Sports Fix By Fax
By Jeff Siegel
Jeff Siegel is a writer in Dallas.
When the Dallas Times Herald closed in December, sports columnist Skip Bayless didn't flood newspapers across the country with his résumé. He didn't make any phone calls looking for jobs. He didn't even contact the Herald's crosstown rival, the Dallas Morning News.
Instead Bayless continued writing his column, publishing it himself. He faxes the column to subscribers, becoming what appears to be the first mainstream newspaper columnist to self-syndicate via fax machine.
"Everybody keeps telling me this is the future, but I still wake up in the middle of the night with cold feet," says Bayless, who had been the Herald's lead sports columnist since the mid-1980s and had written for the Morning News for four years before that. "But given the time in my career and the 13 years I've spent in Dallas building a readership, how could I not try this?"
"Inside Bayless" is faxed three times a week to subscribers who pay $99 annually. The first issue appeared December 30.
Bayless writes the column with the same verve and candor that earned him a loyal, if not always like-minded, following. In fact, readers played a key role in convincing Bayless to go the subscriber route. The first phone calls he received on his daily radio program the day after the Herald closed came from fans who didn't want to lose the column, which in the Herald had won several national awards.
"Inside Bayless" covers the same topics the columnist wrote about for the Herald: the trials and tribulations of Dallas Mavericks star Roy Tarpley, who keeps running afoul of the NBA's drug policy, the NFL's Dallas Cowboys and other Dallas-area sports and personalities.
At 950 words, the column runs a bit shorter than Bayless' Herald installments. The editorial process is little different from the Herald's, though; Bayless files by 11 p.m., a full-time managing editor reviews the column and a technician prepares it for transmission via MCI to subscriber fax machines. Delivery is guaranteed by 7 a.m. the next day.
Bayless, who formed a company with two partners to bankroll the project, declined to discuss start-up costs or the number of subscribers, citing competitive pressures. The company, however, plans to solicit syndication to newspapers and has already received inquiries from potential advertisers. It will launch a Dallas-area advertising blitz to boost circulation and is considering several joint ventures with fax machine firms. ###