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First Pitch: Pirates Prospects and the Pittsburgh Pirates Universe

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On the middle of a white page with blue striped lines, there is a black dot which represents the singularity that is the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

Surrounding this dot is everything, and nothing at all.

That’s mostly because I had something else to do that day, and I ended up not filling in the rest of the page in my work notebook.

However, let’s say that this dot represents the singularity in the middle of the black hole that sits in the center of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ universe. That description sometimes feels very apt when it comes to finding information about this franchise. It’s often a mystery what goes on inside the Pirates’ organization, and finding out is often as difficult as seeing the singularity in the center of an actual black hole.

Surrounding such a black hole would be stars, planets, and every being who knows of the existence of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Let me tell you, as an owner of one of the planets in this universe, the size of this universe is nearly impossible for any human brain to fathom.

If this were a universe, Pirates Prospects would be a planet.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette would be a bigger planet.

MLB.com and The Athletic would each be their own planet.

DK Pittsburgh Sports would be a planet.

Some of those planets operate on a Multiversial level, where their planet exists across multiple “galaxies” (the Steelers and Penguins are their own galaxies of information in Pittsburgh). Others, like Pirates Prospects, exist in a single galaxy, rather than being Nexus entities that you can find across the Pittsburgh sports Multiverse.

Let’s say that the Pittsburgh Pirates’ galaxy allows for easier space travel than our own real-life Milky Way galaxy. You don’t need to travel light-years to go from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Pirates coverage to this site. In fact, you can make a home on both planets.

There are millions and millions of people who live inside the Pirates’ galaxy. Some of them were born here. Some of them are visiting from other galaxies. Some of you live on this planet called Pirates Prospects. There are some who would fling an asteroid into the center of this planet if they could. And some people are just visiting. Maybe they live in the Cincinnati Reds galaxy, and stumbled over here through a wormhole created when Ben Cherington traded Kevin Newman for Dauri Moreta. Maybe they exist in a different dimension of this universe, focused on fantasy sports or gambling, and they’re aiming to extract information from this planet.

I’m going to stop with the quantum parallels and tell you what I’m talking about without you having to dissect the singularity of this idea hidden in the black hole of my mind.

This website is very popular. In fact, it’s too popular for my comfort. The impact of running a popular site like this for so long is that I can’t go anywhere without running into a Pirates fan who has heard of me or my site. That’s not to say that every Pirates fan has heard of me or this site. That would be impossible with the massive size of this galaxy.

I say this site is popular, which means it draws a lot of traffic. This year, in a year where I did minimal promotion of the site (ask Ethan Hullihen how many times he had to ask me to tweet out links this year), and the site will still end up with over half a million unique visitors. Those are actual people. Next year, I’m projecting at least seven million pages viewed on this site. That’s a different stat that can be monetized.

There are two main ways that I can monetize this site: Get the masses to each pay a small amount, or get a small amount of people to pay a larger amount.

From 2009-2014, this site took the former approach. We relied on ads. The site had more than ten million page views in the final two years, before we switched to a subscription site. I couldn’t grow the site on the ad-only model, but it could survive as a small planet in the Pirates’ galaxy.

Once we switched to a subscription model, we still had a few hundred thousand people visiting this “planet”, but only a few thousand people “lived” on it — aka, they paid for and were able to access articles. Those were our subscribers who supported us enough to allow this site to expand to where I can confidently call it a planet in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ galaxy. My estimate is that we had over 10,000 subscribers from 2015-22, with a reduced paywall from 2019-22.

My recent move to take down the site’s paywall was an attempt to open the site to everyone in the Pirates’ universe.

This weekend, I put advertisements on the site for the first time since 2018. Over the next month, my plan will be to adjust these in order to best monetize the masses. If we have seven million page views next year, then the advertisements we will show will pay for the base level of this site.

From there, we would still need supporters in order to grow and operate in the way that is unique to this “planet” in this “galaxy”. In the past, we had regular reports from all of the Pirates’ affiliates, along with reporters in Pittsburgh.

Essentially, we can have all of that with advertising alone. But, you can’t have me and all of that with advertising. One way of looking at the current model is that advertising will pay for the site and contributions will pay for me. But in reality, it’s all one lump sum, and my only monetary focus is on personal survival.

This year, I’ve gotten this site to the point where I can run it almost like a part-time job. At the bare minimum, this site could exist forever with minimal producing each week on my end. It would run much like you saw during the 2022 season. The advertisements would help to pay for everyone else’s contributions, but I would be looking to make my money elsewhere.

I don’t want to leave this site for good, or have a reduced role forever. I want to make it very clear that I have the luxury to make this move. I’ve been saving up so that this site could survive without me for a period of time while I write my Time Travelers vs Vampires series. I want to make that very clear, because there are people right now who are trying to make their own planet inside the Pittsburgh Pirates’ galaxy. I have the luxury of leaving my existing planet to try and create an entire universe that doesn’t exist in the grand Multiverse we know as life.

At this point, this site could survive at least one more year without advertisements or subscriptions. Maybe more than that if I moved to a cheap, remote area like the area where I grew up in Virginia, rather than living in Florida or Pittsburgh. The point is, the site has stability that has allowed me to play around with how the site makes money. My role on this site is to push that Doomsday date as far into the future as possible.

This is done simply by adding revenue. Advertisements will ensure that this site will always be around.

Contributions from our readers will allow us to grow and provide the best coverage.

We are going to need both in order to turn Pirates Prospects into the outlet I know it can become.

For the next month, have patience as I play around with the ad model. Eventually, anyone who donates to the site will have access to the clean, ad-free model, which I prefer. Anyone who has donated in the past will be grandfathered in appropriately. Before that happens, I need a bit of a baseline on how the advertisements will perform.

I’m saying all of this with the disclaimer that I don’t need to say anything. I could throw advertisements up with no explanation. I could put the entire site behind the paywall and make it so that only those who pay can experience our work. I know that either one of those approaches will work in terms of keeping this site going. The site could survive, even if I gave zero explanation as to what I’m doing.

My goal is to find the best hybrid approach to allow for the most people to access our work, while generating the most revenue possible for that work. The good thing is that I’m a simple man. Give me an ounce of weed, a few new albums, and some Sci-fi stories and I’m content in life for at least a few weeks. I’m not someone who is driven by money or possessions, so the more money this site makes, the bigger it can grow and the more I can give to other creators working on this site.

This weekend’s addition of advertisements on the site was a big step toward the site’s long-term growth plans.

Next week on First Pitch, I’ll discuss our books and the merchandise store I’ll be launching on this site in the next year, which will further help toward this goal. For now, here’s a rundown of what was on the site last week, and what is to come next week.

LAST WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS

The Pirates were busy during the holiday week last week, adding Carlos Santana as a free agent. I wrote last Wednesday how they lack the essential experience to contend. Santana, who agreed to terms two days later, will definitely bring that experience.

Last week on the site we went heavy on prospect coverage, which makes a lot of sense, considering the nature of this site. On Tuesday, we released features on five players:

**Jared Jones: Learning To Trust Stuff Through Development Process

**Nick Garcia: Simplified Approach In Work As A Starter

**The Mystery of Dauri Moreta’s Sinker

**Noe Toribio Sees Growth As a Reliever

**John O’Reilly Finished Strong After Rollercoaster Season

Wilbur Miller looked at breakout candidates for the Pirates’ Single-A affiliate in 2023. In our latest Roundtable, we identified second half surges that we’re buying from the 2022 season. John Dreker profiled right-handed pitcher Osvaldo Bido in the latest Pirates Winter Report.

Wrapping up the week, Ethan Hullihen looked at the Pirates’ odds of getting the first pick in the 2023 draft under the new MLB Draft lottery.

THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS

We’ve got a few player updates, as well as reactions to all of the first base moves that will go up in tomorrow’s article drop. As the week goes on, we’ll be focusing more on the upcoming Winter Meetings, and we will be shifting toward the upcoming release of our prospect rankings.

FUQUAY VINYL PLAYLIST

This week’s playlist is heavy on Carlos Santana. I also went with some Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, since a lot of my music tastes were shaped by listening to the guitar work of these acts.

I also went heavy with some Latin American artists, including Buena Vista Social Club and Luis Miguel.

I usually throw in some new music. This week’s new album is “Working on My Karma” by dvsn.

WEEKLY PIRATES QUIZ

I got every pick after 1986. My Pirates knowledge falls apart before that time. Post your score 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!

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Tim Williams
Tim Williams
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.

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