The TexAgs Internet Explosion

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It's a growing global phenomenon for anyone interested in the Aggies. The TexAgs website is seeing remarkable growth in size based on new content and new visitors. The site debuted in 1998 and shows no signs of slowing down.

Brandon Jones, now the president of TexAgs, came on board in 1999.

"There were about 2-to-3,000 active members, participants on the site," he said. "To contrast that to today, we're at about 60,000."

In its infancy, the site was a quaint corner of the web for A&M sports fans. Football was the Texags king, and still is, with subscription-based recruiting content. But now, more than 30 forums live here, everything from regional pages, to A&M traditions. Behind the football discussions, the General forum brings the most traffic. The Aggieland page is well-visited, too, discussing everything from new roads to old restaurants.

"Because we're so diverse in terms of the number of forums and what the forums cover, you can find something that you're interested in on Texags, and there's the reason for the growth," Jones said.

Here's who visits the site according to studies Jones commissioned recently. The majority of visitors are former students. Twenty-one percent are from Houston, more than the number that visit from Bryan-College Station. The average age of a visitor is 37, and 95 percent of posters are male.

Last month, 107,000 unique people came to Texags. The site averages half-a-million page hits each day, and that number increases some 40 percent when it's football season.

"I've never advertised the site in any form or fashion, so it's definitely been word of mouth, that viral effect that internet sites have," Jones said.

"The challenge for us is going to be, two years from now, we'll be double what we are today, and so that's exciting, but it's also a big challenge for us," he added.

Jones says subscription fees and advertising cover the operating costs of the site. Exclusive forums and the recruiting content is available for a monthly fee. Jones also adds that he's already working on new ways to grow the site.

But as with any internet site, the question of content arises, with more than 30 forums, half-a-million page hits a day, and more than 100,000 different visitors last month.

"There are a huge range of topics that are discussed on a daily basis on TexAgs outside of the original tent, which was A&M sporting information," Jones said.

He hears one question all the time: "With thousands of people interacting on a daily basis, how do you control the content so that people get along?"

According to Jones's stats, about a quarter of a million posts hit the forums of TexAgs each month. The average length of the post is 30 words. Do the math, and you get around seven-and-a-half million new words on the forums each month.

To put it in perspective, says Jones, that's about 75 novels to read each month.

"We have 9,000 posts a day, and that's a lot of content, and so there's a lot of energy expended each day to make sure the content is acceptable for most of our visitors," Jones said.

Save for an intern he just hired, Jones is the lone employee of TexAgs. Besides software to filter out foul language, he has 20 volunteers moderating the content at all times, making sure there's no unsubstantiated claims or slandering, suspending accounts when necessary.

But with as much cyber-ground as they have to cover, "There are times when stuff gets on there that I don't agree with and are against our policies, and it might be up there longer than we want," Jones said.

"We encourage all of our users to take precautions with what information they reveal about themselves," he added.

Because as big as TexAgs is becoming, a lot more people are browsing through the pages of posts.

"I've been called by sheriff's departments, Secret Service, lots of different agencies that have a keen interest in what is being discussed on the site," Jones said. "While I think it's surprising, I think with each additional contact, I'm less surprised."

Jones very happily says he's never been sued because of content on the site. He received a cease and desist order from a publication once, but cleared that up quickly.


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