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The 11th Frame: #BuyTheBlog to #ReadTheBlog — Why I’m making 11thFrame.com a subscription site

JEFF RICHGELS | Posted: Wednesday, September 23, 2015 9:00 am

Photo illustration by Daren Seney.

I started The 11th Frame bowling blog at Madison.com as a volunteer endeavor in my free time a few years ago when the newspaper company I work for began having reporters write blogs for the beats we covered.

My beat at the time was technology, but I had gotten my start at The Capital Times in 1980 as a bowling columnist and knew there was an audience for bowling stories in the Madison area. And once the editors at the paper saw the number of hits my bowling blog was getting they became supportive, especially since I did almost all of the work in my free time. The hit totals were insignificant in the grand scheme of things at Capital Newspapers, but more than might be expected for a niche sport — a testament to the hunger for bowling news among bowlers and bowling fans. 

In 2012, I moved The 11thFrame to 11thFrame.com with the help of the team at InsideBowling.com. I explained the move in this blog.

It has remained a labor of love that consumes much of my free time and energy.

I never have enough time to do all the stories I’d like to, but the plans I have for 11thFrame.com should enable me to do more for my readers.

The traffic on 11thFrame.com has grown tremendously, and I have decided that the time has come to monetize the site with the aim of making it even better, doing good things for bowling, and gaining some compensation for the thousands of blogs I have written and the thousands more I plan to write, as well as for those who have done the behind the scenes work to make the site function.

If all goes according to plan, the new 11thFrame.com will debut Thursday, with a subscription costing $1.99 per month, or $19.99 per year.

The process should be seamless — we've had beta testers using it for a while — and will happen automatically when you click on a story: a subscribe screen will pop up and guide you through what we think is a fairly simple process. If you don't have a credit card and want to subscribe, send an email to help@11thframe.com and we will make arrangements to establish an account.

I am hoping my subscriber total reaches the thousands, but even if I only get a few hundred subscribers, I will be able to do more than what I do now.

Making 11thFrame.com better is my main goal.

I intend to bowl a little less and use that vacation time from my real job as an online editor at Capital Newspapers to travel to bowling events and cover them. I already have plane tickets for World Series of Bowling VII in December, and other possibilities include the PBA League and Summer Swing, PBA and PWBA majors, the USBC Convention and Bowl Expo.

I’ve been able to cover the ESPN TV finals tapings for the World Series the past couple of years because it coincided with the USBC Hall of Fame Committee meetings where some expenses are covered for committee members; subscription funds would allow me to travel to many more events.

The funds also might allow me to be there to cover some of the competition leading up to TV, writing, for example, a series of “Inside the World Series” or “Inside the Summer Swing” stories each day of competition. I’d love to talk to the bowlers and ball reps each day, explaining who was hot and why, and offering things like details on the latest balls from all companies.    

I regularly hear how much people love the work I do, but I often feel frustrated when I think how much more I could do if I had more time. That's especially true when I get great story ideas from readers. 

When I allocate the time, I can produce stuff like my package on topography here and here and coverage of the USBC Open Championships like this that isn’t available anywhere else. And I produce stuff on a daily basis that sometimes beats even the official announcements, though "real" life sometimes delays me.

I greatly appreciate all of the PR staffers from the major bowling entities who provide news releases that allow me to pass on the news with some context and analysis added. Thanks to Lucas Wiseman, Matt Cannizzarro, Aaron Smith and Terry Bigham of USBC, Jerry Schneider and Bill Vint of PBA, and many others.

But it would be great to produce much more of my own in-depth coverage on a daily basis from the events people care about.

The limit is that my vacation time isn’t unlimited, but I certainly will have more days if I scale back my bowling.

For those who may wonder, I have no desire to quit my real job, which I mostly love. I am a tiny cog in a company that does very important and often outstanding work with ever-diminishing resources: the media may not be popular, but American democracy could not function without a watchdog.

I would miss being part of daily journalism as it sometimes produces the same kind of adrenaline as a sporting competition, with bigger stakes. This has been especially true in recent years in Wisconsin with Gov. Scott Walker being so polarizing and recently a presidential candidate.

Of course, I one day may be one of those cut at Capital Newspapers. And it is possible I could get so many subscribers that I could afford to do The 11thFrame.com full time. But it isn't a goal or anything I expect — at least for now.

11thFrame.com subscription funding also would enable me to help sponsor my tournaments — the Riggs Classic and 11thFrame.com Open — and potentially others such as the MAST and GIBA. My big dreams are to help create a State Sport Championships for the Wisconsin State Tournament and bring a PBA50 Tour or PBA Tour event to Madison.

And I’d like to be able to make donations to worthy bowling charities such as BVL, Bowl for The Cure, and the International Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum.

For more on the change, here is my recent appearance on the Phantom Radio Show.

One thing subscribers will get is a promise from me to answer to the best of my ability any questions they have on any topic, even when USBC checks and 1099s will come out.

And in order to do the best job I can for subscribers, I will have a policy that I will not answer questions from non-subscribers. I must prioritize my time and this seems the most fair and most logical policy.

Along these lines, it will be my policy that if you are a subscriber and want to be my Facebook friend I will do what I can to create a spot for you. Just ask. And if you're a Facebook friend and non-subscriber who gets removed, please don't take it personal — it's just being fair to those who support me and 11thFrame.com. I will not be removing real-life friends. 

Eventually, we may add things like chats and/or podcasts, and exclusive webcasts of our teams’ practice for the USBC Open Championships.

I hope this all sounds worth $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year.