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I’m often asked about how to make money in the fitness space.

One obvious route is becoming a coach or personal trainer. This can be done in-person or online, but if you can help people get into shape, build muscle, and lose fat, and know how to market yourself, you can earn a decent income. 

And I’ve talked before about building an online coaching business and becoming a successful coach.

Another path, though, is content marketing. This can be monetized in various ways, but it all begins with creating high-quality content that provides value.

This is also something I’ve discussed on the podcast with the likes of Lou Schuler, but today’s episode is a bit different.

Specifically, I’m having a fireside chat with David Tao, the founder and CEO of BarBend. In case you’re not familiar with BarBend, it’s a hub for all things strength related: news coverage, training and nutrition articles, product reviews, and more. And David isn’t a new kid on the block—he wrote for Fortune and before creating Barbend and turning it into what it is today.

So, who better to discuss building a media business than someone who found a gap in the market, and carved out their own niche by creating unique, valuable content and grew it into the premier news source on strength sports.

In this episode, David and I talk about . . .

  • How he seized an opportunity to “scratch his own itch”
  • Why creating content is hard and the biggest mistakes creators make
  • The importance of staying top of mind
  • The beginning of BarBend as a news outlet and when he realized it could be successful
  • Monetization (advertising and sponsorship)
  • His biggest mistakes that turned into lessons
  • His game plan for the future
  • And more . . .

So, if you want to learn how David created a strength sports content empire from scratch, listen to this episode and let me know what you think!


8:01 – What was the opportunity you saw?

16:29 – When starting out, should you focus on quality over quantity?

324:35 – How did you start out?

30:04 – At what point in that first year did you see signs of life?

38:07 – How did you go from having a great idea to having a viable business?

49:34 – What are some of the worst decisions that you made that later became great lessons?

59:16 – What are your future plans?

Mentioned on The Show:

BarBend Website

BarBend Instagram

BarBend Podcast

Shop Legion Supplements Here

What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!


Mike: Howdy ho Friends. Welcome to another episode of Muscle for Life. I’m Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today. Now, something I am often asked about is how to make money in the fitness space. How did I do it, and what are some other viable ways of doing it? Now, one obvious route is to become a coach or become a personal trainer, and you can do that in person, you can do it online, but if you know how to get into great shape yourself and how to help other people get into great.

You know, build muscle, lose fat, get healthy, and if you know a little bit about marketing, you can do well for yourself. And I have talked about that in an interview I did with John Goodman, for example. So if that sounds really interesting to you, you should go back and find the interview I did with John Goodman and check out his company, the Personal Trainer Development Center, pt, D C, as well as his online trainer academy, which you can find [email protected].

Not getting paid to plug that, but I genuinely like what John is doing, and so I definitely recommend you check his stuff out if you want to learn how to become a successful trainer. Now another path to fitness riches is content marketing, which can. Monetized in various ways. But before you can get to making shiny shackles, you have to know how to make good content, how to create high quality content that provides value to people and that they’re going to talk about.

And probably also that Google likes too, because if you don’t know what you’re doing on the SEO front, you’re gonna have a very hard time growing a content marketing business. Now, I have talked about how to create good content here and there in the past. For example, I did an interview with Lou Schuler on that topic, and if you want to dive into that, Specifically, just go check it out.

His last name is S C H U L E R. You can find the interview in the feed now. In today’s episode, I have a fireside chat with David Tau, who is the founder and CEO of Bar Bend. Dot com, which is a major hub for all things strength related news coverage, uh, training and nutrition advice, product reviews and more.

And David mentioned in the interview that it was over 2 million visits per month. It’s probably more than that now, and it continues to grow. And he’s not new to this game either. He wrote for Fortune, he was involved in before he decided to go off and create Bar Bend and turn it into what it is today and what it is becoming, which David says is the ESPN of strength.

Sports. That’s his big vision for what is obviously a media company. It’s more than just a website. And so I got David on the show to talk about how to build a media business, how to find a gap in a market, and then establish a toehold and build that into a bridgehead. And from there set about taking some real territory and building a real brand in a real business.

And in this interview, David shares all kinds of interesting tidbits, like some of the biggest mistakes that he sees, content creators making, the importance of staying top of mind and how to build that into your content strategy, the very beginning of Barand and how he realized that it had legs that it could be successful.

Some of the bigger mistakes that he has made along the way. Some of the big lessons he has learned. Also, if you like, what I am doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you, is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world.

And we’re on top because every ingredient and dose in every product is backed by peer-reviewed scientific research. Every formulation is 100% transparent. There are no proprietary blends, for example, and everything is naturally sweetened and flavored. So that means no artificial sweeteners, no artificial food dyes, which may not be as dangerous as some people would have you believe.

But there is good evidence to suggest that having many servings of artificial sweeteners, in particular every day for long periods of time may not be the best for your health. So while you don’t need pills, powders, and potions to get into great shape, and frankly, most of them are virtually useless, there are natural ingredients that can help you lose fat, build muscle, and get healthy faster.

And you will find the best of them in legions products to check out everything we have to offer, including protein powders and bars, pre-workout and post-workout supplements, fat burners, multivitamins, joint support, and more. Head over to buy That’s B U Y L E G I O And just to show you how much I appreciate my podcast peeps, use the coupon code M F L checkout and you will save 20% on your entire first.

Hey David. We did it. We made it. We’re recording for people listening, we, we were going back and forth with schedules is what it was. And that happens sometimes. I know regulars around here have heard me open podcasts this way, and that’s what happens when, you know, I’m busy. Someone like David is busy, but the stars have 

David: aligned.

It’s funny how difficult it is to schedule things when people are spending more time at home than ever. I’ve had more trouble scheduling during Covid than before. I, I don’t know why that is. That’s like if someone can write a dissertation on that, I’m sure. My 

Mike: hypothesis is Netflix. Do we need to go here much further than that.

David: Oh, Mike, I can’t talk today. I have to finish the queen’s gamut. You know, it’s just really important. Yeah, 

Mike: exactly. That’s a show my brother-in-law’s raving about, and then my wife. Told her that maybe she wants to check it out first. And I’m very hard to please with TV because I generally don’t like watching tv.

I think it’s okay, but it’s not something I particularly like, oh, I’m looking forward to my time on the couch. So she watched the first episode and was thoroughly unimpressed. And so that’s not gonna be on our list. . 

David: Well it’s got, you have someone kind of doing the first round of cuts for you, , you know, delegation.

You know delegation. Exactly. That’s the way to do it. Eventually your kids are gonna get old enough to where they can tell you what to watch, what to avoid. It’s, it’s perfect. You just gotta make sure their tastes suit your own. 

Mike: Yeah. Which is unlikely. So what I wanted to talk to you about is something that I get asked about fairly often.

You probably get asked about it fairly often and that is a, a series of business related topics and specifically relating to of course, your business, which is primarily, it’s a media company, but also my business and well Legion in particular, which. Is a sports nutrition or a supplement company. At least that’s how it appears at first glance.

But I would say it’s just as much a, I wouldn’t call it a media company because that makes it, that sounds kind of pretentious for what we are doing. You truly are a media company, but it is a, a content first and education first kind of approach That obviously came out of all the way back in the beginning, I just wrote a book and published it and wrote more books and started writing blog articles.

But I’ve kind of maintained that as the, the core of my personal brand and also of Legion’s brand for a variety of reasons that I think, well, there are some, some of the argument is, is I think it’s good business and good marketing, and then there are just personal reasons. I, I like that kind of work, but I, I wanted to talk to you because I often get asked about getting into the, the fitness industry and how to make money in the fitness industry and how to make money with content marketing or how to produce good content.

And I have. My standard answers than questions that I ask people to try to help them kind of flesh out whether they should do it or how they should go about it. But I would love to hear your take on the process and the process you went through that led you to start Barand because you’re a smart dude and you were already familiar with this space, with your work at Greatest, and I’m curious what was the opportunity you saw?

Because as you know, a bad plan is just to start doing things exactly the way everyone else is doing them that is not likely to work out. But you found a niche and you found a, a unique selling proposition really to take advantage of and it has gone 

David: quite well. Well, first off, Mike, thanks so much for having me on the podcast.

It’s always a pleasure to to chat with you. I really enjoyed when you came on the barand podcast, and I’m really honored to be on this one because this is, I truly believe one of the best, you know, fitness related podcasts online. And to talk about the business of fitness is something that’s always really fun for me.

And you know, I wanna say, uh, we were chatting a little bit before we started recording. The thing I tell people now is if you wanna make a living in fitness and you wanna start something in fitness, maybe don’t make it a content company. And I know that sounds really pessimistic, but you know better than most, and you’ve been doing this for a long time, Mike, like you’re OG content is hard, right?

Making it work from a business perspective is difficult. And the thing that I really want to emphasize with Barand, it’s about four and a half years. We actually had our four year anniversary, like the beginning of Covid, so we couldn’t really celebrate it cuz New York City where we base was on lockdown.

Zoom party. Zoom party. Yeah, zoom party. We should have bought Zoom stock when we had the Zoom party. That would’ve been there. Yeah. That would’ve been the best business decision. Uh, put it all on Zoom stock, put it all on Amazon 

Mike: at this point. That’s all. That’s it. There’s the investment strategy. 

David: Yeah. End of podcast.

Done. , there’s your, there’s your business advice folks. The thing I want to emphasize is it’s not, it wasn’t my first rodeo. I saw an opportunity, I was a, a strength athlete myself. I am a strength athlete. I love strength sports and I, I originally wanted to start something or I looked for an outlet that had strength sports news kind of all in one place.

There were a series of subreddits. Occasionally strength sports news would be covered on an existing website, but there wasn’t that go-to place if you. Results, world records, et cetera, from across the strength world. We’re talking weightlifting, powerlifting, strong man, CrossFit, bodybuilding we’re doing more of now.

Like there just wasn’t that place. And so, you know, I wanted to start that place in many ways. But at the same time, I also knew, due to my prior experience in media, that that wasn’t enough. You know, we had to diversify across platforms, across monetization structures, across partnerships. It wasn’t enough to just have a news blog in strength sports that wouldn’t be very scalable.

That could have been a passion project, right, that I did from, you know, my apartment in Manhattan. And it could have done well, it could have gotten a lot of traffic. But I do think that these days, and we’re seeing it with major publishers and we’re seeing it with startups, if you wanna start a media brand, it can’t just be a blog.

You have to find a hundred different ways to reach, you know, one person. You can’t just expect. One particular out, you almost have to be platform agnostic, right? You can’t just have a blog and expect that to carry you. You can’t just have a podcast and expect that to carry you. You kind of have to do everything, which is what you’ve had to do with your own personal brand, but also with your business.


Mike: Totally. Yeah. And, uh, just to, to comment quickly, I think what you said right off the bat is an important business lesson, which is that you were in a space that you understood because you are a strength athlete and you were looking to scratch your own itch. And that’s something that I often tell people about and I have like standard little lists of business books that I.

Recommend people read if they haven’t, if they’re wanting to get into business for themselves. And one of them is Lean Startup by Eric Reese, I believe. And in that he talks about the concept of creating a minimum viable product. And he talks about scratching your own itch. And so I think that’s something that, it might seem like a minor point, but it can be a major point because.

If we now look at the marketing of Take Bar Bend or any business, this is now the field of persuasion and there’s a big difference between the right words, the right message, and the almost right words, and the almost right message or the right product or service to, you know, that real product market fit and the almost right product and service.

It’s almost like a mis can be a mile, you 

David: know? Mm-hmm. I, I think that the biggest miss I see people make when it comes to content is, first off, I think creating quality fitness content, like a lot of people do it. Yep. Right? Yep. You all create so much quality fitness content before Bar Bend. There was a ton of quality fitness content.

Some of it I was involved in at outlets, like Greatest, you know, I did some writing for them. I did some work with like Times Health Imprint. I was a media consultant for CrossFit HQ for Samsung. Like I spent a few years as actually just a, a media consultant for both content companies and big businesses that wanted to dabble in fitness or had fitness related products.

Right? So that’s kind of where I really sharpened my teeth. Yeah. In many ways. To kind of see it from the company aspect, not just the media. Not just the media company aspect, but I think the biggest thing people miss about content, about the difficulty of content, and this is something that I know, I know you understand and you and I have chatted about before, it’s that consistency is absolutely everything.

Because there are a lot of places for people to turn online and they have very short attention spans. And if you’re selling like a widget, right, people will buy it once or they’ll buy it on a subscription or something like that. But you don’t have to produce a new version of it every single day with content.

You have to constantly produce content and there are really no days off. Yep. Right. For Barand, since our very inception, I can count in the past four and a half years. On one hand, the number of days where we haven’t published multiple original pieces of content over, you know, well over a thousand days.

And I think the tricky thing on content is that you can’t just, it’s not enough just to produce quality content. If you wanna build a brand that has real stickiness across platforms, you need to produce it consistently. Now, there are a lot of individuals and a lot of fitness influencers as individuals who have built strong personal brands by producing great content.

Somewhat inconsistently, but I think that’s even falling by the wayside. And you’re seeing these influencers have to really leverage the power of consistency to stay top of mind. Mm-hmm. . So I think it’s two sides of the same coin here. If content is your business, it’s producing great stuff, right? But it’s not enough to just produce great stuff.

You have to produce it consistently. Otherwise people will start going elsewhere. What they want to see now that it might be not, the content might not be as good. They might need to go to five different sources instead of the one stop shop that Barb’s trying to be for all things strengths. But they will migrate away and you will lose their attention.

And so that is one of the downsides I like to mention very early on for content is like, okay, you wanna build content, you wanna make that your business cool. Build systems from the beginning, or if you’re doing it yourself, just expect to have no days off where you are constantly producing. And I’ll just 

Mike: add to that, that quality I believe, matters a lot as well.

And have you come across the website Backlinko? Brian Dean? Oh yeah. 

David: Yeah. He, uh, . I actually first came across him on YouTube and then I realized that was a drip strategy he had because he was selling a course for, uh, YouTube engagement. 

Mike: Oh, got it. , I don’t know what he’s doing on YouTube. Uh, I’ve just followed his Backlinko website for some time now, and he has taken the approach of, although I haven’t checked it recently actually, so I can’t, I’m assuming he’s still doing the same thing.

But for a long time he was taking the approach of consistent, but I think it was, let’s. It was no more than once every couple of weeks. It might have even been once a month consistently producing long form well-written, very easy to understand, well-researched, well presented, you know, screenshots and graphics and articles.

And he has done very well with that strategy. So the reason I say that is just anybody listening who immediately then is discouraged that how are they supposed to publish several original pieces per day that are of any quality? I, I totally agree. If you can do that, that is outstanding. I don’t even do that.

I mean, obviously individually I don’t even do that. I, I pop up on legion’s blog every week or so, or every seven or 10 days. Something original comes from me. And then I have some other people I work with and they get credit for what they write. And you know, I’m the author on what I write, but we average probably like, Well, our strategy that we’re currently implementing about done with implementing will probably, I believe it’ll put up a piece.

This is including updates, uh, of existing content to refresh it. I believe it’s gonna be one a day, and that’s with a team of people. And like you said, systems in place. But for somebody who is just starting out, my hypothesis would be, and this is obviously this is gonna be subject to the whims of Google and, and social media and so forth, but if it were me starting from scratch, I would focus on quality over quantity initially.

David: What are your thoughts on that? I completely agree. I wanna give a, a huge addendum that I should have made much clearer on my first statement, cuz you and I are very much in sync here. Barand started as a news outlet. Now we produce long form content, we produce evergreen content, we produce a lot of content that isn’t just news, but we first gained traction.

it took a little bit of, you know, it took a lot of AB testing and trial and error. We first gained traction as a news outlet, so I should clarify, I’m coming at this from the perspective of Barand was first and foremost and continues to be largely a news outlet. The news in strength sports, right? And we’ve diversified, we produce a lot more evergreen content.

Now it’s become a, a more and more of a focus. And actually as our team has grown, you know, we’ve been bringing on people who are, who never touch news. They focus more on our evergreen content than, and the other things that might not be so time pegged or news pegged. But when it comes to what we had to do for news, I realized very early on.

If we missed an event and we started in 2016, if we missed an event or we were late to cover something, our window of opportunity there to cover that was over, right? People didn’t wanna read about World’s Strongest Man results a month later on, or results from the Olympics a month later on. But even more impactfully, what I saw is if we didn’t cover an event, we quickly fell out of people’s consciousness as a go-to source for that strengths sport because we covered, uh, content across strengths.

Yeah. And 

Mike: anybody listening who uses a news aggregator, I’ll check websites. Like if I want right-leaning news, I’ll go to Zero Hedge. If I want left-leaning, I’ll go to, although, which is the Drudge retort, although at this point Drudge Report is essentially just C n N. So either Drudge Report or Drudge.

And so I understand that psychology where obviously I’m expecting, uh, 15 updates a day if I want to quickly see what’s going on. You know, a big 

David: part of that, and this is get into more specifics and not to get into, not to play mu too much insider baseball right now. Right. But you know, a big thing that goes to, um, You know how your business is structured.

There are a lot of news outlets and content outlets that, outlets that do they really focus on paid acquisition. They are paying through any number of systems, social media platforms, Google Ads. They’re paying to get people on their website, Barb, and when we started it, We knew we were going to have se try several different business models.

We knew we were going to change and evolve a lot as a company, but we built it to be an organic shop to where people, we did not do paid acquisition. We don’t do paid acquisition. Everyone who’s reading Barand is coming there because they found us through an organic channel, be it social media, be it Google, be it Google News, or Google Discover or something like that.

So I think that there’s an additional impetus for us to produce fresh content. Look, we’re playing in many ways in Google Sandbox. It’s not our only traffic source, but we wanna stay top of mind and we wanna stay toward the top of not only their organic search results, right? But the other platforms for discovery that they’re really pushing heavily, including Google News in 

Mike: something else.

Just to, to rewind a little bit that I think is worth emphasizing that I like about your approach that makes a lot of sense to me, is you were looking for something, you found an opportunity, you found a gap in this bigger health and fitness space, and instead of just kind of aping what somebody else is doing, and I can relate to that because when I wrote Bigger Than You, stronger Back, I mean, I published it in 2012 January, so I was writing it over the course of.

2011, I started writing that book because I remember looking on Amazon and going to the bookstore and looking through books, and I was looking for that book. I was looking for a book that just makes it simple. Just gives the basic science based principles, the fundamentals for diet that explains energy, balance, explains macronutrient balance that is heavy on the meat and light on the sizzle.

So to or heavy on the steak and light on the sizzle. So, so to speak. You know, I don’t need all the marketing bullshit, just, just kind of tell me what to do. Right. And on the training side of things, just explain the importance of lifting heavy weights and progressive overload and getting enough volume in to be able to progress with your muscles and gimme a program that.

It puts me in the gym for maybe 45, 60 minutes a day, three to five days a week. I can do some cardio outside of that as well, because I knew that at that point, based on what I had learned and what I had experienced, that that approach works and it delivers the results that most guys who are getting into weightlifting want.

They really don’t need to do much more than that. And of course I haven’t. There are some other nooks and crannies that are worth exploring. That is why I wrote that book. It wasn’t that that book already existed and I was like, oh, I can just do my own version of that. It was that the book didn’t exist and I was really surprised actually.

I was like, really? Nobody has just kind of written a simple how to actually just stick to the science. Don’t take the approach of some new weird bullshit, fake breakthrough, trying to sell some sort of fad diet or fad workout program with some patent perpetually pending bullshit name. And that’s why I wrote that book initially, how you started Bar Bend, there’s just a parallel there and that you saw something that didn’t exist that you yourself wanted to use, and you knew that there were likely other people out there like you who would.

Appreciate it if it existed. Am I right? 

David: Yeah. I think that, again, it’s, it’s important for me to emphasize that there was good content out there. Right? It’s not like we were coming in and saying, Hey, nothing has been produced. That’s up to standard. I think for us, it was trying to create a, a home for the strength athlete as a, as a concept, and for people interested in strength as a, as a concept.

It sounds like though, the 

Mike: news, I mean, you had mentioned this and that’s why I, it just stuck in my mind. It sounded to me, though, that this news aggregation angle was something that hadn’t been done yet, the way that you envisioned it. 

David: Yeah, certainly. But, you know, the creating the espn n for strength sports was an original pitch.

Right? Now, I, I don’t want to use that too heavily because I don’t wanna be, you know, sued for trademark infringement or something like that. . 

Mike: But ESPN has bigger problems. I think they just laid off like hundreds of people or something. Yeah. 

David: They’re a Disney property now. They have bigger fish to fry.

Right. But really being that. The theory was like, okay, if I am someone who, you know, first discovered Olympic style weightlifting and then discovered CrossFit and then power lifting after that, like, you know, my strength journey is everyone’s strength journey is unique and different. But I thought, well, if I’m interested in all of these things and I’d love to be able to go to one place to produce all of these things, or to, to get my information on all these things, then there have to be other people out there who are also interested in all these things.

And at the time, you know, this is in 2016, this might seem relatively late, but at the time, you know, if you wanted results on. Some of these more niche sports, right? Especially when, when it came to things like strongman or powerlifting at the time, or even weightlifting. It’s funny, sometimes you would still have to wait for a physical magazine to come out to get the information on who did what at these events or in an earlier age of social media.

You know, people might post their own lifts on Instagram once Instagram, like introduced video as a component, right? In those like early 15 second clips, you remember those. Or you could maybe go to, you know, a place called like power lifting watch or something that may have those results up, but actually treating them as, you know, E S P N did something groundbreaking, I think, which is, hey, we can treat the news of sports as entertainment, right?

People enjoy not only seeing who won, but reading about the game. My theory was, okay, a strength athlete, maybe it’s a CrossFitter, they might be interested in watching someone snatch and clean and jerk really heavy. And they might also be interested in the drama that went behind that actually occurred at that beat because there was a misload on the barbell, or someone bombed out who was expected to win, right?

It might not be super relevant to their day-to-day training, but they’re still interested in that. So I think there’s a, a level of cross pollinated interest across strength, whether you’re a competitive strength athlete or you’re just someone who’s lifting weights because you enjoy training or because you just want to get leaner and stronger because you’re a Mike Matthews fan.

You know what I mean? I think a lot of your listeners on this podcast, they might not be actively training to have the heaviest snatch and clean and jerk possible, right? But if I tell you, Hey, someone just snatched the most weight in human history, do you wanna see a video of that and learn a little bit more about this person?

A lot of them might actually say yes, even if they don’t do that movement regularly or have never even tried that before, and that cross pollinated interest. It was a concept that was very quickly proven out when we started getting traction within our first few weeks of putting the site live. 

Mike: And how did you start out?

Cuz this just comes back to this minimum viable product that I’m a big believer in and is I think is almost always the smartest way to go about starting a business. How did you de-risk? So you had this theory, you had this hypothesis that there would be these other people out there that would be interested and if you did it in a way that appealed to you, it would probably appeal to them.

And where did you go from there? And the reason why I think this is worth talking about in particular is I can think of a couple of examples that come immediately to mind of people. One is specifically in health and fitness and then the couple other examples actually in other industries where people started out.

I think reasonable theories, like you had something that, yeah, I could see that working. Nothing is guaranteed and anybody who has worked enough in marketing and who has done enough AB testing of things, particularly with conversion rate optimization, knows that sometimes things that make so much sense to you and seem so clearly better than your, your control just lose.

And it’s sometimes it’s baffling. Sometimes I can’t even figure out the psychology of why some of these tests don’t win. A big mistake that I’ve seen people make is start out with a reasonable theory. It’s not dumb, it’s not something you would hear and just shake your head at, but then move way too quickly.

Quit their job and pour a bunch of money into it and go into this long development phase before they ever de-risk their theory. Like get it to market as quickly as possible. This is my personal philosophy, is do as little work as you can initially to create the bare bones product or service that the early adopters will, or even you could say, the innovators, the real left of the distribution.

People who love finding just new things, even if they are, uh, very imperfect, and start getting it feedback right away. Start seeing, does this really have any legs? Am I really gonna gain any traction? 

David: Yeah, I, I, I think there’s a lot to unpack there, and I think that you, you speak to both your own personal experience.

What you’ve seen in the fitness industry, which is why I just have love having these, these sorts of conversations, especially with someone like you who you know has been around the block. Not that you’re old, but you have a lot of experience and a lot of, I’m, I’m okay with getting older, wiser, let’s just say not older, but wiser, more experienced.

But I think, look, don’t quit your day job is something I grew up hearing a lot. I grew up in, in rural, pretty rural Kentucky, more suburban these days. Whenever I, I go back and I see how it’s grown. You know, I kind of had this thought in my head or grew up with this like, Hey, maybe don’t be so entrepreneurial, right?

I didn’t come from that background, not that it was necessarily discouraged, but you know, I never really saw myself starting my own thing. And I think with Bar Bend there were a confluence of factors that influenced my ability to take the risk, quote unquote, while de-risking what it could do for myself.

I do have co-founders and they were extraordinarily supportive. And at the time, we were actually doing quite a bit of work for clients when it came to marketing, social media, marketing, seo, and content development for clients. So, you know, the first year of Broadband’s existence, we were not only running Bar band, we were running some other websites and we were doing paid consulting for companies when it came to online marketing or digital marketing, or how do they create content and things like that.

So, you know, Barand didn’t make any money when we launched. It’s very difficult to make money. In content, unless you’re launching with an established audience, right? If you’re selling an ebook online and you already have 5 million followers, that’s one thing. If you’re starting from zero, which we did good luck making money in your first year, maybe in your second year, but I actually had the idea for Barand during a period of time when I was going to just take my plan, was to take six to eight months off of working entirely.

It was burnt out. I had worked for over two years at that point as a content consultant in and around the fitness industry. I was on the road for between 25 and 30 weeks of the year. I was just burnt out and I actually decided that I needed to reset. I was at c e s in Las Vegas in 2016, and if you’ve ever been to a conference in Las Vegas, there’s partying, there’s , a lot of drinking.

I really enjoyed all the people I got to spend that time with. They were fantastic, but I just got burnt out and exhausted and I came back to New York and I was like, I need a reset. I need to take some time, kind of do, do my walkabout so to speak. Maybe I’ll, you know, go to a cabin in the woods for some period of months and just reset.

But there was something in the back of my brain that still kind of tickling me. And I had talked to my now co-founders. They were just kind of some business acquaintances and friends of mine at the time and I, I mentioned, I was like, Hey, I think I’m take some time away and when I come back I. Have this idea for something I might want to get off the ground.

And their response was, well, why don’t we just do that now? You know, like, why wait, the longer you wait in the digital content space, the harder it gets. Right? What if someone else comes to market with that idea first? Then you’ll have to play catch up. And they kind of convinced me to not take that period away and, and just get started.

And by partnering with them, I was able to roll in some of the clients I was still doing consulting for and they were able to, and they already had clients that they were working with as well. So we were able to kind of have an economic base that helped fund barand for the first year until we raised our own round of funding and then until the business actually got to the point where it was, you know, making enough money to sustain itself.

So all that to say it can sound like this great leap of faith to just go all in on barand, but I was extraordinarily fortunate in that I had a bit of an economic lean to or, or base that basical. Helped fund the company until the flywheel was spinning fast enough for the company to support itself. 

Mike: And at what point in that first year did you see signs of life?

Did you see that your theory may well be correct, that this could become something like, what happened for you to know like, Ooh, this looks like this was a good 

David: idea? There were two. That’s a very good question, and I want to give two specific examples. The first was World’s Strongest Man. 2016 World’s Strongest Man is an interesting event because it is a television show, there has never been a live stream of world’s strongest man.

To where you can like watch it as it happens, like you would the CrossFit Games, right? Or the World Powerlifting Championships. It is recorded to be a television show that airs at different times in different countries, and that’s how the event is built. It’s literally made for tv. So because of that, it can be difficult for fans to figure out who won when it actually happened, because the actual show might not air on tv.

I think that year it aired like six months later on television. Right. And it was difficult to get reporting on it. We covered it. The results were. Are not necessarily secret, but they’re just not broadcast, and it wasn’t something that at the time, mainstream outlets were really picking up. Now, once Hor Bjornsen and a few other folks and Eddie Hall and all these folks became kind of bigger, more mainstream names, people started covering ’em a little bit more.

ESPN started picking it up, et cetera. But we published the results of the World’s Strongest Man that year, basically before anyone else. I think we were the first to publish and there were accurate results. They gave color and context and, and life to this competition. And you know, I remember publishing that.

I believe it was like a Sunday night. I could be wrong here on the timing. And I kind of went to bed and I woke up the next morning and had my commute and walked into the, you know, the office we were renting out of a shared workspace. And I walked in and my co-founders were like, they’re kind of more morning people than I am.

And they were like, Hey, have you checked analytics today? I was like, no, no. I was, I was about to. And they’re like, you should check analytics. And I think it was something like we had, you know, a hundred thousand people on the site or something like that, that day. Not at once, but you know, we had about a hundred thousand readers that day.

And previously our high had been like a few thousand. Right. So sudden. I realized like, okay, people are coming to us because they want this information and they can’t get it anywhere else. And they’re coming to us through different means, through Google, through social media, et cetera. But like that was something our first a hundred K day, like, it was quicker than any other site I’d been involved with from the beginning.

So it was quicker to a hundred K in a day than any other site I’d either help launch or was involved with very early on. And the second thing that year I noticed was, uh, the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. We wrote articles and I wrote many of them myself. Actually, every weightlifting session we wrote results, right?

Every men’s weight class, every women’s weight class, we wrote results. What happened? Full on articles and full on coverage. And that wasn’t something that the mainstream outlets were doing. Someone like N B C, someone like E S P or c B s, they may cover weightlifting at like a 5,000 foot view and they might rate like, yeah, here’s what it’s gonna be a highlight reel.

Exactly. Here’s what happened that day. Or here’s like if any world records were set, right? Or here’s what the Americans did. Um, oftentimes, but there wasn’t any one state side who was covering every session in full. Now there were people posting on like the subreddit, people posting on social media, some really smart, fantastic, you know, folks who were trying to give weightlifting some coverage, but there wasn’t like a site that did that.

And we saw such amazing sustained growth in traffic over the course of the Rio Olympics and growth on social. And I think that’s really where we built up a lot of our initial weightlifting leadership. So it was those two events where I was like, Okay, there is a desire for this. We just happen to be, right now the only one hitting publish in a timely fashion.

And then from 

Mike: there, I’m assuming it was time to double, triple, quadruple down on the 

David: strategy. Well, certainly we wanna double down the strategy, but we also began to realize that, like we talked about earlier in, in this recording, Mike, you know, you have to find a hundred different ways to get one reader or one listener, right?

Living in New York, I kind of have a ringside seat to some of the not great things that have happened in New York media over the past few years. And one of the big mistakes a lot of brands made years ago was they went all in on Facebook and they were like, we’re gonna become a Facebook news outlet where we’re really only gonna publish on Facebook.

We’re gonna publish natively to Facebook. And a lot of them were big VC backed companies that quickly hired hundreds of employees and they don’t exist anymore. Or at least they don’t exist in that format anymore because they were so beholden. One platform. Yeah. Organic 

Mike: reach has just gone 

David: down, down, down.

Right. But especially, you know, Facebook tweaked their algorithm and some people lost 90% of their traffic. Right. I mean, that’s happened 

Mike: with the trio. I believe it was three Google updates that we’ve seen in, I, I say MySpace maybe. I don’t know if, well, no, you produce a lot of similar content. So you probably saw Google Medic hurt me.

It hurt legion’s traffic, and then the latest one helped Legion. And so on the whole, it’s actually been okay. But there was a period of decline. It was like one or two updates. It was medic and then there was another one, and then there was a third that rapidly increased traffic. So similar situation, although fortunately we don’t rely on Google for, certainly not for much.

Immediate income people clicking to the website and buying. That’s not generally how it goes. That’s very hard to do, to have anyone click into your blog and not know anything about your company, even if they like the article and go buy something. So it’s, it’s more a process of getting ’em on the website.

Hopefully they like the article. Most of our traffic is blog traffic. Hopefully they liked it. And then we can follow them around with ads that hopefully, hopefully get them back. And then really what we want is we want to get them onto our email list where then we can create more of a personal relationship.

And there’s other onboarding sequences and people can reply to the emails that come from me and hear from me and 

David: so forth. But yeah, I mean it’s important to, I think for media companies to hedge, I mean, there was a time where we considered going really tripling down on Facebook in our first year. Right.

And I’m so glad we didn’t because halfway into our first year, Facebook updated their algorithm and you know, there were a lot of media companies that just went out of business. They didn’t have any more diverse traffic sources. Look, I’d say Google’s certainly the biggest player that dictates how organic traffic flows on the internet.

It’s not the only one. We get quite a bit of organic traffic from Nongo browsers, especially internationally, and you know, making sure our site is super light and super mobile optimized. So someone in India who’s using potentially a low cost or a low data device or plan can access our content and it’s still be a rich experience, you know, as if they were had gigabit internet on a desktop in the United States.

It might not be the exact same, but you know, how can you make them somewhat equivalent? So we were very lucky early on that we decided to try and diversify the types of content we were producing, but also the platforms we were reaching people on and to understand, like to really bet on ourselves.

Because at the time, so many folks were just publishing directly on Facebook, or a lot of outlets actually switched over to just publishing on medium. Medium was kind of like the new hot thing then. And Mike, I’m sure you saw people were like, well, we’re gonna migrate away and we’re just gonna be on a medium subdomain.

People and companies who have had some success there. We see it now with journalists moving over tock, right? But I think that we bet that our most valuable asset would be And like how can we make that the best experience and then disseminate that content or syndicate that content across platforms?

That was the decision we had to ultimately make in 2016, and I will say we got a little lucky. It could have gone either way. There are many, many people much smarter than I who made a different decision that ended up being wrong. That year in doubling down on Facebook or doubling down on medium or something like that.

Look, you need to be lucky and good ultimately in business. It’s not to say that all of this was like a master plan and everything was perfectly predicted by us. Like sometimes you come to a fork in the road and, and you hope you make the best decision based on the information you have. That’s true in the content business.

It’s true in the supplement business. I mean, that’s true in in any entrepreneurial endeavor, any area of life, really. True

Mike: If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you, is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the. Talk to me about monetization. So you have now, uh, proof of concept and you have gained a readership, and how did you go from that to a viable business?

Yeah, I, 

David: I think the first place any publisher looks for monetization is advertising. Onsite, right. Which over the course of the internet has certainly ebbed and flowed. Right? Gone are the days where you start a personal blog in the late nineties and, and big fat Google checks just show up or big fat checks from Yahoo just start showing up outta nowhere.

it’s a slower build these days and traffic has a different value than maybe it once did, you know? But for us, onsite advertising was pretty big. Finding a, an ad network and finding an ad experience that didn’t detract too much from the reader experience that still made people want to click through a dig to different pages on our site that was still very mobile friendly.

We are constantly tweaking that. We’re constantly tweaking the onsite ad experience and we get a lot of traffic. We get, you know, millions of visitors a month and that is a, for us, monetizing via onsite ads is, it’s very viable for us because we get that much traffic. For a lot of blogs that are even more, or sites that are even more niche than us, it’s not necessarily.

We also do a good bit of sponsored content. Now that’s obviously disclosed and disclaimed and treated very differently than non-sponsored content on our site because we want to be, our readers are smart. We’re not pulling the wool over any anyone’s eyes. And so, you know, if you read a sponsored piece, you know that it’s sponsored.

But as our traffic has grown, that’s something that brands are interested in doing. With us directly. It could be, you know, it takes different forms. A sponsored post, a sponsored podcast, a sponsored newsletter. It takes a lot of different forms. So that’s something that didn’t really become an option for us until we’d already proved traction and proved growth.

We were a little slow to accept sponsored content partnerships until brands started coming to us. You know, the most of our sponsored content partnerships are brands approaching us, not the other way. So it’s only been very recently that we’ve kind of built a dedicated sales process for that because we really wanted to take our time and we didn’t wanna partner with brands and then have them not get any perceived value out of that.

So it took us a long time to develop that, but that’s something that, you know, our team’s gotten much, much better at sorting out and approaching in a way that is clear to our readers and is in line with everything you’re supposed to do online, but also gets value for our partners. And then another way we monetize through, uh, some affiliate.

I should give the disclaimer and disclosure that disclaimers and disclosures are on all of our pages that have affiliate links. We do have an affiliate partnership with Legion, so I should say that right now I’m big on disclosures and disclaimers and that’s another way that we monetize as well because you only partner with the best

I like partnering with people who have great smiles, great abs. No, I’m absolutely kidding on that. I’m not, not to butter mic up too much, but I should also say that we’ve sold content to companies. That’s something we’ve done before. You know, a company might want, they look at our content, they’re like, that’s great.

We would love to publish that. We don’t have a team that can produce that. Can we buy it from you? And, um, we have white labeled, or private labeled, whatever you wanna call it, content for other media brands. That’s something that we are thinking of exploring more and more as a, uh, potential path to monetization because we are very proud of the content production systems we’ve built and other brands.

They’re looking at us and they’re like, we want that, but we don’t wanna spend the years and years building the team in the systems. You know, what’s your price? And you know, that’s something that I think we will continue to potentially explore with the right brands. We don’t want that showing up on really terrible spammy websites.

So we’re being a little discriminating on who we work with on those projects. And that 

Mike: is a theme of the, a lot of what you’ve been sharing on this podcast is, feel lack of a better word. I know it’s a trendy term right now, but authenticity and transparency, and essentially treating your readers and your followers as you would want to be treated.

like you mentioned, making it clear that sponsored content is sponsored and making sure that it’s good content and that you’re not willing to trade, you’re not willing to trade a little bit of your brand equity for some money, and that requires some foresight and it requires some integrity. And uh, I think that that has certainly contributed to your success.

And it also, it’s just apparent if you spend some time on the website and you pay attention to the details, at least it’s apparent to me if you pay attention to the details. I just get the impression, I mean, I know you so I know this, but I would get the impression that somebody who cares is behind this.

And if that were not the case, I would say, You’re good at faking it, but it is the case. And the best way to do that though, is to actually care, is to actually have a, some ethical standards and to pay attention to the details. And again, to just really deliver the product and service that you wish somebody could deliver to you.

And I think if you operate from a place like that in business, it will permeate so many aspects of your business in ways that you are not even gonna be aware of, but that people from the outside looking in, especially new people, will get an intuition. They’ll just get a sense of, I like this and I’m inclined to believe this, uh, or this person or this website.

And I understand even as a consumer who I think is, I’m fairly good at marketing and persuasion, I’m good enough at least, and I get this experience where I’m just inclined to trust this person or this source. And yes, I can be wrong sometimes, and sometimes people are just good at pretense, but. often that’s not the case.

Often when I looked into it further, I just get my intuition further confirmed, and I think that, uh, Barand is a good example 

David: of that. Well, one thing I will say is a guiding light for us has been, look, if we’re doing something that’s maybe a sponsored post or a partnership, when I say sponsored or partnership, it’s not necessarily a, it’s not always paid.

For example, we have a partnership with U S A weightlifting, where they’re official media partner. We do have an editorial separation of church and state. There some content we do collaboratively and it’s labeled as such. Some content they have zero input on. And we also do a lot of work with World Paralympic PA lifting, which is the governing body for paralympic power lifting.

That’s not abundantly clear. You know, we look at any partnership content or sponsored content through the lens of, okay, if this was not a piece of sponsored content or partnership content, would it still be good enough to pass muster on Barand? If this didn’t have a brand or a sports governing body associated with it, would it still be good?

Would it still be, are we cutting corners to have this content go live? Yeah. 

Mike: Yeah. Could you stand by it? Could you field an email from a reader who is asking questions about it and it’s legitimacy? 

David: Exactly. And look, I’m gonna be honest, we’re not perfect and I think there are instances in everything we do, be it sponsored content, partnership content, regular content news coverage, podcasts, we can always do better.

I think that it’s all too easy to separate things out when you’re a content company to, Hey, here’s our monetized content. Here’s like maybe our not so heavily monetized content and kind of treat them separately. And in a sense you do have to treat them separately because they go through different editorial processes, they have different disclaimers, but you should be working to get better at at all of them.

It’s very easy to say, here’s how we do sponsored content. Here’s what a brand gets when they do sponsored content with us. And to not push those to get better editorially, every piece of Spawn Con we publish should be better than the last piece of Spawn Con we publish. That’s the same expectation when it comes to our news coverage, right?

World’s Strongest Man is coming up this year. Our coverage of World’s Strongest Man 2020, sure as hell, better be a lot better than our coverage of world’s. Strongest Man, 2016 that I referenced. Content is content. It represents your brand and it doesn’t matter if there’s another brand or another brand partner attached to it, it still represents who you are.

Or a 

Mike: guest author, right? Maybe it’s not sponsored content, it’s just a guest post. I’ve seen many websites. We publish 

David: a lot of guest posts from outside contributors, and I literally can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten an angry phone call from a contributor being like, what do you mean this isn’t good enough yet?

like it happens 

Mike: a lot. That reminds me of, of a little anecdote. I believe it. About Henry Kissinger who there was a story that when AIDS would bring him reports or just written material, his standard go-to reply was basically they can do better, like go work on it some more. It’s not as good as it can be yet.


David: We have an op-ed section, right? And one thing that annoyed me in the early days before Bar Ben started, I was very annoyed because I didn’t feel like there was a standard practice in the fitness industry to label op-eds as op-eds. It was tough to figure out like, what is someone’s opinion and what is someone saying is fact.

I’m sure this is an issue that you have run into many times before in your own career in fitness. And our op-eds still go up, they still go through an editorial process. It’s not like someone sends us a document and they’re a big name influencer in the, in the industry and we just publish it without taking a read.

You know, pushing them to make it the best possible thing, and that’s turned off. Some people, I’m not gonna name names, but we’ve made some people upset in the industry because they’re like, well, you know, I thought my name would be enough to get me a byline on Barend. It’s like, no one’s name is enough to get them a byline on our site.

The content should be what gets you the byline on our site. 

Mike: Totally agree. The thing with that is that’s one of those little micro decisions that Yeah. In and of itself, does it really matter if you accepted the content as it was, or if you wanted it better? No. If you just looked at it out of the bigger context and saw it as this one little transaction, but if you do it once, then how many other times are you gonna do it?

And over time, making a lot of individually poor decisions can add up to a complete mess. And it’s just an important business lesson because once you have achieved some success and once you have the flywheel spinning and you’ve really gained some momentum, I think it can be easy to think that now you can kind of just rest on your laurels and you can do things that would’ve actively gotten in the way of you getting to where you.

David: are, you know, you will make so many decisions as an entrepreneur that are wrong, right? You might make more wrong decisions than you do, right? Deci correct decisions as an entrepreneur like that might just be how it is and everything has an impact. And you know, I think the second wave of building any company is surrounding yourself with people who know more than you do about certain things, or at least really care as much as you do about certain things and can help contextualize decision making so that you’re not looking at every single thing through your own biases.

And that’s. Obviously very important in something like news coverage, but there are lessons there and and impacts there for every type of company. And look, fitness, it’s very easy for us to say, oh, fitness is very simple, right? It’s calories in versus calories out. It’s periodized resistance training.

There are these principles that we like to hang our hats on in the fitness space and say like, these are trues, and anything that isn’t, these is false. And like everything’s been figured out. But even if there are fitness principles that might seem relatively straightforward to us, people. and people who are passionate about fitness are inherently complex, and that adds a level of complexity when it comes to doing business in the fitness industry.

When it comes to serving content in the fitness industry. When it comes to selling products in the fitness industry, it’s never going to be as straightforward as you might assume because people are complex individuals and they have their own biases and thoughts. It can get frustrating. It can get frustrating to say things that might seem very simple and to lean on things in this space that are very simple, but it’s never that simple, especially if you are dealing with millions and millions of readers.

What are some 

Mike: of the. Wrongest decisions that you’ve made. What are some of the, when you look back Yeah, some of the big mistakes that, that obviously turned into big lessons, but I’m, I’m curious or, or just whatever jumps to mind, like things that stand out as it would’ve been nice to know that, you know, before doing 

David: that.

It’s not that I can’t think of anything, it’s that I’m trying to figure out where to start. I think the first thing we, okay, we were talking about this a little bit before the episode started recording. We are a New York City based company and for a long time I was such a stick in the mud about like, every team member we have needs to be based in New York City, right?

And like, we need that because we need to have that in-office presence. We need to film everything in office. We need to treat this like a true media brand. I would say this thing that was just so wrong, I was like, blogs don’t have offices. Media companies do, which is like the dumbest thing in the world, by the way.

And I, I Where did you get that? I made it up. I’m, I’m assuming I made it up. I maybe I was like watching an episode of Mad Men and then and then like, I woke up and in a fever dream, I was like, this is what I need to say. Like something, you know, and it’s the dumbest thing, Eureka moment. Like it was the dumbest thing in the world.

And like, I literally would say that to people and about like, no, like we need to hire people in New York and like our full-time employees will be in office and that’s where we do things. It’s like, obviously that’s not the case. Right? And it really took Covid for me to be, to understand that that’s. That that’s just not the case.

And I understand 

Mike: I didn’t have a little motto to go with it, but I thought it was more important than it has turned out to be. I thought it was more important to be in the office together, and some people would prefer it probably. But many of the people now that were fully remote and don’t have any intention to change that, regardless of where Covid goes, most of the people are very happy with the setup.

Several people, they formed their own little group and they’re in Florida, and then several other people were able to go live in the places they wanna live. So I understand. I also just had this idea that, I don’t know, just precluded me from even looking into. Fully remote work. And that’s just like you had mentioned, we just, we have our biases and sometimes we’re not willing to 

David: push back.

The irony of it is I was the first person, you know, back in the 2000, early 2000 tens, I guess we’re in a different decade now. I was the first person to be like, the old ways of media are not sustainable. Print is not the future. The old guard is going to have trouble. The old legacy publications are gonna have trouble and they need a new way of thinking.

But then I would also be like, well, you know, time Magazine has a big fancy office. C N N has a big fancy office. We gotta have a big fancy office. It was like, it was, the irony was just staring me in the face, Mike, and you know, I look back on it even, I look back at myself nine months ago and I’m like, how, how obtuse are you?

You know what I mean? How stubborn are you David? One of many examples where I was just wrong. I think, um, I think there was a time in Barbs. Bar Bend’s history. This goes back to something I said earlier, like our website being the most valuable asset we have bar, the thing that gets, you know, X number of millions of readers per month.

And I think there was a time when I thought our social media strategy, which we’re currently in the process of completely redoing and actually bringing on some new people to do that. I thought that social media, the only point of it for us was sending traffic to the website. Right. And I was convinced that if we weren’t funneling everything from social media directly to the website right then it was point.

it was pointless. Obviously that’s incorrect as well. Social media has value beyond pointing links to your website, right? And beyond pointing traffic to your website. It’s a way for your brand to interact with someone on a very different level, and that can be really powerful and really potent. And that’s something I was all too slow to pick up on.

Mike: I have been in the same boat probably because I don’t particularly enjoy social media. I like that it’s an easy way for me to interact with people and answer their questions and just hear from people. And uh, it’s similar to email in that sense for me, where I enjoy the one-on-one interaction. But outside of that, I’m just not a social media user.

Like I rarely ever even scroll one flip on Instagram’s homepage. Like if I’m opening the Instagram, it’s usually right to dms so I can just answer people’s questions and check comments, and that is mostly it. I understand now that I should have. Taking it more seriously as a business owner and set up a team sooner to use social media better than we have previously and even probably get some help with my own because I can only do so much and it only makes so much sense for me to spend so much time on it given the other things I have to do.

That’s also something I’m in the process of expanding is the team and the focus on social media strategies that I think are more in line with best practices. And the same thing goes for sponsorship and working with influencers for whatever reason, I just didn’t quite, the potential effectiveness didn’t really resonate with me until I started to see what it was doing when somebody took the time and it was their job to build it up.

And I look back and I go, that’s kind of dumb. Like I’ve missed, I’ve missed out on many, many millions of dollars of sales that could come from an area of the business that I don’t have to be. Very involved in personally that I just need the right people who enjoy that kind of work and it’s totally their thing and they can just build it up, you know?

David: I mean, hindsight is 2020. And the cool thing about, well, I, I know you’re a very data oriented guy, so I know tracking sales and conversions and things are, are things that are always in your mind and you have people on your team who are also responsible for that. On the content side, you know, we can see traffic in real time.

We can see trends in real time. For us, a lot of the decisions we make that are incorrect, we know it almost immediately. Right? It’s true in all businesses, like, you know, at a certain time hindsight’s always 2020. But one thing that about content, and I’m sure you know, you do this as well and looking at analytics and performance and, and things on your own content and your own.

You know, you’re able to see it relatively quickly. So the good news about content, as much as I was pessimistic earlier in this recording and I was like, don’t get into content if you wanna make a living, the good news is you can kind of spot your mistakes pretty quickly and a lot more quickly than you can with other realms of business.

So that is actually something that’s really nice about content if you’re willing to. Stay somewhat open-minded and to actually, you know, look for those things. Yeah. And 

Mike: probably not be easily discouraged, right? Because there are a lot of ideas, and I’m speaking for myself, a lot of ideas if we’re talking about content, even for ideas for articles, ideas for podcasts, and in many cases, ideas that I put a fair amount of work into and just didn’t really do that well.

And then there were many pieces of content that, uh, didn’t take as much work, sometimes not nearly as much work, and that I didn’t expect. Like I remember what immediately comes to mind. The flash pole memory is, I remember years ago when I had Muscle for Life, which eventually I just merged into Legion, gave it all the content, all the links and everything.

I remember I wrote an article on Fasted Cardio, and this was years ago before Now there’s a lot of content out there and it’s not a particularly interesting topic for many people because it’s kind of beaten to death. But at the time there was not much out there. Like if you searched Google, there wasn’t anything particularly interesting on the first page.

And I thought it was just kind of interesting and I, I spoke about some of the research that show. It probably doesn’t do much in terms of increasing fat loss in and of itself, but if you combine it with Yohimbe, which is a neat supplement, and then if you’re gonna take Yohimbe, you might as well take some Synephrine and some caffeine as well, blah, blah, blah.

And so it was a pretty simple article and And it talked about a little bit about stubborn fat too, and explained people explained what that is and how it relates to Yohimbe. And what was interesting though is SEO research indicated there was no real value in it. I don’t even know if it was getting a thousand searches a month according to the research at the time.

And I didn’t do much in the way of social media digging to see how much chatter there was out there about it. It’s just something I was getting asked about semi-regularly. And I thought it was interesting. So I wrote an article on it and that article exploded within a few months. It was getting six figures a month.

It was breaking a hundred thousand visits a month from an article. I, I was baffled cuz according to. the, I don’t remember which SEO software I was using at the time, maybe Ah, refs or Moz or something. There wasn’t much search volume, so I, I still really don’t know exactly what happened. But that article became, and I’d have to look actually because it’s been updated several times, it probably still is a consistent performer years later.

So, you know, just to that point that there have certainly been flops and things where I was like, cool, I just put 30 hours into an article that is basically in the graveyard. That’s great. And then there are other instances where I just swung really hard and happened to hit the ball and the bases were loaded.

You know, 

David: it’s, look, writing is oftentimes, the content creation is oftentimes about killing your darlings. And just as often you’ll have successes and you’re just scratching your head. And I will say, Hey, we have a fantastic team at Bar Bend. We have some folks who I think are really best in class when it comes to.

Data analytics, seo, content tracking. And look, we can point to examples too, where, you know, it’s been months and months and we’ve done all this digging and we’re just like, we don’t know why this one is working and we don’t know why this one isn’t working. Those are clearly the exceptions to the rules.

You know, about 99% of our content, we can deduce what’s happening pretty quickly and, and pretty well. But there are still those head scratchers online. The internet’s a big place and you’re never gonna understand all of it. 

Mike: Very true, very true. So what are your future plans for Barand? What is the next one year, three years, or even five years look like if you’ve planned out that far or at least kind of laid out a vision 

David: that you wanna work toward?

Well, thanks for asking, Mike. I appreciate that. The game plan for us now is to, is to build. We’ve built systems and we’ve built a great team. Now the game plan is to, for us to build teams, uh, plural and to really let people specialize a bit more. Now, I talked earlier in the podcast about how you shouldn’t double down on just one platform, right.

But you know, the question for us is, can we build teams that really focus in on specialty content when it comes to a particular strength sport? Can our news team stand on its own and be very separate than, you know, our content team that focuses just on evergreen and like training our nutrition content?

The answer is, is yes. And I think for us, building teams around these systems we have is gonna be very important. And as we grow bringing on people who can truly be specialists, because that’s what’s going to allow them to become the absolute best, right? If, uh, the more hats you wear, as you well know, Mike, the more hats you wear, the more difficult it is to become a master of anything, right?

You can become a jack of all trades. , but a master of none. You know, can we allow people to grow at Barand to where they can become not only responsible for something at Barand, but you know, truly the best there is when it comes to their silo of content production? I would’ve loved to have done through that process sooner and, and have less of a generalist team.

But with any growing business, you know, you have to follow the revenue and how the business is actually doing. That’s going to dictate how quickly you can grow. And I am someone who, um, I am not a big proponent for us of going out and getting institutional funding to scale. I’ve been involved in, in companies that have gotten institutional funding and, and it’s not, I’ve 

Mike: spoken with a lot of people who have operated in those circles, and the advice uniformly is, if you can.

Basically, there are scenarios, but like this flow chart is long and it has a lot of yes no decision points to get to the, take 

David: the funding, you know, very much. And I, I, I will say I used to be a writer for and for and living in New York, I know a lot of people kind of on both sides of that, right?

Who are founders and entrepreneurs, but who are also, also work on the VC side. And it’s not inherent. A bad thing. But for us, because we are so niche and because we’ve been able to call our own shots, you know, our scale and reaching our scale has to come from money and resources. The company itself is earning.

And look, could we go out and raise a large institutional ground? Maybe, maybe not. You know, I don’t know anything for sure until you’ve done it. But can we grow on our own merit based off of like our own businesses viability? You know, we’re getting to the point where we can finally scale more specifically and scale kind of by silo and for very, very, very specific roles as opposed to, you know, hiring editorial generalists or even SEO generalists.

You know, I want to get people who are increasingly coming into and growing into more specific roles. That’s our game plan for the next year. We’ve actually already begun that process. We have, uh, a new employee. We’re onboard. You know, someone tomorrow and, uh, we’ll be onboarding more and more folks.

Barbed is 11 full-time now. Nice. And we’ll be onboarding more folks, you know, hopefully over the next months and the next year. So, you know, our one year plan is let’s build specific teams around specific systems. Our two and three year plan is a gradual expansion beyond just strength sports content, while also.

Understanding and respecting that is our core audience is something we’re going to continue producing, but can we start producing content that’s a little bit more general and meeting people no matter where they are in their strength training journey? I hope so. And that’s what we’re gonna work to do.

Love it. And 

Mike: the big picture media, do you want this to be, is this the ESPN 

David: for, for strength sports? I think actually in many ways we’re getting there. 

Mike: I mean, I’ll say I like the brand. That’s something that immediately struck me. It’s a great name. I mean, and that matters. I’m a big believer in the importance of strong branding and I, I like the, how the experience has evolved.

I think it’s slick. I 

David: really appreciate that, Mike. I mean, I think the thing for us is we’re already among the bigger sites in this space. You know, we might do the biggest news source in, in this space that is specific to this space. How do we grow smartly, but also not like how do we disrespect our own ceiling?

Yeah. Because I can’t look at someone like, we’re not chasing. Right now. Right. I can’t say that there’s, like, there’s not someone who’s leaps and bounds ahead of us when it comes to coverage of the space the way we do. I think we can be much bigger and I think we can, you know, be a resource for all information strength.

I think we can get much better at video. I think we can launch other podcasts. I think we can be a place that incubates talent from across the strength world like I really 

Mike: do. Yeah, that, that’s something I was gonna ask you about. I figured I’d just save it until after the interview, but that’s exactly where my mind goes 

David: is as soon as we can take over your podcast.

I’m absolutely kidding. Mike, I’m completely . I’m completely joking. Hey, I love competition. Um, no, no. I mean, ed, you’d be a personality under the bared brainer. I’m completely joking. You’ve built quite the behemoth. I’m 

Mike: a very open-minded person. I’m willing to listen to anything and then go from there.

David: nothing is impossible. But all that to say, you know, you’re a very smart guy. I respect so much of what you’ve done in, in the fitness space and what you will do because I know you’re also someone who does not sit on your laurels, so to speak. But for us, I think being a home where. Personalities can exist.

Yeah. And grow. Yeah. And, and be built within the space. I think that is the next wave and like, call it the three 

Mike: year planet. Totally makes sense. I, I immediately think of, I don’t know his name because I’m not into hunting, but you know the meat eater guy that has that whole brand? Have you heard of that 

David: meat eater?

Not coming to mind 

Mike: actually. Oh. So I, I don’t know his name, but I know he has a show on Netflix. I’ve seen just the cover of it. And I know also he has essentially a media company and he has a whole family of podcasts all around. I believe it’s all around hunting is the main topic, but apparently he does very well and that is the model that he himself made it work and then systematized it and now is kind of.

Stamping out these, these other workable spinoffs, you know? Well, you should be able 

David: to build a structure to where someone with like a personal brander who wants to build that, it should be appealing to them because they can build it under the infrastructure you already have in place, right? Yep. And they don’t have to go hire their own audio engineer and do you know what I mean?

It should. The flywheel’s already spinning, like you and I have referenced a few times in this conversation. We’ll see exactly what that looks like. You know, the funny thing is about digital media is you can plan ahead, but digital media always evolves and changes. And the platforms we really prioritize now might be a little bit different in a few years, or there might be new platforms, right?

If we were having this conversation three years ago, TikTok wouldn’t have been a thing, right? But now there are like, that’s one of the biggest, if not already, the biggest social media platform in the world. So things will evolve and you don’t want to get, you wanna predict and you. You want to guess and you wanna make good inferences, but you don’t want to, um, you want to stay open-minded as you yourself have said, continually 

Mike: revising.

Right. Oh boy. And, and being willing to be wrong or, or how I look at it is just to be more Right. That’s how I like to . 

David: I , I I learned a lesson that made me more Right. Okay. I will borrow that. But I will credit Mike Matthews when I use that phraseology. You 

Mike: can steal it. What was that though? That’s Austin Cleon thing, right?

What was it? Real Artist Steele or something. But, um, Hey man, I really appreciate you taking the time to, this was a great discussion and we’ll have to figure out something else we can talk about for round two. I really 

David: appreciate it, Mike, thank you so much. A huge fan of, of what you do and what you’ve continued to build because I know that in many ways you’re just getting started.

So I very 

Mike: much appreciate your time. Thank you. Thank you. Flat. All right. Well, that’s it for today’s episode. I hope you found it interesting and helpful, and if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, could you please leave a quick review for the podcast on iTunes or wherever you are listening from?

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