Matt Cerrone Interview (Part 1)

Matt Cerrone started metsblog.com, in the early 2000s. Since then the blog has expanded and is now part of SNY.  

We think he is a great writer and both of us have been reading his articles for the past eight years. We recommend you check out the website.

We appreciate the fact that Matt took the time to speak with us.

Today’s piece is about the history of his website, how he started blogging, and his future goals. Check back tomorrow for Part 2, in which we ask him his thoughts on the Mets’ 2017 season. Enjoy! – Josh Finkelstein and Justin Fried. 

Josh: I read an article on Forbes that said you initially started Metsblog for a class while you were in college, what made you want to continue it after that?

Matt: People were reading. I don’t how they found it, but they were. I was down in D.C. so I was out of market. It was 13 or 14 years ago so it was a little more difficult to keep in contact with a different news cycle as compared to today to say the least. And so continuing to force myself to write and make a community, it was nice since it was a way to stay connected in New York after moving to D.C.I did it since people were reading, it was fun, and I was enjoying it.

Josh: I also saw within that article that you do not like to refer to yourself as a journalist and would rather just be a big Mets fan writing about the team. Did you ever think that you wanted to get involved in sports journalism? And what made you decide that you did not want to be associated with other journalists?

Matt: I was going to school for journalism and I was enjoying working in media. I was working in relations a few years prior to that and to me, journalism means that you are serving the truth and that is what your main focus is and that is all that absolutely matters. However, that is not why I was writing. That’s not why I write today. I mean, yes, I do want to know what is going on but my main concern is writing my information, my thoughts, and my experiences as a fan and what I feel about these stories and direction of the team as a whole. It is far more emotional and much more opinion driven I feel like in terms of its motivation. The service I am providing isn’t necessarily a question of the truth so much so as it is context and trying to give my audience and online Mets fans a place to get the full scope of everything going on, from the emotional, to the intellectual, to the statistical, to the video, etc. to put together the full context of what is happening. So, to me, it doesn’t coincide with what a beat reporter is trying to hold the team accountable, to get the truth. Winning and losing is irrelevant, that is not necessarily what they care about. Sincerity is not necessarily what they care about. There are places where this overlaps. There are places where you are always seeking the truth and places that you are not. I feel like as a journalist you are always seeking the truth. There is no grey area, or at least there shouldn’t be. It is kind of a hard question to answer. It’s funny, I answered that question about five years ago and today is makes less sense because the line, not just with sports, but with all industries, and genres for the media is grey. I mean, what is an opinion and what is fact? Who is left-leaning, who is right leaning? Who is pro-team and who is against it? What is their agenda? People ask those questions so much more now so I think it is a lot more grey, in general, so when I gave that answer to Forbes, the media landscape was something else. Today it is something else. And I’m sure 5 years from now it will have a different content.

Justin: When did you realize that you could turn your passion for the Mets into a legitimate career path?

Matt: I would say it around 2005. The organization went through a change, they shifted. They fired a bunch of people and they hired a new crew. It was around the time other Mets blogs were coming on board, so there was more information out there. I pivoted from being, sort of, a pretend news organization, to Matt Cerrone and Metsblog where I could potentially put myself in a position to be a navigator. It didn’t matter to me if there were other Mets sites. In fact the more the merrier because I wanted to position myself to be the person you went to to get more and then get my thoughts too.  So, I think, when I made that pivot and put my name and face on the site, it gave me the power of creating a one on one bond with the reader. There was a lot of traction, the site was increasing in audience and I started to make a little money from advertising. All of this started to happen within a six to twelve month span after doing the site for two years. After experiencing that much growth within a year, I realized that I can do this so I really started to push everything else aside and focus on it. That was, subsequently, when the team television network launched (SNY) and I actually turned down an offer to leave Metsblog completely and work in Connecticut. I decided to stick with Metsblog and I approached SNY and we reached a partnership and from there it all fell into place, but I would say around that 12-18 month span, in 2005-2006, when the team was turning around and winning the site received more interest. It started growing and everything came together.

Justin: What do you believe is the biggest reason that your blog is such a success?

Matt: I think it is a variety of things. Like I said before, the one on one relationship is good as a write in a way that is much more personal. Now I think it is a little more tonic, but at the time I think it was a little more unique approach in writing. I did a lot more “you and I”, it wasn’t “we, with the team”, “us vs. them.” That dynamic helps create a bond with the audience. I think, also, the tactical decision to differentiate between news and opinion. So, now there’s an avatar to associate the text with the reaction, but back then it was all the same so I would do news in straight text and opinion was all lowercase in italics. So the style to let the audience understand that this is the information, this is the news, and here is what I think. And while that is common now, back then it was kind of new and I think those little things helped, I think the domain name helped a ton, I think, go to Metsblog.com not Metswebblog.com which I was playing with a few years before that. That obviously helped. I think being in a position to have a different job, have a girlfriend who was incredibly patient with me when I wasn’t making a ton of money while I was spending a ton of time with it. I was sort of the eyes and ears for people who couldn’t do that because they were going to meetings or going to their kid’s little league game. I made that sacrifice on my end in terms of income so that they could have a touch point and a resource and thankfully, that grew and became profitable, but at the time it certainly wasn’t. I think all those things kind of come together to make it work. It’s not really one simple answer. I think a lot of people always think it is the domain name which always makes me laugh.

Justin: You were basically able to eliminate that feeling of superiority that is associated with a journalist or a beat reporter, and basically just make it a community almost, right?

Matt: Sort of, to be honest with you, I have never really been the community type person. To me it begins with the content and ends with the satisfaction element of it. I do this work and you get this and that out of the relationship; you get informed, your opinion is validated, whatever it might be. To me it is far more, again, one-on-one and less about building the many and providing this place for people to talk and hangout. The comment section, for me, has always been a struggle, because for me it has added value to the overall audience. However, only a very small minority of the audience engages in the comment section and so for me it has always been about what is on the main page and how that benefits the reader and so making a community, in that regard, was never really my main focus. I let that go, a lot of other websites do a much better job with that comments section and that’s great. That is what they do well. What I do well on is content on the site so that’s what I focus on.

Justin: What are your goals in the future with the blog? Are you content with the way it is currently, or are some current goals you are trying to achieve in regards to the blog?

Matt: Great question! I don’t really have an answer for it. I think anybody who answers you that question straightforward and confidently is full of it. In terms of, personally, I will keep writing as long as it is fun and as long as people are reading. It’s really that simple. I have other content related aspirations in the sense that I would like to work a lot more with sports brands, not necessarily news makers, to build their own content businesses, create their own audiences and communicate with their fans in ways that fit their specific needs whether its some product or tickets or whatever it might be, but that’s where I see my personal future. Professionally, I think it goes as I said before: if it is fun and people are reading I will keep doing it, if it isn’t then I won’t.

 

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  1. Pingback: Matt Cerrone Interview (Part II) | The Red Beat

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