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Some thoughts on National Signing Day 2014

February 5, 2014 was an amazing day for 247Sports. As always, we came into National Signing Day with a plan. We had an idea of how we were going to drive traffic and support the efforts of editorial and tech throughout the day, but that all changed very early in the day when a main competitor had some issues with their site. The next several hours were like being a three-year-old on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Here are some notes from the day:

Signing Day promo– We were already on pace for a huge day. At the time the competitor went down, we were already doing more requests per second than the highest point of NSD 2013.  In 2013, that highest point was hit for a few seconds. This year, we were running 50-100% higher than that record peak for hours. It was intense to watch. The major announcements could not come and go quick enough for me.

– In addition to gaining some additional traffic from a competitor, we also did some social marketing. Initially, it had mixed results, but when I changed it in the late morning to promote our brief subscription promotion, it started to see some very good engagement numbers.

– Dr. Saturday

– Even without the promotion, 247Sports owned twitter. Besides one of our competitors receiving a ton of social traffic for a negative reason (being down), there really wasn’t much competition. Pretty amazing considering the size of our team compared to the others.

– Bobby Burton loved this Signing Day. Bobby has been through more Signing Days than anyone in the office. He was doing them before the internet, but his laughter throughout the day made it clear that this was his favorite. If you’ve never heard Bobby Burton laugh, you need to add it to your bucket list.

– Our users are awesome. Yes, we’ve released so many more new products than our competition during the past three years, but there are still things they’ve been waiting patiently for during that time. Occasionally, I’ll get blasted for not delivering those products (usually from the same five users), but for the most part all I ever get are PMs thanking me for the site, commenting on how much better it is than the competition and asking if there’s anything they can do to help. We’re very fortunate to have a dedicated fan base that supports us the way they do.

– The 247Sports Composite is a hit. The only page to do more traffic on NSD than our 247Sports Composite was our commit lists. That’s a massive amount of views for a ranking.

– Andy Johnson nailed the National Signing Day meals again. It’s not even Andy’s job, but he’s a team player and indispensable. Special thanks to George Crawford for the Monell’s.

– The Blue Board and Main Board posters are a lot funnier when they are not making fun of you.

– The Crystal Ball has changed recruiting. You no longer have to get lucky to find the article written four days ago where three experts tell you where they think a recruit is going. It’s everywhere on 247Sports, with hundreds of experts chiming in from many different networks and it’s up to that second. It’s one of my most satisfying creations and has made announcements like Rashaan Evans that much more exciting.

– It’s not much fun watching your site run at near capacity for hours, but it is one of the most thrilling things I’ve been a part of. During the largest Signing Days ever at rivals (~70 million page views), we were already a machine. Most of our site had been developed for years and it was a smooth running machine. It was fun to be part of those huge days (not sure if rivals makes it to much more than half that now), but it wasn’t as intense and thrilling. We were the biggest, baddest recruiting network at that time and no one was close. It’s what we were supposed to do… and we did it.

– The grind is good. All the late nights, all the stressful decisions, passionate discussions, decisions to test the site again and again and again were all worth it. I couldn’t tell you how many late nights and weekends we worked leading to NSD to prepare for the traffic. We didn’t accept the successful stress tests early in the process. We understood NSD is like no other day and found ways to push the site’s limits. We were doing this up to NSD, and if a competitor had not gone down, we probably would have tried to fit in one more fix on NSD. It just takes one thing being off to go down. Trust me, in 15 years of NSD’s on the Signing Day it is rarely “insane traffic” that takes you down. It’s a single process that runs correctly every other day of the year, but breaks on NSD. Our CTO Cory Lovelace leads this process for us, and does an incredible job. He’s been a part of the most successful Signing Days on the internet for a reason. He’s the best at it.

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About Noah Stanley

Noah Stanley has 15 years experience in the subscription-based affinity site industry working in multiple networks and roles. He is currently the COO of 247Sports with a focus on tech, products and mobile.

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