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Article: The Inside Story of Twins Daily


John Bonnes
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I’m sure we all remember May 23rd, 2009 as the debut of Twins pitcher Anthony Swarzak. But there was something exciting brewing up in the stands, too.

 

Watching Swarzak (who threw seven scoreless innings) from the Home Run Porch was a collection of Twins bloggers, brought together by Parker. We met before the game at Huberts, but afterwards we split several pitchers at Dan Kelley’s and commiserated about the dead-end that blogging had become. We didn’t settle on the idea of writing together that night, but we walked away with the idea of seeing if we could, as a team, figure out a way to make blogging more worthwhile. We traded some ideas and at another Twins game in June and decided to try and publish some content as a PDF file.That resulted in the Trade Deadline Primer, which had a Foreword written by Phil Mackey. It sold 87 copies. But it was so much fun to write that we followed it up with the Offseason Handbook, which sold a lot 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.

 

 Note that this is Part 2 of a series of articles celebrating Twins Daily’s 5th anniversary. Each of the Twins Daily owners will share their thoughts on the site's first five years and what it has meant to them. 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 towards 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!

 

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Hats off to all of you and congrats to the vision, guts and creativity. May you reach 99 John along with this site. That would be 4 or 5 years in the future I suppose? I don't know... I'm bad at guessing ages.

 

And Glunn and his efforts. He is easily one of the most worthwhile humans that anyone could meet. He is an automatic upgrade to any culture.

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This site has provided me a connection to my favorite team that I grew up after retiring to Phoenix. A thousand thanks would not be enough!! There are so many well thought out, insightful articles that it is the gold star of info on the Twins. Thanks guys!

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Good stuff.

My question: what is your biggest challenge today?

What can the community do to help meet that challenge?

That's two questions. Sorry.

I love this place. I'd like to see it thrive and grow.

 

I'm going to feel my way through this question a bit as I only have a vague idea about what I want to say here.

 

I feel like the biggest thing holding back TD right now is that we need to do a better job of managing the community that we have. That mostly falls on me, but I'm not a very good manager, and the time it takes is onerous. But there is enough interest in helping such that a good manager could do some remarkable things. For instance:

 

- It drives me crazy that we still don't do a great job of developing new writers, which is at the core of what the site is supposed to be doing. WE could do so much more in encouraging people to write and helping them develop and discovering new voices. Kevin has really helped with a lot of that, but that's an everyday job for someone.

- We do a fair job of keeping up with news in our forum, but I would love if just about every story about the Twins, both locally and nationally, had a thread in the forums. The discussions about the topic or the writing or the viewpoint would really be interesting, and it would help people curate all the content out there.

- Similarly, I'd love a daily "Twins Daily Links" story everyday that links to threads or stories or the previously mentioned threads about stories that casual fans can use to see more than just the front page.

- I'd love more regular stories, maybe a couple per week, about Twins Daily or the community and how people can get more involved. Simple stuff about how to do your own blog or how to stay in touch with Twins Daily via email or twitter or the comment policy or our next event or something like that. 

- Events that we throw have been great, but I know there are more opportunities and each is an absolute time drain. A gifted event person could really do some great things for the community.

 

These things aren't hard, and I'm fairly sure we have people or groups of people that would do them, but someone has to manage those groups of people, and evidence suggests that person cannot be me. 

 

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I'd love more regular stories, maybe a couple per week, about Twins Daily or the community and how people can get more involved. Simple stuff about how to do your own blog or how to stay in touch with Twins Daily via email or twitter or the comment policy or our next event or something like that. 

 

Something like this: 

 

http://twinsdaily.com/_/minnesota-twins-news/about-twins-daily/twins-daily-site-refresher-course-r5279 

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Still, none of us suggested combining sites and I’m not sure it even occurred to any of us.

 

 

I definitely mentioned this multiple times at the on-set of our work together. I distinctly remember bringing that idea up at a meeting at Seth's townhouse and it was met with silence. At the time, I was miffed because I thought everyone was being shortsighted. 

 

Later, I came to realize that it was easy for me to accept that proposal because I had the least about of "blog equity" of the group. I was ready to consolidate my work because I had only been working on it for less than three years at that point. Meanwhile, Seth and John were almost a decade in and Nick wasn't too far behind. Without a cohesive vision, I can see why it would be difficult to roll that die. 

 

After the FOX meeting and the agreement that we were going to combine efforts on one site, I also recall that Seth, Nick and myself were fairly indifferent about having a forum section attached to the site. John, however, was persistent and insistent. The site had to have a forum or the whole venture wouldn't work. It needed a built-in community. Personally, I was skeptical, mostly because I had never spent any time in forums and the only one I was familiar with was the flaming pile at either KFAN or ESPN. I wasn't even aware of BYTO until Nick introduced Brock to the group. 

 

It didn't take long to realize how wrong my stance was on the forums. This has truly been a great collection of thoughts and ideas (mixed with the occasional snark for flavoring). 

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Twins Daily Contributor

Love hearing the behind the scenes story!

 

The Cardinal Bar definitely didn't like us. Well, maybe they did, but we definitely overwhelmed more than one bar for that event!

 

I still never understood the Mackey thing. Talk about forgetting where you came from and turning into an egomaniac. Pretty sure he turned off at least half of the audience he had built for himself with that whole thing. 

 

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Correct. I'm just looking for something more regular, or using the front page to focus the community on itself, or to help people become more involved. 

 

Seth's 'Stop By, Say Hi' thread really helped bring some of our long time viewers to their keyboards. Now we just need a 'Stop By, Write a 2,000 Word Story'!

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This is great. 

 

I hadn't ever heard of the troubles of adding Brock, but I could see how Nick would be the one to smooth things over. 

 

I remember seeing the initial email about Twins Daily - hey, come try this out - and posting in the forums after Zumaya hurt his elbow and, man, did that thread blow up in a hurry.

 

Crazy that it's been five years... and crazier how much things have changed in five years.

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Seth's 'Stop By, Say Hi' thread really helped bring some of our long time viewers to their keyboards. Now we just need a 'Stop By, Write a 2,000 Word Story'!

A 2,000 word story takes a lot of time.... And frankly, some of us are better at spewing out SCORCHING hot Twins takes instead! 

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- Events that we throw have been great, but I know there are more opportunities and each is an absolute time drain. A gifted event person could really do some great things for the community.

 

These things aren't hard, and I'm fairly sure we have people or groups of people that would do them, but someone has to manage those groups of people, and evidence suggests that person cannot be me. 

I've always wanted to attend one of the events but have not been able to make one yet.  That being said I think TD has a large enough following and (I assume) a majority localized to the Twin Cities or a least Minnesota that if a bar around Target Field would be willing to become an official "Twins Daily Pre/Post-Game Bar".  I personally think something like that would really help give people many of us "internet only" TD'ers a chance to meet others since I assume a lot of us go to games.  

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Hmmm....not sure most of my posts are LESS than 2000 words. Lol

Great to hear the backstories of our favorite site!

Very sorry the Vikings sister site didn't work out. I visited it frequently.

LOL, I was just going to say Doc could throw out 2000 easy, and here you come!

 

 

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As an exiled Minnesota expat down in South Georgia, it really means a lot to be able to stay connected with everything Twins without that SEC RULES THE WORLD!! / Braves bias that is so prevalent down here.  

 

That combined with my obsessively irrational hatred of ESPN Insider, have made TD a haven for those of us consigned to the Hinterlands. 

 

Thanks for all you guys do, and here's looking forward to meeting at Spring Training some time in the near future and discussing all things Twins (good and bad) over a good beer.

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As an exiled Minnesota expat down in South Georgia, it really means a lot to be able to stay connected with everything Twins without that SEC RULES THE WORLD!! / Braves bias that is so prevalent down here.  

 

That combined with my obsessively irrational hatred of ESPN Insider, have made TD a haven for those of us consigned to the Hinterlands. 

 

Thanks for all you guys do, and here's hoping and looking forward to meeting some of you at Spring Training some time in the near future.

And welcome aboard to Twins Daily! A place with zero SEC talk! Don't be a stranger around here. 

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Community Moderator

Someone who also deserves a huge amount of credit is snepp, who was one of the original two moderators.

snepp was an important force in developing an unwritten set of rules that eventually resulted in the polices that we have now codified here -- http://twinsdaily.co...september-2013/

I have fond memories of the early days when snepp and I were asked to moderate the site, but had to make up rules on the fly. Two things ended up making this work. First, Twins fans are inherently good people. Second, we were able to recruit additional moderators who did an exceptional job working as a team (along with Brock) to achieve the vision of John and the other owners.

Happy Birthday TD, and kudos to the owners and to every Twins fan who has participated.

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Congrats to the founders and everybody else here. I love this place. Not to kiss a**, but I think the discussion moderators are what keeps this place so great. As a contrast, look at the Twins discussions the Star Tribune. They missed the boat. For the life of me I can not understand why more news sites have not devoted resources to moderating discussion of their content and finding good moderators.

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There really is something special about the forums here on Twins Daily.  The moderators are a huge part of that. 

 

I have never posted a comment on any other website such as ESPN, Strib, etc, yet somehow I am well about 1000 posts on Twins Daily.  If the feeling of community is something John Bonnes and crew were going for I think they succeeded.  I have never met any of you in person, yet I feel like I know many of your personalities and views on many things Twins related.  Here's to another 50 years!

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