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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Athletics Nation: BetterKnowanSFBlog

Posted By on Tue, Sep 18, 2007 at 9:00 AM

Every Tuesday morning, the SF Weekly news blog All Shook Down profiles one of the Bay's many cool blogs. This week, Go As! -d2

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From Fan to 'the Man'

How an A's superfan with no tech experience built a million-reader empire

By Ty Callister

One day in 2003, Athletics Nation founder Tyler Bleszinski decided to drive through the Central Valley heat towards L.A. The sun sapped sweat from his brow and he began to wish he were back in the cool Bay Area wind. Longing for that Bay spirit, Bleszinski switched the radio to the beloved Bay Area AM station KNBR-680.

“I anxiously awaited hearing some discussion or lamenting about the A's failure that post-season,” Bleszinski recalls in his blog’s FAQ section. “I heard nothing but discussion about the hated San Francisco Giants.”

Maybe it was the Central Valley heat, maybe it was the hypnotic flatness, or maybe it was the baseball gods speaking to him that day, but Bleszinski had an epiphany. He knew he was destined to create a blog so dedicated to the Oakland A’s that it would give readers green and gold nosebleeds. It would be called “Athletics Nation” and people from all around the na—well, Oakland—would flock to read it.

He was right.

Despite the fact that the A’s are a low budget team, Athletics Nation is now one of the most popular sports blogs on the Internet. Bleszinski has been featured in ...

Sports Illustrated and The New York Times, and he’s built a rapport with the A’s organization who have allowed him to regularly interview A’s general manager Billy Beane as well as many of the players. With these new relationships Bleszinski says he has an even deeper emotional attachment to the A’s than ever before.

What he’s discovered is an untapped market in a medium that never changes channels.

“People are starving to talk about their team 24/7, 365,” he says. “It’s really about fan empowerment,” Bleszinski says. “The fans shouldn’t be shut out of the conversation.”

Just like the fans at a baseball game, a few of the commenters are loudmouth drunks. But Bleszinski does not moderate Athletics Nation himself. Instead, he’s appointed a few dedicated community members to moderate the discussion. Those who misbehave (posting comments like, “my Chihuahua knows more about baseball than you do,” and “why don't you go play with your dolls”) are given a fitting “three strikes” before they’re kicked out.

“I try to keep the conversation a little bit above typical message board fodder,” Bleszinski explains.

Bleszinski is an unabashed A’s fan, and that’s how he approaches his work.

“I don’t have to pretend to be objective,” he says. “And the reality is there’s no such thing as objectivity.”

In December of 2004, Bleszinski launched his own full-time business called SportsBlogs Nation —an entire network of 130 sports blogs with 11 million page views per month. Now, Bleszinski is the president of a legion of bloggers all over the country who write about dozens of teams and various sporting ventures, with an audience of 1.1 million users according to Google Analytics. Some of the more unique blogs include Male Pattern Fitness featuring fitness journalism veteran Lou Schuler, and Bloody Elbow, a mixed martial arts blog with a penchant for hot chicks in almost-lesbian situations.

Bleszinski started the Athletics Nation site with no tech experience at all.

“I learned as I went,” he says.

Now, Bleszinski has become a go-to guy for tech questions, and his company has blogospheric innovations they hope to apply to the site by the end of the year.

“I think people are gonna be blown away by the new blogging platform,” he says.

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David Downs

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