College Sports in the Realm of Bonesville
Tuesday, July 30, 2002
Has the "lunatic fringe" found a part-time
Bonesville.net will be one year old on August 21. In
retrospect, it is clear we were selling our target audience short by not
launching the site years ago.
As a long-dormant journalist (turned capitalist pig), a Down East native,
a devotee of college sports and a one-time wide-eyed resident of 129 Aycock
Dorm and other humble abodes on College Hill, a question had bothered
me for quite some time: Why were anonymous chat forums or message boards at
the heart of almost all of the higher-profile independent web sites devoted
to East Carolina sports?
It was a paradox to be sure, one which warped the prism through which
Pirate coaches and administrators perceived the web as a medium. After all,
when cyber-cowboys with CB-style handles can lob rumors and take pot shots
from behind an electronic veil, it’s understandable why ECU athletic
director Mike Hamrick is paranoid about the web and why blunt-spoken
football coach Steve Logan labels those who give credence to such
loosely-regulated gossip bazaars as the “lunatic fringe.”
Then, the answer dawned on me. The vast majority of these 21st-century
byte-slingers have no desire whatsoever to undermine East Carolina or sew
ill will about individuals involved in the athletics program. On the
contrary, the posters and readers of the forums — with a few exceptions —
are much like me. They have nothing more risqué on their online agendas
other than satisfying a gnawing hunger for information and perspective about
a topic which is dear to their hearts — the East Carolina Pirates.
They want to talk about it with their cyber-pals the same way they would
with their buddies in the tailgate fields or at the corner tavern. They want
to know what’s going on inside the program and what’s in store in the
future. They want to dispense their sincere, albeit off-the-cuff, solutions
to perceived problems. And, they want to vent their criticisms of imperfect
performances or questionable decisions the same way the Bronx’s most
sharp-edged Yankees fans are compelled to fling acid-tipped verbal darts in
the general direction of George Steinbrenner and Joe Torre.
In effect, many ECU fans who are comfortable with mice and computer
keyboards comprised a collective pent-up demand for the 'skinny' that was
not being met by the conventional media. True to the American way, they
improvised — and developed their own forums for exchanging 'scoops' and
Once I was satisfied I had nailed down the answer to my original
question, it was obvious what the next logical step should be. It made
complete sense, I thought, that a web site could indeed make its way without
a message board at its core — if it could satisfy, through other means, a
goodly portion of the fans’ insatiable daily craving for Pirate sports news,
features, analysis and opinions.
So, voila! A diverse crew of intrepid writers with keen knowledge of ECU
sports and reasonable access to various facets and personalities of the
athletics program was assembled.
And a digital baby was born.
Bonesville.net was launched with minimal fanfare with the objective of
covering an eclectic mix of ECU, Carolinas and Conference USA sports like no
other source. Promotional efforts were limited and selective as the online
daily’s content formula and navigation scheme were tweaked. The rate of
increase in readership progressed from incremental in the beginning... to
steady as word began to get around… to remarkable as the quantity and
quality of the site’s content evolved.
As a commercial enterprise, Bonesville.net was a risky venture from the
get-go. In fact, the management committee of its computer-centric and
Internet-savvy parent company, Carolina Data Systems, asked pressing
questions before funding the venture: Could the site attract traffic in
significant numbers and on a consistent, long-term basis? If the answer to
that first query was yes, they wanted to know, could a business model be
conceived and implemented in an era of dot.com busts that would ultimately
return a profit?
The answers are coming into view on the horizon in the East and
our forthcoming magazine is a part of the equation. Based on the online
pre-orders for Bonesville.net The Magazine, there is a substantial
cadre of the East Carolina faithful out there — many of whom are still
probably irresistibly, understandably, drawn to the message boards — who
have grown to appreciate Bonesville.net’s unique, wide-ranging, inside
perspective on Pirate sports.
They have voted for Bonesville with their feet by visiting this site for
their daily news fix. Now, they are voting with their wallets by
plunking down their greenbacks for more probing content that is better
suited for hard copy.
We view this Internet endeavor and its magazine spin-off as a joint
venture of sorts, between Bonesville and the most fervent core of East
Carolina's partisans. After all, both parties closely identify with the same
objectives when it comes to Pirate athletics.
Bottom line: Bonesville.net The Website is here for another year
and we have every intention to make it more compelling than ever. And don’t
be surprised if Bonesville.net The Magazine shows up again, too.
Send an e-mail message to Danny Whitford.
Click here to dig into Danny Whitford's Bonesville archives.
02/23/2007 01:37:19 AM