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Site Stuff: Building from experience

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Calgary's two newest downtown skyscrapers. - DEJAN KOVACEVIC / DKPS

CALGARY, Alberta -- A lot’s changed in the sports news industry, but this hasn’t: Nothing beats breaking a story.

And in turn, nothing beats experience.

We were reminded of both in the best way possible this week when Dale Lolley reported exclusively on the Steelers’ refusal to pay Le’Veon Bell for exempt time, a piece that generated more readership than any non-live-file for us all year. It’s currently at 50,826 and counting. And that’s to say nothing of all the free mentions of the site by other news outlets, which, hopefully, spreads the word about us to more Steelers fans.

These things aren’t happenstance. Dale’s been on the Steelers beat for 25 years. He’s built up sources at all levels of the organization and around the NFL. That doesn’t mean you break every little thing — no one does that — but it does offer a built-in advantage that’s impossible to replicate without significant time and experience.

Since I launched this site four-plus years ago, a lot of approaches have been taken toward hiring. And because this venture was the first of its kind on the continent, it’s not as if there was some kind of playbook. This was all new. And it felt, particularly at the time, that it had to keep breaking molds, that everything had to feel bold and daring.

Well, a funny thing happened along the way: Our readers kept demonstrating to us, in so many ways, that what they valued most was expert-level news and analysis. And within that, they valued that it came from someone they’d trust.

I’m proud of having hired Lance Lysowski as a young reporter hungry to make a name for himself. I’m prouder still of him for having done exactly that and having become someone you trusted on a major-league beat. But the fact is, there aren’t many of Lance out there. Believe me, we’ve looked over the years. We’ve tried. Because our readers — rightly — demand coverage without training wheels, finding that young type who fits has been an immense challenge.

Under Dale as editor, our staff has shifted, maybe by coincidence, maybe not, toward experience. The hiring of John Perrotto was the obvious recent one. The assigning of Chris Bradford to the Penguins’ beat is another. Matt Grubba’s not exactly a newbie to the business, either. Between those reporters and myself, we’ve now got a ton of experience, including at the specific beats and, in my case, at covering all of them.

There’s a kind of learning curve here for experienced reporters, too. We do things in our own way. Chief among those is constant communication with our readers. That can’t be forced. That can’t be phony. If someone can’t or won’t do that — and it’s happened — the job becomes really hard for them because the readers won’t connect. We’ve also had veteran reporters who’ve been awesome at this even though it wasn’t part of their jobs at newspapers. They just genuinely like it.

The staff's still got youth, too, of course: Matt Sunday, Taylor Haase, Chris Benson and Chris Carter, as well as contributors Jarrod Prugar, Matt Welch and David Golebiewski are all youngsters by comparison, and they still outnumber the rest of us. That helps us in many ways, not least of which is reaching out via social media.

You know, like fire-breathing Evgeni Malkin:

I was warned very early in this company’s history that nothing would be harder or more stressful than finding the right people and, from there, the right mix. A lot’s happened since then, to say the least. And because we were the first to do this and have had so many eyes watch us from everywhere, it feels like every change, large or small, became a big deal. I get that. To an extent, I appreciate and welcome it. It means, for sure, that we matter more than those places where such changes barely get noticed.

I’ve thought about this a lot on this long Canadian trip, and I wanted to share with you: I like where we are. I know my wife Dali, who’s never satisfied with anything, called a couple days back to tell me much the same. I know Dale likes where we are.

Most important by far, we hope you do, too.

SPECIAL THANKS

Our main goal here is to serve our readers with fresh, interesting stories on a daily basis. But, at our heart, we're still a news gathering organization. It's where we all got our start.

Word of mouth is always big with that. So we wanted to thank you all for the likes, shares and retweets you give us on a weekly basis. You all are our lifeblood. But to continue to bring you all that we do, we need to continue to grow as a community.

Between people's amazing purchases of veterans’ gifts and just letting everyone know about the site, you all have been great. And Christmas is just around the corner (hint, hint). What better gift for a loved one than a subscription to the site? -- Dale Lolley

PUSH FOR 500 VETERANS

• Inspired by one reader's contribution of 100 annual subscriptions to our Veterans Fund, we're aiming to build onto that and achieve 500 by Veterans Day. The holiday itself is Nov. 11, so we've got a little more than a couple weeks.

Yesterday's requests by veterans: 6
Yesterday's matching contributions: 0
Total matches: 119
Purchases still needed for 500 goal: 381

ALL-PURPOSE JAVA

We'll soon be freshening up our Morning Java videos, with an emphasis on each episode offering a variety of content as opposed to single-team concepts. And within that, the reporters most associated with those concepts will be the ones doing those segments, which we also think will help the quality. Expect these to start very soon, possibly in the coming week.

We'll also have a Western Canada edition of our new 'The Road Team' video series. That should be up Monday morning. -- DK

BOOK IN THE WORKS!

Wait, we're producing a book? To be sold at Christmas time?

We'll share soon enough. -- DK

WE'RE LISTENING

• Some readers -- and I was one of them -- experienced these super-annoying ads on the mobile browser version of the site. We spent a couple days trying like crazy to fix it and, when the problem still wouldn't go away, we simply turned off all ads. That obviously hurts the bottom line, but it was worth it. Eventually, we did find out which company was responsible and completely eliminated that company from our process. — DK

• Our new login/alert system is ... not yet there. It was about to get installed by Build In Motion three weeks ago, but unforeseen changes in one of our base platforms delayed the installation. The aim of this fix is to have readers logging in less often, but it's also supposed to dramatically cut down on Android crashes. -- DK

• Can't stress this enough, but use the app. It's where we put almost all of our tech resources, it's got the best version of our Live Feed, and it's free:

itunes googleplay

SEEKING BUSINESS PARTNERS

Currently available for sponsorships: (Some) Steelers, (some) Penguins, Pitt, Duquesne, Penn State, West Virginia, Buried Treasure, Carter's Classroom, Friday Insider, Stats 'N' At, Wilkes-Barre Watch and Wheeling Watch. This is our updated media kit for much more detail. If you're interested in connecting with our large, passionate following, email me at Dali@DKPittsburghSports.com. -- Dali Kovacevic

BACK TO BUSINESS

• Subscriptions are at 37,524. That's plus-50 over the past week.

• We had 470,162 page views over the past week. Our most-hit article -- exempting live files -- was Dale's exclusive about the Steelers refusing to pay Le'Veon Bell at 50,826. The Steelers accounted for 82,628 of our page views, the Penguins 76,521, the Pirates 11,677, the Riverhounds 6,084, Pitt 5,178, Penn State 2,730, Duquesne 1,061, West Virginia 977.

• We're at 29,210 (+3) page likes on Facebook, we're at 28,944 (+39) followers on Twitter, and we're at 9,016 (+2) followers on Instagram. These figures are just for our official company account on each platform, not for us as individuals.

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