Every so often I write about my career, I try to be honest and offer up details so people who are considering an attempt to get into the business have more information from someone who hasn’t already made it.
So the past few months have been weird. Since being let go by Bleacher Report I have invested all my time in trying to find work, writing the quarterback catalogue and rebuilding my website.
The quarterback catalogue took over the first two months as I spent an ungodly amount of time watching NFL quarterbacks. It was worth it and it wasn’t worth it. From my perspective, the book is one of the best things I’ve ever done, if not the best. The finished product turned out better than I expected it to, largely because of Rivers McCown’s influence in giving the chapters greater structure, and all of the feedback I received from those who read it was positive. If I could write a version of that book every year for each NFL season I would do it and be happier than anyone could ever hope to be.
Unfortunately, that’s not the way life works. Financially, the book wasn’t worth doing. It didn’t sell enough copies to justify taking over the best part of three months of my life. Charting and writing was essentially a full-time job for me during that time so it had to go really well to justify the time. I’m not sure if it was the quality of the work, the subject matter, the timing of its release or simply the lack of support from the influential NFL writers on social media. Regardless, it is what it is.
The money I did make on the book is mostly going back into the website. Pre-Snap Reads looks a little different now compared to what it used to and I actually have some control over different aspects of the website that I didn’t have before.
Over the past two weeks I’ve been setting about establishing the website by giving it its own social media presence (follow @PreSnapReads) and by writing articles. Measuring success on website traffic is really difficult. Nobody openly talks about how much traffic their sites receive so when I get over 40,000 readers visiting the site over the past two weeks I have no idea if that is something I should be happy or sad about.
I think 40,000 is a lot but then you talk to the advertising networks/providers who are offering you the almighty sums of $1 or $2 per 1,000 reads. How the hell does anyone run a website like that?
That’s the next step for me. Figuring out if advertising is a viable option or if my site is only going to be used to showcase my work in the hopes that someone with hiring power will stumble across it. Speaking of which.
Why is this business so hard to succeed in?
(The following rant was sparked by seeing a few of my former coworkers talk publicly about not being able to find any work recently, coupled with my own experiences)
It shouldn’t be as hard as it is. There’s no openness. Editors don’t reply to emails from people who aren’t referred to them by people they already know. As much as we criticize the NFL for its nepotism, my experience in media suggests we’re just as bad on the outside. I’m saying that as someone who has previously benefited from that nepotism too.
That’s part of my general disillusion with this business right now. I don’t understand the direction it’s going in. It’s as if credibility and quality don’t actually matter anymore. We’ll blame the readers, saying look at the clicks/views/listens, but that’s an easy out. It’s the head coach who treats his last man on the bench like crap all year then calls him out for not being a team player when he’s unhappy about it. Quality work can be successful work, there are plenty of examples of that, but the number of sites interested in quality work are dwindling away.
Instead of finding someone who will work his (or her) ass off to create quality, nuanced work, they’re happy to employ the guy who fabricates a sensationalized opinion after five minutes work while offering no legitimate analysis or evidence that is relevant to support his point of view. Once you reach a certain point as a media member the quality of your work no longer matters. It’s become about who the writer is rather than the work he puts out. It’s phenomenal what happens when you take the lazy professional’s name off of his articles and compare them to the work of the guy who is getting $20 for each piece while working a full-time job in another area five days a week.
When you’re fully employed you don’t care about the flaws in the business, I know I didn’t. I was too focused on doing as much work as I could while it was available to me, making as much money as possible to fall back on because I understood the fragility of the career path I chose. When you’re back on the outside looking in, the frustration is a bit stronger. It irks you a little bit more because you know there is money available, you know that the NFL is more popular than ever and sports media as a whole is constantly growing.
For me it’s frustrating because it’s so hard to find work, but on a greater scale it’s concerning because we’re reaching a point where the content doesn’t matter. If the content doesn’t matter, the writer doesn’t matter. When the writer doesn’t matter, the quality of the content drops and there is no reason for those at the top to invest money in their employees.
That’s just my view. I could simply be frustrated by where I’m at right now and letting that frustration cloud the reality that how hard I work doesn’t really matter if I’m just not as good at this as everyone else, which is very possible considering I’m coming to this profession without a background as a player, coach or even an American.
Looking forward, I’m going to keep working on Pre-Snap Reads for the next few months. I’ve really enjoyed writing the articles I’ve been writing lately and the responses have been encouraging. I’ll eventually figure out the whole advertising thing…I think.