August 1st, 2009 it was a Saturday and I was in the middle of the last stages of moving BlackSportsOnline from the antiquated Movable Type interface to a brand new hosting company and the WordPress interface.
I was nervous. BSO had been online since 2007 and had gained some traction in the world of Sports Online media.
We had critically acclaimed stories like “Darth Kobe”, popular stories like Top 100 Athletes Wives/Girlfriends and mainstream crossover stories like “Who Really Murdered Steven McNair?”
BSO was known, but I felt it was time to take it to another level. I was told that many of the major sports blogs were moving the WordPress interface which was what TMZ and the Huffington Post were using at the time.
I was told it would give me more flexibility and make my life easier to get my stories out to the public. So on July 31st, 2009 I made the switch and on August 1st I wrote my 1st article on what would forever be known as BSO 2.0.
What was that first article you ask?
It was a soft launch to get all the kinks worked out and on Monday August 3rd, 2009 BSO 2.0 was officially released to masses with an exclusive.
You have to remember in 2009 things were a little different that it is now. Twitter was in its infancy in terms of popularity (more on that later). People were still on MYSPACE, journalists in general still broke news the traditional way, Smart phones weren’t as smart and blogs were still seen as the bastard stepchild of media.
For me personally I was just getting my foot in the door in regard to bridging the gap between being a blogger and working in mainstream media.
I will forever be grateful to the Magna Media and the NFL for being the first two organizations to credential me as a journalist for major sporting events.
The Manny Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton fight (still the most electrifying crowd I have been around) and Saints vs. Colts Super Bowl respectably. While I had been credentialed in the past for some lower level events and games, these were big time events and help legitimized in some people eyes BlackSportsOnline as sports news organization.
BSO was successful at the time in name recognition and my ability to cover events, but I was failing miserably at one thing……..
STRAIGHT CASH HOMIE
I wasn’t making any money, so like many bloggers back then and currently I had a regular job while maintaining BSO and this will become a critical part of the story later on.
Immediately after the switch to WordPress things started to improve on the traffic numbers, but something that happened months before that might have even been more important.
Meet @kainicole who probably isn’t going to like the amount of attention this is about to get her, but that’s too bad.
I started my Twitter account in January 2009 and immediately thought…….
“This is dumb, why would anyone care what someone is eating or doing?”
Then I didn’t touch the account for several months. This is when Kai comes into the picture as I laughed off how stupid Twitter was she consistently told me in her words.
“Twitter was built for someone like you.”
So, I made her a deal that I would try it out for a month and that’s it. Almost 190k Tweets and 36k Followers later, she might have been correct.
Eventually I would have seen the light, but by getting on early in the game, I figured out how to use Twitter as a marketing Tool.
Learning how to use social media sites as marketing tool for the site is one of the biggest reasons the site has reached the heights it has to day.
I equate it to being an underground rapper, can’t compete with Def Jam, but if you hustle CDs out of your trunk and do a lot of shows eventually Def Jam would notice. I marketed myself to the people who were tired of hearing the same thing on the radio and in turn found my true audience.
I will be forever grateful for Kai for that.
As 2009 moved into 2010 a place opened up at my Corporate Job in a brand new Social Media department.
This was critical because it took the Internet restriction off my work computer meaning that instead of updated BSO on breaks, lunch or in some cases hiding in the bathroom stall on my personal laptop (yes I did many stories in the bathroom), I could do it 24/7 and stay on top of breaking news.
You always want to be accurate, but speed and content is essential for any site. The quicker you can get accurate and up to date information up the more popular you will become.
Because of this I went from no money to Dollar Menu money.
Back in those days I was a member of the Yardbarker.com Blogging network.
My time there was beneficial and I have nothing but positive things to say about the company, but as the end of 2010 was coming up it was time to make a big decision.
While I had no issues with my corporate job, it was never what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a sports journalist since I was 6 years old. My body was at the corp job, but my mind was on BSO. I had to leave the corp job, if I didn’t I would forever regret it. I wasn’t a kid anymore, I had just said hi to 30. I didn’t want to look back in 20 years and say I never gave it a real shot.
I left in September 2010 and gave myself three months to see if I could do this, if I couldn’t I would look for another job in January 2011.
I had to stabilize my financial situation and quickly.
This led me to make the move to Big Lead Sports Network (now USA Today Media Group) in February of 2011.
Moving to BLS now USA Today was a calculated risk because I was leaving the comfort of Yardbarker for a situation that was unfamiliar, but it was time to see if I could stand on my own.
Scary to jump out of a plane with no parachute, but something young bloggers should know is if you want to make this a career out of this you are going to have to take risks.
Under this new agreement I couldn’t rely on feature story on Yardbarker or Fox Sports for traffic, BLS (now USA Today) was a partner, but I had to rely on myself to generate traffic.
So, I went to work, free of my corporate job and now with the ability to concentrate fully on BSO I started to do what I was taught to do when I was at The Ohio State University.
As many of you know I have a daughter. I took dropped her off at school every day at 8:45 AM. From 9am-2am (sometimes 4am) I worked on BSO. I haven’t taken a day off in three years. No such things as holidays in this line of business. I posted 20 articles on Christmas Day. When you are depending on yourself for success there is a sense of urgency that you always feel.
Slowly but surely the numbers started creeping up, the followers started increasing, more radio interviews, mainstream mentions happened more often, sponsors started emailing, advertisers checks was making it sprinkle in my PayPal, a popped up on TV a few times & most importantly the Lil Princess was balling so hard.
Honestly all I ever wanted and I have told this story before was to make sure the Lil Princess had something cool to say when the kids started to play…
“Well my dad………..”
Sounds silly, but that small thing is always running in the back of my mind and sure enough this last school year she came home and said.
“Jenny said her dad is a super police officer who arrested like 100 bad guys, but I said my daddy is a writer who covers sports all over the WORLD and knows LaBon James, so he is cooler than your dad”.
Kids exaggerate of course and yes she calls Lebron, Labon (her favorite player). Thank you Lebron for trumping Jenny’s dad the police officer. Once again silly yes, but rooted in the fact that I am proud about what I do.
There was a time that only my mom and I read the site and she doesn’t even like sports. So, I don’t take for granted the now 3 million monthly readers we have.
The reason I say I am a Dollarnaire is because I didn’t travel an easy path and I always want to remind myself there were some truly tough times in my life. I had my share of struggles in my youth and after I got out of college. Financial troubles with evictions, repossessions and debt. Work troubles with finding jobs and being fired. Once even had to spend a night in jail for unpaid parking tickets and bounced checks. None of that compared to a Christmas where I literally had no money to buy my daughter gifts, she was so young she doesn’t remember, but I will for the rest of my life. I remember those things not every once in awhile, but every single day. It is what drives me to work so hard because I never want to be in a position again where I can’t provide for my daughter, help out my mom or see how proud my Dad sounds when he tells his co-workers what his son does for a living. I say this all the time but I am not big on excuses. Every problem I faced in my past I take ownership of. Had nothing to do with being black, my dad not living with me, the white man trying to hold me down. It had to do with me and it also had to me that turned things around.
Not ashamed of my past, we all have a past, it is the #1 reason why I don’t judge people. I can clearly state opinions of actions that take place, but if I don’t know you, I won’t judge and you have a clean slate with me. As Allen Iverson once said “everyone has a little dirt under their fingernails”. I am not perfect, I am still working to dig myself out of some holes I made for myself when I was younger, but if I can do it so can you.
I honestly take the Eminem approach from 8 Mile, I acknowledge my past and my flaws so how can you say anything to hurt me? That is how I live my life now.
I am very blessed to have been able to do all the things I have done over these past three years. The friends I have made and the people I have met I can’t put into words how grateful I am for them. Even though it is a job, I still have to shake my head at being able to cover a Super Bowl, be on the field for a game 7 of a World Series or being counted on to report on a controversial ending in boxing. I still get a kick when someone says I have been mentioned on the radio/TV or I am quoted on a mainstream site. I am still surprised when someone says they are a fan of mine or inspired by me.
I say all of that not to brag, but to humbly say that none of this would be possible with you. You have allowed me to live my lifelong dream and for that I will be forever in your debt.
You are the reason that this 10,000th article is possible (over 8000 personally written by me). The reason I telling this story is because I want people to know and not to go all Ray Lewis on you, but if you have a dream and work hard, it will come true.
One of the things than has never changed from when I started in 2007, to the change in 2009 and now in 2012 is I am always willing to help.
While I don’t publicly acknowledge it because I never want to take from anyone’s shine I know I have done my best to help anyone and I have never been a crab in a barrel. Even those who wish ill on me, I never do the same. Nothing you can say about me is going to change the fact I want everyone to be a success, so we can all celebrate at Sizzlers.
Things are much different now in 2012 than in 2009. There are far more sports blogs and far easier to get your opinion heard. I would have never guessed when I did post #1 that when I hit post #10000 how things would have turned out.
But, nothing has changed still working 9am-2am, still repping the Dollarnaires, still breaking down sports in my unique perspective, still calling out bias in media, still going to have critics and still exposing “models” if the feeling hits me.
No matter what anyone says good, bad or ugly I know two things. My sports knowledge is deep, sound and based off factual information and secondly I have been successful being true to myself.
The best advice I can give to anyone in this business is always remember that your job is to give your opinion, not change others opinions. If you do that you aren’t going to be universally loved, but to the people who matter you will be respected and can sleep easy knowing you didn’t bend your beliefs just to be liked.
People ask me from time to time why I am always smiling and my answer is always the same.
I went from broke and miserable to being paid to talk about sports, what in the world do I have to be mad about, Jordin Sparks wears my T-Shirt, I won…..