COLUMN: As the kids say, the struggle is real
CHEYENNE -- When we started this venture nearly a full year ago, "Behind the chutes" was a regular weekly feature, chronicling 7220sports.com behind-the-scenes.
Honestly, the page views weren't great. That's why I dumped the idea.
Premature? I guess we'll see soon enough.
That column came in our infancy. Not many people knew about us yet. We grew this thing about as organically as it gets. There was no big announcement. We didn't advertise it. Our social media pages went live June 1. That's my mistake. Looking back, I guess I was simply nervous.
The goal was transparency. Still is. Plus, we can have a little fun along the way.
In honor of that openness, I again want to start sharing the ups and downs and ebbs and flows of this little business. And like most companies these days, that starts with a negative.
Times are rough.
Wyoming has shared in the brunt of that.
I wrote a column in March about my parents losing both of their Pine Bluffs restaurants. That was a gut punch and the public outpouring of support from the readers of this site was and still is surreal.
Thank you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
But we are not alone. Our state's industries -- coal, natural gas, oil, ranching, farming, the railroad, etc. -- are in trouble. From the mom-and-pop joints all the way up to Wyoming-born J.C. Penney, no one is safe it seems.
At 7220sports.com, we have taken our biggest hit in the form of advertising revenue. That is our lone source of income. That is what keeps this site free for fans around the globe.
That's an important aspect. Here's why.
Google analytics shows us in great detail who visits our site. Where they are from. Their gender and age. The amount of time people spend on an article.
What the numbers show me are fans -- military personnel -- in Iraq, Afghanistan and all over the Middle East are checking in back home with their Cowboys.
When UW's new basketball coach Jeff Linder inked the "Big Shamrock," Eoin Nelson, our readership in Ireland spiked.
When Xazavian Valladay has a big rushing day, you might be amazed with how many hits we get from the Chicago area. Same can be said for far-off places like Kerman, California, Canyon Lake, Texas, and New Hope, Minnesota.
That's home to Cowboy football players Sean Chambers, Levi Williams and Eric Abojei.
Our goal was and is to keep this site free for everyone, but the light at the end of the tunnel might just be an oncoming train.
We will cross that bridge -- or get run over -- when we get there.
The beauty of this operation is that overhead is relatively low. Unlike our competitors, we aren't a brick-and-mortar enterprise that prints thousands of papers each week. That takes numerous employees, a press, ink, paper, etc. You get the picture.
The expenditure we do share is covering the news. That isn't cheap.
Duct tape and cardboard.
That's what I tell people got us through season one. That included trips to Texas, Oklahoma, California, Utah, Idaho, Colorado and Arizona. That's just football season.
The point is, we need support now more than ever.
Wednesday, UW Athletics Director Tom Burman announced that student-athletes will return to campus June 1. That means voluntary workouts for the football team are about to get underway. Hopefully, some sort of training camp is to follow and before you know it, the Cowboys are lining up over the ball against Weber State Sept. 5 inside War Memorial Stadium.
For us, that means it's time to go to work. And this could be a special season in Laramie ... all the way through basketball season.
So, how can you help?
If you or anyone you know owns a business and wants to get the word out to people across Wyoming, look no further. We have flexible, affordable packages that will fit those needs. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for our media kit.
The beautiful thing about this advertising game is that ours is actually working.
That's because of you.
Secondly, we have partnered with Home Town Printed Apparel in Douglas this spring to add a line of 7220sports.com apparel. I've been often asked, "Where can I get a 7220 shirt?" Now, by clicking HERE.
Hayden Barker and his crew are busting out a variety of cool shirts, mugs, cell phone covers, etc.
He even created this "beauty."
This is a great way to help a pair of small Wyoming businesses that really took a hit thanks to Covid-19.
Lastly, word of mouth is always key. Sharing our content, liking our social media pages and spreading the word helps us grow. Potential sponsors see that. So do we. And we can't express our appreciation enough.
This first season has been amazing.
The support has blown me away from day one. My dream job was always to cover the Cowboys. Some people in this business have told me I was crazy to leave the Michigan State and Pittsburgh Penguins beats to come home.
They don't know what I do.
There's no place like home, especially when home is the Cowboy State.
On June 1, we turn 1.
That's a big feat for us. However, we couldn't help but notice that a month and a day after our birthday, the calendar literally hits 7.2.20.
Any excuse to have a party, right?
Last Thursday we put a poll up on Facebook seeking interest if we were to have this shindig, which would take place at The Library Sports Grille & Brewery in Laramie. So far, it's an overwhelming "yes" which was a little surprising to me because it's a Thursday, a holiday weekend and we are still dealing with a pandemic.
If you haven't yet, please tally your vote. If the interest is there, which it seems to be, it's on. Also, we need to let the staff in Laramie know how many we might be expecting.
We obviously haven't ironed out any details, but once this is a "go," I will keep everyone updated.
Spreading our wings ... chicken wings
There are a few cool ideas brewing for the upcoming football season.
Soon, we will have a staff meeting where we outline our future plans. In this business you can't be stagnant -- evolution is important. The idea is to add even more stories, features and fun videos. Our weekly "Happy Hour" Facebook Live has been a big hit so far this spring, replacing the "Roaring Repeater" podcast, which was more of a talk show setup that could only be seen on YouTube and heard on streaming devices.
We will find a happy medium with that, but the never-ending editing process is one none of us will miss. Plus, like we will discuss in this meeting, the numbers simply weren't there. And when you have a small staff like we do, hours have to be used wisely to get maximum content.
So, what't the chicken wings thing all about?
Well, I can't divulge everything, but let's just say we are focusing on the trinity of fall: Food, football and booze. Should be a lot of fun.
That won't be the only addition.
Numbers -- page views -- determine a lot of what we do, if you couldn't tell. Those digits help us land advertisers, but more importantly, they let us know what you like and don't. Here is just a taste of my ideas for 2020-21.
- More voices aka not just stories from me.
- Shorter, more attractive videos from the road.
- Diversify storytelling aka analytics, film breakdown, etc.
Those are some early ideas, anyway.
One of the good ones
I must admit, it felt pretty good to get out -- face-to-face -- and interview Ben Wisdorf yesterday.
The former Cowboy linebacker was hard at work inside his family's Cheyenne business, Oompah Indian Style Tacos.
He was nice enough to take some time with me to talk about his wild ride during his senior season. From making maybe the game-changing play against Missouri, to his brother surprising him on the jumbo tron from Afghanistan to his career-ending knee injury in Boise, Wisdorf was very open about the roller coaster that was his final season in Laramie.
The Indian tacos were pretty amazing, too.
If you didn't read that story, you can find it right HERE.
The last in-person interview I did was with Alijah Halliburton on the final day of the NFL Draft. That was April 25. I hope I never have to wait that long again.
Chatting with Wisdorf reminded me how great this Wyoming football team truly is. Not from a playing standpoint, which they weren't too shabby there, either, but from a personal one. When people ask me privately about the players, I have not once been able to point out a negative.
These guys are genuinely good people. Wisdorf is right at the top of that list.