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Soccer Blogs And Why 'Good' Doesn't Equal 'Big'

 Soccer Blogs And Why 'Good' Doesn't Equal 'Big'

Being a London-based football blogger specialising in English and American soccer and a professional digital-type, The Gaffer’s recent post asking why there aren’t more good soccer blogs from England snagged my interest. It’s a subject which has cropped up many times, from my work on football bloggers’ influence to discussions about possible studio guests for my blog’s sister podcast, recorded in London.

The Gaffer’s post, which itself touches upon some crucial factors, has received several comments, most of which carry what I’d consider to be elements of the truth. I wanted to share my thoughts on why there seem to be relatively few England-based football blogs given that we should theoretically be located right at the very heart of the English game. Some of these points have been covered in the aforementioned post, some haven’t. Please feel free to chip in with your comments at the end.

Most of these points compare England to the USA, where I believe the football blogging community is more respected and more valued than it is in any other soccer country in the world.

Most importantly, I think English football supporters were a little slow off the mark when it comes to blogging. We’ve been ensconced in fan communities for years, and they work – supporter message boards are still the thriving, beating heart of UK online fan culture. So it took us time to cotton on to the benefits of blogging, and even longer to work out that it’s (a) an opportunity to disrupt the traditional media and (b) potentially commercially viable.

In England, bloggers are not filling in gaps; we’re trying to knock down brick walls. The football media is well and truly saturated. Every newspaper, local and national, gives over inches and inches of column space to coverage of the game and most are well established. We have a 24-hour rolling news channel which, give or take the odd bit of cricket and rugby coverage, is dedicated to football. Football is everywhere. The Gaffer and some of his comments suggest that this may be a barrier to entry, but for me it makes it more difficult to succeed but doesn’t necessarily prevent people from getting involved.

I think we suffer in England from having too broad a potential audience. “Football fans” in England covers, for all intents and purposes, pretty much everyone. If English bloggers made a sluggish start and lacked focus from the beginning, the absence of a defined target audience hardly helped. Conversely, the US soccer community is a tight-knit niche and although the Premier League viewing public is much larger than the MLS market, the most influential writers Stateside tend to have some interest in domestic matters or, at least, the US national team.

Unlike their English counterparts, American football bloggers are absolutely integral to the culture of the sport in their country. They are important for its growth and development as well as its commentary. This, along with the quality of their work and the under-developed (but thriving and maturing) soccer market in which they operate, affords them access English bloggers could only dream of. It’s not direct access to the Premier League, of course, but they’re able to speak to figures within Major League Soccer, US Soccer and the soccer press in the States. This boosts their standing on all matters football, Premier League included. It’s a real success story for a group of deserving writers.

Despite all this, I truly don’t believe that there is a dearth of good quality English football blogs based in England. A large number of excellent writers are producing regular, compelling content which simply doesn’t achieve the eyeballs it deserves. That’s another issue, and in general I’d say overseas writers were faster to realise that blogging is about more than great content and we must optimise and promote our sites if traffic is more important to us than critical acclaim (in many cases, it isn’t).

In North America in particular football bloggers have found a sweet spot which allows top quality writing to pick up lots of hits. Many UK writers remain guilty of writing brilliant posts and then leaving them to rot.

If you have the time to do some digging around there are tonnes of domestic blogs worth your subscriptions. There are some fantastic writers, like Chris Mann and James Appell, who offer genuine insight at the expense of linkbaiting and traffic-hoarding. They’re targeting a niche market of football geeks, enthusiasts and amateur tacticians and are well respected within those circles because of their understanding of the idiosyncrasies of the game and their superb writing.

It’s writers like these – who will succeed on a more steady, stable growth curve as their stock rises – that create the understandable belief that England is home to fewer ‘good’ football blogs than it should be. But don’t assume mistakenly that there aren’t as many good UK blogs as there are US blogs or blogs from elsewhere. Our market is tough to crack, and it’s even tougher to broaden our work out to address a global audience. Powerhouses like EPL Talk and Soccerlens dominate the landscape because they’re run by writers who knew what they needed to do early on and have a grasp on web business as well as football.

Under the surface, though, English football is covered by some serious domestic talent. In essence, I think the original post could have been spun slightly differently. Yes, the US in particular is disproportionately strong in blogging about top-flight English football, but that’s because the US soccer community has been a roaring success online. We should credit them first and foremost.

Chris Nee is the editor of twofootedtackle and the co-host of the twofootedtackle Podcast and is based in London.

Have you read any great English blogs deserving of more recognition? Here’s your chance to give them a plug.

This entry was posted in General, Leagues: EPL. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Soccer Blogs And Why 'Good' Doesn't Equal 'Big'

  1. hedi says:

    I’ve been through this with my soccer blog in Indonesian language. The problem remains the same. Watching soccer is one thing ang blogging is another one which is very different. It’s kind of combinatio. You love soccer and writing at the same, in balance respectivelly.

  2. IanCransonsKnees says:

    My argument behind this would be that it depends what you’re looking for. We’ve already discussed that in England we’re saturated in terms of media regarding the Premier League in terms of printed media, visual and audio media. Additionally many fans still write for paper fanzine’s which you will not get in the States, or for fans unofficial club websites or internet fanzines. As a result there will obviously be a much less holistic approach.

    I would argue that a lot of the better UK blogs revolve around lower league football which isn’t on the agenda of many foreign fans. There are 92 Fooball League clubs in England and more fans as a whole follow the 72 non-Premier League teams. There is still a vibrant, interesting and diverse fan culture out there, you just have to search for it.

  3. Tim Morgan says:

    I’ve been thinking about this some more. Another important factor is that promotion and relegation means that few English fans are ‘fans of the EPL’. If you’re a football fan then that pretty much means you have to be abreast of at least the 92 league clubs, and possibly a bit of non-league/European too. Thats an awful lot of information for a single person to keep on top of and write about.

  4. Jesse Chula says:

    Chris,

    I’ve read your post now twice and I know good writing – Incredibly well written, informative and enjoyable to read. Well done.

  5. Ian says:

    Good stuff, Chris. Broadly speaking, I tend to shy away from the commercial side of things. With maintaining the design of the site and writing regularly, I feel as if I have enough on my plate as things are.

    You’re quite right to say that the stranglehold of the mass media in Britain makes significant inroads very difficult. I made a decision from the off that I wouldn’t try and copy the mass media, and would primarily write whatever the hell I wanted to. If people want to look elsewere (and judging by the site stats they almost certainly do), then they’re welcome to. It seems to have turned out, however, that there is a small(ish) audience for it and what I tend to write about has become somewhat vogue-ish over the last year or so – accidentally, I should probably add.

    The forums still fuel online football culture in Britain, but there is more appreciation for independent football writing than there used to be. There is always a need for more of it, too – the strength in depth of British football means that there are always more stories to tell than there are hours in the day. As time has gone on, though, I have tried to pick up on the stories that slip off the radar elsewhere and it is surprising how popular these can be.

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    really like your blog! send me a mail please in case you want to see my photgraphs

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