Last night I was in the stands in West Virginia, getting some video on right-handed pitcher Mitch Keller, fresh off watching Jameson Taillon make a start in the majors the day before. While I was watching Keller pitch, a thought occurred to me — a little over five years earlier, I was in the exact same spot, doing the exact same thing watching and getting video of Taillon pitching in West Virginia.
How Keller compares to Taillon is an article for another day (tomorrow, actually, and I think you might be surprised at the comparison). But this isn’t about comparing one of the best young pitchers in the lower levels to Taillon. It’s about discussing a continuation of this site’s goal from day one, and a minor adjustment we’re making going forward.
This site has always been about getting original content. That started on day one, when I was attending Lynchburg Hillcats games to get live reports on Pedro Alvarez, Jordy Mercer, Jeff Locke, Josh Harrison, Chase d’Arnaud, Matt Hague, Justin Wilson, and many others. It continued in following years with reports throughout the system, and then went to the extreme last year when we switched to a subscription site. We’ve always tried to cover things that no one else in the Pittsburgh media was covering.
The last two weeks have been all about that. Last week I was in Morgantown, which you probably know by now, based on all of the features that have hit the site this week. This week I was covering West Virginia, with a few big features lined up for next week on the top pitching prospects here. Today, I leave for Bristol to see the rest of the 2016 draft picks. As a result, we will have a lot of features on the 2016 draft picks, plus follow-ups from the 2015 and 2014 picks, and some of the top international players from recent years.
The biggest argument against a subscription site is that there is free content elsewhere. But sites offering free content don’t even know about some of these players we’re covering, and they definitely don’t spend resources to cover the lower levels as much as we do. That lower level coverage pays off for us in the short-term, because we’re informed on every prospect in the system. It also pays off in the long-term, as it builds the foundation for our future prospect coverage, and is a big reason why our “The Book on…” series is so in depth when a prospect gets called up to the majors. We don’t just start paying attention when they reach the Pirates. We start paying attention when they join the organization.
Too Much Content?
We actually have a rare problem on the site, where we might actually have too much content. Other sites might give you one or two prospect updates a week. We usually give two featured articles per day, plus our regular First Pitch and Morning Reports, the Prospect Watch with live reports, and any other news that comes out. As a result, it’s very easy to miss an article or two along the way.
I know that some of you read every article when it goes up on the site. Actually, I hear from a lot of people who say they check the site every hour. But with the way the site is set up now, if you miss a day, you might return to 5-10 articles to catch up on, plus the 5-10 articles going up the day you return. That’s up to 20 articles to read in a day, and that’s only if you miss one day on the site.
This is a great problem to have. I don’t think any other site could dream of a situation where they have “too much” prospect content. Right now, my preliminary article schedule has articles running through August 26th, and that’s mostly with my articles from this trip (I don’t add articles from other writers to the schedule until they’re filed, or at least in the process of being written). Once we factor in the other writers on this site, we’re probably booked with features through September, and that’s before I get back down to Bradenton for a few Marauders and GCL features.
At the same time, I want to make sure everyone gets a chance to read the articles. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, but really started thinking about it yesterday. The Morning Report went up at 8:00, as usual. My weekly podcast with David Todd went up at 9:00. Then we had features on Cam Vieaux and Austin Shields going up at 10 and 11, followed by Pirates pre-game coverage at noon. So if you logged on around noon, the previous night’s First Pitch was already off the featured spot, and the featured articles were pushed down to the number two and three spots.
We’re definitely not going to scale back in content in the long-run, but I am going to try something over the next few weeks. I’m going to spread the articles out, and limit how many go up per day. It will probably be one feature per day. This way we give a bigger focus to each individual article, rather than giving you a bunch of articles to read per day. This approach makes sense, as we put a lot of time and effort into making each prospect report a quality article, and I feel that throwing a bunch of them at you each week can take away from or hide the quality of those articles. I also don’t want to push the Prospect Watch off the top so quick, since we have live reports and some great writeups each night that would probably work as individual articles themselves.
As usual, I’d appreciate any feedback on this change. This is the time of year I like to experiment with new approaches on the site, to see how they do. Just know that you’re not losing any articles. The features that I’m going to do in Bradenton on Kevin Kramer and Connor Joe, that would have originally come in early-September will now just come a week or two later in mid-September. We will also still have the same reaction and time sensitive articles, like the update from earlier this week on Max Moroff playing outfield, or information on Austin Shields after his debut, and that will be in addition to the daily feature.
Our goal here is to provide you with the best content on the Pirates’ system that we can, while also making the site as easy as possible for you to access that content. I’m hopeful that this will make it easier to get every feature we have on the site.
In the past, we had buttons on the site that allowed you to quickly share articles to all social media networks. Then there was an update which prevented this feature from working. We added it back again this week, trying a few different spots. There was some feedback that the position of the bar was blocking articles, which was strange, as we didn’t experience that on any of our tests (sometimes the problems would come up for others on the exact same system type that we tested, where everything worked fine). I think we’ve finally got a good position for this.
The point of this is obvious: If there’s an article you really like, we want to make it easier for you to share it with others. As a subscription site, that is huge for us. People can’t just stumble on to an article and read it. They need to hear about it from others. Before we were a subscription site, and when we had the share bar up, we got a lot of activity. Since then, there seems to be a worry that we don’t want our content shared (and I know this is the case, based on a few conversations I’ve had with people asking specifically if they could share information from our articles).
I want to make it clear that I’ve always been fine with this, as long as it’s fair use. Obviously, don’t copy large parts of the articles over to other sites, or even entire articles. But giving a key bit of information, and linking to the article is totally fine, and preferred. That’s how we can get word out about our content, and get new subscribers in.
The thing that sucks about the last two years as a subscription site is that we’ve seen a massive increase in live coverage and quality reports on the prospects in the system, but it’s also been more difficult to show that to people who were originally on the fence about subscribing. We run ads in all of the minor league cities, and in Pittsburgh, but you spreading the word about our articles is the best promotion we can get.
If you aren’t already a subscriber, give us a try. We’ve got a lot of great content this month on the best players in the lower levels, plus your subscription gets you access to our full archive. And if you’re already a subscriber, but want to give a subscription to a friend, our gift subscriptions are always available for any occasion.
If you have any feedback, whether it’s a problem with your account, an issue with the site, or any other questions or comments, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.