Forty-one percent of Americans say they are not sport fans, says a 2015 poll by Gallup. This may come as a surprise, since sports are ubiquitous in American lives. There are hundreds of 24-hour sports radio stations, at least six 24-hour television stations and it’s hard to even find a restaurant that does not have sports on at least one television. This situation convinced a group of writers and investors that there would be a market for an information source that could deliver sports news to people who do not like sports. These writers and investors from places like ProPublica and ESPN launched TipOff Sports, a twice-weekly email newsletter that aims to be the source of information for people who don’t want to look dumb in front of the sports-obsessed masses.
TipOff Sports provides background and explainer information on everything major that is happening in the sports world. The newsletter has already attracted a wide audience. Todd Arky, TipOff’s co-founder, said that is exactly the audience for the newsletter. “There are tons of guys out there who don’t know much about sports and are annoyed that they can’t join the conversation at the office, at the cocktail party, or with their kids.”
Arky also believes that women are another target audience, saying they are likely to go on dates, engage in office water cooler talk and hang out with their kids, all experiences where sports might come up. “The weather and sports are the two easy go-tos when you meet someone,” he said. Arky also was influenced by having to constantly explain sports things to his good friend Paul Appelbaum, who doesn’t follow sports at all.
“I just found myself from time to time calling him and saying, ‘Put on this game. It’s on this channel. Here’s the backstory. Here’s why it’s particularly exciting: These are two longtime rivals or it’s Game 7,’” Arky said. “Then he would call me afterward and be like, ‘That was so enjoyable.’ Knowing the back story and knowing the importance of that particular event made it much more interesting for someone who generally doesn’t get that excited about sports.”
Akry and Appelbaum teamed with their friend, the reporter David Epstein, to edit TipOff. The newsletter is written by Nuri Adler, and writer Liz Newman is the community manager.
The newsletter has 50,000 subscribers and a 20 percent rate of open-rate, which means about one in every five subscribers finds it important enough to actually open. Women constitute around 60 percent of the newsletter’s subscriber base. The group picks up additional subscribers whenever there is a major event like the NBA finals or Super Bowl.
Although TipOff was originally filled with links and long, they have since shortened the newsletter to reflect the content people want. The founders said people become interested when a big event rolls around and then go searching the internet to find out what’s happening. However the volume of articles and their specialization are not ideal for non-sports fans, who need a basic outline. That’s where the TipOff comes in.
Every issue of TipOff includes Watercooler Words, which is a tweetable suggestion – a sentence or two – that will give readers the chance to offer a quick take to let the world know they get what is going on.