The Inside Story Of Twins Daily
That resulted in the Trade Deadline Primer, which had a foreword written by Phil Mackey. It sold only 87 copies, but that was about $800 more than we had ever made before. Plus, it was so much fun to write that we followed it up with the Offseason Handbook, which sold even better. That project convinced Maple Street Press to give us a try at writing a 128-page Minnesota Twins Annual going into the inaugural season of Target Field. And that convinced StarTribune.com to hand us a blog on their site.
This is Part 2 of a series of articles celebrating Twins Daily’s fifth anniversary. Each of the Twins Daily owners will share their thoughts on the site's first five years and what it has meant to him. You can find Part 1, by Seth, here.
There were failures, too. Our attempt to do a national Trade Deadline Primer was a disaster and Maple Street Press went bankrupt after our second annual. But we enjoyed working together, and it was often more rewarding than working alone. Still, none of us suggested combining sites and I’m not sure it even occurred to any of us. That had to come from an outsider.
In the fall of 2011, someone from Fox Sports, who owned Scout.com, approached us about taking over their Minnesota Twins Scout.com site. The offer was tempting, but it meant turning our sites into one subscription site. While researching the feasibility of this, I met with the owner of GopherHole.com, which is not a subscription site, and he schooled me in the economics of his site. It sounded like we could do something similar. The tricky part would be building the site.
We agreed to sink any money we made from the Handbook into trying to launch the site. Fortunately there was a software package which had most of what we wanted and which was customizable enough that I could handle the lightweight programming. We kicked around designs and names and worked on the site into January.
I’m often asked if Aaron Gleeman and I talked about him joining Twins Daily. He and I had started our podcast that August, just before we were approached by Fox Sports, so after just about every podcast we would talk about the project. Shortly before we went live, we talked in theory about him joining our group, but he couldn’t due to the contract he had with NBC Sports, where he was working full time.
I remember the moment we KNEW we had something. Parker, Nick, Seth and I were on a phone call and I think we were reviewing the site. Nick blurted out “Why the hell didn’t we do this five years ago?” We did some testing with friends, which finished in February. We planned on launching on Opening Day but decided we couldn’t wait, and launched on February 19th, when pitchers and catchers reported.
On Day 1, the traffic was immediately five times what we expected. More surprising was that it didn’t drop much on Day 2. Within a month the site was passing the half million page view mark and we were swooning.
That led to some growing pains. First, there was an odd attack – and even more odd, it was by Phil Mackey who had written the Foreword on our very first publication - on how bloggers had “no accountability” and “their platforms are too large in 2012.” Our response felt like a coming-of-age for the site.
We also faced technical concerns that required lots of attention and Nick reached out to Brock. Brock may not know this, but that almost didn’t work out. Brock misunderstood our offer and I became a petulant, pouty ass. Nick gets the credit for straightening things out. Fortunately, it worked out because adding Brock to our team in June was perfect; he filled every need while also being a hell of a good guy. He also brought over the BYTO (Battle Your Tail Off) forums to the community.
Another godsend happened about six months into the site. I started becoming so disgusted with the level of discourse in the forums that I was personally ready to shut them down if things didn’t change. We established a fairly clear set of guidelines but what really turned things was glunn, who took the forums over and established a strong culture of tempering passion with civility. It is one of the things that makes me happiest about Twins Daily and I am forever in debt to him and the moderating team which he assembled.
The events have become popular and have their own history, and Parker gets most of the credit for kicking them off. It was his idea, I believe, to buy a keg at Huberts, across the street from Twins Fest in January of 2013. We wrote that we would just stand behind the bar and serve beers to anyone who wanted to stop by – and over one hundred people showed up. Our first Pub Crawl was actually a #GrandDrunkRailroad where we took the metro transit rail line toward the game and stopped at unsuspecting bars. I still remember the look on the face of The Cardinal’s bartender when 80 of us in red t-shirts just kept walking through the door.
In 2014, we decided that I would step back from writing to work on trying to find ways to financially support the community and its writers. We have had a little luck with that, and I’m happy to say that if you write on our blogs and are promoted to the front page, you can make every cent we get for that story.
On the other hand, we also tried to launch similar communities for the Wild and Vikings and those didn’t go as well. I learned a lot from those struggles, and among them is how fortunate and blessed we were that our members rallied around Twins Daily the way they did. Building this site is a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of luck, and I think we all feel very fortunate to have found it.
That work and luck have created something that I would like to continue to see grow in depth and breadth, and I hope you’ll join in as we tackle some opportunities over the next five years. The new goal for Twins Daily shouldn’t be to look forward five years, but to look forward fifty years, at which point I’ll be very lucky if I’m able to visit the site as a 99-year-old. To thrive that long, Twins Daily is going to need to continue to rely on the people that provide so much of their free time to keep the community on track. Indeed, it feels like the focus will need to shift even more to the community than the founders, which was always the intention.
We’ll explore that future together. Five years ago, the day after we launched, the future of Twins Daily felt limitless. To me, it still does. I’m profoundly grateful.
OK. Now ask any questions you have. I promise I’ll be as candid as I can. I’ll also try my best to faithfully remember all I can, although I’ll admit that this story emphasized to me just how bad my memory really is. If gmail didn’t have an excellent search function, I would have messed up about half of this story. Fire away!
- PseudoSABR likes this