Every year for the last five years I have printed up and created a PDF file for the Cincinnati Reds Top 100 Prospects that included scouting reports and information on the top 100 players in the system. This year that won’t be happening. The same information will still be available though, it just won’t be organized in a book that is for sale. Each player that would have appeared in the Top 100 within the book will now simply be posted on the website over the course of the offseason. For the Top 40, things will begin to roll out on Monday, one player per day during the week. Once the Top 40 is completed there will be two players per day posted for the final sixty players. That should run us right into the start of big league spring training, or very close to it.

Why I decided to go against creating a book

Over the years I have developed slight carpel tunnel in my right wrist. It’s always at it’s worst when I’m doing a lot of mouse work. While typing things up for the book doesn’t require the mouse, getting all of the layout work completed does. On top of that, it also took up a lot of time. Between the health of my wrist and the time that will be saved, it was an easy decision.

Another thing was that with all of that additional work and time, it just doesn’t seem like the investment was worth it all. It costs money to make the book (at least the physical copy) and at the end of the day, the return on it just didn’t seem to be adding up any longer. Doing it all online saves both time and money on my end. Users will still need to subscribe to the site to get the scouting reports on most guys (I’m debating on how frequently to make a full article free – once a week? Once every other week?), so the product should still produce income for the site, but it’s also going to produce more time for me to spend doing other things on the site as well. In the long run, hopefully that leads to more content over the winter for everyone.

The last thing I want to touch on, and if you’ve been around long enough and read the site fairly regularly, you know that I’ve been rather open about the site and how it operates. A few years ago the site had grown too popular and I had to upgrade the server capabilities of the site, which meant my price to operate the site went up 1000%. When that happened I couldn’t rely solely on advertising any longer to keep the site afloat and I moved to the way things are today with a subscription plan for you guys to help support all of the work that goes on at the site. Obviously, there are still ads on the site and they do continue to bring in money, but the rates are constantly changing and there is never a way to know exactly what the rates will be tomorrow, much less how much income it’s going to bring to me at the end of the month. With the subscriptions, I’ve generally got a good idea of how much money will be coming in each month.

Building up the subscription base hasn’t gone as well as I’d hoped, it’s been pretty stagnant for the last year. New users come in and some old ones drop off. From a business standpoint, despite big growth in traffic this year, the number of subscribers hasn’t really grown and that could certainly mean a number of things that I won’t get into, but to keep the site going, one of two things needs to happen. Either incoming traffic needs to continue growing at a very big rate, or the number of subscriptions needs to increase. Each year, over the winter, I have to sit down and decide whether or not I can afford to keep running the site and I decide to commit on a one year basis to that. Things are strong enough that I’m willing to keep things going for another year, but I’d be lying to you (and I don’t want to do that) if placing all of the book information online for subscribers weren’t also to try and boost the subscription numbers up some. In the long run, building the base of subscribers to a stronger number will allow me to not only keep the site going, but grow the site and be able to do more things with it.

Sorry for the long runon there, you know how I get sometimes. Check back in the morning for the first article on the Reds #1 prospect Robert Stephenson and how his season played out, some video and a full scouting report.

9 Responses

  1. Bryant Welch

    Doug, I think your work is fantastic. Be happy to pay more if it helps. Bryant Welch

  2. Shawn

    Same here. Your site is worth more than you charge. I think you post too much for free. There needs to be more of a difference in the content you get free and what you charge for. I would hate to see this site go away.

    • Doug Gray

      Shawn, and Colt, it’s a fine line to try and balance between how much to put on the free side versus the subscriber side. There have been several similar sites to mine that have gone full subscription based. I’d really like to have to avoid doing that, one because I’m just not sure there’s enough interest to actually make that work (I’d need the current subscription numbers to go up by roughly 5-6 times to make it a real go of things in that scenario). Balancing getting people to come in and also having some of those people sign up is tough to figure out. I feel, and I could be wrong, that if too much content went the other way, it would alienate too many people and they’d stop coming altogether.

      I’m not sure where that line is, of course, but in my mind I try to not alienate the readers too much. I don’t know if that’s a mistake on my part and keeping people from subscribing or not.

      One thing that I plan on doing a lot more of, is video related things. The advertising on video is so much better than the ones that run on the sidebars of the website. I haven’t quite planned everything out just yet, but I’ve got some ideas on how to try and increase that kind of thing next season to hopefully grow things on that side. Every little thing helps when you’re working on the thinnest of margins.

      As always, I’m open for ideas from you guys if you have any on how to improve the product.

  3. Colt

    Doug, you do a phenomenal job for running the site all by yourself. You do a consistently good job of game analysis, player rankings, and many many other things. You do a phenomenal job.

    I agree with some of the other comments–you put a TON of information on that’s “free”. With so much (quality) information and analysis, it actually decreases the demand for additional content.

    Don’t take this as a criticism. I believe you do a PHENOMENAL job for doing all that you do (website, RedLegNation, twitter updates, etc.). Keep it up.

  4. BigE

    Doug, not sure what your base numbers are, but I think you do a great job; I would shorten up on free content (I see many websites that give the first 2 sentences for free and if you want to read on you need to subscribe) and you definitely should jack your rate up 50%.

  5. HavaKlu

    I’m with those who say raise your subscription rate—-I pay $14/month for Dayton Daily News just to read McCoy and Flyers basketball news. There is no better sight for Reds info and the give and take between you and us readers.

  6. Michael Smith

    Doug you produce excellent content and should consider a small hike in sub fee. We’ve talked in the past about Google Analytics and you have my email If you want to bounce ideas on trying to drive revenue thru current or new streams.