State of the TechSideline Union 2018, Part 3: Trends

(Photo by Ivan Morozov)

Click here for all parts in the series

Welcome to Part 3 of “The State of the TechSideline Union, 2018” which is titled … “Trends.”

That’s not a particularly brilliant title, and some of the stuff I’m about to discuss will not be ground-breaking stuff, especially to those of you who are better at seeing the big picture than I.

At its core, this is a collection of observations that are shaping our thinking, and which are starting to tell us the direction in which we need to go.

Subscription Models All Over the Place

When I started “Will’s Personal Hokie Sports Web Page” (boy is that a mouthful) in March of 1996, everything on the Internet was free, and it was a God-given right that everything on the Internet should remain free, forever.

“Free” drove the Internet for the first half-decade-plus of its existence. The idea was to build the audience, get the eyeballs, and figure out how to make money later.

When the Internet 1.0 bubble (the original “dot-com” craze) popped in early 2000, most web properties whose models were built on “free” went away. Their venture capital dried up, and since they weren’t generating real revenue to support their operations, they closed shop.

One such property was the original (started in 1998), which in its infancy was free. After it went briefly out of business in early 2001, it was later resurrected as a pay network. You could subscribe to your favorite site for $10 a month or $100 a year, which seemed like a lot at the time.

Recently, we showed you the cover of the first-ever TSL Extra. Here’s the cover of the last one, No. 23 (Sep. 25, 2002)

That was the first pay model on the Internet that I ever saw, and it paved the way for TSL to charge for content as well. At first, as I mentioned in a previous installment, we did the monthly e-zine TSL Extra, but in late 2002, we went to a Rivals-like model of daily (or near-daily) pay content. When we went from all-free to partially pay, there wasn’t much fuss from TSL readers, because had set the stage in our industry (college sports coverage, esp. recruiting).

Fast-forward 15-plus years, and we’ve all got numerous web subscriptions. I subscribe to Netflix ($10.99 a month), ($9.95 a month), (high school track/cross country news and stats, $7.99 a month), Adobe (for software — $19.95 a month), and on and on. Some of you have a music service, like Spotify ($9.99 a month).

The idea of paying for content, and paying a monthly-based subscription for other services (like cell phone insurance and satellite radio) is now old hat.

This isn’t really a “trend,” it’s a fact. I bring it up because, when I ask someone why they don’t subscribe to TSL and they answer, “I don’t pay for anything on the Internet,” then I move on. They pay for things; they just don’t feel like paying for TSL. That’s fine.

But if TSL’s subscription numbers are stagnant, as they have been for about five years now, I don’t blame