December is a difficult month for the site. It's an awkward time between cross country and indoors that leaves us struggling to produce content. We can only talk about the BU Season Opener for so long before it gets redundant and boring. When you throw in final exams and the holidays, our traffic (understandably) takes a brief dip and then rebounds in January, February, and March.
Still, I can't help but to take a step back and reflect on how far we've come. If you had told me at this time last year that we would post the numbers we have today, I would have laughed and called you crazy. No one knew who we were and if they did, they certainly didn't take us seriously.
When The Stride Report was launched in March of 2017, I didn't know what to expect. Maybe it would be a smash hit, maybe it would be a glorified blog. I wasn't sure.
Yet, even without concrete expectations, I would be lying if I said that I didn't have goals. I wanted TSR to be big...really big. Admittedly, I didn't even know what "big" meant in terms of traffic and infrastructure (and in some respects, I still don't), but I knew I wanted this to be special. Of course, that didn't stop me from starting the site with childish expectations that TSR could be huge one month later (hint: it wasn't).
It took some time (a lot of time) for the site to gain traction. Truthfully, it took over a year to see any significant progress. Despite having strong, detailed content that was unique in it's presentation, the site just didn't seem popular. That was the most frustrating part. Frankly, it didn't seem worth it to put in all of this time and effort for a lack of results. There were multiple occasions where I thought about just shutting it down and closing up shop.
Obviously, that never happened. As it turns out, I love this site, our sport, and our readers too much to pull the plug on this project. When it came down to it, traffic and metrics never outweighed passion and that still holds true today (maybe now more than ever).
John Cusick joined TSR just at the beginning of the new year (2018). With him, he brought an entirely new audience as well as an understanding of Division II distance running. It was the perfect step forward as we attempted to expand our coverage.
We got through the indoor and outdoor track seasons, picking up Michael Weidenbruch along the way. At this point, the site began to gain some momentum. We added new writers such as Ben Weisel and Elliott Portillo. We created the DATA page. We broke news around the NCAA before anyone else did. We expanded our social media presence, made t-shirts, teamed up with Capella Athletics, and redesigned numerous pages on our site. We began covering women, an accomplishment that could have only been done with Sam Ivanecky and Sean Collins joining the writing staff. Our desire to give Division II more attention was aided by the recent addition of Zach Kughn. Needless to say, I could not have done this alone.
Although none of that happened all at once, those enhancements helped turn TSR into the site you know and love today.
June was a massive, breakout month. Our metrics, doubled, tripled, quadrupled, and even quintupled in some cases. July was even better. August? Record setting. September and October produced similar results. In November, we broke records for every major metric. Now in December, which was supposed to be our worst month of the year, we are matching results we had from June.
I say this not to brag or boast, but to show you how far we've come. Sure, it took a lot of hard work, plenty of discipline, and extensive research, but none of this happens without dedicated writers and loyal readers.
It's crazy to think that all of this happened with a Twitter account and a couple of retweets. After all, that is more or less our entire marketing plan. The reason we were able to see such substantial growth is because you, the reader, spread the word. You tagged your friends, you retweeted our articles, you followed us on social media, you shared links, you posted our site on message boards, and so on. It was organic growth in it's purest form.
As much as I enjoy watching the site grow, the best thing about TSR has to be all of the support and positivity you have sent our way since we began. We have received countless emails from all kinds of people within the running community. Some emails come from powerhouse coaches, while others are from fans who just want to say hi (and we totally encourage that). Often times, those compliments come with corrections and suggestions which help us maintain the integrity of our site. For that, we are grateful.
I'd like to say that every email or tweet we get is positive. That, however, would be very untrue. With growth comes growing pains. People get upset about things we write, what we don't write, who we leave out, who we include, etc. After a while, you come to a realization that you can't please everyone (no matter how much you want to).
With that in mind, let's not get confused. We encourage criticism, negative feedback, and voicing your frustrations. It's human, it's natural, it shows you care, and it shows that there are passionate fans in our sport. It's those kind of critiques that push us to be better and expand our focus. Why do you think we started covering women? If our readers don't hold us accountable, then who will?
I'm not going to act like we're as big as Flotrack or that we have some uncanny influence within the NCAA. We don't even have 1000 followers on Twitter yet (but we're close). At the end of the day, we write analytical articles to tell you a story from a perspective you may not have considered before. At our core, that's what we do. Does that mean we're willing to settle? Absolutely not. As Tinman Elite's Sam Parsons always says, we're "Sick of Being Mediocre".
Thank you to everyone who has made 2018 such an exciting year for The Stride Report. Whether you have been visiting the site since day one or just found out about us, we are happy to have you on board. We still have a lot more in store for you and we're excited to get to work.
Just know that we're far from finished. In fact, we're just getting started.
Your loyal admin,
The Stride Report