Sports media blogger Ed Sherman on Twitter challenges, his latest book, and why his site is ad-free

Former Chicago Tribune and Crain’s sports journalist Ed Sherman has been blogging about sports media for 10 months now, and I recently noticed that he has never put an ad or a tip jar on his site, The Sherman Report. Why does this suburban Chicago father of two teen sons start blogging at about 6:30 in the morning and even work weekends when there’s absolutely no financial reward? Why does he constantly monitor traffic – as he tells me he does – when there are no advertisers to satisfy? Sherman answers those questions and others in my Q-and-A.

(Disclosure: I got to know Ed about a year ago after he emailed about using Jonathan Liss, my site designer, for his website. For a long time we’ve emailed about meeting in person for coffee but that has yet to happen. Blame me for that.)

You took the Chicago Tribune’s buyout in 2008. Why?
I was about to turn 50 and had been considering making a move for a couple of years. I had burnt out on the travel and working nights and weekends. [He had worked at the paper for 26 years.] My boys were just turning 12 and 10, and I felt like I had been missing out by being gone so much. Obviously, the biggest part of the decision was to spend more time with my wife and boys, and it’s been great.

Ed Sherman

Ed Sherman

From a career perspective, I felt like I had done all I wanted to do at the Tribune. Plus — and this was before the economy collapsed in the fall of ’08 — there was a healthy buyout package on the table for me. I thought if I was going to leave the company, I might as well get the going-away prize. Also, I had a book deal in place that I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I had stayed at the Tribune. So a lot of things were at play. I just felt like I needed to make a change and see if I could make it on my own.

What did you learn from your Crain’s experience after working at the Tribune for decades?
Crain’s was terrific. I really enjoyed covering sports business and getting to know the various executives within the teams. It is a beat that deserves more coverage at mainstream sports outlets. Crain’s gave me the opportunity to gain experience operating my own blog – a chance to experience the pace of updating and seeing what works and what doesn’t. I was growing along with them.

As for why I left, after 3 1/2 years, again I just felt it was time. Crain’s was making some changes with new editors, and I had an idea to launch a sports media site. So the timing was good on both ends.

At what point did you say, “I’m going to start The Sherman Report”? And what niche in the sports blogosphere did you see it filling?
I had done a sports media column for 12 years at the Tribune, and really enjoyed it. I had been kicking around the idea of bringing it back in the form of my own web site. To be honest, I was influenced by your site. I wanted to see if I could do it for sports.

There are a few sites that cover sports media, and they are quite popular. I felt I could be a bit different by doing more Q/As with people in the industry. I also want to explore the process of how sports news gets reported. I saw the site as an opportunity to have a voice in an area of high interest to me. Hopefully, a chance to have some impact./CONTINUES

How was the launch of The Sherman Report — easier or more difficult than you imagined it would be? Biggest challenges?
I had a great designer (Jonathan Liss, who also did your site), and he did a terrific job assembling the site. Early on, there were several technical problems that were extremely frustrating. I didn’t expect that. Thankfully, they have been resolved. Twitter has been a big challenge from several different angles. I now understand the importance of getting people to tweet out your posts so they get into that huge Twitter Mixmaster. It’s not an easy process, and you have to rely on the kindness of strangers.

Also, I was under the mistaken impression that if I did a Q/A with a network personality or executive, that network would tweet out the interview to millions of its followers. That hasn’t occurred. The networks have various rules for what they will send out on their main Twitter accounts. Even though they promote themselves like crazy, they won’t promote a Q/A on my site even though it may be of interest to their followers. I pounded my head against the wall pleading my case. All it got me was a huge bump in my head. That’s been the most frustrating part of launching the site. I know if the networks tweet my stuff on main feeds (not just on PR feeds), it will generate page views.

You have a family, you’re writing a book, you have a radio job and you’re a prolific blogger. How many hours a day do you work? What is a typical day for you?
I’m also teaching a sports journalism class at DePaul this winter. So I’m a bit jammed.

It probably wasn’t the best time to do a book. You find that you only have a certain amount of words in you per day. So between doing the blog and pumping out a chapter, I am way above my limit on most days. Thankfully, the deadline for the book is in March. I can see the finish line there.

As for the site, I’m generally at my computer at 6:30-7 a.m. I’m here most of the day until 5-6, which isn’t always a good thing. I’m working on getting out more. I’m still trying to figure out the pace. How often should I post, etc… It’s a work in progress.

You don’t have any ads or a “tip jar” seeking donations. Why?
My goal from the beginning was to try to build the site, attract a following, and then see about monetizing. I decided to wait until I’m finished with the book before I jump into that pool. There’s only so much I can take on at one time.

I had other motivations to start the site. I’m hoping it could lead to other opportunities to write about sports media on other platforms. I intend to explore those options a bit more.

Also, the site is a good way to keep my name out there. You never know what’s going to happen and where and when an opportunity can arise.

I enjoy doing the site. I’ll probably keep it going regardless if the money is there.

Do you closely monitor your traffic? What posts have attracted the most visitors? Care to share numbers?
Yes, I am constantly monitoring traffic. It’s probably not the healthiest thing to do, but I can’t help myself.

It’s a process, and I’ve been told I need to be patient. I still haven’t been out there for a year. I am starting to see some growth. I am hovering around 100,000 page views per month, which I am told is good for a new site.

Nothing attracts traffic like breaking news. The Manti Te’o stuff was huge. I was able to get an interview with Jeremy Schaap just a few hours after he talked to Te’o. It generated nice traffic. And it was the perfect example of an examination of the journalistic process.

When does your book “Called Shot” come out?
The book is being published by Lyons Press for spring, 2014. I am examining the myth and legend of Babe Ruth’s famous homer during the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field. Among the highlights is an interview with John Paul Stevens in his chambers at the Supreme Court. He attended the game as a 12-year-old.

Also, there is a sports journalism component to the book. I do a chapter examining what the writers wrote about the Called Shot.

Do your two sons read your blog? Are they aspiring journalists?
Both kids are in high school and they are huge sports fans. They both read the site, but like everything else, I’m in constant competition for their attention with the vast offerings on the Internet.

Unless things change, I don’t think there’s going to be a second generation of Shermans as journalists. I see the boys more likely to run a sports team. Maybe they’ll hire me to work PR?

* Visit The Sherman Report