“I clicked the switch. We are LIVE!” After reading that line in the email from Web Developer & UofO Honors Student Michael Tomcal, I pivoted over to check, and sure enough FishDuck.com was online that August 7th of 2011. Was anyone going to read our articles? We were structuring our writing to fit the older professionals that we were, yet ignoring the huge 18-34 age group? Not smart.
What about my “instructional” videos? I didn’t know what I was doing when I started out – I didn’t know how to shoot, edit, do voice-over or write a script? Who is going to watch videos about “little-ol’-Oregon” from a guy who admits he isn’t a coach, or a former college player, but a schmuck? Oh, boy, we were worried, but yet this was not our career; it was a hobby of learning and sharing what we have learned of the inner workings of Duck football with web world, so what the heck!
What a journey to three years later! Our articles get read a quarter-million times a month, and the football videos just passed their millionth view! We have been featured in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal with a massive following among high school and small college coaches around the nation and even the world! I was able to give a coach in Brazil the names and e-dresses of three other coaches in that nation that now run the Oregon Spread with whom to consult – as they have sent me wonderful emails in the past.
I have been moved and humbled by tons of volunteers that have joined our mission to serve the college football fans and coaches, as we currently have more than 100 volunteers in seven departments. Nothing happens on this site without their countless hours of writing, editing, researching, and managing … and I know it.
I refer to myself as the “Shameless Beggar” and there is quite the truth in that title. So many of these volunteers have helped me to have an incredible growth experience in my 50s, and to help me realize some latent skills I did not know existed. The friendships and the unity has been a gift as we have shared so many laughs and wondrous moments pondering our beloved Ducks.
A Crisis each Year?
We had just barely finished out first year when the news of the Pac-12 disallowing any use of game footage hit me hard. The instructional videos were the flagship of the site — so now what? My business partner quietly asked “should we shut it down?” My first thought was, “No … we will move to another form of teaching and for those who want to learn — they can still increase their knowledge and the enjoy the games that much more.” So we went to the current text/screenshot/GIF format, and our popularity as a teaching tool has not waned. (One coach in Hawaii told me recently that our weekly analysis was “required” reading for his coaching staff!)
The quality of the analyses by guest coaches has simply been astounding, as their contributions help me have some time to help the site in other ways, and I have learned so much from these coaches across the United States.
My happiest times with the site has been sitting in the “ManCave” with the Grizzled Ol’ Coach and viewing game footage and roaring about what we are seeing. It is such a joy to learn something consequential and then go to work finding more examples for the theme and shaping it into an analysis created for the fan. A month later that business partner left the site and we were thrown into absolute bedlam for six months — but we survived.
Last year at this time I had hit my max in terms of exhaustion, as trying to serve my investment clients and the readers/coaches who have become friends to me on the site had become too much. The plan was to turn management over to a new business partner and allow me to focus on serving our readers with more analysis and study.
Life and events took it a different direction, and I never got the management help, but instead had the assistance and caring of so many volunteers who pulled us out of the budding quagmire. What an adventure this had become, and I was traveling this road with so many top-flight professionals at my side. (You would not believe the resumes of so many of our volunteers!)
This year? We had our annual crisis, and then a new business partner emerged who will propel the site in a way that will be interesting for all to watch develop. Check for changes to the site because we are seeing it in the numbers already, and the future looks quite exciting. We have the best set of editors and the best set of writers for this fall in the history of the site. We are going to have killer articles that will make this site a ”must visit” for the serious Oregon fan. Although we structure our content for the fan, we do know that coaches have won more games due to FishDuck.com and, while that doesn’t put money in the coffers, there is a ton of satisfaction in helping others in our own way.
I got “Satisfaction”
Our site has brought about so many fulfilling surprises! We have students who have used this site as a showcase of their writing talents resulting in internships and even paying jobs as sportswriters – due to their time at FishDuck.com. The editors here serve as “writing coaches” and mentor our writers to help improve their craft and they leave us as much more skilled than when they began.
Last week we had two student interns get full-time jobs in their field and cited FishDuck.com as instrumental in getting hired. My friends … that means a lot to me, and it is a form of satisfaction that I never knew existed. (I know this is sappy — but it’s true.)
We have grown from the days of older males dominating the faces of the website roster. Note below all the females contributing their expertise to our site – and this summer the majority of editors were women for the first time in our existence. As an aside, we recently learned that our reading audience is 45% female! I would have thought it to be a much lower percentage, but both genders share the same love of learning and passion for our beloved Ducks.
I also learned that 60% of our readership is in the 18-to-34 age bracket, which just about made me faint. We were NOT targeting them … but they proved that our style appeals to all ages, and I am still absorbing the meanings of these market metrics. The pleasant surprises just keep coming!
The future is bright here at FishDuck as we have gone up against five entrenched competitors in this market that are aligned with powerful networks, and found a substantial niche of readers that share the same values as everyone on this staff. We thank you, the readers, for spending time on this site and giving so many of us the opportunity to have some fun and build skills due to your visits. Truly … we are grateful and count our blessings. And, of course, I have to say …
“Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!”
Oregon Football Analyst, CFF Network/FishDuck.com
Top Photo of Charles Fischer and Erick Dargan by Donald Alarie