Is This Really Boston’s Next Media Mogul?
He looks like — of all people — Mark Zuckerberg.
He’s beefier, but he has the same short, curly hair and set of round blue eyes. Even the nose is familiar. Softly anchoring the middle of the face, it’s his most prominent feature. And just like the world’s most famous young billionaire, David Portnoy is rarely seen in anything other than his signature outfit: jeans, hoodie, sneakers.
Then there’s the fact that he is obsessed with a website that, over the past several years, he’s built from nothing: Barstool Sports, a crudely designed, widely read (and highly readable) “sports/smut” site that can only be described as the bastard child of ESPN and Girls Gone Wild.
On a typical day, Portnoy wakes up at 9, gets a cup of coffee, and walks the three blocks to his office in Milton. Once there, he’ll sit down in front of his laptop and proceed to work for the next 10 hours. When the sun sets, he retraces his steps back home, eats dinner, and works another five hours. On Saturdays, he takes it relatively easy, but on Sundays, he’s on for another five or six hours.
Save for the “Barstool Sports” sign scribbled on a piece of paper and taped to the mailbox, Barstool HQ could be mistaken for the office of a suburban dentist. Inside, it’s another story. On Portnoy’s desk, a Dell laptop sits next to a scattered pile of blank business checks, a Dyson bladeless fan, and a large cup of coffee, one of four he’ll suck down on the average day. A football and a plastic sword lie on the floor, and posters of bikinied girls lean against the walls, half-naked sentries standing watch over the operation.
On the day I visit, Jenna Mourey, one of the company’s five full-time employees, has brought her two tiny dogs — Mr. Marbles and Kermie — to keep the ‘Stool crew company. When I pick up Kermie, Portnoy suddenly appears in the doorway to deliver some bad news.
“He just shit,” he says, pointing to the dog. “Just a second ago. In my office.”
Mourey shrieks: “Kermie!”
A petite Suffolk University grad with a master’s in sports psychology from BU and a pink streak running through her shoulder-length platinum hair, Mourey has been a full-time writer for the website since this spring. “Bad dog!” she scolds Kermie.
Portnoy points to the spot on the carpet and opens the back door. “It smells awful,” he says.
So Microsoft, it ain’t. But since its launch a few years ago, Barstool has become one of the most popular and talked-about blogs in the country. These days, it sees 1.4 million unique visitors a month, while its subsidiary websites — Barstool Sports NYC and StoolLaLa.com — bring in an additional million, numbers that in total surpass the websites of national magazines such as Rolling Stone, Glamour, and GQ. Just as impressive as Barstool’s ability to attract readers is its ability to convert that traffic into actual profits. Indeed, if Portnoy has anything to say about it, the garbage-strewn, dog-shit-scented office in Milton will someday be the unlikely seat of a multimedia empire. And sitting at the throne will be one of the city’s youngest — and most offensive — entrepreneurs, a 33-year-old Swampscott native best known by his self-styled online handle: “El Presidente.”