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2019 State of the Dunk: New Year, New Us

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We’re making a few changes for the better around SLC Dunk.

Vox Media

Welcome to this year’s State of the Dunk. This is your site manager, Mychal Lowman, and let’s get this thing started. We spend so much time writing about the performance of others that this is my chance to write about us, and give you a look at how we think we did, and how we can be better. This past year almost felt like a groundhog’s day of my first year. The Utah Jazz struggled until they didn’t then when they we were good they were really good until Houston.

I’ve been thinking about the following quote a lot and how I can improve the site.

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” - Winston Churchill

In order to improve the site, I have to let our best people here take over in certain regards. For the last two years, I’ve been pulling a Doc Rivers acting like a President and Coach. I’m too in the trenches to let things really get good. So with that framing, let’s talk about our coverage.

Social Media

I won’t bury the lede on this one. We’re making a change with how our social media is run. When Amar was still at the site, he would run it full-time with me being a change of pace for games. His even keeled nature of gratitude and understanding kept the ship steady while my perpetual underdog mentality kept games exciting. After all social was turned over to me during the transition to my management, I thought that same mentality would be great for the social media tone as a whole. At first it went swimmingly until something happened ... we accumulated a lot of followers fast.

We jumped in follower count and went from an underdog site to a big boy. I found myself increasingly not the right guy to run Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Last year I started having Taylor Griffin run our Facebook and Instagram. He’s been amazing and is just an amazing guy.

I have no problem saying that I’m not good at the social media game. Have I had my moments? Yeah.

But a broken clock is right twice a day. Over the past few months—and even past few days—I’ve been taking feedback from those who have stopped following SLC Dunk on social media or quit reading altogether. The reasoning? They felt like the tone of the social media account which they felt had turned into a caricature of what SLC Dunk was.

The worst part? They’re right. Under my watch, I haven’t been giving my writers the ability to be seen for their voices because the first point of contact with our site in one area (Twitter) wasn’t representative of the amazing voices we have here at the site. While many out there in Twitter will say this isn’t my first L—I KNOW, I KNOW—I gotta take this L.

So what are we doing to make our social media experience even better?

We’re expanding Taylor Griffin’s role here on the site to take over all social media and letting him run that show. I’m stepping away from the SLC Dunk social media completely. I’ve been playing out of my role for far too long there.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Taylor’s work, he makes fantastic graphics for us and has an impeccable twitter game. I occasionally even have friends in Indiana—WHO HAVE NO IDEA WHO HE IS—send me a tweet of his that they think is hilarious. The best part? Taylor is a man of the people.

Taylor is amazing. He’s supportive in SLC Dunk email threads, he’s supportive on social media, he’s a hilarious follow, and an even better guy. I can’t say enough of how grateful I am to have him on my staff. He’s going to do an amazing job.

So how will that transition work? From June 23rd to June 30th, you will notice that the only tweets coming from the SLC Dunk Twitter account will be story articles published from the website. There needs to be a reset. For the Apple computer crowd, we are giving it a hard reset. That means a clean slate for all those who interact with the Twitter account. Mutes and Blocks will be rescinded starting June 23rd. Starting June 30th, it is Taylor’s social media world and we’ll all be better for it.

If you haven’t already, you can follow our Social Media accounts below and know you’ll be getting a @my_lo-less experience:

Twitter - @slcdunk

Instagram - @slcdunk

Facebook - SLC Dunk FB

Downbeats

Midway through the year we did something drastic to the Downbeat, we completely overhauled it. We moved it from a link dump—a brief one at that—to more of a feature article. The reasoning was simple, if there was a big event that happened we wanted it to get the page time it deserved. We also have great writers on our staff who had turned into mere aggregators of other people’s writing—not their own. I’m happy with the result of the new Downbeat.

What I do miss is us being a hub for the stories that happened around the web whether that was at SLC Dunk, Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News, KSL, ESPN, or wherever. I had tried to do some heavy lifting and carry that on in The Encore on top of everything else, but I’ll admit it fell by the wayside. This is something that I want back at the site and will find a way to have as consistently as The Downbeats every day.

Game Coverage

In past seasons, previews, game threads, and game previews were all taken care of one person. That’s A LOT of heavy lifting. While Game Previews, Game Threads, and Game Recaps can feel a lot like a quick preview or summary of a game, they’re time intensive. So starting at the beginning of 2018-2019, we tried something a bit different. We spread that responsibility around to all of our writers.

So how did that turn out?

I believe this went well because all of our writers workloads were brought down instead of someone having to be Atlas and carry the responsibility of 276 game coverage pieces. But it can get better. Threads can be up earlier for more conversation, I would like previews to up the day before the games for more interaction, and game recaps to be up quicker after a game.

There’s another thing that I’d like your feedback on. Are they helpful right now? To preface, we are not looking at doing away with them, just does the format work for all of you?

Previews

Right now the format is game information and things to watch for. Is the game information like when the game is, where to watch, and where it’s at helpful? Or would you prefer getting right to matchups and where each team is at for the preview?

Game Threads

Currently these are pretty simple, game information, a highlight from the past game, then our community rules and guidelines. One aspect that I do hope to be able to do more of is hang out in the threads now. Running game coverage on twitter made it hard to be present in the threads. I miss the days of hanging out in there.

Game Recaps

When a game finishes, we currently recap it with a summary of the events and some things that stood out. Would you prefer to do away with the summary and stick to the biggest happenings? The reason I ask is a lot of other outlets provide a quick summary of the game and a lot of the time I—and our staff—our buzzing more about the comeback, the 3rd quarter collapse, the crazy dunk in the 1st quarter, or whatever than the actual full game. If the current style is working for you, sweet. If you would like our thoughts on something different after the game and you believe it’d be awesome, let us know and we can look at workshopping it.

T-Shirts and Merchandise

This part has been a LEARNING experience to say the least. Since the earliest beginnings of this website, we have wanted to have t-shirts that are more in jokes for Jazz fans. The problem was none of us were great graphic designers, we didn’t know how to build the infrastructure, and it would be a HUGE undertaking.

Then we found an amazing partner in BreakingT. Since last year you have probably seen that logo and information on the t-shirts you purchase. The main reasoning we went with them was they have great designers, they react to breaking moments, and they know the in and outs of the t-shirt world. They navigate the world of the NBPA and NBA by gaining approval for all merchandise by them. It makes things easier.

However, I do hear the concerns of people that say, “$28.00 is a lot for a t-shirt.” I agree for a normal t-shirt it is, but licensed apparel tends to be more expensive than normal apparel because you are paying licensing fees to have a player’s likeness, team’s colors, or player’s catchphrase. Sometimes if you want to borrow a player’s nickname you run into resistance with said player’s sponsors. There’s a whole ton that BreakingT has allowed us to learn and navigate that has allowed us to make better T-Shirts as we go on.

Let me take this opportunity as well to say I’m sorry for “Tank Note”. That was our first t-shirt with BreakingT and it very much appeared that Utah was falling apart. The Memphis Grizzlies a few weeks later would come up with a similar t-shirt with a Grizzly Bear in a tank and it became a rallying point for fans to feel optimistic around a bad season. We thought we were doing the same. Then something beautiful happened. We were proven INCREDIBLY wrong. Utah would go on to have the most drastic turnaround of any team in the modern era.

But after it we found a groove with awesome shirts like “The Amazing Spida-Man”, “Spanish Samurai”, “Joe Ingles Thumbs Up”, “Joe Ingles Headband”, and most recently my favorite of all of them “The City of Utah”.

Podcasts

This year our fledgling podcast became a part of the SB Nation podcast network. SLC Punks became the first podcast on there. James Hansen does such an amazing job producing the shows, editing them, and publishing them. His personality makes the podcasts great. He cares about reviews, he takes feedback from fans to heart, and kudos to his wife and family that deals with his weekly podcasting engagement with me every week.

Our goal is to add more content to the SLC Dunk podcast network. Currently we only have one show. We recognize that podcasts are increasingly becoming an easier way to consume content. Thank you to all of you who have subscribed to the SLC Punks podcast. You’re awesome.

Writing Staff

We have an amazing staff. James Hansen is super passionate and subscribe to his YouTube channel if you have the chance. Taylor Griffin is super insightful and his graphics are amazing. Kaleb Searle is even keeled and measured. Tavan Parker has become so knowledgeable. Jason Walker is so dang smart. Diana Allen brings such a passionate wealth of Jazz history—and SLC Dunk history—to the table. Jordan Cummings was amazing stepping in for game coverage help. Sam Goodbert has been filling in the gaps of coverage when we needed it. Nathan De La Cruz for helping with game coverage. Daniel West for helping even though he’s in Germany. Anthony Cheng for somehow finding time to write despite being in school.

They have all been amazing. They’re great writers, and even better people. They deal with my eccentricity. They work hard. They’re passionate fans of the Utah Jazz. I couldn’t have a better staff.

We do miss Andy Bailey at the site. Andy had a can’t refuse offer from Forbes and I don’t blame him for taking it. We miss his statistical insight. If there’s something that we need more of at the sight is statistical insight and we’ll make that a priority to our coverage for next season.

Community Moderation

I hope everyone here has noticed I’ve become more chill about moderation. Not that I don’t toe the line on community guidelines, it’s just that I’ve really tried to emphasize to our moderators to allow good discussion. I feel like personal attacks are down, discussion is improving, and our community is stable.

One thing I want to emphasize as we move forward is we have seen an increase in “burner” SB Nation accounts. We make sure to swiftly move these off of the site as we notice a correlation between abusive content to other posters and a duplicate account name.

All in all, thank you all for being great commenters. If you’re a lurker, thanks for giving recs. If you’re neither, it’s easy to join and get to commenting and recommending.

Getting Better

You can ask anyone of the staff members of this site and they will tell you I stress over even the most minute changes to the site. The change to the downbeat had been in the works and talked about every other week in internal discussions going back to when Amar was here. When people are upset, I take it personally because I know I’m disrupting their Jazz fan experience to a degree whether it’s for the best or worst.

I know there are many out there who have left the site whether it was after Amar left, after #TankNote, or just became disenchanted because of our Social Media presence. If you haven’t been back in a while, you’re cordially invited back. We’re listening. I’m listening. It’s not easy following the great management of Basketball John and AllThatAmar, but I sure am working to make sure I can live up to it.

I know that I can get better as a site manager. We have this amazing community. I really try to live up to your expectations. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t, but over the past few months I’ve been actively working on ways we can improve this site and make this an even better hub for Jazz fans.

For those that have been with us through thick and thin, thank you. You all are the real MVPs. We can’t have a website like this without the many people who make this website a part of their daily routine every day. Keep an eye out for our NBA Free Agency coverage coming up and I think we are all excited for next season to start already.

Go Jazz!