Thursday, January 11, 2007
Blogger Interviews: Mr. Irrelevant
We're running a segment here at The Big Picture where we'll interview some of the biggest names in the sports blogosphere. What's the point? Well, these guys spend countless, thankless hours writing, so a little recognition from time to time is well warranted. Think of this as the blogger's version of a reach-around or something.
Up today is AOL's Jamie Mottram, known in some social circles as Mr. Irrelevant. Mottram, in addition to blogging, was the host of the biggest sports podcast on the Web, Sports Bloggers Live, and is credited with starting the FanHouse. Unlike most sports bloggers, Mottram has actually talked to real life athletes. Being the head of the FanHouse, we suppose that'd make him our boss. So don't make fun of him. OK, just a little...
1. The rundown:
Name: Jamie Mottram
Location: Washington, DC
Favorite team: 'Skins, Nats, O's, Wiz, Terps, Caps
Links to your favorite all-time posts you've written. (3-5)
Gilebert Arenas' Birthday Party: 'Get Drunk, Make Bad Decisions'
Front Row at the George Mason-UConn Classic
It's Official: Duke Is for Dorks
Mustache Bet: Mattingly vs. Clark for the HOF
You're My Boy, C-Webb!
Time per day spent blogging and perusing the blogosphere: Most of my waking hours.
2. We're quite curious how you landed at AOL. But first take us through your time in college up until the AOL job. So we want to know what you studied, internships, first jobs, what bosses you slept with, etc.
In high school I was the sports editor for the school paper, and in college I did some campus TV and interned with the DC Fox affiliate's sports department. This was in the '91 to '99 timeframe, and I wish I used the internets then for more than just email.
After graduation I spent a summer at the beach, a month recovering and two years at my first real job, producer/PR guy/community manager at fantasy sports site Sandbox.com. Once they ran out of Paul Allen's money, I went scouring for jobs and stumbled into a temporary music editor position with AOL CityGuide. From there I've worked in three different areas of AOL with three different job titles.
3. Now that that's established, how'd you hook up with AOL Sports? And when you started there, were you doing what you are now, did Sports Blogger Live start right away, or were you getting coffee for someone?
I actually managed their message boards and chat rooms while working in the AOL Community from '03 to '06, which was thankless, so now they let me do what I want. Chronologically speaking, in March of '04 I started up with Mr. Irrelevant, in January '05 we created SBL and in August of '06 the FanHouse launched. It was last June that AOL Sports swallowed me whole and I got a desk with a view (but not a door).
4. We know that the wonderful podcast Sports Bloggers Live just concluded. Warm us with a fun story from your time there... whether in the studio or scoring a great interview at a big party.
All I really have to say about that I poured into Mr. Irrelevant.
To summarize...it was an incredible experience, a team effort fueled by great people; and that's not just the studio crew either but also the guests and audience. It afforded me the opportunity to work with my kid brother Chris and interview my five favorite athletes of all time: Will Clark, Art Monk, Cal Ripken, Darrell Green and Gilbert Arenas. I'll always be grateful.
And ***Big Picture exclusive*** the show and our involvement with it may not be done yet. There are plans brewing for the Super Bowl in Miami, so stay tuned.
5. Dude, you've been on TV! (Though some may disagree whether Cold Pizza is TV or not). What was that like? Did it help publicize your blog, Mr. Irrelevant? Help get you laid?
The Cold Pizza appearances are hilarious, because, while I rank them behind the other things I do in terms of importance, it's the only thing my friends and family care about. It's strange. Even though it's daytime ESPN2, one person will be home from work or jobless or out to lunch and inevitably catch it and tell everyone else and next thing you know you're the life of the party. Yet these are the same people who can't even remember how to get to FanHouse or even care to remember what it's called.
In some ways, that says a lot about how blogs and podcasts are perceived by people who aren't hip to the web. Let's call these people dinosaurs.
6. You're like a pioneer of blogging, and the creation of the FanHouse has been a great success. Tell us your motivation for it, what sort of hoops you needed to jump through to get it approved by the AOL bigwigs, and then how you actually made the vision come to life.
Personally speaking, blogs long ago replaced traditional mainstream sites for sporting news and commentary. Sure, I'll end up on ESPN or SportsLine or SI or Yahoo or Fox every day, but only because a blog linked to it first. So that was the motivation, really. I wanted others to realize how entertaining and informational and relatable (is that word?) blogs can be. Making that dream a reality was possible because AOL has the means to not only bring the best sports bloggers under one roof, but to also pay them to power a site that may be the No. 1 sports blog by the end of the month.
Regardless, getting the idea from concept to creation was the hard part, and we're not even really there yet. But the early results (10 million-plus page views in the first 120 days, monthly web traffic growth of 10% to 90%, etc.) are encouraging, and they're directly attributable to two factors: 1) The quality of our bloggers and 2) The willingness of AOL Sports to embrace the medium.
Every major sports site should be trying to do something similar to FanHouse, because, when you look at the skyrocketing traffic and relatively fixed budget, it's a primetime opportunity.
7. Dream job? Go.
Hosting the SportsCenter of the web.
8. There are all sorts of wonderful blogs out there. A few of your favorites?
My Technorati page includes most of my faves, though it's a little dated. I will say The Mighty MJD of FanHouse and Deadspin fame is the best sports blogger, and maybe even the best sports writer, going. And special shout out to Wizznutzz, who makes me want to be a more creative person.
9. Mr. Irrelevant gets good readership and was a finalist for sports blog of the year. But how'd you build up your site? Did having AOL ties help? A piece of advice to some smaller sites how to get prolific readership?
Having ties to AOL certainly helps pump up the blog a bit, but not too much. In fact, I challenge you to go anywhere on AOL and try to find it. For most people, including myself, I think the key to building an audience is four-fold: 1) Post frequently. 2 Keep it brief. 3) Engage your readers. 4) Link to and know other bloggers.
10. Any interesting job offers you've gotten lately?
Obviously none that are interesting enough. Although one guy wanted me to write a book, which is odd considering I haven't put more than 1,000 words into anything since college.
11. Most rewarding parts of blogging? Most frustrating?
Rewards? Outlet for creativity and expression. Frustration? Cesspool for narcissism.
12. You, unlike most bloggers out there, actually talk to real life athletes. So we'll get you out of here on this: best interview? Worst?
Best? Chris Webber. Chad Johnson. J.E. Skeets. Mike Tyson. Bill Walton. Ron Artest. Tracy McGrady. J.J. Redick. D-Wade. Etc. Etc. Worst? Such a big part of it is the interviewer(s) and setting, so I'd rather take the high road rather than name names. But Venus Williams was wack.
(Past interviews: Dawizofodds; Matt Ufford; The Mighty MJD).