Reflecting On Seven Years of SoBros Network
Let’s hop in the time machine real quick, folks. Way, way back in 2013, I was starting to explore the possibility of writing. It was something that was always in me – even as a kid in the 2nd grade, I was writing short stories (which you can read on the SoBros Patreon). But, I never really explored the idea because, quite honestly, I thought it was too far-fetched to believe I could make it as a writer (I had a lot of confidence issues as a younger man). But, I had finally decided to go for it in 2013 – thinking I’d probably regret it later in life if I didn’t even try. Hard to believe it, but here we are seven years later, and I’m looking back at years of hard work, figuring things out as we go, and a whole lot of shit that I never even thought of happening.
My approach early on was to divide my work up across gigs – I covered the Titans for Pro Football Spot and Titan Sized. I covered the WWE for Wrestling News. I covered Tide football for Bama Hammer, and some of my college football work was run on Outkick the Coverage and even Fox Sports. I started SoBros Network as a little slice-of-life catch-all blog for the other stuff I wanted to write in August of 2013. Clay Travis cut me my first check for sports writing. I worked alongside some really talented writers that have gone on to get full-time jobs with legitimate media outlets or even NFL teams (shout out the guy, Jake Arthur). Hell, some of these guys, I would consider friends at this point.
But, for me, I found that after four years of writing like that, something still felt like it was missing. I’m an odd dude – I’m a big time rule follower. I like the structure and the organization, and feel like if we all do our part, shit’s going to feel a lot smoother. But, at the same time, I’m all for the freedom to do whatever the hell you want to with your own life. I love creative freedom and writing for myself….not for a deadline or to fill a quota. Sometimes, I want do the breaking news stuff…sometimes, I want to do some complete and utter bullshit like the article I wrote about smearing things across my bare chest (also on Patreon – this whole post is just one big ad for our Patreon).
I knew the road to getting a paid gig in writing was a long one unless you were super talented or well-connected. I know I’m certainly not well-connected, and sometimes, I think I’m the only person on Earth that thinks I’m talented. Plus, I always had an entrepreneurial itch in me. That weird ‘don’t tell me what to do with my life‘ kind of attitude that always had me thinking I’d end up giving the business world a shot at some point.
So, weighing all of this, I thought, “hell, let’s go all in on this SoBros Network” thing. I pushed all my chips to the middle of the table, and decided I was going to commit to figuring out revenue, cash flow, growth and scaling, social media, and the bazillion things that come along with turning a blog into a business.
It was slow and steady – I can remember months early on when we’d be doing cartwheels to get 1,000 pageviews in a month. I laugh about it now because I thought back then, “we’re on our way!” Nowadays, if we don’t hit 25,000, I’m disappointed and talking to my team in a way that probably has them thinking we’re doomed. Since October, we’ve topped 53,000 pageviews/downloads in a month, topped 40,000 pageviews/downloads in a month thrice, and have topped 30,000 pageviews/downloads in a month twice. I’m fucking proud of that. Those are encouraging numbers for a website that has no real identity other than the sketch pad of its writers.
We aren’t a “Titans site,” a “movies site,” a “wrestling site,” or even a “Nashville site.” We are essentially a cast of characters adding our opinions, perspective, and humor to the stories we cover and the stories we create. It makes us hard to market to prospective readers, but you can always count on SoBros Network to be genuine. We are a family in that regard – we believe in being ourselves, uplifting others, and creating fearlessly.
You learn hard lessons like a pageview or an impression doesn’t necessarily mean someone read your content. You learn that if you don’t sew up your shit and protect yourself from a legal standpoint, you’re going to spend a lot of money. You learn that your website is at the mercy of social media and search engine algorithms, and it’s probably a bad idea to build a business upon a foundation that you don’t control. You learn that some people you respect actually feel like you’re a threat and see you as competition. And, you develop a sort of weird paranoia that has you constantly trying to sense whether someone is genuinely interested in you or your work, or if they’re just trying to get something out of you.
You won’t make millions of dollars in a couple years’ time – and sure, I can admit now how naive I was to think that seven years ago. But, can you make enough to keep the lights on and still have enough left over to do some really cool stuff with it? Sure! And, there’s no reason NOT to think that over time we can eventually get to a point where SoBros Network is providing a living for all of us.
You also get the freedom to create your way…to build things according to YOUR vision and no one else’s. I wanted to entertain people – do I want to make money doing it? Hell yeah! I’m not going to lie about that. But, I wanted to use this to build a community for people. Let’s get through this shit together.
I think we’ve done that – it’s a small group, comparatively speaking. Based on an algorithm I wrote, there’s about 600 of you out there, and I damn sure don’t know who all of you are. But, I’m grateful that you’ve made SoBros Network at least a weekly part of your lives. That’s why if you do decide to spend your money with SoBros Network (yet another Patreon plug), I take that responsibility incredibly seriously…and even if you don’t, just know that by reading us regularly or downloading our podcasts every week, you are helping our pageview/download numbers and supporting the ambition and vision of the SoBros Network team.
People have seen what we’ve created here and come to me for advice. I wear that as a badge of honor, and it’s a responsibility I take seriously. My door is always open for fellow creators and builders out there. My philosophy is open for discussion, and I’m always just an email or Twitter DM away.
I don’t believe in this old-school antiquated way of thinking that dictates that we’re all competitors here. There’s no limit on the number of clicks people can get in a day – the internet is vast, full of content, and there are plenty of clicks for everyone to eat. All of us, as creators, find our own people and build our own audience. We should be supporting each other more – building a network that allows, and maybe one day provides, more creatives the opportunity to do what they love for a living. I want to see happier people chasing their dreams – fucking sue me, but I think that’s a good world to live in.
It’s wild to sit back now and think of how seven years’ worth of work has shaped this perspective for me.
I’m so proud of what we’ve done here, and this is exactly why I work the hours I do. I’m always some form of tired. I’m very rarely running on a full tank, but I feel a sense of fulfillment from this that nothing else in the world could provide me.
So, to those of you out there who support us, thank you – we notice you, we appreciate you, and you’re apart of all of our successes. My hope is that you feel the same sense of pride in SoBros Network that I do.
I asked the other SoBros what some of their favorite things they’ve done since joining the team were, and what the brand meant to them.
I’m proud of many things I’ve created for SoBros Network, but the ‘Could Star Wars Grow Stale?‘ piece took me out of my comfort zone. It’s unlike anything I had done before. The brand has given all of us so much opportunity. I’m apart of a critics association and press for film festivals. It’s been a dream come true and I’m excited to see where we go next! -Brandon Vick
“My favorite thing I’ve created might be my History Lesson piece on the Normans. The Normans are one of my favorite parts of history and they created such a ripple effect through our culture but are hardly ever talked about. Aside from that, it would be Phone It In because sitting down and talking about whatever topic I want to with my close friend has no down-side. The SoBros brand lets me have a creative outlet when I want it, but it’s also a brand that has brought together only the best people. It really does feel like a family full of friends with no toxic assholes.” -Rooster
“My favorite thing I’ve done at SoBros is taking on the task of creating our own branded t-shirts and other miscellaneous merchandise. We have put loads of time and sweat (literally) into making these products, so it gives me a great feeling of pride when I see someone wearing a SoBros shirt.” -Cadbury
“My favorite pieces I’ve done for SoBros has to be my coverage the Chattanooga Film Festival. Going through all the content and trying to make sure I watched everything I could was probably one of the most fun times I’ve had during the pandemic. It gave me a sense of purpose at a pretty uncertain time in my life. Purpose and a sense of belonging is what I love most about the SoBros brand. The people involved are some of the most driven I’ve ever met, and I appreciate being around that kind of company.” -Brittany Fernandez
John Mosley and I talked a bit about it on the latest episode of the SoBros Power Hour:Listen to “Ep. 25: The Fashion House” on Spreaker.
Here’s to as many more years as we can do this. *raises glass*
Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD and #BeBetter. “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Nashville, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley