By Jason McKeown
…but nevertheless Width of a Post was proud to reach the 200,000 visitors mark on Sunday, nine months after first launching.
Thank you, valued reader, for your support. And while we take a quick moment to pat ourselves on the back, here’s an article about the site which we originally wrote for The City Gent in August.
The Width of a Post
Anyone who knows me personally will probably be able to tell you two things – I love Bradford City, and I love writing.
The latter area is something that I’m developing a fairly decent professional career in, while a combination of the two has – for a number of years now – taken up a huge amount of my spare time. I’m the editor of the Bradford City supporter website, The Width of a Post – which, as our tagline explains, offers in-depth coverage of the club. The site was established in December 2011; but even though it’s only seven months old, things are going really well. That and there is a fairly large back story.
“Their cavalier use of apostrophes were clearly people living on the very fringes of society,” Alan Partridge
Graduation from University was only a few weeks away, when the class of 2003 Sunderland Journalism students were invited to attend a careers open day, where we could meet media professionals. Talking to my friend on the bus ride over, I realised that I’d not exactly made the most of my three years of University, as he listed a number of people on the same course who had undertaken significant levels of unpaid writing work, aside from study, to boost their credentials.
People who, as we prepared to step out into the big wide world of seeking employment, I should probably consider rivals.
I had done little writing aside from a few football and music-related articles for the student magazine, but it was hardly cutting edge stuff. And so after I returned to live in Yorkshire following graduation to start searching for a writing job, I knew I had to do more to make my CV stand out.
Enter boyfrombrazil.co.uk (BfB). Established four years earlier by Michael Wood, it had become a vital lifeline to me when keeping in touch with City matters while I was living in the North East. I would log on and read every day, to see what was happening at Valley Parade. Now able to attend matches on a regular basis, I took the plunge and got in touch with Michael about writing for his site, in order to improve my writing and to have something, anything, to impress potential employers. I still have print outs of my early BfB articles somewhere. My lack of grammar skills from that time are not exactly a great advert for the British education system, and bother me more than my misguided views of the time about Nicky Law.
“Blogging is hard because of the grind required to stay interesting and relevant,” Sufia Tippu
Writing for BfB was a great learning experience, and an undoubtedly helped in developing my writing style. It may have taken me another 18 months to finally land a writing job, but the hours spent writing articles and match reports had become as notable on the CV as that fellow Sunderland University student who wrote an article for Playboy (well, maybe not quite). I had finally taken that first step on the career ladder, and BfB was one of the reasons why. I didn’t stop there with it, however, and continued to write regular BfB articles on the era of Colin Todd. Without home internet access at the time, friends and family were patient and accommodating when I would pop over at short notice to borrow theirs, so I could upload my latest ramblings and email them to Michael to publish.
BfB took a break for a six-month period in late 2006, and when it returned things became different as the site moved away from news to opinion (or blog). It was – despite the odd compliant from some readers – a logical and rewarding move. The Bradford City of BfB’s early years was full of juicy news stories, player bust ups and rumours. But now in League Two, not a lot happened at Valley Parade in-between matches. Writing opinion articles and in-depth match reports remained a rewarding way to occupy my spare time, and I was now in a position where I could upload and publish articles myself. Michael was the editor, but in many ways we were jointly managing the site.
And it was a great time. Michael and I have very similar views on how to run a football club, but different writing styles – which I think helped to keep the site fresh. We upset some people along the way for sure, but a growing confidence in ourselves and each other helped us to form a strong voice that many City supporters related to. Now in the era of social media and readers doing more than just read, you became acutely aware and appreciative of the audience we had built.
The final year of BfB was especially outstanding, from a personal point of view. We got to interview Mark Lawn, and produced a two-part series that was warmly received and did much to help the Chairman’s flagging reputation amongst fans. A couple of months later, I was able to exclusively break the news that City were in rental talks over Valley Parade – and I’d like to think our coverage of that whole saga rivalled, if not bettered, what our local paper achieved (admittedly the T&A is more restricted in what it could report). Then of course there was Archie Christie, who rocked up at Valley Parade that summer, and who invited me and Michael to spend a once-in-a-lifetime day behind the scenes at the club. The resultant articles we produced were very well received by most people who read them, including the club itself. At one point BfB attracted 20,000 unique visitors in one month – which made us feel proud.
Proud and great mates too. For the first seven years of our friendship, Michael and I met only once when we bumped into each other at an Accrington away match. It was friends through email, usually swapping one or two friendly exchange of opinions every day. We knew each other inside out, apart from what each other looked like. In the final year we started hanging out regularly. Meeting for a pint before the match and travelling together to away games. On the 22nd October, we even sat together in the Macclesfield away end with Christie – he told us in confidence he was about to be appointed the club’s Chief Executive. A surreal moment came during the second half, when Christie shouted over to get Kyel Reid’s attention; who then turned around upon recognising his voice and went onto obey the coaching instructions Archie offered. BfB had peaked.
“The test of democracy is freedom of criticism,” David Ben-Gurion
Barely a week later, we had closed BfB. An argument with the club over an article we published concerning Christie’s departure became very ugly and heated. It was difficult to maintain a love for a club when they ignored the years of positive PR we had given them – and the number of times we defended the owners – by placing a huge and unsettling level of pressure on us. It was scary, it was traumatic, it was tearful (and it affected our nearest and dearest too). But when eventually disputes were settled and life could carry on, there was a huge BfB-sized hole in my life.
Michael and I disagreed on the way forwards. Me, I still love my club despite everything, and I love writing about them. So after a rest, I decided to launch my own site – The Width of a Post – purely to fulfil my desire to write. Michael felt he could never write again about his club. The whole saga had tested our friendship, and the results very depressing. I’ve only seen Michael once since Christmas, and that was accidently bumping into him. I deeply miss my former friend.
Width of a Post started life slowly, with 200-300 hits a day and not much interaction. Going solo was hard at first – twice the work, and no one alongside to share ideas over what is good or bad. When a number of people kindly got in touch asking to write for the site too, the pressure to make it successful and justify their time and effort grew. It was always going to take a bit of time to become established.
“Writers don’t retire. I will always be a writer,” Andy Rooney
By March, readership had doubled, then by June it had doubled again. We had 100,000 hits in the first six months, but July 2012 saw another 35,000 hits alone (not to be confused with unique hits). This is around the level BfB enjoyed a few years ago, before its popularity soared – and hopefully the direction for The Width of a Post will be a similarly upward curve over time.
More meaningful is the feedback, and we’ve had so much positive comments and praise. It really is humbling at times when people take the time to write emails saying how much they love what you do. I used to get positive feedback for BfB, but some of the comments I’ve received recently have been on another level. I’m grateful to anyone who takes the time to read our stuff, it means a lot to me and the other writers.
Some people say The Width of a Post is just like BfB. I agree to a certain extent, but then a lot of the ideas and style of BfB was partly the result of my influence over its last four years especially. Some have said that The Width of a Post is better, but I’m not sure I’d agree – in the sense that two deeply committed writers, giving up so much of their spare time to produce something, is surely better than one person. That said, we do have a fantastic team of people writing for The Width of a Post, which makes it a more multi-voiced affair.
Achievements have been good too. We’ve managed to interview Guy Branston, Mark Bower and Jamie Lawrence – all three confirmed fans of the site too – plus the owners of the US-based Palmetto Bantams. Over this summer we did a survey to find the top 30 City matches over the past 50 years. Our writing staff has grown in number, and I personally think we have written some really good stuff.
Over the course of the season, we look to cover every match and comment on what’s happening in and around the club. We managed to publish a match report of every game since January 3 last season, and hope to do the full lot this time around (though Southend in December already looks tricky, let me know if you’re going!). We also feature in-depth piece on a different player each week.
It is hard work. I need to get the work/website/personal life balance better – The Width of a Post really does eat into my time. But it’s rewarding too. Over the last few months I’ve also become a published author, having written a book about my time supporting Bradford City (Paying on the Gate, you can still buy it on Amazon, plug plug). Compared to November 2011, I am in a very happy place. I’m really looking forward to the new season – and looking forward to me and my excellent team of writers providing in-depth coverage of all the upcoming twists and turns.