I am a sports and travel writer who recently launched my own website. I worked for Bleacher Report for 3 years and proposed on an elephant in Thailand. AMA!

Justin Hussong
May 14, 2018

AMA about sports, becoming a writer for a big platform, creating a website, traveling the world, building a startup, and anything sports, travel and writing!

It's tough making an impact in journalism and sports media, which becomes more and more competitive by the day.

Read me on Bleacher Report

Check out my new site Heat Checks

twitter.com/Heat_Checks

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Any tips on how to improve SEO performance of a website?
May 20, 4:24AM EDT0

1. Site speed. If it takes your site more than 4 seconds to load, users will leave and Google will rank it much lower. It’s not a difficult thing to fix and you can find free tools that will help you on Google!

2. Getting backlinks is imperative. Each one from a high authority source is basically a reference telling Google to look at your site.

3. Long, well-written content. Most results on the first page of Google are articles over 1000-2000 words in length with specific targeted keywords. Do your keyword research and then establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry centered around those keywords.

May 20, 11:29AM EDT0
Is sports journalism a financially rewarding career?
May 19, 1:15PM EDT0

Not really unless you reach the top of the ladder, and even then you’ve seen countless layoffs recently at ESPN. Now is a better time than ever to do your own thing, because blogging, podcasting and video are all methods of being your own boss and you can make just as much if not more by creating your own avenue.

May 20, 11:30AM EDT0
If you could interview any athlete, who would it be?
May 19, 8:20AM EDT0

Tough question! Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson and LeBron come to mind. Ali and Jackie were such pioneers and would have an endless amount of insight to offer since they’ve been through so much, and I still don’t think we really know who LeBron is so he would be fascinating as well.

May 20, 11:43AM EDT0
Do you still write for Bleacher Report today?
May 19, 1:09AM EDT0

Nope, but I loved my time there and got to work with some amazing people. I am putting all my energy into Heat Checks now.

May 19, 1:20AM EDT0
Is your future wife/now wife supportive of your writing career?
May 18, 2:39PM EDT0

100%. I think if your spouse isn’t supportive of your dreams then you married the wrong person.

May 18, 3:22PM EDT0
What’s the most memorable article you ever wrote for Bleacher Report?
May 18, 1:29PM EDT0

This one - bleacherreport.com/articles/1533523-breaking-down-why-lebron-is-already-better-than-kobe-and-jordan

B/R changed and I no longer have a profile that contains access to every article I’ve written. I also can’t Google my name and pull them up since as you can see, the name only appears on their articles now as a twitter account, which is kind of a shame. To find everything I wrote would require some digging.

This LeBron article got over 50,000 reads and 600 comments and was picked up by the LA Times for a while, which made it special to me. I am also proud of the content itself, as 5 years later it looks to be a strong prediction at the time.

May 18, 3:43PM EDT0
Do you approach brands/businesses to advertise on your page?
May 18, 12:45PM EDT0

Not yet since my website is so new, but this is definitely something I will be getting into once I have more traffic.

May 18, 3:29PM EDT0
Do you work on your own or do you have a team working on your website?
May 18, 8:53AM EDT0

Just me. Eventually I plan to bring on other voices to contribute articles here and there, but I am not at that stage yet.

May 18, 3:30PM EDT0
How does one make money from websites?
May 18, 6:00AM EDT0

There are an endless amount of options. You can sell services such as coaching or consulting. You can sell ad space. You can sell products such as ebooks, merchandise, or anything else you create. You can make money through affiliate marketing, which is a big one. You can make money through gets posts. Lots of different ways to monetize!

May 18, 6:18AM EDT0
Are you excited about World Cup 2018? Will you write on it if required?
May 16, 9:17PM EDT0

I am excited to watch the World Cup, though I will not be writing about it. Since launching Heat Checks, any and all sports I write will be 100% for my own platform (aside from potential guest posts) and I do not consider myself a strong enough soccer fan to adequately cover the World Cup. I don’t want to cover anything that I don’t know well because it will insult the intelligence of my audience.

May 17, 1:05AM EDT0
How do you feel about blogs? Are most of the useless, or do you think it’s the future of the industry?
May 16, 11:06AM EDT1

I'm 100% in support of blogs. When you really think about it, all the big sites such as Bleacher Report, Deadspin, Barstool and whoever else...they're all just blogs. The difference is they have more resources because they stuck with it and created more content and grew bigger than all the other blogs.

That is what makes blogs great. Anyone can create the next Bleacher Report if they stay at it. The only useless blogs are the ones that provide no value and the ones that the owner gave up on. Blogs are bigger than ever and will continue to be since mainstream news is so saturated and headline-driven. People will continue to seek out blogs in the future to find real sources of authenticity and entertainment.

May 16, 1:46PM EDT0

Can you tell me the path you took (education, internships) to become a sports writer?  One of my children is interested in this career path.  Thank you!

May 16, 8:38AM EDT1

Sure! I got my degree in Journalism as the University of Arizona. They have a solid program that covered all the bases and didn’t stress the importance of locking yourself into one category early on. Because of that, I was able to learn about photojournalism, filming, production, and really learning how to conduct interviews with everyone from random college students to pro athletes and politicians.

Sports writing is a brutal business to get into and is not always my full-time avenue. I was fortunate enough to get an internship with Bleacher Report in college and got promoted 3 times yet still never became a full-time writer there, which just goes to show how competitive it all is. While in college, I also wrote for the school paper in different capacities and worked for the production team on the school’s sports program. 

My advice would be to just take any and all opportunities early on. Worry about money later and instead focus on just building up your portfolio and your reel and getting as many reps as you can working on your craft. Don’t feel pressured to fall in love with one aspect of journalism early on because it is a versatile industry that you can make the most of if you have an array of different skills.

I don’t know how old your child is, but it is never too early to start your own website, youtube channel or podcast and just become part of the conversation at an early age. Create as much content as you can.

May 16, 12:52PM EDT0
If you could go back in time and tell younger self one thing about writing, what would it be?
May 16, 6:41AM EDT0

Don't censor yourself. You can develop some bad habits by listening too much to other people, catering to search engines and following strict guidelines. Writing is a beautiful art and you should never hesitate to tell your story and develop your own style.

May 16, 2:57PM EDT0
What is the best advice you have gotten in your career?
May 16, 5:31AM EDT0

Stop bullshitting yourself. Everyone is lying to themselves about something, and once you are able to audit your actions and become super self aware, you can really filter out the negative habits or aspects of your life and become a better person and worker. I remind myself of this every day.

May 16, 5:53AM EDT0
What’s your favourite travel book and why?
May 15, 10:31PM EDT0

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It's all about how a shepherd boy traveled the world in search of treasure but winds up finding himself instead, which is something I believe everyone should do.

May 15, 11:24PM EDT0
As a writer, do you suffer from writers' block? How do you manage it?
May 15, 8:51PM EDT0

Once in a while. It happens less often when I'm writing more. The best way for me is to just walk away from the computer. Go outside and run on the beach, or I go to the gym and lift weights or play basketball. The endorphin rush and completely removing myself from writing makes it easier to return with a fresh mind.

May 15, 11:17PM EDT0
How do you see journalism evolve in the next 10 years? What changes would you like to see?
May 15, 11:40AM EDT0

I hope that the small local papers don't all die off. It's been a disturbing trend seeing them get bought out by big companies. Over the next 10 years, I think we'll see a greater emphasis on deep, smart analysis. A lot of content now is created simply for clicks and shock value, and it's not the most sustainable model in an era where we continue to gain more and more access to information.

There should also be added stress on niche topics. There's so many content and social platforms now that I believe a lot of publications and journalists are spread too thin and are expected to be experts on 50 different things, while they'd produce more valuable work if they focused on maybe 5 things instead.

I would like to see a greater emphasis placed on storytelling and the truth. Authenticity is starting to win out and become the real method for success. You see this in podcasting because there is no objective middle man corporation or figurehead dictating what sort of content should be created. The artists will hopefully continue to be the ones that tell the story, not the middlemen only focused on either the bottom line or what they think the audience might want to hear.

May 15, 11:11PM EDT0
What are some tricks and tips you would give to someone trying to improve their website's SEO?
May 15, 8:17AM EDT0

Site speed and backlinks are two of the most important barometers for SEO. Google (among others) runs a free test so you can figure out all the areas of your site that are slowing down your page speed. Fixing these doesn't take much time and is critical to an SEO strategy.

For building backlinks, there's a bunch of ways to go about it. Look into HARO pitches, broken-link building, guest posts, infographics, extensive content promotion, and finding out what sources link to your competitors.

May 15, 10:58PM EDT0
You proposed on an elephant in Thailand! How awesome is that! Where did you come up with the idea and was the answer yes?
May 15, 5:55AM EDT0

My then-girlfriend’s favorite animal is the elephant, so it was perfect.

We were in a long distance relationship at the time so I wanted to make the proposal worth it. My original plan was to have the elephant hand her the ring, which would have been possible had our tour guide spoken better English. Plan B was just proposing on top of the elephant while we were trekking through the forest together.

And yes...she said yes haha. I wrote a little more about it on my site!

heatchecks.com/3-nights-bangkok-adventure-lifetime-thailand/

Last edited @ May 15, 7:15AM EDT.
May 15, 7:14AM EDT0
What CMS or platform would you recommend to create a website that complies with the trends of web design and UI?
May 15, 1:39AM EDT0

Definitely Wordpress.org. Once you get further along and more comfortable you can pony up some cash for a custom CMS, but Wordpress is great and very flexible. Do plenty of research on the kind of theme you want and make sure to find one that integrates seamlessly. My biggest holdup in launching Heat Checks was my first theme being utter trash. It was clunky and I couldn’t get anything done until I just decided to get a new one, which sped up the process tremendously. Hosting on BlueHost is great as well.

May 15, 7:07AM EDT0
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