Saturday, March 16, 2013

Tips for Sports Blogging


You’re here for a reason. A love for sports, writing, and the power of the Internet is quite enticing for an increasingly large population of fans. I still remember the rush that I felt when I realized the possibility that rose from writing my opinion for fellow fans and writers of all abilities. Sports have always been an integral part of my life, and writing was always something that I knew I liked but never quite found the niche that I consistently wanted to write in. 100-plus articles later, I have found one place that I truly enjoy.

So what about you? As the one year anniversary of my inaugural post for Bases and Baskets approaches, I thought it would be fitting to share what I have learned thus far. This may be a little long, but hopefully helpful. Part of the reason I’m doing this is because I consulted many helpful guidance articles like this one and thought I would add my two cents to the mix. Moreover, I haven’t found too many tips specific to aspiring sports bloggers and this article is directed primarily to those aspiring authors—although it is certainly not only applicable to that crowd. So, let’s talk a little bit about the whirlwind ride of a blog creation—some logistics interspersed with personal experience.

1. Where do I start?

Find a platform that suits you best. I use Blogger for this website but Wordpress is another popular free platform. Generally, Blogger is known for its personalization and Wordpress more for its aesthetic appeal, but with enough desire you can really make either do what you want. You might be intimidated by computer coding and all that jazz. Don’t be. I have zero online programming experience and really don’t believe that you need any. There are many kind bloggers out there who specifically help those of us who are not as technically inclined, and a simple Google search has got me just about everything I could ask for. If that fails, help forums are there, too. I’ve ventured onto Blogger help forums more than once and received quick, accurate answers there. If you look hard enough, you will find an answer to your questions.

Another thing: start simple. Are you here to be a web designer or sports columnist? It’s all too easy to get caught up in making everything perfect but you need to realize that it will not be right away. Things will fall into place along the way. I know bloggers who had grand plans but never got started because they were too worried about making everything perfect before their entry into the blogosphere. Test the waters and get your feet wet. Family and friends are there to give quick feedback and realize that you won’t get too many hits in the beginning unless you have deep pockets or have other sources for viewership. I’ve been in that position staying up way too late, tinkering with the finer aspects of my site and saying ‘wait, is this what I really want to spend my blogging time working on?’ (So if that does become you, I can certainly sympathize.)

1a. Why am I doing this?

It may sound silly but really think about this. Personally, in the beginning I just wanted to create an outlet for friends and family to talk about something that was generally only word of mouth discussion. This is a hobby that has led to success that I am proud to say I worked for. Why are you doing this? Is it for the potential financial benefits, the discussion, or do you want to become a journalist?

I landed a position at Bleacher Report less than two months after my first article on Bases and Baskets, and it escalated quickly from there. I was just going with the flow and putting my name and work out there with a ‘why not?’ mentality. I eventually decided to go back to this website for good after nearly half a year writing for B/R because I realized I wanted full control over my work. Some people stick with B/R, other with their blogs, and then there are people like me who have tried both.

Depending on your desired avenue, there are different ways to go about online sports blogging. Bleacher Report is probably good for an aspiring journalist whereas a blog might be better for the recreational writer…or really any combination of the two. Unless you plan on making it onto ESPN or SI from the get-go, an online blog (your own or someone else’s) and Bleacher Report are the two main places to go. Realistically, if B/R is an aspiration of yours, a month or two of blog posts is a must anyway. Your aspirations and motivations are crucial to grasp if you don’t want to fizzle out.

2. I’m starting to get serious, how should I expand (in terms of social media, etc.)?

If you’ve reached this point, you should first look into buying your own domain. I’ll be honest, I bought mine nearly right away because it was inexpensive and I wanted the marketability of that dot com as opposed to having “blogspot” or “wordpress” or “tumblr” in the way. Through Google my domain cost me $10 for a year, which is dirt cheap considering hosting will put you down that much within months, if not faster.

On that note, do not buy web hosting. I have seen it hurt blogs because the quality isn’t that great and the truth is, why pay for something when the quality of Blogger or Wordpress is better and free? As long as you aren’t a spammer and put up good content, you really should go this way. This minute risk does not outweigh the support and reward. Plus, a template backup of your site’s html is a must and since you write all of your articles in Word, you have copies of everything on your own hard drive if a stroke of bad luck does run your way.

Now for the Big Three: Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Well really, it’s the Dynamic Duo because Google+ is still far behind in online influence but in the beginning you will take hits wherever you can get them, and if you can get 10-20 a day from Google+, it is worth investing time into creating a profile there. If you are starting from absolute scratch (which I was), it is a mission to get 100 hits a day.

Social media is tough in the beginning. Getting likes and followers is no easy task. Start with your personal friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter and go from there. I have never been a huge Twitter person, and the only Twitter that I use is @basesandbaskets which has had barely modest success.

Implementation of widgets into your articles is essential. I have had problems with Facebook plugins on Blogger (which is one point for Wordpress in the tally for blogging platforms) but Twitter has integrated seamlessly. And that Tweet button—which you will hopefully click at the end of this very article—is the way that you will get hits from people that liked your stuff and it’s always a potential jackpot. If an article gains steam on Twitter (or Facebook, of course)…watch out.

So create a Facebook page, a Google+ page, and a Twitter account. Try StumbleUpon and Digg if you want to try other social media outlets. And if you manage to find success in one of these (especially Facebook or Twitter), spend your time with that one. I know I have been guilty myself of trying to cater to smaller populations of people which does not make sense when you have much larger audiences waiting for your latest post or debate-sparking thoughts.

What if none of those work? Until recently, these sources of social media were getting a very small percentage of Bases and Baskets overall traffic. So where was my main source of traffic?

For that, stay tuned for Part II. I’ll discuss that source and other vital aspects that a serious (sports) blogger must consider including monitoring success, advertising on your site, comment systems, and much more.

Part II is here!

3 comments:

  1. This post was very helpful. I am currently a student majoring in journalism and I'm writing for the school's sports section. In most of my journalism classes we are required to have a blog and I am always a little overwhelmed when it comes to the online codes and programing. I really have enjoyed reading your blog over the past couple months because it has given me a lot of insite in regards to how to effectively write a blog on sports and how to back up your opinion on whatever you are talking about.

    I am especially grateful for your section on where to start, I think that keeping Bleacher Report in mind as a possible employer will help improve my quality on writing and establishing my blog.

    Can't wait to read part two!

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  2. Glad you liked it and thanks for continuing to check out my writing! One quick thing about Bleacher Report (which is ultimately why I chose to stop writing there): it takes many, many articles before you can earn money through them - if that is your goal. Even my work as a "featured columnist" was unpaid.

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  3. Enjoyed reading this post and found it very helpful. I started my sports blog on Word Press and found that it was easy to use and was user friendly. I started blogging at the suggestion o a good friend in October of 2013 and just love it now. I plan to continue as I find blogging give me something to do that I enjoy. Google+ has been my most successful social network, get lot of views and comments from that site and have made some friends there who also write sports blogs.

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