Video Interview with Robert Shepherd, editor of SportsDirect News
About SportsDirect News
Who are you and what is your job title?
My name is Robert Shepherd, I am the editor of SportsDirect News.
Who reads your publication and how many of them are there?
We've got about 500,000 unique visitors every month since we launched and we're looking at 21-45 year-old males on the whole.
How much focus do you put on each sport?
We're quite football heavy, as most of our readers tend to like Premier League football, so we probably have 85% of that. In terms of other sports, we do a lot of work on cricket and rugby (Union and League). F1 is quite popular as well. Also some American sports, but mainly it's Premier League football.
How big is your editorial team?
It changes because we get freelancers in as well. The actual team that is here full-time is made up of eight people, and then we have three or four freelancers who pitch in every day.
How much influence does the retailer have on what you cover?
Very little actually because we are a joint venture between a company called My London News, which is the contractor that makes the news, and SportsDirect, but they don't get involved in what we actually write – we're editorially independent.
How important is the use of blogs and social media to you?
Blogs and social media are very important because lots of our readers view our stuff through Twitter and Facebook, so we commission a lot of people to write blogs for us as well.
How do you decide content, front covers and headlines?
That's a difficult question because it depends on what the story is, how big it is and where we want to push it. Generally, we try to keep headlines as short as possible. It's not very popular with Google if you have too long a headline, so we try to keep it down to about 70-80 characters. If it's a big name, we'll try and get the name in the headline and a quote; if it's not a big name we'll tend to leave it out.
Do you produce features lists?
We do produce features lists but not very often because we are news-driven, so people want to read stuff 24-7 that's churned over. But, if we have a number of people that we're going to have as columnists then we will place them one or two weeks apart.
How do you access your impact so far?
I think 500,000 unique visitors in just a few months after launch is very good, so I'm very impressed with that.
How do you like freelancers to get in touch with you?
Email or phone, you can do either one. Always give us details on who you are and what you can bring to the table. There is no right or wrong way of approaching us, but if you just send an email saying "I'm interested in freelance work," we don't really know what your background is. We're looking to beef up in particular sports, be it cricket, rugby, F1. So if people can say "I've got a really strong background in this area, I'd like to write for you," that would be great. I don't really want to be in a position to have to tease information out of people.
What are the three most important freelancer attributes?
Accuracy, filing on time and a good grasp of english. A lot of people who have pitched in aren't particularly good when it comes to basic English, so that can be a bit of a put off.
What sort of PR agencies do you work with?
Sports related PRs. Some of them are business as well.
How do you like PRs to get in touch?
Phone or email; either one.
Do you have a PR pet peeve?
Yes, I do actually. When you get an email that says something like "Hi there," and they don't even know your name. Also, PRs who don't respond. So if you chase them for a comment or something and they don't answer the phone, or they say "I'll come back to you" and never do. It's a bit strange. It looks bad on their clients, I think.
How many of the press releases you receive make it to publication?
It all depends on where the release has gone and how we can move the story on. When we get a release, if everyone else has got that same release and its five-ten mins old we're probably going to be beaten to it. So what we'll do is phone up the PR and see if we can move it on – get someone on the phone to give us more information. If we could get 70-80% on the website that would be great for us. But other than that, if we can't move the story then a lot of them fall by the wayside, unfortunately.
What are your editorial duties?
My editorial duties are editing copy, commissioning people and basically leading the agenda every day. So finding out what the guys are writing, why they're writing it, who they're talking to and how quickly they're going to get it up. Basically, just driving them on.
Where have you worked previously?
I started out as a reporter for a local newspaper, so I used to do the old death knocks, which weren't fun. Then I moved to a newsletter called FX Week, which wrote about foreign exchange and politics. From there I moved to Broadcast Magazine, which is a TV and radio mag. From there I moved to SportsDirect News. In between, I was a freelancer for about a year.
Do you tweet?
I tweet, yeah – I don't tweet as much as I should because we have a team that tweets all of our stuff. But I've now got a Twitter account and I'm being a bit more proactive.
If you could time travel, where would you go?
Saturday night to get the lottery results…No, maybe Friday for the Euromillions; it's more, isn't it?!