From the Publisher
A few months later we had a name, a tag line — “the weekly voice of sports business” — and a prototype. Enough, we thought, to sponsor the Players Inc. party at Super Bowl XXXII, where John Elway and the Broncos defeated Reggie White and the Packers.
On that first venture into the marketplace, we didn’t get thrown out of the room. So in the ensuing weeks, we proceeded to invest heavily in setting up news bureaus across the country, a national sales network and a national printing and distribution infrastructure. Hundreds of hours of editorial planning and sales calls on teams, leagues, agencies and service providers led up to our April launch. I’d like to tell you that the industry greeted us enthusiastically and with open arms, but, as you know, the sports industry is a “prove it” environment. The response was, as you might expect, cool, reserved and even, in some quarters, deeply skeptical.
To win over readers, our approach was blunt and sincere. We simply promised thorough and objective reporting on the industry, with consistent delivery and follow through. Over the course of the summer and fall of 1998, to our great delight, our national distribution file steadily converted to paid subscriptions. The vast majority of all of those early subscribers from 1998 still subscribe today. A few of our very first subscribers include such notables as Phil Anschutz, John Wildhack, Lonn Trost, Mike Tirico, Mike Bass and Jim Schwebel.
That early success in converting readers to paid subscribers was crucial to our ability to win over advertisers. Our proposition was simple — decision-makers across our industry would become avid and loyal readers of our new publication. We had some very memorable calls in those early days. One that I recall with great fondness even today was when my good friend, the late Mark McCormack, suggested that we offer him complimentary advertising in SBJ to “enhance the prestige of our new magazine.” (I politely declined his kind offer on more than one occasion.)
And despite that early skepticism, we had a host of solid advertisers in our inaugural issue: Nations Bank (Bank of America), JP Morgan, Chase, Fox, Madison Square Garden, MLB, NBBJ, Heinlein Schrock, NTRA, the Marquee Group and Bear Stearns. (Virtually all of these still advertise with us today, with the exception of the last two, which do not for obvious reasons.)
As the first couple of years unfolded and we found ourselves on more solid ground, we gradually expanded our offerings to include conferences and events, database products and other new product and market launches that have produced many wonderful memories and firsts for the industry:
Many people don’t realize that we actually had a Forty Under 40 class the prior year, in 1999, but without the awards dinner. That year in the pages of SBJ, we honored people including Dan Snyder, Jeff Shell, Jon Litner, Joe Leccese, Susan O’Malley and others.
That is only a sampling of the many highlights over the past 15 years.
I’m often asked how our sports business group has affected the sports industry. There’s no question that our coverage over the years has helped add accountability and transparency to the sports industry. And that added transparency has resulted in a far greater focus on performance metrics — ROI, ROO, the spread of “best practices” across the industry that help professionals in every segment deliver a better product or service. As the size of the deals has continually grown over the years, there’s been a far greater emphasis placed on revenue generation than ever before. And the wide use of SBJ and SBD in academia is assuring a more knowledgeable, better trained and better prepared generation of sports business executives for the decades ahead.
But perhaps more important than anything else, our presence in the marketplace over the past decade and a half has led to the creation of a real community that previously didn’t exist. Before the launch of SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily there were dozens of disparate groups all playing in and around sports. Fifteen years ago a marketing vice president in the NFL didn’t think she had much in common with the athletic director at Ohio State, or an architect who designs arenas and stadiums, or a banker who lends money to team owners. Professionals in sports approached their jobs from the perspectives of their own disciplines. Through our ongoing daily and weekly editorial coverage, our Forty Under 40 awards program, our various conferences, our Sports Business Awards and everything else we do, we’ve played an important role in helping these executives realize that they are in the same industry, an industry defined as sports.
Over the years, I’ve been incredibly blessed to have an extremely talented management team and staff. Everything that we’ve been able to achieve is a result of their creativity and hard work. So — to all of the 74 SportsBusiness Journal, SportsBusiness Daily, Global, Resource Guide LIVE and conference group staffers — a HUGE thank you for all of your dedication and hard work that you bring to the table every day. Of our 74 current staffers, 11 have been with us since the very beginning, and their names have appeared on each and every masthead published: Misty Berry, Martin Bounds, Chris Hixenbaugh, Daniel Kaplan, Bill King, John Lombardo, Mark Mensheha, Liz Mullen, Ross Nethery, Tom Stinson and myself. A special thanks and nod to each of you on our anniversary celebration!
Because of the work of this talented and dedicated staff, I know the future of our enterprise is as promising as our past has been memorable. We look forward to adding many more highlights to the record of this industry and our Sports Business Group in the years to come.
Lastly, as we pause in December of 2013 to look back at SBJ’s 15th anniversary and SBD’s 20th, I’d like to thank all of you, our loyal subscribers, advertisers and sponsors who have embraced this franchise over the years. Without your support, the “great idea” Mr. Shaw had so many years ago would be, like many promising ideas in publishing, a mere memory instead of the thriving franchise it is today. We could not be more grateful for your role in helping us accomplish so much.