Published July 1, 2013, Page 5
“The MMQB,” the new pro football-only website led by Sports Illustrated writer Peter King, is slated to debut July 22 with a mission to “be on the cutting edge of what people want to know about the NFL.”
■ Prior to the beginning of this project, were there creative muscles you felt you weren’t flexing?
KING: I think this is more about looking at the future, the future of media, than scratching any itch I have. I’ve got a tremendous job. I’ve had a tremendous job at SI for 24 years, and I’ve never said to myself, “I need to do x, y and z.” I’ve been able to do pretty much anything I’ve wanted to do at SI. But there are some new things here. I’ve never hired anybody before, and I had a chance to do that here. I had a chance for the first time to meet with advertisers, which was tremendously interesting because I’ve never seen that side of the business.
■ Do you see this project as a new paradigm of how reporting and digital content can be done?
KING: I really hope that what we’re able to do is try to respond to what fans want. I’m 56 years old and I’m trying every way I can to figure out how to not become a dinosaur. I’ve talked to a lot of people about the future of media and one of the things I keep hearing is video, video, video. So we’re going to do a lot more video than I’ve ever done. What we’re going to do is try and be as modern and new as we can. My three hires, we’ve got two bright young, talented reporters, Robert Klemko and Jenny Vrentas, they’re in their 20s, and Greg Bedard is in his 30s. I think what we’ve tried to do is bring in some people who have some new ideas and are young and who can kind of help me navigate the future of how people experience media.
■ You’ve already had an aggressive working schedule. What does it look like now with this new venture?
KING: In general, I don’t know yet what my life is going to look like this fall. We haven’t really sat down to say, “On Monday, I’m going to do this, on Tuesday we’re going to do this,” and so forth. I’m still working for NBC on Sundays, and there will probably still be other during-the-week responsibilities for NBC. … We’re really still a work in progress. But I don’t really know how much I’ll be out reporting, how much I’ll be inside working with the reporters. That all really remains to be seen.
■ You mentioned the advertising roadshow you took, and you’ve referred to it in columns. What was that experience like for you?
KING: We started in Detroit and Chicago. We walked into a meeting with an auto company. I walked in there and thought it would be a “Mad Men” kind of situation with everybody dressed to the nines. But I walked in there with a blue pinstriped suit on and I was best dressed of anybody I saw in 19 trips on this tour. So I didn’t know what to expect after that one. But the amazing thing is that it’s a very young business out there, and a very enlightened business. You don’t walk into a place and just say, “How many pages of ad space do you want to buy?” It’s more about how can we help you get your message across. I’m not saying that’s a shocking development in itself. But it was really interesting to be able to brainstorm with a lot of really smart people with some of the biggest companies in America.
King, for many years one of the most popular writers in all of American sports media, will serve as editor and oversee a team of three full-time reporters and several part-time and freelance contributors. The project has been in a long period of gestation, including King earlier this year participating in a 19-stop roadshow with potential advertisers.
The site will have its own Web address, themmqb.com, but will also receive extensive links and promotion on SI.com itself. King said that “The MMQB” will feature a mix of news, analysis, opinion and commentary, and a heavy mix of video content and social media integration. Joining him on the effort are full-time writers Robert Klemko, Jenny Vrentas and Greg Bedard, and contributors including SI media writer Richard Deitsch and Andrew Brandt, former Green Bay Packers executive and current director of the Moorad Center for Sports Law at Villanova University.
King, with SI since 1989, in March signed a three-year contract extension to stay with the magazine, with the “The MMQB” forming an important part of the renewal talks.
“We’re open to covering the NFL in a lot of different ways, and not just writing stories for a website and throwing them out there,” King said. “We’re going to try to do things in a more modern way than what I’ve seen out there in media.”
The effort represents the latest and most dramatic attempt by Sports Illustrated to create new multiplatform content brands within its portfolio. Other efforts include its “SI Now” daily talk show and the Swim Daily blog within SI.com.
Gillette, Microsoft and Bose have signed on as official marketing partners of the nascent venture, with potentially others to arrive as well.