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Sports Blogging 102: Community Is King

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Henry Abbott, Dan Shanoff, and others have inspired me to talk a little more about one of my favorite topics, sports blogging.  You can find my initial thoughts on the subject on TrueHoop here.  One area, however, that I don't think any of the posts I just linked to pay enough attention to is building a community.

You've heard it said that "Content is King."  I'm here to tell you that notion is outdated (and very old-media).  That's not to say that it is ok to neglect content.  Far from it.  However, if you really want to build a highly popular blog, then you have to chant the new rallying cry: "Community is King!"

I'll be the first to tell you that I'm an ok writer but I'm nothing all that special.  That's not false modesty, just facts as I see them.  So how is it that I have what appears to be one of the most successful (traffic-wise) NBA blogs on the web?  Because of you of course. 

My primary purpose is to be a conversation starter.  You take care of the rest.  You come to this blog in part to read what I have to say about the team, but just as much to read what other people have to say and to voice your own opinions. It is called "user created content" and it is the very sort of thing that companies like YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, and Flickr have been able to tap into with overwhelming success.  Why should blogs be any different?

The element that "user created content" sites tap into is the overwhelming need people have to be heard, affirmed, and ultimately to be accepted.  Or said another way, commentors and message board posters are less concerned about Paul Pierce's defense than they are about someone reading what they have to say about Paul Pierce's defense.

So if you are starting a blog or trying to build one, I would strongly encourage you to put a huge emphasis on getting people talking.  Ask people questions (you don't have all the answers anyway).  Engage readers and turn them into commentors.  If your comment section starts filling up, I'd encourage most blogs to look into message boards.  That gives people the opportunity to create their own topics.  I'm a big fan of chat rooms on game day as well.

There's a whole can of worms on decisions on how to manage that community (if and/or how you moderate it) that I'm not going to go into in this space.  And I'll point out that not all blogs are looking for numbers and community interaction may not be for everyone.

For most blogs though, the whole idea is to rip the sportspages out of the hands of broken down newspapers and put them in the hands of fans.  If you are starting a blog, it is because you want your voice heard.  Wouldn't it make sense to encourage your readers to do the same?  We live in a new era of sportswriting.  Content is still critical, but community is the new king.