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Monday, December 5, 2022

First Pitch: Pirates Prospects Has a New Look and No Paywall

At the end of 2019, I didn’t know what I wanted this site to eventually become. I knew it needed to change, and I knew that I needed to take on a new role to avoid burnout.

Because of the uncertainty, I removed the paywall from the site. We still had subscribers on recurring subscriptions, but we stopped taking new subscribers in December 2019. Just when you’d want to make a big change, in hindsight.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the site continued to evolve without a paywall. I put the paywall back up in July, protecting our premium article drops. What was reassuring was that we were able to survive through these changes, without taking on new customers. That is due to our long-term supporters, and I can’t thank them enough for keeping this going for so long.

Pirates Prospects was originally supported by advertising. We switched to a full paywall in 2015, and had very few free articles between then and when I took the paywall down in 2019. The site was able to grow tremendously during that time, in terms of resources and coverage. It wasn’t able to grow as much in terms of readers, with all of our content hidden.

Starting today, I’m removing the paywall from Pirates Prospects and moving to an open support system.

You’ll notice a yellow “Contribute” box at the top of the site. Or, you might notice a banner on some of the new pages or at the bottom of each article. These will take you to the area where you can support our work. You can contribute as little as $1, and there is no maximum.

Rather than asking a few thousand people for $50 a year — and then having to deal with all of the access issues that take my time away from developing the site — we’re going to open the site up to everyone, with the hope that Pirates fans will find enough value to Contribute and keep this going.

I will be cancelling the auto-renew of existing subscriptions over the next few weeks. If you were a subscriber, I’m asking that you consider your previous subscription to be your Contribution to the site.

You’ll notice that there are no advertisements on this site. There’s no paywall. This site is filled with our own Pirates coverage, and it’s all absolutely free. The catch is that, to keep it free, we’re going to need some form of support.

All we’re asking for each reader is to give what they can at whatever interval they choose, based on how they value the site. If you want to hit that Contribute button once a month, that’s awesome! If you only hit it every few years, that’s great as well! I honestly have no clue how this experiment will work, but I do know that this site has enough readers, supporters, and value for this new approach to work.

The new approach on the site this year led to the need for a new site design, which took us offline a few days, but is finally completed! Below you can find more information on the new Pirates Prospects.

New Site Design

Aside from the paywall going down, the big change is the new design on Pirates Prospects. This is meant to make the site far more organized, beyond just the presentation of articles.

That part is very important, though. Our coverage has evolved rapidly this year, and a new design was needed to present the new approach.

However, we didn’t have easily accessible information on the site, and that has been corrected. If you look under the Home link in the site’s menu, you can find new pages with information on the site, our writers, and how to get Help with your site account.

P2Daily

Our P2Daily section was introduced this year, with Anthony Murphy’s outstanding updates throughout the system leading the way. If you click the Daily link in the site’s menu, you’ll be taken to our new P2Daily page.

This page is designed to give you three days of updates. During the offseason, you’ll see the last three P2Daily articles, along with the latest Arizona Fall League and Winter League recaps. There is also a section recapping the latest news and rumors.

In a way, P2Daily represents what this site has always been — the latest updates on the team and a daily look through the farm system. Going forward, the actual P2Daily article will post at midnight every night.

Our newest site concept launches with the new site design…

P2Weekly

The article drops at the start of 2022 were the beginning of the new Pirates Prospects. Those article drops are also part of the new P2Weekly schedule. You can find more information on the Weekly link in the menu.

While the P2Daily section represents more of a classic blog with updates, P2Weekly is more of an evolving magazine. It starts each week with this article, First Pitch, on Monday morning. The article drop will follow on Tuesday, giving our best seven features of the week.

From there, we dive into the opinions part of the week. All of our columns will now run on Wednesday. Our most popular new feature this year, Prospect Roundtable, will run on Thursday, giving our writers a chance to weigh in on various subjects around the system. Every Friday, we post our weekly discussion thread, led by Jeff Reed.

Over the weekend, John Dreker highlights what is happening in the Winter Leagues, and Ethan Hullihen provides his weekly payroll and roster updates.

P2Daily will run each day at midnight. The P2Weekly articles will run daily at noon.

The Weekly page also features a section for player features, which can also be found on the site’s homepage.

The Guide

We’ve had a lot of questions lately about the status of The 2022 Guide. Those questions can now be answered on our new resources page. In short: The book is now a solo project by myself, separate from what you find on the site. It’s also expanded in focus, and will be different than what you’ve seen in the previous ten versions. Check out that link for all of the details.

Resources

The link above will eventually have all of the site resources, including Rankings, Payroll, trackers for the Draft and International market, and our Player Pages. Look for those in a future update.

First Pitch

This feature, First Pitch, has taken many forms over the years. I believe I’ve been writing this since 2012. It will now lead the P2Weekly schedule, serving as a Recap/Preview. Each week, you can read First Pitch to find what you missed the previous week on Pirates Prospects. This will also be the place where we preview the upcoming article drops.

I might have some input on the Pirates each week, though my role going forward is mostly going to be a Producer of the content on this site. My writing on the team will mostly be limited to The Guide.

I will have music recommendations and Sporcle quizzes in this feature, starting next week. Looking for a recommendation now? The new album by The 1975 is amazing.

If you have any issues with the site, use the new Help page.

+ posts

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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Wilbur Miller

We could charge $20 for anybody who wants a Stargell Star.

joesolo6181

I don’t think making the site free and available to all comers will result in sufficient funds to keep you operational. We, the site users, gladly pay for the information the site provides. I hope your new design will open wallets that result in enough funds to keep you in business.

Wabbit_Season

TW,

If you could just make one of the contribution options a monthly charge to a card, that would be welcome, so I don’t forget to contribute?

I am on a tight budget and can afford some per month, but don’t want to contribute once and forget to contribute again, if you follow me.

Wabbit_Season

TW

I was wondering. I think you’re hitting on the way the market is going.

An example: There is a guy name of B.J. Harrison who has been slogging away at the thing he loves, classic literature, for YEARS, just like you. His site is “The Classic Tales Podcast,” but from it, you can also go to his library and buy any audiobook he’s produced.

Harrison is a great reader aloud and his stories on his podcast over the years have been invaluable to me. I never really went and bought books from his library, because his podcast was enough for me.

But then he made a change which I’ve noticed across the podcast universe…
He simply asked those who enjoyed his work of love to send him a little something each month, in return for which, they would get a coupon to discount his library offerings.

I’ve been giving $5 a month ever since. For years. Because the service he provides is pure value. It turns out that Mr. Harrison seems not to have to go on hiatus any more because, you know what, out of the thousands of people who have been hooked by his podcasts? Some number of them sent along $5 a month.

The Classic Tales Podcast is his JOB now and it is a job he LOVES.

This is letting the market decide your value.

I value this site and I’ll be contributing monthly to help sustain something we both love. Your work of love is valuable to me.

Like many who have subscribed, those annual prospect guides are a hope of springtime in the winter. Keep it up. Courage and persistence… and stupidity… will get you far sometimes. Continued success, continued growth, and all the luck to you and your wonderful contributors that the universe can offer.

Make Mine P2!

-Wabbit

PS: 1972 record by Television, “Marquee Moon” is a crazy good record I’ve just discovered. Presages punk by 10 years… except these guys really CAN play their instruments. You can hear a lot of things that come later. Record rewards multiple listens.

Cocktailsfor2

FYI, Marquee Moon was released on
February 8, 1977. Television was part of the CBGB scene starting in 1974-5.

I still listen to it at least 3 times a year. Timeless…

Wabbit_Season

CT2…

Yeah, I got hooked on that record something fierce.

You can tell a good record when, after repeated listens, your favorite song on the disc keeps shifting. The musicality in Marquee Moon is something in those instrumental sections and there is a live record of the song that goes something like 14 minutes that the Rolling Stone Record Guide (the music version of the P2 Prospect Guide) says “gets religion.”

But, honestly, I just dig the song “Elevation.” It starts out with a riff Greg Khin stole and sped up a bit for “The Break-Up Song”

In songs like “Elevation” and “Friction” I can hear David Byrne, Lou Reed, Patti Smith… and, listening to it in its entirety, something that occurs to me is this: I would love to hear Rick Ocasek and The Cars remake this album in their style… a kind of new wave / punk affect they had would turn this LP into something really special…I can hear the musicality be translated very well into the interlocking synth tones and smooth production of the great Cars LPs. “Prove It,” is so punk-ass, I’d love to hear Ocasek’s take on it.

Yeah, I don’t know where I got 1972 from except that many of these songs preceded their “breakout” before they signed a record deal. I mean, how many bands can be recorded by Brian Eno and say “No, we’ll pass.” Crazy truth to their own guns and style.

I wonder if anyone might have seen this band live. I have been listening to the live record and it’s just elaborate. Very, very satisfying.

“Go! Go! Go! Out! Out! Out! I’m rich! I’m a happy miser!”

-Wabbit

Last edited 5 days ago by Wabbit_Season
The Cobra

Hey Tim, just contributed $25.

I hope this model works for you and your team. I have to say I feel somewhat personally invested in you and the site. Have been visiting the site regularly from almost the beginning and have most of the Prospects guides in softback (still look at the older ones from time to time).

I appreciate your transparency about the site and your life in general. I hope others do as well and contribute regularly if their finances allow.

To be honest, I’m not sure where I’d go for similar information about the farm system if you decided to “retire” and “get on with your life’s work”. So let’s make sure he doesn’t boys (and girls)!

Good luck!

skliesen

Pirates Prospects is the website i visit most frequently. I am only too happy to contribute to support the efforts Tim, John, Wilbur, et al make to enhance my fandom of the Pirates.

I recognize it’s a big leap of faith to choose this business model, especially in challenging economic times. I hope the gamble being taken pays off.

Thanks for all you guys do and best wishes for exceeding your financial expectations.

skliesen

I would say the most important contributing factors to success are:

1. Belief it will be successful.

2. Quality content.

3. Players/Team that entice fans.

In my opinion, you’re rock solid on #1 & #2 , and #3 is trending up.

Good luck!

TNBucs

I’m curious to see how the new model works and I hope you’ll give us updates just to satisfy our curiosity. I’m glad you’re trying it, though, because even though I never had trouble accessing the premium articles (other than when I needed to update my card number), I felt for those who kept running into problems.

ArkyWags

Glad you’re back up and running. I’ll put a little calendar reminder to contribute on the third of every month.

brian_krueger

I’ve been a long time subscriber for around a decade. I love this site and go to it almost every day. I don’t know when my subscription renewed but I’m more than willing to allow whatever is left of the subscription to be counted as a donation. I’ll continue to support in the future. Keep up the excellent work!

TNBucs

Likewise, and when my normal renewal time hits I definitely plan to make regular contributions, and likely before then too. I may even set up my own challenge–for example, a $1 contribution every time a Pirate hits a HR or $2 every time Shelton blames a loss on execution–I wonder which would cost me more?

John Dreker

That’s the platinum membership level where whoever contributes gets to pick a roundtable subject at the end of the year.

John Dreker

$1 every time Ke’Bryan Hayes makes a play where you say “can you believe he didn’t win the Gold Glove!”

TNBucs

Yes, how can a player rank above another player in every defensive category and yet not win the Gold Glove? I thought voters were supposed to be better informed now with all of the metrics but evidently they’re still factoring in reputation and offense.

steve_zielinski

One can read prospect rankings with the same degree of skepticism. Hayes losing the Gold Glove to Arenado was an unforced error by the voters. There was no decisive ambiguity in the numbers. The voters can act like robots.

JimEastTennessee

Very cool, Tim.
I “found” you early on, had just started my own office and didn’t have the funds for the Prospects books for a few years.
This site is the only thing I have truly enjoed Pirates-wise since I moved from Altoona in 1981. (Well, there WERE those 3 seasons, Andrew McCutchen, etc…)

Count on my recurring yearly support on Christmas Day as I give myself one of my favorite yearly gifts.

Mtgj

As the major league team becomes competitive in the next few years and inflation starts to go down I think you will be very happy that you made this move going forward. I’m pretty certain your long time subscribers will do their part and they will only be a small part of the people that will find your site.
Good luck Tim.

steve_zielinski

My advice: put up the pay wall. Unless the site has lost so many readers to their unwillingness to pay for the site, a paywall will provide the funds needed to hire additional writers, to have contributors go to games, etc.

Of course, I expect to be burned alive for suggesting a return to the paywall!

SufferinBuccotash

He’s a witch! BURN HIM!!!!!

Seriously, I love the new layout. And I’ll do my best to click the contribute and throw in $5 a month or so…..

Thanks for all the hard work, Tim!

Last edited 1 month ago by SufferinBuccotash
wpirilla

I know you might not be there yet, but when the paywall returns in the future, will our legacy 3 year subscriptions still be applied or will it be a totally different subscription plan? Happy for my recent renewal to be a donation, but would definitely want to get the value out of it if the paywall returns in the next 3 years.

steve_zielinski

If the paywall was cost-ineffective, then that settles it. We can look forward to live game coverage and consider it a measure of the health of the site.

GlypheNotes

Many creators (not all) have found their fans pay them more voluntarily than when they pay-restrict their content.

GlypheNotes

Sounds like you squashed a lot of headaches for you and the readers! Great work and best wishes for success with the new strategies, Tim

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