Yesterday Outkick the Coverage turned three years old. Three years ago I hit publish for the first time while sitting in a Birmingham hotel room. This was what went live on the site, the first ever words to appear on Outkick three years ago:
"Seven years ago I went on a pudding strike in the United States Virgin Islands. I was 25 and the purpose of the pudding strike was to draw attention to the injustice of DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket not being available in the U.S.V.I. At that time you were only able to watch whatever national games the local CBS and Fox affiliates carried. Rarely, if ever, did that telecast feature my hometown Tennessee Titans. For reasons that escaped understanding, DirecTV would not sell their satellite service in the islands. With the help of friends, some of whom will still be assisting with this site seven years later, we created www.nflpuddingstrike.com. We've since let the site go down but you can read an interview about the pudding strike with me here -- and reaped a whirlwind of free media coverage. I wrote a daily pudding diary where I opined about...eating pudding every day. And, trust me, if you can write about pudding every day for fifty days, creating Internet content is never going to be much of an issue for you.
Millions of people read, watched, or kept tabs on the pudding strike. Thousands of strangers emailed in support."
I went back and read it this weekend. This part of our first article stood out:
"Everywhere I've gone you guys have found me. (Incidentally, I'm expecting that song to be on the next NKOTB soundtrack). And now I'm eventually going to have a full cast of characters to write alongside me. How could I turn away from the challenge and the excitement? The leap of faith into mid-air with no safety net.
I couldn't. For better or worse, I've always been fearless.
That's why I can promise you this, at outkickthecoverage.com we will be smarter, faster, and more entertaining than any of the major sports sites on the Internet. We'll also be 10 billion % funnier. And we're going to break news, lots of news. Why? Because we're independent and don't have existing television contracts with anyone. And because you guys are going to tip us off.
But most importantly, we're going to have fun. Trust me, I've been there where you are now, pretending to work while seeking out twenty minutes of solace amidst an unbearable day. Staring at the computer screen thinking, "How the f--- did it get to the point where I make a living arguing about whether a leap day is foreseeable?"
Stroll around the site and you'll see the framework of what we'll be doing, fun pieces, intelligent columns, contests -- go ahead and submit a photo of yourself if you think you've outkicked your coverage more than any guy in the country -- and more. We'll continue to evolve rapidly, with SEC speed. Will we make mistakes? Of course. Will we have stupid ideas? Definitely. But eventually we're going to hit on all cylinders, and, like Herschel Walker seeing a hole, burst into the open field with jet fuel propelling us to the goal line. Ultimately we'll have a site that's a meritocracy, if you're a good writer I hope we'll find a way to feature you, and I hope that you'll be able to find a way to also make a living doing what you love to do."
Three years later the thing that I'm most proud of is that we've had an awful lot of fun. Sure, we've occasionally been serious, but most of the time we've been fun. When I started Outkick I wrote that our simplified goal would be to be smart, original, and funny. We've done that. And we've never taken ourselves too seriously on the site either. At a time when many on the Internet want to treat sports coverage like it's the latest middle eastern crisis, we've kept in mind that sports is where most of us go to escape the serious things in our life. Outkick is not the serious thing in your lives. We don't ever want to be that either.
Three years after Outkick's founding we're still not Herschel running downhill, but we've got game changing, taking over the game in bursts, speed, the kind of speed Travis Stephens displayed in the 2001 game at Florida. It's also fair to say that this was Outkick's biggest year yet. We moved the site into the Fox Sports skin, started two spin-off businesses Outkick Gear and Outkick CLE, and experienced surging numbers of readers, including our first story ever that did over a million reads. We've also vastly expanded the Bullpen -- we're now paying up to $100 an article which is more than just about any sports site on the Internet pays for submitted content -- and are poised to hire Outkick employees on college campuses to act as brand reps for Outkick Gear. (Email a resume to email@example.com if you want to apply for one of those jobs). In short, we've turned Outkick into a multi-million dollar business and we're receiving millions of unique readers a month. Which helps to ease the nerves when I have tens of thousands of dollars in pants sitting in our warehouse. Buy these pants, you cheap bastards.
Aside from becoming the greatest pants mogul in the Southeastern United States -- seriously, the idea that I have a fashion line would have paid off better than Rory McIlroy's dad's British Open title when his son was 15 -- Outkick owes its success almost entirely to y'all. Social media is a popular buzzword now, but for most of our time at Outkick that's all we had, you guys sharing our articles. We didn't have a firehose on Yahoo or AOL or MSN to drive traffic to the site or a major media partner when we started. We had Twitter, Facebook, and y'all. That's turned out to be more than enough.
I've been open with our data from the start so I decided to go back to Google analytics and see what our three year totals look like, which are our most popular stories and where are our most popular markets?
Here are our ten most popular articles of all-time.
10. Orlando Shaw has 22 kids by 14 women
If this list is not a wacky look into the mind of the Outkick reader, I don't know what is. I love it.
Couple of things on this top ten -- I specifically excluded Outkick stories that have been inside the Fox skin, that is, everything that has gone up since May of this year. Some of Outkick's stories have gone up on the front page of MSN and exploded in readership, but that's an unfair comparison because the traffic is just insane. Also, the opening paragraphs of all of our Outkick stories are cut off in the present archives. Swell.
Where are our readers coming from? Here are our 25 most popular markets over the past three years:
4. New York City
11. Washington, D.C.
12. St. Louis
13. New Orleans
14. Kansas City
15. San Antonio
20. Los Angeles
21. Baton Rouge
22. Little Rock
Oh, and 25. Minneapolis, I see you Twin Cities.
Seriously, I can't thank you enough for all the support. You guys have made Outkick a success. With your continued help and support, I'm excited to see where we can go from here.
Whatever else happens, hopefully this will finally be the year that Outkick fires that bastard Clay Travis.