REPUBLIC, MISSOURI — For David Brazeal, the owner, writer, videographer, sole advertising salesman, and occasional play-by-play man for Republic Tiger Sports, his website, which is devoted to the athletic pursuits of the Republic R-III School District, has been a labor of love—but it’s also quickly evolved into a fledgling business enterprise. As an alumnus of Republic High School, Brazeal, forty-one, has long had the Tigers in his blood, but the idea for the site didn’t start until he had moved back to the Springfield, Mo. suburb after several years away. The site was launched in mid-2009, and its first big success—in which Brazeal provided live play-by-play coverage of a girls’ softball state semifinal in October of that year—vaulted the site into the consciousness of Republic residents, garnering thousands of listens. The coverage had been preceded by a game story of the team’s last-minute quarterfinal win. “Everybody at the school had been listening to the play-by-play,” Brazeal says. “And at that point, everybody kind of knew.”
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This past year, Brazeal says he got nearly 500,000 page views on the site’s Facebook page throughout the school year, no small feat for a town of around 14,000 people. On the site itself, views have steadily averaged up to 4,000 a month. The success was mostly due to a local newspaper, The Republic Monitor, a 2,400 circulation weekly, whose sports coverage left many residents wanting, especially when it came to reporting results in real time. Television stations in Springfield that generally stuck to their own turf didn’t help either.
Still, Brazeal says, a hyperlocal sports news website wasn’t the easiest sell. “It’s a combination of educating people about what this is and how it might be different,” Brazeal says. “It’s not just a guy with a blog going to games.”
The site started as a hobby for Brazeal, and it was only later that he began to see the site as a business opportunity. Advertising sales came slow at first, but Brazeal says that earnings have picked up to the point where he’s currently in the process of transitioning out of his day job, as a corporate online marketing consultant. He said he eschewed most forms of viral marketing, like Twitter or Facebook, at the beginning, in order to ensure that his audience would stay as local as possible. That made it less difficult to convince local advertisers to buy in, because they could be certain that their ad space would reach a receptive audience. “I consider the businesses to be almost partners,” Brazeal says. He declined to discuss specific revenue numbers.
Tiger football games are one of the site’s biggest draws, and Brazeal says that he’s got a well-worn protocol at this point, continuously running a video camera while keeping a close eye on the action. After a scoring play, turnover, or other highlight, Brazeal will pull the video and upload it to the site in real time on his iPhone. The highlights then eventually work their way around the Internet, with a vast majority of his traffic originating with the site’s page on Facebook. Brazeal doesn’t auto-link any of the posts, though, preferring to hand-link each clip with a brief caption. “That’s been the thing that’s helped it take off a little bit,” Brazeal says.
Many of the videos that end up appearing are more or less spontaneous, like a YouTube video of the game-winning shot that sent the Tiger men’s basketball team to the state semi-finals last year. That video has been viewed more than 1,000 times, but Brazeal said that it was shot at the last minute by a friend, because Brazeal was occupied doing the live play-by-play webcast. “There was no intention to shoot this video,” Brazeal says. “We thought of it at the last minute and had the flexibility to make something good out of it.” He is quick to point out that sports that might ordinarily get less attention, like girls’ soccer or track and field, typically will receive near equal billing with their more crowd-pleasing counterparts. “I’ll cover everything,” Brazeal says.
Maintaining a cordial independence from the school district has not been difficult so far since most of Brazeal’s coverage is unabashedly pro-Tigers, but that may change when he launches his next venture, RepublicTigerSchools.com, this fall. The new site will cover everything non-sports related in the school district, including board meetings and extra-curricular activities. Brazeal is skeptical that he could replicate his site for other towns, though he’s intrigued by the prospect. “I’ve thought about, ‘Could I go to other school districts, could I do other sites?’ ” Brazeal says, adding that having been a hometown kid was an early advantage. “I think I won’t know this year, but I could see it possibly happening.” Republic, in any case, will always have Brazeal’s services. The city has nearly doubled its population since 2000, when it had 8,438 residents, but has retained its character. “You get a town this size,” Brazeal says. “And it revolves around the school district.”
Republic Tiger Sports Data
Name: Republic Tiger Sports
Principal Staff: David Brazeal, owner and editor.
Affiliations: Local business sponsors
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