The last time we checked in with Matthew Berry and Nate Ravitz, the co-hosts of ESPN.com’s Fantasy Focus Podcast, they did a special “podcast of their podcast,” which gave us an inside look at their show while they interviewed each other. We vowed not to bother them again for a while.
Well, as the NFL preseason rolled around, we saw some eye-popping numbers that prompted a double take: The Fantasy Focus Football Podcast was downloaded 13.5 million times in August, an average of nearly 600,000 downloads per episode and an astounding increase of 118 percent over last year.
So we went back to the duo to discuss the amazing numbers, among other things:
You guys interpret numbers to help fantasy players make sense of stats everyday. How do you interpret nearly 120 percent year-to-year growth for Fantasy Football Focus in August?
Ravitz: I think we’ve found a formula that works: Utility plus personality plus welcoming the audience to be a part of the conversation and in on the jokes. I’m very proud that, while both fantasy and podcasting in general are growing rapidly, we’re staying ahead of the growth curve.
Berry: We’ve learned that our approach is the right one. When I started doing fantasy analysis in 1999 and throughout my career, my attitude has always been that there’s only so many ways to say ‘Start this guy and sit that guy.’ What would make someone stand out is humor, personality, connecting with the spirit and fun of fantasy as opposed to just stats and info.
You’ve been the permanent hosts of the podcast since 2007. What were your thoughts on who was actually listening to you back then?
Ravitz: I really don’t know. There were practically no metrics back then. But we could tell from interaction in chats and article comments that people we listening, because they were carrying out podcast themes into those spaces. Now we see that on Twitter.
Berry: I don’t think anyone was listening back then. My sense was whatever audience was there was small, diehard and hardcore. In fact, when we started, the audience was so small it became a running joke. We would tell people ‘Hey, we don’t care if you listen, just download it. All we care about is the clicks. You don’t need to listen to it.’ The underdog, little show with no respect mentality has been a running theme for us and has led to a lot of fun.
How has your audience changed in five years?
Ravitz: I think the demographics of the audience have changed as more and more people, young, old and in different countries, are exposed to fantasy for the first time. In 2007, we thought it was funny that, based on fan emails, we seemed to have a disproportionate number of fans from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Now, getting an email from Turkey or Chile or Iceland barely draws a raised eyebrow.
You two have a genuine rapport that comes through on your podcast. How did you develop such great chemistry?
Berry: We’re good friends in real life, our wives are good friends, we see each other socially and most importantly, there’s a significant trust there. Because I trust Nate and he does me, we can go at each other and argue because we know it won’t get personal or go past a certain point. We try to be as real as possible on the show, and we are very “anti-announcery” and are basically ourselves, so we’re just talking as if we would in real life.
The “Fantasy Focus Podcast” is published every weekday during the season and preseason and posts on most days by 11 a.m. ET.