With media disruption on the rise, we invited Jeff Eisenband to the Columbia University Sports Podcast show to give his perspective on the matter, as a young sports journalist. Through the show, Jeff talks about his journey to becoming the Senior Editor at ThePostGame, his thoughts on the future of sports journalism and advice to people entering the industry.
From box scores to The Super Bowl: Jeff started his journalism career in his senior year of high school. Upon meeting the editor of sportsfanlive.com, which then had a partnership with the NFL, he decided to take on the opportunity and was assigned the Colts. Without NFL Sunday tickets or the RedZone, his source of game information was yahoosports.com, where he assessed box scores to write articles. When ThePostGame started in 2011 as Yahoo Sports digital partner, Victor Chi, the Managing Editor, offered Jeff media day passes for the Super Bowl XLVI. He managed to attend media day and the super bowl without missing of his classes for that week at school. Unlike most people in his position, he decided to finish his graduation at Northwestern, while writing articles on the side. Jeff also interned with ESPN and Golf Week Magazine during his college years.
An interesting meeting early on in his career was with Darren Rovell, who he met as a part of an Uber promotion activation, #ridewithrovell. When he got onto the Uber, he told him about not only sharing the same alma mater, but also having attended Camp Greylock. Jeff could not further emphasize the importance of a ‘don’t say no to anything’ attitude, as that ride is the reason Eisenband and Rovell share a good professional relation till today and more importantly a great friendship.
Transforming through the disruption in media: As a professional, it isn’t easy to see the industry transform entirely in the span of your lifetime, let alone a decade and a half. While a lot has been spoken about the change in media consumption, Jeff shed some light on journalism academia. When he was a student, his school did teach him about digital media, in passing. There were no specific classes teaching the ins-and-outs of social media. That is one of the major changes he has seen, as now your twitter activity would contribute to your grade.
Classroom or press box? A question that caught all of Jeff’s professor’s attention, where did he feel the learned most? While the initial course load was a lot, the school eventually let loose, which gave students the opportunity to publish their articles than submit them as assignments. Even though Jeff was working in a professional setting, being in school at the same time gave him the opportunity to do both.
How to stay relevant: In a market this large, it is hard to get your fan base to be loyal to your content. To tackle this issue, Jeff asks himself, ‘Why write the same thing that everyone else is writing? ….What is the story that I can tell? What is the question that I can ask?’ The answer to this question can show up as a different form of reporting, like video clips instead of audio or as simple as quirky content. But in most cases, it would lead you to fresh original content that would hold your consumers attention span.
Challenge for current journalists: As Tom Richardson rightly identifies the biggest challenge for journalists being real-time reporting, Jeff speaks from experience how certain people in the industry identify real-time reporting as progress and incorporate that into press conferences. On the other hand, he talks about the rights obligations that deter efficient real time reporting. So, while a reporter may have clips for a game, he doesn’t have the right to post it on any social media platform before the content owning production house. These obligations that throw marketing commonsense out of the window have given rise to different unofficial forms of reporting like Snapchat Discover and Twitch.
The value of showing up: If there is one thing Jeff would tell anyone heeding his advice, it would be this. He truly accredits showing up as one of the key reasons to his early success. People value face-to-face interaction, and want to help people that they actually meet. Meeting people initially may be a challenge as most people are drawn towards the big stars and want to give him/her their elevator pitch, but ‘have a connection with people who’re doing more of the grassroots stuff, behind the scenes. Those are the people who you should get to know earlier on’ he says. Having said that, Jeff really acknowledges the value of social media and asks everyone to be active on Twitter, no matter what the subject of the content.
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Know more about Jeff and ThePostGame on the following handles- @jeffeisenband @thepostgame