Let’s start from the beginning.
A few weeks before coming to WashU, I noticed a post on the “Class of 2019” Facebook page by a recent graduate, Michael Fisch. He was looking to pass off a Cardinals baseball blog, Cardsblog, which he had co-founded with fellow grad Steven Hirsch while at WashU. I’ve always been big into sports and loved the Cardinals, so naturally I reached out.
After lots of back and forth and working through the details, in November, myself and Sam Pointer, another Olin freshman, acquired the blog. At the time, Cardsblog had a great domain name, a website built out with almost 1,000 articles, a program set up with Washington University that allowed students to earn credit for contributing to the site, and a list of contacts accumulated by Steven and Mike.
The issues: new content had not been posted in almost a year, the site’s appearance wasn’t up to our standards, and spring training was right around the corner.
So we got to work. Sam and I found three great writers to bring on board, redesigned the entire site, and, with the help of the team, became active on Twitter to hype up our March 1st relaunch.
The launch was a success, and throughout March we focused on drawing people to the site, growing on social media, and continuously posting good content (at a rate of two new articles per day).
Cardsblog announces a content relationship with KSDK on their website.
Toward the end of March I reached out to a variety of St. Louis news stations with our story, and caught the attention of the Digital Executive Producer at KSDK Channel 5, a St. Louis NBC affiliate. After checking out our site and content, the producer, Jordan Palmer, graciously asked if we wanted to form a content relationship with KSDK, to which of course we said yes.
Currently KSDK puts our articles up on their website and gives us credit for the writing, and we are in the process of continuing to build our relationship to benefit both sides.
So there’s all the good stuff. But there must have been some bumps in the road too right?
Absolutely. The bumps and lessons we learned are why we aren’t getting as much traffic to the site as we had been hoping, but also why we’re excited for the future of Cardsblog, because we know there’s so much we can build off of. Here’s what we learned:
1. Content is key
It doesn’t matter how good the site looks or how many people you can draw to it if what they are coming for (which in our case is to read articles) isn’t up to par. We have (especially recently), been making a very conscious effort to put up interesting, thought-provoking, and unique content for our readers.
2. You only get one launch day
There has to be a balance when launching a new product. On one end, you can’t wait for the perfect product because, A). nobody knows what “perfect” means, and B). The start date will keep getting pushed back. But on the other end, the quality is crucial because a launch will generate more hype for a company than at almost any other moment (we hit almost 1,000 page views on the site on our first day).
So setting a date to launch and sticking to that date is key, but it’s also important to do everything possible to have the best product by launch (and that part, I believe we could have done a better job at). When we launched, the site looked good and content wasn’t bad, but the site was moving slowly and we had no incentives in place to make people want to come back. We later realized the speed was a minor fix, and we are in the process of putting together an incentive and referral program to keep people coming to Cardsblog—two things we definitely could have had done by launch that would have made a large difference.
3. Social media can be your best friend
Since mid-February we have gone from 150 Twitter followers to 788, and since launch 44% of our site views were referred via social media. Connecting with people through platforms like Twitter and Facebook can be a huge benefit, especially given that we are focused on connecting with younger audiences who aren’t as easily engaged in baseball these days.
4. You can treat anything like a business
We run Cardsblog like a business, and because of that, it has made the experience that much more fun, serious, and educational. Sam, our original team of writers—consisting of WashU freshman Issa Cook, Perry Gordon, and Eddie Liu— and I all have official roles for the blog. Sam is Director of Outreach, Issa is Editor-in-Chief (as well as a co-owner of the blog), Perry is Director of Programming, Eddie is Director of Communication, and I am Director of Technology and Strategy. The point is we each have concrete tasks that we are expected to complete on a day-to-day basis, improving operations, allowing for more innovation, and creating a professional atmosphere that incentivizes effort and quality work. In running Cardsblog in a professional manner, and being one of the co-owners, I (as well as Sam and Issa) have learned a lot about what it takes to run a business (which I’d be happy to discuss further if you reach out).
As we reach the end of month #3, we couldn’t be happier with the progress made thus far. We have added four more great writers (Jack Stephens, Matt Heiken, Tyler Brandt, and Adam Kaufman), we attended the 2016 Cardinals Blogger Day, content is improving everyday, site speed is up to par, and we’re in the process of putting together new ideas and initiatives that we hope will drive more traffic to the site on a consistent basis. Some of these ideas include a referral program, guest contributors, and getting more involved with charity organizations and local restaurants and bars in the St. Louis community.
It’s been a great learning experience thus far, and myself, along with Sam, Issa, and the rest of the team are very excited to continue working to make Cardsblog the #1 baseball blog in St. Louis.
If you have any ideas, thoughts or suggestions, or just want to chat, feel free to reach out! You can find our website here.
Thanks for reading!