What you think of usby Dave Studeman
May 29, 2008
A couple of months ago, we asked you what you think of us. Nearly 1,000 of you were kind enough to fill out an online survey that asked about the good and bad of THT. Several respondents received free baseball books for filling out the survey and we received a lot of great feedback. Based on your feedback, we definitely plan to make several changes to how we go about our "business." I thought you'd like to know what you said, and what changes we have planned for the site.
Here are the results from the survey:
How often you visit the site: Over 75 percent of survey respondents visit the site at least once a day (nearly 20 percent visit more than once a day). Since we post our main articles only once a day, this means that most of the respondents represented our most loyal readers. Makes sense, and it's an important point to remember when interpreting the results.
How many articles you read: Since we don't use a typical blog format—only article headlines appear on our home page, instead of entire articles—our readers choose which articles they want to read. More than half of the survey respondents read at least one article a day. Over 20 percent read virtually every article.
Use of our stats: About half of our respondents had used our stats within the previous two weeks of the survey. Considering that the season hadn't started at the time of the survey, this was a higher rate than I expected. Our most popular statistical features are the batted ball statistics and Win Shares, followed by our defensive stats and advanced stats (such as FIP and PRC).
Other popular baseball stats sites (in order of preference) were Baseball Reference, ESPN, Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Yahoo and The Baseball Cube. We didn't ask specifically about it, but many respondents also mentioned MLB.com stats.
With so many excellent baseball stats sites available, I often wonder about the value of our own stats. They represent our single biggest expense, and we'd have more money to share with our writers if we were to stop purchasing them (our writers aren't receiving much money for their efforts as it is). However, the survey results convinced us that many of you do value our stats, and we'll continue to publish them for the foreseeable future.
Even though Win Shares are admittedly flawed (Win Shares Above Bench are an improvement, but there are still flaws there), they are very popular with you folks. So we'll also continue to publish them until we come up with a better system of our own.
Reading THT: Most of the respondents review our content by directly visiting our home page; less than 20 percent of the respondents primarily use an RSS feed to review our daily content. Since the survey tended to represent our "power users," I assume that RSS use is more prevalent among our "casual" readers. We know from our usage stats that our RSS feeds are viewed by at least as many users as our home page.
About 60 percent of respondents read THT primarily from home and 40 percent read us primarily from work (during breaks, of course!). About 5 percent read us primarily at school (or in class). Several readers peruse THT from a mobile device, such as a Blackberry. Admittedly, THT is not formatted ideally for a mobile device. And a few folks print our articles and read them the old-fashioned way: on paper.
Types of articles: Survey respondents were asked about the type of content they like to read, such as analytical articles, commentary, history, etc. It turns out that they like our analytical articles best, and want even more of them. In the comments, respondents indicated that they'd like to see more articles about throwing and hitting mechanics ("more Carlos Gomez articles"). We've tried our best to oblige by asking authors such as Paul Nyman and Alex Eisenberg to contribute regularly.
Changes at THT
We also asked respondents what they would most like to change about THT and, of course, the majority of the comments regarded article content. A few basic types of comments stood out:
- More team-oriented articles. At the time we ran the survey, we were also running our preseason "Five Questions" series of team articles. Many respondents said they'd like to see more articles reviewing the status of each team during the season. We plan to follow through on this recommendation, probably around the All-Star break.
- More player analysis. In other words, more "Carlos" articles. Paul and Alex are helping in this regard, and we hope to recruit more writers to provide scouting information about players.
- More articles covering the basics of our stats. We've written a lot of articles over the years about our stats; perhaps we need to design an easier way for readers to access these articles. More on that in a minute.
Other things to change about THT: About 25 percent of the folks who responded to this question essentially said that THT is perfect and we shouldn't change a thing. Included in this category of comments were "free pizza," "more beer" and "Jeff Sackmann nude scenes." We're still negotiating with Jeff.
We also received other comments about things to change:
- Comments about our stats, including a better interface, better explanations and the ability to print a clean page or perhaps a simple download function. Honestly, I think our stats interface is just about the best out there. It's clean and quick, and I'm not sure how to improve it. But giving easier access to our definitions and providing download capability are both good ideas. We plan to work on those.
- Site design. Several folks said that our site could use a redesign to freshen it up a bit, and we actually did update the site's graphics a month ago. We also plan to experiment with easier ways to access our blogs (Fantasy Focus and THT Live). We were also asked about publishing a weekly schedule, but I'm not sure people realize how haphazard THT is behind the scenes. We're often not sure what we're going to publish until midnight actually rolls around. We're not really into long-term planning.
- Better archives and article tags. Some of the best feedback we received were suggestions to reorganize our archives and create a more sophisticated tagging system to find key articles. There is a wealth of information in THT's archives, and we plan to put a lot of effort into improving access to them. Our blogging system, Expression Engine, is due to publish a new version this summer, and that should provide a number of ways to better organize our archives.
- RSS feeds. Several respondents asked us to improve the format of our RSS feeds, and we will work on that this summer.
- Weekend content. When we first rolled out THT, we made a strategic decision to offer content only on weekdays, because weekend traffic is usually only about 50-60 percent of weekday traffic. That's what happens when people aren't "working." However, a number of respondents asked us to start offering weekend content and, in case you haven't noticed, THT has a very strong stable of writers right now. So, starting this weekend, we plan to offer Saturday content too, starting with John Brattain and John Barten. We'll see how this goes.
- Allow comments on site. A few respondents also asked us to allow comments on site. From the beginning, THT hasn't allowed comments on site, primarily because we didn't want to be in the business of moderating comments, managing registration and the like. We think of ourselves as more on an online magazine than a blog. Of course, many people e-mail us, and you can always comment about our articles at Ballhype. We plan to maintain this arrangement for now.
We also received some very good feedback on Fantasy Focus and THT Live. THT Live was new at the time, so there were only some limited ideas. But we've tried to follow two specific thoughts that were in the survey:
- We try to link to "interesting" posts instead of newsy items. Survey respondents clearly said they can get their news elsewhere.
- Respondents wanted more than just links—they asked for comments and perspective, too. Though it's not always possible, we are trying to add some commentary to our THT Live posts.
We hope you're getting good value from THT Live; let us know if you can think of other ways to improve it.
We asked people for any final thoughts or comments and we received a lot of nice comments. Here's one I particularly liked:
I really like your site. I believe it is the best baseball stat site on the net. I used to get the Sporting News and USA Weekly when they were only baseball. Then they changed to all sports so I dropped them both. Until I found this site I would always roam from site to site. Now I have you on my home page and it is the first site I go to when I log on. I can spend hours and days just reading the articles you have on your site. Thank you very much for providing me hours, days, weeks, months and years of enjoyment. Keep up the good work.Thank you, too. We will do our best to keep up the good work.
Dave was called a "national treasure" by Rob Neyer. Seriously. Comments about this article can be sent to him through the miracle of e-mail.