Melissa Jacobs, Managing Editor, The Football Girl:
First, can you tell readers how the idea of The Football Girl blog got started – and what made you decide to use this medium to reach out to readers?
I started TFG in ate 2009 because I wanted to provide an editorial outlet to the swelling number of female NFL fans out there. The NFL had already ratcheted up their efforts to reach female fans on the marketing end with a new apparel line, Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a slew of Football 101 activities. At TFG we aim to provide a comfortable home for female fans and informative, entertaining content for fans of all levels, regardless of gender.
The web is simply the best place for eyeballs. It provides an opportunity to evolve as the game evolves. And quite frankly, the options of creativity are endless. That is the appeal of the web vs. other mediums.
How do you differ from other football blogs in terms of your content offerings? What makes you unique?
TFG is unique because we are not only a cornucopia of NFL content but we have unique features you won’t find anywhere else. For example, our media columnist’s Positively Gruden is a fun list of top Grudenisms after every MNF game, with sharp commentary. We have a fantasy ethicist, a female handicapper, and sprinkle in a plethora of unique voices and information. We also have a good number of player interviews – in fact, we launched the site with an in-depth Barry Sanders interview. In the past couple of years, we’ve interviewed Rob Gronkowski, Ryan Mathews, Arian Foster, Jason Pierre-Paul, Greg Jennings and many others. And of course most robust NFL sites aren’t run by women.
What types of content/issues do you find your readers focusing most each week – what features gain the most attention, and why?
Right now, fantasy rules all. People search for waiver advice and start/sit suggestions more than anything else related to football. Perhaps if Tim Tebow was a starter again that would change but right now, fantasy is king.
What team(s) do you personally follow and how difficult is it for you to remain objective as a fan?
I am a die-hard 49ers fan. And yes, it is incredibly difficult to remain objective. But as the site has started to grown, I know I have needed to taper down my “Alex Smith doesn’t get enough credit” pieces. In fact, this season I decided to throw my 49ers fandom into a fun weekly YouTube show with a fellow 49ers fan, Bonnie-Jill Laflin. We interview a different 49er every week, but we most dissect the games in ridiculous, fan-girl fashion.
What have been the stories/interviews that you’ve been most proud of to date – and which have moved you the most?
Two come to mind. The first was an exclusive interview I got with Javon Walker after he was done with the Raiders. He became very disgruntled after I read him a comment from a message board calling him Bernie Madoff. He insisted he was not Madoff and that he actually offered to pay back his salary to Al Davis. This story made a gazillion outlets including Pro Football Talk and wound up on the home page of Yahoo!.
And I spent the afternoon calling outlets to inform them my site was thefootballgirl.com and not footballgirl.com as many had published.
The second was an in-depth piece on the UFL this off season. I interviewed key players and coaches and was able to put to together an informative piece that portrayed not only the UFL woes, but what it’s like for some of the players still holding onto the dream. Long form journalism is something I’d like to incorporate more on the site. Why can’t there be more hours in the day!
You have a robust website – with a number of contributors, apparel, news and features and more. How did you build this site up over time – this is not your “day job” correct?
It actually is my primary day job now – and my night job. I have been a contributor to espnW the past couple years, which has been invaluable in terms of helping my writing, showing me a different mindset and helping to pay the TFG bills along the way.
I had a background as booker and producer at ESPN so that helped in terms of credibility and contacts when we launched the site. The Barry Sanders interview definitely helped garner some promotion. And from there on I started to get a bevy of really interesting people, particularly women, who wanted to be involved. Some write regularly and some are one-timers, but it’s an exciting community.
Were you concerned that a site for female fans could be construed as patronizing to women – did/do you get any “heat” from female fans?
I was very much concerned. I also didn’t want a product that was pink and focused on the 100 stuff. That stuff has been tried and failed. So no, we don’t get heat from women. If anything, we get requests for more educational stuff. We have plenty and will continue to grow these sections. But we won’t be shifted the balance of the site any time in the near future.
You have a strong following of male readers as well, correct? How do you divine the line between being a football site for women and still being “manly” enough for men as well?
I had to make a decision at the beginning. Do I go all in women or not? I decided the latter because I see no purpose in segregating football audiences. Plus I would have no fun writing only beginner content. Our male audience is definitely strong and I hope our little site has helped garner more respect for female fans everywhere. We certainly have some female-oriented features such as our Featured Football Girl, but why wouldn’t any football fan want to read good stories from the Steelers orthopedic surgeon who happens to be female?
What’s next for you and the website – anything new on the horizon?
My time with espnW is winding down and I’m focused on growing TFG this season While still a startup, our traffic is climbing and it’s definitely time to start looking at more business opportunities.
Any thoughts on writing a book for female fans – relating your knowledge and experiences?
I may go that route in the off-season. But I would have it mirror the type of content that is on the site. Kind of like a guide book for the NFL with all the basics but lots of extras like defensive coordinators to know, or Jewish NFL players.
Any last thoughts for readers?
I hope you can check out the site and would love to hear your feedback.