As 2011 closes and 2012 is here, I want to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.
I started this blog in February with delusions of grandeur and hoped that my voice could possibly reach more than my friends as I just wanted to get my opinion out there in regards to the Nashville Predators. However, what happened was far from what I expected.
In the 10 months I’ve been running this blog, I’ve had more than 25,000 visitors to it, averaging about 2000 unique visits every month. This is well beyond anything I’ve ever expected. I’ve been visited from individuals in every single state in the United States and all but 2 provinces in Canada. The voices of The Predatorial have hit every continent except Antarctica including over 83 different countries across the world. Stories of mine have even been featured on Puck Daddy and NBC’s ProHockeyTalk, two things I never even thought would happen for me…ever.
Now, from here on out, I’m going to level with you and be completely honest: For all of the love that I feel from you, my readers, sports blogging is one of the most difficult things to do (and I’m a computer programmer).
However, through the good and the bad with this blog, I’ve learned some pretty valuable life lessons that have paved the way for what you read now and what I hope to continue to bring to you. I may lose some friends doing this, and maybe some respect here and there, but I started this blog with the sole mission of telling it like it really is and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t share with you what I’ve learned and try to help anyone who wants to follow in my footsteps.
So without further ado, let me share what I’ve learned in these short months of writing so you all can learn from my triumphs and my mistakes, especially if you want to start a sports blog of your own:
1 – Twitter is king:
Facebook may be a good social network, but if you want to get your message out to the world and people of all different diversities (including your specific market), then Twitter is where you want to go. Your message can go from being read by your followers to your followers followers to their followers and so on, it’s just an exponential increase.
2 – OnTheForecheck is the number one Predators blog out there, and for good reason…:
The reigning Best Sports Blog in Nashville is the best for a reason: they bring anything and everything about the Nashville Predators and more, not excluding other teams across the NHL either. Trust me, I aspire to be as good/better than they are and bring you the best content I possibly can, but Dirk has put many years into his successful product and it clearly shows.
I’m NOT downing Section303.com or any of the other Predators blogs, don’t get me wrong, but OnTheForecheck’s ringleader Dirk Hoag is regularly featured on the 102.5 The Game’s pre-game/post-game talk for Predators games, plus they have 4 of the best writers out there in Dirk/Marc Torrence/Sam Page/and Seth Lake. OnTheForecheck is the most followed Nashville Predators blog and their followership continues to grow every day.
If you’re a new blog or don’t have a lot of followers, you’ll learn that OnTheForecheck will be your main source of traffic to your website. I’m not going to kid around with you, without OnTheForecheck my website would average around 20-30 natural hits a day, however when Dirk links my website on his daily links my traffic can spike anywhere from 100-500 hits a day.
Someone once told me “Just because you have the most followers, doesn’t make you the best blog out there,” which is absolutely correct. It’s all about what you bring to the table, and in that regard no one currently matches OnTheForecheck.
3 – Starting a sports blog takes a lot longer than 1 day:
Don’t kid yourself. I thought because the market was relatively small for Nashville bloggers, I could become an instant success, however that was furthest from the truth. As I’ve noticed and done for any Predators blogs that have started up after myself, you get one courtesy mention on Twitter from the “major” Predators blogs on your first story, however past that you better be bringing some original content if you want to succeed.
OnTheForecheck links just about every single Predators related article that comes across the wire, and twice a day at that! However, if you want specific re-tweets from your fellow Predators bloggers, you better produce something that is original and gets people talking. If I wouldn’t have written the Big Three article in July, chances are my site wouldn’t be as popular as it is now, it really took things to a different level.
4 – Writing the same thing that 6 or 7 people are writing as well can be difficult but allows you to learn to be original
Pre-games/Post-games/Press Releases, everyone writes them. You want someone to read yours? Give them something that no one else offers. Pick a story line that someone else hasn’t used. Be original, but be yourself at the same time.
I’m still experimenting to find the right mix for all of these to make sure I hit the peak amount of viewers I possibly can, but it will never ever be perfect. No matter how hard I try, I’ll always have to make changes to make myself better for you, and I’m definitely ok with that.
5 – Brandon Felder is/was the most underrated writer in the history of Nashville Predators blogging
Brandon was the reason I started this blog. Few of you may know him, even fewer know him personally as I do, however back before there was a Blogger’s Row, before HockeyBuzz was talked in a joking fashion by everyone, Felder was one of the first credentialed Nashville Predators bloggers and had a huge following on HockeyBuzz.com along with Predators P.A. announcer Paul McCann.
For those who visit Section 310/311 during the intermission of Predators games nowadays to mingle with bloggers/friends alike, that was all started by Felder. It used to be a hidden gem of Predators games and somewere I loved to go during intermission, even if it was just to play the “What Player From This Team Would You Want on the Predators” game. Don’t know what I’m talking about? You may never know now, as I doubt it will ever happen again.
However, times changed and so did Felder. Although I’ve persisted that he get back to writing (and for us at The Predatorial, at that, lol), better things are happening for Brandon and I couldn’t be more happy for him. He’s a great person, he’ll be a great father, and he’s a great friend.
6 – Writing about/Being involved with a sports team can introduce you to some of the best people in the world
I’ve met some of the most amazing people while being involved with this team and have made some true friends in the process. Three of the most caring and compassionate people in the business are Paul McCann (Predators PA Announcer/Writer on HockeyBuzz.com/Co-Host of SlapShot Radio with Pete Weber), Amanda DiPaolo (credentialed Predators writer, operates InsideSmashville.com), and Jim Diamond (The Examiner). All of them (including Paul’s wife Denise) have gone out of their way at different times for me and are genuinely good people. I know I’m forgetting people when I say that, but those are just three that have stuck out to me.
I’ve had a chance to meet some of the big names out there in the hockey blogging business and I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.
7 – Live Tweeting hockey games is one of my favorite things to do and it humbles me at the same time
I’ve been live tweeting all Predators away games this season and it’s one of my favorite things to do. There is, on any given night, around 4-5 people who live tweet Nashville Predators games into full detail, however the reason I continue to do it and not leave it to credentialed individuals is very simple: Some people rely on me to do it.
I’m amazed that I haven’t lost a boatload of followers doing it, but I’ve gained followers instead. Someone told me during the Blues game yesterday that they read the Predators twitter account (PredsNHL) and my twitter account (ThePredatorial) on gamedays religiously like they read the Bible while another thanked me afterwards for tweeting it as she had to work and couldn’t watch. This happens nearly every game I live tweet and it humbles me every time.
I wish I could live tweet every single game, including home games, but it’s a little difficult to do when I’m attending the game using my season tickets and not being credentialed.
8 – One mistake can cost you a lot
I’ve never had any training in journalism, not a single bit. I’ve never had any experience interviewing people or professionally writing, even though it’s always been a passion of mine to write. Yet, being an amateur and making a mistake in the professional world can close some very important doors.
Without going into much detail, a few months ago I made the biggest mistake of my blogging career on a unintentional reflex action that I immediately regretted and it cost me any chance of being credentialed. I had never been so depressed in my writing career and I almost shut down my blog because of it. Being a credentialed writer doesn’t mean everything about sports writing and you can carry on without them, however credentials offer the ability for exclusive opportunities to speak with the coaches/players/team that non-credentialed folk can’t get.
One day in the future, I COULD get another chance…MAYBE. Needless to say, let me offer one major piece of advice to anyone who has any aspiration of sports writing and being credentialed by a professional team:
Watch what you do/say and who you say it to and make sure the questions you ask are good questions.
This isn’t just a bloggers rule, but a professional journalists rule everywhere. Trust me, it should be rule number 1
9 – A co-writer helps alleviate a lot of pressure with a sports blog
After I was saved back in June, I considered closing the blog, even though it had only been open for about 4 months. I had a lot of things changing in my life, but too many people told me to keep pressing on so I did. From that point until about August, I was getting burnt out on writing and it was starting to show. So, I decided to give an aspiring writer a chance to help me out and make things easier on myself….which turned out to be the best decision I’ve made in my blogging career.
Jeremy Sargent has taken over a lot of the writing on my blog. He does the majority, if not all, of the pre-game writeups and writes a lot of original content as well for the site, leaving me doing the post-game writeups, writing my own original content, and running the site/twitter account. Doing all of this on your own can be very taxing on your time and burn you out, trust me.
I gave Jeremy a chance and he’s been nothing but a pro. Although I’ve helped him a bit with his writing here and there to round him out and make him a bit better, he’s dropped my stress level 10-fold and has written some of the best articles on this site. This blog probably wouldn’t have as much content and be as good as it is now without his help and I’ll be eternally grateful.
10 – Words can hurt and that’s not my intention
While writing this, I contemplated whether or not to post a lot of this stuff. Some people who I think of as friends may read some of this stuff and think I’m talking bad about them or “dissing” them or whatever you want to call it, but I want to set the record straight:
I wrote this so people know how wonderful, stressful, amazing, depressing, fun, etc. that writing a blog that can reach thousands of people is like.
If you’ve read this, and I hope you have, and this has offended you, that wasn’t my intention at all. I want to be truthful about things and be able to write what I feel like writing.
Writing this may cost me more than just highlighting it and deleting, and I understand. However, it needed to be written and anyone who wants to write (especially with no experience) should read this as well.
So, now that you’ve read my thoughts, a heartfelt THANK YOU:
To you, the readers, for making me successful, making this blog what it is now, and for continuing to read.
To Jeremy Sargent, for keeping me sane and writing some great content to make us a competitive force in the Predators blogging world. Without you this blog wouldn’t be as good.
To all of the friends I’ve met writing this, there are waaaaaay too many to name, but you all have made my life better in every aspect.
Here’s to a great 2011 and a better 2012.