Jon Mackenzie | Head of Content at Analytics FC

Tell us about yourself, what you currently do and how did you end up where you are right now?

I suppose it’s always tempting in these sorts of scenarios to begin by explaining what it is you do for work but, as I hope will become clear in the course of this interview, I like to at least attempt some sort of work-life distinction so I’ll leave that until the end. The various points around which my life currently orbits — keeping in mind the strangeness of the present moment — are family (I have a big one with plenty of nephews and nieces to go around), football (which helps with the work, to be honest), golf, chess and reading (mainly novels but I’m not fussy). I also solve and set cryptic crosswords (setting them for The Bizzard at present but having been published in The Independent for a good few years).

As Head of Content at Analytics FC, what does a normal week look like for you?

No doubt everyone gives this answer but: is there such a thing as a normal week? As Head of Content, my job is to oversee all of the written, audio and visual content that goes out on our website and out social media channels. For the most part, my work focuses on Analytics FC’s public-facing output: that would be editing articles showcasing our various services, writing press releases announcing partnerships with various clubs or corporations, the day-to-day running of the website and social media channel, and also casting my eye over any presentation work that our various employees might be putting together. Beyond that, literally anything can crop up. I’ll go from writing a scouting report for a media outlet to showcase TransferLab, our scouting platform, to interviewing an industry specialist for our podcast, to looking over a bespoke study commissioned by a professional footballer to make sure it reads well. As someone who is terrified of falling into a tediously repetitive job, this suits me down.

What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?

I’ll give you a two-pronged answer here: Firstly, my number one focus is myself. I love this job because it gives me flexibility to work in a way that suits me. Given that I simultaneously run a Leeds United media outlet, the ability to be flexible is a godsend. But on top of this, it also helps me to remember that I work so that I can enjoy the things I do when I am not working. Sometimes, I can let that slip. But having worked a lot of jobs in the industry where you don’t get a moment to step back, it’s great working for a place that gives you this flexibility and space to make your job work for you.

What is the most enjoyable part of your role?

I get to watch football as part of my job. It’s hard to cap that.

What is the most difficult part of your role?

Working for a company which produces a specific set of products which, however indirectly, we are tasked with selling in some way, presents a challenge. You find yourself having to balance the corporate interest off against the desire to produce new and interesting stuff. Fortunately for me, my boss, Jeremy Steele, recognises this and is constantly encouraging me to find writers who can produce interesting work within the football analysis industry. This mean that, along with the regular articles which show off TransferLab, I’m usually working on longer projects which require a bit more research but which also have a wider scope than the usual pieces we put out.

When did you know you wanted to work in football?

I’m not sure I have reached that point even now! I’m very privileged to have found work in an industry where finding work can be a struggle. As someone who values the flexibility that freelance life offers but who recognises the grind that constantly looking for work can have on you, I find myself constantly moving backwards and forwards between freelance work and full-time employment. In an ideal world, I would love to find a job within a club’s recruitment department and experience that side of things too. But equally, in another ideal world, I would live in a cottage on an island without a care in the world and finally attempt to write my great novel. For now, I’m appreciative of the work I do have.

What are your thoughts on the freelance market for football writers/journalists?

There’s no other way to say it: the freelance market is brutal. No doubt this stems from the fact that the market has been hollowed out by the creeping expectation that content should be free. That realisation goes a long way to explaining why I now work in the data analysis industry.

In your opinion, what makes a good pitch? Any key advice you can share with freelancers at the start of their journey looking to pitch their stories/ideas to editors?

I could talk all day about pitching. I’d say a huge chunk of pitches I receive make me question whether or not the person pitching actually wants to be writing in the first place. Do try to sound interested in the work you’re proposing would be my general rule.

Any tools or software that you can share which you have found helpful when freelancing?

I’ll be honest, the most important software I would recommend would be some sort of accountancy software. It’ll really help you when it comes to filling out your tax returns!

And finally Jon, where can people find you on social media?

You can find me on Twitter @Jon_Mackenzie and on LinkedIn although I can’t use it.



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