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Introducing a business partnership with Penguins

We’re now officially business partners with the two-time Stanley Cup champions.

CHRIS BENSON / DKPS

We’re now officially business partners with the five-time Stanley Cup champions.

This week, we and the Penguins completed an agreement in which we’ll exchange advertising: We’ll have our updated TV ad airing on AT&T SportsNet during some of the team’s non-game programming, we’ll have a newly recorded radio ad during the pregame shows on 105.9 the X and the entire Penguins Radio Network, and we’ll also have a digital presence on the team’s official site and app. In exchange, you’ll see their advertising on our site and app.

Here, if you haven’t seen it, is our updated TV ad, all 29.5 seconds of it:

These kinds of partnerships often raise questions when one of the parties is a media company. But they really shouldn’t. As one especially great man in the organization is fond of saying, there’s a “church and state” separation on these things. Business is business, and journalism is journalism. They won’t do us any news favors, and we won’t do them any.

All four professional teams in town have deals like this with various entities. The Riverhounds, in particular, have had one with us for a couple years now, and they’d be the first to tell you it hasn’t affected how critical our coverage can be when it’s warranted. Nothing changes on the coverage front. It’s aimed at mutual business benefit.

That said, you’d better believe we’re proud to be partners with a group of people on the Penguins’ business end who know what they’re doing. It’s taken a lot of back and forth to get this done — it began about a month before the most recent Cup — and all of our dealings with everyone at their HQ have been beyond tremendous.

The only real holdup was that we wanted Phil Kessel to become our new poker columnist, and they wouldn’t budge.

I know, right?

FOOTBALL/HOCKEY BEATS

Judging from some comments over the past couple weeks, there seems to be some uncertainty about some elements of our beat structure, so I’d like to use this space to clarify:

Dale Lolley is our Steelers beat writer. Christopher Carter is our Steelers Xs and Os analyst. I help on the beat, primarily on games.

Lance Lysowski is our Pirates beat writer. When spring training rolls around, Matt Gajtka and I will help out quite a bit, as there are 162 games and all that.

• We cover the Penguins as a group, meaning Matt, myself and Katie Brown. This is the part that seems to have been misunderstood, although I did describe it exactly that way when Katie came aboard a month ago. We’ve also had Taylor Haase and Sara Civian involved in the coverage. It isn’t about any one person, and that goes for me, as well.

This was something that Matt and I had decided together shortly before the season. The Penguins are our greatest draw, and they might always be that, so the thinking was that he and I would put forth most of our efforts over the course of the year on hockey. Not all, not even the majority, but most. In doing so, we also wanted to make sure we had all aspects of the beat covered, so we kept adding people to the coverage until we felt all facets were addressed.

So, who’s the Penguins beat writer?

I’ll give the same answer here that we’ve given to the team itself: All three of us.

We’ve been really happy with the result so far, and we’ve been equally happy with the feedback on it. This isn’t about whose byline is on what story. It’s about the overall coverage.

WESTWARD CANADA HO!

That said, both Katie and I are covering the Penguins’ long, long trip that begins for us with a flight this morning to Minneapolis and continues through Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

I had this trip booked for myself quite some time ago — and, most regrettably, it means I’ll miss the Steelers’ game in Detroit — and decided just last week to add Katie to have a little help out there. There’s a good chance she’ll be sending back a Midweek Reader or two along the way.

COLLEGES FARING BETTER

In addition to the highly welcome news that our Pitt coverage now has an exclusive sponsor in the law firm of Bassi, Vreeland and Associates, we’ve also seen a general uptick in page views across the board, this coming about a month after I complained here regarding low numbers for both Pitt and Penn State.

There’s never a scientific way to know why traffic rises, but the past week saw coverage of the Panthers, Nittany Lions and even Duquesne and Robert Morris go up quite nicely. I’ll always give first credit to those executing that coverage — meaning Chris Mueller and Audrey Snyder, of course — but I’ve also seen more retweets on Twitter, more shares on Facebook, and I’d sure like to think that’s been a catalyst.

The RTs and shares really, really help. Can’t stress that enough. So thank you!

PNC INDIANAPOLIS MEETUP!

Yeah, it’s a couple weeks away, but I wanted to drop an early mention that we’ll be having a full-blown subscriber meetup Nov. 11 in downtown Indianapolis, the night before the Steelers and Colts play there. We want to make this one a big one, given the number of readers we know we’ve got in that part of the world!

I’ll also be looking to hook up with readers on this Western Canada trip, but I don’t have dates and times on those yet. Check the Grind, as well as our app alerts, Twitter account and Facebook page for updates.

Check right here for details or to let us know you’re coming!

SELLING THE PLATFORM

The inquiries keep coming from around the country regarding our offer to sell our platform to any journalist who wants to start one of these ventures for themselves, and we’re at the stage where two were just sold and two others are close to launch.

Not going to lie: This has been a big distraction for me, and it’s behind my misstep this past week in failing to properly organize Friday Insider. It won’t be a distraction for long, though, as it’s soon to move into much bigger hands.

If you’re interested: DK@DKPittsburghSports.com

THOSE ORIGINAL LUNATICS

Tracking our renewal rate among the Original Lunatics — meaning the 1,388 readers who bought a three-year subscription at any point in 2014 — is important enough for us that it’s now a staple of Site Stuff:

• We’ve already had 755 of those 1,388 renew, or 54 percent.

• Of the 755 who renewed, 100 upgraded to Lifetime.

• We’re at a 79 percent renewal rate for the 994 who have already reached their expiration date, meaning 699 renewed.  This number is way higher than the 50 percent we had forecast, and we’ll be — very pleasantly — surprised if it stays that high.

If you’re one of those Originals and need instructions on renewing, tap right here.

DOWNLOAD THE APP

If you’re newly subscribed and haven’t yet downloaded our app, we have an Apple and Android version, both free:

itunes

BACK TO BUSINESS

• Subscriptions are at 39,487. That’s a net loss of 15 this week. We’ve kind of kept hovering in this range since July, when the three-year renewal thing kicked in. Sales of new subscriptions remain the same as ever, but the retention rate will always drop the further away from the original signup.

• We’re at 347 in the Lifetime Lunatic category, with none sold this week. If you’re interested in upgrading to any level at any time for any reason, click or tap My Account in the menu, then click or tap Upgrade Subscription. You don’t need to wait until your current subscription expires.

• We’re at 36,326 total active apps in devices. Of that, 27,061 are Apple, 9,261 are Android.

• On company social media, we’re at 28,143 on Twitter26,867 on Facebook8,537 on InstagramTaylor’s asking for help: She wants us to get to 10,000 on Instagram because, once we reach that, she can use that platform to greater benefit for our site.

• We had 211,015 downloads of our DK Sports Radio podcasts for the past 30 days, an average of 7,034 per day. On our new livestream broadcast, we’re averaging 4,250 unique users per day in October.

• Get our free newsletter with a simple signup! We send out an all-new one every Monday-Friday at 6:30 a.m.

• We make mistakes. If you see one, email Typos@DKPittsburghSports.com.

• Anything you need, including lost/forgotten passwords, email us: Help@DKPittsburghSports.com.