Corn Nation is turning 10 years old on August 20th, and in honor of that I thought I’d review the past ten years on the site. If you’ve only been around for the past year or so, you might have missed some of the good stuff we’ve put out in the past and besides, repurposing content you’ve already done is some of the easiest work you can do. Ha!
Most of you probably don't know this, but before I started CN I spent 15-17 years writing in the computer industry. I wrote a book, authored chapters for others, and wrote for quite a number of magazines. I was a Contributing Editor for seven years for Computer User, a rag that was distributed in 30 metro areas around the nation. At one point, the magazines I regular wrote for had a circulation of around two million people a month.
It was a nice gig. I didn’t do it full time, but to further my consulting career. It was also a time at which I could sit down and pound out an article in only a few hours for which I could get paid $1500 at the higher end.
I did a fair amount of public speaking, at conferences, business shows, user groups and the like. My first real public speaking gig was in front of 700 people at the Strictly Business Expo in downtown Minneapolis. I do not recommend you start this way; better that you work the kinks out in front of small groups first.
I gave up on public speaking when my first son was born. I realized that if I didn't dedicate some time to my kids that I would just work all the time and never be a part of their lives. By chance I became a youth soccer coach and scout leader - both of which I enjoyed immensely and would recommend that you become involved with kids should the chance ever present itself.
The internet came along and with it came blogging. Within a very short time period - about two years - nearly all of the magazines I wrote for went out of business, maybe around 2001-2002 (IT print publications went out of business before anyone else). Some moved online. Articles for which I was being paid $250 or $500 were now worth $25. I tried writing for a couple of online sites, but it was no longer worth the effort, so I quit writing altogether.
I spent two or three years being pissed off about the situation; watching a steady supplemental income fall to nothing, and I didn’t have an outlet for my rants.
I decide to set up my own web site and start a blog. This time I would write about something I enjoyed rather than just writing for money or career aspirations. I started a blog on a server at our office, and started writing about Husker football.
I don’t remember what I called the site, and I’m sure I didn’t get much traffic. What I did get one day was an invitation from SBNation - I believe it was Peter Bean, who ran Burnt Orange Nation, the Texas site, asking me if I would like to join the network as a Nebraska blogger. I agreed. Along the way I started talking with Tyler Blezinski, one of SBNation’s founders.
They recommended I call the site “Husker Talk”. I though the name was horrible - too generic. The other problem I had was with Steve Pederson, who was Nebraska’s athletic director at the time. What I’d heard about Pederson was that he was a megalomaniac, and I assume that sooner or later he would get around to taking every web site with a trademarked Nebraska name offline or force them to pay license fees. I wanted to come up with something generic.
I proposed “CornNation”. They thought it was dumb, but I explained my reasons for it. One has already been mentioned. The other was that my goal was to create a web site different than all the other Nebraska web sites. This one would take a humorous approach when others treated Husker football as if it were sacred. (There was very little humor in my IT/computer industry writing. Every editor I had disallowed it except one, who asked me to do some humor columns, but that was just before the end.)
I won the argument, but the truth is they were right. If you’d never heard it before, you wouldn’t know that “CornNation” had anything to do with Husker football and because of that it took quite a while longer to grow than it should have otherwise.
I had no idea what this site would become. I had no idea what SB nation would become. I know that at the beginning it was kind of lonely. You can go back through the archives for 2006 and see how few comments there were on any of the articles.
One of the more interesting articles from 2006 is an interview I did with Danny Woodhead. It was the first interview I did for CN. Woodhead was as nice a guy as you’ll ever meet, and in 2006, there were a lot of questions about whether he could have played at Nebraska (or any Division I school), whether he was recruited by Nebraska, and few people if anyone gave him a chance at success in the NFL.
Looking back I have to wonder how things have been so much different if the newspaper industry would’ve started blogging. There might have been no need for bloggers, but the professionals - despite every indication that they needed to do so, would not change.
This includes everyone from the owners, the copy editors, and the beat writers. All of them throughout the entire industry thought that they mattered so much in their current positions that the disruptive nature of the Internet would not touch them. The refusal to change destroyed that industry and that refusal to change was fueled by an incredible amount of arrogance.
More than a decade later we are still seeing newspapers die, and along with them journalism as we used to know it. What we see now is confirmation bias-based reporting, catering to whatever angle you already want to believe. This is not a good thing.
Perhaps we’ll see a swing back in the other direction in the next ten years.