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Clay Travis on Grantland and Internet writing

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Alma, Nov 4, 2015.

  1. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member


    Truth be told, I agree with most of it. It's actually rather good to have if you're a Internet writer.

    A couple sections:

    So what happens beginning with the rise of the Internet?

    Suddenly every writer is competing with every other writer in the country. (Note: this is slowly starting to happen with radio now too. It's why I'm so bullish on the new Outkick the Show we're launching soon.) The newspaper media islands turned into connected continents. Everyone could see what everyone else was writing. Instead of having 32 individual NFL writers making $90k a year, a guy like Peter King, the best of the group, could become the national NFL writing superstar and make $3 million a year.

    Some people got it -- Bill Simmons rode this digital train to a payday unmatched in today's sportswriting universe -- but more often than not most writers were confused and uncertain how to handle a changing world. That's because writers, as a general rule, aren't really that good at business. We chose words over math, after all.

    Yet, the business had shifted ground beneath them and they were like the old baseball scouts on "Moneyball", totally unaware how to respond to a competitive market that voted with readership. Their media islands were overrun. (There's a definite irony here in that many of these same sportswriters watching "Moneyball," and laughed at the old scouts way of thinking without realizing that they were, in fact, the scouts of their own industry).

    I noticed this at FanHouse, the writers we hired from newspapers weren't aware they had to promote their writing online. It was a totally different universe. The only promotion they'd needed for most of their careers was a byline in a paper. People either bought the paper or they didn't. And if they did, no one had any idea which articles were the most popular. Even back then the vast majority of a newspapers articles weren't read. Many writers were uncomfortable with self-promotion, which, honestly, is the lifeblood of Internet writing.


    The simple fact is: most sportswriters don't work that hard. Most people in every industry don't work that hard. That gives you a chance to succeed.

    Find me someone else who runs his own site, did over 20 hours a week of live radio, and traveled cross-country for TV.

    Good luck.

    Tons of people want to do this job until they realize the work involved to be good. I've never seen anyone be good at anything without working hard at it. Talent matters, sure, but drive matters as much or more than talent.

    So work harder than everyone else.

    I'll give you a recent example. At this year's SEC Spring Meetings a couple of writers pulled me aside and complained because I was Periscoping what the coaches were saying. This, they said, allowed competing sites to watch those feeds and write what the coaches said, disadvantaging, so they said, the writers who were actually there.

    That's such a newspaper way of thinking it drives me crazy. But it wasn't unique to those guys, lots of people still believe that.

    Here's the deal: if you can't write more interesting stories actually being there than the people are writing watching my Periscope feed can write, why are you traveling and writing at all? Why not just watch my Periscope feed too? Why should your company be paying to put you up in a hotel and pay for you to travel and pay for you to write what others are writing from their couches?

    The fact of the matter is no one is reading those articles on any substantial basis -- 99% of sportswriting -- or writing on the Internet in general -- will get less than 2,000 readers -- but these guys were used to having something unique based entirely on their job, not their work ethic. If your article doesn't contain something unique or entertaining, what's the point of writing it? People don't have to wake up the day after a game and read the newspaper to see what happened. They can watch or listen to the press conferences themselves. In order to build an audience, you have to work harder and smarter than other writers.
  2. dirtybird

    dirtybird Active Member

    I thought there were some good spots in a kinda flimsy framework. There was a sort of market-is-king thesis wrapped in a Deadspin/Whitlock-style I'm-going-to-tell-it-like-it-is-in-a-highminded-tone. The level of self-aggrandizement and length would make Simmons blush and it feels weird when something written for twitter tells me not to do that. Anyway, I appreciate the man has harnessed the market value of trolling, but there's only so much credit I give him for it.

    (Perhaps I'm too young to see much of this as not painfully obvious, or read too much deadspin to not be tired of the tone. To each his own)
  3. JimmyHoward33

    JimmyHoward33 Well-Known Member

    I'm mildly surprised the SEC didn't shut down his periscope feed so people would have to watch on SEC.Com or whatever.
  4. Lugnuts

    Lugnuts Well-Known Member

    Everyone seems to forget how Moneyball ended.
  5. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    With the A's winning 100-plus games multiple times, and every team in sports incorporating analytics departments.
    Potter likes this.
  6. Lugnuts

    Lugnuts Well-Known Member

    You and Travis missed a major point of the book.
  7. LanceyHoward

    LanceyHoward Active Member

    It would have been nice if Travis, in boasting how successful his site is, actually revealed some financial details. I look at the site occasionally and it does not strike me as add heavy.

    One point I did find interesting is his point that a list of potential coaching candidates will drive more hits than the actual story on the hire. I wonder if that is specific to a site such as his. This is anecdotal but when I read stories if the coach of the most popular local team is hired it will usually be listed as the most read. I don't see many speculative lists of potential coaches landing in the most read stories listing I wonder if a website that attempts to appeal to a broad audience such as Travis's will draw a lot of hits for a speculative piece but when people want solid information they go to a local website.

    I also find the complaints about sportswriters being lazy ironic because lists are very easy to write. For example, if you are writing a list of potential college football candidates for a Big Five school one tried and true method is to start with Jon Gruden and Houston Nutt. Then list the head coaches of any programs not in a Big Five conference that are getting votes in the AP top 25 and within 1500 miles of the school looking for a coach . Add Kirby Smart and throw in Rich Rodriguez if the school might pay more than Arizona and you are done.
    SFIND likes this.
  8. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    Oh, there's no doubt it's annoying. Clay Travis is an annoying person because he's one of those guys who probably wishes he were a country gentleman sportswriter from 1989, but he's not, and he can't be - because nobody really is anymore - and so he's going to wreck those folks' worlds by Periscoping off-to-the-side chats while he calls back-channel boosters and doesn't have to put anything "officially" on the record. He's an ambulance-chaser of a writer. But you have to beat those folks by doing the kind of writing and reporting they won't.

    And what Travis says about opinion is right. I mean, it is. Non-preps sportswriters who aren't pushing to analyze and opinionate - or, worse, deferring solely to limp-wristed, days-of-yore columnists to spin cliches - aren't doing what readers want and they're killing their traffic and visibility. That's reality. If you have a strong columnist who will wade into a bunch of things, it becomes easier to be a straight-ahead stylist and "eyes and ears to the program/franchise." But, honestly, even that's hard anymore. At the pro level, players, coaches and GMs want Woj or Peter King or Schefty or "nitro zone" Verducci. At the college level, the coaches want the recruiting sites that act as go betweens to the recruits.

    The outlets and writers that hold off - especially out of deference to the "only the middle-aged-to-old white guy can have an opinion" belief system - will lose. You have to mix it up with readers, listeners and viewers.
  9. da man

    da man Well-Known Member

    A list of potential candidates for any coaching job is one the laziest things imaginable. Those lists are almost never based in fact
  10. Jake_Taylor

    Jake_Taylor Well-Known Member

    I seem to remember it ending with Scott Hatteberg going to the Hall of Fame and Tejada, Zito, Mulder and Hudson never existing. But I may be thinking of the movie.
    Potter, Lugnuts and JimmyHoward33 like this.
  11. Michael_ Gee

    Michael_ Gee Well-Known Member

    I don't know this guy, I don't know his work, but he sure comes off as an asshole in the quoted parts of the article. As a older former sportswriter, I know that my peer group was just like everybody else in every job -- some people were compulsive workaholics, some were very lazy, and most did as much work as they had to to do the job the best way they could.
  12. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Clay Travis is well known in the South. Generally regarded as an asshole, if you are being charitable.

    But as Alma points out, he knows what drives traffic and generates hits and doesn't seem to care if he pisses people off (and not just sportswriters). In fact, he may thrive on it.

    I think many sports writers who are beat writers may work harder than some of these internet guys because they have to do all the social media, video, blog and other stuff, plus worry about photos (not just swipe them from somewhere), write for the paper's needs, make insane deadlines and please their bosses who have holes to fill in the print edition.
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