Ten years ago this year, I had an idea to start a blog.
The start of the 2008/09 was a weird year to start something Arsenal-related, but there was still enough good feeling around that it seemed like both a good idea and only a matter of time before Arsene Wenger brought Arsenal back to the giddy heights of 98-04. Little did I know…
I blogged daily and gathered up a bit of a following. We had a comments section back then too. There was less anger around so a sense of community built with many people I’m still friends with today, online at least if not in the real world.
But a few years in, I met a woman. Distracted as you tend to be when your actions are being led by your genitals, I fell away from blogging daily and never really found the habit again. Not proper blogging, at least.
At that time the site was still called LadyArse because I was, if even only technically, a ‘lady’ – quite possibly the only time that word has ever been used seriously about me.
But through the aforementioned woman, I started to address problems I’d long held deep in the pit of my stomach, too scared before to even acknowledge they existed.
When I made the decision to transition from female to male, quite a lot changed, as you can imagine. It has been a process that has taken around six years – a little different from the single ‘op’ many people think is required to sort it all out – and at the start of it all I made the decision to change the name of the site from LadyArse to DailyCannon as I changed my name legally too.
I imagined a lifetime of people asking me and my beard why we owned a site called LadyArse and decided I’d be best off changing it. I put a lot of time into establishing that site into one that had a name many knew, even if they weren’t regular readers, but much of that was lost when the renaming took place. A small core of followers, the really dedicated nutters, stuck around, but for the most part the site, like me, were starting from scratch again.
During the time from then til now, I wanted to keep the site going but knew I couldn’t do it on my own given what I was going to be distracted with, so people were needed to help write articles. Money had to be found to pay them because, contrary to what most on the internet seem to think, writers can’t live on likes, shares and retweets alone – although we’ve all given it a good go. We still have lots of people who chip in with the running of the site who see not even a bean.
With ads on a website there are a few ways you can make money. You can generate a f**kton of traffic, you can have incredibly invasive ads or you can paywall your content. We tried to find a happy balance, targeting traffic over invasive ads, occasionally saying ‘yes’ to them in order to keep the lights on. We toyed with a paywall and even put together a comprehensive monthly magazine with hundreds of pages of ad-and-gossip-free content, but people weren’t interested.
I don’t blame them, the site was becoming known mostly for gossip nonsense and there were few who trusted the content would be worth paying even a nominal fee for. I suspect most of those were the previously mentioned nutters, too (you know I love you).
So how do you get traffic if that’s the strategy? Well, despite what most people tell you – how they hate transfer gossip – they simply cannot get enough of it. Our busiest month, without fail every season, is August, followed by January.
The easiest thing for us to do as a site while I underwent operation after operation after operation, was cater to that demand. We tried to do it in a way that at least analysed the rumour for accuracy, truthfulness, and banter. Still, there is no denying that we covered it in order to benefit from the traffic to make money to pay the people running the site.
I don’t know if you’ve ever transitioned from one gender to another. It is a lot of work and takes up a lot of your time. But running this website has been even harder. Lots of traffic needs lots of articles, all of which have to be written and edited while wondering if you’ll get money in in time to pay your rent.
If I told you my income, and that of the people who spend long days working on finding stories in newspapers on the other side of the world that nobody has heard of, finding the answers to the questions fans are asking about Arsenal, and trying to bring information together that would otherwise be lost, you’d think I was lying. But we did the gossip so we could afford to do all the other stuff we thought mattered.
So why do we do it if it’s so much work for so little reward? Because we love Arsenal, even though they make that incredibly hard these days. You know that if you could make your living, no matter how meagre, being immersed in Arsenal, you would too. Or, at least, you would have. That was a much more persuasive argument back in 2008.
So what’s all this about?
Now all that is behind me, my transition complete and I’m settled in my new self, I find myself, along with Daily Cannon, at another crossroads.
No-one who has ever worked here has wanted to spend their days writing about crap for clicks, but sometimes they did it because they knew it allowed them the space to explore topics involving Arsenal that were more interesting.
Continuing to chase traffic and clicks doesn’t feel like an option any more. We don’t want to be huge, we just want to be good, providing a space where the lesser covered Arsenal news and stories can be found – the stuff only true Arsenal obsessives care about. The weird facts, the quirky stats, the opinions of fans just like you.
We just aren’t sure how to go about that.
I guess the point of this entire ramble is to try and give a little insight into who we are, why we’ve done what we’ve done until this point, and to ask you to stick with us a little longer as we try to figure this out.
You are the person we want this site to be for.