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SBD's 10th Anniversary
From The Founder: Pollack Talks About The Early Days Of The Daily
Published September 13, 2004
|The Sports Business Daily
Founder Jeffrey Pollack
JEFFREY POLLACK was 29 when he founded Digital Sports
Network and its flagship publication, The Sports Business Daily, in February
of ‘94. Pollack established the company and set up space in three small rooms
in a townhouse in
|The Orginal Logo|
THE DAILY: When did you come up with the idea for The Daily?
POLLACK: My first career was in political consulting, and I worked for a firm that did a lot of corporate work. In 1992, we were working for one of the major leagues on a pretty high profile issue, and after that engagement I was flying back from
THE DAILY: Why did you see a need?
POLLACK: The work that I did in sports as a political consultant, that’s where I really started to see that sports was a business. On that airplane ride, I took it a step further and hypothesized that if sports is a business, it is really a subset of the entertainment industry, and as such, it probably should have its own daily trade publication like Variety. When I got back to New York, I went to a couple of newsstands and started asking around and talking to some people that I did know in the sports industry, and it became clear that the type of publication I was thinking of did not exist.
THE DAILY: The Daily has heavily covered the connection between sports
and entertainment. What were you seeing in 1994 that lead you to believe that
the nexus between the two was only going to increase?
POLLACK: I wish I could tell you the exact thought, other than recognizing that sports was a growing industry. It was increasingly connected to the Fortune 500. You had Disney taking a team from the silver screen and bringing it to life on the ice -- The Mighty Ducks -- and more corporations were looking at owning franchises, and the general buzz seemed to be pointing in the direction of sports as a big business. I think that sports had been a big business, it just wasn’t recognized really as a big business yet. Because I came from the world of political consulting and corporate communications, for me it was also about recognizing a void in the industry’s corporate communications infrastructure and wanting to fill that void. Sports is entertainment. It’s a form of entertainment. I think the lines that have traditionally cut between the two industries have increasingly blurred and will continue to become blurred.
THE DAILY: When you were studying this idea for a daily, and trying
to sell the concept to people within the industry, what was the feedback you
POLLACK: Before we launched, most everyone said that it was doomed to fail. We were equated with The National and Sports Inc. -- two great, but failed publications. I kept encountering three warnings and three admonitions. One, there would never be enough news to fill a daily trade publication about the business of sports. Universally, people in the sports industry told me that there just was not enough content on a day-to-day basis. Two, they said even if there was enough content, no more than 100 to 200 people would ever have an interest in reading the publication because the industry wasn’t that big. And third, even if I could find those 200 people and find enough news to fill a daily publication; no one would ever pay me for it because people in the sports industry - executives in the sports industry - just did not pay for business information. Everything they needed to know they learned over the telephone or through their local newspaper.
THE DAILY: What other research did you do? Did you think people would
pay for it?
POLLACK: There was a focus group that we conducted just before launch in
THE DAILY: How did that “cover the coverage” model, which is so unique,
POLLACK: Well, it was two things. Since I came from politics, I was very familiar with The Hotline (considered the bible of political insiders). DOUG BAILEY, who started (APN), was my partner in launching The Sports Business Daily. He had already cracked the code on creating daily executive briefings, and that is what we wanted The Sports Business Daily to be. Covering the coverage enabled us to put a cap on our overhead. We didn’t have the funding to go hire the number of reporters that we would need to gather news on an original basis. Part of it was recognizing that the wheel had already been invented and part of it was recognizing that we had limited start-up capital.
THE DAILY: And your model of distribution and pricing, were those were
generated by The Hotline model?
POLLACK: Yes. We found at the time the sports industry was less wired than the political industry. So when we started The Daily, I would say that 80 to 90% of our subscribers took the publication by fax, and the rest by a dial-up computer bulletin board system. We then introduced email as a delivery option a couple of months in.
THE DAILY: What was the original price? Was there a concern of going
out with a high-end price product?
POLLACK: The initial launch price was $925, with a surcharge for fax delivery. The sports industry had never seen a daily publication before, much less a publication priced as high as we were. But I believed that the content would sell itself, and executives with, if you will, a perceived need to know would pay a premium price for the publication. And we were right.
See tomorrow's issue of The Daily for part two of our conversation.