Just over a year ago, an announcement sent shock waves through the digital sports world. Jason McIntyre, a former writer at The Record, had sold his site, The Big Lead, to Fantasy Sports Ventures for what was estimated to be a seven figure deal. Anyone who had sat around looking to make it big in the blog and digital space was in awe of McIntyre, a quiet, hardworking journalist who had built his passion into a viable business.
A year later, Big Lead Sports is now the number one independent sports site on the web, fifth overall, with over 16 million visitors per month. CEO Chris Russo has taken McIntyre's expertise as editor and combined it with other great indy voices like Ron Shandler for baseball, Barry Janoff on sports business, and others, making it a unique destination for all fans of sport, from soccer to NASCAR, baseball to football. McIntyre oversees the site from his home base just across the Delaware River from Trenton, and remains loyal to the area teams. He has broken news, conducted some compelling Q&As and continues to help deliver new content several times a day. NewJerseyNewsroom.com caught up with McIntyre to ask him about The Big Lead's success.
NJNR: As The Big Lead has grown, what has been the biggest challenge to keep up with new flow?
JM: The landscape has gotten increasingly competitive. Our competitors are beefing up their staffs, and we are, too. I've been doing a lot more scouting of potential writers than I have done in the past. If you're good, you're going to get snapped up. We have not just a good team here, but some great authorities from across the country and that gives us great credibility along with solid traffic for anyone looking to be in the digital sports space.
NJNR: You now work in the digital space full time, are there things that you miss from traditional media?
JM: My nearly half a decade in traditional media was fantastic, but I can't say I miss anything, really. Three or four years ago, I might have thought about getting access to events/athletes, but as the site has grown, we're getting invited to everything and people return our calls. Another thing early on that I missed was the watchful eye of an editor - but as the staff has grown, we're all able to read each other's work and provide input/edit when necessary. I don't think you can beat working from home, but occasionally, the solitude will get to me and I am in New York more often than ever to meet with the senior business staff to make sure we are doing everything we can to grow.
NJNR: Do you feel living in between the hubs of Philly and New York helps you with your coverage or connections in the media?
JM: Certainly. Since I was born in New York, I'm still drawn to two of those sports teams - Yankees, Jets - but I'm paying much more attention to the Philly teams as well. I'm also reading the Inquirer and Daily News with more frequency than I used to. I'm rooting for another Phillies-Yankees World Series, and if the NFL lockout ever ends, it wouldn't surprise me if the Eagles and Jets reached the Super Bowl.
NJNR: What is the best advice you have gotten in building your following?
JM: When Twitter first came out, I was in a company meeting with some guys who had large Twitter followings. And their instructions were - just follow a million people, and everyone will follow you back! But that seemed silly - how could I manage the twitter feed if it was filled with crap? Then they said being active would help you increase your twitter followers. That's pretty much what I do - I have it opened all day and after email, it's the first thing I look at.
NJNR: Your business is based on traffic driving and breaking news, how do you tow the line between sensationalism and traditional news coverage?
JM: We're at the stage where it isn't all about traffic. A wise friend once said you'd never find your wife if you were looking for one, it just kind of happens.... I've found the same thing happens with traffic. June was a slow month in sports - but it was also a record month of traffic for us. We've built a brand, established the site as a must-read, and we don't need to do gimmicky stuff like the other content farms or Huffington Post where we become slaves to SEO or run daily/weekly slideshows. Actually, we never do slideshows.
The beauty of the site when it comes to 'sensationalism' (which we try to avoid - the more you veer down that road, the less people seem to take your seriously) and traditional news coverage is that as a new media entity, we're not beholden to doing things one way. Obviously the goal is to get the story correct and be accurate.
NJNR: What story of all the ones you have broken are you most proud of?
JM: It's tough to narrow it down. I really have enjoyed most of our media scoops over the last few years. While they may not get the national pickup of a baseball player flicking off fans, or a college freshman QB drinking, those stories are the ones that really give the site credibility.