They’re the aims of every new writer who joins B/R’s World Football Community—to get people reading their articles, to see their articles hit the front page, to become recognised as one of the top writers in the field.
It all sounds so easy on paper—but how is it actually achieved?
As Staff Editor for the World Football section, I feel (rightly or wrongly) in a privileged position to have had intimate experience of the section, and believe I am in a position to outline some of the secrets to success.
Be aware, however, that this does not mean I am necessarily the perfect example of these rules, in fact there are many far better case studies out there than me—in this instance it is definitely a case of “do as I say, not as I do.”
Anyway, by no means a conclusive list—here are six ways to send your name up towards the top of the writer rankings.
1. Know Your Onions
Use the facts, but get them right.
As with any community on B/R, building your reputation is absolutely crucial to becoming a major player amongst the World Football community.
This starts with one simple maxim—get your facts right.
This works in many ways. For a start, it is incredibly important to get basic names right. Know it is Jermain not Jermaine Defoe, Villarreal not Vilarreal, Middlesbrough not Middlesborough, and Fraizer not Frazier Campbell.
If writing was a 100m race, then this would be the equivalent of facing the right way.
If you aren’t sure, check it. If you can’t even spell the name of the player/club you are writing about, why should anyone listen to what you have to say about them?
More generally, make sure you get all your facts straight. If you are talking about Arsenal’s “Invincibles”, for instance, make sure you know which season it was (2003-04, in case you’re wondering). If you are suggesting that Napoli’s rotation policy is the reason behind their early success, make sure they have not named an unchanged side for the last eight games.
Get dates, events, and incidents—however minor—100% correct.
If you don’t, you can guarantee that someone will call you on it—and it will do nothing for your credibility.
Having said that, don’t worry obsessively about every fact and detail, as your editors should be there to provide a safety net, catching any glaring errors before the article goes worldwide.
But no editor has a 100% success rate—and as a result no writer should rely fully on them.
If you want to be taken seriously, check everything religiously.
2. Express Yourself
Find the angle—and follow it through.
As a general rule, readers on B/R don’t come for the breaking news—there are many hundreds of professional source out there who do that job to perfection. No, readers come to B/R for the discussion, for the unusual opinions that won’t necessarily be published elsewhere.
As a writer, you should look to take advantage of this.
Don’t pursue the obvious—few readers other than the most ardent Manchester United fans will take the time to read another article on why Cristiano Ronaldo is the greatest footballer in the world.
Think outside the box.
Look for the topics that nobody else is covering.
Find your team, or the player, you want to write about—then pursue the most interesting angle you can find. If you believe in it, then why not present your case with conviction?
Genuinely believe that Liverpool should drop Fernando Torres and play Dirk Kuyt and Robbie Keane up front? Then write about that.
Lay out your argument, and back it up with evidence, interesting analysis, and (correct) facts. Give it an inviting title, and the readers will come flocking.
It doesn’t matter if you are right, it doesn’t matter if nobody agrees with you—if it sparks a debate then that will be the best thing for your reputation.
If your argument is within reason (if you suggest that Joe Kinnear should play himself up front for Newcastle, then you might have gone too far) then no one will be able to dismiss you out of hand.
More importantly—you can guarantee readers will be back for your next article.
3. Community Spirit
Writing articles is only half the battle.
For any writer who has spent more than a fleeting moment on B/R, it will be immediately obvious that the site is about far more than simply writing articles.
If you want your articles to be considered worth listening to, first you must show that you believe other people’s articles are worthy of the same courtesy.
Fortunately for you, this is easily achievable.
Read what others in the community are writing, and comment on those articles that invoke an opinion in you. Whether you agree or not, let the author know. Do it constructively, and they will undoubtedly appreciate it.
More importantly—they are far more likely to check your article out next time it crops up on their screen.
When it comes to your own articles, take the time to respond to every comment that expresses an opinion—whether or not it agrees with your own. The debates that occur in the comment sections of articles are often the real core of B/R’s raison d’être.
If you respond to your readers, they should continue to respond to your articles, now and in the future.
Finally, use the tools of endearment that B/R puts at your disposal. If you like an article, give it your Pick of the Day vote. If you have been impressed by a series of articles from one author, then become their fan.
Both such actions will be hugely appreciated. Like all humans, at their core the B/R writers crave the compliments and plaudits of their peers—and if you are obliging them for their hard work, they won’t forget it.
If you give them the chance, they will look to return the favour.
Ultimately, on B/R as in life you will only get what you put in. Hand out the compliments, and you should see them returned with interest—as long as your articles deserve it, of course.
4. Call in the Specialist
If you are an expert, let it be known.
As mentioned above, a unique or interesting angle is often the best way of getting readers to look over your individual articles. But it takes more that to develop an “audience”—those fans that will read anything you pen.
As a general rule, creating an audience—as intangible as it is—is a long process that often involves a great number of blockbuster articles. But, by the same token, if you can prove you are an expert in a certain field, especially in a niche area, then you will soon find people are desperate to learn at your alter.
Take one of World Football’s finest writers, S B, as an example. No man (or woman, for that matter) has the knowledge or insight into South American football that S brings to the table, and as a result he is hugely respected by a great number of the regular writers on these fair pages.
Or, on the other hand, take the Arsenal Community. No other team’s community has the strength and depth of quality writers in the World Football section, and it shows. The likes of Shyam, Maire, and Willie consistently get a huge number of reads because, along with following the many points mentioned above, they have demonstrated specialist knowledge of the North London club.
Such a demonstration does not happen overnight—but if you deserve it, it will come.
So, if you have a similar specialism like S B or the Arsenal Community—don’t be afraid to use it. Anything that separates you from the crowd will endear you to the masses—and send you reputation soaring.
5. King of Spin
If you think it is good, don’t be afraid to tell others.
An often touchy subject amongst B/R aficionados, the issue of self-promotion is ultimately a matter of personal taste.
As a general rule, however, you should look to promote your latest creation amongst the fans and readers you have so far accrued. Like the introduction of any new product on the market, it will not get the greatest exposure if you do not publicise it amongst its intended audience.
Use the bulletin board on member’s profiles, and let them know that your latest article is out. Encourage them to read it, and request their comments. Don’t demand anything of them, just let them know that it is there if they want it.
The gentle approach is always the best—they will read the article because they want to, not because you do.
But there is little chance they will ever read it if they don’t even know it is there.
6. To the Letter of the Law
Learn the B/R style guidelines!
Okay, so this last one is a bit of a cheat, especially for an editor whose job it is to correct such mistakes (wait, hang on, is writing this such a good idea…?). But the fact remains, it helps greatly if you publish articles that conform to the B/R preferred style guide.
The reasons are two-fold. Firstly, articles that look “clean”—especially with regards to spelling, punctuation, and grammar—from the minute they are published are more likely to catch the eye of casual readers who, if the content is good enough, are more likely to give the article a positive rating (as a side note, you should look to rate every article you read, good or bad).
Positive ratings will push your article towards the frontpage of the community, or even the whole site.
Equally importantly, high ratings will push your article into the sights of the editor on duty. If he gets his hands on your article, then you have really hit the big time (if I say so myself).
If the article is “clean” and the content is good, the editor will be all too happy to grant a deserving rating to an article that didn’t require an infuriating number of edits.
However, if the article is littered with simple stylistic errors, then an editor in a bad mood might be less inclined to give it a positive rating, one that might prevent the article reaching a wider audience.
99% of the time, the wonderful editors (again, if I say so myself) on B/R will look beyond such petty reasons when it comes to the rating—but if you want to see your name in lights, don’t take that chance.
So, there you go—I hope this list has shed some light on some of the simple ways you can become a big hit in the world of B/R.
As mentioned above, this is by no means a conclusive list, but it is a few of the common themes that I have noticed in my time here. Ultimately, your success will live and die by the quality of the analysis and argument in your articles—but if you keep these rules in mind, you should never go too far wrong.