By Dylan Edwards
The ending in Tiger Stadium between Ole Miss and LSU is a reporter’s worst nightmare – a late kickoff that isn’t decided until late in the game that runs up to deadline.
However for RebelGrove.com, a Yahoo! Sports Ole Miss affiliate, deadlines don’t exist. The mad scramble and frantic fingers flying on a keyboard don’t happen because of the benefits of online media.
When publisher Neal McCready took over the site in March 2008, the online news industry was not yet flourishing like it is today.
“When I left my job at the (Mobile, Alabama) Press-Register, a lot of people were skeptical of my move to an online-only site,” McCready said.
The staff, consisting of McCready, editor Chase Parham and videographer Jeffrey Wright, has the flexibility of online content that newspapers do not. While writing obviously makes up a majority of the work, the site also uses a sizable amount of multimedia features with their writing. The Internet allows for more multimedia content at a more timely speed.
“I’ve worked at a newspaper before,” McCready said. “I think the instantaneous publishing is very appealing to our audience. If there’s an early game, they don’t have to wait until the next day to read about it.”
Something must be working correctly. Since 2008 when McCready began running the site, its membership total has jumped nearly 60 percent.
“We felt like if we produced quality content, people would read it and tell others about it,” Parham said. “We’re still a little astounded by the growth we’ve seen, but it’s what we always work towards.”
The most popular feature on the website is the podcast the three record each weekday. The podcast began as a weekly addition in April 10, 2010, featuring just McCready and Parham. The website provided a platform to make the podcast easily accessible.
“Neal and I would talk on the phone every morning to discuss coverage,” Parham said. “It would eventually move to just conversation and us rambling. We had the idea to record it, but didn’t really think people would listen.”
They averaged about 1,200-1,500 listeners depending on the week for a content item neither really thought had much potential.
However the viewership kept growing, and to meet the demand, the weekly podcast turned into a daily podcast in September of 2012.
“I always missed doing radio like I did in Mobile,” McCready said. “This gave me an opportunity to get back into something very similar.”
In late 2012 with a listenership of about 2,000, the two began to sell small ads on short-term agreements to read during the podcast.
“We just thought since people were listening, why not try to see if there are people that want to advertise with us,” Parham said. “We still didn’t think much of it at that time. It’s just kept growing.”
The podcast that began as a daily phone conversation has jumped to the most popular Ole Miss podcast. The listener count has ballooned to upwards of 20,000 on any given day and has played a large role in the expansion of their site. The podcast has a title sponsor now, Oxford Exxon, and features multiple advertisements. It’s a legitimate source of income.
“We’ve been doing it so long now, but I’m still surprised people like to hear us ramble,” Parham said. “It’s humbling to see how much support we have and how it’s grown.”