View from the Bleacher

My weekly interview has been delayed, so you get to read about me this week. Aw, did I lose half my audience already?

If you haven’t noticed, I have a new writing gig. Today I posted my 13th article over at Bleacher Report. That’s right, I sold out to corporate sports america. Deal with it.

Here’s my experience. Mike Schottey, known by the world as Schottey, asked if I want to be a Featured Columnist at B/R. I had to think about it. Last fall I wrote for Titans Blog, which I’d like to except that all my content is no longer there because someone purchased the domain in January. I wrote two types of articles for Titans Blog: Game recaps and interviews with bloggers of the Titans’ weekly opponent. If I were to take on this challenge, I would have to go much deeper.

I said yes, which makes sense considering the link you clicked in the opening paragraph. I started with the now-laughable article stating that Matt Hasselbeck should start the 2012 opener. I say laughable now because in 24 hours or so, Hasselbeck might be going to dumpville as the Titans court Peyton Manning like he’s the prom king of all time.

The challenge in these articles is that I had to do some actual research. When I wrote my Titans Blog articles, it was almost 100% stream of consciousness, with the occasional once-over as an edit. I tried to make sure I spelled names correctly. I had the idea of writing a long series on the Titans coaches, which became two uber articles with the offensive and the defensive coaches.

Let me say something about the slideshow format. When I wasn’t logged into the site, I despised the slideshows because that annoying pop-up ad asking for me to sign up for the newsletters came up every single time. The articles seemed so chopped up, like they were 200 words handed to me in 40-word chunks. For my coaching articles, the format made sense. I also learned that since there were only bad “senior picture” photos of coaches that I needed to combine a few per slide, or else the reader would abandon my magnum opus.

By the time I wrote four articles, I saw something on my “Writer Dashboard” that made me do a double-take. It listed the number of ‘points’ I had accumulated, which at that point was zero. I asked Matt Birch, who’s been my Jedi Master through this process to date. He sent me a link that explained the whole point system. Points lead to prizes, and the main prize is promotion, which leads to the nebulous concept of getting paid for my writing.

I volunteered to write a full seven-round mock NFL draft for the Titans. That earned my first “medal” for getting to 1,000 reads. I’ll say that my top Ask Your Fantasy Football Expert interview did not reach that number. I’m getting eyeballs on my articles.

When I wrote the article, I had a bare-bones understanding of draft prospects. The story took me around five hours to complete, and by that time I was still bewildered by the hundreds of young men hoping to get drafted and make an NFL roster this fall.

My biggest challenge to date was the Kraken, otherwise known as the Tennessee Titans Free Agency Tracker. That article took me half the weekend, and compiled everything you wanted to know about Titan free agency but were afraid to ask. I listed all the free agents, their salary cap numbers, what they might sign for next year, if the Titans would sign them, free agents the Titans might sign, and draft prospects. It’s a living document, as any time a move happens during free agency, the article gets updated for posterity.

I’ve been with the site for about a month. Coming up with new story ideas and trying not to sigh when I click the Titans team feed and I see five Peyton Manning stories is a constant struggle. There are thousands of writers on the site. I say that with confidence because as of this blog, I rank 5649th overall in article reads. After another month, I’ll be in the top 5k easily.

As much as being a Titan fan keeps me from getting an ego, being part of this community is humbling. Most everyone working on the site has the dream of writing sports for a living, and the ones who do it have the secondary dream of maintaining that employment. Last week I got to attend a meetup of the Atlanta and surrounding area writers. What, meet people I’ve met only online in person? That’s unpossible! It was a lot of fun because a lot of times when I talk sports with someone, I wait for the other shoe to drop aka the conversation to shift to something “important’. For these folks, there’s nothing more important.

2 Responses to View from the Bleacher

  1. Paymon Shokoohi March 14, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

    Congrats, Zack. You’re a good writer and you’re gonna do great at BR. As a bonus for me, I get to say, “That famous guy interviewed me once.”

    • Zach Law March 14, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

      I’m thinking the other way around, but thanks for the acknowledgement.

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