This was going to be one of those great twitter rant/threads, but it’s probably better said here…
Laura Wagner of Deadspin tee’d off a bit on SB Nation on Monday and it obviously had everyone buzzing. It’s a long read but well worth your time. I think it’s mostly on the side of fair coverage if not laced with a bit of a “look at how this big bad evil multi-million dollar corporation is exploiting it’s people” which… Ya know… Newsflash, is happening a lot in our world right now, so while I’m not trying to give it an excuse, it’s also not a situation unique to SBN or VOX Media.
I get the obvious frustration with VOX Media, which – in my opinion at least – was built largely on the back of the SBN community having millions of dollars but not sharing that wealth with it’s writers.
I’m not going to go to deep into the shift that’s been happening not just in sports media, but in all of media over – at least it seems to me – the last five years or so where there is more of a focus on making sure you get paid for your “work” which… Again I get it. “Exposure” doesn’t pay the bills.
At no time have I ever had the chance to go to my landlady and say “Hey, I’m $400 short on rent, but my blog post about hockey jerseys was clicked on 2,382 times in the past week… so we’re even right?”
Granted, I haven’t tried it. I assume I’d know how the conversation would play out, but it’s probably a little presumptuous of me to assume right? Never hurts to try right?
Anyway, I didn’t want to get too much into the pros and cons of “giving away work for free” and all that. I’m also not going to go into any of the more critical issues like lack of editorial guidance or oversight. I’m here more to go back into my history of SB Nation and provide my point of view.
My Time With Defending Big D
I joined the Dallas Stars blog “Defending Big D” back in the summer of 2008 after having talked to Brandon Worley who himself had just started up the site on SBN. Before that I had been doing my own site (Viva La “StarsScene”) with very small success and DBD was my first real exposure into a larger audience.
I don’t know if I’d be doing all this now with JetsNation.ca and have as many followers as I do if I hadn’t spend a few years with DBD and working with SBN.
Between 2008 to the time I left the site mid-season in 2011 there were a lot of ups, a few downs and lots of growth with DBD and SB Nation.
Through social media, I got to meet a good many people, some of which I still keep in contact with to this day. I had an opportunity to take part in and even host a few episodes of a weekly podcast.
And yes, I even got a bit of money from SB Nation for some of the work I did. I honestly can’t tell you how much (over 50 bucks, but I am sure it was less that 150) but at the time there was some talk that I’d help with managing the growing NHL community of SB Nation, so I had a slight peek into the sites formative years although it was still a bit of a wild wild west feel where no one seems to know what others are doing and it was all a little figure shit out as we went along.
I was no where near ready to lead any kind of group of blogs let alone a single one with a ‘staff’ of writers, so I thanked them for the chance and for keeping me in mind, but I bowed out fairly quickly.
When I left in 2011, there really wasn’t any ill-will that I had towards anyone at SBN. I was just burnt out from writing mostly and around that time it was tough to get inspired to write about the Dallas Stars when the Winnipeg Jets were now a thing.. But I also didn’t just want to “jump ship” from DBD to Arctic Ice Hockey. There were a few things that had irked me about how SBN did business with it’s blogs, but I can say that about any experience really if I get nitpicky enough.
Overall I feel I owe a lot what I have now within hockey and blogs and social media to my work with SB Nation. I know there are others – some within that Deadspin article itself – that say the same. “Working for free” has lead to other opportunities that are paid for myself and others.
No One Forces Anyone To Write For SB Nation
Or any other blog for that matter.
Look, if you want to write about sports and get paid to do so, that’s a great goal to have. There is more than one way to try and get that goal and it’s not like SB Nation are the lone gate keepers of that path.
Don’t think SBN’s practices are fair and think you should get paid for your work? You could just start your own site and work on making money through it that way (subscription based sites are getting to be a thing now) but if you’re a novice writer or just starting out with no real “fan base” following you.. Well, good luck with that.
That said, if you do get in with an SB Nation site (orrrrrrrr say for another example Nation Network), you should at least see a perk or two from it. The exposure of course is one thing. A good managing or site editor will have your best interests in mind to grow as a writer as well as try to get you that exposure. Maybe you won’t get money from the work, but you should be able to make connections with other writers including some people “on the inside.”
In the nine years or so since I joined Defending Big D and since moved on to JetsNation, I have had full seasons of NHL Center ice covered, I have had press passes to games, been able to interview players, coaches, managers and scouts, I’ve been given shirts and hats and a few other cool mementos…
And now I actually do get paid a little bit to do what I do now for JetsNation.
And really, I don’t think I’ve done anything outstanding, or had any kind of special skill that any other person doesn’t have in them to do themselves. In a way, it just takes some hustle and willing to put yourself out there a little.
If you want to “get paid” then the opportunities are out there. Just understand it may not be right away, it may not be straight up cash but rather other side benefits and connections made…
And that’s the same if you go the route of writing for an SBN site or any other site for that matter.