Sports Blogging: Top 10 Lessons Learned
- Updated: February 13, 2012
When I started blogging in my mother’s basement five years ago, I never thought I’d still be doing it today (that first part was sarcasm, in case you were curious). Yet, some 1200+ posts later here I am. Up again with my late-night mistress pondering what mostly-useless nuggets I might deem worthy of sharing with the world – or at least the tiny, little sliver of it which I might be so presumptuous to stake claim. I’m 34-years old. Married to a wonderful woman with a delightful six-month old daughter. There are many reasons to let a silly little sports blog die (time being the ever-present and most logical one). But I can’t. I’m still in love. So as my true betrothed valiantly and affectionately (though always a tad begrudgingly) threw out potential blog topics and begged that I scour the Interwebs for an “intern,” I somehow stumbled upon a topic. And when you’re in this game, all it takes is a germ of an idea to get the fingers dancing. We’ll use one of my least favorite workplace cliches for this one: lessons learned. In this case, a few things I which someone had shared with me and/or that I’ve learned since embarking on this journey one fine summer day back in 2007…
1. Figure Out Why You Want to Blog: This is an important one, and it’s tricky. There are plenty of times along the way where one can get confused as to their real motivation. I started this blog for two reasons. The first was to prove I could do it and learn about this newfangled “blogosphere” from personal experience. I believed as a PR person it made more sense to talk about something you knew about. The second was because I liked writing about sports and had always wished I had an outlet to share those opinions. The latter slowly became and has remained my principle motivation. I may have been temporarily teased by visions of grandeur and profitability that could allow me to quick my day job, but reality sets in quickly. My favorite line from my wife is: “the blog can’t pay the mortgage.” She’s right. It can barely cover my daily coffee truck visits. Plus, this whole thing is a lot more fun when you’re comfortable with its true purpose. For me, it’s good old-fashioned fun. It’s a ton of fun to write. It’s fun to actually know that sometimes people are reading. And, yes, it’s strangely rewarding (and damn fun) to see folks from the blogging pantheon and mainstream sports outlets link to or cite your stuff. I’ll always be able to say that The Legend of Cecilio Guante was featured on SportsCenter. Ain’t that some sh*t?
2. Erase Any Illusions of Ease: Whether you’re doing it for creative kicks or making a run at monetization, be ready to work. Bloggin’ ain’t easy. Those who’ve never done it can claim that it takes nothing to bang out a post. They’re largely wrong. It takes a ton of time. Which brings us to number three…
3. Team Up: Speaking of not easy…going at it alone is challenging. If you’re looking to make a go of your sports blog, see if you can gather some like-minded folks to lessen the load. I’ve been lucky enough to have some fine guest writers and part-time contributors at The Legend, but it’s mostly been a solo gig. It’s a whole different proposition if you can gather three or four folks to take on the Interwebs as a team. It means more posts, more content and more variety. It also means a lighter burden on any one writer. It’s something I’d have looked to change and get right from the get go, if I had to do it all over again. Did we mention the fine segues between some of these…
4. Play the Name Game: What’s in a name? Well, when it comes to blog names, possibly a whole lot. Great blog names are clever, memorable and short. It makes them easier to recall and, you know, type into things. Blog names should also be easy to grasp. Plays on words are good. Sports-related is a plus. Thinks like Deadspin, The Big Lead, With Leather, Rush the Court and Empty the Bench come to mind as good models. An example of what not to do? www.thelegendofcecilioguante.com. Try reciting that one to your uncle who wants to check out your stuff. Chances are, no matter how witty you think you are, if you can’t explain (or, you now, recite) your blog’s home in a few seconds you’re screwed. Editor’s note: please visit us at lcgsports.com. See? Slightly better.
5. Look the Part: If you’re going to put in all the time to write, it’s worth making sure that the living space for your musings isn’t a busted-ass shack. My old site on Blogger was a long-standing picture of how to look like a complete amateur. It looked like a blog-by-numbers experiment gone horribly awry. I may still be writing during amateur hour, but at least the new site on this fancy thing called “WordPress” could fool a few people. Seriously, though, if you at least try to look like a pro there’s a better chance folks may devote an extra second or two to your latest rant.
6. Support from the Head Coach: Making real money on a sports blog is a Herculean task. As much as I may dream, there are painfully few Drew Magary and Will Leitch-types out there. I’m not that smart or funny, nor that fine a writer. Chances are, you aren’t either. All of which means having support from the significant folks in your life is pretty much a mandatory. Hobbies need spousal approval. Time-sucking hobbies with few tangible benefits aside from an amorphous creative satisfaction demand such support. Luckily, my wife is an angel who tolerates my blog flings and transgressions. It helps that she’s long asleep when I spend the majority of my quality time with The Legend. She also occasionally forces me to write about the Giants and Eli Manning. Small sacrifices to make. Although if she pushes me to ever pen positively about the Yankees, it may signal the end.
7. Lists: Try to come up with a top [insert number here] or list post every week. No joke. People are dumb as rocks. They love lists. Long-form prose just blows their mind. Top five player hairdos…top 10 bloop singles of all-time…top three stooges…it hardly matters. See: Letterman, Dave.
8. Learn a Bit About the Web: Just reading the Internet doesn’t qualify you to know jack sh*t about it. I didn’t and still don’t for the most part. But I’ve been lucky enough to have a few Web-savvy friends instruct me on at least the basics of SEO and what you should try to do to trick those search engine masters of the universe to find your stuff more easily. It doesn’t mean you have to sell out and write exactly what everybody else is writing. But if you’re going to pour your heart into each post, you may as well write the titles and tag things so that more people might read your divine drivel.
9. Be Yourself: Should you resign yourself to the “blog-for-fun” category, just do that. Write what you want. It’s your blog and that’s why you started it (if you’re trying to make money, good luck and this doesn’t necessarily apply). Want to ramble on about your teenage addiction to Lids? Go ahead. Feel like bemoaning the departure of high socks in the NBA? It’s your prerogative, you can do what you want to do. Write on, brother.
10. When All Else Fails…Tebow: There will be times where the tank is on empty. It happens…frequently. During those moments of weakness, it’s okay to scrounge around for the popular story of the week and shamelessly jump on the bandwagon. Sure, it feels dirty, lazy and completely inauthentic. It. Is. OK. And of course should collecting from the dregs of other blogs not be sufficient, there’s always Tebow.
That’s all I got. See you in another five years or so?
*”Add photos” would be another tip…but that time thing comes to play again. Sorry.