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BWTB: The Manziel Effect

Posted Mar 25, 2014

A look at how Johnny Manziel drives traffic numbers.

Johnny Manziel wins again.

Every Monday, I do a weekly traffic report for HoustonTexans.com.

In that report, I look at unique visitors, top stories and popular videos from the past seven days. I then disseminate that report to our digital team, so we can better learn what is popular with our fans and try to understand what content is most engaging.

This past week saw a lot of Texans news. There were two free agent signings, and the organization traded the most successful quarterback in the franchise's history.

With all that, you'd figure the week's most popular video would come from that mix right?

You'd be wrong.

Last week's most popular video was the NFL Network's 'First Draft' segment on Johnny Manziel. The video, which is embedded on the right of the page, gives insight on Manziel's career, through a series of questions with the Kerrville, Texas native. The most impressive part of this feat is that we only actively promoted that video (on social media) on Sunday night, meaning the view totals were accumulated in the span of about five hours.

Manziel is without a doubt the draft's most polarizing player. He's also unique in that he elicits an opinion from everyone, whether you think he'll be an All-Pro or won't succeed in the NFL. His ability to drive web traffic is almost unmatched at the collegiate level, and the fascination with his story and his upcoming NFL career continue to captivate football fans.

I have some previous experience with him and this phenomenon. Prior to this job, I worked for the SEC Digital Network as a web director and columnist. My final year at the SEC coincided with the first full year of Texas A&M joining the conference.

From the moment College Station became SEC territory, I became to learn about what I dubbed the 'Aggie effect' and how it began to reshape the league website's traffic numbers.

Texas A&M takes pride in its web presence, evident by the fact that they 'never lose a poll' (trust me). In my time at the SEC, the Aggie fanbase took pride in 'breaking' our website, meaning voting for an A&M player so much that our poll's voting total would run off the page.

Once Manziel exploded on the scene, that fervor reached another level. Manziel's dominance has also coincided with Texas A&M's rise to national prominence, so the energy from the Aggie fanbase only grew as Manziel's legend did. By the time Manziel had won the Heisman Trophy, the SEC's traffic numbers were sky high. As I reported in 2012, three of the top 10 stories of the entire year involved Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel.

Now, Manziel is entering the National Football League. With that comes national attention, with constant major media attention that is at a level that even the SEC can't match. That combination means eyeballs, and the numbers are only rising. Especially here at HoustonTexans.com.

Since the start of 2014, two of the top nine stories of the year are Manziel related. This story, chronicling Manziel's 40-yard time compared to other draft quarterbacks, is the single most read story on our website in the past three months. On the video side, three of our top eight most watched are Manziel related.

Does this have anything to do Manziel's ability and his future in the NFL? Not a bit.

But, the numbers continue to show that no matter what you think of the Heisman Trophy winner, you will watch and read everything written about him. 

Content on HoustonTexans.com does not necessarily represent the views of the Houston Texans front office staff, coaches or executives.

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