One of my favorite things about running an online magazine all about Bucks County is getting to interview some of the amazing members of the community. Captains of industry, media personalities, innovative entrepreneurs, famous entertainers- they all live in Bucks.
Many people recognize the name Big Lead Sports, the #5 online sports property in the U.S. with more than 15 million unique users per month. What you may not realize is that the blog’s founder, Jason McIntyre, lives and works right out of Bucks County. Through a combination of talent; determination; and innovation, Jason has achieved what thousands of online entrepreneurs strive to do by building a respected, well-read online destination with loyal and engaged readers. Just one year ago, the hard work paid off BIG TIME when Big Lead Sports was acquired by Fantasy Sports Ventures.
So what is it like to achieve your entrepreneurial dream? We got the chance to ask Bucks County’s very own Jason McIntyre a few questions about his amazing adventure:
BH: What inspired you to become a sports journalist? And how did you begin your career?
JM: Even though my parents weren’t big sports fans, I grew up absolutely in love with sports. I’d play 1-on-1 basketball with myself in the basement on a nerf hoop and keep stats and pretend as if I were the announcer, too. I played golf, baseball, basketball, and tennis growing up, and then when high school arrived and I wasn’t nearly big enough to compete, I turned to writing, starting with the local papers. In college I joined the school paper while working at the local paper. I applied for dozens of internships and got lucky with a couple. After college I took a newspaper job outside of New York City and plugged away at that for a few years before growing tired of the sportswriter life (all the good events are at night and on the weekend – I was in my 20s and wanted a social life). I made the transition to the entertainment sector (Us Weekly Magazine), which was a fantastic business to be in in the early 2000s. I was going to great parties and had access to all the best restaurants in the city, and traveled to fun events like the Sundance Film Festival, the MTV VMA Awards, and the Super Bowl. Somewhere along the line I had an idea for a sports blog that wrote about the intersection of sports and entertainment. It began as a hobby in 2006, but mushroomed into a business.
BH: At 29 years old, you founded The Big Lead sports blog. What inspired you to start the site? Was the career transition difficult?
JM: There wasn’t a moment when the light bulb went off and the site began – it was more of a gradual process. I had been doing some freelance work for ESPN writing about sports and entertainment, but it was somewhat restrictive. I figured a website would give me much more freedom to have fun. I talked with a couple friends about starting a sports blog, but I had very little background on the tech side of things. I was a HTML neophyte. I really had to work on my two buddies to help with stuff like finding a host, setting up the URL and how to post photos (this was in 2006, before YouTube was a big deal).
It was a smooth transition from a writing standpoint … but learning the geeky internet tech side of things was a slow process (and still is). The lifestyle transition wasn’t that difficult, either. I was already waking up at 6 am to listen to the Howard Stern show before work, so why not work on the blog for two hours each morning before heading to the office? Then I’d get home at night and work on a couple more posts for the site. My social life started to take a hit, but I was living with my girlfriend (now wife), who was supportive of me essentially working two jobs.
BH: The word “blog” brings along many different connotations in the world of journalism. When you first started out, how did you go about proving yourself as a serious sports journalist on a blogging platform?
JM: Well, that’s the funny part – I started the blog anonymously (because I had a full-time job). Initially I was doing basic stuff – humorous takes on player arrests, athletes dating celebrities, and media blunders. About 5-6 months in I decided to add an aspect to the site – media interviews. That was a game-changer for the site and my career. The media loves to read about itself, and even though I’d approach writers at major outlets and not reveal who I was, they’d still answer my questions. Then the media began reading the site and writing about it, and readership ballooned.
BH: What has been the highlight of running The Big Lead? And the biggest challenges?
JM: Being your own boss can’t be beat. At the same time, my family and friends looked at me as if I had two heads when I told them in December 2007 I was going to quit my job to work on a website that had gained some traction online. Initially, writing for the site, trying to market it, and attempting to secure ads was just too much. I wasn’t making any money on the site at all – a few hundred bucks a month – and initially, that was my biggest hurdle.
BH: Are you involved in any local Bucks County sports leagues?
JM: I used to play in a weeknight basketball league at the NAC, but now I just play pickup there a couple times a week.
BH: Where are some of your favorite places in Bucks County to blog from? And your favorite spots to watch the big games?
JM: The new way to watch a sporting event is not only with your remote in hand, but your computer on your lap. If there’s a last-second touchdown or an incredible hit in the middle of the game, watching the game with the computer quickly allows me to post it on the website. Having a smart phone enables me to post to the website from anywhere, but it can be a laborious process, so mostly I just watch games at home. I have this nerdy fascination with announcers, and at bars, you can never hear them. I will occasionally blog from Starbucks to break up the monotony of sitting in the home office with the TV on, but I haven’t done much exploring.
BH: Many bloggers dream of achieving what you have- building a loyal, large audience, gaining respect from major media publications, and eventually selling for a huge chunk of change. What advice would you give to those bloggers?
JM: This is probably the question I’ve been asked the most in the last five years. I probably get it once a week. I usually direct people to a New Yorker article from a few years ago about Toyota’s success. The author wrote that rather than trying to make huge, sudden leaps, Toyota defines innovation as an incremental process – making things better on a daily basis. A lot of writers will lose interest in operating their own website if they don’t have any readers after a few weeks or months. I had little or no readership for about the first six months of the site (besides family and friends). Based on my experience, I’d say patience and persistence are two of the biggest keys to success in the online world. The other, obviously, is turning a buck on a website, which can also be very, very challenging (and frustrating). I had the good fortune of having a wife who worked a full-time job, which eased the pain of making little or no money after I quit my job.