When you started The Sport Review you were entering an already saturated market in terms of online content, how did you get people to read your work?
When we started out we weren’t really concerned about attracting huge volumes of traffic, my friend Kieran and I both wanted to go into sports journalism and we saw TSR as a place we could practise our writing. On day one it was very much a blog – exactly like the ones people can create for free on WordPress. We weren’t trying to ‘enter a market’ – we were just having a bit of fun.
What was the initial response like?
It was good, although if I trawl back through the archives and pull up some of the articles from the early days of the site I usually cringe a little. Kieran and I were on a year abroad in Italy, so had a fair amount of free time on our hands, and the general response we got from people out there was very positive. What struck me very early on was that a lot of people were keen to get on board and write something for the site. In that first year we had a lot of people write pieces for us who perhaps never contributed again, but who played a big part in the site’s early development.
How would you say the site has grown?
Since the end of that first year, we’ve seen it grow substantially. One of the key moments was getting accepted to Google News while still in Italy – it’s been our No1 source of traffic since. Then, with a bit of free time over the summer in 2009, I was able to tweak the design from a blog to more of a website by playing with the homepage and basing the layout on a combination of my favourite news sites. We reached 1 million unique visitors since day one at the start of this year, and now we’re fully focused on increasing our readership further.
How do you interact with your readers – Twitter, Facebook etc?
We do have Twitter and Facebook pages and we try to interact where possible, however there is certainly a lot more we could do in this regard. Having full-time commitments elsewhere has meant we haven’t exploited the potential of social media to the full yet – and it’s another aspect of the site we’re planning to work on when we launch as a full-time venture later this year.
Aside from Facebook and Twitter, we also host polls, where we usually ask a simple topical question to gauge reader’s views, and then encourage discussion in the comments section.
How are comments managed on the site? Do you respond to all?
We try to respond to most, however, once again we are planning to make it our policy for our writers to personally respond to any comment we think should have a reply. We remove comments containing foul or abusive language, and that’s pretty much it.
Which do you think is better in terms of community interaction a formal, professional stance or an informal and more relaxed approach?
Definitely the latter. People want to be kept up-to-date, but they also want to feel like they are part of a community and that there is somewhere where they can engage with journalists and writers. Twitter has made this incredibly easy. We are certainly guilty of not interacting enough with our followers—again, we will address this later in the year—and it’s no surprise to see some of the established media outlets focusing on interacting with their readers. It’s a great way to build and develop brand loyalty.