Ten years ago on June 29th, 2009, Basketball John (you might know him as @5kl), the founder of SLC Dunk, debuted the first Downbeat. The name was influenced by The Shums—Layton Shumway. Back in 2009, Twitter was in its infancy, Facebook was still a site on which college kids hooked up and their parents weren’t on it sharing fake news, and videos and gifs hadn’t taken over every nook and cranny of the internet.
While I wasn’t around for the conversations of how intentional the name Downbeat was for its musical implication then, I think of how important it is now to be true to what a downbeat is in music. It’s the first beat of measure. In music, it’s the first impulse that can be heard in the beginning. It’s the strongest part of the rhythm.
In the beginning, The Downbeat was pretty simple. Its primary purpose was to pool together the biggest stories from the prior day into one place to make things easier for Jazz fans to get caught up. In those days, many Jazz writers were not yet on twitter. Not many of our readers were on Twitter or Social Media, or perhaps even got most of their sports news online. Basketball John and the other writers who started at that same time would search the internet to aggregate all those stories to make life easier for our readers. Since then, social media, with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and much more, has made it incredibly easy to stay up to date with the latest Jazz news. Everything is faster now.
Looking back at the VERY first Downbeat, it’s like looking in a time capsule. What were the five stories of that first Downbeat?
1. Thanks to Shums for the name and thanks for the votes. Johnny 5 is not alive I guess.
2. Will we learn opt out news today? Now that the draft is over, is there any advantage to waiting until the last minute?
3. It will depend a lot on who opts out, but who’s top on your FA wish list?
4. Who was bigger, MJ or Elvis?
5. Apparently everyone in the world saw Transformers 3 times given the billion dollars it has made already. Current player comparisons - Deron = Optimus Prime, Harp = Ironhide, who else you got? Google autobot list wikipedia and cue Linkin Park...
Pretty simple. It takes you away to a simpler time. That was the website I fell in love with. I wouldn’t start writing at Salt City Hoops until the following year in 2010, but I was envious of everyone at SLC Dunk – I wanted to be a part of the writing team at the Dunk. Every day I am beyond humbled that I get to be the site manager of this amazing site and community.
It’s with that reverence of the past that I announce that we are making a pretty substantial change to the Downbeat moving forward. We’re making this change to be true to what a Downbeat is. It’s the strongest part of the rhythm, and we feel it’s time to make The Downbeat the strongest part of our site once again.
Let me get the big changes out of the way and then explain why we are making these changes.
The New Downbeat
Downbeats will be evolving to a new format. Each morning you can still expect The Downbeat to be the very first (or almost very first) article of the day on the Dunk. However, it will have a new focus. The Downbeat writers that you’re accustomed to reading will no longer be aggregating a ton of news into 5 beats. They will now be providing you with an original/unique story of their creation.
That may be a deep dive into Rudy Gobert’s numbers in the paint, the definitive rankings of all Kyle Korver’s haircuts, the physics of Thabo Sefolosha’s Air Force One’s, or favorite non Jazz players. It will be a focused piece on one topic rather than a link dump of five random topics. We will be providing you with a strong Downbeat to start your day, an unmistakable first impulse of Jazz basketball to get you going.
This has been a change that I’ve been mulling for a while. Honestly, we’ve been debating doing this back and forth for the past three years.
Why the change?
The internet has changed ... A LOT. When people come to our site now, they’re looking for a specific event. The Downbeat was amazing in 2009 because it aggregated a lot of the Jazz news into one place, but now in 2019 all that information makes it more difficult to convey to readers what the Downbeat may contain. It’s like a mystery box of Jazz news.
Remember that sketch from Family Guy where Peter selects the mystery box instead of the boat because “it could be anything. It could even be a boat. We’ve always wanted one of those!”? That’s the current state of The Downbeat. It’s better to know what you’re getting into rather than playing a guessing game of what you’re about to read.
Easy to share
Sure, we try our very best to let you know as the reader what The Downbeat is about, but making a title as long as “Donovan Mitchell has new shoes, Rudy Gobert flexed his abs on instagram, Kyle Korver gave amazing things to kids, Ricky Rubio is SO HOT, and Karl Malone is hunting ... again” just doesn’t work and makes it difficult for you as the reader to find things.
In the old days, it would be “The Downbeat #1265: Carlos Boozer and a bag edition.” It worked then, but as the internet changed, we tried to adapt to keep The Downbeat going. We created groups so it’d be marked on the front page as The Downbeat without actually writing Downbeat or Edition or which number it was. We’ve kept this structure for the past year and a half, but even then it’s a hodgepodge. That potpourri box of Jazz news makes it difficult to share because people don’t know what they’re getting. The mystery box problem rears its ugly head again.
If you wanted to share the Downbeat with a family member for the item in Downbeat #3, you have to almost explain our format your family member, where to find it, and explain how the title might not match up with what you’re wanting to share. It wasn’t straight forward. In the digital age, where we share to Twitter, Facebook, text messages, group threads, Reddit, and more, it just makes it hard to share in its current form and keep it relevant. Unfortunately, we live in a day and age where people judge an article by its less than 71 character cover. Which brings us to being ...
Easy to find
Because of all the ways people share information, it’s important for it to be concise so people know what to click. People are wary of headlines that don’t match the body of text. That’s an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) problem. SEO is how easy it is to search and find that topic through a quick Google Search.
Having five different topics in one piece makes it very difficult to properly do SEO. That might sound like corporate speak so we can have more ads and clicks, but those ads and clicks help cut paychecks (as measly as they are) to our staff. That Search Engine Optimization also helps new readers find our site and helps us grow our community. Think of all the people in Louisville who have discovered SLC Dunk because of Donovan Mitchell. Having good SEO and titles that match the content of the article is important for discovery.
That doesn’t even account for people finding us through Apple and Google News now. Our stories are shared to a lot more places. It’s important to simplify our site.
Comment sections became a nightmare
You know how at Thanksgiving where you get the whole family together around the table then a cacophony of various conversations start happening all at the same time on a myriad of topics? If you’re not directly involved with a specific one, it just becomes noise. Loud, screaming, yelling on top of each other noise. That’s what we’ve seen over and over again in comment threads on Downbeats. While our veterans know the drill—list the Downbeat number you’re talking about then make your comment—it’s intimidating for new commenters and just gets confusing the longer the comment section becomes.
With a focused story every morning, comments are on that one topic making it easier for all to participate.
Let our writers voices be heard
Let me level with you: it pains me to know that our talented writing staff here is spending more time digging through player’s instagrams for random bits rather than letting their original voices be heard through their storytelling and writing.
We’re not full-time writers here. We do this as a side hustle. We love it, but it’s our side hustle. For that reason, the more time we spent on a Downbeat, the less time there was for amazing original content.
We have such amazing and unique voices on our staff that opening up The Downbeat will add so much more to the daily Utah Jazz conversation. It’s a win-win.
But I liked those 5 Jazz links a day!
We do, too! You’ll still actually get them, but not in an aggregated form. You might not have noticed over the past 10 days, but there has been an increase in posts on the site daily. There are short posts that contain what you’d normally see in a Downbeat post: new information on a D.O.N. colorway, Jazz Bear killing a bat, or Utah Jazz players starring in commercials. We’re separating them out now and posting about them when they happen (or as soon as we can as our full-time work schedules permit).
We find ourselves in our staff emails and communications buzzing about these things when they happen and figure you are as well. You want to come to our community to talk about them, not wait 24 hours until they’re in a Downbeat. So these same stories will still be at SLC Dunk, but reported on as they happen.
There’s another reason we are splitting them out ...
Sometimes there just aren’t 5 Jazz links from the prior day
We joke around that Downbeats in the summer are HELL because, well, they are. We’re basically scrounging around players’ Instagrams (or worse) to find a 3rd, 4th, or 5th downbeat. It’s not interesting or compelling stuff most of the time. There’s better things to write about and that stuff we have been pulling in the past isn’t what you as the reader deserve. You deserve an awesome site with awesome commentary and insights.
The New Downbeat
That’s why we’re changing The Downbeat. We want Downbeats to be the strongest part of the rhythm of our site. You’re going to be able to start your day with a unique story from our great team of writers Monday through Friday that is not dictated by what happened on Instagram, but is what that writer wants to bring to you. More storytelling and less copy and pasting. More creativity and less monotonous link dumps. Johnny at the five may not be alive, but The Downbeat very much is.
Welcome to the new Downbeat. We think you’re going to love it.
tl;dr The Downbeat is changing so you can have cooler stuff to read in the mornings and so it’s easier for your friends to find us and for you to share SLC Dunk articles. You’ll still get cool Jazz links throughout the day as they happen.