Well howdy do Nation Citizen! Perhaps you have noticed that the site you have visited today has an entirely new look. Don’t panic – this is the same Nation Network site you have come to love/hate – just with a sexy new look and functionality.
Perhaps you are wondering “What does this mean? What happens next? Is this thing gonna steal my credit card number because I will cut you.” All good Sir/Madam/Robot – it’s just a new platform and a new era beginning for our company.
“It’s all good baby baby” – Notorious BIG voice
NATION NETWORK HISTORY LESSON
We started up OilersNation back in 2007, yours truly, @thesquir3, @bingofuel and @jdsiegel. Back then a dollar cost a dollar, phones were mostly for placing calls and the cash me ouside girl was only a twinkle in her parents eyes as they were in and out of juvenile detention.
We had originally started a website protesting the trade of Ryan Smyth to the Islanders. Nowadays you would simply tweet, facebook and snap your rage and get on with your life. But back then you had to make a blog and demand people read it via strongly worded telegrams you sent around the world. And that is what we did.
When that site was a few months old we realized a few things:
- The internet is fun and holds a lot of opportunities
- We didn’t know much about the internet beyond it’s theoretical opportunities
- Mainstream Sports Media wasn’t talking to us as sports fans the way we wanted to hear it.
And so we took BringRyanHome.com (who knows where that link will take you haha) and spun it into OilersNation.com and set about learning how to make an internet company. It was our intention to make a website that covered the Oilers every bit as good as any other, with real reporters and real articles featuring real words. With an absence of bloggers willing to join us on our journey (every single one we approached ignored our begging pleas) your ol’ pal Wanye began cranking out articles while looking much much higher up the food chain to get real writers to join our site.
Miraculously Robin Brownlee and Jason Gregor agreed to join up and started writing for the site in 2009. We were able to assemble a team of other writers around their core, leveraging the talents of Jonathan Willis, the venerable Lowetide and many more and to this day we are incredibly appreciative they have stuck with us. We hope that today they believe most of the hype we pitched them so long ago has now come true and we have been good to our word.
Once OilersNation had established itself as “something” we began trying to expand on that model. We linked up with Kent Wilson down in Calgary who was instrumental in starting FlamesNation and CanucksArmy and assuring writers that we were in fact “mostly legit” despite being Oilers fans from Edmonton. His help connecting with writers across North America was the only reason that we didn’t continue to get turned down by every single writer on the internet and he was the cornerstone in building our writing corps to over 80 people today.
Every one of those writers’ labours – collectively writing dozens and dozens of articles every single day is truly amazing. Despite journalism jobs being rarer than Oilers playoff runs 2006-2016 (bazing!) our team continues to crank out content for largely part time wages and often better than the full time media who consider our collective work “blogs PFFT” They fight the trolls, look at the stats, invent new stats and pour their heart and soul into their articles and we tremendously appreciate everything they do.
THE NATION NETWORK TEAM = MUCH AWESOME
One of the key goals of the Nation Network has been to pay as many writers as much as we are able while keeping our content free. When @thesquir3 and I would have “strategy talks” – largely over 10000 vodka sodas at the Pint Downtown in Edmonton – we agreed that sports journalist jobs would eventually come back and it would be our job to “keep the kids writing” until the industry turned around and would raid our cadre of writers for talent.
10 years later we have lost more writers to NHL teams than media outlets and the industry continues its search for a viable monetization model. The slowdown of hiring journalism grads slowed even further in the years in between and even big name writers have been given compensation packages and headed off to other things as the newspaper industry continues to consolidate and jobs are eliminated.
Nonetheless, in the face of difficult industry conditions the Nation Network has continued to push forward. With a trio of acquisitions (NHLNumbers in 2010, DailyFaceOff in 2012 and HockeyFights.com in 2014) and launching 5 more sites we have been able to build a profitable business that should see 70 million visitors to our sites in the next 12 months.
We have built out other revenue streams – NationGear, podcasts, free and pay to play fantasy games – in an attempt to increase revenues. We used the Nation Platform to hype our investments in sports bars and restaurants and I have come to enjoy using OilersNation as my personal diary much to the dismay of a portion of our readers. These initiatives have worked out well and we look forward to continuing to work on new products, websites and ideas in the years to come.
We are immensely grateful to our advertisers – many of whom took a chance on two guys bursting into their offices with Microsoft Word advertising proposals and screaming about all manner of things. These amateur attempts have been replaced with our professional sales team of @noopsybrown and @mandeeeeez who do a way better job than we ever did.
And back at homebase our stalwart squad led by @jsbmbaggedmilk, @TheNationChris, @theNationKyla continue to do the thankless work – sending out the stickers and gear, planning parties, attending parties. They keep the trains running on time so that the rest of the team looks good. Thank you so much for all your efforts.
Finally a big shout out to our intrepid investors – who always take our panicked calls with good humour and have believed in the story since day one. Seriously, thanks.
THE NATION WILL CONTINUE FORWARD
Moving to a new platform was a gigantic task for our 11 FT staff as well as our contractors in Toronto. But it is a commitment by our company to be around for the next 10 years and beyond continuing to provide rabid sports fans with the content that they need 365 days a year.
We will continue redoing our other sites in the months to come and are looking to purchase several other sites and launch some new ones as well.
These sites come with the addition of a professional CEO who joined our company back in the fall. It took us a long time and we had to grind many a day to be able to have a company cool enough to attract someone of his skill set and we collectively look forward to watching the business continue to grow under his stewardship.
AND NOW FOR SOME OPRAH SHIT
For anyone thinking about starting their own business, changing jobs or doing something new and scary we hope the Nation Network stands as a testament to perseverance and following your dreams. As a kid who desperately wanted to play hockey but lacked the physical coordination, means and skill to play – the Nation Network allowing me to participate in the game has been a dream come true.
I truly love the Edmonton Oilers more than I could love a human baby and being able to come into work every day and intensely follow the team I love has been a life dream come true. Yelling in caps lock isn’t work – it is the greatest fun I have ever known and I will continue until dying on impact travelling to Mars in 2068.
The Nation Network should show you that you don’t need to be Elon Musk to start your own business. You will undoubtedly make mistakes – we have made basically every error you can make and yet remain in business – but you can overcome them with determination and team work. If we can do this, anyone can do anything and don’t let anyone tell you who you can be or what you can do. Just cook up a plan and start and keep pushing until you get where you want to go wherever that may take you.
Finally, a big big big big big thank you to everyone who comes to our sites, reads our articles, buys our gear, plays our games, watches our videos and starts wars in the comments sections. I don’t want to get all Garth Brooks on you and say “ITS ALL YOU” but baby it’s all you.
Until then enjoy our new look and functionality. Change sucks and it might take a few wrinkles being ironed out and fires extinguished but in the end we will continue on indefinitely.
And to all the people who laughed at us Oilers fans ranting and raving on blogs and online * looks at Connor McDavid *
WHO IS LAUGHING NOW?
Love and kisses
Wanye von Gretz IV, DDS, OBGYN
c/o the Nation Network Squad