After attending the Blogs With Balls conference, I realized just how many skills bloggers need nowadays to be competitive. I was impressed by the talent in the room, but also noticed how much the job of a good blogger has expanded. In the past, bloggers either learned those skills themselves or joined a blog network. Bu some skills are just too important, and bloggers may need to pursue partnerships or hire part-time help. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Bloggers can use college students, trade favors with friends, or even enlist faithful fans of the site. Five potential partnerships follow below.
Business people. Traditionally, sports blogging has been a bit at odds with business. For example, an oft-heard criticism of ESPN used to be that it was too much of a business. However, the conference panels spent a lot of time on topics such as innovation, advertising, platform choice, and branding. I felt that many bloggers could benefit by just sitting down with a business-minded friend for two hours and learning some basics. Or, browse sites/magazines like Fast Company, INC, and others to better understand the business perspective. Thinking of blogging in terms of niche, demographics, networking, and visibility may seem boring. But being able to understand what exactly you offer readers and advertisers, and how to better position your blog in the marketplace, could help your blog grow rapidly. The Big Lead is making strides in this area with their Amare partnership and sponsored posts, but there is so much more to be done.
Graphic designers. In a technology world where tablets and Tumblr continue to grow rapidly, design has become more and more important. As I sit here, I am reading yet another business magazine that is trumpeting the rise of design in the market. Nike and Apple may not have the most durable products (glances mournfully at iPhone screen), but design is their major edge in the market. Deadspin’s use of Jim Cooke as a graphic designer is a clever start in this direction. There is still so much more to be done, though. A panelist in the innovation session all but begged for a fantasy sports site that took design and form seriously. Sports blogs may be losing the Tumblr generation, because most sports blog content does not lend itself easily to the copy-and-paste generation. That should change soon.
Video content producers. Yes, you know all the arguments about not using video in your blog. Your readers are at work, and it’s harder for them to get away with watching a video on their blog rather than reading text. Videos are difficult to produce and edit. You have a face for radio, or for Star Wars re-enactments. Podcasts are easier to produce.
However, look around you at the trends on the web. I felt like the “Blogging is Dead” session was a start in the right direction, but could go much further. I wince a bit as I cite this example, but recall, for example, the visibility Barstool Sports got by partnering with Jenna Marbles. My female friends who would never watch a sports game raved about her viral video in their blogs. We bloggers often find ourselves mocking would-be Youtube sports announcers or mining Youtube to feed the content beast, but what about actually partnering with Youtube? For the most part, bloggers don’t understand video, and I am concerned that this will cost the industry as the field involves. We can all continue to stalk jose3030’s twitter feed during live sports events, and may LSUfreek never stop making animated gifs, but I am surprised that so few bloggers seem to have followed in their footsteps.
Lawyers and subject matter experts. It is not as if they aren’t already jabbering away in your comment sections while racking up billable hours. Day after sports day becomes nothing more than idle chatter about contracts and crime. But what if you would use your lawyer friend on Facebook to occasionally add some educated expert opinion to some of the stories of today? Subject-specific experts is one easy way to garner links and make your story stand out on the hot topic of the day. Not just lawyers could help: fields as diverse as fashion and accountants can make a difference.
Tastemakers and Innovators. How does blogging stay cool? There was a certain buzz around sports blogging in 2005 that drew me to it. I felt that sports blogging was right in line with where the web as a whole as going. Of course, with time blogging has become experienced and lost some of its novelty. But overall, I feel that perhaps bloggers are out of touch with where the web is going. Trust me, I would love to be wrong about this.
But what about trends such as gamification, or freemium business models, or the visual web, or applications for Facebook, Android, and Apple…are we involved in these trends? I think that journalism schools are better training writers about these fields, but I worry that we are behind other fields at the moment. Reading Techcrunch or Gizmodo or even looking at concepts like Threadless and Etsy, I am not so sure that we are influencing what’s cool. In some ways blogging itself may be in crisis, taken over by Facebook and Google Plus. That’s a bigger problem than you or I can solve, but perhaps a good technologist can help your blog better fit into trends.