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FTB: Foretelling the Future is Futile

Fishing in the ad stream for funds is for fools.

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A flooded Amazon rainforest at Explora Aquarium in Colombia Photo by Juancho Torres/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Well, hello Leafs fans. Today is a strange day for us at PPP. It’s a gameday, the Leafs are playing the Habs, and you know what we’d like to be talking about, but the news yesterday overshadows that for us.

If you missed the FTB yesterday, we learned that, after Vox Media laid off many workers, they had taken the decision to stop paying for most of the NHL sites on the SBNation network.

In the short term, we’ll still be here until the end of February. In the long term, everything is very uncertain.

As I said yesterday, it’s not quite “so long and thanks for all the fish” but it could get to that point. Thank you very much for your comments yesterday, though. Many of you were lovely, and I got to ban some Habs fan, so you know, a normal day.

I’ve always tried to be honest with people as much as I can, so I want to make some general comments about this site, this type of site and sports media in general.

No one at this site is paid what they should be for the work they do. I have always told people who want to write here that they have to have some other reason to do it than money. Sites of this sort that have hybrid paid/amateur writers struggle to get good enough, or even just enough writing to generate a big enough audience to pay their way — there are no paid editors in either sense of that word. But in general, sports media is very hard to make work no matter the model.

I don’t believe there is any future in ad-supported media. Even the tailored sponsorship style of advertising works only for some very popular content. You have to have a vast pool of people never compensated in order for a very few to be able to build an audience big enough to get money out of the system. Instagram, Youtube etc. — it’s all of a piece.

Subscription based services are not the great solution either. There’s only so many $5 to $20 a month payments people will make, and only so many sites that can even cover their hosting costs that way. And there’s very few people who think they should pay for content or for the upkeep of the services they use.

It’s a conundrum, and one that venture capital has obscured from a lot of readers of various sorts of things. The internet is so full of content, isn’t it? And yet a lot of that content is just there to be the ribbons and bows on a webservice that someone else will buy for the user data someday. The start-up model is about making investors rich, not providing a stable service that employs people and contributes to society.

There’s a desire to see evil in this failure — the failure of Vox to ever figure out how to make something out of all of their sports sites. Sometimes failure is just the natural and inevitable outcome. I can’t tell you if NHL hockey coverage on a full 32-team basis can be made to even break even. I can tell you no one has done it, though. The NHL was never the core business of SBNation, however, and of course, there’s that other problem, the one about how so many of the fans are Canadian and the advertisers aren’t.

I don’t think there’s an obvious villain in this tale — although I feel for the Vox people who were on salary and have to face life suddenly with no income. I don’t think there was ever an obvious solution to a business model that needs you to pay to read about hockey, either directly or by becoming the customer of an advertiser, when fewer people want to read about hockey and almost no one really wants to pay for it.

In truth, this day was foretold when Craigslist killed the classified ads and newspapers began to fail. This is just the tail end of it all.

We have some time here to see if there is a feasible way to keep this site online in some form that isn’t a just a labour of love that drains someone’s personal funds, and/or if the passion exists to do it expecting not much in return. This is the end of the Vox ownership. Beyond that, we’ll watch some games and talk about trade rumours, and then... well, you can’t ever predict the future in hockey, can you?


For today, let’s focus on the fact that Kyle Dubas was at the Montréal game on Thursday and clearly he’s thinking up a blockbuster deal. I have a wild theory I made up on Friday morning before my day got ruined. It goes like this:

On Thursday, the Habs released a list of player injuries that would almost make you think they’re tanking. To have enough cap space for a giant roster full of guys not playing, they had to move someone to LTIR. Instead of Brendan Gallagher, who isn’t due back for weeks, they chose Sean Monahan, who is nearly ready to return.

That’s a little weird even when I take the tinfoil hat off.

So clearly Kyle is doing a deal to get Monahan, and he’ll arrive on LTIR and give the Leafs time to sort out how they want to make that cap hit fit.

Taking the tinfoil off again for a moment, I will say this is not a bad idea, with one salary retention, which would make him fit. He’s a versatile player, who was doing well prior to his injury.

In other news:

Bruce is our king of the land of limbo where we aren’t really fired, but we don’t have jobs either.

From the Athletic:

Seems like Tortorella knew in advance and kept management out of the loop.

Inspired by the cameras in the Arizona rink, I think.