Two years ago, I made a very important decision with this site. The site had been around for six years at that point. It grew from a blog I just started as a place to give my thoughts on the Pirates and the Lynchburg Hillcats — with the hope that it might pay my phone bill one day — to my full-time job and a site that allowed me to pay other writers. But the free model based on advertising wasn’t going to work any longer, and the site would not have stayed in business beyond the 2015 season.

So the site switched to a subscription model. It was a terrifying change at first, since asking people to pay for news wasn’t, and still isn’t, a widely accepted concept. But the change allowed us to not only stay in business, but grow to points we never could have imagined before. We were able to provide regular coverage from all of the affiliates. We were able to travel to more events. We were able to get more information than ever before on the Pirates and their system, all with the security that the site would still be around.

Prior to the change, we were cutting coverage to keep up with the lowering ad revenue. After the change to a subscription site, we were expanding.

We’re now near the two-year anniversary of the site switching to a subscription model, and that seems like a perfect time to recap what we’ve done so far, and give a sort of “State of the Site” for what we want to do going forward.

Tomorrow’s News a Few Months Ago

A few weeks ago, Sean McCool was down here in Bradenton, adding more live coverage and getting some features ready. One of the features he was working on was an update on Jose Osuna. This was around the time that Osuna started hitting everything, and you started seeing articles everywhere introducing you to Osuna.

We were discussing the direction and the tone of that article while Sean was down here. Should we run the article when so many other people were running an Osuna article? Should we wait a bit to separate from the rest of them? Or were we too late to write about Osuna?

The thing about that situation was that we didn’t need to worry about the Osuna articles everyone else was writing. Those articles were introducing you to Osuna. We already did that. We introduced you to Osuna back in 2010, when his name was spelled Ozuna. We introduced you to him every year since then, when he was featured in our top 50 prospect list. We introduced him to you in the over 1,000 articles he’s been mentioned in. While everyone else is just discovering him and introducing him, we’re moving on to the next stages of his development.

So we wrote about his work at third base this spring, about leaning down over the offseason, and about how he fits in to the Pirates’ plans going forward. A week later, Clint Hurdle revealed in his daily press conference that they were getting Osuna some work at third base, which is something I don’t think anyone else had before Sean’s article.

That’s the big advantage I’ve noticed from the site in the past two years. We will write articles about prospects, and the information in our articles will be discovered by other outlets days, weeks, months, or even years later. It’s not that the other outlets are stealing our work (well, that happens sometimes). It’s just that we care about covering these guys a lot earlier than other outlets. So when they reach MLB Spring Training and become a story for everyone else, we’re already moving on to the next step in coverage. Everyone else asks the questions we asked months ago, and we ask the questions about what is next.

When we switched to a subscription site, the most common thing I heard was that you can get prospect information anywhere for free. This is very true. However, it’s typically one of three things:

  1. Information we had well before it became free, or sometimes stuff we dug up that free sites started talking about right away.
  2. Very generic coverage, looking at stats, box scores, and basic information that anyone can access from home.
  3. Made up bullshit. I read an article last year about a player with a plus slider. The only problem was, I talked to him earlier in the week, and he said he was working on a curveball because his slider wasn’t an effective pitch. That kind of stuff happens all the time on the free sites.

You’re still going to get prospect coverage for free, but you get what you pay for. By subscribing to the site, you not only get premium information first, but you help support the site that supplies more coverage of the Pirates’ system than any other outlet. Without that coverage and without this site, the amount of information available on the prospects in the Pirates’ system would decline exponentially.

How Do We Grow From Here?

The biggest thing I focus on, pretty much on a daily basis, is how we continue growing the site. The subscription model creates a weird situation where our work doesn’t get shared nearly as much as it used to. We are heading into our ninth season covering the Pirates and their system, and some days it feels like we’re the best kept secret in Pirates media. We will report something, and you won’t find it on other message boards, blogs, MLBTR, Rotoworld, or anywhere else. The same news is reported a day or two later, and suddenly it is newsworthy at all of those other places.

I think this is two-fold. I’ve had a lot of people ask me about posting links, wondering if I’d mind sharing news elsewhere. The concern is that it’s a subscription site, and they’d be giving paid information away for free. That’s not a concern I have. I welcome the sharing of news and information. Obviously fair use would be involved here, since I don’t want articles or large amounts of content shared. But if we post an article on Tyler Glasnow’s new changeup, for example, I want other people to hear about it, so that we can attract new readers.

On the flip side, I know that some people are hesitant to share subscription content out of fear that it will offend someone. I’ve noticed when people share links to the site, it’s almost apologetic, like people will be upset if they click over to a site and then find they have to pay for the information they wanted to read.

I get that, because I know those people are out there. I heard from a lot of them when I switched to subscription site, mad at me for wanting to get paid for my work, wanting to pay my writers, and wanting to stay in business. Honestly, who cares about those people?

If you liked an article we wrote, and you think others would like it, then why avoid sharing it because someone else might get mad that they wasted two seconds of their life clicking a link only to find that the information they want requires a small fee?

Sharing the site was how I went from someone with zero readers to where the site is now. It’s the best way to reach new people going forward. If every subscriber right now got one person to sign up, or bought one gift subscription for a friend (we offer those year-round, by the way), we’d be able to add a few full-time writers this year, while expanding the live coverage even further. Expanding coverage is always our goal, and the best way for that to happen is reaching new people.

We also have a few things in the works to reach new people who don’t subscribe to the site, and more details will come on that later. For now, know that we fully welcome referrals and links back to the site.

Evolving Coverage

Along with trying to figure out how to reach new people, we’re also constantly trying to figure out how to evolve the coverage of the site. Our approach is constantly changing and being evaluated, trying to find the best possible approach. It’s almost like Josh Bell’s batting stance.

One of the big issues in media is getting sucked into the idea that you have to cover everything. You need a pre-game article, and a game recap, and a notebook every day, and a featured article, and a detailed article on every single transaction, and comments from players for all of those transactions, and so on. The reality is that most of this information is either obsolete, or redundant. You don’t need to cover most of those things, and you don’t need live coverage of every single event.

The challenge is finding a balance. Which events do you cover? Which transactions do you expand upon with detail? Which games would be worthy of a recap? And then the more difficult decisions involve the analysis. Do you aim for one or two smaller articles per day? Or go for fewer articles but aim for more quality for each individual article?

I added a new feature recently called Extra Innings. It’s an extremely long article that goes up every Sunday night, going into great detail about one specific topic. It’s like writing two or three articles, which means I’m probably writing a few less articles per week than I’d otherwise be doing. But in the end it works out better. Do you want 3-4 nickels or do you want a quarter? Our goal is always going to be geared toward quality analysis and articles, and the most challenging thing is finding the balance between quality and quantity, with the end goal being producing the highest amount of quality articles we can publish.

The Future of Pirates Prospects

Two years ago, our problems on the site involved how to stay in business and maintain live coverage. The questions involved were whether we could afford writers that year, or whether the site would even be running by mid-season. Now our “problems” involve expanding the site and our questions involve the manner in which we produce quality information and analysis.

We were able to expand the site as hoped when we made the switch to subscription in 2015, and most importantly, the switch allowed us to stay in business. I’m hoping that in another year or two, I’ll be writing an annual update that will be discussing some of the big changes we made to further expand the site coverage, getting it to places that I’m currently dreaming about right now.

As usual, I hope you join us for the ride. And if you haven’t already, you can go to the subscription page and sign up for a plan to start reading all of our content.

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  1. TIM, Thanks for the info you provide everyday on this site! Attended camp day this week as you suggested and really enjoyed seeing all the young players! Next time I’ll take the Pirate Prospect book! Back in Harrisonburg, had a great time at Spring Training and looking forward to reports on the Bradenton team this year!

  2. This site has demonstrated a wonderful entreprenuerial spirit in sports journalism. You guys are facing the same issues as other legacy media outlets. Yes, there are some things that could be improved (more concise and smoother writing) but I want to see you succeed and show that digital media, especially the home-grown variety, can succeed. I like what I get for the money and I wish the organizers the best as this site evolves.

  3. Timothy, LLOYD was a charter member with a three-year subscription that will be renewed. Fine work young man and by your crew. JohnD is incredible and McCool is cool. PP is the only site that we pay for. Congrats!!

  4. I’ve been reading PP for roughly 4 years and when you offered subscription I immediately pitched in. I don’t regret a cent of it. Keep up the good work.

  5. You are my Favorite Baseball Site. I trust your (and your Correspondents’) Analyses. I know I won’t get Hype or Ego – just straight, clear reporting. (And, I’ll usually hear it first – long before others catch wind of it!) Thank you, Tim!

  6. While I don’t always agree with you, I admire and respect the type of content you provide. The subscription was a no brainer. I’m excited for the future content. There is a substantial portion not available elsewhere. People aren’t talking about it.

    Side note: Made up bullshit: so true. Every so often I find a piece and chuckle through it.

  7. “I heard from a lot of them when I switched to subscription site, mad at me for wanting to get paid for my work, wanting to pay my writers, and wanting to stay in business. Honestly, who cares about those people?”
    – This is how you win. Some people just want to bitch. You can’t cater to losers.

  8. Great site and all the young people writing here always put together a professional reading column.

  9. Tim I don’t have a scouting bone in my body and there’s no way I can catch all the intricacies of a developing prospect. Additionally, I don’t watch minor league games. However, I’ve been a fan since 1955 and you provide very invaluable insights that I can’t get anywhere else.

  10. Your approach to continuously improving your site, along with your writing style and objectivity, are all remarkable! Can you share any information about your educational and vocational background? Keep up the great work!

  11. Tim, I remember when you first switched you set goals like 2000 subscribers or something. Any interest in sharing the numbers with us on how long it took to reach those early goals, where the site is now, and what your future targets are?

  12. I’m not going anywhere, Tim. This is the first site I come to every morning. Your articles are informative and entertaining. Thanks to all of you for your efforts.

  13. I am still pleased in the wide coverage and multiple articles that clearly have been researched and are well written. I have gotten my ROI; free can be fine but ultimately you get what you pay for. I, like many, thought that the title of this article was ominous and am relieved that you all are sticking around.

  14. While we’re all patting ourselves on the back…..

    Tim, although I don’t always agree with your opinions, I love your site and the work you do. I am VERY envious of you – I would love to be doing what you are doing. There isn’t anyone who is a bigger Pirates fan than me – you may be as big a fan, but you can’t be a bigger fan. I’ve bled black and gold since 1970….when I was 10 years old and became infatuated with major league baseball and the Pirates.

    I had to have been one of your first paid subscribers, because I immediately signed up as soon as I read your announcement of the subscription plan. I also buy and read your prospect guide each and every year. It is well worth the investment, even though I don’t get to read every article every day. I also tell every Pirates fan I encounter about your web site. So, pat my back too! 🙂

    To be in Bradenton each Spring, when everyone is feeling optimistic about their seasons, must be a wonderful thing. I don’t have the financial ability to do that, but if I could I would make that trip every year. About 25 or so years ago, I happened to be in Tampa in March attending a work related conference meeting, and was able to sneak away one afternoon and drive to McKechnie Field and see a Pirates Spring exhibition game. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in regards to sports! It was a gorgeous day and I had never been so close to all the players before. This was so long ago, Leyland was the manager and Barry Bonds was skinny! It was probably 1990 or around there…

    May the Lord continue to bless you, your great Pirates Prospects web site, and all those who contribute and write for it.

    • If you liked a game at McKechnie 25 years ago, you would be completely blown away going to one there now. The whole atmosphere is even more positive after the refurbishment and upgrades.

  15. This site is terrific and helps my wife and I keep up with our son and his teammates. Keep up the great work.
    Brian Vieaux

  16. Not sure that I would rely on members buying gift subscriptions or many of the typical online tools to drive traffic. I think a targeted audience is needed to market to. Perhaps PGH area people (within 100 miles) that subscribe to another sports publication or site. Then reach out and offer an introductory special. You have to do so repeatedly to gain traction. Every 2 or 3 days forever would not be to often.

  17. I have been on board for a long time, I followed Ozuna, when he was signed, because i figured I could keep up with the spelling. If I remember correctly, he was one of a handful of toolsy guys you said to keep an eye on!
    It is about time to renew my 3 year subscription, and I will be pleased to do so.

  18. Happy to be a charter subscriber. Well worth it. Great baseball writing! Thanks Tim and the rest of the group.

  19. When I subscribed to the pay model 2 years ago I had no idea how great of a bargain I was getting. I read at least one article literally every day of the year. Well done!

  20. idk who complains to u but man, they need to get a life,.. ur stuff is great, not living in the Pitt area, ur stuff is second to none. Thank and keep up the fab work.

  21. For what it’s worth I do shame my friends who are Pirate fans and don’t subscribe to this site. That’s my way of sharing.

  22. One thing you didn’t mention that I find is true – the quality of the writing on this site is superior to other similar, but free, sites. I’m not talking about the depth of information, though that is also better, but simply about the grammar and vocabulary, the flow of the articles. Good site. Worth the price of subscription.

  23. I’ve really enjoyed the site. Ten years ago if you would have asked me about spending an afternoon watching a “baseball” game in general, I would have laughed and said not interested… 4 or 5 years ago I came across this site. It really has gotten me interested (being a western PA guy) in watching the Pirates play ball. I thinks it’s great to read the articles about the prospects and their development. I look forward to the times when one of them gets called up and I can see what they are all about.

  24. I love the site and I just renewed my annual subscription! I think the content is great!

    As for new things, are writers of the site ever going to do podcasts? I know Tim sometimes posts podcasts of his interviews with David Todd. I would like to see more content like that. Maybe a once a week podcast with Tim and other writers discussing whats going on in the Pirates system.

    • A few years ago there were podcasts but if memory serves me, setting up for it was the problem. If podcasts are restarted they should be limited to 15 or 30 minutes. But if the choice is David Todd or P2 writers, don’t give up DT.

      Not meaning to offend any writers b/c they are all good and each does his/her due diligence.

  25. I was a late subscriber, and initially hated the idea of a pay site. I still don’t like it, but I fully understand it and I am more than happy to pay for the coverage. My only request would be a heavier focus on the guys that are in their first year after their draft/signing.

    I do also share a lot of articles on Facebook, mainly to pass off all the Cub and Cardinal fans in my family.

    Is there any chance of adding Pirates game threads like you have for all the affiliates?

  26. At least once a day i click on a headline only to see a Wallstreet Journal Firewall. OTOH New York Times offers a limited amount of free views per month. Is that feasibke for PP? Id limit people to 1 free view per month.

    I only pay for one site on the interwebs… Pirates Prospects, because it is literally one of a kind.

  27. Personally, I enjoy the longer form, detailed analysis. The Taillon and Bell articles in the part year showing how their delivery and stances changed over the years were outstanding and only could have been produced by someone who has followed the system for a number of years.

    My favorite part of the site are the daily game recaps that report information beyond the box score. Prospect A went 0-3 but hit 3 line drives at fielders. This is information that I can’t get anywhere else.

    As for growing the subscriber base, I believe that Tim and the writers should do as many radio appearances on stations located in Pittsburgh and the cities where minor league affiliates are located. I can’t remember how I discovered this site, but I know that listening to Kevin Goldstein on Pittsburgh radio caused me to subscribe to Baseball Prospectus. I know there is a regular stint with David Todd. Maybe try to get on the network pre-game show once a week.

  28. Tim, I know you have a small weekly segment on the David Todd Show, but have you thought about getting your own segment on 93.7 The Fan? It would help promote the website, and I’d much prefer to listen to some quality Pirates reporting over the same “Nutting’s cheap” and “spend money” story line that is run like a broken record on a daily basis.

    • AS much as Tim has discovered, you would figure ROOT sports would be blowing his phone up to have him sit in the booth for an inning or 2.

    • I don’t expect Tim to be doing any segment on The Fan for any amount of money, especially after Tim reported from a good source that Polanco would be called up(and he wasn’t) and Colin Dunlap ripped him up. For the record, Tim: Colin is an arrogant prick, and I hate that he got promoted to the morning show. I love the site, I just hope the iPhone app will get improved sometime soon as I get errors on it all the time. Keep up the great work.

  29. Ditto to all below – not only is the information fun to read but the analysis is very accurate. Your scouting reports and ratings are right on. It adds so much to the “fan experience” of following one of my favorite Pittsburgh sports teams. Very much worth the price. Please pass on the thanks to all your writers.

    • Keep up the fine coverage of the Pirates system. When it went to a pay site I debated for about 20 minutes if I wanted to pay for Pirate information, and I have not been disappointed with the decision I made.

  30. Love this site, but Tim has discovered Osuna, Kuhl, Glasnow’s change-up grip. Little too over the top for me. Other sites *stealing* off Tim because Tim is the best.

    I’m just waiting for Tim to tell us he discovered fire.

    • If fire is a prospect in the Pirates’ system and made some sort of adjustment that increased its chances of making the majors, then I probably wrote about it before anybody else.

      • Tim,
        I’m also a Royals fan. In following the blogs that report on them I see how weak they are. You’ve got what looks like a solid business model. Have you considered setting up sites for other teams?

    • I don’t think Tim ever said anything about “discovering” these players; however, we do have the advantage of getting to know them at a much earlier stage than other outlets. As for the “stealing” content, this does happen, as I found two instances just last week on things that I reported (and I knew wasn’t out there yet from other credentialed reporters) being written almost word-for-word on another site. We do everything we can to credit other reporters when they break something, but there are plenty of times when we do not get the same treatment.

      *Just the perspective of someone else on the site…

      Oh, and this isn’t to start an argument or anything. I just wanted to point it out that everything Tim said in the article is accurate, and the guy is a tireless worker… I honestly don’t know if Tim or John even sleep. 🙂

          • I was just wondering since BD and PP have some of the same writers.

            This site and BD are the only sites I peruse. I’m not wasting my time ready rumbunter, or any of those other sites. I’ll read some of the game recaps at the mlb site, but those commenting threads over there are a bunch of school girls arguing.

            • I belong to a number of different sites. This one, DK, ESPN Insider for Keith Law, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America(need to update my card info) and obviously read Fangraphs, buy a number of Prospects annual books..

              It’s just my opinion but I feel if you only read one or 2 sites you will miss something. This site has some info I enjoy which is why I subscribe. But Fangraphs(whether it’s Longhenhagen, Farnsworth, or Kiley offers some great insight you can’t get anywhere else and it’s free)

              While DK’s site focuses on everything they do from time to time have some excellent insight on the Pirates that I don’t see anywhere else.

              This site has very good access to players and things they are working on.

              But I don’t think any site, including this one, offers everything I want. Even if I just limit it to the Pirates.

              • I was just being specific to Pirate baseball sites….Yeah, I read fangraphs, Law, prospectus, BA and all that. The only one I don’t do is DK.

                I agree with the writers over at Fangraphs, they have excellent content and as you said, can’t get that info anywhere else and it’s free.

          • Tim was on a twitter rant about some newspaper a few weeks back. Not that he was upset about them using his content, just that they never assigned credit to the site, or his writers.

              • Me too! I read haudricourt, but mostly to hear how the brewers think they’re turning the corner in the NL central.

                • I listen to the Brewers games on the radio when I am driving to work. Haudricort is such a Brewers lucky, he doesn’t understand why the Brewers are bad, nor what they are trying to do.

    • LMFAO. Tim is proud of his work and not afraid to let you know it. Nothing wrong with that I suppose…

      • Nothing wrong with being proud of your work….Sometimes, this article for example, he comes off as extremely insecure.

        I’m the best, I’m the 1st, I discovered this, nobody has the content I do, etc.

        • I don’t completely disagree with you but the world is obviously filled with a diverse set of personalities(not that you didn’t already know that). Tim seems to have the need to validate himself a lot. He’s had some good calls and likes to mention them. He’s also had many misses (and doesn’t like to mention them) But that’s not all that abnormal imo and just part of the business.

          • Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you the PP peanut gallery, Catch 22 and John W.

            Together they have not one clue what it takes to succeed in this business, but they sure will criticize one who does like a couple of middle school drama queens.

              • Ha! I’m not trying to give Tim a hard time but there is a certain truth in what you said. Here are some things I believe are relatively accurate:

                1. This site has good information on the Pirates and is pretty much unparalleled as far as news regarding what changes in approach or strategy certain prospects are working on.

                2. Tim has a history and pattern of vigorously patting himself on the back and being defensive at times. Scott K may not have liked Catch22 calling attention to that, it certainly does not mean it isn’t true.

                3. At end of the day none of this stuff really matters.

                • The only reason this perception exists, is because Tim takes the time to interact with his subscribers. I don’t think any of us would act any differently if we were in his position. I’ve been extremely happy to have found this site and when it switched to subscription I gladly ponied up. The content is original and in depth and you won’t find it anywhere else.

              • The only thing worse than an asshole is the asshole who’s more than proud of their assholeness. You seem to be that type of person.

            • LMFAO I’ve been self employed for over 12 years. If you dispute the validity or logic of anything I said feel free to be specific…or you can just make foolishly inaccurate statements. Your choice

              • “Tim seems to have the need to validate himself a lot.”

                Considering he operates a business that charges a fee in a marketplace where the vast majority of his competitors give it away, this comment comes across as completely clueless.

                Please impress me by extrapolating on how you have succeeded for the last 12 years selling widgets when your competitors give them away for free.

            • +++ ! From people that are saying : ” Look at me ! I read everything baseball and youuu don’t “

        • Is it insecure or concerned about revenues? I totally understand the pressure of owning a business. As far as your comments regarding “I’m the best, I’m the 1st, I discovered this, nobody has the content I do, etc.”, I dont know if I disagree with his view, but, he could use it in a better way marketing to new potential subscribers. “Analysis that you won’t see anywhere else.” Learn about impact talent before the rest of the fans.” Our investment in our business gives us a unique ability to provide information before you hear from other sources.”

          • As part of the P2 base I’m pumped up. It is the best it is the first it is the most. We need to let non subscribers know for their own benefit and to help Tim maintain 360 degree coverage this is a rally and most of us are all in. As we see the first serious wave of minor Leaguers graduate and many good classes right behind if you’re a pirates fan this is the story before the legend. Take the message for what it is and do what you can to help promote the site. It’s directed at the reader he knows well enough to realize he isn’t grandstanding but fighting to keep a subscription service alive in the desert of free barebone coverage.

      • It’s good business, he is selling a service. So it only makes sense to let people know what he is doing right.

    • What is over the top for you, comes across as self employed hustle to me. I applaud Tim for promoting himself and his business to his best source of referrals, us.

  31. I’ve been with you almost since the beginning and I know how lucky we are to have the coverage of Pirate Prospects like we do.

    Thanks for the great work. This site is an invaluable source and a daily (at min) must read.

    • Well stated. It is an invaluable source and at least a once-daily read. Thanks Tim, John and the rest of the team.

      Don’t know how long I have been on, but I do have a copy of the 2011 Prospect Guide – were there any before that?

  32. This site has room for improvement but has come a long way from the early years.

    Sadly, in other news involving pirates authors Charlie Wilmoth, the immensely talented writer at bucs dugout has called it quits. It’s a sad day.

    • CHARLIE will be missed, but he seems to be pursuing other avenues that interest him. I wish him much future success.

    • I was a bit shocked yesterday when I saw that Charlie was hanging up his keyboard. Then saw this article’s title and thought, oh shit, here we go again. Glad that was not the case.

      • There won’t be another one like Charlie. He was in a class by himself. I feel like a part of my fandom died yesterday.

    • Read your post and had to go to BD to read Wilmoth’s post. Charlie was a good Apple. I’ve met him multiple times. I’m sorry to see him hang it up as editor for BD, but he’s let too many good opportunities go by – by the way it sounds and far be it for us as fans to keep him here. Go Forth and write!

      Hopefully, he’ll attend Gatherings to keep us up to date on his works and I’m sure he’ll still check in on the Bucs and BD to see how we’re doing once in a while.

      On top of that…The Pittsburgh Sports forum is having issues too and might shut it’s been a tough time for Blogging.

      • Same here. Wasn’t aware Charlie was quitting until I saw these comments. I’ll really miss him. 🙁

  33. I was one of those late subscribers as I was skeptical about paying for prospect coverage. As the season started, I missed the site and decided to make the jump. This site really is better for it and i’m glad I subscribed. This is a great site you have Tim. Keep up the excellent work.

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