Episode 160 Snippets: Andrew Brewster Developed a Michigan State Athletics Blog for USA Today While also Working a Full-Time Job

On episode 160 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Andrew Brewster, Editor, SpartansWire (Michigan State Athletics blog for USA Today).

What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

Reflections on the Job Hunt and Beginning a New Chapter at Greenfly

There’s something fun about uncertainty. Not knowing what’s next. It allows one to imagine the best of potential realities, believing every day and every small step is closer to some dream being realized.

That was the mindset I took after my last job – which I enjoyed and grew in – ended with the startup company not making it further after a full lifecycle during my four-plus years there. There was nothing but uncertainty ahead. After a trip to Europe – not exactly self-discovery, but a good chance to get away – the journey began.

This is more about moving on to the next chapter in my career, so I’ll keep this short. But first, some of the key life lessons from a path that I traveled over the last months, which included times of unbridled enthusiasm, impostor syndrome, bouncing back enough to consider going out on my own, getting close on really good jobs, getting ignored by other jobs, being ballsy and bold enough to turn down opportunities, reaching intermittent nadirs of despondency, trying to find small wins every day, and all while approaching every day and every interaction with the continued belief that you’re doing the right thing and that nothing can affect Fate more than the actions you take today.

The lessons:

  • Set goals every day. Set thoughtful goals. Have purposeful goals. And be rigorous in setting aside time to accomplish those goals
  • Make your own breaks – fill in the skill gaps for the next job you want, study your industry top-to-bottom because you have time others don’t, give value to others, and, ultimately, be intentionally present
  • Talk to others. Man, there are a handful of people that let me bounce ideas off them, celebrate the good times, talk through the not-so-good times, and seemed to pop in the texts or DM’s right when you need them. Really cool
  • Know what you value – Maybe I’m in the minority, but my jobs and my passions over the years have tended to intersect. It makes getting excited and energized about it easy. But working in and around sports or social is never something to be taken for granted. It requires understanding where money, lifestyle, job function, industry, and location come into play for one’s priorities and life

 

In the end, it was a combination of Fate and proactivity that led me to Greenfly. A quick story — I always knew of Greenfly, but then I saw an NBA team tweeting to their fans to download the Greenfly app and share content to the team. It was a use of their app that I hadn’t seen before and was introducing a new form of fan activation. So I reached out for a podcast interview and got to meet and interview the founders. And, yadda yadda yadda, I learned more about the company and got excited about what they do and where they are going, learned how I could be a fit to join, and here we are. It feels right.

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I can remember just coming up in this sports and social media world, the first times I timidly interacted with players in the room. Eventually, they figured out and came to (sorta) appreciate what I did — helping to tell and share their stories to fans on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the website, and other platforms. I used to show them how popular some of the posts featuring them were or told them about how they’re resonating with fans. I’d grab them for quick interviews or ‘reads’, knowing every minute talking to the camera was another minute they couldn’t, well, go home or hit the showers or do anything else but sit in there with me. And the only way to really communicate with them about content was [except for the very rare DM] through PR or Team Ops, who had their ear for requests and needs.

This was early days for player social media, few were active on social and those that were didn’t put too much strategy into it. Now, players are building their brands on social media. They appreciate, especially the non-superstars, the power that content featuring them wields when it’s shared on social to drive fan awareness of them, fans following them, and fans becoming fans of them as individuals. 

So to learn not just about the utility of Greenfly, but also how it’s actually used and how players seem to truly appreciate the value to them was cool and inspiring. The teams/leagues have incredibly talented and creative social / digital / production teams, and an enormous and growing bank of photos and highlights that the players want to get at easily. And the teams want these players [who play the actual games] to amass huge fan bases, who will ultimately buy more merch, go to more games, watch more games and highlights, and talk more about the team on and off social media. Mutual need and mutual benefits. That sounds like a relationship.

And that’s one reason I’m excited about Greenfly – it’s collaboration. It’s collaboration with everyone — players, staff, talent, and even fans or fan ambassadors in sports; in other industries, it’s employees, actors, artists, advocates, customers, and influencers. Content is king and collaboration is how the best kingdoms continue to grow and reign.

Finally, as someone who geeks out about this sports and social space – and how it functions – I’m constantly interested in processes and operations (I ask a lot about that on my podcast interviews). And, while a decade ago social and digital media may have been seen as a side department run by the youngest staffers, it’s now a very sophisticated, multi-faceted, strategic operation. During each season [or even single game/event], there are thousands upon thousands of potential highlights, photos, GIFs being created one click and snap at a time. There are template and graphics, there are personalized GIFs or graphics for players, there are brand guidelines to maintain across accounts, there are tons of short-term and long-term projects to track and balance and prioritize, and there is a staff and brand to manage. And, there is a dizzying collection of software and hardware the team is using every day to make it all happen.

Tired yet? That’s why Greenfly’s approach is so important – the company appreciates how these teams function and designs the product and processes and organization and integrations to help them execute and measure what they do better, faster, more efficiently, and more effectively. Everyone is trying to play Moneyball, to do it better and do it smarter. 

I’m psyched to hopefully inspire digital and social marketers — but, really, anyone trying to activate on social themselves or with their own army – through sharing awesome examples, giving out smart and actionable tips, uncovering insights from studying the incredible customers using this product, and helping brands, businesses, teams, and organizations continue to cultivate and mobilize their own content community. The platforms and how content is consumed will change, but the power of good content, a good story, and an engaged, attentive, invested audience — those things transcend technology and time.

It would be cliche to say I wouldn’t trade the experience of the last several months, since every experience shapes you and everything, err, ‘happens for a reason.’ But I do feel good about the lessons learned and I actually do believe I ended up in the right spot for me. It doesn’t feel like I’m convincing myself, I’m convicted. It feels right and I hope anyone else going through a similar experience can end in such a good place. I look forward to continuing to exercise my passion for this space and learning from the community. The next chapter starts now and there’s nothing but energizing uncertainty ahead.

Episode 151 Snippets: Chris Grosse on Driving Attendance in College Athletics, Building Fan Experiences, and Creating a Special Game Atmosphere

On episode 151 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Chris Grosse, Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing at Penn State Athletics.

What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

Episode 141 Snippets: Julie Phayer Grew Her Social Media Savvy with The Warriors and now The Ringer

On episode 141 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Julie Phayer, Social Media Producer for The Ringer.

What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

Episode 136 Snippets: Will Frasure Goes Inside Baseball on How MLB Social Has Evolved and Where It’s Headed Next

On episode 136 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Will Frasure, New Media Strategist for Major League Baseball.

What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

Episode 133 Snippets: How Greg Wyshynski Helped Change the Paradigm in NHL Journalism

On episode 133 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Greg Wyshynski, Senior NHL Writer with ESPN, who also spent time leading Yahoo Sports Puck Daddy, and currently hosts two podcasts – ESPN on Ice and Puck Soup.

What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

Jeff Eisenband on How Sports Media is Changing and How to Keep Up

On episode 121 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Jeff Eisenband, Senior Editor at ThePostGame and host for NBA Twitch / the NBA 2K League.

What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

Posted by Neil Horowitz

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Jessica Kleinschmidt Creates Connections with Baseball Fans Through Content and Being Real

On episode 118 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Jessica Kleinschmidt, Writer and Editor of Cut4 / Major League Baseball.

What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

Posted by Neil Horowitz

Follow me on Twitter @njh287 Connect on LinkedIn

Dan Rubenstein on Creating Content that Engages, Informs, and Entertains in College Football

On episode 114 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Dan Rubenstein, co-host of The Solid Verbal podcast, and veteran college football content producer with work at SB Nation, ESPN, SI, and others.

What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

Posted by Neil Horowitz

Follow me on Twitter @njh287 Connect on LinkedIn

The Ever-Growing Ecosystem of Sports Content and How It Has Evolved Over Decades

Remember when the Internet was small? Even longer ago, remember when the idea of choosing content was fairly limited?

There was a time not long ago when the newspaper you got was pretty much the news content you got (sure, you could buy an extra USA Today or New York Times on a newsstand). Then, the Internet came along, but, even then, competition was limited, at first, and especially for sports.

The evolution of sports media in the age of new media has been a lesson in evolve-or-die for the major names like ESPN that have persisted over the decades. It went from broadening the scope of content to realizing there was competition around them, so they had to be better and to stand out, to a recognition, today, that no click or page view can be taken for granted.

I recently had the opportunity to pick the brain of a veteran sports writer, Jim Caple, who spent decades at ESPN writing on a number of topics, especially the off-beat stories that went beyond the play on the field, and he gave great perspective on an evolution through which he has lived, and thrived, after coming to ESPN after years covering the Twins for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. [Check out my interview with Caple]

Caple started early on with ESPN.com working for Page Two, which sought to build upon ESPN’s growing audience by taking on topics and angles that, while rooted in sports, told stories that would appeal to readers whether they were avid sports fans or not. ESPN.com had the size and breadth to tell these great stories that weren’t yet being told, to maintain their dominance of online sports media at the time.

“It was ‘Let’s do something that the other people aren’t doing. Let’s just have some fun with it. And it was really popular at the time…,” said Caple about Page Two. “You just got all these interesting stories. Writing about surfers in Hawaii and what their lives are like. Or just writing something fun off a game…

“We were reaching people [and] saying ‘Look, here is just something interesting. Here is just something fun that you’ll be entertained by. You may not have any interest in this sport. You may not know anything about these people. But this is kind of interesting, and it’s worth reading.’ And people would.”

With a relative dearth of quality sports media on the Internet in the early days, at least those with the credibility and brand chops of an ESPN, ESPN wasn’t necessarily yet competing with the dozens of competitors today. The Worldwide Leader had its competitive eyes on, well, the Worldwide Web. And Page Two’s diverse stories was part of that.

“There weren’t nearly as many [sports] sites at the time. If you wanted to read about sports early on the web, [ESPN.com was] the place to go to…,” said Caple. ‘Then there were so many more options…That’s a good thing for the readers; it isn’t always a good thing for your site…We were trying to draw in as many people. We didn’t want to look for just a [sports] fan…we wanted to look for anybody that was looking for a good story…”

It’s no secret that this ecosystem didn’t remain status quo for long. Sports content, and a lot of quality sports content, began sprouting up all over the Internet. but the most important change? Social media allowed a good story to take off, to get shared, whether it had the clout [and Klout] of an ESPN or not. It also meant that, when there was a good story to be told, there was a better chance that story had already been told and readers [and writers] would easily have seen it. Caple noted that, if nothing else, Twitter gives a glimpse into what people are reading and what articles ARE being seen and consumed. For writers like Caple, it meant a new set of factors to consider when deciding which story to tackle and which angle to take.

“It’s kind of interesting in that in the old days you didn’t see what other people were writing,” said Caple. “And now you see it and you’ll be like ‘Oh, that person already wrote about that if I write about it, will I just be copying or it’s already been written about, so I shouldn’t do?…’ On the other hand, it’s just this is what I want to write about or this is how I want to write about this particular event, then I should write about it the way I want to write about it – take this angle or write about this particular athlete…”

It’s a conundrum for columnists, a risk of redundancy for reporters, especially as the brand power of ESPN isn’t what it used to be make readers choose one over the other. For Caple, he can’t help but notice the other work being published that covers similar topics on his plate. And he is still grappling with the desire to write what he wants and do it better than anyone, while also, well, not being repetitive.

“I don’t go out there searching for [other content on the same topics he’s writing about], but occasionally I’ll see it anyway,” said Caple. “And it will affect how I [write]; I don’t ever want to be accused of copying or [to] be redundant. I want it to be different.”

So this is the part of the article where the big insight is supposed to be delivered, the panacea to creating quality content that stands out and that captures the attention of sports fans and fans of good content, in general. But there is no magic formula.

The solution begins by embracing the wide open world of media, because it’s not going anywhere, and understanding what fans are consuming, how they’re consuming it, and what kinds of content and topics are appealing is more possible and more important than ever. That’s not to say one has to search far and wide to make sure a story or an angle, even if it’s more evergreen and less moment-focused, hasn’t been done before.

Listening to Caple tell about all the unique experiences he’s had, including the treasure of anecdotes compiled while writing and researching and experiencing the stories themselves, I have no doubt the ability to enjoy this kind of content is never going to diminish in the midst of memes and social media fat. Because where Caple and his brethren [and their employers] can continue to shine is having these experiences and helping fans/consumers/readers/viewers get a piece of those experiences, too.

Find a way to convey memorable, sensory, emotional experiences, and you’ll win over fans who want see what it was like to be in those shoes.