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Friday, December 9, 2022

First Pitch: How Are We Going to Pay For All of This Pirates Content?

I’ve always tried to be transparent about my plans for this site.

This site started as an idea and grew from there into a small scale media network. It developed from a belief that it could pay my phone bill, into a site that allowed me to pay other people for their sports writing and photography.

As I reviewed the traffic on Monday morning, I noticed that the site has been visited by over 425,000 people across 188 countries in 2022. Comparatively, that’s already about 75,000 people more than we had in the entire year in 2018. You might remember that being the year where I wrote about how I worried the site might not survive.

Looking back on that year, traffic to the site peaked at the end of April, and again at the trade deadline with the Chris Archer acquisition. Those peaks were temporary moments. The traffic dropped that year in a big way after April. Comparatively, traffic this year has been much higher than 2018 since the month of May.

It’s also been higher than 2017. The traffic in July started hitting 2015-2016 levels, which were our best years.

I updated Pirates Prospects in recent weeks to a new design, aimed at allowing you to easier browse our content. The early results show that… well, the old site design must have really sucked. Traffic last week, for example, was pushing close to 2014 territory, which was our biggest year — and the year that pushed me to decide to move this to a subscription site.

In 2014, we had 763,000 readers. We will probably be about 300,000 shy of that amount this year. Switching to a paywall-only for the better part of a decade will lose you some readers. Fortunately, people still know who we are. The way traffic is trending right now, I’m anticipating half a million visitors to Pirates Prospects in 2023, and there are several scenarios where I could see that figure going up to 2014 levels.

We have the benefit of being around for 14 Pittsburgh Pirates seasons, and still putting out a product that is unique in a vast universe of Pittsburgh Pirates content. The thing about that traffic is that only a small percentage will pay for content.

I removed the paywall with this new design. The site is completely free, which is why I wouldn’t be surprised if we exceed that half-million projection next year. I’ve been working through the best ways to monetize the site long-term, to make sure that the site can grow as I want it to, long-term. The best way to do that would be to reintroduce advertising to the site.

I say that with the disclaimer that I do not want advertising to clutter or overstimulate the site. I don’t want video ads, pop-ups, autoplays, expanders, or anything else that could make me a ton of money, and make you a ton annoyed. Because we — the producers, authors, contributors, and photographers of this site — well, we browse this site, too. And I can’t tell you how much the last site design absolutely sucked for me!

Over the next month, I’ll be reintroducing advertising to the site. The end goal will be to have an option so that anyone who contributes $X or more to the site will bypass ads. Anyone who has already contributed will be grandfathered in. That figure will be a low amount. I don’t know how long it will take to implement that Ad-Free Option.

What I do know is that this decision is going to move Pirates Prospects away from the subscription model for good. I floated the idea a few weeks ago that we might return to that model in the future. However, I really don’t like running a subscription site. Eventually, this void will be filled in a much different way by PittsburghBaseball.com.

For now, I’m very optimistic about the response to Pirates Prospects this month. I’m thankful of the support we’ve had over the years, and continue to have, even as I “mad scientist” all of this with live testing of what works and what doesn’t.

I was born in a town of 300 people, and the biggest area I lived in before this site had 10,000 people. It doesn’t seem real to me that we see more weekly visitors to this site than the population of my area growing up. It also feels like a special responsibility to oversee this site, which has grown well beyond what I could have originally imagined.

I hope that you consider Contributing a few dollars to our work, and check back frequently to see what we have lined up for you.

Here is what we had last week, and if you jump below, you’ll find the preview for the upcoming week.

LAST WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS

If you go to the Pirates Prospects homepage, you’ll see a section that says “PIRATES PROSPECTS WEEKLY: AN EVOLVING MAGAZINE, UPDATES DAILY AT NOON.

First of all, that promise to update daily at noon terrifies me as a chronically late person. If I’ve gone through a week posting every P2Daily at midnight, and every P2Weekly at noon, it’s the equivalent to a pitcher throwing a shutout. Throwing shutouts every week? That feels daunting. It almost makes me want to post one article a week late to remove the stress from the other days.

But I want to focus on that word “Evolving”, because I put some thought into that word choice. Pirates Prospects Weekly is an idea meant to focus our featured coverage, so it doesn’t get lost in the daily grind of transactions. The P2Weekly focus is actually “Revolving”, as the entire site revolves around it, and it’s a set of features that continuously update in a weekly loop. But the content itself each week is “Evolving”. I think this week with the Rule 5 draft is a prime example.

A week ago in this Monday spot, I had no clue who the Pirates were going to protect. I knew that Ethan Hullihen had just given an amazing rundown of the eligible players the day prior. I also knew that Dariel Lopez deserved to be highlighted in some form during this process, which led to a conversation about Carlos Jimenez in the comments and in P2Daily on Tuesday.

By Tuesday night, everyone knew who the Pirates had protected. Our coverage of the topic then shifted to reacting to the certainty of the situation. I emailed out the Roundtable idea, and on Thursday, we had a Roundtable looking at who the Pirates could lose in the Rule 5. Jeff Reed had the post-Rule 5 40-man roster update in Friday’s Pirates Discussion. Ethan wrapped it all up with a look at the Rule 5 minor league reserve list, as the P2Weekly schedule revolved back around.

In this business, most of these articles become obsolete a day or two after they run. For most readers, it’s on to the next one. Typically, our weekly coverage isn’t going to be short-term focused, though this past week wasn’t a typical week.

Even on this site, where our articles have an “Evergreen” quality, it can be easy for things to get lost in the mix. One of my favorite articles I did this year was my feature on Endy Rodriguez in August. Nothing has really changed in the three months since that feature, except that Rodriguez performed so well over the remainder of the season that the article about his breakout seems obvious now. A lot of people read that feature, but a week later there were new features and it was buried. A week later there were new features, and it was buried further. Especially with daily features running during those two weeks.

In short: I know that it’s very easy to miss content on this site, unless you check it every day, and often. The P2Weekly schedule is aimed to keep you in the loop of how things are progressing through the farm system, with the necessary context if you don’t check the site daily.

Another way our weekly coverage “evolved” last week was in the non-Rule 5 coverage.

Last Tuesday, our Article Drop had a theme of system recaps.

John Dreker recapped the Pirates prospects in the Arizona Fall League, which featured the 2019, 2020, and 2021 first rounders standing out. Anthony Murphy recapped the progress of the 2019, 2020, and 2021 draft classes. John also had a recap of our Yearly, Monthly, and Weekly award winners in 2022.

If you read all of those, you’ll get a feel of how the Pirates’ rebuild is going from the minor league level. I followed those articles and the Rule 5 moves with a look at how it’s time for the Pirates to start opening the window by adding a mid-tier free agent this offseason.

John also had his Pirates Winter Report at the end of the week, with a well-timed feature on Diego Castillo a day after the Kevin Newman trade. That article is designed as a weekly winter update, with room for a feature on a different player. Castillo was the subject before Newman was traded, so his choice wasn’t planned. We were just in position to give a timely update on one of Newman’s potential replacements, which is something that happens often on this site.

This “evolving” process is really designed for one big week per month from this site, and the first example of that will be when we update our rankings next month.

THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS

Our article drop tomorrow is going to be very heavy on player features. I’ve got an interesting look at new Pirates reliever Dauri Moreta. Anthony Murphy will be featuring Jared Jones and Nick Garcia. Ryan Palencer has end-of-year features on Indianapolis pitchers Noe Toribio and John O’Reilly.

Wilbur Miller takes a look at some breakout candidates for Bradenton in 2023 on Wednesday. I’ll also have a column of my own. Roundtable on Thursday will also focus on some players whose stock might be on the rise.

As for Friday-Sunday, I guess we will have to wait and see how the week evolves.

FUQUAY VINYL PLAYLIST

I create these playlists each week to give myself a vibe to listen to each week. It’s usually based on what I was listening to the previous week. This blending process also helps me to get in the mindset of producing the weekly content.

In this case, I listened to MF DOOM all weekend, and created a playlist around the albums Operation: Doomsday, Madvillain, and Take Me To Your Leader (my personal favorite from King Geedorah). If you hate skits in your music, you’ll hate this playlist. If you like the breaks from the music, and the DOOM storylines, then I hope you enjoy, fellow villains!

WEEKLY PIRATES QUIZ

I reached 89/90 with a little less than three minutes left on this, and was drawing a blank on the 2017 OBP leader. I remembered and got 90/90 with 36 seconds remaining. What’s your score? Leave it in the comments below.

SUPPORT

Pirates Prospects has always been fueled 100% by reader support — whether through a high traffic site that relied on ads, or a full paywall that was supported by over 10,000 subscribers between 2015-2022. With no more paywall, the site is free for everyone. All I ask is that you Contribute at some point in the future to help support our work. We’re not going to impose any pricing limits, content restrictions, or timelines on anyone. We just hope that you enjoy the site and check back often!

HELP

Have any issues with the site or your account? Check out our Help page.

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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

SUPPORT PIRATES PROSPECTS

Pirates Prospects has been independently owned and operated since 2009, entirely due to the support of our readers. The site is now completely free, funded entirely by user support. By supporting the site, you are supporting independent writers, one of the best Pittsburgh Pirates communities online, and our mission for the most complete Pirates coverage available.

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Josh

Thanks for the insight into your business model, Tim. I’ve found that to be one of the more interesting and refreshing aspects of your approach to building community – transparency about the business side of starting a site like this.

It does seem like advertising is the more profitable way to monetize a website in 2022 – I heard someone on a podcast recently break that down. And then give those people who have hung with you for a long time a way to bypass the ads. Seems like a “best of both worlds” approach.

Congrats on the success of the site. You and the writers here have certainly earned it.

pittsburghbob69

Why don’t you sell Merch??

Just sell Hoodies and Beanies. No need for T-Shirts(they don’t really sell). But Hoodies and Beanies always sell out. And I’m sure they will for P2 as well.

You can put me in for two(2) Hoodies(Large) and one(1) beanie.

Last edited 14 days ago by pittsburghbob69
AdministrativeSky236

I wonder how much edwin rios would cost to sign? Id take him on in the 1B/DH role, has only gotten limited career playing time but has been very solid at the plate in that time as far as I can tell. Shame hes not a right handed hitter…

leefieux

PayPal is set to pay you that $40 once a year. Hopefully, that will be enough to remove ads. I hate ads more than I hate watching Bream cross home plate.

JRIcentral

Hello from Guatemala. I made my $ contribution a couple of weeks ago. I am very thankful for the content of PP, and enjoy reading it (first thing I do in the morning :))
Personally, I would not mind a mixed source of Income for the Site. I can make a $25 yearly payment or so, and accept some advertising as well, if the combination of both make it work…
Saludos desde Guatemala!

Sec.143RowMSeat24

Tim, is there any way you can set up a recurring contribution? Just would like to roll over the old subscription cost, but not have to think about it if possible.

phieralph

I was just doing an MF Doom Wikipedia read the other night for longer than I care to admit.

Love the site! Always will! Whatever you deem fit, Tim!

78/90

Forgot Tabata , PRESLEY (THERE’S A NAME) , Dickerson and somehow Cervelli 🙁

Zack

Just curious, but do the lower level prospect pieces get as much traffic/reads as the higher level prospect pieces? I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the deeper dive analysis on either a team in the org, a coaching approach, or a player’s evolution.

P2 has been a daily visit for me for a decade now.

Zack

88 of 90. Missed the triples leader of 2011 and 2012!

emjayinTN

Question: I think I had a 3 year subscription paid into mid-2023. Since the paywall has now been eliminated, would that unused amount be considered a donation to the site? That would be my wish. The cost was negligible for the quality of content and interaction with others that it has provided. Thank you for the product you and your staff deliver!

Wilbur Miller

We could charge $7.99 for Stargell stars. No verification required!

JimEastTennessee

Would be more appropriate at $8 even…

Wilbur Miller

Another option is to threaten businesses if they don’t advertise. That apparently works well.

hoptown

I love the Sporcles! 87. Missed the 2010 AVG leader and the 2011-2012 Triples leader.

1979andCounting

Tim, in a related question/suggestion about the new site……you posted an article titled “What is next for the Pirates this off season” on Nov. 19. That’s a great article to generate comments and discussion, and I see that you have posted your own great responses about Huntington vs. Cherington. There are 90+ comments, but it is now buried on the site by Nov. 21, I spent literally 10-15 minutes looking for the article on mobile and then laptop.

Is there a way you can feature “most popular articles” on the home page? I mean that article should stimulate fans comments about roster construction for the next 2 months…….but it’s virtually gone now and difficult to find.

Great work on the new format though……I mean that, not sarcastic!

jao171

Podcasts are much easier to monetize than websites. And people are used to ads on podcasts, because they hear them on radio. Why don’t you add a weekly podcast to PP and monetize it?

leefieux

I hate ads on Podcasts which is why I rarely listen to them. I rarely listen to radio for the same reason!

AdministrativeSky236

The skip button is a huge benefit of podcasts lol

leefieux

Agree, but I hate having to get out of my comfortable recliner to do it, lol. I am a really lazy guy. 🙂 🙂

How did I survive all those years of getting up to change the channel on my TV, LOL.

AdministrativeSky236

Myself am a huge fan of podcasts and would undoubtedly be an avid listener of each episode

Born4rf

So glad to hear the traffic is still going strong despite the big club’s problems. As a subscriber from day one I love the idea of shackling the freeloaders with ads but I agree some of the ad systems out there now make content unreadable, which defeats the purpose. Keep up the great work and thank you for being one of a handful of sites that has only become more valuable over the last decade.

Last edited 17 days ago by Born4rf
Danatural08

Good plan, but McNickels should be sending you a check for keeping us all interested in his discount product!… lol had to get a Nutting comment in here, seriously tho, the new site is great, really think you’ve done a good job on the business plan & site design.

Staggering how far of a reach you have – what’s the most obscure/surprising country you’ve had a visitor from?

Also, get some Wiz in your playlist!

Wilbur Miller

For precision’s sake, 8 is a subset of 1.

Danatural08

I believe those using a VPN service can also cloud the visitor’s true locations, but interesting none the less.

Great story on Australia, sounds amazing there, but my 1st thought after reading was to check what kind of year Robbie Glendinning had lol (spoiler alert, pretty good).

China & Indonesia ranking that high surprises me.

I have a website (thru squarespace) that i’ve only shared with a couple friends, never advertised or tried to push for page views, yet I get occasional views from obscure countries, such as in the past week views from Slovak Republic & Malta. While I think that it’s really cool, it also makes me feel a little more exposed than I would prefer & wonder if it’s bot views or actual people.

hoptown

I don’t know how this was measured but I checked in daily from Iceland on vacay this year! That seemed pretty cool.

hoptown

Totally awesome for a vacay. Beautiful landscape. Interesting culture. Everyone speaks fluent English. It’s pretty easy to get there as tourism is a major part of their economy. It’s a bit expensive once youre there as they have the strongest economy in the world. It’s really weird that it never gets dark in the summer. At 2 AM its dusk outside. Hotels all have good window shades. Lol.

john_fluharty

Nice choice for a vacation destination!

b mcferren

load it up with as many ads as you can

won´t bother me

roberto

But some sites are unbearable due to the way the ads are set up. For example, our once-great newspaper here in KC takes you directly to an ad site when you click on an article. And I am a subscriber

John Dreker

I talked to Tim about the ads and I said please don’t make it anything like Baseball-Reference, which is basically blackmailing people into buying ad free experiences on their site. They built a great site then made it almost unusable unless you pay them. I use their site every single day, probably 50+ page views some days, share their links all of the time, so I’m doing my part already, but their ads are now just attacks. I spend about five minutes every day closing out ads on their site that are over information I need. The other day I sent my brother a screenshot of two videos playing, one pop up ad from the bottom and another right over the middle of the page. I’m just trying to look up minor league stats for a 19th century player, not play a 2022 video game called Ad Attack

Wilbur Miller

Have you tried something like YesScript or NoScript? I got to the point where I couldn’t use MiLB.com or bbref until I got YesScript. AdBlock Plus helps a lot, too.

John Dreker

Nope, just been getting used to X’ing out the pop ups when I get on pages. The best thing I can say about them is they are consistent, so you always know where to be to get rid of them as quick as possible

jsdspud

Hi Tim,

I think that allowing contributors an ad free version is a good idea. What about subscribers under the previous model and renewed in June of 2022?

JimEastTennessee

Sent you my “Christmas renewal” early. IF there was a balance already, plow it back into the organizational costs.

JimEastTennessee

Looking forward to primary writers at each site again 🙂

JimEastTennessee

Now, if you could get me a discounted BA, I might actually read stuff from you :-()

JimEastTennessee

Wonder if you you could talk them into a linked/co-subscription?

JimEastTennessee

Got a chuckle  🤓 

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