I have a hard time comprehending how fast this year went.
Yes, I know how unbelievably cliche that sounds, but this year in particular just seemed to be a blur. I vividly remember sitting down and typing up a similar article this time last year, talking about everything that TSR had accomplished.
I spoke about our growth, our challenges, our goals, and our changing perspectives.
In the moment, it seemed like we had come so far.
Little did we know what was waiting around the corner for us in 2019.
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I'll admit, I was pretty discouraged during the first few months of this year. Our site traffic had taken a pretty significant dip compared to what we had seen during the fall of 2018. Despite plenty of action happening during the winter months and us producing a plethora of content, it just seemed like our growth was nonexistent. We were stagnating and we didn't know what else we could do. We had taken a pretty big leap during 2018, so much so that I was left thinking, "well...maybe this is the best it gets".
I remember calling my dad on my way home from work, wondering how we were going to increase traffic and get it to a respectable level. I remember him throwing out a number and me saying "oh, it'll take us three years before we hit those kind of metrics".
As we worked our way through March and April, our traffic slowly ticked upwards. It was somewhat encouraging, but not exactly anything to get excited about. After all, we expected our traffic to be higher during the spring months given that almost every school competes during outdoor track. Plus, the postseason gives us more to talk about. Nothing about this was a surprise.
Then we got to the month of May.
The Stride Report went about covering the postseason track meets just like we always had. We had a much larger staff now, but we continued to put out content that we thought was relevant and high-quality. This wasn't anything new for us.
But during the week of regionals, we got a bump...a big one.
Readers on LetsRun were discussing collegiate track and field coverage on a forum when someone mentioned our coverage. This led to LetsRun founder Robert Johnson (aka rojo) asking, "What the hell is the stride report?"
And while some may people may take offense to that, we were quite frankly flattered. It was the first time that someone at a large media outlet in the running community had publicly recognized us. That doesn't happen often.
This led to a significant boom in traffic. We hit a new record for visitors that month by a relatively noticeable margin. It was encouraging and something to be excited about, but that one instance of exposure wasn't going to make us relevant.
Fast forward to June.
The Outdoor National Championships took place in the first week of the month, but after that, there wasn't a whole lot going on. Our coverage for collegiate track and field had ended and we were now preparing to shift our focus to the offseason. The summer of 2018 was when TSR saw our first true surge in growth, but what if that was just an outlier? Would we actually be able to replicate that in 2019?
The answer was a resounding "YES".
In addition to analysis and stories, we began to dive into reporting and breaking news. We were the first media outlet to report that Noah Affolder was transferring. We were the first media outlet to report that Rachel McArthur was transferring. We were the first to report on a plethora of coaching changes, athletes signing professional contracts, and a countless number of transfers.
In the process, we began to make connections with other members of the media, a handful of powerhouse coaches, numerous top collegiate runners, and even a few professional athletes. Looking back, our ability to report news wouldn't have been possible without the support and assistance of those individuals.
I remember receiving one text message that said "Are you guys the new Woj of college track?" and as a basketball fan, that was fun to see.
When comparing our site metrics in June to the month of May, we saw our number of visitors jump up 60% and our page views going up 21%. I'll be honest, I was pretty pumped.
That, however, was only the beginning.
Towards the end of June and into July, we began releasing our summer rankings. Despite a few hiccups and learning moments, our traffic exploded. Publishing those rankings - along with our our most-read article of the year (Welcome to the Herd) - helped our traffic take off to a level that I thought would take us years to reach.
From June to July, our number of monthly visitors went up 130% while our page views skyrocketed upwards of 188%. In that moment, we no longer felt like a cute little side-project.
We felt legitimate.
However, despite all of the incredible success, we quickly realized that although hitting these numbers were great, we needed to maintain them...and we did just that.
Throughout the fall, we continued to produce detailed rankings, in-depth analysis, Kolas projections, interviews, previews, recaps, and so much more.
We even began to produce podcasts!
It would have been easy for our team to get lost in all of the attention that we received from the summer, but instead, they kept their head down, worked hard, and consistently produced quality content that has helped us maintain the metrics that I once told my dad would take us three years to achieve.
Even in December, a month that has historically been the worst month in TSR's annual cycle, we are still hitting those same numbers.
With the year now at a close, it is safe to say that 2019 was the year where we actually gained some legitimacy in the running community. From 2018 to 2019, our number of visitors increased by 370%, our number of sessions increased by 265%, our number of page views increased by 343%, and our bounce rate dropped by a whopping 44% (that's a good thing).
When comparing 2018 to 2019, we were better on a per month basis in every major metric.
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I say all of this not to boast or brag, but to give you all (our readers) an insight into the product and brand that you are investing your time in. Ever since launching in March of 2017, it's been our readers who have made this journey as rewarding as it is. We could write an infinite amount of articles, but it doesn't mean much if my mom is the only one reads them (and even then that's a stretch).
All of the incredible messages of support, the compliments, the encouragement...all of that makes working on TSR so incredibly worth it.
But of course, things aren't always perfect.
In last year's article, I explained that "with growth, comes growing pains" and that was surely the case this year. There were plenty of times where we received some not-so-nice messages from passionate readers who didn't like what we said or what we thought.
And while there were plenty of comments that were simply insulting, it's the ones who messaged us and said "I can't wait to prove you guys wrong" that made us excited.
If we end up motivating someone to be better, that becomes an added bonus. That kind of passion and emotion is what makes our sport great.
And yes, I'll admit, we're not perfect. Sometimes we make mistakes.
When we do, it bothers me a lot, and I know I'm not the only one at TSR who shares those feelings. But that's part of the growing process and because of it, we are now far more accurate and far more precise than ever before. In retrospect, it's those mistakes (no matter how small they seem to be) that have forced us to be better and more thorough.
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We feel confident that we know what kind of potential TSR has. We have big ambitions and all of us at TSR truly believe that we can be one of the big names in the running community one day. It make take some time, but we are too hungry to not get there.
Thank you to everyone who has supported TSR in 2019.
We can't wait to show you what's next.
The Stride Report