Friday, January 30, 2009

When A Good Interview Goes Bad

J. Chad Barnett, Contributing Writer

Conducting interviews can be a memorable experience for any sports writer. What fan wouldn't want to meet and talk to the players that they look up to and idolize? Just like everything else, however, interviews can also go horribly wrong, or become very awkward.

Since everyone is different, there are no set-in-stone rules for conducting an interview. There are a few guidelines to follow to help make things run a little more smoothly though.

  1. Be on time. Realize the importance of an interviewee's time. They may be giving you an hour or so of their day, but the rest of the day is packed full of other appointments, etc. So when you are late or try to take longer than they have allotted, things could take a turn for the worse.

  2. Be prepared. Make sure you research who it is that you are interviewing. This is also a good way to come up with the questions that you will be asking. Be sure the questions are relevant. Nothing makes an interviewee more upset, than talking about something in their past when it isn't relevant to the course of the interview.

  3. Don't get intimidated. The best way to do this, is to not look at your interview as anything other than a conversation. Talking to people, and getting information from them is part of human nature. When calling a friend or relative, usually the first question is, “How/What are you doing?” Just because you may be interviewing someone like Tiger Woods, he's still a person, so why not start off the conversation the same way? The more comfortable you make them feel, the easier it is to get them to open-up to you.

The main thing to remember is that YOU are the one in control. The moment it becomes evident, that they are trying to take over, you must reassert yourself immediately or lose control for the rest of the interview.

I'll leave you with this. There are good interviews, and there are bad interviews. The only thing to take into account, is that no matter which one you find yourself in, it will be remembered one way or the other. So I would try to make at least most of them good ones. Common sense, right?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Do's and Don'ts Of Freelance Sports Writing

J. Chad Barnett, Contributing Writer

Having a love for sports is not the only thing that makes a good sports writer. You must also have the ability to communicate well with your writing. That being said, the question I get asked the most is, "What am I doing wrong?" The answer to that could be any number of things.

So I decided to make a little guide, if you will, listing some of the major Do's and Don'ts for freelance sports writers.

Let's start with the Do's.

1. Tell a story instead of just "listing" events. No one likes to read instruction manuals, especially sports fans. Try to work a personal experience into the material that readers can relate to. Doing this will help them to see you as a person, rather than a robot spouting information.

2. Have up-to-date material. The Super Bowl is right around the corner. Fans don't want to hear about games from a month ago. They want all the information they can get about the play-offs leading up to the big day. Injury reports and so forth are hot topics right now.

3. Do your homework. I can't stress this enough. Having knowledge about players, coaches and stats will give you more credibility when writing. I feel that historical information is a big plus when it comes to sports writing. Being able to slip some history into your piece makes for an interesting read.

Now for the Don'ts.

1. Don't assume who is reading your work, cater to the audience as a whole. Even though most people associate sports with men, that's not always the case. My 80 year-old grandmother was the biggest fan of baseball that I've ever known. She could quote stats, player line-ups, and final scores going back to the late 40's.

2. Don't focus on play-by-play too much. Instead, integrate highlights into your work. Play-by-plays are great for awesome moments in sports, (ie. Tiger on the 18th, about to win The Masters for the first time), but highlights are just as catchy and help to break the monotony.

3. Don't force your opinion on your readers. Everyone wants to express their opinions, writers a little more-so than others. Let your opinion be known, but not in a "my word is law" type of way. As a writer it helps to be the mediator for your readers' opinions when discussing different topics. This creates a social network of like-minded individuals swapping opinions and ideas back and forth, making the audience a part of the whole story.

I hope that this helps some of you. If you have any other questions, feel free to write me anytime. I can be contacted via this blog or regular e-mail. Write on!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Importance Of Developing A Business Plan

J. Chad Barnett, Contributing Writer

Every remarkable idea that has helped us along through the years started as a plan. Being able to consciously plan out our actions is one of the aspects that make us unique as a species. So why should starting a business be any different?

When I started freelance writing, I was a bit clueless as to what I needed to do. Hindsight being 20/20, I know now that the first thing should have been to develop a business plan of some kind. Having something in front of you in black and white that lays out the direction you want to go, is invaluable.

When you start freelancing, YOU are the business. Like any business, you have to market, develop, and gain a client base. Planning a course of action gives you a guideline, so that you aren't just twisting in the wind. By looking at your business objectively, you can see what your strengths and weaknesses are and act accordingly.

It's not hard to create a business plan. You can even pay to have a company do it for you. My advice is to do-it-yourself. The more you are involved, the more you will get out of the finished product.

No matter which route you decide to take, setting time aside to develop a business plan will give you an advantage over anyone who doesn't.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Top Sports Writing Jobs For Week Of January 26, 2009

J. Chad Barnett, Contributing Writer

I will try and update this list every week. Check back regularly and see what's new!

1. Company seeking a Freelance Golf Writer for an E-commerce site.
2. Content writer wanted for new Mixed Martial Arts Website.
3. Seeking a sports writer to help with designing and building a Pay-site$$.
4. Help market Squash as a healthy sport. This one pays well.
5. Writer needed for a Sports Calendar website.

Remember, this is only the first week. As I find more work, the list will grow.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Writing A Good Sports Article Can Help Document History

J. Chad Barnett, Contributing Writer

It's hard to believe that not long ago, there was no Internet, or sports channels available to get up-to-date information on some of America's favorite past-times. Picking up a newspaper, or catching a radio broadcast was about all people had to turn to.

Thanks to the writers of the time, average people could get all of the information they needed. Some of those articles still survive, thankfully, or most of sports history would have been forgotten. For instance, did you know that when Walter Hagan arrived at Sandwich for the 29th Open Championship in 1922, he was not allowed to change or eat in the clubhouse. Thumbing his nose at British protocol, he hired a stretch limousine, and parked it in front of the clubhouse as his own private RV so to speak. He changed in it, ate in it, and even had a party or two. Hagan went on to beat George Duncan and become the first American-born player to win the Open. Upon receiving his check, he glanced at the amount........ and gave it to his caddie. What a guy!

So what makes a good sports article? Here is a guide that I would use myself when writing a sports article. It's laid out step-by-step, and also has links to other sites to help move you forward into a career as a sports writer.

You may also want to check out Nazvee Careem's article on writing sports reports. In it he explains how to do this in 4 easy steps. A good guide on all accounts.

The main thing to remember is to not get frustrated when writing. It shows in your work. There are many helpful sites, and services available for guidance. If you can't figure something out, just Google it!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How to Gain Seven Hours of Productivity Per Week

I have a couple of relatively new blogs, at least new to active growth, Sports Writer HQ being one of them. I recently found that, in my drive to attract new readers, more traffic and more income, I had become obsessed with checking my numbers (traffic, revenue, etc.). Sometimes, I would check them several times per hour!

After reading Leo Babuta's popular post, The Essential Guide to Growing Your Blog on Minimal Time, at, I decided to take action against myself.

It may be a baby-step, but I have cut back my stat checking to once per day, before bedtime. At this blog's developmental stage, checking the rate of growth more than once per week may be ridiculous, but the few seconds it takes to check once per day beats the aggregate 40 minutes to an hour of stat checking throughout the day. (could that sentence be any longer?) Sure, SHQ is growing in readership and email list subscribers every day, and I'm smiling, but obsessive stat checking is a real killer to productivity and growth.

One hour per day equates to, yes, 7 hours per week. Seven hours! In that amount of time, I could have written 8 or 10 blog posts, done a boat-load of forum posting, research, social media marketing, or lots of other productive, essential things.

2 minutes here, 5 minutes there, 10 minutes at lunch, and so on seems pretty harmless. Until you add them up, that is.

I hope most of you aren't like me. I hope you haven't wasted months of productive time. If you have, forget about it, change your habits and start growing faster than ever.

Don't forget to join the email list, using the form in the right column. Help me make up for lost time!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Benefits of Posting Evergreen Articles

What's wrong with a blog post about the 2009 Super Bowl? Nothing, if your blog has the backing of a newspaper or TV network. Nothing, if you have a Google PageRank of 7. Even nothing if you plan to post something "evergreen" on the heels of your Super Bowl coverage, and I mean RIGHT on its heels.

Evergreen (not the type of tree) Articles

An "evergreen" article blog post is something that will remain relevant and be searched-for and read for several years to come. It's also one of the most challenging keys to success for a sports blog, because sports is so day-to-day, breaking news driven.

Time-sensitive information (like Super Bowl coverage, the Cavs-Lakers game, Zach Johnson's win at the Sony) may be what many of your readers love about your blog. If that's the case, by all means, keep it up! But, a year from now, they won't care how many points LeBron scored in the game and that post will be collecting dust for eternity.

However, they may still be interested in why LeBron throws a two-hand scoop of rosin in the air every game. I can't stand it, but I'd read an article about it. That's potentially an article that would be read and searched for over a few years.

If the Cardinals win the Super Bowl, readers may want to see what you have to say about it on Monday morning. Next year, or even this summer, they won't care how many yards the quarterback threw for. Googlers may, however, care about the role his spirituality played in his success.

The point is, points and yards, maybe even who won, don't matter. The stories behind or within a big game, what makes a player or team tick, how the Super Bowl or World Series enhances our lives, something that shows how sports will always be relevant, maybe even a history of a team, those things will always have readers and searchers. They'll deliver income forever, potentially.

Disadvantaged Independents

What's just as important, is the disadvantage Independent blogs endure when posting about last-night's game. Even though your loyal readers will show up for your Super Bowl coverage, new readers won't find you because potential readers are lassoed by the bigger, network-backed blogs and those that have a high PageRank. I just did a Google search for Super Bowl XLIII and below are the independent blogs that showed up in the first 40 results:
  1. None.
If you want to attract new readers, grow your blog, earn more money, and accomplish lofty goals for your sports blog, incorporating evergreen posts into the mix is essential.

UPDATE July 18, 2011: As an illustration of how evergreen articles can perform over time, this post is the most popular on Sports Writer HQ. It has received nearly 300% more page views than the next most popular, after 2.5 years since publication.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Technorati's Top 5 Sports Blogs

I went through the top ranked sports blogs according to Technorati's "authority" ratings. It isn't even close to a perfect measuring tool, as there are many fantastic blogs that don't have a high authority rating for one reason or another. But, it is reliable enough to key us into some great blogs.

Below are the top-7 sports blogs and what I think makes them stand out. All 5, as best I can tell, are independent of major news organizations or other large entities that prop them up.
  1. Awful Announcing - There's good reason why AA is at the top. First of all, it has lots of reader participation, but there has to be a reason why people read and take the extra step of commenting on posts. AA has discovered a niche that people love to discuss, sports announcing. We love to complain about Dicky V when he doesn't give enough credit to our team. We love (or hate) to see a new sideline reporter screw up an interview. The key here is loving and hating. There's no middle of the road, which means boring, which would mean people wouldn't participate and visit again the next day. AA is deserving of their top spot.
  2. Baseball Musings: Read through Musings and you'll find it's expertly written and often funny. It has a great mix of time-sensitive news and posts that will remain popular for a long time. It has a simple layout, which makes it easily read. Sure, there are lots of ads, but they are kept completely out of the reading area; if you don't want to see them, your reading won't be interrupted. A blog I hadn't heard of, but one I'll keep reading.
  3. Bleed Cubbie Blue: A member of the Sports Blog Nation netword of blogs, BCB is self-styled as "a Chicago Cubs Fan Community," it is certainly that; there are enough comments on every post to fill Lake Michigan. The site makes use of a variety of media, social media links that make it easy for readers to hype up the site, and expert content that feeds the appetite of Cubbie fans. It's everything a fan blog should be. I'm a Reds fan, but this blog almost converted me.
  4. Minor League Ball: Another member. Minor League Ball only has a Google PageRank of 3, which, though respectable, doesn't denote a massive following. So, it must carry some weight with it's readers to have a good Technorati authority rating. The blog looks at the stats and bios of top minor league prospects, which would lend itself not to a big following, but a devoted following of statistically minded baseball fans. If that is truly the case, and I believe it is, then Minor League Ball fits perfectly into it's niche and delivers the goods.
  5. Mets Blog: "A Grand Central Station for Mets Information" it surely is. Editor Matt Cerrone knows the Mets and it shows. Great content that his readers crave is what he delivers. He does it through good writing on timely subjects, interesting vlogs (video blogs), and a cool Fan Confidence Rating graph based on reader polls.

(Who said baseball is in decline? I know people still love it, but I wouldn't have guessed four of the top-five)

Each of these five deliver 1) strong content, 2) meet readers expectations, 3) are tightly focused, and 4) have a good, uncluttered design. Those things together are a winning combination. Obviously.

Don't forget to join the email list. The form is in the right-hand margin.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Writer-Chieftan

Alan L. Hammond, SHQ Editor

This article previously published in the January 7, 2009 issue of my newsletter. You can sign-up through the form in the margin.

As I noted on Twitter (if you aren't using Twitter, you're missing out), I've started reading popular marketing expert Seth Godin's recent book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. I wasn't expecting to find something that fit so well with people who deal in the written word, but an interesting theory occurred to me while reading.

Let me start by saying that I am always skeptical about what the "experts" have to say in their books. It seems that many, if not most, experts are more concerned with driving their personal brands than with improving the lives and businesses of their readers. My skepticism is warranted and that is why I've chosen to, through my blogs, be a "crime fighter," by pointing out the posers and lauding the true leaders.

Having said that, in Tribes, Seth Godin is proving to be a real leader. I've only just started the book, which isn't very long to begin with (151 pages), but with two small children, even a comic book takes as long to read as War and Peace.

While reading Tribes last night, I was struck by something pertinent to freelance writers, editors, bloggers, etc., and something of which we should all be aware.

Godin's book rests on the premise that, throughout history, humans have been tribal creatures. They need to be a part of some closely knit group. Nowadays, most people belong to many. According to Godin, "A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate"(Tribes, p 2). He also believes a tribe can't exist without a leader, and a person can't be a leader without a tribe.

Formerly, tribes used to consist of all the people in some village, a gardening club in Tampa, or the retirees from Bell Telephone in Memphis. In other words, tribal affiliations were largely local. Today, borders have been smashed and people from every location on the planet are neighbors, thanks to the proliferation of the Internet and its increasingly widespread availability. Also, the barriers to becoming a leader have been significantly lowered. Whether five people or five million people, there are infinite groups of people with shared interests for everything imaginable. Those groups need formation, organization, tribal status, they need leaders. They all need Chieftains.

As a writer, regardless of your chosen medium (magazine, blog, church bulletin, corporate ad copy, screen play, web site, etc.), you would not have a job if it weren't for people who want and need what you have to offer. If you write poetry about urban life, there is an audience. If you write a blog about Boston Red Sox baseball, there's an audience. If you specialize in infant safety articles, you have an audience.

The world is smaller because of communication channels. Tribes form and communicate through those channels, which are driven by the written word. Given those facts, the tribal leaders must be writers. There is no more natural tribal Chieftain than a person who can communicate their ideas through writing.

That is a huge opportunity for you in this New Media-driven world. Step forward and take your place. Find your tribe and become it's Chieftain.

Me? I'm finding my place as we speak. Golf, travel, helping people secure their futures in an uncertain world, writing; I have many interests and experiences I want to share. I've been a newspaper columnist, but most of my publishing credits have been through new media; Internet, blogs, podcast scripts, web sites. There are so many ways to reach your audience, each of those presenting its own challenges, but also its reward. What I'm finding is that a sincere approach and a clearly discernable love, ability and enjoyment of subject leads to growing an audience and income. In the words of Austin Powers, "It's groovy, baby!"

You have a tribe, go find it and take your rightful place as its Chieftain!

By the way, join my tribe on I'm @alanlhammond.

Tell me what you think of this post. Leave your comments below.

Friday, January 9, 2009

An Awesome Free Service To Help “Kick-Start” Your Writing Career

J. Chad Barnett, Contributing Writer

When I first started freelance writing, I admit, I didn't have a clue as to what I should do. I was pretty sure that I would be able to do my job, but the problem was that I didn't have a job, or know how to find one. I did a couple of Google searches, and after some trial and error, I finally landed my first job.

I will say that the first service that I used cost me a little money. I've always been sort of a gambling man. You can't make money, if you don't spend money. Thankfully, the gamble paid off, and I'm able to do something I enjoy.

I try to help out other freelance writers too if I come across something helpful, or interesting. Let's face it, I wouldn't be where I am today without a lot of help from others. So let me tell you a little about a completely free service, that will help freelance writers the world over.

I'm talking about This service allows you to create virtual portfolios. Use the portfolios to display client lists, services offered, and samples of your work. It takes minutes to design your personal portfolio, and then you can begin looking for work, in the job finder.

The best thing about this site is that it is absolutely free! Along with the portfolios, there is an article database with helpful information to freelance writers. Go on, check out, and see for yourself. They have a lot to offer, and it's free. No gamble there at all.

Editor's Note: If you are a writer considering blogging as an income stream, Sports Writer HQ recommends only two products: The Blog Mastermind program, which you see in the right margin and Blogging to the Bank. Click any of the links you see to learn more about Yaro Starak's Blog Mastermind program. To read more about the latest edition of Blogging to the Bank, which you can download instantly, click here!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Importance Of Connecting With Your Audience

J. Chad Barnett, Contributing Writer

Audience connection is a must for any writer. Knowing what readers want from you, can make a big difference when trying to come up with topics. While most people think that sports writers are in their own category, they can actually be broken down into a variety of different niches within the sports genre. The trick is to figure out what the readers want to know about in that particular sport, then you have a base to make an audience connection. Considering the fact that time changes everything, constant research is required to keep up with common interests.

I came across a very good article about audience connection, written by Yaro Starak at In it he discusses a DVD from Frank Kern, on audience connection. The exercises discussed can be helpful to all writers.

There is also another article about how to make niche selection easy. This can be beneficial to new writers. Niche selection can depend on a number of variables. The article breaks selection down to make it an easy task. Read the article here.

Remember, your connection with the audience determines whether they read the whole article, or just the first sentence. You want them to read all the way to the last sentence, and if a connection was made you are doing that right now.

Click here to get The Blog Profits Blueprint

Taking Their Rightful Place: How Sports Blogs Can Become More Than Heretical New Media

Some sports stars are ahead of the curve. We don’t know their true motives for certain, but they apparently "get it." Three stars, still at the top of their popularity, if not their game (in one instance, not even there yet), are using new media social networking sites to interact with fans and grow their base.

  • Lance Armstrong (Twitter ID: @lancearmstrong) is nearing the end of his athletic career and is rumored to be considering a second career (politics).
  • Shaquille O’Neal, though still effective, is beyond the pinnacle of his career, but still as popular as ever.
  • Natalie Gulbis, the professional golfer and budding superstar, is preparing for her best days as a golfer and general celebrity.

These three aren’t the only professional athletes to use new media to reach fans. Greg Oden, Rajon Rondo, are but two stars who use blogs as their outreach. Many others, including Tiger Woods, use their web sites to connect, albeit in a less interactive manner.

Why Star Athletes Choose New Media

Why do they choose to connect through new media? Because they get it. Regardless of their primary reasons for reaching out, they see the opportunities present in reaching out in this way. Certainly, none of the three will pass up a spot on Leno, or an interview on Sports Center, but they wouldn’t use new media if it wasn’t a valid way to connect.

Sports blogs, large and small, should see themselves on that same cutting edge. Recently, sports blog reporters have made headlines due to the controversy over whether they should garner the same locker room rights as traditional media reporters. They certainly should, but that is not the question, nor the most promising aspect. The real point is that it is a controversy. There is debate, there is discussion, which means that there’s likely validity to the argument.

Going on the Attack

All sports bloggers need to do is assert their position. Now, that doesn’t mean draw up some signs, staple them to a stick, and go on the march somewhere. Sure, there’s a time and place for that, for other causes. Sports blogs need to go on the attack, and attack in two distinct ways: by doing many of the things traditional media often (but not always) do; and many things they do not do.

Newspapers and magazines still hold to high editorial standards. Most place prime importance on accuracy, relevance, timeliness. Sports blogs that seek to gain a following should do the same, and many do; in fact, there are few that do not. Of those that do not, most are personal blogs that have no designs on making inroads toward recognized legitimacy.

Those same traditional media editorial standards require sound, technically correct writing. Good writing needs to be a cornerstone of a top-quality sports blog.

Without revenue, a newspaper will, of course, die. Good writing, accuracy, and relevant reporting will ensure they continue to maintain their financial solvency. A sports blog that wants to remain in business must also seek revenues, which is accomplished through sound and relevant content, which grows an audience, which grows relevance and power. It’s all interrelated.

What traditional media outlets do not do effectively, except in a few online instances, is connect with and listen to their fans. It’s often difficult for large organizations to directly interact with fans, unless their own reporters and columnists are forward-looking and insightful and recognize why it is important. That difficulty is an opportunity for the sports blog. Their relatively small size means they are much more nimble and the means in which they connect with fans and readers, the Internet, is the perfect place for constant, often immediate contact. This doesn’t mean a blog should cater to the whims of a passing reader or group of readers. It means they should hold to their particular mission in life, why they started the blog and what it represents, and simply interact through blog comments, social media, email, IM, whatever is at their disposal.

"Crossroads, Seem to Come and Go, Yeah" (Alman Brothers Band)

Sports blogs are approaching a crossroads: stay where they are or reach a new high level. One good blog, or five, or a hundred won’t get sports blogs as a whole to that level. It needs to be a ground swell. If they, we, are to get make the same impact and achieve the same popularity and as other new media like Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook, and surpass them as legitimate reporting and commentary outlets, something huge needs to happen. As marketing expert Seth Godin would say, a "tribe" must form, and it must go on the offensive.

By the way, follow me on Twitter: @alanlhammond.