As part of our ongoing series looking at media coverage of soccer in the United States, we have explored the various mediums covering the game. In Part I, we took a look at the mainstream media. To read that article, click here. Thereafter, we took a look at sports radio. Subsequently, we took a look at local newspapers. While these media are important, there is no question that the internet is the primary source of soccer coverage and the primary medium used by soccer fans to get their fix. To explore the coverage of soccer on the internet, we spoke with three recognized names in American soccer coverage. Steve Goff of the Washington Post Soccer Insider, Ives Galarcep of Soccer By Ives and Jason Davis of MatchFit USA. Look below for their thoughts on the coverage of soccer on the internet, and check back for more stories in this series.
Footiebusiness.com: Your blog covers soccer on a local, national and international level. What types of stories drive the most traffic (e.g. National Team vs. MLS vs. Red Bulls vs. DC United vs. UEFA)?
Ives Galarcep: National team stories drive the most traffic, followed by MLS stories and Americans Abroad stories. My Q&As and running commentaries are pretty popular as well.
Steve Goff: USA national team drives the most traffic, followed by DC United.
Jason Davis: National Team, by far. It’s clear that my potential audience increases dramatically during periods of USMNT activity, and that inevitably leads to more traffic. It makes sense strictly from a numbers perspective; while a narrow focus might give me a higher profile within a smaller community, the broader national appeal of the National Team give me the ability to attract more readers if my content is good.
FB: Do you pay attention to the sources of traffic on your blog? Do you find that links from other soccer sites drive traffic or do most of your readers go directly to your site? Similarly, do you track which links people use on your site to go elsewhere? Do these factors dictate which stories you cover?
IG: Most of my readers are regulars, with about a quarter coming from other sites. I don’t really track outbound links much though.
SG: Most of my readers come directly to my blog. However, I do receive traffic through secondary sites such as bigsoccer.com and dcunited’s in-house blog. I do not trace the popularity of links that I provide, but based on the number of comments, I have a good idea what’s popular.
JD: Referral links were my lifeblood for a time, and my traffic was almost entirely dependent on whether or not I was linked to by a much more popular site than mine. As time has gone on, I get more direct traffic than I used to, though the links still drive a good amount of my daily hits. The links people follow out aren’t generally something I worry myself with; many of them are referenced news stories, so they aren’t necessarily indicative of anything other than the reader looking for background information. I’m very much an “if it interests me, it will probably interest others” type of writer, so I go with my instincts and try not to over-analyze my traffic, or let things like exit links dictate my content.
FB: How has the blog changed the way you cover soccer? Do your sources act differently when they know a story might be headed for the blog as opposed to a different medium?
IG: As a newspaper writer I was more of a team beat writer who focused on team news and features, with my column allowing me to write about a broader range of subjects. Now, with the site (I’m not a fan of calling it a blog, but that’s the label it will have until I re-design it into a more news site format) I can write about a broader range of topics. With my readership more evenly spread out around the country I have moved away from a New York/New Jersey focused site to a national site. Actually, I moved my coverage to a more national approach and the readership eventually took on that shape. As for sources, I think most folks in the American soccer community realize that my site is read by a pretty big audience so if anything it has made securing interviews easier. There are a few instances where some media relations people don’t quite grasp the power of new media, and are still stuck in the old way of thinking that traditional media (such as newspapers) are king, but more and more people are beginning to understand the power of the internet and the influence of websites like mine.
SG: For better or worse, the blog has become the priority because of its immediacy. Indeed, I always inform someone whether the interview is for the blog or paper/web.
FB: You made a bold decision to blog full time. Has the blog increased in readership since you made that decision? How do you decide what events to cover live?
IG: To give you an idea of the change when I went independent, the best month I ever had traffic-wise on my old newspaper blog was 375K pageviews in a month. My first month with the new site had 750K pageviews. This past summer, we averaged 1.5 million pageviews per month.
FB: Do you have any interest/input into the advertising that appears on the blog? How is the advertising content for your blog decided?
IG: For the first year and a half of the new site I sold all the non-Google ads myself. In the past four months I have begun working with an agency that has been selling ads for me. Most of the advertisers have been soccer specific, or companies looking to target the American soccer fan demographic, which is what my site delivers.
SG: I have no involvement with ads and don’t know the process.
JD: I’m still working on a low enough level that almost all of my advertising comes from affiliate membership, and is therefore commission-based. They drive almost no revenue, but they give the site more of professional image in my mind. I can choose the ads that appear, and obviously attempt to have them match the content of focus of the blog. I do have a few direct partnerships, which obviously guarantee a little money, and I’m hoping to work towards more in the future as long as they don’t compromise the look and feel of the site.
Thanks to Steve Goff, Ives Galarcep and Jason Davis for their thoughts.