BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA — What began as a couple buddies blogging about their passion for their alma mater has grown into a mecca for fans of Indiana University basketball. Inside the Hall is the perfect web resource for a region known for its devout basketball culture.
Started by Alex Bozich, Ryan Corazza, and Eamonn Brennan in 2007 as a hobby, the site soon grew to a legitimate resource for stories from a fan perspective. The three are all IU grads themselves (Bozich in 2004, Corazza and Brennan in 2007), and quickly made the move from backseat hobbyists to full-blown reporters doing original coverage. Since then, they’ve received attention from sites as diverse as Sports Illustrated and Deadspin, and Bozich says they were the first blog to receive full season media credentials from the university.
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And rightfully so: Bozich can boast traffic that grew an astounding 250 percent year after year from 2009 to 2010. The site had its best month in November 2010, when it pulled in 586,000 visitors and 850,000 page views.
The numbers make sense, as their content is an obsessive fan’s heaven. Game coverage. Rumors. Even extensive analysis of high school scouting. On top of original content, they aggregate and direct their readers to the best places to read even more on their beloved Hoosiers. One of the site’s strengths is its full embrace of the fan experience. There’s no better example of this than the bustling comments section after each story, where readers weigh in on everything from injury reports to game recaps as if they were talking over a beer at the local sports bar.
With limited staff and time, the Hall’s editors rely heavily on the strong community of fans to police the comments. Although they moderate the section themselves, Bozich says he can always count on his regulars to keep things civil. “If somebody new comes in and they’re up to no good,” he says, “all the people from day one are letting me know or giving them a hard time.”
Brennan left the site in December of 2009 and now blogs about college basketball full-time for ESPN.com. Corazza and Bozich share the load as editors, which entails scouring the web for the latest links and creating all of their original content. In January 2010, a new contributor, Zach Osterman, joined the site.
The Hall churns out one or two new stories a day. They also produce a weekly podcast, in which the editors discuss all things Hoosiers and conduct interviews with players, coaches, and high school prospects. Popular features include the “Film Session” series, in which they rehash the video from every game and break down key plays. While they’re able to make it to all the home games, they use the Cover It Live blogging tool to set up live chats and analysis with their readers when the team is on the road.
A popular feature that has built reader loyalty is the “Pick to Click” series, in which contestants pick a player they feel will perform the best before each game. The winners are entered into a pool for a $100 Amazon gift card at the end of the season.
The site has a healthy display of advertising, most of which comes from a partnership with the Yardbarker network—an aggregation-based fan site and affiliate service run by Fox Sports. They have also drummed up some support from local businesses, getting several vendors to commit to yearlong sponsorships in return for ad space. And in 2008, they began asking for reader donations.
“We’ve been very open since the beginning,” Bozich says.” We tell people ‘Hey, this is free. If you can help us out, please do.’”
Obviously, the site’s finances are yet to be fully figured out. Corazza and Bozich both supplement their income with part-time work. Bozich, who is the owner of the site, admits that because it started out as a passion project, he didn’t initially devote much thought to ways to make it profitable.
The future is unknown for Inside The Hall as the editors explore ways to grow it from passion project to a sustainable income generator. For now, they’ll continue focusing on what they do best: giving Hoosier fans their fix.
Inside the Hall Data
Name: Inside the Hall
Principal Staff: Alex Bozich, co-founder and editor; Ryan Corazza, co-founder and editor.
Affiliations: Google News; Yardbarker Network.
RSS Feed Link: http://feeds.feedburner.com/insidethehall