Inside The Mind Of The Football Blogger, Part One
The media is a rapid changing landscape. We all know the reason why the paid hacks of the mainstream media keep going, but what about the bloggers? What is our motivation? In the first of a two-parter that originated on Twitter and ended up here, Gav Stone of Les Rosbifs explains his motivation for keeping going.
After the 17th website this morning, searching for Englishmen who play in the Canberra State League in Australia (there are none), something dawned on me. What the hell am I doing? Why am I spending hours on end searching for information about men who probably don’t exist (they didn’t) for an article that will only be read by a few people? (As a guide, a similar article on Englishmen in the New South Wales State League has been read 106 times).
I thought about this some more instead of fulfilling work (adding website content to the new site) or family (a trip to Peppa Pig Land) duties. I don’t need to do this. I don’t need to locate a former Sheffield United winger who was on trial for a week at a Lega Pro club in Italy and, if anybody else really did give a damn, the information would already be out there on the internet. So, why do I care about Nicky Travis (the winger in question?) Why am I giving up on valuable family time to work on a website where the average amount of visits per day is normally no more than three figures? Why am I increasing the pressure on myself to produce par-standard articles on players who nobody else is seemingly interested in, when I could be decreasing the day-job workload?
I have spent the day figuring out why Les Rosbifs exists and why it continues, yet I still feel as though I am yet to find the answer. All football bloggers will have something that will set them off; something that triggers the desire to put words to screen and into a blog. With me it was meeting a 20 year old English kid playing for Villarreal C, whilst I took a school party on a football tour to Spain. From meeting him, things snowballed. A list of 51 Englishmen abroad snowballed to 300+ within six months and before I knew it, I was hooked. I was emailing clubs in far flung corners of the globe; interviewing players and coaches, and translating match reports from Hebrew into English. After a long day at work, I would be home at 7 and would work on the site until 11, 12 at night. I was, in a way, addicted.
Then came the buzz of WordPress ‘Site Stats.’ 26 views became 86. Somebody recommended the site on StumbleUpon and views went through the roof. 269 in a day for crying out loud! I was never going to maintain this, I thought. But what a thrill! And then came a recommendation from The Guardian – and 2000+ visits per day for over a week. I was getting consumed in stats, visits, page views and all that. The novelty soon wore off though when the visits went back down (right down). And anyway, at this point I was too busy finding all of the Englishmen playing in Asia…
As time has gone on in the two years the site has been in existence, I have questioned why I still do it. My work and family life are increasingly hectic; we have a son who is very needy (try taking a chocolate wrapper from a 2 year old because you know he will have a severe allergic reaction if it goes near his mouth…); I have been promoted twice since starting the blog and will start a new, significant role at a new school in September, which involves moving 250 miles north.
I don’t need to do Les Rosbifs. So why do I continue?
In those two years, I have met some wonderful people – both in person and via the internet. I have taken part in podcasts, spoken to Brian Glanville (Brian Glanville!) about Jesse Carver and Jimmy Greaves, spent an evening chatting to the likes of David Owen and Ben Lyttleton about Chris Waddle, and written an article with Sid Lowe. I can say that Daryl Willard and Paul Clapson – both Rosbifs – are friends, while Steve Darby and Stephen Constantine email me with any news about their careers. Les Rosbifs has featured in The Guardian a number of times; I have had interest from publishers and a national newspaper about the content on my site. And 6000 people read an article about an Englishman rumoured to be going to Celtic, within three hours of me putting it up on the site.
All of this gives me an enormous sense of pride. Yet, I still have a feeling (guilt?) that it is not enough, and it is not good enough. Personal issues have had to take precedence and for approximately two months Les Rosbifs laid dormant, save for the mess left by a hideous hacker and a woeful webhost. I didn’t touch a book, an article or anything relating to English footballers abroad. At times, I was avoiding football altogether, consumed as I was by managing my son’s healthcare and our move northwards. I didn’t miss it. Yet as time wore on, a number of niggles plagued me. How was Stephen Constantine getting on Cyprus? Had Mark Hughes found a new club in Australia? How many Englishmen were now signed up for clubs in Thailand?
Despite everything written, I am more interested in finding out about an Englishman playing overseas than I am in getting 1000 visits for an article about him. But the numbers do matter to me. I have to have a cut-off point. Life is such that, if a certain number of people are not reading Les Rosbifs on a daily basis, I will give it up. Just like that. There are more important things in my life that should take priority and I feel increasingly that they should. Hence I have this cut-off point. What it is, I am not sure. 200-300 per day, perhaps? If views go as low as this, I will realise that my time is up and get on with real life.
For now though, I am enjoying the ride. Just about.
Follow Gav on Twitter here.
Follow Twohundredpercent on Twitter here.