Site Updates: Welcome Back, Returning Site Readers!

When I first announced that the site was switching to a subscription model, there were some mixed reactions. In large part the reaction was positive, with people looking forward to what new changes would come from the new model. That said, there were some expected negative reactions.

Some of that was due to the switch to a subscription model, which was expected. The subscription model is still relatively new. I noticed a few prospect-centric blogs making the same switch in the last year, which is what got me thinking about it. I was also approached by a major online sports network about joining their subscription network, but shut that down pretty quick. If I was going to move to a pay site, I wanted to have full control, rather than having a bigger company dictate what coverage was relevant. But either way, I faced the challenge of the subscription model being new, and people either being skeptical or just downright refusing to pay for online content, no matter how inexpensive it is.

In the last two months, I’ve noticed a growing trend. Several times per week, and almost on a daily basis, I’ll get an e-mail or a tweet from someone saying that they finally signed up for the site. Some of those people mention that they held out for the above reasons — they either refused to pay for online content, they were skeptical about our move, or they just wanted to see how the site would expand before signing up. And the reaction each time was that they missed the site, and loved the new model. As for those new subscribers and old readers, I just have one message:

Welcome back!

When I made the change, I expected a lot of our readers to drop off initially. But my hope was that people would give the new format a chance, and see what we could do with actual secured revenue coming in, rather than the joke that was ad networks (where I didn’t know what the site was going to be making until 30-60 days after a specific month ended). From a planning standpoint, it is much easier under the new model. This has led to a lot more travel (including the trip I’m on right now), and a lot more live coverage this year. And my hope was that people would return and see that things were much improved over what was already a great site.

I’ve been encouraged by the responses from those of you who have returned. And not just that, but the people who have been here from the start of the new format have continued talking about how the community here is one of the best places to discuss Pirates baseball. There isn’t the bickering and the childish behavior that you’ll find at a lot of other places. Instead there is just mature debate with a lot of very knowledgable posters who don’t take it to a personal level when they disagree. That’s not only my observation, but something that I’ve seen people mention on the site each week.

As for the content, I’ve been proud of what we’ve been able to do so far. Yesterday was a great example of the new site’s strengths. Ryan Palencer started the day with a report on Keon Broxton and his recent hot streak. Then I had the news about Hector Garcia’s Tommy John surgery, all because I was able to make it up to Morgantown for a live report to get started on that story. Pete Ellis had an outstanding article on Gregory Polanco’s development to date. John Dreker had updates throughout the day in our new, live Prospect Watch, which has been massively upgraded, and only improves with John’s close focus on each game. And the night wrapped up with an article from Sean McCool and myself on why Tyler Glasnow shouldn’t be up in September, citing what Sean saw in Altoona this year, and my knowledge of contract rules. There was a lot of outstanding content, and that wasn’t just a one-day thing. It’s something we’ve been able to do every day.

As we continue to grow, we will continue to add great new features and additional coverage. The recent change was the move to a live Prospect Watch, which has been a really cool feature. The next focus will be expanding our Pirates coverage down the stretch as the team gears up for another run at the playoffs. And I hope that everyone who has joined so far continues enjoying the site. Meanwhile, I look forward to hearing from more of the former readers, who will end up being readers once again. and if you’d like to become one of those people, just click this link and choose a low priced plan.

Updated Coverage Schedule

 

August 9th: The Pirates have the Sunday night game on ESPN, and I’ll be at the game providing MLB coverage, along with Sean McCool.

August 10th: I’ll be covering West Virginia for one more game, and if all goes right, I’ll be seeing Yeudy Garcia, who is one of the big breakout prospects this year.

August 13th-17th: I’ll be back in Bradenton, and will have a five game series covering the Marauders.

August 18th-21st: The GCL Pirates are home for three of these four days, along with one day during the 13th-17th stretch. So expect some live coverage from the lowest level.

This is all in addition to our normal live minor league coverage from Ryan Palencer in Indianapolis and Sean McCool in Altoona.

Site Datelines

Before running this site, I wrote for an online outlet, providing articles to ESPN, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and other online outlets. And that was the limit to my sports writing career (granted, I was also just out of college with that job). So I’ve never written for a newspaper, or an outlet that uses datelines. For that reason, we’ve never used datelines, as I’ve never seen a big need for them in the digital age. Most blog software gives the date and author. The only thing missing is the city that the story is filed from. We’ve had live coverage for seven years now, and this is our fourth year of having a regular reporter at PNC Park all season. So despite having live coverage, we’ve never used the location for a dateline, as it was known the coverage was live.

I was thinking about this topic recently. In the past, we had writers specific for each city. The Indianapolis writer would only cover games in Indianapolis. And it was the same for every city. But this year that has changed. I’ve written stories in Pittsburgh, Bradenton, Altoona, Charleston, Morgantown, Bristol, and the Dominican Republic this year. Sean has been rotating back and forth between Altoona and Pittsburgh. Pete has covered Pittsburgh and Charleston. Ryan went outside of Indianapolis to cover a game in Milwaukee and the Futures Game in Cincinnati.

I asked the question on Twitter yesterday: do readers actually care about the dateline? Or is the live coverage just obvious by the content of the article? Some of the responses said they didn’t care. Some said they liked it, but it wasn’t a huge deal. And some said that it would make it clear that the article was live coverage, rather than written from a remote location.

I figured I would repeat this question here. Do you care about the city being in the dateline of articles?

Chances are, we might start adding that, especially since it would literally take two seconds to type that extra word at the start of the article. But as someone who stumbled into a career in new media, and never came up through traditional media (and never bought a newspaper), I find these types of things interesting, especially to see how new media has changed something that used to be so automatic and expected. Leave your thoughts on this topic in the comments.

DraftKings Promotion

We have a special promotion with DraftKings, where you can get a free one-year subscription to the site, simply by signing up as a new DraftKings customer and making a deposit. Just sign up for an account (using that link), make your first deposit ($5 minimum), and participate in a contest. Once you have completed those steps, send an e-mail to Javier Vargas at DraftKings (jvargas@draftkings.com) and let him know you are participating in the Pirates Prospects subscription promotion. Javier will confirm whether you’ve met the requirements, then will contact me so I can give you a coupon code that will allow you to set up your one year subscription.

One year of site access costs $29.99. You can get that, plus at least $5 to play a daily fantasy sports game (which gives you the chance to win money), plus a free $3 entry to a DraftKings contest, all for a minimum of $5. If you only consider the site subscription, and ignore all of the other benefits you’re receiving, then you’re getting one year of Pirates Prospects access for $0.42 per month. That’s an insane deal for all of the coverage we provide.

And if you don’t want to participate in the DraftKings promotion, you can subscribe at our already low prices to get the best coverage of the Pirates’ minor league system.

  • As one of those who originally left at the format change only to come back just recently, I can happily say that price is well worth the expanded content on the site. Keep up the good work Tim

  • Tim, as I’ve said many times, I love the site, and you guys are doing a great job. Keep it up.

    My two cents on the dateline- is it possible to add the publish time of the article? I’d find that useful given that you guys post about 10 articles a day these days. Not a big deal though.

    My second cent of the two cents: I LOVE the MLB-level analysis articles, such as Pete’s Polanco writeup. I hope that your expanded MLB coverage steers in this direction, analyzing player performance, lineup topics, etc, and not so much beat reporting each individual game. (I read a few grumbles about the lack of beat reporting on here, but I don’t think that is why most readers pay for the site.) There is plenty of beat coverage out there, but this site’s analysis style of Pirates coverage is truly a differentiator!

    • The publish time would be part of the theme. I’m not sure if that’s available with this design, or how I could add it. All of the articles are ordered by publish time though, and the “Latest” tab on the right side has them in order, starting with the most recent.

      As for the MLB articles, our focus is more articles like the Polanco one. As for the individual game articles, my theory in the past (and not so much a theory, since I see the numbers) is that those aren’t the most popular articles, mostly because game reports are everywhere. But I think those are necessary because they show that we’ve got someone covering the games live. At this point I consider them bonus coverage from the games, and an advertisement to new subscribers that we’ve got coverage of the team. So you bring them in with that, and you keep them with the analysis like the Polanco article.

      • Great point. Inbound marketing!

      • Btw, I use the Latest tab all the time. The grid at the top makes me anxious that I’ll miss an article if I don’t check back for a day or so since the grid only holds about six articles (I know, I’m lame). I almost wish the chronological Latest list was more prominent in the theme since it’s basically my primary navigation.

        • The reason we go with the current set up is to feature the best articles for a longer period of time. Pete posted that great Polanco article about 24 hours ago, and we’ve had eight articles that went up since then. Without the top section, that article would have been pushed down the page by now, and buried by the end of the night. Instead, we can feature it at the top for two days.

  • Agree on the mature talk (for the most part…lol). I think it is the pay model, because the PBCAsylum blog grew from the PG Plus website which was a pay site.

    And, Altho it is now free, we get few scrabonies ( outside of me, of course )

  • sammykhalifa
    August 7, 2015 3:21 pm

    Just (re) signed up this week, so you might be one of the people I’m talking about. I was getting ready for a big trip when the subscriptions started, and I just hadn’t circled back to it yet. No “holding out,” just hadn’t gotten to it yet, haha.

  • MLBTradeRumors noting that Heyman reported that the Bucs were in on Jeremy Hellickson at the deadline, must’ve been between him and Happ you’d guess. Happ had the better numbers, but Hellickson had more control and potentially better stuff?? Not sure about that, but his K’s are up and BB’s are down. Is Hellickson still an option in August? Would he clear waivers?

  • I really can’t afford to pay for this site right now but I went away for awhile and came back because I am a Pirates’ information whore and during the draft I had to come back. I chose this site over mlb.com and having access to actually watch the Pirates so that says a lot. I went from watching the Pirates 120+ games a year when I was making money to seeing one game this entire season. I respect Tim’s integrity and what he has accomplished here creating the best team fan site that exists.

  • Personally, I’d prefer the dateline but by no means do I feel it’s a must have.
    On another note, keep up the great work. I was an early skeptic and only joined due to the Draftkings tie in but I can’t begin to describe how happy I’ve been with everything. My only wish is a podcast! But I know you’ve outlined the time and money needed for that is pretty high.

    • I’ve been holding out on the podcast in part due to time constraints, but also because I do enough weekly radio interviews that this hopefully fills that need for now.

  • Once my month expires I will be renewing to the annual. This is highbrow coverage of the Pirates in my opinion. Even the comment section lends itself to people who know and follow baseball.

    • It’s a great spot for people like myself who ask the intelligent people questions so they can get answers without actually adding anything of real insight or value to the conversation.

      • Yung-Han Chang
        August 7, 2015 1:15 pm

        that is the thing, this site helps me learn more about the sport I love. Some sites give you news reports, other sites regurgitate other news, and very few actually help you have a better understanding of the subject you are reading about. it is well worth the money just for that alone.

  • You have a knowledegable group on this site, not only on you and your staff but the commenters. I tried another pay site while seeing how I was going to like it and I only lasted there a month. Basically my only interest is the Pirates, so the Penguins, Steelers, etc. were of no interest.
    FWIW, I also visit a free site, but I feel it is well short of the content here and is not nearly as timely.

  • I think the dateline adds credibility right of the bat, so to speak. In the age when many minor league games are televised online it can be important to distinguish whether observations are being made in person or by watching a video feed. The dateline accomplishes this.

  • Heck I need a dateline so I know what day it is, being retired tends to make one forget. : )

  • Tim, instead of providing a location, give us a pickup line to use while on a date.

    • “It must be after the Super 2 deadline, because I’m thinking about calling you up!”

      • Oh Tim…….although if you run into a girl that’s a huge baseball fan that might work.

      • That is a great pickup line, that almost no ladies would understand. However, if you find one who does understand, she is definitely a keeper.

        • Yeah we uh……….said the same thing to my buddy about 10 years ago when he would discuss the George R.R. Martin books at the bar. It was basically – they’re probably not familiar with these books. But if they are, you’ve struck gold. And damnit, that 20th time he brought them up? Success.

  • Old(er) School here who has bought and delivered newspapers: need the dateline 🙂

  • Side comment, I saw that QO’s this year were going up to almost $16 Million / year. First off that seems absolutely rediculous!!! I mean put a stop to the runaway train MLB… $15 million should be the max ever for a QO… and then after that point is the fact that if someone else wants to sign for that or more you get a 1st round pick – so is a 1st round pick now worth $15 Million?? If so then how does that begin to impact trade values for comp picks? I mean it’s getting a little to big I think.

    • Also we do not have anyone elible this year for a QO right?

      • There are players eligible, but no one qualified enough to get one. I thought $15.3M last year was ridiculous, so obviously any higher just adds on

      • A.J.!

        Seriously, though, the new estimate makes me wonder whether we would have extended a QO to Liriano had he become a free agent this year instead of last year. And without a QO attached to him would we have been able to re-sign him?

    • The QO price is the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball, and those keep going up. Thus, the QO keeps rising slowly each year.

      I don’t think this means a first round pick is worth $15 M. I think it just means you can only get a first round pick if you lose someone that is worth $15 M.

  • I’m an old fogy who still reads newspapers(and still gets ticked about the ink rubbing off on my fingers). I do look at a story’s byline and while some may think it unimportant, the location does give you a little more information, and that’s why we read, isn’t it?
    By the way, the site has surpassed my expectations of what it would become. You should be proud of what you’re doing here. If I knew where you were sitting Wednesday in Morgantown I would have bought you a cold beverage.

    • Thanks for reading and the comments!

      I was all over the place Wednesday. Spent the first three innings in the camera wells, then back up to the press box, then down behind home plate for more photos and to talk with a scout I know for several innings, then to the press box again. Did you have your dog with you on dog night?

  • Tim, Dateline means nothing to me. The content is usually quite clear on if it’s a live report or if it’s an opinion. Makes me think of the movie Bull Durham when the radio guy is calling the game hitting a wooden stick for every base hit and using canned crowd noise… The info is what the end user is seeking – as long as it’s a accurate as possible that’s all anyone can ask.

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