On blogging and the accompanying perils

Over at SBN sister site, Viva El Birdos (the St. Louis Cardinals blog), the managing editor, Dan Moore, was recently fired. His crime, in his own words from his farewell message:

I got fired. Not enough traffic or posts, and underneath that a fundamental disagreement about whether there's four posts worth of baseball news worth hearing every day, or even most days. No hard feelings; I don't make any sense on a site like that (and I couldn't afford to do it without a salary), and it's been a pleasure to have the keys for five years, which is an unnervingly long time.

I can say that, at least on the number of posts front, compared to other SBN baseball blogs, VEB is well-below average. On average, team sites crank out 5+ posts a day during the heights of the season; that dwindles a bit to 4+ late in the season as teams' playoff chances fade and goes to about 3+ in the offseason. During the season/postseason, VEB was around 2 posts per day and dropped to just over 1 per day in the offseason. On the traffic front, VEB does pretty well, though one might chalk that up a lot of that to the sizeable Cardinals fanbase; one can posit with certainty that more posts would indeed lead to more traffic, so there was some level of under-performance.

As he touched on in the quote I pulled, and in the rest of his post, there is a big tension between quality and quantity. My personal opinion is that there isn't enough baseball material (let alone team material), to justify the level of posts most team sites - whether on SBN or similar networks like Bleacher Report, baseball sites or other sports - churn out.

Even if there is enough material, Moore identified a big hurdle: money. He's elaborated on many of his points on Twitter and in the comments section of VEB, and one of those elaborations was pay:

SBN sites, not unlike other large blogs networks (Huffington Post being the exemplar for non-sports sites), are built upon content delivered by largely unpaid writers - or else by writers for token pay - that is then provided for free to readers. That means we're either stupid, naive in ambition, devoid of ambition, obsessives, egomaniacs or some combination of those.

I don't have a grand, single point to make with this. Some have had questions with what happens behind the scenes at SSS/SBN. Perhaps this is a bit of a look behind the curtain that may interest some.

I can add that SSS is usually below the team site averages for posts per day (though not as far below as VEB). But, like VEB, we have a dedicated readership. VEB is usually near the top for comments and SSS probably gets more comments than one might guess from looking at traffic/post numbers. As I've mentioned before elsewhere, we pretty much kick-ass in pageviews per visit. I believe that is a reflection of the quality we put out, which both satisfies and reinforces our discerning readership.

I'd also add that we are always looking for other suckers who want to contribute content to the site. Every writer here except Jim made their reputations in the comments and in fanposts on SSS and then were plucked for front page prominence. There is no better time than now to stake your claim. I liberally put quality fanposts in the front page layout so at least get your 15 minutes.

And, finally, my personal opinion (which, to be crystal clear, is not a reflection on, or insight into, anyone else's opinion on the masthead, since I've never discussed this topic), is that SSS shouldn't be puking out content at a 5+ post per day rate. SSS (and SBN) shouldn't be obsessed with pumping up pageviews through content of questionable quality or "SEO optimization" or any of the other tricks/tactics that are either tacitly or expressly suggested by our keepers. SSS should be focused on quality writing/analysis that organically brings in readers.

I doubt these are controversial views and you all basically agree. And I don't fear that SSS is next for VEB treatment - there are many more likely things that could happen that would upset the happy blog we have here. I suspect that most of you are at least vaguely aware of the fact that this site is meant to be profitable for Vox Media, and that there are certain pressures that come with that, that the people who write here aren't doing it for the (largely non-existent) money, and that the neat toys that we have on SSS (particularly the commenting toys) don't appear out of thin air.

As Moore said: "Ad-supported sportsblogging is a commodity; everybody's replacement level, basically, and everybody's paid as such." I quibble with any implication someone might take from that that quality is basically the same; but we should all keep in mind that quality doesn't necessarily lead to the revenue necessary to sustain a site like this. For that, we all basically are replacement level.

SouthSideSox is a community driven site. As such, users are able to express their thoughts and opinions in a FanPost, such as this one, which represents the views of this particular fan, but not necessarily the entire community or SouthSideSox editors.

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