Early Sunday morning, March 29, 2009, someone in Toronto googled (without quotes) "keith law top 100 prospects" and ended up on a January fanshot posted by KCsince88 of the same name.
Little did they know it, but this mystery visitor would produce the millionth hit in Royals Review history.
Now, thousands of those hits are from me, but a million is a million. And this is baseball of course, we only talk about numbers that have round, divisible by ten endings, because those are special. 3,000 hits, 20 wins, 500 home runs, 40-40, etc. Any other emphasis on numbers is wrong and saps your enjoyment of the game and means you live at home and are a virgin and all the rest. Or so I've been told.
So anyway, one million hits. (Page views, by the way, are at 3.48 million. If you log onto the site, click a couple stories, and leave a comment, that's like three page views.) It's been a long time coming. To tell the truth, this occasion is probably the Gaylord Perry's 300th Win of obscure website milestones.
Would anyone mind terribly some blog history?
Royals Review launched on May 13, 2005, with no readership established and really nothing to its credit other than the SBN platform, which at the time was considerably less awesome than it is now. I have no idea how many Royals bloggers SBN offered to before they came to me, but I'm setting the number at three. For some reason, I deliberated deciding to join SBN for a few weeks and then there was some delay and waiting for the site to be built. If I recall correctly, RR and Viva El Birdos launched on the same day, the fifteenth and sixteenth blogs in the network. There are now over 190 SBN blogs. A month ago, at a glitzy SBN party thing covered by the Washington Post, I met the guy who came up with the name "Royals Review." It was a strange moment, like meeting a lost relative.
Let's pause a moment here. In 2005 there was no YouTube, there was really no widely-available Facebook, there was no Twitter, but there was Royals Review. In baseball terms, the Royals were managed by Tony Pena and Allard Baird. Terrence Long, Calvin Pickering, Justin Huber and Steve Stemle were Royals. Mike Sweeney was hitting at an All-Star level. It was a long time ago.
The next day I posted the first RR game thread, which Blez from Athletics Nation (the guy who recruited me to the network) told me would be key to growing the site. No one posted a comment, including me. Other than my (now) wife and a random Cubs guy who commented on the first post, RR didn't receive a single comment until the next day when Marc Normandin -- who is now with Baseball Prospectus -- made one in the next game thread. Marc and I used to talk on IM from time to time back in the day, and when he went to BP, he went out of his way to mention Royals Review more than once. He's good people.
Random comments appeared now and then, but there was really no one on the site. It was a horrible season for the Royals and a rough year for me, then my first at Iowa. My wife (well she's my wife now) was starting law school in another place. Primarily, I just remember it as a bad time. I had a strange living situation that didn't suit me in any way, and I was mostly taking classes that did little for me. Considering the only real benefit of an English PhD is moments of literature "doing things" for you, it all seemed long and pointless.
I stayed at Iowa for summer school and was rewarded with the Buddy Bell hiring, the first big newsworthy event in the history of the site. I wrote a big post about it. In June of 2005, I got a little traffic bump, getting up about 100 hits a day, but only because I tried to link to RR everywhere I could think of online. If I got to ten comments for a game thread, it was a good night. Actually, make that five.
Thanks to the internet archive, here's a glimpse of RR, late in 2005. Notice the old site logo. Yea, we've come a long way.
By the summer of 2006, I was ready to quit Royals Review. The site traffic had collapsed during the off-season, and I felt like I was participating in a business model that was flawed. No one, starts a blog for money, you start one to have readers. You know you have readers, real readers, from comments. No readers= depression, no comments= starvation. I kept getting more depressed about the blog (which I hadn't told my parents or most friends I was doing) and started to post less (relative to the time). The Royals were still horrible, and getting worse actually.
Then, one day I climbed out of bed in the early afternoon -- hey, I was a grad student in the summer -- and saw that like a thousand people had visited the site that day. Deadspin, out of nowhere, had linked to me due to the Royals-Cardinals series. This is going to be embarrassing, but at that time I had only vaguely heard of Deadspin, which I thought was a celebrity blog, which in a way it kind of is. I can still vividly remember the day, since I'd felt horrible all morning, which was part of the reason why it was probably two o'clock before I was fully up. When I walked outside to get some lunch, I felt... just a little bit famous. A thousand hits! I've felt proud to tell my (now) wife like five things my entire life, but that day was one of them. That summer was the turning point in RR history. The game threads, thanks to Grudz69, JQ, loyal2theroyals, Mr.Weatherstone, and others, got active and got fun. The SBN community model kicked in and RR started to become more than just a blog. The KC Star wrote about the site in 2007, and around then I started getting stray emails from ESPN, SI, and other places from time to time, asking my opinion on things.
This is getting long and dangerously self-indulgent...
Here are the traffic numbers for the Junes in the life of RR. It's a nice summary of the growth.
Web history isn't one replete with slow growth stories, but this is one. Basically, with some minor fluctuation due to the highs and lows of the baseball calendar, since mid-2006, Royals Review has set a new traffic record each month. This March, the site will top 60,000 hits, crushing the previously monthly record, set... in February. By comparison, RR got 44,000 hits the first year total. By this summer we may be doubling the current numbers. On Opening Day, I'm anticipating that we'll need about six game threads. I can't imagine what it might get like if the Royals start winning.
Now, I must admit that these are still small numbers in the grand scheme of things. Really small. For better or worse however, I've had ample opportunity to learn about the various levels of small, and today's small is much bigger than the smalls I've known.
And it isn't about me, it's about the people who contribute to this site everyday with their own posts. The platform and format of the site allows more user-interaction than a standard blog, and a little more depth than a message board, the genre that precedeed blogs.
Since 2005, counting Game Threads, I've posted over 1500 entries to Royals Review. Thanks to everyone for making it fun to write for this site, fun to read through the diaries (going old-school here) and the fanshots and the comments. The thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of comments.