Since age 14, I wanted to be a magazine editor. Mixed in with my school books was always a copy of American Health, Rolling Stone, SPIN, and Marie Claire.
Spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and French were my favorite subjects. I wrote for my high school newspaper, and the media devotion continued at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. I played New Wave and indy Brit music as DJ at WMTB 89.9 and worked my way up The Mountain Echo masthead to Editor-in-Chief.
Early adoption started early ~
It was a big day when the newspaper office scored a Mac II SE. It meant we could print out columns of computer type and make mock-ups of layouts with PageMaker. I transitioned the newspaper publishing to desktop publishing. While this was a tech leap forward, we still used melted wax to run the paper through to affix to the mechanicals. (I can still smell it today.) Running the paper was my priority senior year, and my academic advisor fully supported that. There was more than one post-midnight car trip to the printer, and Dr. Smith was very understanding the time it meant postponing my exam. My writing there included campus news, features (interviewing Paul Stookey from Peter, Paul and Mary), and editorials on topics from drug use to eating disorders. I was honored with the journalism award in 1990.
Hard news was a whirlwind ~
After earning my undergraduate degree in journalism and sociology, I covered daily news and features in two Connecticut shoreline towns for The Middletown Press, and worked as a stringer for Reuters covering Yale University and the city of New Haven. My assignments for Reuters were often above my experience level, and I dove in –covering child mortality and talks by the Dalai Lama and Imelda Marcos, and campaign stops by Bill Clinton (his first run) and Jerry Brown.
The lure of magazines led to online publishing ~
Then I joined The New York Times Co. Magazine Group in Trumbull, Conn., for 15 years. Editorial positions on tennis trade magazines led to my being the founding editor and producer to take Tennis Magazine online in 1994 — first on the MSN (Microsoft Network, remember that?!) and then Tennis.com. This bleeding-edge job required 24/7 dedication, learning HTML by hand from Aliza Sherman at Webgrrls International on weekends, and navigating the new, untested business model that was cyberspace.
Pioneering is exhausting, and so worth it ~
NYT headquarters had reserved “tennismagazine.com,” but I wanted “tennis.com.” I searched to see if it was taken, and called some guy in Maryland. It was 1996 and I still remember his name. He and his friend reserved a long list of great domain names and were just waiting for their paydays from the likes of companies like ours. How much will you take for it?
I asked my boss to give me funds to purchase the “tennis.com” domain name from the squatters. “Is it really that important? We’ve got tennismagazine.com,” Patrick said.
“IT’S EVERYTHING,” I replied, adding that the squatters said NBC was willing to pay them $40,000.
“You got $5,000,” he told me. So, I wrote up the offer and faxed it over with a deadline.
I went out right after work that spring evening, then to the movies, figuring there was no chance. But I got home to a message on my answering machine: They accepted right before the 6 p.m. deadline. Success!
Meanwhile, the president of my division believed the Internet was “a fad,” and the sales teams couldn’t understand why advertisers ought to pay for banner ads. My arms are nearly recovered in 2021 from waving the “Internet is a legitimate form of mass media” flag.
But it didn’t end there ~ I had more convincing to do in the tennis industry.
Defending the right of journalists and upholding standards ~
During the time I also served on the board of the U.S. Tennis Writers’ Association, including nine years as President. I lobbied for the rights of journalists, ran the annual USTWA Writing Contest, and — after two years of appealing to the Grand Slam Committee to credential online journalists because the “Internet is a legitimate form of mass media” — I became the first credentialed online journalist at Wimbledon and other championships. I was also a founding member of the International Tennis Writers’ Association. (The USTWA was wound down in 2017 and the remaining funds were donated in full to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.)
Building Tennis.com from scratch to become the No. 1 website globally for the sport was a 24/7 lifestyle for me during those 11 years, and I gained so much from it. I expanded from editorial to the tech and business sides of the venture. It was wonderful to be honored with an award for ‘pioneering’ the digital media space for tennis by the American Writing Awards, administered by Tennis Week magazine (a competitor to Tennis Magazine).
Entrepreneurial-spirit means finding opportunities ~
There was gap in the tennis market. Online communities were AOL chat rooms and message boards; there was no social media. Brands like Nike, Gatorade and Wilson weren’t in direct contact with consumers; they relied on the media. However, unlike every other sport, tennis is not unified so there’s no commissioner or league or teams or single source for the exchange of information between manufacturers, tournaments and media. Tennis is an international concern with individual players (men and women) with multiple leagues that run 50 weeks of the year.
I saw the opportunity: A digital media relations platform that connected industry stakeholders with the media. I took it to the head of our company and he said, “No, we’ll stick with consumer-facing products” and gave me permission to pursue this simultaneous to my full-time job. I secured a grant from the Tennis Industry Association to build TennisWire.org and it was immediately profitable.
Going solo to reach new heights ~
In 2000, I founded my own digital strategy and strategic communications consultancy, Media Moxie in New York City. Clients ranged from sports and publishers to B2B tech. I earned my master’s degree in strategic communications from Columbia University in the City of New York and then joined ESPN, leading digital strategy and operations for the new high school sports division (now part of the college division). I managed a team of 25 editors and producers, and I created a content-centric editorial operation across the web, magazine and events marketing departments, which preceded ESPN.com doing the same. It enabled the website, digital and events staff to coordinate coverage smartly, more efficiently, cheaper and with greater impact than working in silos. I inherited a massive website redesign project and immediately negotiated $25k in savings and led the growth of sponsorship and advertising income, website visitors and page views. Website traffic tripled in three months.
Coaching to help others shine their lights ~
Since that time (2012), I’ve continued consulting and developed a course that coaches everyone from CEOs to self-employed wellness professionals on how to achieve their goals through authentic strategic communications and tactics online and offline. My Social Media Boot Camp has expanded to my Business Strategy Course because social media is only one “tool in the shed.” The Course, based on my four-step framework, is offered on a one-to-basis or to groups.
Personal and professional worlds merge ~
In 2017 I founded MindstreamConnect.com, covering the mind-body-spirit movement for greater health and happiness. It merges my lifelong interest in mind-body-spirit wellness and my professional experience.
I welcome opportunities to speak on publishing paradigms, online media, media relations, health and wellness, the mind-body-spirit movement, and personal and professional transformation and any other topic mentioned here. Just contact me!