has allowed people all over the world to become their own media channels, he is now an truly independent full time sports publisher with no affiliation or accountability to anyone but his listeners. Endless job applications, begging editors to look at your portfolio, and getting a job just to have your creativity thrown out in favour of ‘house style’ is no longer the only way.
The second was Dan’s rejection of advertising around his blog as the only option for him to make money from his work. He knew his followers didn’t like it either and Patreon offered an alternative. As a PR professional, the ongoing rejection of advertising not only by consumers via ad blockers but also by channels like HLTCO, is incredibly interesting. There are no adverts of reads on Dan’s podcast. Brands can’t force our way into these spaces, we have to earn our place.
The success of HLTCO is a perfect example that people want quality content on the things the things they are passionate about. They want it unencumbered by pop ups and adverts. They will defend it against attacks from big media. And they will more than happily pay for it directly.
Mike Skinner famously said “Everything is niche now”, a phrase often quoted by our entertainment team at H+K. The fact that a blog named after a free kick scored by Crystal Palace in a Playoff Final in 1998 has now, 22 years after ‘Hopkin Looked To Curl One’, become a full time financially stable football publication, paid for by fans, exemplifies that more than anything.
Bring on more niche.