Introduction and Narrative: My Football Writer started when Rick Waghorn read a piece in MediaGuardian on his 40th birthday (16/01/06) quoting Clay Shirky. Shirky drew an analogy between journalism and the music industry; people still want to listen to good music, just not on CDs. By the same token, people still want to read good writing, just not on a traditional newspaper. Ergo, this should be a golden age for both musicians and journalists alike. At the same time, Waghorn’s newspaper employer was cutting a third of the sports desk where he and his wife worked. The layoff compensation was used to build the first version of MyFootballWriter.com, a generic hub of soccer news in the United Kingdom.
Main Goal of MyFootballWriter: To take a print press off a journalist’s back and Google out of local advertisers’ loop, by putting locally-sourced and respected sports reports in the palm of everyone’s hand, whilst at the same time giving local advertisers the chance to put their brand in front of their neighborhood audience. The advertising and editorial product then becomes both a league and nation-wide network offering further opportunities for syndication fees for all our fresh, organically grown quotes and copy; all of which is equally applicable to any sport out of any town or city.
Notable Achievements: “Still being here 14 months later and taking my first proper wage packet out of the business.” Since launching, Waghorn has been invited to attend a POLIS seminar at the LSE on the future of online journalism and has been described as ‘a threat’ by the head of BBC Online, according to Charlie Beckett from POLIS. So far Waghorn remains optimistic – he has even received advertising queries from his former employer. Today MyFootballwriter.com uses no Google advertising and is looking to expand its network to Ipswich and Colchester. Waghorn’s former employer, the Evening News, Norwich, is even advertising on the site, promoting its GoingOut supplement.
A Surprising Realization: How a journalist’s traditional contact book can yield all manner of fruit in terms of potential investors, advertisers, legal advice, etc. Waghorn has also found:
- The benefits of blogging – or rather responding on blogs
- The confusion among local advertisers as to just what do with their internet ad dollars; where do they go next to get the most bucks for their click – or most clicks for their bucks – if its not to a fading newspaper?
- The ease with which traditional reporting practices switch to the web
- The freedom of having no print press deadlines to worry about
- The fun it is to work from home
- The way that for the punters it makes their lives so much easier – ie I bring their football news to them; they don’t have to look for me…
Biggest Practical Lesson/Mistake: That the marketing department does actually play an integral role in a newspaper office. Whatever buzz surrounds “blogs” – “an advertising department isn’t just for mingling with at Christmas,” says Waghorn. They know where the dollars are locally. On the flip side, Waghorn has found that there is a real online community on the web that is willing to help and advise. “Does a journalist need a printer in 2007? No,” says Waghorn.
Money: So far MyFootballWriter is sustainable, “at least that’s why my latest accountants forecast tells me,” says Waghorn. The sustainability has occurred via the networking opportunities. Waghorn is driving local advertising from each individual site whilst at the same time cascading national and regional advertising where appropriate across the networks. “Complete a league-wide network and not only are you trampling all over traditional old media boundaries – eg smashing through Knight/Ridder – Gannett fiefdoms – plus you are also generating huge syndication fee possibilities given the fresh and exclusive content that will be flowing out of your ‘tube’ on a daily basis,” says Waghorn.
The site is also trialling its own, home-built PPC text ads service – to run alongside existing and home-built local banner ad management system. Bolting our DIY text ads services does away with Google completely and allows very, very local advertisers the opportunity to directly target their own ads to a popular local website themselves rather than ‘entrusting’ Google to do that, says Waghorn.
Future Goals: To have a myfootballwriter.com representative at the next World Cup, if not Euro2008. To institute its own in-house training scheme for the next generation of football reporters; to establish a league-wide newtwork; to sign our first syndication deal with a global-style news portal and possibly be to be bought.
What do you hope to get from people attending this conference?
“Further confidence that we’re heading in the right direction; that I wasn’t wholly mad to bale out of a regional evening newspaper; and, of course, inspiration.”