Time For a New Chapter

The Den, formerly Tribal Grounds, with roots back into the old KARK board and Prodigy has been through a lot of change over the years. Those of you who have been along for the ride the whole time remember being on SportsOnly, Delphi, the old Rivals, and as an independent site.

Each movement, some voluntary, some last resort to keep the community alive, has been prompted by a changing marketplace and a desire to be a great destination for Arkansas State fans.

Before the old Rivals closed up in 2001 it seemed for a time that Tribal Grounds was on track to be really special with the potential to generate enough revenue to support several writers covering ASU part-time. When the internet advertising market collapsed the model no longer worked and soon Rivals like so many others was unable to adjust in time.

In the years since, Tribal Grounds / The Den has been a labor of love but love doesn't pay the bills for people's time and effort. Don't misunderstand me, last year The Den lost $96. That works out to $8 a month and it was worth every single penny to me. I love this site and the community here. You guys (and gals) frustrate me from time to time (as I do for you as well) but I have far more days where I look forward to writing a new article and seeing the latest on the board. It's just that the model the site operates under will never allow The Den to be more than an active message board with a semi-active news site. With the sophistication of hacking, it has been a struggle to keep the spam off and the site up and running.

In April of 2012, I began having conversations with Jeff Reed and David Kenley about making The Den a stronger, more complete site. We worked through different models and it was clear that an advertiser only site wasn't likely to produce sufficient income to work. Any last hope we had clung to that an advertiser only model would work were dashed by the closing of ArkansasSports360. They were selling ads at prices far higher than what The Den had been able to command and had the backing of a highly successful publishing group with a strong sales force.

We began exploring three options. 1. Remain independent with an add-on subscription service knowing we would not be able to compete the recruiting arena. 2. Take over the ASU Rivals site and hope to rebuild the trust that site had lost. 3. Join 247Sports.com.

Just as we were poised to make a decision, we learned that James Bryant was being considered for an opportunity at another school when he reached out to try to secure the future of Astatenation. We put our plans on hold to await the outcome of his negotiations. James has done an amazing job building a pay site considering how established The Den is and the fact it has always been free. He did it the old fashioned way by working hard.

One year and 17 days after that first lunch, a contract has been signed. The Den is moving to Scout and Astatenation.

In negotiating with Scout one thing we went in knowing is that their revenue is built on subscriptions and Astatenation has been offered at half the usual price of most sites. We knew Scout would want to move the price closer to that of their other sites but they readily agreed the price should remain the same for at least the next year and they put that in writing. Eventually the price will rise but we are very happy they have agreed to give us at least a year to build the community before they consider any change and hope we create a site that compares favorably with those larger, higher cost sites.

I know there will be regulars here that are upset and probably some regulars there who will be unhappy as well, but our vow is to cover Arkansas State Athletics more completely than any website has ever done.

You will get more free content than I've ever been able to produce with free boards. Subscribers will get content that I believe is well worth the money. Great articles and recruiting coverage and a subscriber only board.

Like it or not, you still get me but my content isn't enough to sustain such a site. I'm not heading into this alone.

You are gaining an award winning journalist with Jeff Reed who will be writing about four articles per week. An ASU alum who has spent much of his career covering Arkansas State and worked for the Arkansas Gazette and ASU Sports Information.

You are also gaining David Kenley, who you may know better as Apache. An Arkansas State alum, three-time letterman in baseball and former ASU assistant baseball coach. He is devoted to recruiting, especially football recruiting.

We will be the core of the new site but there will be others as well. We hope to add volunteers, stringers, paid interns and eventually a full-time person who works the site as their primary job.

So what's next?

First if you haven't registered for a Scout.com free membership to post on the boards, go do that. Shortly we will begin a slow shutdown here. First we will turn off the ability to start new threads but leave on the ability to reply. About a day after that the ability to reply will be turned off but you will be able to read in case there is some gem you want the chance to copy and save. A day or two later the domain name will be pointed to Scout and shortly thereafter I will run a back-up and this version of The Den will live on a CD-Rom in my desk.

I hope you will give us a chance and hope you will believe we offer a product that is worth your money and if you choose to not subscribe, we hope you will still enjoy the free boards and free content and find the site worth your time.

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