A week ago, I wrote a very important site update about how Pirates Prospects was struggling, and at risk of closing down. We were hit very hard by cancellations, to the point where all of the money received was going toward keeping the site running, and no one on the site, myself included, were receiving money for their work.
You guys stepped up in a big way. You subscribed, with a lot of people returning to the site. You bought gift subscriptions for friends. You purchased products and Pay It Forward subscriptions. You offered up donations to keep things going.
To maintain the transparency from last week, I wanted to give an update on how things were doing.
First of all, I’m happy to say that we’re almost completely caught up with our writers. I was behind a month with Alan Saunders, Matt Gajtka, and John Dreker, and was able to start catching up with all of them. They should all be completely caught up by this weekend.
I was also able to pay our minor league writers on time. We operate on a net-30 day payment schedule, which means all articles written in May would be paid by the end of June. In the past, I’ve been able to pay that about a week into the new month, since I don’t need 30 days to figure out the payments for everyone. In this case, I was delayed due to financial troubles, and had to be honest with our writers that they would get paid, but I didn’t know exactly when they would get paid.
Fortunately, you guys stepped up, and I was able to pay our writers before that net-30 day window was reached.
We’re not out of the woods yet. The support over the last week has allowed the site to get back on its feet. But we need to find a way to move forward and avoid this problem in the future. We received a lot of help in the last week, but 95% of that went to our writers, and the other 5% went to site fees.
Any further help from you guys is appreciated, and we have several opportunities below. The best help we can get is subscriptions. If you’re not a subscriber, we welcome you to join us. If you’re worried about subscribing and the site closing down, we offer a monthly plan that eliminates that risk. And if you are already a subscriber, you can purchase a gift subscription for someone, or just send out a social media post telling people to join and linking to the site, which is free and helps in a big way.
But I want to make it clear that we’re not just relying on you guys. To maintain transparency, here is what we’ve got going on to help things from our end:
We posted an update earlier this week about sponsorship opportunities, along with prices for each level. We’ve already received a few inquiries, including two potential big sponsorship opportunities. We want these sponsors to have a connection to the readers, as they’ll be a key part of the site, so we’re focusing primarily on local businesses. We want to help them out while they’re helping us out, and giving them exposure to a supportive local group of readers who are appreciative of their help on the site is a great way to help them out.
The sponsorships are huge in avoiding this problem in the future. Having sponsorship money greatly reduces the impact of cancellations, since we’ve got multiple revenue sources to pull from. This avenue will probably be the biggest boost to the site, and the single greatest thing to ensure we stick around for the long haul.
If you own a business and are interested in sponsoring the site, or if you know a business that might be interested, send them the link with the information. We’ve also got a sponsorship packet that we can send out.
We’re looking into ways to cut site expenses. Right now, for example, we pay about $7000 per year just to keep the site running. We have other site bills that can’t be cut, but the server fees could be reduced if we get creative.
I don’t want to completely remove the writers, but we are making adjustments. A big reason we got into this mess was because I misjudged what Pirates fans wanted. I offered up a model where we had more content than anyone else, with two or three features from around the system per day. That was expensive, to the point where we needed five subscriptions per day (new or returning) in order to pay for the content. So when we started losing subscriptions at a huge rate, all while not seeing new subscribers, we saw things going in opposite directions. We were paying a lot for content, and that wasn’t leading to people sticking around or joining the site.
We’ll still have content on the site, but we’re scaling it back. We’re not going to flood you with tons of articles. We’ll have one feature per day, along with any other news and topical analysis. You’re still getting the same stuff, but it will be more spread out, and maybe with better quality than before, since we’ve got fewer things to do. Not that the quality was bad, but fewer articles definitely allows us to remain fresh.
My Role on the Site
Continuing with the above theme, the biggest expense I can cut from the site is myself. I mentioned how we were able to pay writers again. That doesn’t include myself, as I’m still working for free through this. That can’t continue forever, for obvious reasons.
I’ve been looking at other jobs, due to the possibility that I would have to leave the site. That might be avoided if we see a huge response with the sponsorships, along with continued support with new subscriptions and other avenues on the site. But right now the site is not enough to support even one full-time salary.
I want to keep the site going, and I realize that the best way to make that happen would be removing myself. I’d stick around for my weekly column and odds and ends whenever big news occurs, plus I’d still manage the site, but that would be the extent of it.
Looking at the situation objectively, it makes sense. I need a job that pays, but taking money from the site right now would kill the site. So that removes my job and the site. I need health insurance, and I can’t get that right now as a self-employed person living in Florida where access to affordable health care has been very difficult to get.
I’d love for it to work out where I could remain on the site full-time. But the reality is that right now the best thing for the site is for me to leave, either temporarily or permanently, depending on how things work out.
I can’t make guarantees that the site will be around forever, and I can’t say that I know how long the site will be around. What I can tell you is that I’ll do anything to keep the site going — even if that means taking another job to support myself and remove the site’s biggest expense, while working on this site for free in my time off.
Pay It Forward
We had a huge response with Pay It Forward subscriptions in the last week, getting just under 150 subscriptions purchased for students, teachers, and others. And then after we started giving those out, you guys continued purchasing subscriptions through the program.
If you’re not familiar with Pay It Forward, it’s a program we have where people can buy discounted subscriptions that can be claimed by random people in specific professions. It’s a way of doing a random act of kindness for someone, while also helping to support the site.
Right now we have plenty of subscriptions for the following people:
Fire and Rescue
We also had a lot of extra subscriptions purchased for any of the above professions, or anyone else who might qualify. To claim one of these free subscriptions, all you have to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org with verification for the subscription you want to claim.
If you don’t qualify, you probably know someone who does, so please spread the word so we can give out these free subscriptions.
Also, we’ve had the question a lot about subscriptions for active military. Those have always been free. If you qualify, send an email and we’ll get your account set up.
Mid-Season Prospect Guide
We’re working on our mid-season prospect guide, which will be released as an ebook in a few weeks. Today is the draft pick signing deadline, which is one of the big things we wait for until doing a mid-season ranking. It doesn’t sound like Gunnar Hoglund will be signing, which means the rankings will probably be unchanged by today’s events.
The ebook is currently available for pre-sales, and pre-ordering the book gets you the 2018 Prospect Guide eBook for free. We’re deciding on a potential release date, which may be impacted by whether the Pirates are buyers or sellers. If they’re sellers, which seems likely, then we’ll probably hold the book until right after the deadline, so that we can incorporate the new players in. There’s also a possibility of releasing the book early, then releasing updates after trades are made, which is what we did for the 2018 Guide. We’ll have more information on the release in the upcoming weeks.
A lot of you asked about ways you could support the site through donations, so we set up a Patreon page where you can make one-time or monthly donations to the site. We don’t like receiving money without giving anything back, so each donation tier comes with a bonus.
If you donate $5 or more, you get a 10% off coupon for the Pirates Prospects store, good for our eBooks.
If you donate $10 or more, you get the coupon, plus a monthly column from myself that is exclusive to Patreon contributors.
Anyone who makes a donation of $100 or more gets a year’s worth of the Patreon columns, plus a phone call from me to discuss the Pirates. We’ve already had two of those donations, so it looks like I’ve got some calls to make.
If you want to give extra to the site, you can head over to check out our Patreon page.