Two-Brain Radio: The Morning Chalk Up With Justin LoFranco

Justin LoFranco-BLOG

Sean: 00:05 – Hi everybody. Welcome to another edition of Two-Brain Radio with Sean Woodland. On today’s episode, I speak with the founder of the Morning Chalk Up, Justin LoFranco. But first, Chris Cooper is not the fittest person who ever walked the Earth. He has never recorded a world-record snatch. His Fran time is—it’s just OK. But Chris does hold a gym record. He’s written the best-selling fitness business books of all time. Based on his experience as a gym owner and thousands of free calls with other fitness entrepreneurs, Chris put together four books that can help you make money and live the life you want. This isn’t smoke-blowing without substance. These books have helped thousands, and they can help you. Head over to Amazon and check them out. You’re looking for “Two-Brain Business,” “Two-Brain business 2.0,” “Help First” and “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief.” These are best-selling books based on hard data and experience, and they can help you find success. Pick one up on Amazon today.

Sean: 01:13 – Justin LoFranco is the man who started the Morning Chalk Up all by his lonesome in 2016. In the last four years, It has become part of every CrossFitter’s morning ritual and the daily newsletter is emailed out worldwide to 85,000 subscribers. Justin and I talk about how his life working in the U.S. government helped prepare him for his current endeavor, how he was able to build the Morning Chalk Up into its current state and what the future of the site looks like as we get deeper into the 2020 CrossFit Games season. Thanks for listening. Justin, thanks so much for joining me today man. How you doing?

Justin: 01:52 – I’m doing excellent, Sean. Thanks for having me on.

Sean: 01:54 – You bet. A lot of people obviously know you from the Morning Chalk Up, but there’s a whole Justin LoFranco history before you even got to the Morning Chalk Up, what were you doing before you decided to start your current endeavor?

Justin: 02:05 – Yeah, that’s kind of an interesting tale. It started by way of Washington DC working the United States house of Representatives, which is also coincidentally when I found CrossFit for the first time, or rather when I started doing CrossFit. This was end of 2008 when I moved there and I started working in Congress and I was a press aide for a number of years there. And then went onto some campaigns and went onto congressional committee. And just kind of made my way seven years through politics and continued to rise in the ranks of doing that.

Justin: 02:41 – My final job was actually in Madison, Wisconsin, working for the governor when he was running for president in the 2016 campaign. And once that ended and we lost, I decided not to take any new jobs, any new opportunities inside of politics. I took two months and I went to Italy. I worked on a farm, fed animals, you know, lived up in a mountain somewhere and I basically did nothing. And just kind of soul-searched for a little while. Like just kind of a good sabbatical. And then I decided I was going to move home. So I moved in with my parents. I started doing some consulting work to make some money and then got this idea for a newsletter that just would send out, you know, five-to-seven-minute read daily taking all of the things that are happening across this big global community and global sport.

Justin: 03:35 – Put it into a pretty easy-to-read newsletter and spammed a couple hundred people unsuspectingly on day one, I think Rory was in there because I found his email address somewhere, and the rest is history. So kind of a interesting way of getting into it. But you know.

Sean: 03:51 – Let’s go back a second cause there’s so much there I want to talk about, first off, what was it about working in the government that appealed to you?

Justin: 03:58 – Well, so I was a political science student and I had always had a fascination with politics, with process. Just kind of how things get, how the sausage gets made. That’s a phrase we typically throw out in school. And so I was drawn to it. I did an internship my junior year of college and I went out to Washington DC, had a internship in the House of Representatives, my local Congressman, and saw that process, kind of was enamored by it.

Justin: 04:30 – Just really intrigued by this hard-charging mentality. You’re just kind of immersed in this political environment and you’re reading constantly. You’re working constantly, you’re drinking coffee, you’re just kind of like, it’s kind of crazy. It fit my personality really well. And I loved it and I loved the energy and just the, you’re surrounded by these just smart people who are throwing themselves into the muck in these debates and in these issues and stuff. And so I actually came originally wanting to do policy because I loved getting into the minutia. I love just studying individual kind of policy angles and bills and history and how to figure out a way to weave a new piece of legislation through that and figure out a way to make it stick. But press ended up becoming a much better knack for me.

Justin: 05:18 – So I started on the digital side of press. This was in the emergence of Twitter. This was in the emergence of YouTube and Facebook as political tools, as platforms for mass communication. And I began honing my skill in that area, which is probably why I run a digital newsletter and not in print. And that draw was just the energy, you know, I just loved it. I loved that rat race and working your butt off all, you know, day and night. It kind of sang to me. I don’t know.

Sean: 05:46 – What was it that made you decide to leave then after all that experience?

Justin: 05:50 – Well, so seven years in politics is like 14 years in the regular world. So my last jobs, the first meeting of my day started at 6:45 conference call, senior staff. And then my first in-person was at 7:15 in the morning.

Justin: 06:06 – And I never even left the office until seven or eight at night. And that was on a regular basis and I’m sure I didn’t stop working until the time I actually went to sleep. And that happened seven days a week. So just imagine the burnout rate there and it definitely draws a certain kind of person who can, you know, really decide not to do anything else in their life right now. Forego relationships, friendships, you know, you’re married to the campaign. That’s the mentality. And I used to say this thing, you know, every day is Monday and that’s kind of just, you’re never gonna get ahead of the work and it just kind of burns you out a little bit. But it wasn’t that that made me leave. I ultimately still really enjoyed what I was doing, but I wanted to build something that wasn’t for a campaign cycle or for an electoral cycle or for a two-year term for a member of Congress and then go back and go for reelection again.

Justin: 07:04 – I wanted to build something that was a little bit more permanent and watch it grow into maturity. And I’m here looking at almost being four years in now at the end of February. So I’m like two congressional campaign cycles in is basically what I’m at. And now you get to watch this thing grow and that’s super cool. And I wanted to put that time, energy and effort into something long term and not just go back and forth and kind of six months, eight months, nine months, and then let it die. And then you kind of pick it back up in another 18 months when the cycle picks up again. I also really was drawn towards building a business and you don’t go into politics to build business. You go into politics to build politics. And so there was an opportunity for me to do that and I felt like it was the right time to step away.

Sean: 07:50 – How did you find CrossFit?

Justin: 07:51 – 2006, I went to Bible University, a small private Christian school in Los Angeles. My buddy who lived next door, Matt Bandwert, was on the baseball team. He just, you know, we were in the weight room. He was telling us about this hokey little kettlebell swinging club that he was aware of. And this was before the Games. So, you know, he was very early to catch onto it, but he was a Orange County, Southern California dude. And we tried a little bit of it, tried a Helen, terrible, didn’t stick with me back then. It was just, we watched him do it in the gym. We watched him practicing, you know, stringing up his own rings on the pull-up bar so that he could do dips or false-grip muscle-ups from a support position. And he kept doing it. I just kept doing my weightlifting thing, running every now and then. And then in about 2010, I saw photos of him competing at Sectionals and I was like, dude.

Justin: 08:55 – And I was in the House of Representatives at the time, so I was like, you know what, I gotta get back into that. That’s pretty awesome. And I’m training for a marathon and it’d be great additional strength training for my lower legs in the winter months when it’s really hard to run. And you know, you can’t—it’s East Coast, so it’s a 20-degree day. It’s not nice to go running in the dark at 7:00 p.m. in Washington DC when it’s that cold outside. So I was like, this would be great. It gets me off the treadmill and I can do some strength training. So I started doing it on my own, making an absolute mockery of form, and cleans looked like I should no longer be able to use my wrists, I’m sure, if I could go back and look at it today, but I started doing the basics and cherry-picking workouts and being like, OK, I’ve got equipment for this or I have no idea what that is so we’re not going to do that.

Justin: 09:45 – And you know, modifying to how my body felt. It was a lot of burpees in the corner and pull-ups from the pull-up bar and learning to kip by reading the Journal or looking at other athletes doing it in videos and that was where my journey started. It was funny cause it’s just you know, like four floors down under ground and in this little gymnasium in the House of Representatives and that’s where I kicked it off.

Sean: 10:09 – How did that then lead you to come up with the idea for the Morning Chalk Up?

Justin: 10:13 – So, in politics we have these morning newsletters, we call them tip sheets. Basically start the day, they set the tone for what is going to be driving the conversation inside of the, you know, 12 square miles that is Washington, D. C. And one of the most famous ones now is called the Political Playbook, which is something that I read religiously.

Justin: 10:35 – As soon as I get up, 6:37 in the morning, it’s the first thing I read. It takes me probably 20 or 30 minutes to read through it in the morning because it’s pretty lengthy. But it basically condenses all of the major elements that are going to be driving the news conversation today. So Facebook is going to be at this hearing. It’s going to be at 9:00 a.m. You know, here’s some of the implications of that conversation. Here’s some of the advanced testimony that Mark Zuckerberg is going to be delivering in his opening remarks. Here’s some of the legislation up for votes and why that’s significant and why it matters. It really frames this for your political staffer or anybody who’s working on K street, which is like lobbying or issue advocacy. And they kind of can understand that. So there are a number of different ones and I read pretty much all of them and Playbook was the most inspirational for me.

Justin: 11:24 – And I adopted the idea of bringing all of the news together into a single location. You know, you’ve got elite athletes putting PRs or big lifts or other videos out on their social channels. You’ve got individual gyms talking about what’s going on in their community. Fundraising efforts or really positive, great news. Sometimes some bad news and sad news. What’s going on in the Games environment? What kind of dates you should keep in mind, like things that are coming up. Well the Open’s kicking off now or you know, Regionals countdown in two weeks from now and here’s where you can watch it. And giving people a platform where they could access all this information. So the inspiration came from that. It was something I read every day for years, literally years in politics. And I woke up with it. I sometimes went to sleep with it.

Justin: 12:13 – It came out early in the morning and it was simple. It was a lot of hard work with a simple idea and it solved the basic problem in my industry in politics. And I just thought, oh, you know what, it could probably solve a basic problem if someone’s really looking to figure out everything that’s going on today, then, you know, I don’t think there’s anything out there. I looked, there wasn’t. And so I built it.

Sean: 12:35 – At this point you were a man with an idea. How did you then turn that idea into a reality?

Justin: 12:40 – Well, thankfully I had learned how to do a lot of things with no money, no staff or support. And take something from idea into conception into reality by working in politics. You know, in Congress, you have no money. You have no budget, you have no staff, you don’t have professional designers, artists, photographers, if you want to create it for your member of Congress, if you want to create it as a communications tool, you want to get something out on social, you need to figure out how to do it on your own. It really allows you to become like a social-media all-star or whatever. You know, you learn a little bit of graphic design, you learn a lot about how to write and write well, learn how to manage a newsletter, learn how to manage a website and figure out the resources to build that. And I had taken that to hyper drive. And so, really it was because of doing that job that it enabled me to learn a lot of tools and figure out how to do something without seed money.

Justin: 13:43 – I had a little bit of a government pension that I liquidated from my years of working in the House. And so I took that, I paid off any extra bills that I had and I was basically scotch-free at that point. And I took the rest of the money and I poured it into—and the rest of the money’s like 10 grand—over time into Morning Chalk Up, into kind of, OK, you know, we need a new ESP, it’s gonna cost us this amount of money, we’ll do a little bit of Facebook advertising to let people know, kind of a hundred, 200 bucks a month, not very much, you know, oh, here’s some other things that we can buy that are nice to have. And then sort of bootstrapped it. Buy it was that experience of basically having to think without money, take money out of the equation. How do you get the job done, or take what you think you’re going to need to accomplish it and then cut it down to by 90% and then figure out how to get it done. And so it was that training that I had had in a budgetless environment that allowed me to do that. So there were no fancy things; there still really aren’t meaning fancy things. But without that, I wouldn’t have known how to piece together, marshal all of my together to produce a product. And really when it came down to it, the path to success was really simple. To getting it out the door. I took 24 hours, I literally took 24 hours. I use this concept of basically this tech concept of throw it out there and then develop, iterate it over time, just develop it. And so if you can commit to doing the work product every single day, then the design is secondary.

Justin: 15:17 – Get the product out, figure out how to do it before you make it beautiful and perfect. I didn’t have a staff to make it beautiful and perfect and it would take me months to basically get it to the point where it could be launched. So instead I said, look, this is good enough. We’ll get a website landing page so that people can sign up, which looks like trash. We’ll get a web template built and then we will start creating content and then just start creating it and be like, I’m committing myself to three months of writing this thing every single day. And I actually did it seven days a week back then. And then I pared it back to five as a more appropriate workload.

Sean: 15:50 – How did you decide what that content was going to be early on?

Justin: 15:57 – Well, I think you have to take people’s temperature. Like I said, it’s very iterative. So we start with a basic template and tried to figure out buckets like, all right, help people understand what it is you’re trying to tell them. So we had a couple of different buckets that allowed some form to the newsletter. And then I just put on Google news alerts, I started talking to friends, I built a tips email address so that people could send us tips. And then I just started figuring out what people needed to know. Like, what is the most important information for my audience? And once I got to asking that question, I had to say, well, who is my audience? And then I basically developed distinct audience groups that I wanted to cater to every single day. So I had elite athletes and I was like, OK, well what do elite athletes need or want to know on a regular basis?

Justin: 16:51 – Then what about coaches or box owners, what are they curious about and what kind of drives the conversation for them? All right, great. All right. What about other media, people that are writing about CrossFit? So guys like you, Sean. And then obviously any of the other blogs or podcasters out there or video personalities out there, what would they kind of find interesting? So now we’re at three distinct audiences and then, you know, what if you run a company inside of the industry, like a FitAid or RPM or you know, Rogue, what do you want to know about? What kind of things can we put out there that would be industry-related news? Hirings and firings, somebody’s you know, launching a new product. And then the last thing is just average CrossFitters.

Justin: 17:39 – Just people that show up every day, you know, they show up one hour, they get the best hour of their day. They show up, they work hard, they go home. What do they want to see. And so I created those five buckets which are still the exact same five buckets today. And then I was constantly looking for information or ideas or content that was going to help them do their job better or interest them. So, you know, the regular everyday CrossFitter is going to be interested in, you know, some elite athlete-type stuff. But you know, maybe some also product launch stuff that would go to the industries. The coaches might be interested in that as they may want to carry a new FitAid product or beverage product in their gym.

Justin: 18:21 – So that was kind of how I bucketed. And then everything became very simple. Like am I serving the interests of my audience? Am I actually creating content for them that helps them do their job better or that makes them want to come back? And when your open rate gets higher and increases and people stick around for longer and they begin to share it to their friends and your audience retention grows then you know you’re doing the right thing. And we also included some surveys to say, hey, how are we doing? Let us know. Like what kind of stuff would you like to see? What things are we missing? What are we not touching on? So it was really, really very important for me to have created the buckets. Those audiences allowed me to understand—like if you’re just talking to elite athletes, then there’s a whole bunch of other stuff in my newsletter that is not necessary. But we try every single day to get something for all five of those people and make sure that they find value in what we’re delivering.

Sean: 19:13 – We will be back with more from the founder of the Morning Chalk Up, Justin LoFranco after this.

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Sean: 20:17 – You mentioned that you just kind of spammed everything out there when you started this, what was the initial reaction to that?

Justin: 20:29 – I’m trying to remember. I think that some people were just like, oh, OK. Like I don’t think anybody had ever seen anything like it before. I took a lot of—what I did is went to like the last couple of the CrossFit Games, and I looked at all the gyms that qualified and then I found a whole bunch of coaches’ email addresses from all those gyms.

Justin: 20:54 – And I was like, they’re probably going to be interested in stuff that we’re talking about at the Games and stuff. And it was originally very Games-focused. It was meant to be like a very elite athlete focus, cause I came from the political world and I’m thinking, OK, you know, what’s driving the conversations, what are all the important people are doing? That ended up not being where we wanted to put our focus long term, but it was how it got started. And so I just kind of found these folks and emailed them and I got a couple—I wish I still had. I’m sure I’d have to dive really, really far back. Well we mostly got good feedback as far as like, oh, this is cool. I never seen this before. And I think it just kind of popped out of nowhere and so people had no idea where it was coming from or who was doing it. I wish I knew though. I’m sure that Rory’s like one of the first and oldest subscribers, Russ Greene, too. So I guess you could ask Russ what he thought of it back then. I don’t remember. I talked to Russ in Georgetown. I had met him through some other political stuff because he moved back to Washington DC and I asked him, hey, what do you think about this idea? And he’s like, um, yeah, OK. I guess it could be kind of cool and I don’t know what he thought of it after that, but then I put his email on it and started emailing him and I think he’s still subscribed, so I should ask him.

Sean: 22:13 – Yeah, I’m sure he’s still on there. How did you then go about growing your subscriber base and your audience?

Justin: 22:20 – Well, that’s the million-dollar question cause that’s what everybody’s trying to do, and we look at our subscribers as our customers. And so first what I started doing was I did paid-for advertising on Facebook. I was just like, we gotta get it out there. We don’t have budget to go to local events and and talk about it. And even if we did, the cost per subscriber would be astronomical because we’d spend $200 to go to an event or something like that. And if we got 200 subscribers, that’d be a dollar per subscriber, but it’s almost certain we wouldn’t get 200, you know, we didn’t have a booth or anything else like that. So I was like, we’re a digital publication, digitals’ where we gotta go.

Justin: 22:59 – And our money goes furthest. So I started doing Facebook advertising just like, hey, want to know what’s going across the globe with CrossFit, sign up for our daily newsletter, sort of, kind of pitch, and changed pitches a little bit, changed designs a little bit. And it started working and the money was being well spent and we were reaching an audience that had never seen this before and they were like, yeah, this is kinda cool. I’m interested. I want to read more. And they would sign up. And really when the change began to happen was when we focused our content after the 2016 CrossFit Games. We started focusing our content really heavily on the community and saying, look, we’re gonna go all in on the 99%, the 99% of CrossFitters in the box every day going to the gym, working out, and we’re going to start generating more content for them.

Justin: 23:54 – And then they started sharing it more. And what we realized was if we can get into a new gym, we tap into a new market. If there—at the time were 12,000 gyms in the world, if there are 12,000 gyms in the world and we only cater to 75 gyms, well then all those other markets we’re not inside of. And so every time we would get into a new gym, we realized that it was going to strengthen our ability to grow because, oh, you know, you’re a member of this gym and you’re going to some point, you’re going to share it with your coach or with a member and you’re going to say, oh, did you hear about this thing that went on at this other gym? And someone’s going to go, no, I did not. Where did you read that?

Justin: 24:37 – And they’re going to say, I read it in the Morning Chalk Up. You should go check it out. And they’ll go to our site and sign up. And so that word of mouth by focusing on community content help us to grow inside of gyms. And we really need to update the stat cause it’s like two years old. But at one point we had readers in 72 countries in 10,400 different gyms. Which is two thirds of the CrossFit gym world, which means that we communicate with more gyms on the planet than anybody else does on a daily basis.

Sean: 25:05 – The CrossFit media landscape changed drastically. I think that’s an understatement, in 2018, how did that affect the Morning Chalk Up?

Justin: 25:13 – So here’s an interesting thought in business, it’s like, figure out who you are and what you’re going to do. Right? So I talked a little bit about audiences. We knew exactly who our audiences were and we generated a product for each one of those audiences. And then you also have to decide who you’re going to be. Are you going to be a newsletter or are you going to be a big media company? Are you going to be a vlog? Are you going to be CrossFit media and compete at the time with that large production? You know, you can try to be the ESPN of CrossFit. So I had made a conscious choice that I was just going to be a newsletter. We did have a site eventually and the site got decent traffic and we put stories up there primarily because the stories were too long to fit in the newsletter, just it disrupted the flow. And then we also wanted a place where we could archive them, why put out that good content if nobody else on the internet can get it.

Justin: 26:05 – So, we were originally planning to just continue to be a newsletter. That’s it. And then we would have some site content and do some other opportunities as they arose. But when that landscape shifted, I said, you know, look the time, if we were there were ever a time, now is the time. And we’re going to now shift our effort and energy into becoming a CrossFit media company. And really going all in on that and delivering multiple stories daily, five, six or seven days a week, covering events, becoming the conversation driver of what people are discussing and what people are reading and talking about on a regular basis. Not just for the sport, but the community and the lifestyle of CrossFit, and we’re in various stages of implementing those across the board. So when that changed, the first thing that happened to me was, OK, where are we expanding next?

Justin: 27:04 – And you kind of have this vacuum environment, you’re like, OK, CrossFit used to do all of these things. We can’t afford to do any of them, but I feel like I have the pressure to do all of them. So that was the hardest thing was saying no, and saying no to this, this, this and this. And then figuring out what we were going to do and what we were going to do really well. The tendency inside of a vacuum is to try and fill all the space. Well, it’s very expensive to fill all the space and sometimes you can bankrupt yourself or you can grow too fast to the point where your core product, in our case, the newsletter, now suffers in quality because the attention and the care that it was given previously as your only product is now getting barely any, or 10% or 15 or maybe even only 50% but 50% might not be good enough.

Justin: 27:52 – So, I, you know, tried to figure out what I thought was the smartest things for us to grow into naturally and start growing into them. And it’s been a basically a year, just a shade over a year since that happened. And I think we’ve grown at a decent clip, especially considering our content production has increased significantly. Adding guys like Tommy to the staff writers roster and finding some other talented people across the industry who really wanted to take an interest in this. And we’re starting to kind of move in that direction. But obviously it was right place, right time kind of opportunity. But if we hadn’t known a lot of the important answers to business questions—who we are, what we’re doing, who our audiences are, what our business model is—we wouldn’t have been in a position to be successful for the last 12 months, or we wouldn’t even have been in position to say yes. We might’ve wanted to. We might’ve said yes, but it probably wouldn’t have been a good idea. And the last 12 months certainly would have a lot more calamitous and rocky regardless. So that’s kind of one thing I underscored a lot of people asking me the question of yeah, you seem like you’re on a big rise here. It’s like, yes, but that hard work that we put in there for three years or two and a half years of accomplishing our mission daily with discipline and moving in that trajectory was what set us up to be able to say yes successfully. And I really attribute that discipline to why we’re here today.

Sean: 29:24 – You started this all on your own. It was just you banging out these stories on your keyboard. What does your staff look like now?

Justin: 29:32 – Quite a bit bigger, thankfully. First hire was—so first writing hire was a girl named Jessica Danger, who’s at Left Coast CrossFit down in Laguna Beach, and a business partner of mine had introduced us. And that was a really important key first hire because it allowed me to get outside of writing the newsletter every single day. At that point for two and half years, I was the sole writer of content except for an occasional contribution post from somebody. And that first one was key that allowed us to get into the next couple phases. And it wasn’t really until CrossFit media went away that we even considered hiring and bringing on other people. So now we’re like, Brittany, Tommy, Jessica, me as your primary writers. Plus we’re getting, you know, some freelance work from two or three other writers. So that’s seven, four staff writers and then three freelance writers.

Justin: 30:33 – And then we have Matt and Eric on tech and design, research and analytics, like statistical analysis, which is coming in key for sports. So you know, you’re looking at like a broad network of like 12, 13 and 14 yeah. So like people are in various stages of support. Some people are just kind of in our network and they write for us time to time and occasionally and some people are really doing some hands on stuff. Now we’ve got somebody managing social, we’ve got a go-to for translating into other languages when we want to do social posts in Spanish and Portuguese. And we’ve got content writers offering a lot of different perspectives and stuff. So now I would say like on a regular basis in our Slack channel, we have like 12 people talking regularly, which is excellent.

Justin: 31:23 – And that’s allowing us to touch a lot of different stories and types and a lot of different perspectives because, you know, ultimately what I found out was that I may be really well suited to do one particular thing, like write the newsletter or do social media, but I can’t do all of them and I can’t do all of them well, but I’m uniquely positioned to drive this company forward. And so I’ve slowly been bringing on people that as I can find them that are like, yes, you’re really good at this. Like, let’s do this and let’s help plug you in and then we’ll grow it from there and just kind of bring you on as like a part-time contractor and then we’ll see what other doors open up. And that’s been a huge driver of success, allowing me to take steps back and really grow. We’re actually looking to hire like a pretty important position now, senior managing editor to really take over a large component of my editorial responsibility, which is pretty significant actually.

Justin: 32:17 – I spend about 50% of my day just talking with the reporters, reading their stories, editing, rewriting, looking at sources, fact checking, checking the newsletter on a regular basis. Like that stuff takes me hours a day and it’s very important. It’s actually what is core to who we are because take such great care in what we do and we are professionals in it. We dominate the written word space, but that requires a lot of energy and effort. And so we’re looking for somebody to actually hire to take over that responsibility so that we can grow even further so that I can go off and put my creative energy in other areas. And I think that’s a great lesson that I’ve had to learn over the last couple of years is just because you can do it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire somebody else to do it right.

Justin: 33:08 – There are some things that you might be excellent at, but if you’re gonna hold onto it like it’s your baby, that’s OK. But it has to be so important that you have to do it and that there isn’t something else out there that you are either not doing or should or need to be doing for your company. And that has been a new lesson for me to learn and I’m getting into that point where I’m giving up more things and more control over areas and bringing on talented people who I can teach, maybe, learn some of the things that I know and obviously bring your own skill sets and their own creative energy to the process.

Sean: 33:39 – When you look at where the Morning Chalk Up stands now, what are the things that you think you do really well?

Justin: 33:45 – I think we write extremely well. I think that when it comes to the written word, we are the best. And I would put our writing and our reporting against anybody else’s, not just in our industry, but like I think we do a very, very good job analyzing the sport and the community of CrossFit and bringing and surfacing stories that are worth discussing and talking about. Areas where we don’t do really well are in video. We’re not a video company. We never set ourselves up to be and to onboard, we’ve talked about this, to onboard like a whole new type of content takes time and energy. You think, well look, it took Morning Chalk Up three, three and a half years to be where it is today on its written content. We shouldn’t expect two or three months to be where everybody else is on video who spent the last two or three years. When it comes to writing, I think we are excellent and we’re going to continue to become even better and we’re going to hire more writers to do better writing and more types of writing. You know, when you look at it, written content isn’t going away. It’s not all visual and video. You know, companies like The Athletic who are investing literally millions of dollars in only written content. The Players Tribune, which is in discussions as a multimillion dollar buyout opportunity, is majority written content and then some video content. And so we’re going to continue to do what we do really well and not sacrifice on that while still trying to learn some new things, videos, one of them, podcasts is another. We’re not going to get into too many other things outside of that because we want to be able to cover the sport and the community. And we think those are the best ways to do it.

Sean: 35:23 – What does the upcoming year look like for you? And then everyone with whom you work at the Morning Chalk

Justin: 35:37 – Elite status airline miles is what it looks like. I mean the season’s starting, the season has started, but like the travel season—I’ve already had, I leave in two, in a day and a half for Boston for the 20.5 announcement. And then basically I go on the road almost in near perpetuity for eight months. Well, whatever it is, seven months. I have Ireland, Dubai, China or China, Dubai, excuse me. And then TBD on January. And then February, March, April, May is like, you know, Germany, Iceland, Canada, Australia, you name it. And so the season or what the next year kind of looks like for us is we are going to continue to expand the ways that we cover our sport and we’re going to try some new things. So yes, we do written content, we want to figure out some other ways to bring in the audience and engage them on this content.

Justin: 36:30 – We’re going to go to these events and we’re going to cover them in person because we believe that that while it’s more expensive to do that, ultimately the quality of that is realized. There are certain things as you know, you can’t do from a livestream if there even is a live stream. And so we’re going to go to these events. We’re sending minimum two people to each event. Sometimes we’re sending three and we are going to continue to do what we do best in those areas and cover it. Basically the goal is how can we bring fans as close to the sidelines as possible, not only with statistical analysis and stories and sideline reporting, but a whole suite of packages, maybe some more analysis and maybe some more video components. And we’re going to start experimenting with them.

Justin: 37:15 – So you’re gonna see a lot of different content depending on the landscape and depending on the opportunity in each one of these sanctional environments, we’re going to try new things and come up with a playbook that’s like, yes. And then at the CrossFit Games next year, hopefully we’ve perfected that playbook and we’re really able to offer a ton more and more people. Last year we had 11 people at the CrossFit Games for the Morning Chalk Up, 11 people, which is just, I mean, I was stressed, to say the least, with that many bodies running around, but we hope to be able to have 11 more next year that are covering from all angles. We don’t just want to do more of the same. We want to offer more interest types and more looks into what’s going on. There’s so many opportunities in this sport and community and we want to investigate all of them.

Justin: 37:59 – But I’ve talked a lot about sports. We’re also, you know, very heavy in the community aspect of CrossFit. We’ve been covering Battle Cancer. We sent a reporter out to London to cover that event. We’re doing some stuff at Tribal Clash, Tribal Clashes is an amazing organization that’s donating tens of thousands of dollars to charities worldwide. And so we’re growing our sports content while at the same time our community content, it seems like, you know, most of the things we talk about are the sports side of things because that’s newer for us. It’s only in the last 12 months. But not to neglected is the community element of which is so important, so integral to not only our success but the reason why the community is here and so strong.

Sean: 38:41 – Justin, thank you so much for doing this man. And I know everyone loves coming to your website and reading your newsletter. I mean there were times where when I was actually working at CrossFit that, you know, they weren’t talking to us. We’d get information from you, so we all really appreciate everything you’re doing and can’t wait to see what you guys have in store for the future.

Justin: 38:57 – Thanks so much Sean. Appreciate it.

Justin: 38:59 – Big thanks to Justin LoFranco for taking the time to talk with me. If you want to subscribe to the Morning Chalk Up, you can head to morningchalkup.com they are also all over social media. You can find them on Facebook, Instagram, and on YouTube. If you know me, you know I like hockey, wrestling, pro football, dogs and fitness, and I also like podcasts every week. I am fired up to bring you the very best of the fitness world on Two-Brain Radio. I’m always digging for the best stories from the most interesting people in the industry. We are also cranking out other great shows that can help you run a successful business. Every Monday, the clever guys from Two-Brain Marketing are showcasing success and serving the secret sauce that gets leads into gyms. And every Thursday we’ve got the best of the business world, people who will educate you and inspire you. So if you haven’t, please subscribe to Two-Brain Radio. Leave us a rating or a review. I would certainly appreciate it. Thanks for listening everybody, and we’ll see you next time.

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On Monday, Two-Brain Radio presents marketing tips and success stories. Chris Cooper delivers the best of the business world on Two-Brain Radio every Thursday. 

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