With 2023 behind us, we look back at how this blog performed over the last 12 months as previously done with the 2022 and 2021 reviews. We encourage you to read those for some additional context but we’ll provide pertinent highlights of those reviews as needed.
2023 Stats Compared to Previous Years
Let’s start by looking at the number of views, visitors, and articles we published each year from 2020 through 2023. We include a year-over-year change percentage for the views recorded as well. Everything went up, which is great but the devil is in the details. We tripled the number of articles published mainly due to the semi-monthly realignment report. That change netted about 2,300 views although it’s worth pointing out they might have taken views away from other articles.
|Views % Change
The most noticeable change was at the end of 2023, which experienced a drastic decrease in December. 2021 had 3,300 views while 2022 had 7,300 end. In 2023, the views struggled to reach over 2,500. There are a few reasons for this: 1) the Google algorithm was insanely beneficial in 2022 and 2) realignment has been non-stop. Honestly, there seems to be a growing number of people who are getting tired of the realignment news and college football chasing the dollar. Here are the biggest realignment announcements in the previous few years:
2021: Texas and Oklahoma announced a move to the SEC.
2022: UCLA and USC were announced as the next members of the Big Ten.
2023: The Pac-12 falls apart with former members splitting between the ACC, Big 12, and Big Ten.
2024: Florida State versus the ACC and the many uncertainties facing that showdown.
It’s understandable when people see the constant realignment changes/rumors and decide to swipe or move on to a different topic. This blog has covered realignment for three years and it has been dizzying at times. For the casual fans who may only see major moves but they’re happening with more frequency? They’re not going to be doing an iceberg research session if they’re already annoyed by the ones they’ve seen. On top of that, the College Football Playoff controversy surrounding Alabama and Florida State rankled quite a few feathers that probably made some people disillusioned with college football. There are a lot of headwinds in the media world for college football and realignment.
Most Viewed Articles in 2023
The top articles in 2023 did not change from last year with Realignment for 2023 and Beyond outpacing the Realignment for 2022 and Beyond article. Hitting the top three despite being a more recent post was the article looking at whether the new rules are shortening college football games. The 2023 annual installment of Realignment Changes for 2024 and Beyond was fourth. The entire top 10 can be found below.
|Year (Month) Published
|College Sports Realignment for 2023 and Beyond
|College Sports Realignment for 2022 (and Beyond)
|Are the New Rules Shortening College Football Games?
|College Sports Realignment for 2024 and Beyond
|Are Two New Schools and a Football Program on the Way to Division 1?
|College Football TV Contracts Since 1984: How Much Higher Can They Go?
|Updates on Division 1 Moves and More Possibilities for All Three Divisions
|What Will the Future Hold for Chicago State After the WAC?
|James Madison and Fixing the FCS-To-FBS Transition Rules
|What Can Be Done to Shorten the Length of College Football Games?
2023 Content Changes and 2024 Plans
The most noticeable change to our content in 2023 was the introduction of the Realignment Report in which we cover the latest realignment news and rumors. We also document any realignment changes for almost all NCAA sports. While the report can take a decent amount of time to compile all the changes, it has helped us stay more in tune throughout Division 1, Division 2, Division 3, and NAIA sports.
Also making a return in 2023 were our college football predictions for the season. We typically don’t do well with our predictions (not a surprise if you look back on some articles like West Texas A&M to Division 1) but it’s something to get us excited for the season and something to selfishly root for as the calendar inches closer to the holidays. Our review of those picks will be posted later in January.
So what’s on tap for 2024? A lot more of the same… at least for the first 6 months of the year. The realignment report will continue to be posted each month on the 15th and last day. We’ll also post thoughts about major moves as we did with the Pac-12 when we dropped two articles within four days. We’ll continue to update the realignment changes and have another annual installment for 2025 and beyond except there will be a rather noticeable change. Beginning with the July 2024 post, which will encompass changes in 2025 or later, we will be adding all individual sports changes not just full membership and football changes.
The main reason for one giant list is to give a better vision of all realignment changes in one place and in a more timely fashion. We are a realignment website after all and the information is dispersed in the semi-monthly realignment report but that’s not always convenient to look through or wait for. It makes more sense to have them all in one article and table despite the potentially long article and table length. The format will remain the same as the 2024 and beyond article with the table at the top and additional details below.
As a result, the realignment report will most likely no longer be published, at least not with the same content as before. Instead, we’ll focus on more standalone articles about possible moves that would normally be buried in the realignment report. We haven’t completely ruled out continuing some form of the realignment report and, if it does continue, it will have fewer individual news items. All that is subject to change of course.
One article we hope to write in 2024: A first impressions/review of the latest EA College Football video game. The game is scheduled to be released in the Summer of 2024 and we will outline some elements we would like to see included in the franchise as part of an article in the Spring of 2024.
Under the Hood Changes (and a Rant)
Although there were no drastic changes to how we operate this website behind the front end, in September we had to move away from one of the basic features of WordPress called Jetpack. Jetpack is designed to be a one-plugin solution for different aspects of a website running on WordPress but its primary use for us was statistics tracking. We could see all the page views for a day, week, month, and year along with where the clicks came from (Google, Facebook, Reddit, etc.).
Well… that changed once Automattic decided it wanted to start charging $10 a month to use Jetpack if we continued to run ads (Automattic is the owner of WordPress.com and the Jetpack plugin). The subscription fee came after they decided to limit the number of shares in a calendar month to 30. The share limit wasn’t a big deal except if you had five different social media accounts set up to share, each article posted counted as five for that month. We didn’t come too close to the limit but multiple negative quality-of-life changes made it easier to find free alternatives.
Clearly, we didn’t like that so we moved away from the plugin and kept the ads. This website simply doesn’t make enough money (read: any money) to justify spending $120 a year for stats when other options exist. Sure, downloading all the stats going back to 2013 and recalculating them was not easy but it was worth the move because some parts of the website have sped up since leaving. There was also the charging for the spam filter plugin called Akismet and that eventually led us to turn off all comments for a short time. All the negatives made it very easy to move away from JetPack.
Overall, it was a hugely negative experience with Automattic and its various plugins that eventually led to a long rant in one of our articles. The rant can be found here in our November 2023 article talking about yet another subscription paywall. We won’t rehash everything again in this article but the paywell trend seems to be accelerating and may even get worse. It’s not that everything should be free especially if a quality outlet is worth paying for. Just because an entity can monetize, it doesn’t mean they should as we noted in our 2022 review. The subscription model feels gratuitous in 2024 regardless of content quality whether it’s streaming, newspapers, big brands, etc. All of that brings us to the next point…
Ads and Monetization
We talked about ads and monetization in prior State of the Blog articles and there was the rant in November 2023 along with the preceding paragraphs in this article. Is there a feeling that this website needs to be monetized with a subscription model like seemingly every other website or service?
The main crux against monetization is that once you start receiving payment for your work, it needs to be a high-quality output. Obviously, this isn’t entirely true because some places will monetize regardless of the content quality. This website has always been a hobby/creative outlet… well… as creative as you can get with a niche topic like college realignment. Adding a paywall or subscription model removes that hobby element and brings in the “job” aspects of meeting outside expectations or else the revenue will dry up.
None of this is to say we don’t currently attempt to produce high-quality content because we want every article to be informed and well-researched for the audience. We think we have reached those expectations with a majority of our articles and the increasing number of views year-over-year bears that out. We don’t want to sacrifice the hobby and well-researched qualities for a few bucks each month.
The final piece of the equation is the topic itself. College realignment is a niche topic in higher education but there are plenty of avenues to read up on it. Numerous forums and websites discuss college realignment, even bizarre scenarios, and they are free. There are established writers, insiders, and other realignment blogs that cover realignment to varying extents. There’s a mix with some being free and some being paid with the paid ones usually having actual sources to rely on for their reporting.
There is no goal to be the gospel of realignment. This website presents information along with a narrow view of a realignment topic, whether it’s a conference or school, and then aims to provide a different viewpoint. Is that worth paying a subscription for? We’re biased so of course the answer is yes the readers should absolutely be willing to hand over their hard-earned money, no questions asked (sarcasm). Objectively, that’s a tougher question to answer and is up to each individual reader. We haven’t reached the point where we think it’s time to monetize and there’s no pressure or timetable to do so because this remains a hobby.
If you made it this far, we’ll wrap the article up with some expectations for this year. Our all-time record for views in a year was 41,093 in 2016. and we came oh so close missing by less than 900 views. That 41,100 number will remain our goal but as for the expectations? We have a more modest target that requires yet more context.
In late 2022, we got extremely lucky with the Google algorithm as we had more than 12,000 views combined for November and December. That luck must have run out in 2023 because our annual softball article providing information for the NCAA Softball Tournament was not picked up at all in by Google Search. In a typical year, we’ll get a few thousand views on that article but not for 2023. The views from Google also slowed down in December 2023 lending more credence to the algorithm having changed in some way.
In an amusing twist, the 2023 softball schedule article received only 135 views. The 2022 edition of the softball tournament schedule article was more popular in 2023 with 185 views despite being a year out of date. What makes the twist amusing is that the annual softball article is usually the only article we actively promote on social media by posting on numerous websites. Relatedly, we did set up a Facebook page where we post all our articles and we have a Blue Sky account although the app requires an invite at this time. We also joined Google Publisher, which is a pathway to Google News but our articles don’t hit the top results, which isn’t too surprising considering there’s no breaking news here. If there are other ways you think we should promote this website, please let us know.
Something else we noticed later in the year, beginning in September was a downtrend in clicks from Google. This one is more difficult to pinpoint because we had some big changes in September and October. The first was moving away from JetPack on October 1, which shouldn’t be an issue but we could have lost something in the background that was previously helping. On top of that, the way the two plugins counted views is likely different (the final numbers each produced were close to each other before changing plugins but that doesn’t mean they would be the same for longer periods). Finally, we began using an SEO optimizer, which should help in theory because we follow the guidelines the plugin has. Interestingly, the views went down when after the use of the SEO optimizer began, yet the views were higher before the SEO optimizer. Hmm…
Combine those factors with a niche topic like realignment and our realistic expectations are straightforward: 36,600 views. It’s a sensible number because it averages out to 100 views per day with 2024 being a leap year. Plus, it’s a target that is still far beyond the expectations we had when we started covering realignment in-depth back in October 2020. It wouldn’t be surprising if there was a noticeable dip in viewership in 2024 if all the different factors discussed above continue to become more pronounced.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading our annual New Year’s Day dissertation as we clearly had a lot more to say than previous years. More importantly, we hope you enjoyed the numerous articles we posted in 2023 and will be back in 2024 for everything that realignment will throw at us. Thanks again for your valuable time and we hope to see you back the rest of the year!