SBJ/August 22-28, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLS sees spike in online viewers, mobile users

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The MLS All-Star Game and World Football Challenge boosted Major League Soccer’s online and mobile numbers to new heights.

In July, MLSsoccer.com recorded just over 3 million unique visitors, its highest total ever.
For the month of July, which is traditionally the busiest month for MLSsoccer.com, the website recorded just over 3 million unique visitors, its highest total ever and a 30 percent jump from July 2010.

Also, the league saw an acceleration in downloads of its MatchDay Live free mobile application, which has been downloaded by 1 million users since its debut in March.

Chris Schlosser, MLS Digital general manager, said his growth strategy has been to increase Web content surrounding marquee events and rivalry games.

“We’ve found the way to drive traffic with the core MLS fan is by blowing out content around big events, like the U.S. soccer team’s run through the Gold Cup, or the World Football Challenge and All-Star,” Schlosser said. “We did an absolute wall of All-Star content.” The day of the All-Star Game ended up being the site’s highest-trafficked day ever.

MLSsoccer.com staff posted close to 700 original stories in July, a 33 percent increase from July 2010. Much of the content came from the World Football Challenge, which had its own micro site built into the league site. MLSsoccer.com also increased its video production by 33 percent, posting 100 original-content videos (not including highlights). According to Schlosser, visitors played 1 million videos during July, which doubled numbers from 2010.

The MLS All-Stars played Manchester United at Red Bull Arena on July 27. The World Football Challenge ran July 13 to Aug. 6.

The traffic numbers represent a year of steady growth for the website, which launched to poor reviews in March 2010. MLS decided to bring its website in-house in October 2009, ending a six-year digital partnership with MLB Advanced Media. Critics, however, lambasted the site for its lack of statistics, inconsistent design and operational bugs. But MLS moved on, working with NeuLion in October 2010 to create a new video player. In March, it signed a deal with European data firm Opta to revamp its updates on player and team statistics.

The website employs 35 full-time and 30 part-time employees, which is five fewer than in 2010, when more personnel were dedicated to developing the site.

Blogger Matt Rolf, who wrote some of the harsher criticism of the website after its launch, said MLSsoccer.com has become a useful resource for incoming MLS fans looking to join the soccer community.

“With Seattle coming in two years ago and Portland and Vancouver coming in this year, you have a lot of new fans coming in who are hungry for news and content, and they will go to the official source,” Rolf said. “And [MLSsoccer.com] has Facebook tied in, so if you’re on Facebook, you’re more likely to engage with their system."
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