Newfoundlanders are voices behind popular Toronto Raptors podcast, 'Raptors Digest'
For much of their day during the basketball season for what must seem like years now, life-long friends and long-time hoopsters/hoops fans Ben Rogers and Ryker Richard of St. John’s chatted any and all things basketball.
Especially the Toronto Raptors.
Little did they think that passion for hoops would lead to one of the largest Raptors’ podcasts out there.
Rogers and Richard are the voices behind “Raptors Digest,” a podcast found all over the place, including YouTube, Spotify, Instagram, etc., with subscribers hitting 13,000.
Not bad for a couple of university students currently living in Quebec and Ontario.
Richard, 21, attends Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., while the 20-year-old Rogers is a McGill University student in Montreal.
Of course, both are currently home now.
On the podcast, the two discuss all things Raptors, and go into big-time post-game analysis following each game.
Strange how these things come about, but the whole thing started when the two were in junior high.
“I had a Twitter account since Grade 9,” Rogers said. “You know when the NBA all-star game comes around, there are hashtags to get votes for players?
“I made a Twitter account to get (Raptors guard) Kyle Lowry votes. That ended up getting a few followers, and then I started commenting on the games.
“Next thing I had a decent amount of following.”
Then Rogers and Richard were contacted by FIBA, the governing body for basketball worldwide.
Somebody somewhere along the line liked what they heard on “Raptors Digest” and with the world championship coming up, reached out to the two Newfoundland kids to do some promotion on their podcast.
“They said, ‘Hey we’ll pay you to promote this, $40 or $50.’ I didn’t realize you could make money at that. I was 17,” Rogers said.
Soon after, the idea of a podcast came about.
“Me and Ryker had been buddies for years, playing ball together (Rogers at St. Bon’s, and Richard at Gonzaga). So we decided to do it.
“We’ll talk anything involved with the Raptors. We’ll get on the phone, and talk about the game just like you would with any of your friends.
“It’s not hard keeping content. I could go on for hours talking basketball, and Ryker the same thing. We’re just friends talking basketball, right? That’s what you’d be doing anyways, right? It’s a lot of fun.”
Rogers said nobody in the Raptors organization has reached out to the pair, but the NBA team is aware of the podcast.
“Outside of Yahoo Sports Canada, I think we might have the largest game-reaction podcast,” Rogers said. “We have over four million views on YouTube.”
Rogers acknowledged the project started as a lark, and the two were among the first to really focus specifically on the Raptors.
“We knew it was niche,” Rogers said, “but we also knew we could talk about it. It was a bit slow the first month, the first six weeks. But then we had a couple that just blew up, and people started following.”
It generally takes the pair 20 minutes to record, and then Rogers, a computer science student, gets cracking putting it together.
“I’ll put in a video loop, which we’ll update,” he said. “It’s all put together in an hour.”
Naturally, it was an exciting time last spring as Kawai Leonard and the Raps marched their way to Toronto’s first NBA championship.
“Naturally, in playoffs we thought we’d get higher than average engagement,” he said. “But the biggest spike was immediately after the championship, and after Kawai left.
“All the media outlets weren’t on the Raptors as much, but all that fandom was still there. So every little trade rumour or video we put out was getting extremely high views.
“That was a wild time. After Kawai left, we figured that maybe we’d lose everyone. But it ended up getting bigger.”
Rogers and Richard are still enjoying the ride.
Last month, they were flown to Toronto at the invite and launch of a second AND1 basketball shoe, worn by the Raptors’ Fred VanVleet.
“We made a pretty good video on Fred, they saw it and invited us out,” Rogers said. “We got a podcast with them, talked to the head of branding, head of marketing.”
Rogers and Richard do not know where this will all lead, but they have talked of an all-NBA postcast. But given the fact they’re both still in university, there’s only so much time to go around.
And they’re having a heck of a run so far.
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort