The Woj is turning his abilities to break news into a site of his own with help from Yahoo. The Vertical aims to be a site that covers all aspects of basketball from the business side to shoes to the Draft to player's mental state and so much more.
Wojnarowski is bringing aboard former Wizards beat reporter Michael Lee along with 21-year-old journalism phenom Shams Charania, who gained experience and sources through volunteering at Real GM. The Woj is also bringing experts who can provide a glimpse into the culture of basketball and Yahoo is giving him free rein to partner with other sites and entities to provide this perspective.
....front office insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year NBA front office executive, Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of Draft Express, the industry leaders in global information and content revolving around the NBA Draft, Nick DePaula of NiceKicks.com, the pre-eminent journalist on the basketball shoe industry, Tim Grover, longtime trainer of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant who will provide content centered around the players’ mind and bodyMarks is well known in the basketball universe for his analytical insight on free agency and front office duties fans may not be aware of. His perspective will be unique because he's been a decision maker for a long period of time. He is also a client of a management firm that has access to a plethora of other significant figures in the league. Givony and Schmitz are well known among hardcore fans for their in-depth study of prospects year-round. Its a good idea to bring them on as contributors rather than blowing the bank up and acquiring Draft Express.
DePaula is probably basketball's preeminent sneaker journalist and has the scoop on many negotiations happening between the major shoe companies and athletes. He excelled during Under Armour's pursuit of Kevin Durant being the first reporter to bring that story to the forefront before mainstream networks like ESPN and Yahoo picked up the story. NiceKicks and Draft Express also draw a sizable share of loyal fans and their ability to cross promote The Vertical will help the site easily become a daily destination.
Brian Scalabrine will be offering video content to the site. As of now, Scalabrine has a show known as "The White Mamba Minute" where he weighs in on the hot topics of the season. The compelling series showcases Scalabrine's high octane personality and weird humor in short snippets. It wouldn't be a shocker to see this video series expand further once The Vertical launches. Yahoo has struggled making viral content in the past but depending on the way the season's storylines develop, Scalabrine could be the person who gets Yahoo over that hump.
Scalabrine has a busy schedule due to his reps as a Boston Celtics commentator but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him filming episodes on the road at various NBA arenas interviewing players. It wouldn't be a bad idea to send him on the road to do behind the scenes videos with a comedic flair in the style of Vice News. He has access to players not many journalists have because he was a player.
Yahoo announced this week that they would Yahoo Screen and scrap a chunk of their original productions. I don't expect this announcement to affect The Vertical's video efforts. Given the kind of access many of The Vertical's contributors have, it shouldn't be a surprise to see interviews, workouts, play breakdown, debate and behind the scenes video surrounding the written work.
Native advertising may even play a role in The Vertical's plans. The Woj was the first person to tweet out video from State Farm's Christmas Day campaign "The Hoopers," which featured Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Kevin Love among other players. He tweeted the video while introducing State Farm as an official sponsor of the site. State Farm, which recently renewed its sponsorship deal with the NBA and featured Chris Paul in a trending Dude Perfect video last week, seems committed to investing in basketball through media. This could open an avenue for compelling content that promotes its product. State Farm could post future short videos of "The Hoopers" or other campaigns featuring NBA athletes exclusively on Woj's site which could help draw a mainstream audience.
The Big Lead is reporting that Woj is targeting Chris Mannix and Zach Lowe as the next big acquisitions for his site. Woj is also widening the scope of his work by entering the podcasting world together with DGital Media. The podcast, named after his website, has already featured NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Detroit Pistons shooting guard Reggie Jackson. As the world of podcasting grows and becomes a dominant medium, expect Woj to learn from his own show to launch other podcasts for his site.
Despite the good outlook, there are still some major concerns. The future of Yahoo as a company is unknown. By this time next year, the company could be sold. There are also indications that the company wants to focus less on content and more on technology no matter what happens over the next year. It also can't be discounted that Woj will be pulling double duty as a content creator and administrator of the site. Not to mention, Woj is also an NBA insider on FS1 during the All Star Game, trade deadline, playoffs and Finals. How does he balance it all? The Big Lead has reported that The MMQB's Peter King is having second thoughts about managing and writing at the same time.
Speaking of Fox, will they be involved with the site at all? Will Woj's TV reports be posted on The Vertical? Will Fox and The Vertical share each other's content on social media or on TV? This is an awkward set-up considering Woj's time constraints and Yahoo Sports' partnership with NBC Sports.
Something else to follow is how involved The Vertical will be in promoting Yahoo Sports' Daily Fantasy basketball games.
Overall, it seems like The Vertical and Yahoo Sports as a whole is one of the few bright spots in Marissa Mayer's empire.