The Daily Gopher - State of the Blog Post

TDG is always about Gopher sports but today TDG is going to be about TDG. It is the offseason. Gopher football has wrapped up spring practice while Gopher basketball and hockey are both months away from anything worth covering. So it is the spring doldrums of blogging. What better time to get introspective and take a look at The Daily Gopher. Most of you probably do not know the history of TDG, much about our contributors or what we are trying to do to make this an outstanding Gopher community.

I want to start this post (and I'll end the post) with a huge thank you to all of you who not only read this blog but also contribute to the community. Getting people to the site and reading the content is one thing. But what makes this community what is really is and what brings people back day after day is not the writing. It is the community. It is the opportunity to engage with other passionate Gopher fans, share your thoughts/opinions, argue about what ails our favorite teams, point out Jeffrick's typos and far too often vent frustrations over the states of our favorite programs. I'll get to this more later but if the only thing you read in this post is this paragraph, thank you.

With that said, I want to start by taking a look back at the how TDG came to be and what has transpired over the months/years to get us where we are today.

A Brief History of The Daily Gopher

I began Gopher blogging back in March of 2007. Tim Brewster had just been hired as the Gopher's new football coach, Tubby Smith would soon be hired and I recognized that there were basically no consistent Gopher blogs out there so I decided to start Gopher Nation. A couple months later PJS recognized that even after the start of GN there still were not any good blogs on the interwebz so he also started up a Gopher blog uniquely named, Paging Jim Shikenjanski. At the time there really was no real Gopher presence in the blogosphere and the two of us toiled away on our individual blogs. But blogging alone gets to be a lot of work. A little blogging secret is to blog often, have posts up every single day so that people come back. Doing that alone quickly moves blogging from a fun hobby to an arduous chore. Making sure you have something fresh on the blog daily while drawing traffic of single-digit unique hits per day makes you question if it is worth the effort.

By the time the calendar moved to 2008 PJS and I started talking about combining our collective blogging skills to not just create a Gopher super blog but also to help ease the load and keep the passion fresh. We talked about what kind of a focus we wanted to have, how we were going to manage the site and what it was going to take to get it off the ground. About the same time we were talking, SBN approached PJS about us becoming their Minnesota affiliate.

So on August 12th, 2008 The Daily Gopher was born. Since then we have had a number of significant events worth noting.

  • November 2008 - the University of Minnesota Athletic Communications Dept approved TDG for media credentials to the remaining home football games. This may seem like no big deal today considering even pro teams are beginning to grant access to bloggers. But two years ago we were the only NCAA blog who was given full, media access. This was quite an impressive step taken by the University as most institutions and franchises were wary of what might happen if "bloggers" showed up to the press box. Since then more we have been granted access to some road football games and NCAA Tournament games. Don't tell anyone that my record in games attended as "press" is 3-11.
  • March 2009 - TDG joins Twitter (@TheDailyGopher). We haven't utilized it quite like we probably should be, but we joined and just recently crossed over 500 followers.
  • July 2009 - We announced our first round of "staff" changes. PJS wanted to take a step back from full-time blogging and we had to add two guys to replace him. Buck Bravo had previously been blogging Gopher Football on his own and was realizing the rigors of solo-blogging. His analytical point of view was a welcomed addition. JG2112 had been a frequent commenter who clearly knew his football and most importantly brought more of an outside perspective to the blog.
  • June 2010 - we crossed 500,000 total unique hits. This took us 23 months and while some blogs accumulate that many hits in a month, this milestone was significant for us. We are dangerously close to crossing 1,000,000. The first 500K took us nearly 2 years and the second will come in almost exactly 12 months. Considering PJS and I started our blogs in absolute obscurity, not having any community we had previously been plugged into or a network of alumni/friends who would go to our blog out of loyalty (my mom being the lone exception, but I live in her basement so it only makes sense). The first few months, for me at least, meant day after day of single digit hits.
  • August 2010 - we absorbed another blog expanded again. As I mentioned before a key to successful blogging is having fresh content at least daily and most of the highly successful college blogs put out multiple posts per day. So we added a couple more experienced Gopher bloggers in Jeffrick and JDMill to not only share the load of blogging but to bring a couple different voices to the blog. They had been blogging at Golden Gopher Football Blog and were ready for a change. JDMill also blogs over at Off Tackle Empire. By pure coincidence I knew JD from when we were younger and Jeffrick and I crossed paths in college. Adding these guys really added some more passion to the blog and now having 5 contributing authors (with various levels of contributions, 6 with PJS) really makes blogging easier for everyone. Now instead of the grind of trying to come up with new ideas and taking the time almost daily to write a post, we can all blog when the spirit moves us and we can all come at things more fresh.
  • September 2010 - the first Daily Gopher Podcast. After bringing Jeffrick and JDMill into the fold, Buck finally had someone who wanted to do a podcast with him. Jeffrick and JDMill had done them in the past and this was a great addition to TDG. I have taken much abuse for never being able to make it for a taping but I'll do my best to get out of the house for one this year.
  • November 2010 - our biggest month of unique hits on record. I should probably thank Joel Maturi for firing Tim Brewster and dragging out the coaching search into December for this spike in traffic.
  • April 2011 - @TheDailyGopher crossed over 500 followers on Twitter and we have over 1,200 tweets.
  • coming soon (probably early July) - 1,000,000 hits. We are going to have a PARTY! (you won't be invited).

Looking Ahead

What makes a blog a really good blog has nothing to do with who the authors are or the quality of their content. OK, quality of content is kind of important but that isn't what brings people back to blogs. The content is just the springboard for the conversation that ensues.

I think there are two things that have made blogs so popular. The first is that we are all fans. What makes blogs great is that they are almost always written by fans who are unafraid to write from the perspective of a fan. Journalists typically are required to write from a position of unbias. Blogs don't have to wear that mask.

Secondly, many blogs the online water cooler. This is where people come to read a story on their favorite team and then talk about their favorite team. There are some good message boards that are also great online water coolers, but blogs are a little different. This is not about how awesome blogs are or how awesome TDG is. But the point is that it has been a lot of fun to watch the TDG community grow and you are the reason why. People taking the time to write out their opinions and to challenge our opinions and venting frustrations that others may (or may not) share, makes this community great. I assure you this, none of the contributors here are doing this for money or fame or to have people tell us how awesome we are. We write here and we enjoy doing it because of the conversation that occurs after the story has been posted. Over 12,000 comments were made last year, looking forward to many more this year.

So the responsibility for TDG continuing to be what it is falls on you. Don't go away, bring more friends and take advantage of the tools SBN has provided us on TDG. Write your own FanPost, gives us links and vidoes in FanShots, and most importantly share your thoughts/opinions whenever you have something to say. Hopefully we'll continue to grow as Gopher Football and Basketball start making strides towards new levels of competitiveness. How much fun will it be when Gopher football is playing in the Big Ten Title game or Tubby takes the Gophers to their first legit Final Four. The Daily Gopher will light up!

Finally a big hat tip to SBN. Blogging under the SBN umbrella has been awesome. They provide us with the tools to make blogging easier and most importantly to make it easily accessible for the readers. But the network of other college bloggers we can collaborate with, the tech support from SBN's tech team and the partnerships they have negotiated to get our posts out on places like the AP, CBSSports.com and others is amazing. When talking to the guys we've brought over to TDG and when talking to others who we've approached about blogging with us SBN is the #1 selling point. We can't offer much, but the tools for building community, making posting easy and promotion of our content is a lot of work that is being taken on by a team of people who specialize in those areas. I'm grateful to be a part of the network and looking forward to where it takes us in the future.

After the jump are some interesting facts and figures just for the fun of it...

Some Stats and Interesting Facts

  • First "real" commenter - after the initial "here we are" post that was commented on by mostly other SBN authors. plinytheleelder was the first official comment. Pliny is still around and has 408 total comments to his name.
  • Total Members - 1,145
  • Total Posts (not including this one) - 1,415 (average of 42 stories per month)
  • Total FanShots - 527
  • Total FanPosts - 406
  • Top Commenters for 2010 (I don't have the data for 2009 or 2008) - 12,084 total comments were made in 2010. Outside of TDG authors the top 5 were...Rencito (945), DallasGopher (444), ErikT (331) and TexasGopher (323). Interesting that three of our top four are actually in the state of Texas.

Most Heavily Commented Stories - comments are vital to the TDG community and that is on you guys. Here are some of the stories with the most comments (open threads and the like excluded). The mendoza line for comments at one point was 10, but as you can see the comments have been steadily increasing so we might have to rethink that baseline. You may notice other NCAA blogs that could put up a blog post on paint drying or grass growing and they'll get 500 comments. We aren't there yet but maybe I'll try.

2008

  1. Profile of Mike Dunbarr (GN) - 24 comments
  2. Daily Gopher Fix (aka Golden Nugz) (PJS) - 22 comments
  3. several stories at 20 comments

2009

  1. What we should call TCF Bank Stadium (PJS) - 55 comments
  2. Gophers OT win over Wisconsin (PJS) - 46 comments
  3. Gophers lose to Cal (GN) - 44 comments

2010

  1. Jerry Kill Announced as Gopher's new coach (PJS) - 145 comments
  2. Is Jerry Kill the Kill Shot hire? (GN) - 108 comments
  3. Jeffrick responds to an OTE post (Jeffrick) - 91 comments
  4. Recap of win over MTSU (JDMill) - 88 comments
  5. The Long List of potential coaching candidates (GN) - 83 comments

2011

  1. Jeffrick compares BCS and NCAA Tournament (Jeffrick) - 80 comments
  2. Gopher basketball excuses are mostly legit (PJS) - 67 comments
  3. Gopher basketball loses their fourth straight (PSJ) - 52 comments
  4. Why Maturi needs to go (Jeffrick) - 48 comments
  5. Previewing next year's Big Ten hoops race (GN) - 43 comments
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