Watching “The Sun” set in Baltimore…

April 30, 2009 | Nestor Aparicio

It’s been a rough 48 hours in our industry. Sports writing and sports journalism and careers going away at The Baltimore Sun, people we know and read and work with getting fired at an alarming rate. The economy is a mess, newspapers, radio and television revenue models are coming undone and sponsors and businesses are screaming for ROI (that’s “return on investment” for those who aren’t in the sales world).

Here at WNST.net, we’re building a business model that works and one that we hope will be sustainable long after The Sun sets. And as The Sun sets, we continue to make our product at WNST better so that we can become the place you come to every day for your Baltimore sports news and information and analysis.

When advertisers advertise their businesses here, we actually help get them business. We are accountable. We deliver results. We’ve been doing that for local businesses for 17 years. (If we didn’t, we’d have been gone a long time ago!)

We’ve gotten so good at growing our business that last week I got the greatest “compliment” I could ever be given. Big ‘ole WBAL dropped a dime and forced the Ravens to stop allowing me to do a Ravens post-draft live show with the Ravens scouts, ending a 13-year tradition that began with Phil Savage in 1996.

Of course, that’s less access for you — the fans — via WNST, but it’s a sensible “short-term” business play from the Ravens and their radio partner, who are no doubt struggling to make their numbers in 2009. (Steve Davis getting fired was evidence of their financial struggles.)

I get it. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I “get it.”

WNST has grown so much that the “big boys” now pay us “special” attention, while they talk out of both sides of their mouths about how tiny our audience is in Arbitron’s monthly fiction.

The truth?

We’ve always had success with local businesses because our business connects with local people who care about Baltimore as much as they do. We’re a local company and we’re really proud of that!

But in the end, it’s really YOU – the WNST.net users and AM 1570 listeners – who make the difference by supporting our sponsors and advertisers. It’s essential for our survival as well and we’re not afraid to tell you that.

That’s what WNST.net was built to do –connect Baltimore sports fans and Baltimore businesses via our medium and our content on the radio and the web. And if we’re going to survive this miserable economy along with all of the rest in our industry, we need to get better every day at every facet of our work. We need to give you the best sports journalism, blogosphere, audio vault, videos and the most up-date-news and information via our text service and website and radio station.

We want to be YOUR place for Baltimore sports. We want to provide special “value” that you can’t get anywhere else.

Every day…

Anytime…WNST.net is here for you. (I work on it around the clock to try to make it great so I’m happy for you to read it at 2 a.m. or 2 p.m., the first thing in the morning or the last thing at night.)

Every click on our website, every contest you enter, every comment you make, every coupon you click on and utilize helps keep us in business and helps us – and our sponsors – feed our families.

Anyone who knows me or has listened to WNST probably knows my background. I was basically groomed — since I was 15 years old – to be a Baltimore sports journalist, writer and radio guy by working with, for or near every journalist this region has produced since Klaus Wagner was here and Randy Blair died.

All I ever wanted to do when I was 20 years old was cover the Orioles, become a columnist and have a “retirement dinner” as a lifer sports writer at The Baltimore Sun. I wanted to be John Steadman…only better! (I have a pretty high bar…)

I’ve grown to love this business, for better or worse. I love Baltimore. I love newspapers. I love Baltimore sports. I love great sportswriting and great stories about local people. I like talking about sports and learning from the people who do it at the highest level. It’s probably the key reason that Brian Billick chose to be my partner and work via Living Classrooms to benefit the community whenever we can.

Doing the “Baltimore sports media thing” is all I’ve ever done since I was 15 years old. I just turned 40.

If it says “Baltimore” or “Maryland” on it, I want to support it and promote it.

But it’s very tough watching the changing climate of the business of media in Baltimore (or anywhere else for that matter) affect so many lives and people who have dedicated their lives to creating interesting, entertaining, informative and accurate portrayals of local news and sports here in the land of pleasant living.

I was one of them. I would’ve been at The Sun 23 years now if I didn’t leave back in 1992 when I had the chance and they offered a buyout. And yesterday, I probably would’ve been one of the guys “tapped on the shoulder” and told I wasn’t needed anymore.

It’s very sad.

Rick Maese, David Steele, Ray Frager, Bill Ordine – these were all good newspapermen who all lost their jobs, salaries and potentially their careers on Wednesday on Calvert Street. But the bleeding is far from over at The Baltimore Sun. One blog on the internet written by David Ettlin (another former co-worker of mine), gave this account:

If you want a description of what it’s like to be a survivor, you can use this unattributed quote: “It’s a little like being the turkey who survives Thanksgiving but knows Christmas is a month away.”

That said, my entire company at WNST.net and my business plan is predicated on the actual “fall” or decline of traditional newspapers, radio and television. We think – arrogantly, no doubt – that we at WNST.net cover Baltimore’s sports scene with more passion, depth, accountability, credibility and journalistic integrity than anyone in the marketplace.

We’re NOT just a “little AM radio station” anymore. We think we’re pretty damned good at what we do.

But, we don’t want to just be your “radio station.”

WE want to be YOUR “morning newspaper” – but online. From your phone. From your computer. From anywhere you are, anywhere in the world. A click away…

And one that you know. And one that you trust. And one who wants to see good things for Baltimore and local sports.

That’s the company I’ve set out to create. But the questions about the entire “field” abound…

Will The Sun go away? Will traditional radio and local television survive? How about local cable TV? What happens to magazines and periodicals and local community newspapers?

What will happen if people actually find out how much they’re paying to have MASN beamed into their living rooms? And if MASN doesn’t wake up every year with $100 million of “free” money…

How bad will the economy get?

I dunno. So far, so good at WNST but we ALWAYS need more sponsors and business and partners. We’re certainly not getting rich and it hasn’t been an easy year, that’s for sure. Our clients are hurting. Our listeners are losing jobs. Our friends are losing their livelihoods.

As for WNST and “new media,” while we have the same challenges that every other entity in “old media” has in 2009, we are currently the undisputed leader on the internet for daily traffic for a sports entity in Baltimore.

I always write about “Alexa” rankings. You can research them here. Well, here’s today’s ranking for daily traffic:

WNST.net 125,666

WBAL 131,055

MASN 132,974

We remain so far ahead of all of the other AM and FM radio stations and local periodicals and websites that when I put their numbers on the website they accuse me of “bragging.” Well, it wasn’t like Ray Frager ever wrote the truth about WNST’s reach when he had the chance so if I don’t make it clear what’s happening, who will?

We just want you to know the truth…about how many of YOU there are out there who go to WNST.net every day.

We appreciate you tuning us in at AM 1570. We encourage you to visit the website and give me direct feedback via email or your comments anytime.

We want to make the site great. I’m working on a web questionnaire with an entry to win a great grand prize over the next 10 days.

We want to throw more parties. Have more fun. Do more bus trips. Do great sports radio. Have awesome fantasy contests. The works…we want to be a website you come to every day.

As always, sensible comments are always appreciated…

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