Barstool Sports is Turning Heads in Sports Media

Two and a half years ago, Dan Greenberg found himself between jobs and looking to kill idle time.

As a loyal Barstool Sports fan, he noticed a hole in their Boston sports coverage; the site had no Celtics writer.  Greenberg started a Celtics blog with nothing more than pipe dreams of one day being a Barstool writer.

“I was never a journalism major or really ever thought of applying to Barstool,” Greenberg said. “I just love the Celtics way too much and had to kill time somehow while looking for jobs. One day I saw (Barstool founder Dave Portnoy) tweet something out about Isaiah Thomas, and I had just written an Isaiah blog, so I tweeted him the URL. Obviously not expecting a response, he followed me for about 10 seconds to (direct message) me to tell me he liked my blog and to send him some more. I did and a few days later he replied to the email saying we could give it a shot. Hundreds of blogs later, here I am.”

Greenberg, known as Greenie on Barstool, now can be found regularly on Barstool writing about the Celtics. While Greenberg’s rise to Barstool fame is impressive, it pales in comparison to what the company has done on the national level.

In the past year Barstool Sports, a sports blog which began in 2003 as a Boston-based newspaper, has burst onto the mainstream media scene by making waves in a way that it only knows how, appealing to the “common man.” Their rise to prominence in the mainstream media is an interesting story, as it struggled to gain legitimacy in its early years, but now is being touted as one of the most promising media companies.

Ever since their sale to The Chernin Group, a media company that acquired a majority stake to the site, the blog has traded in a Northeast-based audience for a national audience. The team at Barstool has parlayed their humor into a weeklong TV show on Comedy Central and a daily radio show on SiriusXM.

“Lately, it has just exploded,” Boston Globe sports media columnist Chad Finn said. “…It’s like as if Barstool nationwide now is what it has been in New England for the last four or five years.”

Their audience, known as “stoolies,” is a tight-knit, rabid bunch that is known on as being bullish on Twitter when enemies launch attacks on one of their own. The site gets 8 million unique visitors a month and has built a talented roster of personalities that thrive on humor and satire with sports as their scope. On any given day, Barstool will have headlines ranging from “Some Dude In Ireland Got Crushed To Death When 40 Tons Of Cheese Fell On Him” to “Pete Mackanin and The Phillies Piss Another Game Away.”

While comedy and relating to the “common man” is the core behind what Barstool does, the site does have sports in the name, making it another key element to the site’s demographic. As a Boston-based site, the blog has a writer that focuses specifically on each Boston sport. Jerry Thornton handles the Patriots, Jared Carrabis is the Red Sox writer, Brian McGonagle (Rear Admiral) does the Bruins and Dan Greenberg (Greenie) writes about the Celtics.

Despite none of these sport-specific writers having backgrounds in journalism, they thrive in this area. In writing from the perspective of the fan, they don’t hide their biases, which makes them more beloved from the perspective of the fans. Each of the personalities also did not make it to Barstool by accident, but it did take a stroke of luck. For Carrabis, he worked over 10 years writing his own independent baseball news before being hired by Barstool.

“You see Carrabis now on Comcast SportsNet New England,” Finn said. “Jared’s been around for 10-12 years now as a blogger writing about the Red Sox, but his career has taken off because of his association with Barstool and that’s not by accident.”

Like Carrabis, each of the other three writers used the platform to grow their profile in the Boston media market. Each of the four writers has made an appearance on either WEEI or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Greenberg used his writing to connect with a WEEI late night host, Christian Arcand, who hooked up Greenberg for a radio spot.

“You never know who’s a stoolie and who reads your stuff,” Greenberg said. “So one day (Arcand) randomly DM’d me asking if I would be interested in coming on his show after a Celtics game. I obviously accepted, and while I had only done a few other appearances on podcasts, it’s something that will only help spread myself and Barstool to a wider audience. It’s been fun and I love going on whenever he wants.”

While Greenberg is just getting the taste of the Boston market, Thornton has been through the ringer in Boston. Getting his start as a writer for the early Barstool newspaper, he used his profile on the site to land a full-time blogging and radio gig at WEEI. As an afternoon drive-time host, Thornton got to speak weekly with guest like Bill Belichick and John Farrell.

“The experience was invaluable,” Thornton said of his tenure at WEEI. “I worked with pros who gave me coaching I like to think improved my game.”

After his contract at WEEI expired, Thornton made his triumphant return to Barstool, not because he failed in radio, but because Barstool became more corporatized it could now offer benefits, such as health insurance, that weren’t available in years past. However, Finn notes that when WEEI made the move, they were hoping that it would bring Thornton’s Barstool following with him, which never panned out.

“(WEEI) hired him to bolster their website,” Finn said of Thornton. “…I don’t know how successful that was, he’s a really good football writer that’s hilarious with the stuff he writes, but I’m not sure how much it translated to”

Through it all, it was an amicable parting of ways and Thornton himself also saw an opportunity in new Barstool after the Chernin deal.

“The site has completely taken off,” Thornton said. “Yes, we were growing exponentially during my Barstool 1.0 stint, but since Chernin bought their stake it in, we’ve become a major media player. NBC Sports said us getting barred by the NFL was the biggest story of Super Bowl week. Then add all the new media platforms we’ve taken over … we’ve got a grip on the key young male demographic that other media outlets would kill for. For me personally, the return has been better than I could’ve hoped. With the usual few chirps from the comments section aside, I feel welcomed back and enjoy having the huge audience.”

My photo story took a look at how fans celebrated Patriot’s Day in New England with the Red Sox game and the Boston Marathon. My video story chronicled how three Northeastern students consumed their news about sports.


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