From 2002 to 2012, CollegeHoops.net* was my baby, my passion and my income. From humble beginnings, it became the largest independent college basketball site, visited by over 2,000,000 unique visitors per year.
Besides writing content each week, I hired a team of freelance journalists (as well as unpaid writers) that created dozens of articles each week. I frequently assigned story topics, edited their work, and I am extremely proud that former CHN writers have graduated to positions with national outlets such as NBC Sports, Slam Magazine and ESPN (Jeff Borzello).
Regular content on the site including popular Top 50 Rankings, Bracketology projections, Non-BCS Top 25s, Top 144 Team Previews and NBA Mock Drafts. As a team, CHN was lucky enough to have interviewed coaches such as John Calipari and we were credentialed to cover many leading sporting events. Special features such as Cheerleader of the Day, Mascot rankings and Player Nicknames generated publicity on social media and national media sites.
Besides quality content, the site also grew because of extensive guerrilla marketing and my expertise in SEO. Due to extensive work generating return-links and optimizing pages, CHN reached a peak of being ranked 3rd on Google for such highly-visited broad terms as “college basketball, “ncaa tournament”, and “nba draft.” Beyond SEO, traffic was also generated through social media efforts (learn more) and other publicity efforts (covered here.)
Of course, the purpose of all this effort was profit. I was able to negotiate direct advertising deals with global brands such as Adidas, Jeep, and Sprite and other companies such as PartyPoker, Bodog, and RetroCollegeCuts. Besides these ad sales, revenue was generated through ad networks such as Google Adsense, Burstmedia, and Contextweb, as well as affiliate companies such as Fanatics.com.
Lastly, I negotiated partnerships with the likes of Fantasy Sports Ventures (Big Lead Sports) and HuffingtonPost to generate traffic and revenue. Beginning in 2009, site profitability dropped due to changes in advertising conditions and also the rise of stronger web 2.0 competitors. While the site remained profitable and relatively popular to the end, I ultimately decided to move on after the 2012 season. Perhaps the biggest lesson i learned during the decade running CollegeHoops.net was that sometimes its important to give up control to others in areas where I lack expertise (technical web development, etc.)
*Also known as collegehoopsnet.com.