For recruiting services like Rivals, Scout and 247Sports, Signing Day is Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year's Eve and the Fourth of July rolled into one 24-hour period. Those guys put in work 365 days a year, but yesterday is the one day a year their net casts beyond their core audience.
Outside of signatures, hat ceremonies, double signings, and fax machines, the biggest news of the day was Rivals going down early on Wednesday morning. I shudder to imagine the panic at Rivals and Yahoo headquarters. Unfortunately, we've been there, and it is the antithesis of fun. Rivals president Eric Winter was as upfront and apologetic as he could be (including posting an apology in his Twitter bio). The site was back up and running by mid-afternoon, but the parade had largely passed them by at that point. As Awful Announcing noted, Rivals knew they were on their last leg with their current technology infrastructure and were already planning a complete overhaul in 2014.
On Tuesday, Jon Solomon of AL.com penned an interesting article detailing the state of the recruiting industry in which 247 CEO Shannon Terry states that he "believes the recruiting industry has hit a bubble". In it, he writes that Rivals is still the king of the industry with 200,000 subscribers, followed by Scout with 80,000 and 247 at 70,000.
While Rivals was down yesterday, 247 clearly attempted to make the most of its golden opportunity including offering throughout the day free signups to new subscribers.
Terry and most of the 247 team site publishers pushed the message of free signups throughout the day and into today as well. This morning, Terry released a blog note that 701 people subscribed to 247 yesterday noting that 16 of their team sites added over 20 new members yesterday.
Terry blogged that the site had by far the biggest day in its history, hosting 1.033 million unique visitors. Split between their 70+ team sites, that's an average of nearly 15,000 visitors per site (for reference, FootballScoop averaged about 50,000 unique visitors per day in January). Clearly 247 was able to draw eyeballs yesterday while Rivals struggled, but when offering a free trial to over 960,000 non-subscribers (1.033 million visitors yesterday minus their 70,000 current subscribers), is 701 people taking you up on that free trial really a great response?
Last year, we polled coaches across college football for their interest and trust in the four major recruiting services. While more than half claimed they didn't reference any of the four, 29 percent said they valued Rivals' information, while seven percent preferred ESPN, six percent chose Scout and three percent picked 247. Rivals claimed a much larger market share when limiting the survey to just FBS coaches, claiming an audience of 45 percent, versus nine percent for Scout, seven percent for ESPN, four percent for 247 with 36 percent saying they did not use any recruiting service.
History shows us that people follow the best content. The guys who do the research and write the great content for all these sites aren't the guys who do the back end technology. It will be interesting to see if yesterday's glitch at Rivals will have any meaningful impact on the overall "recruiting website" industry; but we suspect that it really won't. Winter, who runs Rivals, has been open, honest and humble throughout this experience on Twitter. Let's give it a few months and we'll poll all of the coaches again and will report back what we hear.