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The Year In CUSA Report: 2019

This site was began in very late 2017 to cover the league with a sense of maturity and quality. The number of visitors is up over 2018 by 14%. The people love the football power ranking posts and coaching rumors. Oh and tie-breaking talk. Because of some changes (see next paragraph) and because of the reading patterns we changed some of the recap posts. Typically, we try to watch each game and write something about it. With as many as 14-games on the slate and only so much time in the day to absorb, write, and publish something beyond a reading of the box score, we settled on writing about the interesting games and saving the rest for fodder for opinion pieces. This did lead to some reader complaints alleging that the site does not care about their team.

Ideally, the site would have something about every team, but the staff (of one) is limited. Last year we paid for some coverage (freelancers!) but the value there is small, as a good beat writer can build relationships and have a deeper understanding than a guy that just picks one or two games. Even a beat writer that mostly watches on TV. The revenue from memberships (more later on this) was not sufficient enough to fund this path at a significant enough level — we want to pay people a decent wage after all — and so declined to continue that.

Last year a good portion of readership thought that the power rankings were our own thoughts, rather than the poll of 14ish (depending on participation in a given week) people. The gathering, parsing, and publishing of that vote each week was burdensome and so we decided to rank everyone ourselves. The posts still remained popular and the workload was reduced. Success.

The podcast was start-and-stop and this was a production failure. Last year CUSAReport Studios was in a consistent location and we had something like a regular schedule. In 2019, we moved right as the season was underway and there have been significant changes in schedule. The podcast has not died, but it is in a coma. A good podcast is consistent and interesting and we are still working on the best way to find that. Typically it is recorded before or after another podcast that the host is on, and that can put a gigantic obstacle in the way. Last season we had guest appearances but much like the power ranking vote, that proved to be burdensome. The running joke that Ed Miller is CR’s favorite podcast guest is true in part because he was easy to contact and book. There were more than a couple no-shows to the podcast last year.

The original plan was to have a guest to talk about the most interesting game of the week, or the most interesting story line — we had the WKU beat writer to talk about firing Mike Stanford Jr for example. Again, this is all a planning and scheduling obstacle. If we can sort out the beat writer thing I imagine the time for managing booking podcast guests will manifest.

We launched the membership portion of the site in mid-June. It is mildly successful. I had no idea what the initial roll-out would be like. I launched the site at a loss, figuring people would not want to pay for hope and prayers. After a little over a year in operation, we launched the membership. Given the knowledge that the league’s fan base is 1) not super flush with cash 2) not demographically likely to read pay sites 3) not too keen on paying for things anyway I did not imagine we would be rolling in the dough. There have been sign ups and even renewals and for that we are grateful. As we say all the time, the more we have, the better this site can do and the increased likelihood that we continue to do it at all. Hosting and podcast cost money, after all. When we travel to games, media conferences, and tournaments it also costs money.

I have a dim view of sponsorships simply because the work involved — again, it can be a whole other job managing sponsors, relationships, agreements and the like — would take away from actually writing and podcasting about the games and storylines themselves. That said, if someone wants to get in and sponsor the site feel free to contact me and we can talk. The best advertising agreements work well for both parties. The Daring Fireball model is one I admire and that I have benefited from as a reader. It is unobtrusive and I have found that “yeah, I actually would like that product and/or service.”

To all those ends I know that CR will remain a money-loser for me for a while until some significant investments in time and/or money is made. I have more of the former than the latter* and so for now I make sure my overhead is low but that comes at the expense of some higher-quality things. That is fine. You can know that we will be here doing what we do, trying not to burn ourselves out while trying to remain a quality producer for the discerning fan. When we get compliments from writers we respect and readers who enjoy this, we do beam with pride. Now pay for a membership.

* The Athletic has more of the latter. They took a lot of venture capital money and that $5 or whatever you pay monthly for some quality writing serves as a way to get you in the door. Eventually the plan is to increase that price (like Netflix) but by then you will be willing to pay for it because you already subscribe. I am a subscriber of the site. It is very hit-or-miss in some areas, as maybe a third-tier beat guy got a gig and is now asked to do features, beat writer stuff, and podcasting. Not everyone is built for that and it shows.

Next year we will continue doing what we do, with some tweaks here and there, based on the readership, our time, and the available resources. Have a Merry Christmas, a happy holiday season, and a very happy New Year.

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