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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Five Ways You Can Support ZooTennis

It's time for my annual post on the financial aspects of ZooTennis.com, with a look at the economic history and structure of the website and five suggestions on how you can help me continue to provide coverage of major college and junior tournaments.

Blog History
When I started this website/blog in 2005, one of my chief motives was to learn more about junior tennis, not just what I had gathered from the two weeks a year that I spent immersed in the Nationals in Kalamazoo, where I live. While working on the tournament's website from 2000-2004, I began to realize there wasn't much coverage of junior tennis, although at the time, both collegeandjuniortennis.com and juniortennis.com were established sources for such information. With few outlets for writing about junior tennis available to me, I decided to create my own, which was not difficult thanks to the surge in free online blogging sites. Rather than wait for inspiration to strike or a major story to emerge, I thought I'd be better served by sticking to a daily posting schedule, which would help me attract an audience, while motivating me to continue to seek information on a subject I found endlessly fascinating.

Tennis Recruiting Network's Debut
I hadn't been writing here for even a year when the Tennis Recruiting Network came on the scene, and I started writing regularly for them, first monthly, and then, as they grew and prospered, weekly.  I also began to turn my attention to college tennis, and after one individual Indoor championship and one team Indoor championship,  I was permanently hooked when I covered my first NCAA team championship in College Station, where UCLA, down 3-1, stormed back to beat defending champion Baylor 4-3. So my interests and the Tennis Recruiting Network's need for content dovetailed nicely, and although I am not employed by them, my freelance work for them continues to be my main source of income.

Employed by Myself
I also am not employed by the USTA, the ITF, or the ITA. I am often asked that, but other than a monthly freelance assignment for USTA Florida, I do not have any financial arrangement with any of these organizations. I pay my own travel expenses, whether I am covering Wimbledon, the Easter Bowl, the Orange Bowl or the National Indoors. My husband, who is a site director at several junior tournaments, is usually provided with lodging, so that helps with the travel budget, but those costs leave very little left over as actual compensation for the work I do.

Staying Free
Going to a subscription model, or a paywall as is the term of choice for newspapers now, is not something I want to do.  I started this site to give more exposure and recognition to players I thought were under appreciated, and restricting access by charging a fee to enter the site seems illogical with that objective.

So I will continue to keep this site free to anyone who can find their way to it, and I will list below the ways those of you who have found it can help keep it viable.

Five Ways to Support ZooTennis
1) Visit often.  Traffic helps generate revenue from the Baseline Network advertisements (those from the major racquet companies you see) and Google ads (which are generally targeted to the reader)

2) Support my direct advertisers. I have three direct advertisers now: Own The Zone Sports, College Tennis Exposure Camps and IMG Bollettieri Academy. Clicking on their ads and learning more about their products could benefit all of us.

3) Purchase products through the Amazon and Tennis Warehouse links on the site. I receive a small percentage of all sales that come to their website from mine, and I'm told that even if you have existing accounts with those companies, I will still get credit as long as you begin the process from my site.

4) Donate. A few years ago, at the request of several readers, I set up a PayPal donation option (see link on the the sidebar at left). I receive contributions throughout the year this way, and I truly appreciate those who take time to acknowledge my efforts by sending actual money. Any amount is welcome, and if you are more comfortable sending a check instead of going through PayPal, my address can be found at the end of this document explaining the ZooTennis advertising rates.

5) Contribute. Not financially, but with information or an opinion or a correction. Your views are welcome as long as you use a name to voice them. I also will honor any request not to publish a comment if you feel that is the easiest way to send me information. And if you see me at a tournament, please introduce yourself. I'm always eager to meet readers who share the same passion for junior and college tennis.

I'll close this post, as I do every year, by saying that I love writing about college and junior tennis, and am fortunate that I've been able to do so for nearly nine years now. I've made more friends than I could have ever imagined possible through this amazing sport, and I trust the future will hold similar rewards. Thank you for reading and supporting ZooTennis.com.