I was fortunate enough to sit down with Taylor Bloom, the Founder and CEO of SportTechie, the leading publication for all things related to sports technology.
SBB: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are today?
TB: Yeah, I started SportTechie as a blog in 2012, kind of similar to SportsBizBuzz where it was something to learn more about the space and develop some connections. At the time I was working my first job right out of college which was with Fox Sports in their digital division in Los Angeles. SportTechie kept growing organically; we had some great contributing writers that I helped manage, and it seemed to hit at the right time where a lot of people in the space were really interested in how technology was impacting their job, their favorite athletes, venues, and so forth. We became a key resource for this burgeoning intersection and followed that wave – and were fortunate with our timing and the macro trends in the space, and here we are today.
SBB: That’s great to hear. As this journey unfolded, how has SportTechie grown and changed? Has it evolved as you expected or has the focus changed from your original plan?
TB: We have adjusted many times. Being a start-up media company, it’s tough out there, so there’s always the need to balance the pursuit of great reporting and great content with actually monetizing and keeping the lights on. When we started, we were just chasing eyeballs and trying to sell that audience to advertisers. But now we’ve really added serious diversification to our revenue stream; we make money through subscriptions, events, advertising on the site, and consulting. When we started I never envisioned all of those opportunities coming to fruition, but we just kept at it and followed what was allowing us to grow.
SBB: We’ve seen new technologies such as Goal-line technology in soccer become very impactful to the game. As someone who is much more educated on sports technology than most sports fans, what is the next big sports technology that you think we will see?
TB: I don’t think it’s necessarily sports-specific technology, but technology in general; things like Wifi 6 and 5G are getting a lot of buzz for a lot of the right reasons – kind of like where VR and AR were a couple of years ago. These technologies are on the cusp of being widely adopted and there’s a lot of promise for them within fan engagement realms and venue monetization, so I would look at those technologies that are on the horizon as something to keep an eye on for what’s going to massively impact the sports technology industry.
SBB: What about the impact of the use of technology to gather data and run new kinds of analytics on sports?
TB: One of our awesome reporters, Joe Lemire, has done a number of good series this year on analytics in sports and just in general how essentially everything can be tracked now. When you’re a twelve-year-old little league player, your parents can buy you a state-of-the-art sensor to put on the bottom of your bat which syncs to an app and shows you everything you need to know about your swing. And then you can spend your time in your backyard perfecting your swing based on the feedback that you’re given – to the point where you’re copying a professional player’s swing. That kind of stuff goes to all sports now. There’s tech to capture most all data on any movements in sports, and the tech is getting better and better which has led to this massive rise in quantifying and making sense of all that data, and that’s where the analytics experts come into play. Essentially, every level of sports now is being impacted by analytics, whether it’s youth sports, all the way up to elite professional athletes – and that’s a trend that’s not going away. We’re just going to see more data and experts analyzing that data.
SBB: So with all this technology and data analytics, you must see and hear about some pretty crazy applications to sports. Can you think of a couple you want to share?
TB: Yeah, we recently came out with our SportTechie awards for 2019, and one of the nomination categories was for outstanding technology. A couple of the nominees were apps and computer vision technologies that are really cutting edge, one of them is Noah Basketball another is HomeCourt. These are some pretty cool, cutting edge, in this case, basketball technology companies that are trying to change how young players have access to the game and to training. PlayerMaker, a startup based out of Israel, is another one that we highlighted in our nominees that makes wearable motion sensors and software technology that is tracking soccer players for teams all around the world.
SBB: What is your favorite part about your job at SportTechie?
TB: Probably being a part of such an interesting time in the development of sports technology where every month something positive and unexpected happens; we keep pushing forward with a lot of momentum from a macro industry perspective. As we grow it’s like a snowball rolling downhill. We started with the smallest team as a side hobby and now we have all these revenue streams. We’re hiring so many amazing, talented people, and I just never imagined us getting to the place we are today.
SBB: How has your role at SportTechie changed as the company has grown?
TB: I had to go from being the Swiss Army knife who does everything here to managing, delegating, and making room for people that are much more talented or experienced than myself to come in and bring their skill sets and experiences to the table to really help grow us.
SBB: What do you see for the future of SportTechie?
TB: We had some awesome events in 2019 and we’re going to keep pushing on these events and conferences in 2020 and the years beyond. We have a tremendous demand from our audience who interacts with us digitally every day to meet in person and connect, to do business, and to learn at these conferences that we put on – so that’s been a really natural layer to our business that we are going to continue to develop. Beyond that, we want to stay laser-focused on making our audience smarter. That’s why they rely on us, that’s why they come back to us every morning with their cup of coffee. We need to stay ahead of the curve and that’s what we pride ourselves on – and that’s why we’re going to keep building a great lineup of editorial content and continue to be that resource as the entire sports industry becomes more and more tech-centric.
SBB: What advice do you have for young people who are thinking about a career in sports journalism, or even a career as an entrepreneur in the world of sports and technology such as yourself?
TB: I always have thought that you should zig when others zag. There’s a whole lot of people in this world, and if you can find a way to differentiate yourself, then lean on that with all the resources you have. It’s really key to figure out what you can be the best at in the world and just relentlessly try to do that.
SBB: Thank you so much for your time today, Taylor. I really appreciate all your insight on sports technology, and I’m sure our readers will as well.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.