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How to Build an Online Platform and Audience: A Guide for Sports Journalists

Online Platform and Audience

Sports are one of the most endearing and enduring sectors in the world. People love to cheer on their favorite athletes, see the impressive feats of skill they offer, and love to see their teams win. Sports have been a great, healthy distraction from our everyday worries and concerns.

However, sports would be nothing without dedicated sports journalists and media teams that connect sporting figures and teams with their fans. Building a career in sports journalism is fun and exciting, but it is far from easy.

You need to have an audience, you need to have a great reputation, and you need to be a go-getter. However, in today’s digital world, you also need to command a presence. Building both an online platform and an audience takes time, but it is one of the best things that you can do for your career – especially if you are just starting out.

1.    Start Today

There are many tips and tricks on how to get into sports journalism. You can do it the old-fashioned way with elbow grease and learning as you go, or you can even kickstart your efforts with a tailor-made sports journalism master’s degree.

Regardless of what path is right for you, it is imperative that you start building your online platform and audience today. It takes time to find your voice and can take even longer than that to build an audience and reputation.

Starting today can be as small as starting a free blog online and writing analyses on your favorite player or sport. Getting into the habit and, most importantly, getting the practice is something you need to do regularly, even if you are completing a degree.

Work to advertise this work and even pitch it to publications. Getting your work published is an excellent way to build up your portfolio and your reputation, but that does not mean your work is done. Building an online platform and audience goes a long way toward solidifying your career and ensuring that you have multiple options as a sports journalist.

2.    Explore and Find Your Medium

While print is not dead, it certainly isn’t the only contender in the world of journalism. Photojournalism, television, documentaries, YouTube, TikTok, IGTV – all of these are visual mediums that can be very powerful when it comes to documenting your stories. There is no right or wrong path forward, either. In the past, if you wanted to be taken seriously, you needed to be in front of professional cameras and get your face on television.

Today you can be a YouTube journalist with a massive following and be actively invited to press conferences simply because you have that audience.

There are pros and cons to every option. Aim to appear on more traditional media, and you have a lot of competition and will need to prove yourself to be the best and that you deserve to have your face on the TV. For YouTube and other self-made stars, you can get front-and-center from day one, but you will need to wear many hats both in front of the screen and behind the scenes.

3.    Creating Content and Finding Your Voice

While engagement and being social on social media is a great way to get more people to look at your account and, hopefully, engage with you, it is not how you grow your profile. Content marketing is and has always been the ultimate way to increase your following, and that is particularly true today. The rise of short-form videos has made it daunting, yes, but by planning out videos and doing them all in batches in one day to post throughout the week or even the month, you can offer that content without overloading yourself.

Moreover, you can also spend time workshopping and planning the next set of videos. The good news is that an easy way to grow your account right now is to look at what is trending. Jokes, memes, songs – all of these trends on social media, and you can remix them to work for your own specific niche.

This doesn’t mean that you should only ever do what everyone else seems to be doing. In fact, if you can start a new approach or template that is unique to your brand, you can work to stand out just by offering something different.

However, what is sure for everyone is that marketing and content creation is a matter of trying new things to see what works, workshopping the ideas, and continuing to tweak them. Rinse and repeat.

Finding your voice is something that comes with time, even if content creation is the main activity that your career is centered around. Journalism is far different than marketing, and yet you will need both to create winning content that helps you grow your audience and, in turn, give you more leverage when it comes to pitching your stories and getting sources to open their doors.

One of the biggest tips is to have fun with it. Even if the content is serious, you need to enjoy the process of translating your article into a small video. You need to have fun with the marketing aspect. This is your chance to be creative, so use it and improve the reach and engagement of every piece of sports journalism you write or help make.

4.    Bringing Followers to Your Links

Having a big following is just step one. There are many different tools that you can use to further your professional goals on social media, and they update regularly. For example, you can use a third-party system to link your followers to articles you have written. You will need to use a third-party system because there is currently only one link that you can advertise on your profile.The good news is that there are easy ways to increase the number of links on your profile. If you sell products or merchandise, you can link your store to a Facebook page and then link them directly through your Instagram.

You can also link articles you advertise on your stories.

Every platform uses a different system, and has different rules on how you can link to pages off of the platform itself. Some platforms, like Instagram, have more options than others (like TikTok).

Getting your followers off of your profile and where your work is published (either professionally or personally) is an easy way to increase the engagement of your content. Engagement is key when it comes to showcasing your value to publications and to sources.

5.    Ideas on How You Can Monetize Your Platform

A thriving social media platform can help give you a larger platform, but the benefits do not stop there. You can also monetize the attention. You can monetize your marketing efforts with a Patreon account, with merchandise, by selling a book or a workshop. There are many different ways that you can monetize your following by offering paid content or additional value. This is an excellent way to diversify your income and really works to give you a safety buffer if you are ever struggling with finding a story or with work.

There are many ways that you can monetize your platform as a sports journalist.

If you are a photojournalist or, at the very least, have great photos from your time on the job, you can sell those as art prints or use them to create fun merchandise. What you can do will depend on the copyright around the image. You can generally sell images for non-commercial uses like editorial or art, but you will want to check with the rules and regulations in your country.

This works wonders for images that art perhaps too artistic to be sold to new media. Similarly, you can use those images as a template and easily turn them into pop art or other artworks that you have full control over.

As for written content, you can work to create a book based on the biggest stories you have followed during your career. You can also create in-depth analyses and sell those under a premium subscription personally or through media publications.

Think professionally as well. There will be many who want to become sports journalists just like you. You can create a digital course or workshop that outlines tips, tricks, and ideas on how your followers can get started as journalists on their own.

Though there are many ways to monetize, you need to remember two things. One is that the best type of monetization for a journalist is a passive one. This means creating something once and ideally making money off of it on an ongoing basis. The second factor to consider is how the monetization project will impact your reputation. You can partner with advertisers when you have a large platform to get a big check and income, but if that check ruins your integrity as a journalist, you may be better off saying no.

That being said, there will be opportunities that do not impact your integrity. You can partner with a tech brand, a travel brand, or a wellness brand as a sports journalist and highlight how that product or service helps you do your job as a journalist rather than partner with anything sports-related.

Even within sports, there is some flexibility. As there is a lot of nuance in terms of what will work and won’t work for your career, it is up to you to decide in advance. Think in the long term and make the best decisions on how to monetize your blog in a way that supports yourself and your career.

6.    How to Use Your Platform to Get Better Jobs

A big, active and engaged platform can help open many doors. Have a big platform and a winning reputation online, and you will likely be able to secure more interviews and get more information out of your sources than you could before. This is because people want to talk to those that they trust. If the only thing they know about you is the company that you work for, it will take additional effort to secure those interviews and gain that trust.

Having an independent platform also means that you can take firmer stances on issues in sports. This unique voice can mean that you have a very interesting position within sports media that traditional publications don’t typically take. It may mean getting interviews that other publications and journalists just won’t touch, which is great for the state of sport and for your career.

Having a platform typically means that you will be better off nine times out of ten working for yourself. There will be job positions that come your way that will be just too good to pass up, but most of the time working independently and selling your stories to publications will give you freedom in terms of what you cover. Monetizing your efforts to maintain a digital audience will then act as a safety buffer, allowing you full creative control over your career.

7.    How to Use Your Platform to Get Better Leads

One of the first things that people ask when you want to interview them is who you are. This is particularly true if you are working as an independent. If you can say, “Hi, I’m the host of this popular sports podcast, and I want to do an interview with you about this certain topic,” you will find you get a lot more positive response than if you don’t have a platform at all.

Reputation matters when it comes to getting the best leads. Perseverance, a great demeanor, and of course, integrity will then take you the rest of the way when you work as an independent. On the other hand, having a platform and being a staff writer can make you stand out as a unique journalist, which again can help you get better leads every time.

When it comes to working in media, having a platform is almost always going to help. It means you have an audience, and you have additional assets on top of your skills. It can give you control, opportunities, and freedom as a sports journalist, so start building that audience today.

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Written by Abhishek Chauhan

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