RIP Fanhouse--would be smart for teams to scoop these writers up

For those of you who didn't know, today marks the last day of existence for AOL Fanhouse as AOL is now outsourcing its sports coverage to Sporting News.

For those of you who don't have any experience with the site (unlikely), it was AOL's sports flagship, offering a wealth of content from a team that grew to 100 writers. For those of us who read the site consistently over the years, today is a weird day. I go so far as to say Fanhouse was my favorite sports site but it's been in my browser bookmark bar since 2005, matched only in that run by Yahoo! Sports, ESPN and GMail. Watching Fanhouse go after it spent the better part of a decade in my rotation of sites I'd randomly check in on whenever bored is just a bit weird.

News came this weekend that only four, four, of Fanhouse's roughly 100-person staff will be retained by Sporting News. While it's sad to see so many writers unsure what to do next, I'm excited to see the projects they'll start, with Sam Amick's NBAConfidential.com being one example. While other writers will latch on elsewhere, I hope some make their way in-house, as team-side bloggers. For any team looking for that type of thing, or even looking to fill a Digital Media Coordinator-type role, I can't help think that these guys would perfect for that.

Here's a few reasons why these guys would be great writing in-house:

  • The can write to the fan.
    It's almost hard to believe how difficult it is to find someone who can write well. That said, it's even harder to teach someone to write well. You can teach someone to do a little marketing, follow along with a basic campaign and do the little things necessary in that, but you cannot teach them to write. That's why taking someone from this team and teaching them whatever else is necessary to operate as a Digital Media Coordinator is much preferable over taking someone with a marketing or business background and then hoping they'll eventually be able to produce engaging content. It doesn't work like that.

    These guys are trained writers and, more importantly, experienced bloggers. They know the type of content that appeals to fans and can produce that at a regular clip. For most of them, they've never had the level of access an in-house opportunity would provide. Simply taking one of these bloggers and asking them to give everyone else the same perspective they now have, telling them to offer an side look at the organization, would likely produce some pretty remarkable results.
  • They can listen.
    In today's day-and-age, this is the most essential part of being successful on the web. It's no longer enough to produce great content and wait for others who also love hearing the sound of your voice to come by. Now, marketers, writers, whoever must also to listen to the developments and opinions around them. It isn't as simple as using RSS or being on Twitter, you have to be able to truly understand and respect other opinions around you, then share them with others when it's appropriate. That's exactly what these guys can do. Not only are they capable of producing strong content themselves, but they're plugged into the best commentary found across the web. Curating that content and bringing it to the fans is a huge un-tapped opportunity for most teams.
  • They're bloggers, they know hot to work.
    So many times people will point the finger at bloggers and criticize what they supposedly do for a living. The best rebuttal I've heard is that there's so many people who have no idea what these guys have to do just in order to blog. While Fanhouse carried its share of full-time writers, how do you think those guys got there? For most, it was building their own publication, or pouring in hours on someone else's small-scale blog. For most of these guys to get to where they did, they were working or going to school full-time and writing at multipe publications. You think a recent college grad who's never worked a full-time job is going to match that? It's going to be difficult for anyone on the business side to match a journalist or blogger when it comes to work ethic.

Again, I'll be interested in seeing where these guys latch on, and hope to see at least one or two find their way to a team. There's a lot of opportunities out there, both for teams and these writers, so I hope to see some take advantage of it.