Thursday, January 1, 2009

Obituary for a fansite: AJAX USA (1995-2008)

We almost can’t believe we’re announcing this, but we are.

We’re calling it quits. Ajax USA is saying farewell.

You will have noticed that something changed in recent months. We were slower to the trigger than we used to be. We skipped a few match reports. We ignored some important news facts. We were not as good, not as relentlessly devoted as we once were.

The reason? It’s a combination of a few different things.

Firstly, our lives and careers have changed. Jim McGough, Ajax USA’s publisher, had no kids when he founded Ajax USA back in 1995. Now, he has two boys and a much busier job. Menno Pot, Ajax USA’s editor, was just starting out as a freelance journalist when he started writing match and news reports for Ajax USA, back in 1999. He, too, is much, much busier now. Finding the time to keep Ajax USA up-to-date has become an uphill battle, a struggle – and that’s not what we want Ajax USA to be.

But there’s something else, and we have to be honest about it. We don’t enjoy it as much anymore as we once did. We’re running out of steam and no: it’s got nothing to do with Ajax’s string of disappointing seasons. Some of Ajax’s worst seasons were great seasons for Ajax USA, so that’s not it. Our passion for Ajax is still there, and will always be, but our passion to write reports about every Ajax match, every news fact and – as frequently as possible – about the great history of our club... It died a death.

Finally, perhaps the most significant thing: our content has become a commodity. We’re just not necessary any longer, and that has taken the wind out of our sails.

Ajax USA has been there, in one form or another, since 1995. We’re older than or any other still-published Ajax website. Ajax USA started, believe it or not, as a fax service, in 1995; Jim would collect Eredivisie news and results from Internet Bulletin Board Systems, or BBS sites (there was no Ajax news in English on the web; none) and then fax it to friends. Then, he briefly switched over to email distribution.

And then, in January of 1996, Jim launched the first version of Ajax USA, the website. He maintained it mostly alone, with a few contributions from guest writers. In the early days, Jim had technical help from some nerdy friends. (You know who you are.) But it was mostly a one-man show.

Then, in 1999, Menno Pot began writing news and match reports, and his totally original historical content. Ajax USA was transformed, and really took off. We became the most popular, up-to-date and reliable source for Ajax news in English on the Internet. We were far better than the English version of Hell, let’s just say it, for once: for a long time we were the best out there, period. We were always 100% free of advertising and 100% independent. Thousands of ‘Ajax starved’ supporters from across the globe relied on us: they couldn’t watch Ajax games, and it was tremendously difficult for them to stay informed. In those days we provided a service that was badly needed. At our height, we could occasionally have more than ten thousand unique site visitors in a single day.

But times have changed. Almost every Ajax match is available online these days. Sometimes you pay a few bucks for it (and you’ll get a perfect feed with English commentary); sometimes you don’t pay a penny and you’ll be watching a grainy, semi-legal feed with some dude doing the play-by-play in Chinese. But it’s available. All of it. Ajax news in English has become a commodity. Every Ajax news fact can be read in English. Everywhere and almost immediately.

In other words: We’re just not needed any longer. We were there before the internet became a big thing, and we were way ahead of our time. Today we’re almost old-fashioned.

The combination of the above factors made us decide to pull the plug. We always promised ourselves to do so as soon as our passion began to evaporate, as soon as got the feeling that Ajax USA, our beloved little baby, was dying on us. We’ve reached that point. It’s time to go.

Jim and Menno will remain friends. We will continue to ‘talk Ajax’ on Ajax Talk and we will continue to moderate the English zones over there. Hopefully the Ajax USA community we created will stay more or less intact. It’s nice to know you. But Ajax USA, the website itself, is saying goodbye.

However, we’re not going to flush more than ten years of Ajax writing down the toilet: we’ll leave all of our legacy content online. The match reports, the news reports, the Eredivisie club profiles, the Ajax club history, 15 Years Ago... all of that will remain available. But there will be no more updates.

We did this for Ajax. We did it ‘cos it was fun. We did it because we thought we were pretty damn’ good at what we did. And last but not least: we did it for you. If we ever gave you the feeling that you were part of something, an Ajax ‘family’ of some sort, we achieved our goal.

Thank you for your support. In the words of Neil Young and Kurt Cobain: “My my, hey hey, it’s better to burn out than to fade away”. And don’t forget... always Ajax.

Jim McGough, Publisher
Menno Pot, Editor
Ajax USA

NOTE: Ajax USA is not for sale. Our content, our staff, or domain names, our mascot. None of it. So don't ask. :-P

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