Growing a basketball site from scratch, six years in: On paywall, ads and revenue

Bootstrapping a startup is really hard. For The Pick and Roll, it's been a six year journey of careful expenditure management. Running a site like this sounds really low-cost, until you dive into it and realise a proper setup takes effort and money. Like all businesses, we began at a deficit that was initially paid out of my pocket. The next step is where we're at right now - how do we ramp up and hire good, talented people to run the show, while growing organically? This has been mentioned before, but Damian, myself (and all our contributors) don't earn a cent. But this isn't part of the long-term vision.

We love what we do, but content is only half of the picture. Bills need to be paid, and advertisements, partner sponsorships have always been at the core of our earnings. The online store finally went live this year --with a bunch of really cool designs!-- but it's a growing stream that will likely take a while to ramp up. We also have a Buy Me A Coffee option, where supporters are free to donate (or even pledge monthly donations) and keep our work going. We've been actively working on ways to increase/diversify revenue, which includes moving to a digital agency to manage our ads, working on new partnerships, and also today's main topic - WINR's AdGate.

Why AdGate?

I've never been a huge fan of subscription paywalls, and as far as possible, I'd like to keep our content free for everyone to enjoy. Right now, we're running a trial with WINR, whose AdGate technology has created a soft content wall. All that’s required to access the content, is a few moments of your attention, in the form of an answer to a question.

We've heard your comments about betting campaigns. The BlueBet campaign was stopped (even though it actually is a higher revenue campaign) and WINR has at our request, switched us to a non-betting campaign.

Here's how it looks like (screen captures from previous BlueBet campaign, not representative of current):

Think of these advertisers as sponsors of your free content. We’ll do our best to keep them relevant, and should you find their offers or products attractive or of interest to you, then it’s a win for all of us. Two clicks, we're done. And it happens once a week, it's not going to pop up on every article you read. We'd really appreciate your support on this. If you could disable your ad blockers when visiting the site, it would mean the world to us. It gets us one step closer towards being able to pay our contributors, and giving some of them a job when the time is right.

My mantra since last year, has been "be the change you want to see". No one is going to bail us out. There's no magic bullet, a miracle isn't happening. If we want to make financial viability a reality, we've got to make it happen. And we'd like to do so. Obviously, neither Damian or myself are pros in any sense of the word. We're just a couple of guys who like basketball and learning about various aspects of the business along the way. If there's anything we should be doing better, we'd love to hear from you. Drop me a DM (or Damian) on Twitter, or use the contact form.

*Shout out to Carson for being such a champ and setting our Facebook/Shopify digital marketing campaigns up, pro bono. Like all our contributors and everyone on the team, including Tony McLachlan, who does our graphics and design work.

I'd just like to say, The Pick and Roll would never be what it is without your support. And we'd love to grow the site with your help, as we continue to grow, keep our content free for you, and do what we love - covering Aussie hoops.