Taking stock: thinking about the Almanac and its future

Comrades,

The Almanac community has grown like a pumpkin vine in a Queensland compost heap since it began in 2007.

In those days the Almanac was nothing more than an email list of a couple dozen people who had offered to write a few footy match reports for a book Daff and I planned to publish at the end of the season. Being on the list, they were subjected to the interruption that is email sporting banter (from the banal to the transcendent).

The conversation could easily get the better of you as email after email popped into your inbox. It was a fine (welcome?) distraction.

“I’ve got to get off this list,” one grand statesman of Australian music wrote to me. “It could ruin my career.”

Eventually we created two lists: a noisy list (for all who thrived on the banter), and a silent list (for those who just wanted to get the info about who was doing which game for The Footy Almanac 2007).

So it seemed we had fallen into something. People love good conversation. They love an authentic  and original voice.

The Footy Almanac 2007 was published. The email list grew.

By the end of the 2008 it was over 100 people – and there was even more daily chatter.

In early 2009, Daff and I (with the technical help of Neil Belford) set up footyalmanac.com.au. It started as a blank white page with maybe a heading. Articles were added. Readers found the site.

The conversation continued and it grew.

And the site has continued to grow. Now around 25,000 people are attracted to the site each month, and they visit almost 100,000 pages.

Yet the Almanac community retains a certain intimacy.

I am putting together a document at the moment which attempts to capture its character, its culture (its essence?)

We know from comments on published pieces (and via private emails to me) that many people feel a strong connection to the Almanac concept – publications and website.

So, to help us understand what’s going on a little better, and so we can explain the Almanac better to the world, we’d love you to respond to these questions (either by commenting at the end of this post, or privately via email [email protected]):

Question 1: Why do you like footyalmanac.com.au?

Question 2: Why do you write for footyalmanac.com.au? (for fun, to develop writing skills, for therapy, I am addicted, to get a response, escape, and so on).

Question 3: Do you think the website should have a name which is not specific to footy?

Question 4: What would you call it?

I’d love to hear from you.

Go Cats

JTH

 

 

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au. He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. 1 – Because it is (normally) written in the right humour and tone – even the serious topics. And because it is very accessible and inviting. There are no barriers to entry. Also because I love going to lunches and dinners in the heart of winter and the footy season, to talk crap with like minded people. I, too, have an urge to lunch for Australia.
    2 – Because it is not tax and accounting work. Its not the Messiah, its just a lovely outlet.
    3 – They changed VB and completely rooted it. Is there a message in that? I should leave this answer to greater marketing and “branding” minds than my own.

  2. 1. I came for the articles and stayed for the comments. As Dips said – there are no barriers to entry and we (see I am even saying we) still have such a great community feel on the site here. It seems everyone approaches the site in the same positive way.

    2. I write for fun and I do love getting comments and hearing (from my inside source) that my articles sometimes get a good number of clicks (ok – its addictive)

    3. The name does not seem to have been a problem to date as we get articles on many sports (many topics in general actually). Not sure if that is a barrier to some though.

    4. Like Dips, best I leave these things alone.

  3. Dr Goatboat says

    1.Firstly as a footy site…to get different perspectives and views on games, teams and players in AFL, but also the state leagues and right down to grass roots; get the gos; insights into the history and spread of the great game, how it evolved and continues to do so, its many manifestations around the country (and the globe?); all done with humour, at times irreverance, no malice, but plenty of pathos at times…to connect with like-minded (Port – not Power – and Collingwood barrackers excepted)
    2. pu in my two penneth worth…
    3. we all know what footy we are talking about…if it aint broke…
    The focus on cricket, trots, dogs whatever van be addressed separately….perhaps we need more offseason football discussion,,,lets face it,,,,the inter-season break is increasingly perfunctory….thos who need a summer sport fix can go there…

  4. Question 1: Because it’s about Footy and Footy People. It’s about the glue that holds us together, yet celebrates our differences. It’s chock-a-block full of wisdom and wit. And in a troubled world it talks to the truth, and while it doesn’t pull any punches, it talks without rancour.

    Question 2: djlitsa, sorry Mate, they tell us all that. Isn’t that why we keep writing for them? Well, that and all the obvious reasons slipped into the prompt sheet. Then there’s the voices in my head. I find they go away if I write down what they say. Most times anyway.

    Question 3: Not sure I’m the person you should asking Harmsie. And certainly not in the middle of the Long Dark Summer.

    Question 4: See above.

  5. Neil Anderson says

    1. Being addressed as ‘ Comrade’ has a nice feel to it. It may sound Whitlamesque but it always feels inclusive no matter our backgrounds and abilities.

    2. In 2005 just as the Sydney Swans were running onto the ground I received a phone-call from a theatre-company in Melbourne saying they were putting on a play I had just written. The first play in fact after just having ideas running around in my head but no opportunity to have a play performed. The elation I felt that day is similar to the way I feel every time I submit something to the Almanac and receive positive feedback in the comment’s section.

    3. You have talked about the enormous growth with the Almanac. It seems to me the name now has a lot going for it and is very precious to all the contributors. I hope it is well and truly trademarked because already Hollywood has released a movie with the same name and is due out this week.

    4. See (3) above.

  6. My vote is change it to ‘The Knackery” (has etymology and makes the site more accessible to the northern states. )

    Effing love ‘The Knackery.’ Pound for pound, is there a site out there that enriches as many lives??

    And the best selling point for ‘The Knackery’ is that it’d even have an obnoxious turd like me (as well as ‘whatz his name’, ‘so and so’ and ‘you know who?’)
    .

  7. Andrew Weiss says

    1. The footy almanac is a place where everyday Australians who are passionate about sport and their footy team can write what is on their mind and how they feel about a game, an issue in sport or something to do with life in general. What is written on the footy almanac comes from peoples heart and is not written or edited just to sell papers or get ratings. That’s why I love reading it in the morning before I go to work or throughout the day when I have a spare minute. Because of the stories that people have written I have laughed, cried and expanded my mind and I look forward to seeing a footy almanac email pop up throughout the day wondering what this next article is going to be all about.

    2. The footy almanac has enabled my dream of being a Sports journalist or sports commentator come life. It enables me to escape from my real job of being that normal high school teacher.

    3. I would stick to the name. So many people now know what the footy almanac is all about and the reputation it has (a good one by the way) that by changing the name would be like starting from scratch.

  8. 1. I like the footy almanac because of the many unfiltered voices. Because of the welcoming nature. Because of the writing. Because of the ideas. It’s a crucible of creativity.

    2. I write here for lots of reasons. The ones you prompt all apply (fun, writing development, addiction, etc). It’s a thrill to think that others may be interested in what I’ve thought about. And while we could (each of us) post ideas on our own blog accounts instead, there’s a feeling of achievement in knowing a piece has been through an editing process and that it’s thought worthy of a larger collective. A form of quality control, I guess. And one that provides a feeling of collective. The comments, too, add a great deal to the whole experience.

    3. Sometimes I do think a more general name would help. Writing cricket pieces and advertising them as being on the “footy almanac” is a little strange. But it’s fine. It stands as a symbolic reminder of the foundation. LIke QANTAS sticking with the name after branching out of Queensland And Northern Territory Air Services.

    4. If searching for another name, a generic sport/ writing/ ideas one that captures the essence of the “voice from the outer.” and also the player and the freewheeling thoughts found here. There would be heaps.
    The Southern Stand
    Standing room
    Freewheeling
    Run and carry
    Breaking the lines
    On October 21 2015, Marty McFly (already bought? will buy?) Gray’s Sports Almanac, So that’s out.

  9. 1. I think the thing I like the most about the Almanac is that it’s so welcoming and non-judgemental. There are plenty of sites for footy discussion out there, and mostly all of them are populated by idiots trolling. Likewise there are plenty of football reporting publications out there, most of which are filled with boring, banal, and populist material only good for wrapping chips in. The Almanac is an island of thoughtful, constructive, interesting, humorous and thought provoking football chatter amongst all of that.
    2. I like writing, and I love football, and it gives me a great sense of achievement to go into a book store and see my word in print, even if it is just a page or two. Online I love the interaction and comments, and it just makes me feel good when I get a positive reaction to something that I’ve written.
    3. If you’re going to change the name it would have to be a play on the Almanac – like ‘the Knackery’ suggested above. I can see the need for it given the subjects written about are now wide and varied.

  10. 1. The Almanac is about people. People who enjoy talking, reading and writing about footy, people who are willing to share their non-footy experiences from time to time and who love catching up in a social environment. It’s always a pleasure to visit the website for the thoughtfulness and good humour on display. The writing is from the heart and alternative opinions are respected. I find I rarely come away from the Almanac website without learning something interesting about footy or life. For me it’s like visiting an oasis in the desert.

    2. Writing a piece is challenging and fun at the same time. Having an article printed in the book is a thrill and an honour. I suspect most of us never expected to see anything we wrote widely disseminated or published anywhere. I’m still pinching myself and am grateful for the opportunity.

    3. I’d keep he website name the same, at least for the time being. More and more people are getting to know about and love footyalmanac.com.au. Long may this continue.

    Cheers, Burkie

  11. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    1. I echo most of the above sentiments. I like the feeling of inclusion and a readership that is supportive yet constructively critical without being personal and vindictive.

    2. I write for the almanac because it is a broad church/temple etc and know that the comments help me to improve my writing. I also like encouraging other writers to have a crack.

    3. In my humble opinion, the site has outgrown its footy specificity. And that is a good thing as I love reading about food, music and other cultural pursuits. A few more Pro Wrestling pieces wouldn’t go astray. Time to come out of the closet people!

    4. http://www.longlunch.com.au ?

    Keep footyalmanac for the book, of course.

  12. Jamie Simmons says

    1) All are welcome with no experience necessary. There’s a real sense of community about the site. We’re an eclectic bunch but despite the mix of personalities, ages and locations we are united through the sharing of ideas and opinions.
    2) Who else will listen to me rant? Besides, I’m hoping one day it will count towards my Community Service. That and it makes me feel an active part of something unique.
    3) I can see the appeal of a name change. It would facilitate canvassing a broader audience a little easier. That said, The Knackers themselves should always be looking to bring new members to the family, perhaps now with more emphasis on them having little or no understanding of the great Australian game. The book (long may she reign) on the other hand, should remain unchanged.
    4) If a name change is deemed necessary, I must say I do like The Knackery (suggested above). There’s a delightful roguishness to it tinged with a hint of quiet familiarity.

  13. I have no intention of ever willingly going to “the Knackery.” I will end up there soon enough, but I intend to rage against the dying of the light for some time yet.
    I don’t think new readers would get the joke.
    ‘New Coke’ anyone?

  14. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Ditto comments above , I love the engaging community of the almanac , the feed back meeting and communicating with fellow like sports minded people
    Re writing love getting comments , finding out re hits it is a buzz !
    Name wise in a lot of ways I think it has outgrown the name the footy almanac but also if it ain’t broke why fix it ? This is a decision for marketing gurus and needs a fair amount of research whether it will actually increase traffic to the site
    Thanks JTH

  15. Name change? How about just ‘The Almanac’ or ‘The Writers Hub’

  16. More thoughts on 3 &4.
    On reflection, my earlier QANTAS analogy is no good. .
    Having ‘Footy’ in the title is probably both not representative and also something of a barrier. Good to open it up.

  17. On reflection here too, “The Knackery’ sux as a site name. As Pete said, it’s a good in joke, but not much of a website name. I reckon a new name is the go all the same. Something that says ‘writers sanctuary’ first and ‘all sports’ a very close second strikes me as the aim.

  18. Turn it up you blokes. We all know that Cricket was invented to maintaining ball-eye co-ordination during the Long Dark Summer, and is hence the Senior Sport. But if the Almanac Management (Using the term loosely of course Wrap – Ed) needs a name to net the uninitiated web surfers, how about “The Australian Sporting Almanac – The Final Word”? It’s international, all encompassing and authoritative.

    Think we’d get away with it Boys & Girls?

  19. Oh, and while I’ve got you there, those voices in my head, there’s four that just won’t go away. Can anyone help me? They’re EFC, ASADA and Prince Petulant. And they’re driving me away from The Game I Love.

  20. I am a very occasional contributor mainly due to time constraints. I do however view the website several times a day to check for new articles.

    q1. I love people’s passions for their club, for sport, for their family, work or interest. I love the opportunity to comment and have others comment on my pieces. Agree with others above that it is all in a non-judgemental way, at the same time with the freedom to express a different point of view. Although I have met only a few of you (at Footy Town launch) I feel that I know part of you through your writing and comments and that ‘community’ aspect appeals.

    q2. The encouragement to have a go at writing was a real encouragement. That people read what you have written and respond is as gratifying as it is humbling. That it then led to being published in a real book (Footy Town) is still almost unbelievable. I have lost count of the number of bookshops I have wandered into and found FT – every one of them has had my piece in it! I open the book to p272 if I remember correctly and my name is there! I want to tell everyone in the shop. I am very grateful to have such an opportunity which would never have happened other than through the website. My aim is to develop more writing skills, to have opinions, to test them with others. (it is a bit addictive too)

    q3. Not sure a name change is necessary but if deemed so I would like to see any name linked back to The Footy Almanac somehow.

    q4. The Writing Website previously known as the The Footy Almanac (!!)

    A couple of other things: sometimes great articles are missed as the number of pieces increases as they quickly drop off the front page, not sure how that is overcome. Love the pen pics of people but they seem harder to find than a couple of years ago.

  21. Colin Ritchie says

    1. Footy Almanac is a family of like minded souls that makes me feel happy to be a part of. Without actually knowing anyone individually I feel I know every “Knacker” like a brother or sister, or an old friend. Because of this I can write, comment on the web site without fear or favour and be treated equally as my fellow “Knacker’.

    2. I write for Footy Almanac because I enjoy writing and like all “knackers” I feel I have a story to tell. Often these stories are inspired and stimulated by stories of fellow comrades. Now that I am in my mid 60’s I’m at the age where you begin to do a lot reminiscing and have the need to get those memories down and in some instances share them with others.

    3. The website should have a name specific to footy. Other sites can be set up if there is a need for more specific writing destinations.

    4.. If it ain’t broke then no need to fix it! I believe the name is a great one and should not be changed.

  22. This comment is my first contribution to the site for quite a while as I’ve been flat out dealing with some of those issues that are regularly put at the top of the “most stressful life events” list. I’m hoping to resume normal service soon but I couldn’t pass this opportunity by to contribute my two bob’s worth.

    I reckon my reasons for liking the site and writing for it have been captured pretty well by the preceding comments. I loved how easily I was able to join the site and contribute. Over time I think (hope) that the opportunity to expose my writing to a frank, intelligent and generally constructive audience has made me a better writer, or at least a more thoughtful one. There’s a nice blend of encouraging/demanding self-improvement that I’m sure is rare in www-land.

    I would advise caution about a name change. The site has certainly expanded from its original AFL focus and that is unquestionably a good thing, but footy is the common glue for most of us and I think the message sent by a name change to something more generic could inadvertently fragment the ‘community’ feel. I also think there’s a lot to be gained from demonstrating that a bunch of footy tragics can actually string a few decent words together, sometimes about subjects other than footy!

  23. Kate Birrell says

    Contributing, as either reader or writer to the Almanac site is not unlike being in the crowd at a footy game. It represents a communal voice which has depth in not just message, but tone, pitch, nuance and character. It’s quite unique in the way it seems to fill or make sense of the void between the spectator and the spectacle, the observer and the observed or the participant and the onlooker.

    With many pieces written in the first person, there is a gererosity of spirit and an honesty within the content that is often not evident in other forms of sports writing; which often tends to be too formulaic, bland and journalistic.

    Footy, and generally speaking sport, is integral to daily life for many; it’s emotive….love it, hate it, or somewhere in between, there’s rarely indifference. I guess for me, The footy Almanac becomes in part, a slither of conversation, moments of narrative and at times, a reflective escape; the writing/sketching becomes a tool for expression and communication.

    Is it fun? yes

    Is it therapy? Yes, all writing is therapy

    For developing writing skills? Yes….I really like the challenge, because it makes you think in creative ways, and encourages you think outside of the square, and question your own thoughts….both in the process of one’s own writing and in the reading of others.

    Should there be a name change? For the site in general no, I dont think so. I like the way a story about a local netball game can slot itself in amongst the many football related articles….that’s reflective of life. Perhaps a name change in the form of a subsidary site/s, but personally, footy is something of a backdrop to our way of life and the current name remains relevant.

  24. Luke Reynolds says

    1. The community feel, the original writing, the humour, the vibe, Mabo. Yeah just the vibe of the thing.

    2. I write for fun. And have had an absolute ball doing it. Like the other respondents, the thrill of seeing your story published online, then receiving comments and feedback is a real buzz. If my writing skills keep developing that’s a welcome added bonus.

    3. A while ago I was all for a name that would be inclusive of all sports/topics. Not so sure of that now. I know several people who are occaisional readers of the site who know the name Footy Almanac well and understand what it means. Dips’ VB analogy might just be spot on.

    4. Maybe keep it as The Footy Almanac. Other sports and topics could be a tab on the side like what is happening with Foody Almanac, Stereo Stories etc.?

  25. Paul Spinks says

    Q 1. Because it provides the opportunity to read and write about fooyt in a way no other website offers.
    Q 2. Out of interest in the subject matter (footy), to hone writing skills and present it.
    Q 3. I’m a football conservative and don’t like the AFL stuffing needlessly around with the game, so in that regard I’m inclined to keeping the website name as is.
    Q 4. But if it were to change The Knackery is the best alternative on offer at the moment.

  26. Cat from the Country says

    I found Footy Almanac by accident and stayed.
    If I had not I would not have found Sue Currie and get to read her interesting book A Mouthful of Flies or Louise and her story about The Accident at Tashi Lapsa Pass.
    I read most footy stories, but not all and love reading the comments.
    All the other things I delete if not interested.
    Please leave as is. T’is not broken so doesn’t need fixing.

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