My Advice to a Young Sports Business Professional

Last Monday, the media-centric niche of the Twittersphere blew up with a post from Fusion’s Felix Salmon on his advice to any curious young journalist. Vox’s Ezra Klein followed up with his own advice. The hashtag #AdviceForYoungJournalists then became a massively trending topic on Twitter for most of the week.

Salmon’s forecast was grim. The well-known finance blogger said he was lucky to move up in the journalism ranks as he did and when he did. “Journalism is a dumb career move,” he warned. The odds of making a good living in the journalism profession “have probably never been lower,” he concluded.

The response from Klein – and arguably everyone else since – took on a largely more positive approach. Klein encouraged aspiring writers to seek out their desired field of interest and start doing work in that field directly. He said there are lots and lots of new opportunities popping up every year.

So what does this have to do with the Oregon MBA program? And why is a first-year sports business MBA student blogging about journalism and giving advice? Why should folks listen to me? It’s because I think my fellow young sports business professionals can actually learn a thing or two from the trends in the media industry. Here is my advice on all this advice:

1) Blog. Buried within Salmon’s post, he wrote the following two-sentence thought:

Similarly, there’s no particular reason to believe that the advice I’d give five or six years ago, which was basically “start a blog and get discovered”, still works. With the death of RSS, blogs are quaint artifacts at this point, and I can’t remember the last time I discovered a really good new one.

I want you to throw that out the window. Sure, it might be true. The odds of creating the next Gawker Media, BuzzFeed or Huffington Post are incredibly unlikely now unless you have a boat load of capital. It’s like buying a lottery ticket in the journalism world. Anecdotally, I believe certain websites are seeing a decrease in direct traffic and an increase in referral traffic. Perhaps people view blogs now as an ending point to a link they saw elsewhere, not a beginning point for value and entertainment.

That still shouldn’t impact you, the young impressionable networker who needs to build your own brand and identity. Just because you can’t build a blog behemoth doesn’t mean blogs aren’t a pivotal force in creating your own voice, honing your craft and proving your competitive advantage in any industry.

2) Blog more. Let me share my story for a moment. I’m not any particularly great case study. Heck, I don’t have a job yet, I’m in my second quarter of this MBA program and I’m searching every day for a summer internship. But I’ve had a pretty fun crossover with the blogging and journalism worlds for the last decade.

When I was 14, I really hated the Bowl Championship Series, that old college football ranking. I didn’t like it at all. So I started doing my own. First, by hand. I had notebooks upon notebooks of every 2005 college football game and every score. I build a pretty simple model for a new rankings system. And I started to email some family friends about it.

Over time, that email list grew to about 150. I was sending regular rankings updates and writing about my random thoughts on the sports statistics world. That’s what led me to start my first blog, The Sports Report, back in mid-2008. I started my Twitter account that August. I blogged about politics, I blogged about my Dayton Flyers and I kept blogging about my rankings. It was a humble start, but combined with writing for my college newspaper, got me more comfortable with putting my thoughts into words and writing for an (albeit meager) audience.

I started sending my emails to the editors of the Cleveland sports site Waiting For Next Year and they invited me to join in spring 2009. I’ve joined other sites, too, including Sports Analytics Blog and Nylon Calculus. I’ve blogged at my own Tumblr page. I blog here and at the Warsaw SportsBlog. Heck, a Twitter friend and I recently started a site called Basketball Twitterlytics. All that has helped me build a decent Twitter following. It was all a hobby. But one that built up my personal brand and has been quite fun.

3) Well, blog some more. Are you starting to get the gist of this article? Let’s not just focus on my story. Mark J. Burns is a contributor to Forbes and recently joined the Atlanta-based agency CSE as an operations coordinator in talent/athlete marketing last month. In a recent post titled “10 Ways For Aspiring Sports Business Professionals To Crush 2015,” he also focused on blogging:

9) Find a website to write for around an area you’re interested in. If you enjoy marketing, search online for a sports marketing website to write for. It’ll probably be for free, but that’s okay. As a 20-year-old junior in college, you’re looking for worthwhile opportunities, not a get rich quick scheme. Through writing for a respected website about a niche you want to work in, you’ll soon become a go-to resource for knowledge in that area. At the same time, having this platform allows you to strategically connect with industry professionals for Q&As. This is a game changer. Instead of just reaching out to a 15-year veteran in marketing for an informational interview, now you have this website where you can not only learn about this person, but also, share his or her story with a wider audience.

This was also a point that Rich Campbell, marketing professor at Sonoma State University, emphasized during last week’s Warsaw Workshop event. While the other event panelists focused on their direct professions, Campbell often relayed his remarks to his blogging gig as a sports careers writer for About.com. Here’s one such example of a comment he made, focusing on how it can lead to more conversations and improved problem-solving:

A college newspaper friend of mine, Stephanie Vermillion, gave a list of 15 different reasons why folks  should start blogging in 2015. Her advice on networking with other bloggers and becoming an “expert” in your field is particularly sound. I’ve also enjoyed similar posts over the years from Joshua BeckerKristi Dosh, Melinda Emerson, Belle Beth CooperMark Schaefer and others. In today’s hyper-competitive workplace, doing anything you can to stand out from the masses will help you go a long way in life.

4) And while you’re at it, read and blog some more. The best companies and the best thought-leaders in sports write for the public eye frequently. To inspire yourself to think of innovative solutions for your industry, read the best of what is out there.

If you’re interested in sports and social media, follow Jessica Smith’s blog, Sunny Cadwallader’s blogNeil Horowitz’s podcast and #smsportschat. If you’re interested in sports revenue topics, check out The Migala Report, Russell Scibetti’s blogTroy Kirby’s podcast and #sbchat. There’s Sports Business DailySports Agent Blog, Hashtag Sports, Joe Favorito’s blogSport Techie, Around The Rings and so, so much more. There are countless incredible resources, just in the sports world alone.

As a hopeful young professional in sports — or really, in any industry — you should be doing what you can to be educated on trending news stories and doing what you can to put your build up your name. The Internet is at your disposal. Use it. Start blogging.

Jacob invites fellow University of Oregon sports business students to join him over at the Warsaw SportsBlog, where he is serving as a co-editor of the site with first-year MBA classmate Kurian Manavalan. For more information on how you can join as a writer, email Jacob at jrosen@uoregon.edu.

Written by Jacob Rosen

Jacob Rosen is a second-year MBA student in the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. His goal is to work in business or sponsorship analytics for a professional sports team. Jacob interned in business analytics for the NBA's Charlotte Hornets this past summer. He can be followed on Twitter @WFNYJacob.