Still Free

Feb 2, 2020

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A quick update on the site. Tyler is traveling to Iowa City to cover the game today, so he'll get a post up tonight, but that gives me enough time to squeeze in an update on why all articles on the site are still free. You might not even realize they're free, honestly, but... I'll just explain it real quick.

The subscription service we've used since 2013 - TinyPass Go - shut down the "Go" side of their operations on January 1. They still maintain subscription services for big newspapers and such, but their scaled-down version for sites like ours (Go) has been discontinued.

We knew this was coming for several months but decided to make January free as we made the transition. The idea of putting up a new pay wall, transitioning every subscriber account to that new service (with the same subscription expiration date as when they paid), and doing it all in one day (shutting down the old stuff, turning on the new stuff) was frightening. So we decided to make January free during the transition. No story has a pay wall, there's no count of free articles before you'd need a subscription - everything is unlocked and open.

I said in the last post that the transition would happen on February 1, and it's February 2, and... it's still not ready. Which is difficult on our end but easy peasy on your end. Everything is still free. The same rules still apply. If you subscribed last September 16th, when we transition everything to the new service, your subscription will run until November 16th. We'll now add two months to every subscription (to ensure that everyone who paid gets their 12 paid months).

Why another month of free? Because we need to get this right. Big changes are coming around here (huge, really), and we need to get this transition right. Rollout will happen in February, and by the time March arrives, everything will be up and running.

Until then, for many of you, nothing really changes. The experience for a subscriber doesn't really change an ounce. In fact, if you missed the article in January where I talked about all of this, you don't even know what I'm talking about right now. You've always had unlimited access to the site and you continue to have unlimited access. The only change has been non-subscribers who click on their sixth article in a month and don't get a "you've reached your five free articles limit" pop-up.

And I have to say, with my luck, it's nearly perfect that this subscription service transition is happening now (like, in an ironic way). If you look at a site like this from purely a business transaction perspective, there's no greater time for a "business" like this than when the team is winning. People actually care and want to read about it. I'm sure it doesn't surprise you that readership has skyrocketed, that my Twitter engagements have doubled - we all are feeling the same thing and want to talk about it.

And here we are, without the ability to make a single dime off of that. (Again, I'm just discussing this from an "is this the worse implementation of a business strategy in sports blog history?" perspective.) All of those nights where I'm driving back to St. Louis from some basketball game at 1:30 in the morning, hoping to get four hours of sleep before going to work, knowing that some day, the team might start winning again and people would actually read what I just wrote, knowing that there's a payoff some day for all the effort I put in to my hobby, and now that time has arrived... during a time where the site has gone back to the "everything is free" model for two months. I am the "Illini basketball in the 2010's" of sports blogging.

Oh well. Makes for a funny story, I guess. And besides, the whole subscription thing has never been about being a "business". It's always just been about covering my costs when I travel to cover the team (and paying Tyler to go to Iowa today, mostly because I can't wait to read what he writes tonight). If this was my job, it would be a whole lot different, but in this scenario, it's just a continuation of me living my life playing the role of Ziggy (old school reference for you olds like me - high five).

That's about all here. By March 1, everything will be rolled out. We have some exciting things in store (seriously - you will say "whoa" out loud), so I'm excited about where this goes. For now, it's simple - everything is free.

Now beat Iowa.


purcy51 on February 2, 2020 @ 11:19 AM

I made a deal with my wife, I'd quit my seriously ridiculous Starbucks habit to save money so I could subscribe to your site. I figure I'm saving $100 or more a week, sick I know...and the coffee isn't even that great. All that to say I am finally going paid subscriber as soon as you get the paywall back up.

Sweetchuck13 on February 3, 2020 @ 08:33 AM

Big changes are coming around here (huge, really)"

Ooooh - I'm intrigued. Any chance we'll see some improved commenting upgrades? Perhaps likes, ability to respond/mention users, gifs, etc? I know you're an NLU fan - I think their message board software is perhaps the cleanest and simplest out there. Would love to see something like that over here - especially a better spot for user-generated threads.

Also, I remember a year or so back you asked for reader suggestions in a thread about what to change/improve (think it was during football). Did any of those get adopted or help you think about what to change?

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