The State of the Natosphere 2017:
This year the Nats reported to spring training on 2/14 but fans were not allowed on the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches grounds until Saturday which was February 18th, restricting coverage to the old school media sources, newspapers, television and radio stations. Leaving Talk Nats and other Nats blogs out in the cold (70 degrees today). So I started thinking that it would be nice if Laura and some of the other members of the Talk Nats team could get credentialed and provide additional coverage for the team.
Back in 2010, the Nationals granted press credentials for five Nats blogs, this was a promotion by Stan Kasten (modeled on what the Caps were doing) to support new media outlets, also likely an attempt to drive more positive coverage of the team. Since then four of those original five blogs have disappeared, Nats News Network, Nationals Farm Authority, Nationals Daily News, and Nats320.
Today Federal Baseball and The Nats Blog are the last credentialed blogs standing, but even their access is very limited as compared to the open access that the beat writers receive.
Dating back to the RFK years the “Natosphere” included a large number of blogs that came and went until that term has become largely forgotten. In thinking about the current set of blogs I could only name four or five off the top of my head, so I was surprised to find out that there are about 15 active Nats blogs. So with spring training in full swing, I decided to do a quick review of what is available for Nats fans beyond the Post, Times, and MASN.
We also want to give a shout-out to Matt at MattsBats.com. Matt has been around for years and is now part of MLB Blogs also. He started when he was around six-years-old writing about the Nationals, and he brings that youthful spirit that is part of this new wave of young writers that can be seen around baseball. Even TalkNats has some young writers like teenager Michael Daalder who also by the way started Talk Cubs as an affiliated site to Talk Nats. There is also DC local Aidan Kohn-Murphy who is 13-years-old and covers DC sports for Sports Illustrated Kids. Will Kubzansky is in high school and is another teenage whiz who is a regular writer on Federal Baseball.
If there is a such thing as a Twitter Blog, that is JWerth’s Beard with a twitter following of over 20,000 passionate fans of their
site Twitter address. Writing at 140 characters at a time, it is one of the favorite destinations, and yes, JWerth’s Beard wrote an article for Talk Nats and hopefully will again!
To help look at the popularity of the various blogs I used an Amazon site that provides a website ranking and stats such as the number of page clicks per visit and the number of minutes per visit. Here is the link to the Talk Nats stats, but the stats are based on site views over the last month which are usually the slowest time of the year for baseball blogs since it is the off-season.
A Review of the Nats Blogs:
The Nats Blog gets a lot of search hits based on it’s highly descriptive name. There are a few different bloggers who are fairly active, 5-10 posts a month. Very good writers who cover the typical Nats news, signings, updates on ex-Nats, and Harper’s wedding.
Citizens of Natstown has some very well researched long form articles, but not a huge amount of activity during the off-season. Much of the traffic to the site is driven by their coverage of the Nats’ prospects. The various bloggers are all active on Twitter. The site does have a podcast.
Nats GM is a one man operation, producing a few long form articles a month. It also includes a podcast. The beer coverage is a nice draw. The strange thing about this blog is that the biggest search hit is Brad Wilkerson. There are a fair amount of comments per post. Strangely, this was the site that this week wrote a story on the Baltimore Orioles. That might have a long-term effect on their site.
Nats Talk on the Go is a podcast, no articles and no comments so not much of a community. It does have a nice store with some cool shirts.
Nationals Prospects is a one man show that is very active and very well researched, this guy is spending a lot of time on this site. Unlike some of the other sites this one covers a specific niche, making it very valuable for anyone with an interest in the Nats farm system. Following the team beyond the 25 man roster isn’t for everyone, but for those with an interest there is a regular discussion in the comments.
Nationals Arms Race is another single author blog that focuses on a niche, pitching. A couple very long and very well researched articles a week, with a good number of comments on each post.
Half Street Heart Attack is not a highly active blog but it does contain analysis on the business side of baseball, contracts and trade analysis.
1500 South Capitol Street stands out from the crowd, it is written in Japanese by a guy who used to live in DC and now resides in Tokyo. He is an active blogger who gets no comments on his site so I’m sure he’d welcome a hello from the US.
Nationals Review is a slick-looking site that has a well written long form article or two a month from one primary blogger. This site provides a great annual service of mapping out all the beer to be found at Nats Park, now that is a valuable niche. Plus some real nice shirts available.
District on Deck is associated with the Fansided network of blogs, getting it linked from major websites, they are ranked at about 700,000 for popular websites in the US. Typically visitors stay on the site for over two minutes per visit. The brawl with the Pirates last fall was their biggest driver in traffic. They have a very busy website, with a few different authors.
Nats Baseball (Whoseanders and Whatsglories?) is another blog that gets a lot of traffic just based on their name, and Harper Gordek is a talented writer. A single author who posts very long articles on almost a daily basis, attracting a number of comments per post.
Nats Gallery is a less active blog that got a lot of hits based on a comprehensive post on Winterfest. Nice articles, book reviews, and a listing of player walk-up music that is a real nice resource.
Let Teddy Win is one of the original group of Nats blog, dominating coverage of the mascot niche and getting a lot of traffic with early previews of the promotional schedule. This blog may have suffered from getting what it wished for, Teddy winning couldn’t have been good for tee-shirt sales. Scott Ableman does a good job overall with the blog and also has a knack for getting some good video.
Federal Baseball is by far the most visited of the Nats blogs, ranked 128,000 in the US. They get 1.6 page views per visit and over two minutes spent on the site on average per visit. The Pirates brawl was also a big driver of traffic. Federal Baseball is associated with SB Nation, a very nice looking site that gets linked from big time web sites. They have one primary author and several other authors covering a variety of Nats related topics. They have very popular game day threads.
Where does Talk Nats fit in?
Talk Nats ranked 598,000 in the US of all blogs which includes tens of millions of blogs, also with over two minutes spent on the site per visit. Not bad for a totally independent site that entered their existence during 2015 at a time when the team finished outside of the playoffs after being the team favored to win the World Series.
As an independent site, Talk Nats does not get a huge number of clicks from non-fans, but it does have by far the highest number of comments per day (possibly more than all the other blogs combined) and certainly more than MASN on the Nationals side and most days WaPo. The biggest traffic driver was the breaking news of Bryce Harper‘s wedding, and its articles on player’s bats have a more national appeal. Not surprisingly, the highest number of search hits were during spring training, Talk Nats really had the best coverage of the team from Viera even though they operate with no help from the Nationals.
So, should Talk Nats mess with a good thing? Probably not, but I’ve got a suggestion anyway. The game day threads here are immensely popular, with hundreds of comments. But they push the more topical posts into the background. If there is a nice thread on SABR, or the MASN lawsuit, or Harper’s choice of bats there is a related conversation that could continue for days or weeks that I often feel gets cut short when the next game starts.
I’d like to see the game day threads split off from the topical posts, allowing the separate discussion to continue indefinitely. This would allow for Talk Nats to keep the game day threads running the same as always while mimicking a site like WNFF that gets triple the number of page clicks per visit and more than double the number of minutes spent per visit by having a half dozen or more different topics up for discussion at any given time.
If traffic is the goal (and if you are advertising I’d say this is a worthy goal), then linking up with other blogs may be the way to go. Either becoming a partner with a large national site such as SB Nation or by cross promoting with some of the smaller sites. There are a number of very good writers on the various blogs whose posts are not being seen by a lot of people, they might find that the higher visibility of Talk Nats outweighs the independence of running their own blogs.
Where are the Nattering Nabobs?
As a final thought, the Natosphere does not have a blog that treads in the negative mudslinging that is sometimes needed as part of checks and balances. What these current blogs have in common is a positive theme, which is great, Nats fans want to read good things about the team. But there needs to be a strong voice to counter the prevailing thought some times. Fire Jim Bowden and NatsNQ were two good examples of blogs that filled this role in the past. There has to be some grumpy Nats fan sitting in his parent’s basement who knows what is wrong with this team.