1. Any discussion on MSM- or corporate-owned blogs, e.g. Yahoo! Sports' SB nation? How does the company interface? Do the bloggers get a salary? Do they sell their own ads or focus on material? Are they profitable? Who gets the money?*
As mentioned, I missed a good section of the panel, but I have talked to a number of SB Nation bloggers and they report back that they get very little money from SB Nation. This is probably because of their low traffic numbers. Even the busiest college football blogs I've seen over there—SBN makes all their traffic data public—are doing like 2-3k pageviews per day, and at current CPM rates offered by ad networks that's somewhere between 3 and 10 dollars. Still, even on the low end you'd probably be making $100 a month from that much traffic, and then you've got other opportunities like text link ads and so forth and so on. I highly doubt SBN is profitable at the moment, as they took venture capital in January.
OTOH, Fanhouse and TSB and the Yahoo blogs just pay people as 1099 contractors and take the burden of monetization upon themselves.
My biggest problem with the SBN model isn't the lack of pay, as most people haven't put themselves in a position where that's the main thing to worry about. Until you're getting five digits of traffic daily, your monetization strategy should be "ignore monetization," as the rewards aren't worth the time and traffic, in my experience, grows geometrically. No, my biggest issue with SBN is lock-in: they own the URLs and the (sweet, sweet) software, so if you do happen to make a name for yourself and do happen to build a worthwhile enterprise, it's their enterprise. Leaving it means you leave behind all that linkage and archived content and brand equity and start all over. Let me tell you as a person whose ghostly old blogspot blog occasionally wins google fights and gets linked on other blogs: this sucks. They've got all the leverage.
There is a hard example of this kind of suckage, too: when Matt Hinton went from Sunday Morning Quarterback to Dr. Saturday, SMQB up and died. Hinton (and I, and everyone else) lost his entire archive. No one who is career-serious about blogging should ever cede control of their URL or their archives to anyone else.
2. Software. Software? Software... Software! Software [insert punctuation]
The full suite of stuff I use to make this blog go:
- Drupal is my CMS of choice, but I couldn't tell you if it's better or worse than Joomla or Plone or whatever since I've never used them. If you're not a developer (half-assed in my case), go with Wordpress.
- The posts are written in Windows Live Writer, which is by far the best desktop blogging software. It's not even close, and I've tried a number of them. I'm pretty sure UMHoops and MVictors have switched to it as well—there are telltale drop shadows on their images now.
- WLW has obviated the need for 90% of simple photo-editing—which is half the reason it's so good—but when I need for more detail on a picture I use an ancient version of Photoshop. GIMP is a free alternative I've used but it sucks unless you're used to UNIX conventions.
- Bittorrent supplies the games I cut up for UFRs, and I discovered after an inexplicably long, horrible search that various "AimOne" products were the simplest way to slice out individual plays from those videos. I watch the games in Media Player Classic, which has the best hop-ahead-hop-back hotkeys and convenient screenshot-grabbing abilities.
3. What's a click? What's a read? What kind of read generates revenue for advertisers? You say 2 M pageviews, but how do you check for bots, etc.? Anybody getting themselves reviewed? Web analytics, bler?
There are three main metrics simple enough to have passed into the general consciousness. They are:
- Pageviews. Hit F5. You've given me a pageview, and somewhere between a tenth and a half of a penny.
- Visits. You did not increment the visits, however, and won't do so until you visit again in at least 30 minutes. (I think. It may be less depending on who's tracking it.)
- Uniques. You certainly didn't increment uniques, and won't do so for a month.
4. Out-of-Blog Experiences: how do you translate 2 million blog readers into an active community? What kind of events work? Anything that generates revenue? Anyone have a successful "conference" of readers yet?
Well, 1) that's not two million readers. If I had two million readers I would currently be dictating this to my Wednesday eunuch whilst the most comely of my harem fed me pre-peeled grapes. Monthly uniques around here, as calculated traditionally, are around 100k, and Quantcast thinks about half of these are duplicates, so on average about 50k people check out the blog at least once in a given month. It's been dropping as the hard offseason hits, as per usual.
I am not aware of any successful reader conference in the sports blog world. MGoBlog had a spring game tailgate that featured about 10 people standing around freezing their asses off, though, and that was declared a success because no one got throttled.
As far as revenue: an active community certainly helps with pageviews. Since I moved from Blogger to Drupal and added the diaries and message board pageviews per visit have gone up about 30%. The goal there was to leverage (and focus) the community, though, and the pageviews were just an ancillary—though expected—side benefit.
5. Blog-to-Print: Who's exploring? Case stories? Does it translate? Is it worth it?
A few bloggers have published books, most prominently Will Leitch, a couple of the KSK guys, Orson Swindle, and Free Darko. Since none of those people are me I can't tell you how well they've done. More personally, Maple Street Press has been deploying bloggers to write an ever-expanding set of season preview magazines of which HTTV was the second variety to be published. They appear to be profitable.
One thing I've been considering is a Simmons-esque repackaging of blog content into a book heavy on annotations and explanations from the cold, hard distance of time. With e-publishing, finding the time to do such a thing is the main barrier there.
6. Web Sponsorship -- what's the value for the advertiser?
I'm not an ad guy, but my intuition: if we're talking about display ads like MGoBlog currently sports, the main value is in branding. It's the same sort of stuff that causes Coke to carpet-bomb the Super Bowl and the like. Clicks are nice but by this point are sort of peripheral to the cause. If we're talking about big takeovers like Gawker's successfully deployed, that's much the same thing only far less ignorable. It's all about getting your message in front of a viewer.
If you're talking about serious sponsorship, where one brand becomes a sort of flagship "brought to you by" thing, there I think the corporation is trying to leverage the positive associations readers have with a blog. As a consumer it's pretty easy to be dismissive of the Weed Eater Bowl but considerably harder when the Weed Eater guys are putting money on the table to keep the one guy who you really like up and going. It's one thing to buy space via which to distract a reader from his goal—most of the time the ads on this blog are a necessary evil of minor interest to the reader—and another entirely to buy a small portion of the reader's loyalty by allowing the blogger in question to go (or stay) full time.
I haven't seen any examples of this sort of thing AFAIK, but assume that it's coming. The catch is that it's the internet and certain people who don't like the opinions purveyed by your sponsorship or advertisement might not appreciate it. A brand sponsoring this here blog would have to consider what an Ohio State fan would take from it. The Maker's Mark kerfuffle is a good example of this: I just won't buy it now, no matter how stupid and irrational that is.
Update 5/12: More video of MI QB commit Devin Gardner. linked to articles on OH TE Alex Smith (w/ mention of PA WR Andrew Carswell), MD S Lorenzo Waters, PA DE commit Ken Wilkins (two three), FL RB Nickell Robey, FL DE Corey Lemonier, FL RB Cassius McDowell, MI DE Will Gholston, PA WR Andrew Carswell, MD OT Arie Kouandjio, MI WR commit Ricardo Miller, OH DT Jibreel Black, MI LB Daniel Easterly, PA DE commit Ken Wilkins. Moved TX DE Holmes Onwukaife and SC QB Cornelius Jones to committed.
Removed FL RB Darion Hall (Miami), SC S Bashaud Breeland (Clemson), FL CB John Fulton (dropped M), OH DE Darryl Baldwin (same), PA DE Kyle Baublitz (PSU), MD S Jeff Knox (Pitt), TN QB Barry Brunetti (WVU), FL OL Brent Benedict (UGA), MI CB Mylan Hicks (MSU), MI DE Will Gholston (MSU).
Editorial Opinion: Recruiting board lives here. Despite what you read above I've held off on anointing the Holmes Onwukaife commitment official until he gets the super-OK from Rodriguez but expect that will happen shortly.
Tons of guys come off the board for various reasons. Random guys who Michigan never really got involved with: Breeland, Fulton, Brunetti, Benedict, Knox. Others:
- FL RB Darion Hall named Michigan one of his top four but just committed to Miami.
- PA DE Kyle Baublitz had a top eight he claimed was even an tentatively planned a summer unofficial.
So not exactly anyone M was counting on. The two in-state commits were also thought to be favoring State, so no surprises there. They are both good players, though. You know about Gholston. Hicks has been outperforming Mathis at the various camps the two have participated in and his commitment further narrows Michigan's margin for error in a year when they need three or even four corners.
One note on Brunetti: I'm happy enough to see him go off the board, as it further narrows Ohio State's slim choices in this year's class. It's basically Moeller QB Andrew Hendrix or bust. They must be kicking themselves about Gardner; even if he's raw, better to have someone raw than someone eh.
Speaking of Corners
Michigan remains in the driver's seat for PA CB Cullen Christian, MI CB Dior Mathis (probably), FL CB Travis Williams, and FL CB Rashad Knight, so they're not in terrible shape or anything. Also a candidate is Marvin Robinson's good friend Nickell Robey:
“I want to visit some schools that I have been wondering about,” Robey continued. “Michigan, Tennessee and I would like to visit Miami but they haven’t come through yet. I wouldn’t mind going out to California to see Stanford and Notre Dame to go to some far away schools to see how life is.”
Robey on M:
Robey also commented on one of the non-regional schools he mentioned, Michigan.
“A good northern school that loves football. I think of Desmond Howard. I’m number 21, so that’s nice. They produce great players to the NFL and I could be one of those athletes, play football and have fun,” he said.
Local schools, Virginia Tech, and various others will have their say, too.
The Soothing Balm Of Raw Athletic Whatzit
Your latest Devin Gardner video is a compilation of Vince Young-esque runs:
Elsewhere in All Things Gardner, he showed at a local Michigan camp and dominated at both QB and wide receiver. He's been getting preposterous reviews of his athleticism when he puts himself in a position to use it at these things. He finished third in the 60-yard dash at the Sound Mind, Sound Body camp, getting beat out by two defensive backs a half-foot shorter than him and 50 pounds lighter, and came up a half-yard short of the longest throw.
There remains some possibility that
FL MI WR Ricardo Miller joins up with Gardner this fall. He's moved to Michigan but the original plan to join MI WR Jeremy Jackson at Ann Arbor Huron was kiboshed when Huron got a new coach who intends to install a veer offense. Another possibility would be Saline, which features BC commitment Joe Boisture at quarterback.
Ken Wilkins Can Wear Rock Star Jeans
More panting coach quotin' from PA DE commit Ken Wilkins' main man, who says he has a tiny waist despite being ENORMOUS:
"He is a physical, freakish-looking kid," Trinity coach Ed Dalton said. "He is 6-foot-4 and 242 pounds, and he has a 30-inch waist. He is an unbelievable physical specimen."
Dalton said Wilkins' potential is off the charts.
"When he plays with a high motor, he is unbelievable," he said. "He has to become a little more consistent and play at a high level every snap, but the sky's the limit."
Well, a good source at Trinity who knows the football program well said Wilkins is talented, but isn't as athletic as Andrew Sweat, a Trinity linebacker two seasons ago who is now at Ohio State. "He doesn't have the agility that Sweat had," the source said.
Since he's way bigger than Sweat and not a linebacker, this does not bother me.
Hankins and Other Three-Point Players
This will be a critical week for Michigan and MI DT Jonathan Hankins. Varsity Blue notes a Hankins mention on one of Sam Webb's recent recruiting roundups for WTKA, and helpfully translates the lingo:
Sam Webb had a “gut feeling” on the Recruiting Roundup Thursday that Hankins would be blue if offered. For those who are unfamiliar with the WTKA morning show, Sam’s “gut feeling” means that he has heard directly from a source that the information is true.
I think that depends on whether that's a "gut feeling" or a "strong, strong, strong gut feeling," actually, but Webb is expert at playing coy and allowing the listener to read between the lines.
Elsewhere in defensive linemen who aren't edge-rushing maniacs, OH DT/DE Jibreel Black, who would probably play as a 3-technique DT in Michigan's 4-3 under, is down to a top five:
In no particular order, it is Michigan State, Michigan, UC, Indiana and Kentucky. It's getting hard, but I should have a decision real soon.
Black's been on State's campus and was also up for the BBQ, IIRC; Michigan is usually the choice when an out-of-state prospect picks from a list like that, but Cincinnati is the local school here and could be a threat.
Michigan still leads($) for OH DE/OLB Marcus Rush, but he has to be just about out of luck by now, right? Michigan has three or four guys already at his position and he's not a guy who you'd shove into the class no matter what. I don't think he'll get the opportunity to commit; the Inn is full.
The coaches at Hialeah have been experimenting with a new way to use star defensive end Corey Lemonier. The Thoroughbreds have implemented a 3-4 defense to use on occasion, where Lemonier will line up as an outside linebacker.
When the T-Breds throw out the new wrinkle Lemonier is still used as a pass rusher most of the time, but he does drop back in pass coverage at times.
Kid's playing deathbacker this fall. Hopefully Michigan can sell him on the spot. It looks like they'll get an opportunity:
Lemonier is tight lipped on his recruitment and says he will make a decision when he feels the time is right. He did mention one school and a region of the country he would like to see during his official visits this fall.
“Probably I know for sure I’ll say Ole Miss and some (northern) school like Michigan, a school up there.”
Obviously a long way from the finish line there.
Whispers of Relevance
More Weekly Whispers; drilling down to the relevant bits:
- OH TE Dan Schneider, a teammate of OH OL Christian Pace, may pick up an offer soon.
- Michigan would likely shoot to the top for OH OL Dan Rotheram if they offer.
- Illinois and Oklahoma are going to make IL WR Kyle Prater's next cut; also Tennessee gets a visit. No M mention.
- MI RB Austin White is a "heavy lean" to Michigan.
Etc.: MI LB Daniel Easterly says Illinois leads "so far"; a Michigan offer might change that quickly. CityBallers.com interviews Teric Jones, Cameron Gordon, and Devin Gardner (also Robert Bolden). PA WR Andrew Carswell says Pitt leads($), which ok fine.
South Carolina quarterback Cornelius Jones, who runs 6'3" and 185, committed to Michigan after his first day at summer camp. Despite holding a Michigan offer since last June, he remains mysterious to… uh… everyone.
So, yeah. As mentioned: Jones is a near-complete mystery, totally unranked so far in an era when if you aren't ranked by mid-June you're probably a MAC-level prospect. There are good reasons for this. He has no highlight film and hasn't hit up any camps or combines I am aware of. And he spent his early high school years not playing football.
Despite this, Michigan saw fit to offer him when his varsity snap count stood at a robust zero:
Cornelius Jones hasn’t played a down for the Spartanburg Vikings varsity football team yet, but Michigan has seen enough to offer him a scholarship.
The junior quarterback received his first offer Tuesday, after Vikings coach Freddie Brown sent the Big Ten school a five-minute video of Jones from a scrimmage.
That Tuesday was last June. His coach, perhaps alone amongst all people, wasn't surprised:
“After I sent the tape, no, I wasn’t surprised at all,” Brown said. “I can see who he’s going to be in this offense in two years.”
There's another small bit from Brown on his commitment:
"I think it's a great decision," said Spartanburg coach Freddie Brown. "He looked in state first. He didn't receive an offer and he moved on. He's a great player and a good kid. He'll start out as a quarterback. He threw a lot of balls the last couple of days at camp. Their system is a lot like our system."
The only other free internet discussion of any variety about Jones comes from this local TV guy:
Spartanburg’s new quarterback Cornelius Jones could eventually remind longtime area fans of another player by that same last name. A decade ago, Gaffney’s Kentrell Jones glided past opposing defenses and threw bombs when rolling out and that’s who this Jones reminds me of, in a much rawer form.
If you, like me, are not familiar with South Carolina high school football you're probably saying to yourself "who the hell is Kentrell Jones?" Well, he's apparently enough of a high school legend that people were comparing him favorably to five-star Willy Korn last year and has video of a 1997 state championship high school game on the YouTubes. After that game he disappeared and may have re-emerged as Drake's backup quarterback… or something.
So there you go. Or, rather, don't really.
As of April:
--Cornelius Jones (6-2, 185) of Spartanburg favors Michigan at this point. He has offers from the Wolverines, Duke, Wake Forest and Stanford. He's also hearing from North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Virginia. Jones went to junior day at USC and Clemson but hasn't heard from them since.
Did I mention Jones currently sports a 3.7 GPA? It's not quite Holmes Onwukaife's offer from Harvard, but dang that's a bunch of high profile academic schools.
Despite the high GPA there something unfortunate in Jones' past:
Jones hasn’t played football in the Spartanburg system for a couple of years after he got into some trouble, he said. He was one of the players that Brown went out into the community and got back in school during the spring.
“He’s given me another chance, and I want to make sure I make the most of it,” Jones said.
Since that article was published just after Jones' sophomore year of high school, the trouble must have happened in, like, middle school. I can't imagine what sort of trouble an eighth-grader can get in, but in any case that's well before my personal strike meter starts ticking. That may explain the instate schools' reticence to recruit him, I guess.
Jones had no stats until last year, of course, and what stats he had indicated he was still pretty rough:
As a junior QB, he completed 89 of 185 passes (48.1%) for 1,020 yards and 2 TDs and had 226 carries for 736 yards (3.3ypc) and 7 TDs
FAKE 40 TIME
This man is so obscure he has no fake 40 time.
And neither does he have any video.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
Well… WTF, guys? I have no idea what to tell you here. Jones hasn't even been rated by a single scouting service. His stats are eh, his offers aren't great, and the in-state schools apparently had zero interest. None of these are good indicators.
Despite all that, I'm not too peeved. The super-early offer and continued pursuit implies that Jones was a guy Michigan was, for whatever reason, highly enthusiastic about. He's done pretty well so far at Michigan's camp. A QB offer from David Cutcliffe means something even if he's at Duke. And with Forcier, Robinson, and Gardner in front of Jones the fourth guy on the roster should ideally be a developmental prospect with a lot of athleticism, high upside, and the ability to play elsewhere. Check, check, check. There are plenty of reasons bigger schools would avoid a flier on Jones, and reason to believe Michigan got in on the ground floor of a diamond in the rough they can afford to spend some time on.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Jones fills the second QB slot in the class and shouldn't scare off Gardner any; unless there's a decommit—which I guarantee you is completely impossible and will never happen—Michigan looks done at quarterback. The only other quarterbacks on the board with offers are AJ Derby, who doesn't seem interested, Munchie Legaux, who is now talking like he is a huge longshot to depart the South, and Jeffery Godfrey, who Michigan may have some shot at but is talking up FSU.
So if Godfrey doesn't get recruited heavily, Michigan is done. And successfully: plan A was Gardner plus a developmental prospect who has the athleticism and willingness to move to another if QB doesn't work out.
Michigan managed to score two commits while I was in an airport or waiting on a runway for two bonus hours of incredible fun or actual in transit or watching Italy-USA, about which I have to say aaaargh aaaargh Rossi aaaargh.
Tom Van Haaren caught up with commit #1, TX OLB Holmes Onwukaife, this afternoon. Commit #2 is SC QB Cornelius Jones, about whom more later. First, Onwukaife's awesome highlight video, which features the best highlight music ever and lightning bolts.
On with the talking:
TOM: So you committed today, have you gotten a chance to talk to Coach Rodriguez?
[Note: commitments are apparently not 100% official-official until Rodriguez has been called, which is probably why neither premium site has an article up yet. FWIW.]
HOLMES: No sir, I told Coach Jackson, and some other coaches. I'm just waiting for the camps to get over with today, so he can talk.
TOM: Have you been to Michigan yet?
HOLMES: Last summer, at the AAU track meet, I went to Eastern, but never to the University of Michigan.
TOM: What have the coaches told you they like about you as a player?
HOLMES: They like me for the outside linebacker position. They told me they just really like my explosiveness, and my pursuit. They like that I don't give up on the play, and I go after the ball.
TOM: Ok, so what made you decide to commit? What was the difference maker?
HOLMES: I was just waiting for school to finish, and once that happened, I sat down with my family and we decided that Michigan is the best place for me. It's got the best mix of academics and football. It's a great school, with great tradition. Coach Jackson has come out to me, and he's seen me three times now. The effort he put in was well done. We built a good relationship, and developed a bond. I've talked to Will Campbell, Roy Roundtree, and Tony Drake. I just asked them what they liked about it, and how they felt. They all had the same message, that it's just a family once you're there. You're part of something special, and the University really wants you to succeed academically.
TOM: So when do you plan on taking a visit?
HOLMES: I'm not sure the date yet, but I plan on taking my official visit to Michigan. I'm still planning it out.
TOM: So, what's next for you?
HOLMES: Just working hard, focusing our team, we're trying to do big things. I want to stay in contact with Devin Gardner. Stephen Hopkins, and some other guys.
"Confirmation." Rodriguez was pinged at last weekend's Women's Football Academy about Dann O'Neill. The Free Press reports back:
Rodriguez confirmed that offensive lineman Dann O’Neill has left the program, but he wasn’t sure whether O’Neill will transfer to another school.
So… confirmed, eh? Which sort of implies the existence of a report that O'Neill has departed, eh? Where might this report be? I'm curious as to when a newspaper will credit something other than another newspaper for breaking a story.
- If the elder Grady gets his probation together and so forth and so on he'll remain on the team:
“He’s still working out with the guys,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve gotten the details from him and researched it a little bit . Kevin has taken care of some of (those) responsibilities, and the rest of that is up to him. If he does everything, come Aug. 9, when we start camp, he’ll rejoin us.”
FWIW, Grady's father went on WTKA and asserted that the newspaper reports of what, exactly, he didn't complete were erroneous and the slip-up was considerably more minor. I don't have strong feelings one way or the other about Grady staying on the team.
- Rodriguez said there was only one freshman in danger of not qualifying. Sam Webb asserted that Fitzgerald Toussaint was good to go, which leaves Jeremy Gallon squarely in the crosshairs of that comment. (There were rumors that Adrian Witty was also a potential casualty, but since we know Gallon has a point or two to get it's easy to infer Witty has cleared the bar. Justin Turner's situation is apparently not a big deal.)
Speaking of that Women's Academy, while it didn't turn up anything equivalent to last year's legendary squat 'n' scream…
…Rivals does have some entertaining pictures. Here's Greg Robinson not getting the spirit of the thing:
YAAAAAARGH GET WITH THE PROGRAM 70 YEAR OLD 110 POUND RETIREE. There is also this woman wearing a shirt that appears to say "SQUIRELS [sic] GONE WILD" which WTF. And yes, insane all caps man, this girl is hot. I assume she's a cheerleader given the outfit.
Busts past. I was reading the good Doctor's Auburn preview when I ran across a name from the past:
As bad as those two [Kodi Burns and Chris Todd] were, career backup Neil Caudle only got on the field for five snaps against Tennessee-Martin -- yet he left the spring in a virtual dead heat with Burns to be No. 1. If we also assume Rollison can run, his arm might be worth a flier in case of another slow start.
Caudle was at Michigan's camp at the same time as David Cone, who apparently outperformed him and another high-profile quarterback. At the time this was encouraging; now it's apparent it said more about Caudle than Cone. Take it from a guy who witnessed Todd's painfully looping throws in the flesh: if you couldn't get on the field for Auburn last year, you were bad.
Also, that Rollison guy is Tyrik, who hardcore recruitniks may remember as the guy who played opposite Shavodrick Beaver in a game televised by ESPN. He had virtually no offers—Baylor might have been his best—until very, very late, when Auburn took a flier and got a commitment. This obviously meant JUCO, but somehow the guy qualified. Many teams will be kicking themselves if Rollison lives up to the hype. And manages to stay in school.
Yes, fair enough. Conversations about Rodriguez's recruiting this year usually go something like this:
Person One: I am concerned the class is filling up with players with low ratings and unimpressive offers.
Person Two: But Rodriguez dominated doofuses in the Big East with crappy classes!
That's an expletive, ad-hominem free version of events but you get the idea. The WLA takes issue with that latter hypothesis, because it is their job to find any optimism related to Michigan football and stamp it out:
Let’s look at how WVU recruited compared to their primary competition: fellow teams in the Big East:
2002: #2 class in the Big East (includes Miami, VT, and BC)
Looking at those results, it’s difficult to argue that West Virginia suffered any tangible talent deficit to it’s fellow Big East teams. … while WVU’s classes full of two andthree-star talent seems poor when put into the context of major college football, it was actually an above-average result when put into the context of their conference.
Okay, point taken, but counterpoints: West Virginia was most certainly at a huge talent deficit relative to Georgia and Oklahoma, and once you start getting into the area where you're pulling hairs between the #27 and #37 classes the gradation is way flatter than it is at the tippy top; West Virginia dominated a conference in which they had virtually equal talent to everyone else, and even if Michigan's class comes in a little disappointing this year it's still virtually guaranteed to be third at worst. This is coming off a horrendous year and should improve in the future. The argument that Rodriguez can take his and beat yours, then take yours and beat his, is one with significant data backing it up.