It’s 2014, and as this blog enters its fourth (OMG REALLY??), yes that’s right fourth year in operation, the time has come to once again evaluate how things are going and set some objectives for the new year ahead. This is the third time I have carried out this exercise, and while looking back over them it’s fair to say the first and second editions don’t exactly read like the most gripping pieces of literature, the purpose here is not to cure narcolepsy. Rather, it’s to bind me to some KPIs, so you’ll have to bear with me while I work my way through these and accept my apologies if it’s all a bit on the dull side. If you can stick with it though, the following will contain some hints about some top secret future developments…
2013 goals were:
- To rank consistently in the top 60 on Open Parachute by the end of the year, and to eventually become the highest ranking sports blog in New Zealand.
- Keep improving my local football coverage and keep trying to fill the void left by the New Zealand football magazines that have disappeared from our newsagent shelves in recent years.
- Cover at least one New Zealand game every weekend when possible, and to post something else that’s of interest to me around Wednesday each week.
- Keep improving my photography.
- MOAR INTERVIEWS!
- Gradually expand the number of perspectives being offered here.
- Refresh the look of the blog annually.
I’m very happy with progress on the first part of goal 1. From July to November, the blog only ranked outside the top 60 once – in October (62nd), and on the whole the audience seems to be steadily growing all the time. November saw the blog hit a record high of 45th in the rankings with 4,810 unique visits, partly due to one spectacular day when Scarves on Statues was linked to on the BBC website. When the second part of the objective was written, Sportsfreak was not participating in the rankings so all I had to do was beat Rugby Tips to achieve that elusive number one sporting spot. That has since changed, and I now need to more than double my best ever month so far to get there, but this was always a long term ambition, and in my mind it’s still achievable, particularly if the blog can pick up a bit more of an international audience. For 2014 though, I’ll just be really happy if this can keep growing to the point where 5,000 unique visits a month is not out of the question if I push myself.
Goal two has also largely been met, even if there is obviously still plenty of room for improvement. One of the measures of success has been the proliferation of other football blogs that have sprung up around the joint! They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and if even in a small way I have inspired others to add to the profile of grassroots New Zealand football then that is fantastic.
Some new features were added in 2013, most notably the on-camera post-match interviews and the monthly general debate threads. There is more innovation to come in 2014, including a wee project I’m currently quite excited about that sees me trying my hand at penning some fiction, in the form of a regular football serial. Provided I’m just as happy with it closer to the time as I am now, this will be published during the 2014 NRFL season. Watch this space…
Goal 3 has mostly happened. I worked out the other week that I blogged games on 52 occasions in 2013, so an average of exactly one per week hits that nail pretty much on the head. I’m also aware that all the research suggests that the more regularly you post on a blog, the more your readership grows. Ideally, it should be every day, but that is too much of a commitment for me with my job being quite demanding at times and also with my political commitments in 2014 (election year) no doubt set to place even more strain on my free time. Having said that though, I do plan, with the help of guest posts and stuff I can write in bulk well in advance of posting, to slowly work my way up to several posts per week.
Goal 4 is still a work in progress. The new lens didn’t eventuate, partly because my camera crapped out and I ended up having to spend a small fortune on a new body, but I still feel like I’m getting better and better all the time, learning new tricks as I go. That photography course I was thinking about taking last year is still on the medium term agenda… But actually, picking it up as I go along is pretty satisfying and I have also been very grateful for the few tips and pointers I have scrounged off good people on the side-lines such as Grant Stantiall.
Goal 5 – partial tick. I tripled the number of long-form interviews I achieved in 2012, admittedly only from one to three, but I also started videoing short post-match interviews after NRFL games part-way through the season. This was a successful innovation and will continue when winter returns again. I will also push myself to do at least a couple more in-depth interviews during the course of 2014.
Goal six was achieved with an ever growing number of guest posts from a range of different types of football people. From a football club chairman in Mt Maunganui talking about guest player regulations to a Toronto FC fan in Canada talking about Ryan Nelsen, I think this occurred to a greater extent that I imagined and I am quite keen for that to continue to be the case. I also have an idea for a regular series of guest posts that I will be approaching semi-prominent football people to write for me very soon and hope to have that bearing fruit by March.
Which just leaves aesthetics. You have probably already noticed a change in the look of the place. I still think once a year is a good interval of time to change things up to keep things fresh and interesting. If nothing else, I get bored looking at the same thing every day for more than a year. This year I have moved away from one fixed header image to define the site, and towards showing off a selection of my favourite photographs from the previous twelve months. There are 18 different images that come up at random, so you should hopefully see a different one every time you come to the site, refresh a page or click on a link. I have also provided all 18 original images in gallery form in my usual way above and below so you can browse through them if you are so inclined. I realise the Gareth Morgan one is not for the feint hearted and may drive some traffic away, but that’s the risk you take for art sometimes… 😉
For the sake of nostalgia, here’s a look at the history of header images on this site:
Finally, to everyone who has read this post this far, if you have managed to hang in there through all the above then you probably read a lot of my stuff from start to finish, and I owe you a big vote of thanks. Thank you for stopping by as often as you do, and I look forward to hopefully keeping you entertained in the New Year ahead.
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.