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The October 2009 Blogger in the Spotlight is Mark S. Ament from SportsBiz.Blogger in the Spotlight is a monthly series where Newstex turns the spotlight on our publishers with in-depth interviews that give you a glimpse into the stories, tips and secrets of successful bloggers and content producers.This month’s interview is with Mark S. Ament, an attorney who combines his expertise in business, law and sports to publish a highly interesting, insightful and authoritative niche blog - SportsBiz.

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Newstex: How did you get started writing your current blog?Mark S. Ament: At the time I began writing, I was still a practicing attorney and a significant portion of my practice involved the representation of sports industry client. Among these clients, I served as the outside general counsel to a major Division I university’s athletic department for which, among other assignments, I negotiated its multi-million dollar football and basketball coaches’ contracts, including one that, at that time, was among the largest ever done for an NCAA coach.  In addition, I represented the university throughout the process of financing and constructing new football and baseball stadiums and the licensing of media rights which are among the largest collegiate media rights contracts in the country.As with many bloggers, I decided to start the blog as a way for me to keep up with what was new within the business while informing my clients at the same time.  I have since retired from the active practice of law and am now consulting in the sports business, primarily in the areas of marketing and financing.  I have continued writing because I have found it invaluable in keeping in touch and up to date and, frankly, I’ve become somewhat addicted.Newstex: What makes your blog unique?Mark S. Ament: When I started SportsBiz, it was one of the first, if not the first, blog to cover the business side of sports.  There were business blogs, investing blogs and sports blogs, (which were usually fan blogs).  However, there was little that spoke to the people working in the industry and, with a legal and business background, I thought I could help fill the void.Newstex: To what do you attribute your blog’s success?Mark S. Ament: As I mentioned above, there were few blogs dealing with any aspect of the business of sports when I started, so I was able to get first mover advantage.  Of course, that only works if you can continue to produce content that is good enough to keep that advantage. I’d like to think that the reason I’m still around is that I’m filling a niche my readers think is important.Newstex: What are the top 3 tips you can give to bloggers looking to develop successful blogs?Mark S. Ament: Network, network, network; write, write, write.  Okay, so those are really six tips.  Still, blogging is a social medium and it’s important to interact with other bloggers in your chosen field.  Visit those blogs, see what interests people, comment on those blogs and become a member of the community.  Then, and only then, write about what you know and write on a consistent basis, so readers will be in the habit of checking your blog.Newstex: What is the best thing that has happened to you as a result of your work on your blog?Mark S. Ament: Without doubt, it is the opportunity to meet (mostly virtual, but meeting nonetheless) an incredible number of interesting people who I would not have ever met without it.  It’s one of the driving forces that keeps writing.Newstex: What inspires you to keep blogging?Mark S. Ament: Not to be too repetitive, but the community of people I have met is a major reason I continue to blog.  I have also discovered that after spending more years than I care to count writing dry, dull legalese contracts and other legal documents, once given the opportunity to write creatively, I actually quite enjoy writing.Newstex: What are your favorite blogs and why?Mark S. Ament: There are so many -  I have about 75 in my feed reader this week -  but I’ll mention a few that I never miss checking: for business, investing and economic news The Big Picture and   Abnormal Returns, for sports business, CNBC’s sports business reporter, Darren Rovell’s very originally named blog, Sports Biz and The Sports Economist, written by several academic economists, oddly enough, and for general sports and entertainment - The Big Lead.Newstex: What effects do you think blogging will have on traditional media?  How about on your industry?Mark S. Ament: Sports, along with politics, may be the two industries in which the general public has seen and will continue to see the influence of blogs the quickest and most profoundly.  As print journalism, and newspapers in particular, are forced to cut back coverage due to the economy, the blogging community is picking up the slack, often with the same journalists that formerly were writing for the local paper.  Blogging, at least in these industries, is not so slowly transforming itself into the medium of first choice for the news consumer.  While I am not so sure that having a blog network of staff writers from ESPN is necessarily a good thing, it is not inherently more negative than those same writers working for the local newspaper, as they did before joining ESPN.  Whether the corporate behemoths co-opt and/or drown out independent bloggers is probably the great challenge of the next five years.Newstex: At what point did you decide to syndicate your blog with Newstex and why?Mark S. Ament: When I was approached by Newstex, I decided right away to syndicate.  The ability to extend my reach into audiences that I knew I would not be able to reach on my own was simply too good an opportunity to pass up.  It was definitely about growing my audience and extending my brand and not about money, which would be nice but was not, and still isn’t, the driver.  Newstex also offers the independent blogger the opportunity to have the same reach as an in-house blogger at a larger media outlet, such as ESPN or a major newspaper, might have.  There is probably no better way to attempt to level the playing field.Newstex: What’s next for you and your blog?Mark S. Ament: Continue writing and trying to grow my audience.  Become a bit more active with Twitter than I have been, as I think it is a great communication tool if used properly.  Twitter is another social communication medium and should be used as such.  It can attract readers if you use it correctly but turn people off quickly if all you do it tout your own glory.  How long the bloom stays on the Twitter rose is hard to say, but all bloggers should ride as long as it remains there.  Also, I’m going to try to become a bit more adept with video to add that to the blog on a more regular basis as I think it would be both popular and of value. If my audience continues to enjoy the content of the blog, hopefully, my audience will continue to grow and both Newstex and I will be happy.