Five years of USSM

DMZ · April 15, 2008 at 1:23 am · Filed Under Site information 

Over five years ago, the current incarnation of USSM first published (April 11th, 2003). We’re now two years into running on the USSM server, purchased with the generosity of our users and running by the grace of Digital Forest, which donates rack space and bulk electrons. I’d like to thank, again, everyone who chipped in during that moment of crisis, and Digital Forest for their continuing tolerance of that black box in the stacks.

Anyway, I thought this would be a good time to talk about the state of things.

According to Google’s analytics, which are a little low for reasons I’ll skip discussing, we have about 6,000 regular visitors here who load up the home page every day, and we’ll see 10-12,000 visits on a weekday (that split surprises me, but again, that’s not important). We’ll serve 60-80,000 pages on particularly heavy traffic days, like a trade or a major signing. There were games last year where we had more unique visitors than the announced attendance at Safeco Field.

We’re doing this essentially for free. Over the history of USSM, between the tinkering with Google Adsense, the sidebar ads, and whatnot, we’ve made $0/post, and $0/hour. That’s not that hard to do, actually, given that we’ve put up nearly 5,000 posts since we started, and there’s more to where we are today, so —

Currently, we make a little money off the ads (I think a sawbuck is the minimum buy and only because I haven’t invested the time in working out a pricing scheme), in part because I’m not interested in slapping a banner up top and inside posts. The Amazon links off the recommended reading list throw us a buck now and then, and that’s cool. We tried selling swag, and that didn’t really work, though I’d admit we didn’t put a long-term effort into it.

We solicited donations for the server purchase about two years ago, and beyond that, I’ve tinkered with the “Buy us a beer” button at the end of posts, and since we first tried that, we’ve gotten about a hundred takers. Which is awesome, and thanks if you donated that way.

I’ve heard we ask for donations all the time, when in the entire history of USSM, there were two posts — 2, yes — during the August 2006 server drive that mentioned it.

I’ve heard that I use USSM to promote my other writing, which makes me smile – I had that gig writing web content for the PI, if you remember, and if you don’t know what web freelancers get paid per piece, well, it’s not a lot. If my nefarious plan was to write free content to get a chance to write nearly-free content, I’m not much of an evil genius.

I’ve heard sometimes that I (we) pimped Cheater’s Guide too aggressively when it came out, and I’m not sure where that comes from. We mentioned the book 34 times in total and that’s if you count me giving away copies, two pointers to the Cheater’s Guide blog, and two passing, no-link mentions. There’s the sidebar ad for the book which comes and goes, but I’ve always felt that if anything, I didn’t do enough to push the book here — the number of regular readers who bought was a lot less than I’d hoped, while I was still reluctant to keep mentioning it. And I think my book’s great.

34 times, if you’re into the stats, means about 0.7% of all posts in USSM history have mentioned the baseball book I wrote. (You know what? Make it 35: Buy The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball. Now we’re up to 0.7%)

Anyway, whenever I run into these things I don’t know how to respond. It feels a lot like when I run into someone who’s convinced that we pushed some story we never wrote — I want to open the books and point, say “look here, there’s the Blogads rate, there’s how Google never paid us…” in the same way I want to say “search the site for Carl Everett stories, I think you’ll find we weren’t big fans” but I wonder if any level of disclosure would do good.

In mid-2005, I quit my day job at one point to finish the book and write full-time. I’d always hoped that USSM would eventually be a paying gig for Dave or me, but when I had a go at it, and spent more time than ever writing long posts here, tending game threads, and investing a ludicrous amount of effort in the site, and I think people did notice. But we ran a trial of Paypal donations, and no one pitched in. I lost a lot of money.

To which you might well say “well, that’s your risk,” and I entirely agree. That’s not my point, though — it’s that there was a period of time there where I looked at USSM as the majority of my full-time job writing, and we still didn’t ask for money, or plaster the site in ads, or run pledge drives. I just wrote and wrote until the well went dry and I went back to work. I’ve essentially given up hopes of making USSM a paying venture for now: I don’t see that there’s a path to making any kind of living at this without making compromises I’m unwilling to do.

There’s often an implied or explicit threat in complaint emails we get, which says “I’d donate if you weren’t such jerks about Bloomquist” or whatever their particular cause is, and I have three reactions:
– We’ve tried to be really clear that we think Bloomquist is a useful back-roster guy and offers something off the bench, while we take exception to how he’s used and the fawning press coverage he gets (or whatever the response is to the specific complaint)
– Really? You’re a regular reader and you appreciate everything else, you read the blog, you like our commentary, and you would give us money if we would compromise on that one thing?
– No deal.

The last of which is the kind of snippy response that endears us to 1% of our audience and alienates many more.

Which brings this all around to something I wrote back in October 2003, in discussing why we weren’t accepting blank donations:

None of this should be taken to imply we’re doing this for money, only that for as much time, effort, and $ we put into it, it’d be nice if we broke even, and even better if we could have a nice dinner next time David’s in town. That’s all — we didn’t start this to cash in, and if it’s that much of an issue, I’d rather just eat the money than have this be a hassle.

That’s where we still are, in many ways. There are paths to making more money: more ads, more donations, joining some random site network, trying to form a site network, and so on.

But as Dave’s said, we’ll do this until it stops being fun, and those things make this less fun pretty quickly. If we’re not in it for the money — and I don’t see how you can make an argument that we are — the warm fuzzies are the only compensation that makes this worth doing. Despite the most-commonly cited complaint about us, we have always done this because we’re nutty Mariners fans, and we want to do good for the Mariner fandom we’re part of.

Personally, though, the side effect of that (and you can feel free to call me thin-skinned or whatever, the line forms on the right) I’ve been finding this a lot harder to enjoy lately. The background noise of potshots and drive-by commenters makes me feel like I’m being ground down over time, and this off-season was particularly bad around the Bedard trade, which I don’t think we’ll rehash. If we didn’t have volunteer mods these days, I don’t know that I’d put up any posts with comments. Really. I understand part of that’s the popularity, and an inherent difficulty with having a thousand new visitors a day swing by, but it’s not an enjoyable part of the work. AOL/MSN/Hotmail all eat people’s invitation email, and they drop us a line to ask what happened — I spend a couple hours a month on stuff like that. Or trying to make the site run faster, or be able to serve more people during game threads — Dave once estimated that we spend 30 hours a week on USSM, and having tracked my time over the last few weeks, I don’t think that’s far off. That hasn’t been easy to do.

Which leaves us in many ways where we’ve been for years: somewhat popular, influential beyond our readership (I still remember driving into Seattle on I-90 one day hearing a sports talk radio caller read my post word for word and be complimented by the host for making a good point), making enough money to buy Dave dinner when he’s in town, stuck unwilling or unable to make a jump to money-printing enterprise.

That’s not so bad.

Here’s my questions to you then, after making you read all that: what do you want from USSM in the future? What can we give? How do we continue to make progress in our goal of helping build Mariner fandom, and of supporting it as one of the smartest and best in baseball?


250 Responses to “Five years of USSM”

  1. Mike G. on April 15th, 2008 3:26 pm

    I stumbled on to this blog via a Pro Yakyu forum in 2004. It was an important year for me baseball wise(I read Moneyball that summer too) because as an M’s fan I didn’t see that terrible season coming. I believed the team PR, I relied on past performance, and the wrong stats. 2004 was an eye opener and it was discovering this site that have kept my eyes open.

    This is worth more than a few of my hard earned dollars and I’ve sent a few of them your way and will do so in the future. However, for the uninitiated, the content should remain free so M’s and baseball fans in general can come here and have the same experience I had in ’04. Comments, Merch, etc. are fair game but if there was a big stop sign with a subscription fee when I first directed my browser here 4 years ago, I don’t think I would have learned a thing.

    That’s not your responsibility, I know. But I have to believe that’s why you’ve kept doing this for five years. It’s totally changed the way I view my favorite sport and in the next five years I hope many will have the same experience that I have had.

  2. Dobbs on April 15th, 2008 3:28 pm

    I’d say don’t change a thing about what you do on the site, I come here daily for the analysis.

    I don’t mind attempts to monetize the site at all, stick an ad banner at the top or below the comment box or anywhere you like that’s not overly done (obviously you already draw the line way short of this).

    Making money off the internet isn’t easy at all, but it doesn’t hurt to try when you’re providing great content consistently to people who want to read it regularly.

  3. Capo on April 15th, 2008 3:30 pm

    Personally, i think a weekly post/blog/article by Dave or Derek available for free would be a great idea. Its obvious that those of us that visit everyday would be willing/happy to contribute a monthly, yearly, lifetime fee.
    why not have a weekly article posted, with access to post available to those that are paid members? Drive by posters vanish, no bickering about posting ettiquette, and you will definitely pique the interest of those who read the free content, and hopefully draw in some more people you want sharing ideas and opinions on the site.
    I’ll freely admit, i was one of those people who pointed out what seemed to me a serious over-promotion of “The Cheaters Guide”, but I am amazed anyone who calls themselves a baseball fan could not l;ove the book, it sits on my desk right next to “Ball Four”.

  4. Marcel on April 15th, 2008 3:41 pm

    People seriously complained about you mentioning the book that you wrote… in your own blog? That’s ridiculous. And it’s even more ridiculous when you realize that Posnanski and Mnookin both throw in links to their books in just about every other post they write and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone complain to them about it (in the comments, at least.)

    I personally love the blog. As a baseball fan living in Red Sox nation (the sox are my favorite team, but I refuse to call myself a fan due to not wanting to be associated with the morons/assholes that make up 95% of the Red Sox fanbase) I’m always looking for good outlets for information about teams that aren’t the Red Sox or Yankees. And this is definitely the best source of info on the Mariners that I have found anywhere.

  5. scraps on April 15th, 2008 3:52 pm

    I can’t believe that anyone can be so blinkered by political disagreement that they think Derek is hostile to newbies. (Though it must be refreshing for Dave to be the one who is apparently considered to be the nice guy.)

    That kind of attitude, when used by DMZ on new visitors, people he doesn’t like, or others, is a detriment to the enjoyment of the site by a diverse group of readers.

    “A diverse group of readers” is an interesting way to say “me and people like me.”

    I guess it can’t be said too many times: not every site is for everyone. This thread alone ought to make it clear how appreciated this site is by how many different kinds of folks. This site doesn’t need to attract more people — for crying out loud, look at the traffic numbers Derek posted. Scaring people away is not the barrier to making money here, however much you might want your personal objections to the site to be the reason.

  6. scraps on April 15th, 2008 4:03 pm

    Also, I agree with all the people who say they’d keep reading this site without comments.

    I like comments — obviously — but the more popular a site becomes, the more troublesome comments get. I think the moderators are doing a great job, but I can’t blame Derek if he’s sick of reading all the stupid, insulting crap.

  7. Steve T on April 15th, 2008 4:14 pm

    Here’s what I want from the site: more of the same.

    And put the damn Paypal button back up and I’ll hit it. I don’t know if I’m up for $20 a month, but I’ve donated before and I’ll donate again.

    As for anyone who says “you pimp too much” and all the other complaints: these people are WRONG AND STUPID. One of the things you have to learn about dealing with the general public on the internet is YOU HAVE NO OBLIGATION TO PLEASE EVER PERSON WHO BUMPS INTO YOU. Fuck ’em if they don’t like the way you do it. The way you do it is EXCELLENT. They are wrong and stupid and deserve to be ignored. Bloomquist fans? Who cares what they think?

    Your own statistics tell you that the current “obnoxious”, “thin-skinned” way of the site is tremendously successful. If you start going out of your way to accommodate every boob with a contrary opinion, you’ll lose your focus. The secret is to zap them out of the way with as little fanfare as possible. I think you do an excellent job of that. And of everything else. Insulting crap is just crap — you can’t take it personally.

    Any poster who’s gotten his nose bent out of joint by the opinions expressed here, or by the way his loser opinions were moderated, can get stuffed. And every second you spend worrying about them is a second wasted.

    You’re doing a great job.

    Put the Paypal link up and I’ll prove it.

  8. scraps on April 15th, 2008 4:19 pm

    What Steve T said.

  9. Gomez on April 15th, 2008 4:22 pm

    People can be wrong without being stupid, Steve. While there’s a point in your comment, it’s buried beneath some counterproductive hostility. You don’t ‘zap’ people because they disagree with you. You zap them because they’re being a belligerent nuisance and derailing discussions.

    To strike down people because they don’t agree with you is a bad mindset to have, and one I would not encourage the writers of this site to have.

  10. dwandy86 on April 15th, 2008 4:33 pm

    I’ve never posted before, and may not again, but I really enjoy the content of this site and visit as often as I can.

    I wouldn’t change a thing and I’d consider donating from time to time.

    I am the guy that set up the free hosting at digital.forest and the guy who encouraged the purchase of the server about a week later. Our tech support manager came in to my office a week or so in to our hosting and said, “The shared server with USSMariner on it keeps crashing after every Mariner game.”

    I’ve taken Derek to a game to see Doyle play, I bought about 10 copies of the book for family and friends, and I’m sure I’ve used the beer purchase link a time or two. (love the book by the way) I have a USSM shirt, and I wear it often, including the gym where I see Bavasi once in a while.

    In any case, I enjoy the posts and wouldn’t mind if comments were turned off, because I rarely read them anyway, and it sounds like a potential source of frustration for the writers.

    Keep up the great work Dave and Derek.

  11. Jeff Nye on April 15th, 2008 4:34 pm

    Sure, but like Dave so often says, not all opinions are equal, and there’s been a lot of people showing up lately with ill-informed and poorly thought out opinions, which they pronounce from the mountaintop as if they are so self-evident that no factual backup is needed.

    When they get challenged on it, the response is almost never “wow, I hadn’t thought of it that way, maybe I should rethink my position” or “let me go find a link that’ll help you understand what I’m talking about”; it’s nearly always “waah stop being mean to me!”

    A certain amount of zapping is probably warranted for posts of that type, and honestly maybe that should be the approach that we take a little more than we do now.

    To turn Derek’s post around a little bit, the number one thing that all of you could do to help this site run better is pretty simple: take the time to make sure that whatever point you’re asserting, you take an extra five or ten minutes to do a little research. Link to an article or two that supports your view. Give us a reason to take your opinion seriously.

    That’s what Dave and Derek do (well, in their case it’s usually much longer than five or ten minutes) and it’s a large part of why this site has been so valuable; please do them, and all of us, the courtesy of trying to at least live up to SOME standard of support for your arguments, even if you’re not prepared to put in the amount of time and effort they do.

  12. mcfly on April 15th, 2008 4:41 pm

    It is scary thing about you being on for 5 years was that I fell onto this site not too long later. Weird to think about how fast time goes by.

    I went to the Pizza feed at that school on the Eastside a few year back with a bunch of other randoms for the same reason you write and we read. Cause we all cared passionately about a stupid baseball team that has been pissing on our hearts for the last 30 years. Well, I am 27 now, so probably 24 of my years.

    I have checked this site while on vacation in France and while on a boat in the Carribean and while visiting my inlaws in E Wa and on my cell phone. It is in my mind and fingertips, naturally like typing or

    I have had the button on internet firefox since I found it.

    I also don’t think I see the ads, cause they get blocked by Firefox’s Ad blocker.

    I don’t comment often. I am ambivalent about the comments, at best.

    I also agree with the tone of your post, a sense of exhaustion about the Mariners. I care, but I am finding it hard to care. Its like dating a girl for 10 years and hoping you can get a kiss, but each time waiting just a little longer. Gets tiring, really does.

    At the same time, I went to Spring training and will go again and again.

    I am watching a lot fo Devil Rays this year, and seeing Florida instead of Texas. I prefer the Rainiers above all these days.

    For $, I think the NPR model works. One solid week of annoying begging. I donate each year. If anything, to get them to shut up, but mostly because they make the point that I am getting good service for free.

    Maybe form a Non-Profit LLC, so we can write off donations and you can put the $ away as profit.

    Or blow the site up for a while, see what happens to your passion and our passion. I love that kinda stuff. Make us work.

    Write on and Right On guys.

  13. Say Hey on April 15th, 2008 4:41 pm

    I’d gladly pay $20 a year for access to the comments section of this site (or really, any access, just to help keep it going). And I’m unemployed (another frustrated English major who never made it to Sports Illustrated 😉

    Keep it up, and at least offer an easy way for those who do want to support it to snd a little cash!

  14. scraps on April 15th, 2008 4:43 pm

    Gomez, you keep saying people are pilloried merely for disagreeing. This is a straw man you are dragging to the discussion and setting on fire. It’s not what Steve said, and nothing in his post could be reasonably interpreted that way, unless you’re determined to do so in advance. You need to step back and actually read what people are saying, and free yourself from your idea of what people are saying.

  15. Seth on April 15th, 2008 4:43 pm

    Even though Dave bashed the living hell out of my P-I article the other day, I’m glad you’re around.

    I think you’ll find–and are surely finding from this comment thread–that the negativity comes from a very, very small percentage of your readership. When you write a piece, 95% of people probably like it, but they aren’t going to say anything. It’s the 5% who hate it who will.

    And least that’s what I told myself when Dave bashed the living hell out of my P-I article. 🙂

    Go M’s!

  16. Pete Livengood on April 15th, 2008 4:50 pm

    Derek: As always, when I see you next I will buy you a REAL beer. But if you give me a PayPal donation button or a beer button at the end of posts, I’ll hit that too.

    Second the notion that you need to show no shame in asking for money. Even if you don’t turn a profit, you should at least break even, and I know there is a core of people who would help you out in ANY way they can, just to say thank you, and money is just one of those ways.

    My one request is that you pull yourself out of this funk by whatever means necessary – we need you. I thank you.

  17. scraps on April 15th, 2008 4:51 pm

    It is true that people are far more likely to comment in disagreement, and when they agree they’re likely to feel that they don’t have anything substantive to add.

  18. jlc on April 15th, 2008 5:02 pm

    It took all day, but I did think of something. I love the recommended reading tab and have bought and/or read most of them. I’d love it if it were updated more often. Maybe under a different heading where posters could recommend something (after appropriate vetting by Dave/DMZ/mods/history of recommender) so it wouldn’t be more work for Dave/DMZ.

  19. Oly on April 15th, 2008 5:04 pm

    I think that you could go with a system like has. If you become a subscriber ($100 lifetime, $40 yearly, or $4 monthly) you don’t see any ads. For those who want to support the site with hard cash and have disposable hard cash, that would be a great option. For others like me who won’t pay for content (sorry, it’s fantastic content, but I just wouldn’t pay for it), we will see the ads. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not willing to pay, you should damn well be willing to put up with ads. I know I am. In the same vein, you could have a “buy us a beer” link on every post and I wouldn’t care. Again, the visual clutter is a price I’m willing to pay for phenomenal free content.

    If that isn’t enough of a return on a subscriber’s investment, then make some of the articles subscriber-only (I’m thinking of the kind of posts that clearly take hours for you to put together, like Derek’s gigantic pre-Opening Day Mariner post-o-rama) or turn off commenting for non-subscribers. Even without those subscriber-only posts for tightwads like myself or commenting rights, USSM would still be the best Mariner site on the web, bar none. Don’t get me wrong, I do NOT want to lose the ability to read any of the content here, as I loved the post-o-rama, but that would be an option that wouldn’t drive me away.

    This way, you can get some income, you can satisfy those who actually provide that income, and not alienate any readers who aren’t going to pay.

  20. Karen on April 15th, 2008 5:53 pm

    I haven’t read each and every one of the comments following your blogpost, DMZ, but I’d be happy to contribute some (small; I have a fixed income, being SS age) amount of dollars to help you and Dave, etc. continue the thoughtful content of USSM and its access to us baseball fans (especially us M’s fans).

    Paypal works for me, but I’d rather trigger a monthly contribution myself than have it automatic.

    Comment: Of all the Mariners message boards, other-teams-fans message boards, and blogs I’ve visited and been a regular at over the past 10+ years, this blog has shown by far the least tendency to dissociate into internet cliques and spiraling disagreements. It’s tough and time-consuming and wearying, I know, but you guys (along with the volunteers) do a great job. For that reason alone, I believe whatever I can afford to contribute would be well spent.

  21. essikei on April 15th, 2008 6:16 pm

    This is my first post, and I’ve been a USSM reader since 2003. I lived in Japan at the time, and yearned for more insightful, in-depth M’s writing online. USSM and Jeff (back when he was doing his San Shin blog) were my two sources, providing fodder for discussion with my baseball-loving friends in Japan. At the very least, I want to thank you for all your work. It’s been a great way for me to better understand my team and the game itself.

    I’ve bought books that have been on the USSM book list, and certainly would do so if you updated that more frequently.

    I seriously considered getting a USSM t-shirt when you rolled those out, and would love for you guys to revamp that effort. I’d pay for a USSM retrospective book– something that covered the bigger, more important posts over the years. Something along the lines of what some op/ed writers do with their collected works.

    I hope that you can find that balance between making the site work for you as much as you work for it.

  22. Steve T on April 15th, 2008 6:32 pm

    It’s not “counterproductive hostility”, Gomez, it’s PRODUCTIVE hostility. People who don’t get what USSM is about and make a stink about it are sapping Derek’s will to continue, and that’s unfair to all of us. They need to be zapped. I’m not talking about people who say “I think Sexson is a great first baseman”, I’m talking about people who say “Ritchey is teh awesome” and then get all bent out of shape when they get moderated.

    People who get all bent out of shape for being moderated DO NOT CONTRIBUTE, period. We’re having a discussion here, and yes, different viewpoints are welcome, even ones that annoy Derek and Dave. But they are still contributing. The people who are moderated are asking for it. More importantly, Derek is using them in his internal calculation of “am I getting enough love to keep doing this?”, and that’s wrong. THEY DON’T COUNT.

    “You don’t tolerate dissent” is not a contributory remark; it’s just air. It’s not true. “You’re being unfair” is worse. “You people just hate Willie”You pimp your book too much” is an irrelevant lie. People who make these kinds of remarks are stupid, or they’re trying to stir up shit.

  23. Nettle on April 15th, 2008 7:08 pm

    I’m another person that has been reading this site pretty much since the beginning, and rarely post. I don’t know how many M’s fans I’ve pointed here, particularly around trade deadlines.

    I love the insight you all provide, making me look at the game in different ways. It was great to be on the Felix bandwagon long before anyone else. I get jazzed whenever I see references to USSM in other sites – the highlight may have been when Slate referenced the Felix open letter.

    What would I like to see? I think getting volunteer moderators was a good move. I like the sense of community here, and that really helped maintain good discourse.

    Another suggestion – I know it is easier said then done, but “real” ads or sponsorship could be a good thing. Some sites look more professional with ads then many do without.

    If you don’t want to do ads, do bring back the “buy the author a refreshing beer”. I have clicked on the “beer” link in the past, and have actually wanted to do it other times when it wasn’t there. It isn’t intrusive, and stikes me as even friendly. (If I saw any of you in a bar I would buy you a drink – maybe 2).

    If you choose to make it a pay site, I probably would pay once, maybe twice, for all the great content you’ve given me over time. But I do know that before USSM came along, I read Rob Neyer and Baseball Prospectus every day. Once they went pay, I found other reads. Granted neither provides the same sense of community that USSM does, but I already spend too much time surfing.

    Again – thanks for keeping up such a consistent level of content, and for starting a really great community.

    PS – The pony pictures were a great touch this winter

  24. Eastside Crank on April 15th, 2008 7:22 pm

    The loss of this site would greatly reduce my enjoyment of baseball in the northwest. Last year I amazed my friends by predicting that Felix would start a game with 10 straight fastballs. I was able to appreciate that the Mariners were playing over their heads as they tried to make a race out of it. The statistical analysis provided is amazing and contributes to the fun I have following the Mariners. The so called negative player assessments have been realistic and just highlight how weak a job Bavasi has been doing with trades.

    Keep up the great work Dave and DMZ.

  25. tuttle07 on April 15th, 2008 7:36 pm

    I for one really appreciate the content you guys put up every day, and I am a frequent visitor. So thank you. I will also admit, in the interests of full disclosure, that I have never contributed and I rarely comment or participate in the discussion, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t.

    I think that what’s really at stake here is the impact you guys have had on the fan base. That should not be underestimated. While it’s a slow-moving evolution, you can sense that the Seattle fans are becoming more educated about baseball. You can tell on the broadcasts that the bar has been raised a little bit. And yeah, at the end of the day, John Edwards isn’t the President, but he did move the chains a little bit and got people talking. Of course, it’s not totally analogous, but you get the point. More than that, though, you guys offer something that Mariners fans & the Seattle community need: a little diversity. If you turn on FSN on any given night, you just get the company line (Jose “Professional Hitter” Vidro, how great McLaren is…whatever). Team website, same thing. And despite some recent improvement in the beat writing, the M’s essentially get a benefit of the doubt from them too.

    But there is something called the First Amendment out there, and the marketplace of ideas. Those of us who care about and follow the M’s all year long are tired of being fed crap by the John Hickeys of the world will have fewer places to go for enlightened discussion, and the no reason to ever get it right if there isn’t someone holding them accountable. Now, that might not be YOUR job, but you guys are doing it. I don’t think you have it totally right all the time, either, but your site is the only place where decent high-level discussion about the Mariners from a modern analytical perspective is taking place.

    And since you asked (and only because you did) I will offer a few suggestions. For one, as a non-contributing leach of your site, I would be happy to make something of a contribution if it means that you guys keep writing and doing analysis. But once you start relying on people’s money, they start to feel like they have a piece of the site, like a political contributor (don’t be so MEAN to Willie Boom Boom, etc). You guys have to raise money, but on your terms. If you did an annual fundraiser of some kind (maybe a kegger or a carwash or something), then the money you raised would go toward something else, and not give people the idea that their money buys a piece of your site. You could also do a once-annually donation-a-thon like NPR or something. “Whatever you can give.” And then people know it’s that one time, it’s their opportunity to support you guys, etc.

    Another idea is to combine forces with some other people and pool your resources a little more. Jeff Sullivan is the obvious choice, but maybe Churchill or whoever. The best part of your site is the “This is why this is a bad idea” or “Here’s a move we could make” type- posts. The more people who could get involved, and even debate with each other, would only improve the “marketplace of ideas” aspect to it. Maybe you could add the “best post of the week” of your critics or something like that.

    But more than anything, you do have to ask for money or support or whatever if that’s what you need. I’m very willing to support you guys, but I never thought you really needed it, and I never really know what the money is going to. Maybe a newsletter to donors/members with a little VIP treatment and a subscription type of thing (an idea I saw above somewhere) would get you where you need to go. I know that wasn’t the best model for the New York Times, for example, but it could work for sites like yours. One thing about Churchill’s site is that I’m bombarded with ads and I can’t even see what he’s doing there without getting hit up for money.

    A bigger push for fundraising, concentrated less frequently is the answer, in my opinion. Anyway, that’s my four cents.

    As for all the criticism and jibberish you guys have to put up with, I don’t doubt it, but don’t let it get you down. I quote ‘Primary Colors,’ one of my favorite books: “This is the price you pay to lead.” You guys are leaders in the enlightened baseball/Mariners community and Seattle whether you like it or not. Your opinion matters. Don’t let the fact that people don’t agree with you wear you down. The community needs your opinion, even if it’s not always right. Because our alternative is John Hickey and Jim Street. And the reason you got into this in the first place was to call them out for sucking.

  26. Dave on April 15th, 2008 7:52 pm

    Let me assuage some fears here – I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, and I don’t anticipate USSM will close up shop in the near future. I haven’t talked to Derek about this post, but I’m pretty sure his point wasn’t to raise money. We really aren’t in this for the cash.

  27. MrIncognito on April 15th, 2008 7:53 pm

    Here’s my questions to you then, after making you read all that: what do you want from USSM in the future? What can we give?

    To answer the questions: I love the content. I want more of what you’ve already been doing.

    If you need to raise funds, charge a nominal free (say, $10 per year for posting), and continue to allow free browsing. You can even allow 5 free posts per year or something if you want to continue to get random input from people. I can’t imagine that there aren’t 2,000 to 3,000 of your regular visitors who wouldn’t mind paying the fee – I rarely post, but it would be worth it to me for the content.

    Thanks for all your work.

    FWIW, I’m an A’s fan, but the content is so good it transcends team loyalty.

  28. KW on April 15th, 2008 8:45 pm

    I’m a serious tightwad, but I would take on overtime work to contribute to USSM if that’s what it takes. Life, and more importantly baseball, would not be the same without you all.

  29. Ryan Sambrook on April 15th, 2008 8:58 pm

    I am one of the 6000 regular readers. (365 days a year). Love your writing, I would pay a small fee to maintain access to the site.

    P.S Ignorant people will always lurk and try to bash your work. You guys have it right on almost all issues.

  30. cynicalone on April 15th, 2008 9:35 pm

    This is my first post to USSM and maybe my last. I’ve grown from an occasional to a regular reader because I appreciate the perspective, analytical depth, and sense of humor USSM provides. And the more taunting of Geoff Baker the better…its fun to see him get spun up a bit. Whether you sell GoogleAds, banners, or popups isn’t going to change my use of the site. And I really couldn’t care less if you pitch your book or even pitch your cookies on the blog. Have you ever watched one of those old TV shows where they blatantly step into pitch mode in the middle of a scene (“Gracie, you know this Carnation condensed milk is the best!”)? For good or bad, advertising is as much a part of the American fabric as baseball. I come to USSM because the content is great and the ad content isn’t going to change that one way or another. I mean, I go to sometimes and you know what an advertising rich environment that is. At the same time, I’m a cheap bastard and if you added a subscription I would probably stop visiting, just like I haven’t read any Rob Neyer content since he went behind the wall. I wouldn’t begrudge you adding a subscription or gripe about it, but I probably wouldn’t pay it either. That’s just who I am.

    In the end, you need to do what is right for you to balance the financials with who you are and your personal needs/beliefs. Obviously, one of those is an un-naturally strong love of the Mariners….I hope you can find enough $’s out there somewhere so that you can continue to enjoy writing about the M’s.

  31. kmsandrbs on April 15th, 2008 9:48 pm

    (This is a long post … feel free to skip to the end for my answers to the posted questions … or ignore completely if need be.)

    I’ve been a fan since ‘77. As a kid, I was the typical Mariners “fan” … I rooted strongly for them to win, enjoyed my M’s paraphernalia, and almost only ever went to a game because I got free tickets for getting good grades. My fanship ebbed and flowed over the years, although they were always the team I rooted for. However, with the turn-around of the team in the early-to-mid 90’s my connection with the team grew considerably. I remember Junior when he was Junior. Lou Pinella coming to town. I remember Randy pitching to John Kruk in the All-Star game. I remember being turned away from the game where the roof tiles fell. And, of course, I remember Refusing to Lose in ‘95.

    Shortly thereafter, I left the Pacific Northwest for grad school in Illinois. I found it difficult to follow the M’s although provided a modicum of communication with fellow fans (as did the occasional phone call to my dad and friends). In ‘97 I was back in Seattle and got to go to a few games again (my employer had a vendor who had great seats … I got to see one game from about 10 rows behind homeplate). Baseball in Seattle was changing. You could no longer count on walking up to the gate and purchasing a ticket. And a new field was on the way.

    Safeco Field was pivotal in making me appreciate baseball, not just the Mariners. While not perfect, it was such a huge step to me in just going to enjoy a game. It was amazing to me the difference the new ballpark made, how much more I felt a part of what was going on. Safeco has a vibe to it, as I imagine one might feel in many other ballparks, and which the Kingdome never offered (at least, not to me). I even read a few baseball-oriented books. Mostly, though, of the humorous or fiction variety.

    In the summer of 2000, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. My friends, the news, and infrequent trips up north kept me somewhat connected. But I desired more. I got to following a.s.b.s-m. Which at times was a lot of fun, but frequently … was just irritating. Then came 2001. I could swear this was when I started reading USSM. But I’m getting older, and I’ve never been good at placing things in a time frame. From the beginning, I found, when I had time to follow, the authors to be insightful AND enjoyable to read. By 2004, at least, USSM was my main source of Mariners news. And … it was teaching me about how baseball really worked. In a fromat that I could take. I haven’t read Moneyball, and probably never will, or anything Bill James has ever written. But at least over the last three years, I come to this site every single day to become a better Mariners and baseball fan.

    To put a finer point on it … I’ve been a fan of the Mariners for over 30 years. But only in the last 4 – 5, through reading USSM, have I gained any real knowledge about the team and the sport. I’d have to guess that I’m not alone in this among your stable readership.

    I don’t post much. When I do, it’s usually a flawed attempt at humor. I don’t read the comments on probably 85% of the posts. So I don’t know that I really feel a full part of the community. But I do feel a connection with the site, and with others who, though I’ve never met, I know are followers of the blog as well.

    On the money side (even though you did not ask about this, I thought I’d add my comments to the masses) … as you indicated, I would not charge any fee to get the content. I’d back a small fee (if it is financially feasible for you … adding a too small fee becomes more work than it is worth) for posting privileges (I’m thinking along the lines of $5 – $10/year), as I find a lot of the comments not very helpful, and really do not think you would lose any significant readership by doing this. More ads would be fine (though I will echo no pop-ups or floating ads, please). A few fundraising drives each year, fine (in fact, I was wondering if those who were willing to donate tickets to you would be willing to allow you the option of auctioning or selling them as a way to support the site, if you chose). An always up donate button (or buy the authors a refreshing drink link) also fine. The only other non-commercial site I visit on a daily basis gives an option for donations to keep the site running. The author determined his monthly costs, and allows people to donate via PayPal. When they do, it automatically updates the site, which shows for how many more months the site will be able to run with the current donations. If you abandon the idea of making money, this would at least allow you to not lose it (because, I’m pretty confident you would get donations to cover costs).

    As for your questions … here’s my answers, after making you read all that …

    What do you want from USSM in the future?

    First, I thoroughly appreciate and enjoy the site as it is now. However, if I was given full control over the site? I’d add a forum area (with more volunteer moderators), where I’d allow much more random chat and where I’d put all of the game threads (they tend to be more fan-chat than any real analysis, from what I do read, though I don’t tend to read many of them unless I do so while following the game). Also, if you did this, you could allow free posting in the forums but charge the modest fee for posting comments in the blog. I’d look for a co-author who does good research but generally comes up with more alternate sides of the picture. Although I think the authors do disagree with each other, I think it is infrequent, and having someone who does the research work but more often comes to a different conclusion might even take the site to another level. Of course, it could be that there is a reason why those that are doing the research are currently coming up, generally, with similar thoughts … I’d also look to find other ways to have community members help. For example, maybe there is an accountant in the mix who could give some free advice on the tax implications of “earning” more money with the site.

    What can we give?

    I can’t answer this. I think only you can. But what I will say is only give what you are comfortable with. When you feel it becoming too much, find a way to back off. Please. For all of us 😉

    How do we continue to make progress in our goal of helping build Mariner fandom, and of supporting it as one of the smartest and best in baseball?

    I think, in some ways, these may be counter-productive. At least currently 🙂 When you provide sound analysis that shows the concerns about the team and how it is run … that generally does not draw new fans to the team. Most people are probably more likely to become fans through the unbridled enthusiasm of others. I do think you have become a connection point for current fans. And, as I indicated above, at least for me, you have been incredibly important in the development of my baseball knowledge. Again, I think this is true of a large number of you readers, who in turn take that knowledge out and distribute it to more fans.

    I can understand if you don’t read the entire post, but judging from past experience, I’d bet you will. I’m guessing that, if you are like myself and many others, despite over 200 posts praising and thanking you for what you’ve done, you’ve probably been caught most by the two or three that shared frustration with the site. It’s always easy to deflect positive feedback and focus on the negative. But just look at the ratio of negative to positive posts in this topic. Not quite as low as topic mention’s of the book, but it’s close 😉

    And think about this … at about 6,000 regular daily readers, and many, many more than that at times, your site has a much stronger following at 5 years than I’d guess the M’s had in 1982 🙂

  32. kmsandrbs on April 15th, 2008 10:02 pm

    One more thing (sorry, if you know me … this is very much me …)-

    If the mod assistance has worked out (which, form my perspective, it has), what about having an email screener? Create an email for USSM that someone else can go through first to answer questions such as the Hotmail/AOL/etc. mess, and can screen out emails which are just plain nasty. This may also cut down on an area of work for you all where someone does not need analytical expertise or a good writing style to help the site be productive.

  33. huckleB on April 15th, 2008 10:15 pm

    I probably stop by an average of once or twice a month, well, maybe a bit more. The reality is that I’m a Mariners fan because I’ve chosen to live my adult life in the northwest. The Brewers will always pull my heartstrings, and lord knows that’s all they’ve done for the last 25 years.

    The fact is that, as a Brewers fan, I would love to be able to stop by a site devoted to the Brewers every day, even if that site was half as good as this one.

    Granted, grief may come your way. That seems to be the manner of discussion on the Internet. The medium truly affects content, Marshall McLuhan believers or not.

    Anyway, thanks for all your work.


  34. BottlesAndCans on April 15th, 2008 11:07 pm

    Thank you Derek and Dave!

  35. tetrad on April 16th, 2008 1:11 am

    Keep doing what you are doing. This is a great blog! You have led me to books, Lookout Landing, Hardball Times, fangraphs, etc. etc., and many insights into the Mariners.

    If at some point this is no longer fun for you I understand. I hope it stays fun for you for a long time.

    Please ignore the people taking pot shots. I think a big reason for the pot shots is that this site has so much traffic and influence. Maybe another reason is that U.S.S. Mariner isn’t another mouthpiece for the Mariners.

    Thank you for your great and interesting work.

  36. naviomelo on April 16th, 2008 2:41 am

    When I first started reading this site, I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. It made me think about things that I really didn’t want to think about. I wanted to be able to enjoy the team and my passion for the game without having to think about the statistical realities that the posts forced me to consider.

    I found that the more I kept reading, it only enriched my enjoyment of the game. I would get even more excited when something that was statistically less likely occurred, sometimes to turn a game on its head in our favor. I work the afternoon shift and I’m relegated to listening to most games on the radio and refreshing the game thread at work to keep up with the conversation.

    I appreciate this site so much. Please, keep the posts and game threads coming.

  37. claskowski on April 16th, 2008 7:24 am

    i read USSM everyday, but, as with every blog i read, i view it through a reader; that means i don’t actually visit the site and never comment. i don’t see why you wouldn’t put up more ads. i love the writing and analysis; that won’t change with ads up. and if more hits would mean more ad revenue for you all, change whatever preferences you have to so that i have to visit the site to read a whole post. i live in dc now, and the nats blog i read does that; i didn’t think i’d actually click the link to visit the site for every post, but i do because i want to read what is there.

    i’d even probably pay a nominal fee — say $5/month to read (especially if it meant that you all could post more often!). i don’t care about posting. it seems like you all have a kinship with LL; maybe you all coule have some sort of package deal where membership to both sites comes at a discount. if you want to make money doing anything, you have to find ways to make people pay; very few people will do it just out of the goodness of their heart. but you have something worth paying for, so people will pay if you make them. don’t be afraid to make them.

  38. scopi14 on April 16th, 2008 7:43 am


    I would like to share with you my thorough enjoyment of your site.

    First, I was unfortunate to be born in Chicago. Cubs fan, I’ll admit. From reading the analysis on your site and the humorous yet passionate posts, I am jealous of the Mariner fan community.

    I have become a fervent fan of many players just by reading USS Mariner. I follow every King Felix start, groan at each Richie Sexson strikeout, and take pride in Doyle’s solo home run last night (I now live in Philadelphia).

    What I like most is the fact that, like many of the people who frequent your site or who enjoy baseball analysis in a manner that is above sports talk radio, you write it as a fan. So there is genuine, palpable pathos when a dunderheaded managerial move is made. There is elation at a well-turned double play. There is consternation in ill-advised free agent signings. But it is peppered with meaningful statistics, sound reasoning, and alternative explanations.

    I prefer writing like this because this is how I experience baseball. Not as the know-it-all columnist nor as the dry statistician, though some value can be gleaned from both. Let me be one to say I appreciate your negativity when it is apt, your positivity when it is warranted.

    Keep up the fantastic work. USS Mariner plays an important role in Seattle fandom.

  39. drewybrew on April 16th, 2008 10:09 am

    I finally decided to register. What I have to say will sound much like what others have already written, but what the heck? I really enjoy USS Mariner. It’s fantastic to have a perspective that isn’t watered down by the Mariners front office, first of all. And though I’ve been a baseball fan my whole life, and even played for 10 years or so, I’ve learned TONS about evaluating teams and talent from USS Mariner.

    There will always be those who confuse pragmatic and realistic evaluation with negativism, but I’d like to think most of us appreciate the analysis on this site with a much more open mind, knowing it’s coming from huge Mariners fans, and that everyone’s goal is a Mariners World Series.

    I check out USS Mariner every day, for news, updates, game analysis, and a little humor. I wouldn’t honestly recommend that you change a thing!

    Thanks for everything.

  40. Evan on April 16th, 2008 11:33 am

    Let me assuage some fears here – I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, and I don’t anticipate USSM will close up shop in the near future. I haven’t talked to Derek about this post, but I’m pretty sure his point wasn’t to raise money. We really aren’t in this for the cash.

    There’s a plan over at LL to buy Jeff Sullivan his annual MLB.TV subscription. Would you accept that, Dave, if we offered it?

  41. coryke on April 16th, 2008 11:52 am

    This post was reason enough for me to register, finally, and drop a comment. The general sentiment in these comments is one of appreciation. Bottom line for me: who cares if I agree with every opinion you share; I read the RSS feed because the writing is great, the analysis is thoughtful, and it makes me think.

    Unfortunately, I moved from Seattle 17 years ago, and until I found this site about a year ago, I felt very disconnected from my favorite team. Now, I get to read insightful commentary on the M’s on a daily basis. Truly… thank you.

    Last thought – you write about all the effort you’ve given for the last several years and end the post with a question of how you could do more?!? Seriously?!? Fuhgetaboutit. I’d ask what we could do, but it seems pretty clear. I know I’m not alone in looking at the comments. It seems like it’s our turn to step up to the plate.

  42. man on soapbox on April 16th, 2008 11:53 am

    I hope you get this post even though I’m about a day late with it. As a writer (although I mostly write fiction) I understand that you two are not doing this gig for the money – unless you’re writing for TV or movies it’s not the most lucrative profession or hobby. However, there is no reason why a site this good should not generate revenue.

    I don’t think ordering a whole bunch of swag is a good idea – too much overhead and then you really would have to promote it heavily. Some items might be hits, others might not sell at all.

    I don’t think putting up advertising is completely necessary although it is one solution.

    I don’t think creating a subscription service for posting is a good idea (and I get the sense that you guys don’t either.)

    Here is what I propose:

    Someone, 100 or so posts above me, suggested doing a campaign like NPR or PBS, which is the ticket.

    Pick a two week period sometime during the season, (perhaps over the all-star break) and in every post and every game thread remind people that this is their only chance throughout the year to support you guys and the site, and that you will not be asking or accepting donations at any other time. Doing it in such a way tackles the biggest issue – people love to procrastinate. When we (the readership) know our window to show you (Derek and DMZ) some love is limited, people will magically spring to action. Also, you won’t have to feel sleazy about constantly asking for alms, because it’s limited to a predetermined time period.

    There should also be a target that you want to reach and if you reach it before the two weeks are up, call the fund raiser.

    During this two week period have 4 (or potentially more) ‘levels’ of sponsorship. 1st level – $5-40; 2nd level $40-80 and fans get Derek’s book; 3rd level $80-120 and fans get a sweet USSM sweatshirt; 4th level $120+ and fans get to go to a game in decent seats and maybe the Elysian or Pyramid breweries before with the two of you. Again, this would give people incentive to give more rather than less, but allow virtually anyone in the readership community to lend as much support as they feel they can/should offer.

    Logistically, I would wait until the two week pledge drive was over to buy the baseball tickets and the hoodies(so you know how many to get) .

    Then you guys should throw up a thank you post listing the screen names of everyone who donated, because everyone loves recognition after all.

    That’s all. I would be more than happy to help with logistics as I’m sure would others.

  43. peterm on April 16th, 2008 1:20 pm

    hey guys,

    i lurk here and rarely post comments. here are my thoughts.

    you guys have a great site. i visit once a day. if it is a subscription site, i would not pay for it. sorry, there are other places and blogs i can read for this info. plus, as soon as you block your site from the general public a new blogger will pop up with info like yours for free. its the nature of the capitalism beast!

    your avenue for revenue is through advertising. you should have advertising galore on here. you should talk to the guys at yeah the site looks like nascar on the web. but, the content is so great it doesnt matter. you should have banners everywhere. if it annoys some people than send them to a secondary site that doesnt have ads and they pay a monthly subscription.

    also, you should consider selling regular ebooks. preseason preview, mid-season report card, future forty, etc. i think you would bring in money from that side as well. i might buy one of those.

    again, your content is great, so throw a crapload of ads on here and see what happens.

  44. jasonmcgillie on April 16th, 2008 1:42 pm

    Agreed with the idea of having a annual or twice yearly fund drive.

    “For just $99 you get this great USSM tote bag…”

  45. Alan on April 16th, 2008 6:25 pm

    I don’t comment often, but you’re site is required daily reading for me. Thanks for all you do. I don’t have any complaints or suggestions, I just enjoy the site. I think its made me a smarter baseball fan, or at least made me aware of different ways to look at the game.

    Thanks for all you do!

  46. skipj on April 16th, 2008 7:01 pm

    First, I love the site. Daily visitor in and out of season. 2nd on ‘My Favorite’s’.

    I started my working life at 11 years old and the last time anyone wrote me a paycheck I was 17. I have been self-employed for the past 31 years.

    I find it INCONCEIVABLE that a site like this, with the daily unique visitor draw struggles for funds: this is do to philosophy, not opportunity. If I had the talent and ability to create this site, it would be a money maker.

    You guys swing a bigger bat than you can handle. Bavasi shows up for your events because he’s nice guy? ( Well, he is, ran into him on opening day, offered him a bite of my Polish sausage.). He shows up because you drive informed baseball commentary in the Northwest. Guys, you way underate your value.

    So many obvious sponsors. Newspapers have kept advertising and reporting seperated for years. Why not you?

    1.Mariners. Click here for great ticket deals.(Hint: cut a deal.)
    2.Every bar and restaurant around Safeco. Click here for coupons.
    3.Parking. Click here to pay for convenient parking in advance.
    4.Stub Hub. See #1.
    5. Every single Mariners advertiser is appealing to the fan base. You influence part of the fan base.

    Geez, how hard is this? You seem to not want to approach your success in an entrepeneurial manner and MAKE MONEY.

    I’ll pay you for this site ownership and pay you for posting. Y’all have my e-mail.

    Thanks again for all that you’ve created.


  47. Le Noir Faineant on April 16th, 2008 10:18 pm

    I am a life-long Yankees fan (3rd generation), and don’t really care about the Mariners. I found your blog while trying to find the Looney Tunes episode where Buggs Bunny takes on the Gas House something or others, and found your analysis of the game (one of the best pieces I’ve read on the net, by the way. I’ve read your blog semi-regularly ever since, and I hope it stays fun for you because you have one of the best baseball blogs out there. It’s too bad you love one of the most backward anti-sabermetric organizations in MLB, but I wish you and the Mariners well. Outstanding work. Ignore the fans who think you hate the Mariners because of your criticism; I don’t think they really know how to read.

  48. Say Hey on April 17th, 2008 10:29 pm

    you got the donate button up. Cool. The users have spoken!!

  49. Merrill on April 18th, 2008 8:04 am

    Nothing wrong with ads, man. Nothing wrong with earning money for your work. Ads make the newspaper business run. No ads, no papers. No one thinks they are “sellouts,” or whatever silly thing people want to call them.

    It’s not a compromise, in my book. A compromise is when ads determine or influence content. So long as that is not happening, you and Dave et. al. are not compromising. So stop being silly and make some money! Y’all deserve it.

  50. dbroncos31 on April 24th, 2008 12:48 am

    I rarely post here, but I probably stop at USSM at least 5 times a day. I spend 90% of my time on the Internet between here and LL. I have become a much more knowledgeable fan of baseball thanks to you guys. Your Future Forty updates are spectacular because in New York and Philly it is very hard to follow the M’s let alone their prospects. The post on how to evaluate pitching is one of the best and most informative works I have ever read. All of the content you guys provide should be required reading for any baseball fan. I am a college student and money is tight, so I would prefer it if you guys would use ads and donations to make it run. However, if I had to pay for a subscription I would because the content that you guys provide is worth the money.

    Keep up the good work, you guya are much appreciated.

    PS. I just donated so hopefully you can enjoy a few beers on me.

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