Whether it’s reporting on up and coming prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirate organization, dissecting or brewing his own beer, playing video games or watching movies Tim Williams is always doing something.
On Wednesday, that something was to include speaking to a group of students – via an electronic link from his home in Bradenton, Fla. — enrolled in a media management course at Gannon University.
A little history on Williams would help provide some context to his interests listed above. Starting with the biggest and most relevant to the theory of media management is his career involvement with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
Williams owns an online media outlet that reports and gives insight into the prospects of the Pirates minor league system, hence the name of the outlet — Pirates Prospects. He started the company as something fun to do to keep his work ethic up after being laid off in 2009. He was living in Virginia at the time, and that gave him access to Pittsburgh’s Class A minor-league affiliate, the Lynchburg Hillcats.
The Hillcats were owned by the Pirates from 1995-2009 and during, their last season under Pirates’ ownership, they had the organization’s top prospect at the time, Pedro Alvarez, digging in their dirt. Inspired by being in proximity to such a prominent player, Williams would go watch the games. He then started a website where he reported on the games and posted about the players coming through Lynchburg as they made their way up the Pirates organization.
Williams saw many good players come through there such as Pittsburgh second baseman Josh Harrison and center fielder Starling Marte. As time went on, Williams accumulated quite the following and as he kept covering the team and other prospects, the site grew into a full-time job in the year 2011.
However, this wasn’t Williams’ first job. After graduating from Bridgewater College in Virginia with a business administration degree in 2007, Williams found a job at AccuScore. What AccuScore does is take two teams and do over 10,000 simulations of games to predict the winner and how players will do.
Williams would then take the information from the simulations, analyze it and turn it into an article for the company’s affiliates, which included ESPN and Yahoo Sports.
The company saw some trouble as the recession hit in 2008 and consequently it had to cut back in order to save some money to stay afloat. As most companies did, AccuScore began to lay people off.
Williams was one of those employees in 2009. At that point Williams was just looking for work to make some money and worked odd jobs while maintaining his new site. As the site grew in popularity, Williams saw some revenue generate from his work.
At first his revenue came from an advertising model, which means companies would pay him to advertise on his website. Williams then decided to switch to a subscription model because of the traffic on his website and the advertising model began to decline about two years ago.
Williams estimated that on average his website is viewed 20,000 times a day with two or three page views per person, totaling 10 million page views a year. He said the subscription model has benefitted his company more than the advertising model did.
“Subscriptions are better because the money is guaranteed and has a higher rate than ads,” Williams said.
Currently, a subscription for his website is $30 for a year and for one month it is $2.99. He explained that some people just get the subscription during the baseball season. However, some fans get the year-long subscription to keep up to date on offseason news.
The biggest obstacle that Williams and his staff of eight writers and photographers as well as a few freelance writers had was obtaining credentials to cover games in the press box with other members of the media.
Williams explained that it took a lot of negotiating and researching of other teams to gain those credentials. Ultimately, he modeled his outline off the Washington Capitals with their writers and gained credentials using their theories. He continued to explain how this is the struggle many new media go through in order to be legitimized.
Williams and his writers had to promise that they wouldn’t just write game recaps because the organizations don’t need more stories like that. Instead, he and his writers take a different angle and might focus on a specific player.
For example, say they take starting pitcher Gerrit Cole and say he changed something with his pitching mechanics that caused him to have 15 strikeouts.
Williams would write about that change and see how it is going to influence the season and team as it continues. Pirates Prospects also will write feature stories to get in depth with players and emphasize who they are on and off the field for fans.
On the side, Williams has started to write about beer. He has been interested in craft beer for a while and due to his success with the website he has been entrusted to write about different beer.
He related Pirate Prospects to a portfolio that allowed him to get the gig writing about beer.
Some advice he offered about getting into the field of media is to create a portfolio. He explained that it’s competitive and that having a portfolio is important. Williams also said that you have to be willing to work hard.
He said that one of his former writers, James Santelli, is one of the hardest workers he knows. He said while Santelli was writing for him he was also writing for other outlets for free.
Williams paid Santelli because he doesn’t believe in work for no pay but the exposure paid off. Santelli now has a studio job with KDKA after being a news anchor in Ohio.
Williams said he believes in hard work and passion to make a successful career in the media — or any field for that matter.
Still, his parting advice was to have fun with what you do if you want to start a website like his. As spring training comes around Williams is getting up at 5:30 each morning and going to bed around 11 p.m. just to cover everything while maintaining a personal life.
“If you don’t enjoy it,” Williams said, “then it’s going to grind on you.”