At some point tomorrow morning, The Faceoff Circle, in its current incarnation, will become a year old. At least, it will in the public eye – the site originally launched with a tweet and an article on August 4th, 2017. Time has flown by pretty quickly, with a lot of different emotions now than there were on launch day. With that in mind, I figure now is as good of a time as ever to address how things have gone, where I’m at, and how the site plans to move forward.
Is It Everything I Hoped For?
To be bluntly honest: I don’t think I fully knew what I was getting myself into a year ago.
The decision to go solo after years of writing at many of your favourite networks and blogs was one that came with a lot of emotion, and with that, a jolt of short-term adrenaline. It was a freeing experience that made me feel like I was fast-tracking myself to a permanent, great headspace, where I would be able to commit myself to grand dreams and catapult a new platform to great heights quickly and without much help.
Naturally, that adrenaline quickly wears off, you realize that everything that not everything you wanted to do from the start was going to come effortlessly, and more importantly, getting away from the desk makes you realize that working yourself to death wasn’t the only item on your “getting your life back together” checklist.
So, there’s a lot that comes with that. The content was sporadic, social media was essentially a ghost town outside of article links, and I wasn’t entirely sure where to go with the platform. The good news is that most were very patient with me in that stretch, which afforded me the freedom to get much of the outside distraction sorted. Having breathing room again was a big relief that I was happy to have, and it’s rubbed off on the work I’ve put out recently as I’ve begun to dive back into regular routine.
Commitment to the Paywall
The Faceoff Circle has always had a subscription option, but there wasn’t much incentive to actually use it for most of the site’s first few months. I wasn’t putting out a ton of locked content, partially because I wasn’t putting out my usual amount of work to begin with, and partially because I felt the need to develop a regular base of readers on here.
Again, not a perfectly prepared situation that sounded better as a bullet point than it was in practice.
That changed in May when Charlie, my dog that many of you grew to know and love, had a fatal bout with bone cancer. That came with hefty bills & expenses, and I locked the site up with a conclusion/re-evaluation date of the end of July, feeling more comfortable with doing extra work to make the expenses back than I did with doing a fundraiser.
While subscriptions didn’t come particularly close to paying off his expenses (something I was prepared for, thankfully), it did have the byproduct of helping me establish some sort of consistency and a model for the site. Post frequency is up, readership is up, and membership is up; last month, in particular, was a banner month for the site with the advent of the “Happy Hour” model, which gives readers 60-90 minutes to read an article for free before it gets locked back up for members only.
Given the success of this all around (for readers, subscribers, and myself) and the hope to make this site into something more than it is presently the Happy Hour -> Locked model will remain moving forward. I will still put out occasional free content (Mailbags, introductions to multi-post projects, small pieces that are basically “hey look at this video/chart I want to have a permanent spot”, etc), but locked articles will become my standard moving forward.
Since I did give a July 31st timeframe, though, I do think it’s only fair to release some of the content from that May-July window that came before the introduction of Happy Hour. The following posts, as such, will be free to read for the next week:
- Who are the NHL’s top line matching coaches?
- On Igor Ozhiganov, and the case for tempered expectations
- Par Lindholm: A bigger risk than advertised, but still a worthwhile add
- Which Leafs might Lou Lamoriello target this summer?
- Examining what the Leafs gained, and subsequently lost in Mark Hunter
- Why the KHL makes sense for Eemeli Räsänen
- What should the Leafs do with Frederik Andersen’s workload?
- Who should be the Leafs’ backup goaltender next season?
- Leafs find safe, sensible solution in short-term extension for Carrick
What I’d Like To Improve In 2018/19
Without falling into the trap of over committing again, here are a few general things I’d like to accomplish in the upcoming season:
- First and foremost, the plan is to write more this year. Break periods were nice, and I’ve got little to no intention of being the 2-3 articles a day, every day guy again any time soon, but I’ve enjoyed getting back into a rhythm again. I want to focus on doing more deep dives into players and teams, try to touch on more teams and more leagues, and see if there are some different angles I can take with my analysis. I’ve already started with this a bit over the past couple of weeks/months and I’d like it to continue.
- At some point, I plan on sitting down and figuring out what I want to do with the site’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram presences. They’re pretty clearly going to waste right now, particularly the Instagram, but I’m sure that can be turned around with some effort. That might be something that gets tackled closer to the start of the season, though.
- I’d like to look into how I can use the free-to-read side of the site to help others grow their own presences. This is tricky because one has to find the balance between legitimately helping people build a buzz and gain exposure, and taking advantage of free/cheap labour. I’ve had many people reach out to me about volunteering over the past year, and I think there’s a way to approach this properly, but having been on many sides of this die before, I want to be sure its done tactfully.
- On a similar-ish vein, I’d like to make myself more open to collaboration this year. I was more closed off last year than I’ve pretty much ever been, and on most days that was probably the correct call for where my mind was at, but I’m definitely open to participating more in the community again, be it with answering any questions in my niche for your articles/projects, offering up the odd guest blurb, making a cameo on a podcast/radio show, or anything in between. I miss being as engaged as I used to be and want to get back to it.
There’s more in mind, but those are the core four points I’m focused on looking ahead. If you have any ideas of your own for where the site should head in the future, though, I’m all ears: you can leave a comment here, drop a line through the contact form, DM me on twitter, or send me an email and I’ll do my best to get to everyone’s suggestions.
A Special Offer
To celebrate the anniversary of the site while acknowledging the long-term shift in the viewing model, I’m offering a temporary discount on the cost of membership. If you decide to join the site today, you can use the discount code “BIRTHDAY” to bring the first month of a monthly subscription down to $1 (reg. $5), or the first year of an annual subscription down to $20 (reg. $25).
This isn’t something you will see regularly from me – while “it’s always on sale” is a model that most newspapers and bigger digital media outlets thrive on, those platforms aren’t my competition and I don’t have any plans on making them into competition, so I have no plans to copy their plans. This is more of a thank you to those who have followed along for the past year, and a chance to give those who were hoping the site to return to free-to-read at the end of July a chance to try out the new format.
With all of that said, I appreciate everyone’s continued support, and look forward to seeing how the site grows into next season!
Until next time,
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