State of the 'Pound: 2013 Was a Stellar Year

Happy Huskies at the Dawg Pound

The UW Dawg Pound had an unbelievable year as it spiked to become the Web's #1 free-access University of Washington fan blog.

2005 doesn't seem that long ago, does it? Sure, George Bush was still POTUS, but it isn't a huge mental stretch to recall what was happening in the world back then. Can't you? I remember that my oldest was starting to potty train. I remember that our family vacation was to the Dominican Republic. I remember that my wife didn't approve of how much time I spent playing EA Sports NCAA football with the baby on my knees.

Oh, and I also remember that Tyrone Willingham was the coach of your Washington Huskies.

It was in large part to all of the negativity surrounding the Willingham regime that our founder set out to start this fanblog. John Berkowitz, a grizzly veteran of all things Washington who by day ran an insurance company, started the blog on a Blogger.com platform with just three "members" in tow in order to create a positive environment where Husky fans could gather and talk about UW athletics without getting drawn down into the muck and venom that surrounded all things Ty. And, damn, there was a lot of muck and venom.

Berkowitz struck gold with his idea and, within just two years, he had grown the Dawg Pound to 1700 unique visitors per day and to what he estimated was the number 2 UW-dedicated athletics blog on the Internet. I was among those 1700 unique visitors. My handle was Minny C. Then Minny C2. Then Minny C3. Then Gekko Mojo.

Yes, I had an attitude problem. But that is a story for a different day.

Needless to say, my situation was like those of a lot of Husky fans. I was a Seattle explant (then living in Minneapolis) who needed a place where I could connect with other Husky fans to talk about everything that was going on with the program. I tried out Dawgman.com. While I enjoyed the insider points of view, I found myself unable to fully comprehend all of the inside references made by the longest term of members nor could I completely immerse myself in the wide variety of endless ramblings that occurred in some of the message boards.

The Dawg Pound offered something different. JB was the sole proprietor and the ring leader. With columns like "The Monday Morning Wash", "Kibbles and Bits", and "Puppy Chow", JB produced something nearly every day of the week. He had help, mind you. In particular, he and legendary Seattle blogger Nathan Ware partnered up on a "Picking the Pac" piece every week and he also benefitted from some fan generated content from time to time. Still, JB's pace was remarkable and it was the reason for his astonishing growth.

Two years after starting his blog, JB's colleages at Bruins Nation and Building the Dam hooked him up with SB Nation's Peter Bean. Bean saw the potential of 'Pound and happened to be looking for a UW-themed site to add to the nascent fanblog network. The rest, as they say, is history.

Many of you know that JB retired just about two years ago leaving his blog in the hands of a committee of folks, including myself, who are charged with the same mission that John set out with: to build a positive, clean environment for thoughtful Husky fans to come together in and to talk UW sports. We've expanded that mission to include all Husky sports and to create a platform for young, aspiring writers who have talent to practice their craft. We are no longer about one man writing primarily about one sport. We are a multi-faceted fan site with several contributors who are focused on growing our presence and our reach while blurring the lines between what counts as a "blog" versus what is "traditional media". We are trying to forge into a new space that enhances the sports fan experience for all Husky fans.

And, the results have been astonishing.

Today the UW Dawg Pound is the #1 free-access Husky fan site on the Internet. In the last two years alone, the 'Pound has experienced amazing growth. Consider:

  • Two years ago, a "good day" was 2,000 page views. Today, our best is nearly 30,000.
  • Two years ago, our unique daily visitors was around 1,800 per day. On a crazy day, we'll now reach 26,000 uniques
  • Two years ago, we averaged a little over one article a day. Today, that is about three

The growth has been fueled, of course by factors such as the rise in popularity of Husky football, the implementation of a pay wall at the Seattle Times and the growth of the SB Nation network. However, I also believe that the growth is fueled by a continuing commitment to the membership in maintaining the standards of our environment and striving to improve the quality of content.

December 2013 was our best month to date. Below is a graph that shows the performance of the Pac 12 SB Nation sites organized by unique visitors. Fueled, of course, by both the Husky coaching changes and the Fight Hunger Bowl, the 'Pound was the #3 blog in that segment - finally passing our arch rivals Addicted to Quack and Cal Golden Blogs (we're coming for you, Coug Center).

471% year over year (y/y) growth in unique visitors is an unbelievable statistic and representative of the lifeblood of our growth: new members.

Of course, we aren't just interested in benchmarking ourselves against the rest of the SB Nation Pac 12 blogs. We want to take over the world (right, Pinky?)! When you rack and stack our December performance against the rest of the SB Nation College Football Network, the 'Pound comes in 13th place overall. Quite the leap from where we began.

This is remarkable progress, and I would personally like to thank all you, our members, for making the UW Dawg Pound the place to be for all things Huskies. I'd also like to ask your help in continuing to increase our overall exposure. There are three easy things that you can do to help:

  1. If you see a post that you like, "Like" us on Facebook. You wouldn't believe the exposure it generates
  2. Similarly, if you are a Twit, tweet out to your networks the pieces that you think warrant attention
  3. Participate! Your comments, Recs, fanshots and fanposts continue to drive the growth of the network. Fans want to be around other fans and hear other voices. Share yours.

Announcements

In the spirit of continuing to pursue our mission to provide a platform for aspiring writers to grow and develop, I'd like to make a few announcements relative to our current staffing.

Kevin Cacabelos

Kevin, an aspiring journalist who is graduating this year from Loyola Marymount, has agreed to take over leadership of our Recruiting Beat, covering both UW Basketball and Football. Recruiting is one of the top subjects of interests for our members and the assignment of Kevin to this role will give us dedicated manpower on the subject. Our goal with recruiting is to not replicate what is covered for-fee by some of the great west coast services, but to serve as an adjunct to that coverage. Kevin has already done a great job covering Men's Basketball for us and, with some help from guys like Kirk, we look forward to more great content.

Ryan Priest

Some of you may have already noticed that we've asked Ryan to increase his contributions to the site by taking over primary responsibility for our Daily Dots. Ryan is based out of Chicago where he covers sports and other things as a freelancer and contributes to the journal of his national fraternity. Ryan is a passionate UW fan who brings a lot of energy to the blog. Running the Dots can be a grind, so feel free to help him by emailing him links of interest that you find across the Web.

Erik Erickson

Erik has recently joined our staff focused on Men's Basketball and non-Revenue Sports. Erik is currently a journalism student at the University of Washington where his work shows up in The Daily newspaper. In addition, Erik has recently been appointed to staff at the Everett Herald and has formerly written for the Husky Haul fan site. I'm sure you'll get to know Erik very well as he works with Ben to provide our Basketball coverage over the next few months.

OPEN POSITION

Growing into non-revenue sports continues to be a primary focus area of ours. We are looking for interested candidates to drive our coverage of things like Women's Basketball, Tennis, Golf, Track, Crew, Soccer and Baseball. If you are UW student or Seattle local who takes in a lot of these events and has an interest in writing, please contact me directly.

Closing Thoughts

I'd like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to the members of the current staff, in particular Anthony, Kirk and Ben, who have invested countless hours to getting this blog to where it is today. I would also like to recognize the contributions from the ever expanding groups of part-time contributors who have taken the quality of content at the 'Pound to the next level. Brad, Steve, Darin, Jim, Tige, Randall, Jack ... Thank you! Finally, I'd like to give a tip of the cap to John Berkowitz who had the vision to put this all together. I get a lot of questions about John and all I can say is that JB still enjoys perusing the 'Pound while trolling whatever beach he happens to be visiting that day. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say the odds are good that you'll hear from him again from time to time.

On a closing note, I'd like to say that the goal is to continue to grow. We are eager to get your feedback on how to do it. So, think of the comments section below as your non-anonymous Suggestions Box. Tells us what you think we ought to be doing as volunteers to help sustain the growth that we are experiencing today.

---Chris

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