By 2007, the realm of Yankees blogs was pretty well established. People had gravitated towards Bronx Banter, or Replacement Level, or Pinstripe Alley. Almost everyone read NoMaas.
Or so it seemed to us, the people reading and commenting on these blogs. No other team had nearly as many blogs. The best had maybe two solid ones. Then there was SBNation, which had a blog covering each MLB team. Most Valuable Network also claimed widespread readership.
Where would a new competitor fit in?
My personal Yankees blog attracted tens of readers in its best months. Moving to another Yankees blog, the MVN one, put me in front of a greater number of readers, but it still felt small. Pinstripe Alley, the SBNation Yankees blog, attracted far more comments. From what I knew then, commenters were the majority of readers.
It’s nice to be wrong in these cases. Sick of the clickbait style of writing the higher ups at MVN imposed, Ben, the founder of the Yankees blog there, and I decided to start our own venture. We decided to also bring along the Yankees minor league blogger on MVN, to add some variety.
That decision alone can be considered my proudest moment. We walked away from a growing network with a decent audience to start something on our own — something both Mike (the minor league writer) and I had failed at in the past.
Why did we make this decision? We wanted to control our own destinies. Mainstream sportswriting seemed clumped into two categories: bland factual updates, and sensationalist columns. Once we saw the same thing happening at MVN, we knew that the profit-driven mindset of the founder and his crew would only make matters worse for us.
Plus, it wasn’t like we were getting paid anyway.
Crazily enough, we attracted an audience by being honest with our readers. Some readers accused us of pushing a sabermetric-driven agenda, but that’s ridiculous. Perhaps I’d bought in on sabermetrics, but I had no vested interest in promoting it. Even a few years later, when I joined sabermetric thought leaders FanGraphs, it wasn’t about advancing some agenda. It was about expressing the thoughts I had about baseball.
That’s why creating RAB was my proudest moment. Because we invested our own time, our own effort, and our own ideas into something. We could have lobbied the SBNation Yankees blog to take us. It would have increased our readership even further. But we did it independently.
Our reward came in trickles. By mid-2007 we had enough of a readership to make a little money off ads. I sent an email in 2007 that connected me to one of the highest trafficked baseball blogs. More importantly, it connected me with the owner, who shared many of his successful revenue tactics. In 2008 we doubled readership and caught the attention of the YES Network, the Yankees’ broadcast partner. From there we forged a relationship that eventually turned into a lucrative partnership. It exists today.
We were lucky, in that we all had day jobs and could let the site grow organically. But luck factors into the success of anything. We had convictions and stuck to them. We worked hard to make the site appealing. We explored new paths, and continue to explore today.
Yes, launching River Avenue Blues ranks among my proudest moments.