Yesterday I announced that I am launching Pittsburgh Baseball Network in 2020. I teased the announcement a week ago, which drew many predictions about what was to come.

I’d now like to share the prediction from the comments that came the closest.

I’m running PBN, which contains several websites below it. Each of those websites will have a site manager. I guess that would make me President of Operations. John Dreker now runs P2, so he’s the GM. And Wilbur Miller will be overseeing the new Pirates blog and community, so “Senior Vice President – Jagoff Development” seems fitting. Truthfully, his official title is “Senior Vice President – Yinzer Development”, but it’s not a major difference.

Honestly, this is how I came up with the concept. I was talking with my brother on the phone. He’s a huge soccer fan, and was discussing how the best teams in the English Premiere League are adding extra front office positions, and delegating the work more. It sounded exactly like what the Dodgers did with Andrew Friedman, and what other teams in baseball have done since.

I had been working on the PBN concept for a year, but it really all clicked and settled into place when I decided to take this approach that multiple sports leagues were starting to use, and figured out how to apply it to this site.

That’s how I’m able to answer this question.

The entire goal of PBN is to make things less complicated for everyone. It’s going to be designed in a way that makes it easier for me to run, easier for every individual site to manage, and easier for the readers to find content.

“Rebranding and covering everything under one site” is technically what we’re doing. I used to run Pirates Prospects. I now run Pittsburgh Baseball Network, which includes Pirates Prospects and other sites.

I could have made them all sections under one site, but there’s a specific reason why I didn’t: Quality.

The concept of having one site and having sections for everything under it has been done. It’s the classic newspaper model.

That model has even been carried over to the internet for years. We’ve seen this in Pittsburgh with Dejan Kovacevic’s site. He essentially created his own newspaper sports section, without having to cover other news, or be rich enough to own a newspaper.

There’s a flaw in this model. When you have one site that focuses on multiple things, you inevitably take away from some of those things. I’ll use Dejan as an example again, because he’s been very public about his coverage plans. He constantly notes that the Pirates are number three in this city for readership. He buries that section deep in the page, and it clearly doesn’t get the editorial attention that the Steelers or Penguins do.

We’ve done the same thing with Pirates Prospects. We covered the MLB team. We covered local amateur baseball when it’s relevant. We’ve covered the entire farm system. John has produced Pirates History articles for years. And yet the thing we’re known for is prospect coverage. That’s partly because of the name, but mostly because this was the niche we were targeting.

I’ve always been interested in the parallels between America and baseball. One of the recent ones is that there’s a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots, and if the have-nots want to compete, they need to find a niche that the big markets are overlooking, and exploit it.

We did that with Pirates Prospects. We created a site that literally no other major league team had, and we provided the best coverage of the Pirates’ minor league system.

We did that by focusing on a niche. Dejan Kovacevic focused on a niche when he ignored every other section in the paper and started a company that’s basically an independent newspaper sports section. Countless columnists across the country have been separating from whole news organizations and just providing their columns separate.

If you want to give this era of consuming a name, I’d call it the “à la carte” era. The big companies are still going to be in business, but the path for the smaller companies is to find a niche and do it better than anyone else. It’s why you’re seeing more and more people cut cable and turn to individual apps like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and so on.

Why pay for a company giving you limited amounts of what you like when you can pay for customized content that gives you the most of what you like?

That’s the goal here: to create multiple niche sites like Pirates Prospects. The history site is its own site, so we don’t need to worry about how that content does versus prospect coverage. The Pitt site is different from the Pirates site, so we don’t have to worry about which one is the top article on the main site when there is multiple news.

As for you, you’ll easily be able to target in on the specific topic you want to read about, and find that you don’t have to navigate through other topics to get there. But when you want other topics, it will easily be accessible by clicking through the network. It’s going to be easier to see when it’s launched, but think of it like a Roku, or Apple TV, or Fire TV. PBN is the Roku home screen, and all of the sites are individual apps.

I’m creating multiple sites because I want each site to be the strongest niche site it can be. That can’t work if they’re all under the same site. I’ve seen that with my site, and we’ve seen it with other news outlets.

By separating them into individual sites, each site manager only has to focus on their specific topic, and how to make it better. And I am there to oversee the whole network, making sure we’re hitting our mark for the type of detailed content we want on each site, all while working to constantly expand and improve the networks and the sites within.

In the end, it’s about time. I don’t have enough time to run a large site, write for the site, handle all of the maintenance for the site, and make sure that each section is getting the most attention it can get. So I’m creating more time by delegating sites out to different site managers, resulting in more time all around, and leading to stronger individual sites and a stronger network overall.

This is a complicated process. It would be much easier if we just had one site and had multiple sections under that site. I considered that for a while over the last year. Ultimately, that approach doesn’t work. So I’m making a new approach. It’s complicated, but it is that way because I’m hoping it will pay off with something great you’ve never seen before. And while it’s complicated for me to set up, I believe the end product will be the opposite of complicated for you, the readers.

You can subscribe to PBN by subscribing to this site. All Pirates Prospects subscribers will automatically be subscribed to everything on PBN as it launches. You can also use the link above to purchase a subscription to extend your current plan, or to purchase a gift subscription for someone for the holidays.




By John Dreker

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date, plus I’ll note that current reliever Kyle Crick turns 27 today. I saved the best for last here. I start with a transaction of note.

On this date in 1950, the Pirates signed outfielder Pete Reiser as a free agent. He was a three-time All-Star, a batting champ and a two-time stolen base champ prior to joining the Pirates. He lasted just one season in Pittsburgh, hitting .271 in 74 games, with an .811 OPS. He signed with Cleveland for the 1952 season and had just 34 big league games left in his career after leaving the Pirates.

Craig Wilson, RF/1B for the 2001-06 Pirates. In 634 games with the Pirates, he hit .268 with 94 homers. Wilson hit 29 homers and drove in 82 runs during the 2004 season. He split his time fairly evenly between first base and right field, but he also played some left field and even caught in 40 games. He played just 64 big league games after being traded away from the Pirates during the 2006 season.

Matt Lawton, outfielder for the 2005 Pirates. He hit .273 with ten homers and 16 stolen bases in 101 games with the Pirates, one of three teams he played for during the 2005 season. Lawton was a career .267 hitter over 12 seasons in the majors, finishing with 138 homers and 165 stolen bases.

Tacks Latimer, catcher for the 1900 Pirates. He played just four games in Pittsburgh, going 4-for-12 at the plate. He played parts of five seasons in the majors, with a different team each year and lasted just 27 games total. He was a bit undisciplined off the field, which led to him playing for 30 different teams in 13 seasons of pro ball.

Frank Killen, lefty pitcher for the 1893-98 Pirates. During the 1893 season, Killen went 36-14, leading the Pirates to their best season in franchise history (12 years) up to that point. In 1896, he went 30-18 for a team that went 36-45 in the rest of their games that season. He led the league in wins, games started, complete games, innings pitched and shutouts. Killen had a 112-82 record for the Pirates, and he won 164 games in his ten-year career. He’s the last 30-game winner in team history.

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