Gelb: Baseball-Reference at 20: After spawning a 1B page-view business, what’s next for the website of record?

From Matt Gelb at The Athletic on January 2, 2020, with mention of SABR members Sean Forman and Sean Lahman:

Two computer screens lit the corner office on the third floor at Summit Presbyterian Church, and this is where Sean Forman could see it all. His house, in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia, is two blocks away. The grocery store is just around the corner. The coffee shop is across the street from that. Gary Sheffield’s Baseball-Reference page glowed from one of the monitors.

The radiator rumbled underneath his office, and a clicking sound filled the room. “I very much enjoy what I do,” said Forman, 48. “I feel pretty satisfied with where we’re at right now.” Soon, his little idea will turn 20 years old. This hobby became something indispensable in the baseball world,, and then grew into a business that generated more than a billion annual page views. Twenty years.

“This,” Forman said as he began a tour of the unassuming office space, “is my daughter’s cubicle.” Elinore is 11, and her job is to sell the company’s extra books — the random resources collected over the years that have helped to augment the digital encyclopedia. She lists the books online, boxes them up and takes them to the mailbox. All for a small cut, of course.

The company, Sports Reference LLC, now has 11 full-time employees to oversee seven websites. Improved mobile traffic and ad revenue allowed Forman to expand the operation. Often, he will ask a new acquaintance how many people they think work there. (He did, until a few years ago, serve as the office janitor.) The guesses have ranged from “half a person” to 50 employees.

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Originally published: January 2, 2020. Last Updated: January 2, 2020.