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Site Stuff: Day in the life on a big story

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Our hockey staff, way up in the PPG Paints Arena press box Friday night. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

A big day makes up for a small day in this business. Or several small days, for that matter.

And usually, a big day begins with big news.

Friday brought that, for sure, with the Penguins trading Derick Brassard as part of a four-player, three-pick exchange with Florida, so I thought I'd share a bit of background on how we, as a staff, react to that sort of thing.

Chris Bradford was supposed to have a travel day to Toronto, but he was the first to pounce on the announcement and, thus, the main coverage was his. Could have been any of us, obviously, as we're not exactly competing with each other, but the first is the fastest, and our goal with big news -- or any news -- is to get it to you as quickly as possible. Doesn't matter who does it.

From there, a lot of different pieces start moving.

Matt Sunday looks through his Florida game film for photos of the two new players. He finds Jared McCann right away, but it takes him three full sets to find a single, usable frame of Nick Bjugstad. In the interim, Bradford is given a Brassard to hold place.

Taylor Haase immediately and instinctively starts doing the digging. The players' backgrounds. Any interesting histories they might have. She sends an old pic of Bjugstad's uncle, Scott Bjugstad, in a Penguins sweater to our staff text group. She finds advanced analytical charts that compare those players to the ones the Penguins shipped out, but also to their peers. She digs into the salary cap considerations. And everything is shared in a place where Bradford can keep pumping it into the same news file.

Hunter Homistek is mostly concerned about reaching out on social media, connecting our brand to people who don't already subscribe. These are optimal times for that, as we often discuss. (I refer to it as 'When Cutch gets traded' in our meetings.) Hunter carves out -- on his own -- compilation videos of every single goal this season by both newcomers. Those go onto social, but they're also added to Bradford's file.

Same goes for my wife Dali building one of our standard statistical graphics on the newcomers.

Our thinking is that you as the reader are almost certainly more likely to hit that one file at the outset, so we're not spreading stuff out.

Still with me?

OK, cool, because I was sleeping through all this.

No, really, it was my daughter Dara's 18th birthday, and my whole family stayed up the previous night talking, watching movies, making smoothies and a ton of other fun, and I'd never opened so much as an eyelid while all of the above took place. Embarrassing but true.

Anyway, once I pump out a triple-shot to create a little alertness, I start thinking of what I want to write and when. The latter is paramount here because, when big news happens, readers are almost immediately seeking out big opinions. I'm not a fan of that approach, but I understand it. I seek out the same thing on subjects that interest me. So my compromise is the mini-column, or something that's basically a place-holder until I can gather more information.

I wrote up one and published it about three hours after the trade happened, including a tag at the end to inform readers I'd try to do a heck of a lot better once at the arena for the game, ideally with an understanding that this is literally a first impression. My view could, arguably should, morph with whatever I learn later.

So, Bradford heads to Toronto, hoping to beat any snow to the Buffalo/Canada border. Taylor, who's in the lead role for the game coverage, heads to the arena for Mike Sullivan's 5 p.m. pregame briefing. I'm waiting by my laptop to take her texts from the Sullivan briefing -- the new players' arrival, the starting goaltender, and Evgeni Malkin's surprising injury -- and send them to you as app alerts the instant she relays them. She's so fast with this sort of thing that she handles the social media while she's still standing there with Sullivan.

Sunday and I get to the arena, and we both separately see Dana Heinze hanging out by the back dock of the arena during warmups. That's not where an equipment manager usually is at that time. Taylor puts on her live file that neither Bjugstad nor McCann is on the ice. She's already up in the press box. Sunday and I both separately put on the same live file that Heinze's probably waiting for them.

This is fun. None of this is complete, for us or for you. We're just sharing as we go, hoping you're following as we go.

While all this is going on, Bob Maddamma is proofreading all our content, with volunteer assists from John Perrotto and Dale Lolley, even as they're writing their own Pirates and Steelers pieces for the day.

Once the puck drops, it's just a normal game night ... kind of.

Taylor's taking the main game report, so she chooses to focus on the crazy travel day those newcomers have had. She never really stops researching, eventually -- and I'm talking well after midnight -- looking through flight logs to find out that their trip out of Fort Lauderdale had been delayed by an hour, only adding to the drama. In addition, she handles all scoring updates and primary live-file commentary while I update the score in the headline and our scoreboard panel. (Yes, our tech is so crude the scoreboard is manual.) Sunday pumps up the photos, which we'll often interchange, but he sends an early Teddy Blueger gem from his first NHL goal, and we stick with it.

By game's end, we've pretty much broken down what we'll all be writing, with Sunday taking Blueger and me deciding to simply expand as much as possible on the original trade column. Sometimes, Sunday or someone will go to the visitors' room for additional angles, but nobody cares about the Senators, and the Penguins had a big day, so all three of us go the home direction.

Sunday shoots video in there for us, as well as popping his own questions, as he did for some good original material in this View from Ice Level. Before we go in, Sunday had asked if I could ask one specific player with whom I have a very easy relationship for some background on a specific sequence. Eventually, I'd get him that and text it along for his file.

Sullivan's postgame press conference is next. While I'm in there, Jim Rutherford responds to my text requesting that I ask him one extra question about the trade. (Isn't that how it always goes?) I ask if I can meet him in the hall outside his office, and he kindly obliges. We meet, I ask the question, I wish him safe travels and, as I'm heading back upstairs, I run into someone else who turns out to be a wonderful source for the main info in the completed column.

In fact, it's almost too wonderful. I hadn't intended on doing an entire rewrite, but this left me no choice.

It's right about then that the owner/founder of this company realizes he forgot to write Site Stuff. So he gets this one done by 4:26 a.m., knowing full well he might sleep through another major trade the very next day.

And that it's all in good hands.

GOOD COLLEGE VIBE

Our reader-suggested Campus Chatter feed, maintained by Hunter, drew 3,228 total page views and 201 total comments for the first full week, which is an encouraging start. The only downer is that it really dies off when there aren't any games to discuss. Friday, for example, brought only 91 views. No kidding.

I'd suspect it'll only pick up once more folks become aware of it, so pass the word.

On that note, our friends at the country's preeminent home for college sports coverage reached out to extend an offer to all our current subscribers: Six free months to any site on their network. That's a $50 value, given that their annual subscriptions are $99.95.

This won't last forever. The offer expires April 1. So go now to their sign-up page and apply the following code: DKRivals6FREE

CHASING 1,000 DOWNLOADS

We've set a goal of generating 1,000 new app installs by March 28, Major League Baseball's opening day, and we're off to a flying start with 485 already. And this is with our full promotional push on social media having begun only a week ago.

Here's where to get your app:

itunes googleplay

WE'RE LISTENING

• We took an informal survey of readers under What's Brewing yesterday to ask if they'd prefer having the app offer both portrait and landscape options for viewing. To my surprise -- and, actually, at least a little disappointment since I'm opposed -- readers overwhelmingly asked for landscape to be restored. So it will be soon. Thanks for the input.

• A few Apple users have mentioned not having videos play. The cause of that, as a couple readers pointed out to us, is having your device in power-save mode. That's a change Apple made. So, basically, just make sure your device has adequate power and don't use power-save mode.

• Full-screen option for all videos? That's coming, too. Trying to figure out the best way.

BACK TO BUSINESS

• Our daily active app users, averaged out over the past week, are at 12,757, broken down as 10,014 on Apple, 2,743 on Android.  That total's minus-47 from the previous week. This figure will always fluctuate with the news, so the goal is a steady, gradual increase, initially to 15,000, a number we've never achieved.

• Our daily page views, averaged out over the past month, are at 71,078. That's minus-4,693 over the same rolling figure from a week ago. The goal with this figure is also about a steady, gradual increase, first to 100,000, a number we've achieved only during Stanley Cup runs.

• Our most-hit article of the past week -- exempting live files -- was yesterday's coverage of the Derick Brassard trade by Bradford, at 12,643. The Penguins accounted for 130,270 of our page views, the Pirates 49,732, and the Steelers 36,839. Side note: Huge week for Taylor's NHL Trade Tracker, at 9,803. And there's still a month to go before the deadline.

• We're at 29,556 (+33) page likes on Facebook, we're at 29,872 (+88) followers on Twitter, and we're at 9,580 (+92) followers on Instagram. These figures are just for our official company account on each platform, not for us as individuals.

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

• This is our media kit. If you're interested in connecting with our large, passionate following, email my wife at Dali@DKPittsburghSports.com

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