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FTW Grows to 15 Million Uniques, Launches Golf Vertical

I did a Q&A with Cynopsis Sports for their newsletter. A few excerpts …

After launching For the Win, dubbed “the first mainstream sports media property focused exclusively on social news,” USA Today Sports Media Group is poised to climb the next rung, launching a spinoff devoted to golf content.

Mottram on FTW growth: Since launching last April, FTW increased from 5 million monthly unique users, with most users coming from USA TODAY, to as many as 15 million monthly uniques, with most users coming from organic sources. In July, year-over-year viral traffic was up over 300%.  
 
On Fore! The Win: Without paying golf any extra attention, FTW golf content finds a steady and sizable audience. Now we’re going to cater to those fans, creating a sub-brand within FTW that’s all golf all the time. Fore! The Win (ftwgolf.com) is where you’ll find what golf fans are talking about, like a cool visualization of the evolution of Tiger’s swing or that buzzy moment when Rory had a heckler ejected.
 
What’s most interesting is that this approach serves as a test for developing other verticals/sub-brands within FTW, which is to date a one-stop shop for social sports news. The brand can, however, develop as a hub for many different social content experiences. 

Filed under Sports Media For The Win Fore! The Win Homonymic Branding

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In November 2006, for example, a source came forward with the recording of the Michael Richards racist comedy routine. The source wanted several thousand dollars for the tape, and TMZ would pay it, but the source wanted the cash immediately — as in before-the-banks-opened immediately. Levin couldn’t write a personal check and allow the money to be traced back to him, and he, like everyone else, had a limit on the amount of cash he could take out in a single day from the ATM. His solution, according to multiple staffers working for the site at the time: Call every TMZ staffer and force them to immediately take out their ATM max and bring it down to the TMZ offices. The staffers were reimbursed, but the story highlights just what lengths TMZ was willing to go to obtain — and pay — a source.
The Down and Dirty History of TMZ

(Source: BuzzFeed)

Filed under media tmz harvey levin checkbook journalism

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USA Today looked for inspiration in the viral media darlings, BuzzFeed and Upworthy, for a sports section that mixes original and aggregated content with you-gotta-click-to-see-what-happens headlines. In just nine months, For The Win has shown “legacy” publishers can win in the social-sharing game. According to comScore, FTW’s unique visitors more than doubled from May to December, when it drew 7 million uniques.
 FTW: How USA TODAY Mastered Viral Sports Content

Filed under Media Sports USA TODAY FTW Social Mobile Strat

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Yahoo! Sports Blog Headers (2008-13)

As part of Yahoo! Sports’ not-so-recent redesign they removed the headers we’d hung on their blogs when launching them in 2008-09.

These fun little designs have a piece of my heart, you see, and they deserve a home, if only for me to look back on years from now.

Here they are, along with a little director’s commentary …

Ball Don’t Lie

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This was the first blog we staffed (J.E. Skeets and Kelly Dwyer!), named and designed. My favorite.

Big League Stew 

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Note the ivy, which is a tip of the cap to original BLS editor (now Yahoo! Sports blog editor) Kevin Kaduk, who wrote a book about Wrigley.

Shutdown Corner

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I never really understood this look, but I like it. Gritty.

Puck Daddy

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Puck Daddy is great, and Greg Wyshynski is a force of nature. Solid header too; the blood is a nice touch.

From the Marbles

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Nobody knew what “the marbles” were anyway.

Devil Ball Golf

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Nobody knew what “devil ball” was either, but Jay Busbee is my dude.

Dr. Saturday

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Love the Strangelove-inspired name and header. The tagline, though isn’t all that relevant anymore. (RIP, BCS.)

Roto Arcade

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It’s about fantasy sports, you see.

Cagewriter

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This is just kinda gross, which is a shame, because the alternate version (with dinosaurs and laser beams) was A+.

Prep Rally

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Not sure why the “Y” is on fire. Interesting choice.

Busted Racquet

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Very Wes Anderson, which is to say I like it very much.

Fourth-Place Medal

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This is the Olympics blog, so it could look like shit and still do ALL OF THE PAGE VIEWS.

The Dagger

I can’t find the old header for the college hoops blog. It’s lovely and in line with the rest, mostly designed by Mark Delamare. He did good.

UPDATE: Thanks to Patrick Clarke, here’s The Dagger.

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And I somehow forgot Dirty Tackle the first time around.

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Filed under Sports Media Design Yahoo! Blogs

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7-Month-Old Social News Site FTW Tops 8.4M Users, Gets A Makeover

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Fresh off of a record-high November (8.4 million unique users), seven-month-old social news site For The Win relaunches today. “Why so soon?,” you might ask. We want to make it better, is the short answer.

The longer answer is we learned a lot in FTW’s first 200 days. Most important is that mobile usage is out of control. FTW was a top 10 mobile sports site by July, outpacing bigger brands like FOX Sports, Deadspin, SI.com and Grantland. And FTW mobile usage outpaces desktop by a wide margin — half of overall traffic happens on phones alone.

Now we’re locked in on improving the small-screen experience, especially on phones. Let us count the ways with this refresh:

1. No Comments

People didn’t comment on FTW anyway — they just discover/read/share. That’s even more true of our mobile users. So we removed comments altogether, and it’s kind of liberating.

2. Public Chartbeat

We started using real-time analytics tool Chartbeat to track FTW, and our editors quickly became addicted. So we pulled the curtain back by adding a Chartbeat-powered “Top 5 Right Now!” box to every page. It shows trending stories in the moment along with exactly how many active users are on each one. Hopefully readers find it as adrenaline-pumping as we do.

3. Bigger Visuals

Many FTW stories are about just one thing, and those things are often interesting to look at. So we opened up our story template to allow for full-page, 1,000 pixel-wide videos, photos, graphics and GIFs. Big = beautiful.

4. Bolder Headlines

The web is crowded, and the social web is even busier still, so we put a lot of thought into writing headlines that stand out to reflect and serve our stories. The redesign shares that emphasis more than before.

5. Mobile Focus

FTW launched as a responsive site, and I could probably list a dozen little improvements we just made, but trust me that it’s tweaked and torqued to better serve “waiting in line” users.

6. More Social

FTW is all about social news, so we made tiny changes to reflect that too. For example, every story promo carries a share count so you can see what is/isn’t trending without having to click. How convenient!

More to come, and we’re still working out the kinks but I’m thrilled with where we’re at. Let me know what you think.

PS: To compare, here’s how FTW looked like before & after this morning.

FTW Before

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FTW After

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Filed under Sports Media Social USA Today Sports Media Group For The Win FTW Social Media Personal PR