Wednesday, September 3, 2008

In Search of Feedback

I basically write this blog for free. Ultimately, I'd love to pull a True Hoop and land some cushy, full time blogger gig at a major media outlet, but that sort of thing doesn't happen every day. In between those extremes are the things most bloggers have to think about from time to time: whether to take ads, whether to pursue some sort of blog network affiliation, how much and how often to redesign the site, etc. etc.

I've resisted those sorts of things in the past mostly because they don't really change the game for me in any relevant way. The meager ad revenue I would likely realize isn't going to change the fact that I have to put my lawyer pants on every day, and most affiliation opportunities out there don't seem to present many advantages. Yeah, Blogspot is pretty low rent, but it has worked thus far. And let's face it: I'm lazy, so really sprucing up the joint has always seemed like a daunting task.

But ad and affiliation opportunities keep popping up, and the longer I go on, the better some of them look. To that end, I'm thinking about making a couple of changes around here. But before I do anything, I'd like your thoughts. Specifically:
  • Would some ads turn you off? I'm not talking about pop ups or anything really ugly, but it could be something a tad more obvious than AdSense text ads. I'll admit that I'm not plugged into the CW on this these days. There was a time when ads seemed anathema to all that was good and holy on the Internet, but that's practically ancient history. Still, I get a little irked when I see a ton of ads show up on a site that previously had none, and I'd like to get your thoughts on that as well.

  • Would housing this blog on a sports/sports blog network a la MVN, YardBarker, Bleacher Report etc. (those are only examples) be something that would bug you? I would obviously never put it anywhere that would compromise the editorial voice of ShysterBall -- and I'd almost certainly keep the name and redirect urls to wherever I may go -- but that kind of move would inevitably change the look and feel of the blog, and I'm curious how people feel about that.
I realize that this is a bit obsessive on my part and that many of you will respond with "do whatever the hell you want, Craig," but I am interested in hearing what you have to say. My joke this morning notwithstanding, running ads or what have you is not a survival move on my part, and in a lot of ways I could take it or leave it. It's going to sound like a pander, but it's the truth: ultimately I write this blog for you guys and take an immense amount of joy from the fact that almost everyone around here is smart and thoughtful and polite. As such, I'd be really upset if I alienated anyone by needlessly and perhaps ruinously changing our happy little baseball backwater.

So let me know what you think. Feel free to be anonymous if you want. Feel free to email me if you don't want to write something in the comments. Feel free to call me a whiny flaky wussbag for even worrying about such things in the first place. But I would like to hear from you.



Michael said...

Hey Craig, if you're really that serious about this blog and you want to make this some sort of secondary side-gig profesionally, going for ad revenue would be a decent thing to do.
The extent of my patience with ads, personally, probably ends with what Tim does at MLBTR.

Mike said...

I read your blog through a feed reader, only clicking through when I want to leave a comment or copy a link to a post. So, ads or being part of a network won't fundamentally change my ShysterBall experience.

It's nice that you're currently part of the Google/Blogger network, in that it's easy to leave comments. I've never left a comment on a Cardboard Gods post, for example, because I'm too lazy to register at the Baseball Toaster network.

Levi Stahl said...

Ads wouldn't bother me unless you were, say, taking product placements for lousy players. "Hey, general managers, you should really check out so-and-so. He hit .330 in late-and-close situations last year!"

Dharma Bum said...

I agree with Mike. I don't mind ads at all, but I do enjoy reading the full RSS feed and I wouldn't like it if that went away. I know it's possible to put ads at the bottom of that and again, it doesn't bother me at all.

Travis M. Nelson said...


Depends on what you'd like to go with, but in general, I don't think people mind ads too much. I hadn't seen MLBTR in a while, but it's gotten pretty innundated with blinking ads and banners and crap. My own site, for the most part, has text links and a few images, but (I hope) nothing too obnoxious. Of course, my site has, like 12 whole readers, too, so I may not be the best example.

But speaking from experience, taking on ads was a great move for me. I was, for a while, making a couple of grand a month off of them. Not enough to retire with, but better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, as they say. However, that was before Google changed their PageRank algorithm to penalize run-of-site text links, so now I have a big, effing goose egg in that department, and nobody wants me anymore. If you can come up with something that won't kill your PageRank, you'll be more likely to keep the advertisers coming back.

As for going to MVN or something, I have done that a number of times. My stff has been on MVN, its predecessors, and, plus, the now defunct,, and I've had a few other offers which I did not take.

Currently I double post my writing on Bleacher Report and ArmchairGM, just for the exposure.

I've never given up the blogger site because of my commitments to advertisers, and I've never gotten a dime from any of those other affiliations. My big problem was that I didn't want to have to post everyday, and when baseballoutsider became 360thePitch, and both that and all-baseball, got rolled into MVN, I was suddenly under the gun to have something to say (and the time to say it) every day. Another big problem was that for a while my stuff was being posted on and MVN in its entirety, with just a teaser on Boy of Summer itself, and then their servers bit it and all my work, for like a year, was lost to posterity. Which sucked.

If this is not a problem for you, and if you feel that you're not getting enough exposure on your own here, then go ahead, but you'll have to worry about post frequency, titling your posts so as to attract readers, jockeying for position on their main boards with other writers, and editors chopping up your prose.

A little long-winded (as usual) but those are my thoughts.

Kenny said...

I love the format of your blog. No need to go high tech. This page is easier than, for example, Posnanski's.

No harm in having ads, especially since most will likely be for fantasy baseball anyway.

Whatever you have to do to keep it!

DRH said...

In agreement about the RSS feed. Much prefer the ones (like yours) that I can read in their entirety on google reader. Have no problem with ads.

Anonymous said...


Do whatever the hell you want, Craig.

Seriously, as long as the ads aren't intrusive, there should be no problem. By intrusive, I mean pop ups, new windows, etc..

Anonymous said...


Do whatever the hell you want, Craig.

Seriously, as long as the ads aren't intrusive, there should be no problem. By intrusive, I mean pop ups, new windows, etc..

Craig Calcaterra said...

Levi -- you just gave me a fabulous revenue generation idea.

Coming soon: love letters to Brian Sabean, Corey Patterson, Rick Reilly, and the 2008 Washington Nats!

Alex said...

I think most banner ads to the top and sides of pages are unobtrusive enough, so go for it. What drives me nuts, though, are the ads right in the middle of an article, a la Slate.

I don't know much about those blogger networks, but MVN does bug me. Whenever I follow a link on the only MVN site I read it seems to stay on MVN but show the new site. As a result, if I hit back, it takes me back to the last page I was on before MVN. My vote is that the space and layout you have here is great, so don't change it.

I feel like everyone here is pulling for you to make it big as a blogger, like we're all fans of some minor leaguer who's getting closer and closer to the show. Shyster, if you make it, we all win.

bigcatasroma said...

Three words:

Cost . . . benefit . . . analysis.

If you think the ads or blogging from a different site will enhance the quality for the blog, I'm all for it. If you think it will detract from it, don't do it. For example, if you are looking to bring in more readers, and this can help, go for it. But more readers means more pub, maybe more lewd comments that you have to monitor, etc. Same w/ generating revenue, sports outlet exposure, etc. It's all on you, obviously, but identify one or two goals that would come from this, and then ask, "Is the benefit worth the risk/cost?"

That's all I got.

Matt said...

Hey, As a frequent reader, a few ads wouldn't keep me from coming and reading your stuff, nor would a change of sites. As someone else said, the only way I'd even be slightly bothered by them is if they were in the middle of your text making the posts harder to read.

Also, don't worry, no reader could call you something worse than what you already are...a Buckeye.

Go Blue!

Peter said...

Go for it with the ads, as long as it's not the crazy blinking stuff.

I'm generally not wild about blog networks, but if they're done well I'm not totally opposed.

The main thing I have to add is that you're the one dedicating hours a day to the content on here, so you should do what you think is in your own best interest. Obviously that overlaps with readers' interests, but what I really mean is: Don't worry about people saying you sold out.

Mark said...

Craig, if you can make a little $$ with ads, then I say go for it. Honestly, I either won't see them because they're nicely blocked, or I won't care. (Up to a point, obviously.)

As for taking the site to another host, I can say the only way that would cause me to stop reading was if SB vanished behind a paywall -- the #1 reason why I don't waste my tiem at ESPN's site any more.

mooseinohio said...

There are several items to be considered and most of them have nothing to do with us your readers as long as the site does not fundamentally change (e.g., annoying in your face ads v. subtle in the margin ads, new format to meet the requirements of site you link to or advertisers demands). So while I appreciate your seeking our input the issues you need to truly consider are more of a personal nature and relate to why you do this.

Travis makes some really salient points about issues you may face if you either accept ads or link to another site and such issues are directly related to why you do what you do. Is autonomy and complete editorial freedom a core feature you can never be without? If so maybe not the right choice as those you are link with may place demands on you, the content, and the features/design of the blog that you cannot live with. Is there a deeper desire to truly make writing about baseball a fulltime career? If yes, then maybe developing revenue streams allows you to begin transitioning from lawyer as vocation to writer as vocation with minimal, hopefully no, impact on the finances and being the provider you currently are. Is writing this blog enough for you as a baseball fan or do you desire more (e.g. to be considered a voice of the people or you believe your perspective/take on baseball brings people together in a new way)? If so, is this the right avenue to achieve that goal or maybe it a distraction disguised as an opportunity. Those answer lie within you and while we can provide some support to whatever decision you make understand that our thoughts are only the evidence you will use to corroborate what lies within your heart to do.

Maybe you need to take a little vacation to figure things out.

Larry (Boston) said...

Hi Craig and other Shysterball Fans,
I think what attracted me to the blog originally is the fact that you're not some kind of sports writer wannabe, but just a regular guy (ok, well, a lawyer, but we'll excuse that for now) who wants to write. The blog is kind of simple, uncomplicated, and stands by itself.

Where it's hosted... I could care less. But the simplicity is what draws me. The CONTENT is the value. I'd rather not wade through ads, portals, or anythying else, just get my ShysterFix for the day and move on with what I'm SUPPOSED to be doing.

Call me Luddite... I resist change.

Craig Calcaterra said...

Moose -- while my vacation was fun from a family and personal perspecitve, it was an absolute nightmare to the blogger in me. I get the shakes if I don't post at usual intervals, and there was nowhere to get a fix. The horror . . . the horror . . .

Seriously though, thank you everyone for the thoughtful feedback, both here in the comments and in the private emails you've sent. I expected nothing less from you all, and everything everyone has said has been really useful.

As for what's going to happen around here: immediately speaking, nothing. Too much to do in the very short term. But rest assured, I will give everyone advance notice of any changes that happen.

marc in Tallahassee said...


Go with the ads. Besides baseball blogs, I'm an avid reader of political blogs. I've watched them change over the years, mainly by adding many more ads. I take that as a sign of progress. It's the content that keeps people going back.

I think we'll put up with just about anything as long as the content remains top notch. Besides, if those ads increase the chances that you'll one day be doing this full time, then we'll just have more great content to read everyday.

The Common Man said...

Hey Craig, This is your blog and I think you should get to do what you want with it. As long as you keep providing excellent content, I'll keep reading.

Dre said...

as long as you pick a site that Google Reader picks up, I'm cool with any changes

JRJ said...

Ads are the web's "tip jar." Go for it.

Mr. Thursday said...

My only hesitation about joining a blogging ring is that some of them don't allow RSS subscriptions to the author. If you were to end up somewhere where, in order to read you, I'd also have to read 2 dozen other guys, frankly, I'd probably stop reading Shysterball altogether.

Baseball Musings website is very ads/links heavy. Distractingly so, sometimes. Still, the content is excellent. If you think getting ads brings you a step closer to the TrueHoop dream, then go for it, I say.

Justin Zeth said...

I'd prefer to just pay $20 or $30 a year to read ShysterBall than to deal with ads.

But I just hate ads. Mostly because usually the site owner/blogger/etc. doesn't really have direct control over what kinds of ads appear. So inevitably, it starts off looking OK, and then after a couple months the extremely obnoxious Flash-driven bright, flashing, moving and/or noise-generating ads start appearing.

That said, of course if I'm in your shoes, Craig, I take the money. If ads get bad enough that I give up on the place, the quality's still plenty strong enough to bring in a hundred more fans to replace me.

Justin Zeth said...

Haven't seen this brought up by anybody yet, but I'm guessing it's also easier to sell the wife on the time you spend blogging if you're getting a not-insignificant income from it.

Alex said...

As I am using google reader, it doesn't matter as long as I get the full post in the feed. I wouldn't recommend going to one of the blog clearing houses though; I find it easy to loose track of those for some reason. I think there is something distinctively appealing about having your own space.

Anonymous said...

I have no idea of the capital to be gained from a couple of ads on your page but if you can find the slightest use from the revenue from a couple of small to moderate ads on your blog I say go for it. I believe your readers wouldn't mind a couple ads. So long as they don't eat up too much of the content we read, go for it. And of course no popups or evil ad-ware BS. Use the extra income to put gas in your tank, er, maybe half a tank...

John said...

Since you asked...

Ads are no problem, either adsense or tasteful banners (by that I don't mean content but rather size and obtrusiveness). Please avoid both flashiness and Flash-iness.

I usually read the feed and click through for the posts I wish to spend time contemplating. Full feeds are essential, but feed ads are fine.

Joining a network like MVN? I think that you're a stronger blogger as an independent. I tend to click though on independents more than networks FWIW.

Keep up the great work.

Skateboard P said...

I say go for it. Good writing is good writing. As long as the content doesn't suffer, I'll keep coming back. And the exposure does help, I think. You get good exposure from guys like Neyer and Law.

I don't even think MLBTR's ads are too intrusive. I just skip over them, they don't bother me a bit. As long as it's not pop-up city, it doesn't bother me.

TLA said...

Craig, your blog is one of the best out there. Obviously, a lot goes into that. I understand that change is inevitable, but I find it refreshing that you blog on google/blogger. I like the layout, I like the lack of ads, but I also like the writing. And to be honest, it's unlikely that I would stop reading because you included ads or moved to another site. With all of that said, if it makes no difference to you, you have to ask yourself why change.

Jason @ IIATMS said...


I missed the rush due to some work committments so sorry I am late to the party.

We've shared a few emails on this subject (for myself, actually).

I'm all for doing what it takes to either/or:
1) Increase your 'net exposure
2) Increase your wallet

The ads won't bring much revenue unless we, the readers, click like mad.

The "less is more" approach here clearly has attracted many people. Content will win the day but bad format/experience will frustrate those you are trying to win as loyal. (I borrowed from this approach but couldn't help adding "things" to give readers more stuff to check out). Just ask Tim at MLBTR about the feedback/chaos that his format change caused.

Once upon a time the Uniwatch blog offered some sort of "subscription" thing to get folks to "contribute" money. If you are looking to boost the wallet a bit, which I don't have a problem with by the way, you should see if there's a widget to install from paypal to take *donations*.

We do this blogging thing for the enjoyment of writing and doing something different than our day jobs. It's labor but a love, too. And I know how appreciative I am to anyone who not only reads but comments....I know you're the same way, to say the least.

If you want to take this to a larger distribution channel that might get you some sort of gig at a bigger shop, go for it. We'll come along for the ride.

Rory said...

No issues with ads as long as they aren't pop up, but I'd rather you not move to another site.

Andy said...

I say go for it. Independence from your full time commitment (at some point in the future) allowing you to focus on writing full time benefits all of us that enjoy reading this blog. Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

I visit every day to see what you have to say and, quiteobviously, I like the site very much just the way it is. That said, I come for the content and pretty much ignore all the windowdressing anyway, so I would continue to visit regardless of ads or different url

Amos said...

Ads: fine.

Affilliation: fine

The only turn-off: You being edited or muzzled.

By the way, you're a good enough writer that you should consider looking into - gasp - print! Print may be dying but if you can get paid for actual freelance writing in an actual publication, preferably one published by a major media chain, you can earn a little extra coin.

Travis M. Nelson said...

I'm inclined to disagree with Jason @ IIATMS's comment that the ads won't be worth much unless your readers actually click on them. While that may be true with AdSense or Amazon ads, it's not with text links like you get from ticket brokers and oddsmakers. Those guys (many of them, anyway) pay a fee for a certain number of links over a certain time, , and for a site like yours that actually has a significant readership and a solid PageRank, you should be able to get a good price for those.

I have made some money at this, but not enough to quit my day job. David Pinto, on the other hand, has done exactly that, and when I asked him about "affiliate" sites, where you get paid based on click-thru rates, he said he doesn't make much of anything off of them.

The moral of the story is: get them to pay you up front.

If you're interested, drop me a line. I can tell you how to put a second column in next to your blogroll for the ads (we have the same template) and I'll give you some email addresses for advertisers.

Jason @ IIATMS said...


I agree with the oddsmakers stuff. They had paid me to bury links and stuff. Not enough to really make a difference, but it was nice to actually see ANY income.

Fair point.

Johnny Wills said...

Go for it. You deserve it. We won't care.

melodyjbf said...

To be honest, I don't like ads and would certainly prefer they stayed away if it were up to me. That said, it wouldn't stop me from coming to your page, because I enjoy your work. But I have to admit, the trend of sticking advertising in every free inch of space, cyber- and otherwise, gets frustrating after a while. It's one important reason why Wrigley Field is one of the best parks in baseball-- barely any ads to clutter things up. Just the beautiful simplicity of a classic ballpark that's almost 100 years old.

Pete Ridges said...

Do whatever you want, Craig...

don't forget, the main reason people hated web adverts was because they increased the page download time so much, in like 1996. Not so much of a factor now.