Friday, April 20, 2007

Blogger Interviews: Brooks

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.

Joining us today is Brooks from the long-running Sports by Brooks. Brooks is a 16-year media professional and has pretty much done it all. That's him there in the picture, sandwiched between future ex-wife number one, two, three and (maybe -- two Long Islands?) four. Play nice, friends.

1. The rundown:

Name: Brooks.
Age: Old enough to appreciate the on-field artistry of Alvaro Espinoza.
Location: Lipstick City (L.A., Calif.)
Occupation: I make it up as I go.
Favorite teams: KC Royals, Chiefs, Univ. of Georgia, whoever is playing Saint Louie Cardinals, Florida Gators or the Al-addled Raiders.
Links to your favorite all-time posts you've written. (3-5)

-I suppose breaking the story of Prince being named to perform at the Super Bowl XLI halftime show seven months before any other media outlet.
-My recent treatment of Atlanta hosting the Final Four.
-And a photo-impaired post highlighting some of our favorite ESPN personalities.
-UCLA's Irish Fling Betrays Faithful

I really focus on trying to make every post perfect (I'm not nearly as successful as I would like), so my latest work is usually my favorite. And a lot of what I do is very time sensitive, so the impact of individual posts sometimes fades over time. That's why all of my favorite work would probably come from the original stuff I've done, which has a longer shelf life.

Time per day spent blogging and perusing the blogosphere: 10-12 hours (between trips to Koo Koo Roo and shots of Apple Pucker schnapps).

2. Take us through a typical day of blogging.

I work into the early morning. Then I'm back plaguing readers by midday. The number of posts usually depends on what's out there that day, or if John Daly is back making appearances at your friendly neighborhood Hooters. The slower the news day, the more I try to come up with original material.

I am going to go to more of a consistent posting method after our upcoming site redesign. I've resisted that in the past because there are days when there's not much interesting stuff out there, and I want everything we put on the front page to be compelling. But some days, that's just about impossible, so I think it's time to have more consistency in our daily approach (translation: I'm exceedingly lazy, but traffic drop-offs have got me struggling to keep up on my car insurance payments).

I don't spend most of my time reading blogs, though some are very good and deserve notice. In the last 6-9 months, the sports blog landscape has really changed for the better. Not a week goes by that I don't discover a new one that is quality. It used to be you'd be lucky to find one every six months, which is rather analogous to my social life.

3. You're a 16-year sports media professional. Can you take us through your career path -- starting with early internships and first jobs -- and how you've worked to where you are now?

Long, arduous journey. I worked at the student paper at the Univ. of Georgia, then did a little radio work for the student station.

After school, I broadcasted minor league baseball and hockey and college sports for eight years (it pains me to note that I can sum up eight years of my life in one seemingly insignificant sentence, but alas, it's true).

I then moved on to running a sports radio station in Kansas City (my hometown) as Program Director. I also hosted a talk show on the station and broadcasted some Royals games. Following that experience, I came out to L.A. to work for Fox Sports Radio, and now do some hosting work for ESPN Radio in Los Angeles. The website now takes up 99% of my professional time (read "professional" as waking hours).

4. The girls at SbB are waaay hot. We totally want to meet them and/or try to start something like that up in our neck of the woods. How'd you start that aspect of your site? Basically, when did you decide that a T&A approach is highly effective? How'd you contact/meet/recruit the girls and get them to go along with your vision? Do you pay them? Offer them modeling opportunities? How does your photography work into your daily routine?

The heart of the site is the editorial content. Having pictures of cute girls is not exactly a groundbreaking concept on the Internet, and it really isn't what makes SbB unique. But when we started the site, we had to find a way to attract visitors, and the girls were part of that marketing strategy.

The photography is done mainly on weekends, except for the trips we take (New York, Europe, Hawaii). We don't recruit girls anymore, they find us. We get several inquiries a day now. In case you're wondering, we've got a super-secret formula we use (much like the biscuit batter at Popeye's) for selecting girls.

5. Tell us about the SbB "gigs." What are they? What are the girls' roles? Do the gigs bring in the money to keep you blogging for free?

The gigs were a trivia game show that we did at various venues around L.A. (and the East Coast) for a few years. The events were never really meant to be a huge part of SbB, more a way to get photo content for the site. The girls kept score for the game and took pictures at the event. Lots and lots and lots of pictures. Believe me, there's no money in doing trivia shows at bars. We were lucky to break even after expenses (especially considering Cutty Sark doesn't come cheap these days).

We don't have plans to do the gigs on a consistent basis in the future (unless Peyton Manning's Sweet 16 party host rings the house).

6. There are all sorts of wonderful blogs out there. A few you'd recommend?

There are too many good ones to mention individually, besides AOL Fanhouse and Deadspin. The reason I mention those is they have been very influential in changing the way people look at sports blogging -- while also being instrumental in creating a vast audience.

Deadspin gave the concept of sports blogs credibility, because of the Gawker brand behind it and Will Leitch's talent. One of the main reasons the audience for all sports blogs has increased is the constant original reporting (breaking news before main media outlets) Will has done on the site. That story-breaking (and being a portal to the daily best of sports blogdom) has caused countless readers to turn to Deadspin as a legitimate sports media outlet. Most sports bloggers owe the majority of their traffic to Deadspin's success.

AOL Fanhouse is a bit different. Not quite as much original reporting or weirdiful stories as D-Spin, but a 24/7 updating approach. They don't miss anything. And the quality of writing isn't much different than what you will find on the main sports media sites. It's rapidly becoming the sports site I visit most on a daily basis -- I really don't have to go anywhere else to find out what's going that day. I'm sure the folks at AOL have taken notice of what Jaime Mottram has achieved on a shoestring budget. He's done an amazing job.

7. Most rewarding parts of blogging? Most frustrating?

The rewarding part is it's the greatest gig in the world. I do what I want when I want. There's nothing frustrating about it.

8. Your site is one of the longest running blogs out there. Two-parter: 1.) What made you start the blog in 2001? 2.) How'd you initially get readers?

I started SbB because I was really bored with working in the main sports media as a talk show host and play-by-play broadcaster. I knew there was an audience for what I wanted to do, but never got an opportunity in the ossified sports media structure to do it.

SbB started as a L.A.-centric sports blog. Then I started covering everything. The biggest factor in creating traffic was linkage from Drew Curtis' website put us initially on the map. But the big thing to remember is, if you have a crap site, people won't return. Fortunately, people like what they saw, and came back. To this day, I still count as the most amazing phenomenon on the Internet, and I was lucky that he chose to give me a hand when I was just starting out.

9. What's the ultimate goal of your site?

To provide fans a different perspective on sports while also giving them a laugh. Notice I didn't say "athletes" or "sports media personalities" -- because I doubt they much like what we do.

10. We'll get you outta here on this: The MLB season is just underway. How 'bout your World Series pick.

Go you hairy KC Royals! Go! I'd love to see them get it together and make some noise. Which means stay in contention into mid-July (yes, I can dream).

The World Series that would make my October would be Dodgers-Angels, which I don't think this year is outside the realm of possibility. Los Angeles clearly is apathetic about the Dodgers, and a freeway series would put them back on the radar screen and fill the local sports excitement void created by the decline of the Lakers.

(Past interviews; also found on right sidebar: Dawizofodds; Matt Ufford; The Mighty MJD; Jamie Mottram; The Big Lead; The Cavalier; Will Leitch; Dan Shanoff; Dan Steinberg).


rstiles said...

A few questions I have...

1. Where is there a Koo Koo Roo...their chicken kicks ass!!!

2. I blog too but I have never had a picture with four buxom babes with their tops ready to snap open....what's the deal?!?!

Nice's good to read about fellow bloggers

DJR said...

I don't see any sign up form on Blogger to have hot model chicks throw their photos at me. I must have missed it. Nice work on the interview Zach.

NFL Adam said...

Seriously. My phone is working.

Mini Me said...

Nice interview!

Signal to Noise said...

rstiles -- it's a L.A./So Cal thing.

Good interview.

(Zach, I can't believe you even suggested that two Long Islands would be necessary for any of those four.)

twins15 said...

As always, superb work all around.

bankmeister said...

I, too, can dream. And dream I will. Keep up the good work.

Dave said...

My question is does Brooks date any of those gals?!

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