Vikram Kamboj: Interview with Editor-in-Chief of “The Sports Mirror”
Vikram Kamboj is the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of “The Sports Mirror”, a popular online magazine that covers sports reviews, news and opinions from India and around the world. The Sports Mirror also provides fixtures, live scores, details on sports scenarios and famous sportsmen. It is known for its comprehensive coverage of cricket, football, golf, tennis, hockey, badminton and athletics.
Vikram Kamboj is a senior journalist with 10 years of experience in this field. He started his career in sports journalism and worked with several media houses. You can visit his website at The Sports Mirror and follow him on Twitter @TheSportsMirror or @VikramKamboj.
Interview with Vikram Kamboj
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Congratulations for winning the “Best Sports Blog” in India at Blogadda this year. In hindsight, what was your strategy and the key to success in achieving that goal?
Thanks a lot! This wouldn’t have become possible without all the support of my team members and audience who showed keen interest in my work. Like every other successful blogger, I made sure I do at least one thing daily to improve my blog. I kept returning to my blog even when I was busy. Yes, that was challenging but that’s the way it has to be. I have been consistent throughout. Whether it’s about writing fresh and informative content or publishing it daily on my blog, I made sure I was there for my readers. And, this is the key to having a successful blog. So, all you people out there, always stick to work you’ve started, devote time, invest energy and you’ll certainly come out with flying colours!
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Let’s have a look at the figures: How many monthly views and subscribers does The Sports Mirror have? How do you monetize from your website?
Well, I feel there’s a lot to be done right now but since you’re asking me it’s around 4 Lac (400,000) monthly views I get on The Sports Mirror website which is around 13K views per day. My site has a monthly subscriber base of 15K.
And, as far as monetization is concerned, I do that through advertising, affiliate marketing, syndication, freelance, events, partnerships, content sharing, and speaking gigs.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What types of articles do you particularly enjoy writing about? What was the most popular article in The Sports Mirror so far and what do you think was the reason for that?
I have been writing sports articles on my website as well as my blog. However, I have always liked writing inspirational articles associated with sports and how certain players have left their mark in the sports industry. I love writing that kind of stuff that leaves me with a smile and sense of pride that yes, I belong to this industry where there is no dearth of role models. And, as you know, there’s a lot you can learn from sports. I have learnt a lot too!
The most popular article in The Sports Mirror so far has been ‘Mary Kom: More than a sporting hero’. The reason, if you ask me, was quite evident. As soon as this article was published, it became a hit amongst readers. It’s not that the article was beautifully written that it received so many views but the feel of the article was so great that it moved readers and they liked it, shared it and left their generous comments on it. And, why wouldn’t it be moving? After all the article featured Mary Kom, a true sportsperson and fighter from India.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What do you enjoy more: practising sports yourself or watching others and commenting/writing about it?
To be honest, I can’t tell which one I enjoy more. All three have their own charm. As mentioned earlier, I love playing sports. Sports are the first love of my life. It’s as if I was born to be associated with this industry be it playing sports or watching others play or writing or commenting about it.
I make sure I don’t miss any cricket or tennis match throughout the year. Badminton, golf and football are other sports I really fancy.
Now coming to writing, I don’t remember leaving any sports I haven’t written until now. Writing about sports is my passion and I will continue to write for times unknown.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: The Sports Mirror was founded by you and your wife Pooja in 2010. What would you say was the best move and what was the biggest mistake you made ever since? Have you changed your strategy at some point since you started?
I and my wife had a keen interest in sports and we wanted to share our experience and knowledge in the field with others. So, we thought of starting an online sports magazine which I think was the best move of our lives. All that we have learnt in sports blogging and more, is through our experiences in the field. No one taught us or we didn’t join some professional course in order to learn the stuff we know today.
We started as amateurs and today we can say that we are good at what we do, if not pro! Yes, we have made a number of mistakes throughout the journey but we have always learnt from them. Initially, when we started we didn’t know the importance of publishing content daily and soon realized we would lag behind if we don’t take our work seriously. So, that’s the biggest mistake I can remember. But, yes we learnt from it and really improved our frequency of publishing content on our magazine and also the blog.
As stated earlier, we didn’t have a business plan or marketing strategy, we just wanted to pursue a career in a field we loved and that brought us to sports blogging.
My wife is truly the rockstar in our business. She is my advisor, supporter, investor and fan. Having a super supportive spouse is the key to my success.
Working with someone you trust, someone equally motivated, and someone who also understands your responsibilities beyond work, was helpful throughout the journey. I am blessed to have a supportive family. All, we require to make things possible is hard work, dedication and faith in ourselves, and of course, support from our family and friends.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: How do you plan the content for your magazine? What tools do you use and how do you manage your team (remotely, onsite or both)?
My magazine is handled by a team of contributors. And, usually these contributors come from different places and might also be placed in different time zones — something that makes your job really challenging. Needless to say, managing team meetings becomes a big obstacle in this case. Not only this, we face real problems when contributors we hire are working in a full-time job and take writing as an additional challenge. So, it becomes really hard to promote team work amongst these freelancers or volunteers.
When it comes to tools that help in managing team blog members online, the list is endless. Moreover, you have tools that give you a bit of flexibility, something that traditional meetings can’t offer. Forums, Facebook, Private Groups using Google Groups, Redbooth (or Teambox) are some of the tools that I often use for managing things.
Teambox is a kind of social project management and collaboration tool. The goal of Redbooth is to turn online collaboration and project management simple and fun. Offering features same as social media platforms like threaded conversations, activity streams, commenting, RSS Feeds, inbox management, alerts and much more, this tool primarily concentrates on ease-of-use.
I also interact with freelancers and other contributors via phone calls, email, Skype to offer feedback, give directions and suggestions etc.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: There are some companies that offer artificial intelligence solutions to companies to meet their content creation needs. I personally tried it out once. Even though initially I was sceptical, I must say the article did not show any mistakes of any kind and I would not have thought that it was produced by a machine. Let’s also not ignore the fact that content could be created in a quicker and more cost-effective way by using AI. However, I also realise that not for every type of content, artificial intelligence might be a feasible solution. What is your opinion on that? Would you personally ever consider relying on a machine to write your articles rather than a human writer if you can’t see any flaws in it? Or would you consider choosing both options in order to maximise your content?
According to me, content should always be handled by human writers as there has to be a human touch to whatever you are writing for readers. Think about it, your readers are humans, not machines. They don’t understand content that’s search engine friendly, they want content that’s interesting and informative.
I have never relied on machines and don’t think I will ever rely on them. I have a team of writers that writes great content so I don’t really feel the need to maximize my content.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: We all know how important it is nowadays to have a social media presence. What channels are the most effective ones for The Sports Mirror and what experiences did you have with them? Are you considering of adding some other ones in the near future, too?
Yes, there’s no denying the fact that having a social media presence today is the key to success. If you don’t have a robust online presence on social media networking sites, you are much behind the race. People will never know you if you are missing from these social media platforms as you tend to get a lot exposure on these sites. Remember, this is the platform where people hangout with their friends and relatives in their leisure time and if you can leverage that time to advertise your products and more, that would be great.
As far as top social media sites are concerned, I find Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Pinterest very useful. But, if you talk about the most effective ones for ‘The Sports Mirror’ then Facebook and Twitter work really well for my sports magazine. We make sure we reach out to our audience through Facebook and Twitter.
Yes, I am thinking of adding all the social media icons on my blog to sports magazine as well.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: That’s a good idea, in that case you would get double exposure. How do you keep your knowledge in the sports news industry up-to-date?
Well, it’s not easy to keep yourself updated in the sports news industry as this is a niche that’s continuously evolving. Moreover, you need to make sure that you keep your readers also updated on different events and developments in an informative yet interesting way, particularly when you come from a field of sports blogging. Besides my sports magazine, I ensure that I keep returning to my blog, too. F,or staying updated I visit different forums and discussion boards, different live sports events, seminars, conferences, newspapers, blogs, websites, journals, literature and more. Apart from this, I don’t miss an opportunity to read different books and talk to other people in the same industry.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What do you enjoy the most about your job and what the least?
I really love visiting different sports events, watching the players perform, interacting with them, taking selfies with sports personalities and everything that thrills me. I also don’t miss a chance to visit the places around the sports venue as I love travelling to new places. So, I ensure I make the most of every moment spent outdoors while attending sports events.
Well, there’s nothing that I don’t like about my job. The only thing that I find challenging is to be consistent in publishing content on my magazine and blog. As of now, me and my team have lived up to the readers’ expectations and we hope to do so for a long term!
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What can a magazine publisher in India earn on average?
Well, there’s no limit to it. It all depends on how seriously you take your work or the extent to which you stretch your work. My monthly earning comes around 6-figures (Indian Rupees).
Karin Schroeck-Singh: If someone would ask you “Why should I read your sports magazine?” What would your answer be?
The Sports Mirror is one-of-its-kind Indian sports magazine that not only brings you latest updates on domestic and international sports, but also shares inspiring stories of top sports people that encourage you to excel in the field. The magazine even brings them interesting facts and things that keep them sufficiently entertained!
Karin Schroeck-Singh: With so many sports events going on simultaneously in India but also globally, how do you manage to cover them all?
Yes, that’s a real challenge. However, I have a good team of content developers, designers, curators and more whom I can rely on. When I am not there and have gone to attend some sports event, I know work is being done. This gives me confidence to take out time for almost every sports event that comes my way.
Another important thing that keeps me going is the excitement and curiosity to visit different events. So, I ensure I make the most out of each sports event I attend.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What are the biggest challenges that you are facing in your job?
As mentioned earlier, it becomes really difficult to manage so many things at one point of time. You need to make sure things are being done in a righteous way, whether you are doing it yourself or getting it done from someone else. As you know, “doing work yourself is much easier than getting it done from others”. However, you can’t do everything yourself, you need to have a team. So the first biggest challenge is to manage this team and getting work done from all these team members.
Secondly, consistency is very important in sports blogging and content publishing for sports magazine. Not only this, we as a team need to answer all the queries readers post on our web space. However, given that there are only 24 hours in a day and there’s a lot to be done, it becomes a big challenge to maintain consistency of every aspect related to online blogging.
Thirdly, as said previously there’s a lot going on around us, so it becomes really hard to cover each and every bit of sports field. We do try to cover everything but usually miss out something or the other. Staying updated works, but it’s tricky because you always need to choose between two news pieces and pick the one that’s more important to readers. Sometimes, both might be important but due to a lack of time you are compelled to drop either one of them.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What are the 5 most important lessons you learnt so far in your career?
If you ask me, I am still learning and would always want to stay on the learner’s side. Yes, I might be inspiring many in the field but always prefer to pick up the best things in life from others as well.
Now, the 5 most important lessons I’ve learnt so far:
# 1 — If you don’t have a goal, you reach nowhere
Just like sports, your life works great only when you have a clear picture of objectives. If you really want to reach somewhere in life, you must know what you really want from your life. So, have a clear vision of what your life should be in coming years.
# 2 — If you don’t work as a team, you lose
Well, there’s no catch in it. You can never be one man army when it comes to sports blogging. Even the best of the bloggers need content writers, designers, analysts, developers and more. So, if you want to do great in blogging or any other field, you need to cement mutually supportive work relationships where everyone helps each other improve. In fact, helping others succeed is the best way you can do it.
# 3 — If you don’t make any rules, you’re most likely to lag behind
Every one of us wants a shortcut to achieve our goals. However, as you know there’s no shortcut to success. Although, there’s nothing wrong if you stick to a more effective way to get your things done, you should always make your own rules and principles — something you stick to even if you don’t want to. Breaking rules might provide short-term benefits, however, if you build a castle on a foundation of sand, it would eventually go down.
# 4 — You need to be honest with yourself
You can always fool others, but you will not be able to fool yourself. If you’re not working enough or not investing the right amount of time, you’ll eventually fail. I have often seen people taking up time management coaching which is great. However, by just taking these classes you can’t do enough for yourself. Often, they convince themselves that by staying busy they’re being efficient. However, deep down they are aware that they are fooling themselves. When they realize they should make changes, they do it and they improve. As a result, the results enhance in a significant way.
# 5 — Focus on what you can do best
Everyone has his own set of skills and attributes. However, there would be things you won’t be good at and things you’re really good at. Please note that you don’t need to be a champion of all things. Perhaps, you own your own unique offerings, always focus on offering those to others.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What good and bad experiences did you have so far when dealing with sports personalities and your team members?
Well, I can’t recall any bad experience in my life with any sports personality or team member. However, I can share one good experience with you. It was during the Indian Premier League Season 2 when cricketer Yuvraj Singh took out his shirt and gifted it to my elder daughter. I was really happy seeing this and I was just standing along with my daughter. I can still remember that big smile on my daughter’s face. Just loved it!
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Lovely! I know exactly how that feels, it reminds me of my teenage years…. I watched Motocross World Championships with my family across Europe in the 80s/90s/later and I got the official racing shirts from two well-known racing professionls — Eric Geboers (B), Gert Jan van Doorn (NL) and Joergen Nilsson (S) — after supporting them on the track and being a big fan.
Now let’s get back to our questions. Let’s say a sports-enthusiastic female writer approaches you and would like to start her own sports magazine by targeting sportive women. What 5 tips of advice would you give her?
Well, that’s an interesting question. I believe a sports blogger or any other blogger can only survive by helping others in the same niche. At least, this holds true for a digital sports magazine. If a sports-enthusiastic female writer approaches me for starting her own sports magazine, I would certainly want to help her and advise her to be first committed towards sports writing and have patience as it might take time to achieve the desired results.
Secondly, she should give equal importance to the contribution of women to sports, not only in India but outside as well. Her focus should be local as well as International acquainting people with different achievements of women players coming from different nations, communities and sports areas.
Thirdly, it’s important to stay updated on what’s happening out there as it is crucial to stay abreast of latest developments in the sports industry. This would always keep her mind stuffed with fresh ideas and topics she needs to write on.
Next, she should know the importance of releasing sports-related content at the right time. Let’s say if the World Cup is going on and you are not bringing the latest updates on it as they happen, you are surely missing out on the huge followership. At one point of time, people might take your magazine as an unreliable source. So, timing is very important in a sports magazine.
Lastly, she should know, that there is an audience out there which is enthusiastic to know and connect with like-minded people. Hence, she should be able to answer the different queries of the audience, engage with them on a certain topic, event or happening. So, basically she should consistently spend time with her readers and that not just out of duty, but out of interest, too.
These are the five tips I would definitely give her!
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing this great advice and who knows, maybe among my readers there is someone who plans taking up this challenge soon. Now let’s talk more about your experiences. Can you remember any funny, memorable, scary or special episode you had with a sports personality? Would be great if you could share it with my audience.
I have had many experiences with different sports personalities but the one I can recall right now is the recent one with cricketer MS Dhoni on the release of the movie MS Dhoni — The Untold Story. Not only did I get a chance to meet him, but also watched the movie with the legend himself.
It was simply great to learn about the kind of hard work he invested to become what he is today. And, his Untold Story is revolving around his struggle with life and how he came out with flying colours and became a cricketer. We also had a one to one interaction and discussed few things regarding sports while watching his movie.
All I want to say is I can’t forget this experience, MS Dhoni is a real sports idol.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: When you are hiring a sports blogger, what are the 3 main characteristics that you are looking for?
Well, I am not an expert in recruitment but when it comes to hiring a sports blogger, the first thing I always want to know is their interest in sports. The blogger has to have a keen interest in sports whatsoever. Interest here doesn’t mean just playing different sports but having the required knowledge of different sports. The person should be well informed of what’s going on in different sports industries and the various developments that have taken place recently.
Secondly, they should be able to write good and meaningful content that engages the reader. Writing about sports is not just enough, they should use their insights related to sports and come out with something that compels readers to think or motivates them.
Thirdly, the person should be someone who takes blogging seriously and is very consistent throughout. It is always a plus if the blogger has prior experience in sports writing, but even if he doesn’t have any; I never compromise on the consistency and commitment to work.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What are the 5 interview questions you usually ask your content writers before hiring them?
Hiring a content writer has always been a time-consuming and tiresome process for me as I am shocked to see the way the content writing industry is scattered. Everyone says “I am a content writer” but when it comes to delivering the content, they can’t even deliver half of it.
However, in the last few months I have been lucky enough to find few who really write beautifully and also take their profession very seriously. My five interview questions would be:
How much experience do you have in writing?
Have you handled any sports articles earlier?
How often can you write for my magazine?
Why would you like to write for my magazine, any specific reason for that?
What sports interest you the most and why?
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Good questions, obviously seeing previous writing samples can tell a lot too about the person’s writing quality.
I started watching Bollywood movies back in 2004. I remember watching “Chak de India”, one of the few sports-related movies with Sharukh Khan. I wished the show biz industry (in the Eastern and Western world) would start producing many more sports-related movies that -ive an insight into famous sports champions’ lives, their careers, struggles etc. Don’t you think it would be an additional inspiration for the younger generation to engage more in sports on an amateur or professional level?
I have watched Chak de India and also remember that Indian sports players scored victories in almost all sports the same year. It can be coincidence but I believe sports-based movies leave a lot of positive energy and inspiration for players. Movies based on the lives, careers and struggles of different sports champions is really something our young generation looks up to. Indeed, I would say it’s an interesting way for youngsters to be encouraged to participate in sports on an amateur or professional level.
In a nutshell, these sports-based movies can be the foundation stone for many youngsters and kids who want to pursue a career in this fantastic field.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: You have two young daughters. How happy are you with the sports education they get in India? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I won’t say that I am completely satisfied with the sports education of my children as there’s a lot India needs to learn and imbibe in its sports education system. Still, schools are more concerned about the academics than sports, and children who are interested in sports face a lot of challenges and resistance from teachers who are after them to study more than play sports.
Besides, lack of resources and sports faculty on the part of school further cripples them for imparting the best sports education. As a result, young sports aspirants cannot play at national level, let alone competing at international level.
So, I would say there’s a lot of scope for improvement and this can only happen if our education system gives due importance to sports. This will include everything from allocating adequate funds to sports to encouraging young sports aspirants to participate in different sports without any hesitance and second thought in mind.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Where would you like to see your magazine in the next three years’?
Me and my team has been working very hard for this magazine and wish to see ‘The Sports Mirror’ reaching new heights in the next three years. You might see some new segments and features coming up in the future where we’ll try to provide you information and new updates on sports with a twist. Nothing has been decided, yet I promise to bring my readers more and more interesting content on a regular basis.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Thank you very much for your precious time, it was great interviewing you Vikram! This was my longest interview in my magazine so far, thanks for sharing your experiences, advice and insights.
Well, thanks to you for taking out the time to interview. Pleasure has been all mine. I wish you best of luck for all your future endeavours. Bye!