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Field Level Blog: Learning In LA

The great Albert Einstein once said, ""Any fool can know. The point is to understand."

This quote is the perfect way to sum up my first two weeks as a member of the Houston Texans. It has been a collection of firsts for me, both in my career and personally, and that combined with a wealth of new information has led to a brain overload I can't ever remember having.

Don't worry, I'm ok, but I'm just trying to accurately describe what it is like to not only change from the college world to the professional ranks, but also to recalibrate years of habits and philosophy.

There's a reason I'm telling you this. That knowledge gained is a key factor in how we formulate our own digital strategy, which in turn will affect how you consume Texans media.

All of it plays a part.

The working "office" of the Texans organization is in Reliant Stadium, which thankfully I had no trouble finding while driving around Houston for the first. While I did get lost inside the stadium (the hallways all look alike), getting settled was smooth sailing. 

The Texans' digital media "department" consists of six people, all with a hand in either creating content or planning how you consume it.

At the head of the group is Marc Vandermeer, the "voice" of the Texans (@TexansVoice), someone all fans of the club are familiar with. Marc has worked in many roles during his professional career, and has helped launched and oversee the successful Texans' radio program, heard both on the airwaves and online.

On a side note, hearing your boss's voice every time you click on a video highlight is something you have to get used to. It is like he is always talking to me. Our newest writer Deepi Sidhu (more on her later) refers to him as "Vanderboss", and having everyone immediately recognize who you report to is interesting in itself.

Along with Drew Doughtery (of TexansTV fame), Deepi (you will recognize her soon), Kara Cook (the best diver in the group), Jay McDevitt (videographer extraordinaire) and me, we form the integrated media team. So, I spent most of week trying to get to know each of them, their thoughts and even their singing habits (I'll let you guess who that is).

This week was also about learning, both how the Houston Texans work and how the staff works with them. Just two days into my Houston career, Marc and I boarded a plane to Los Angeles. 

" University" was the occasion, an intense two-day strategy session on the league's digital media landscape. An added bonus on this trip is the location of the offices, just a few miles from the beach and famed Santa Monica Pier. Life is really tough for these guys.

The day one "curriculum" covered everything from basic content strategy to in-depth analytics. We spent time on social media, fan engagement and even future technology.

It is almost as if we went backward during each presentation. The dot-com folks explained overarching themes, and then asking us to brainstorm how we get there. It was an interesting concept, almost forcing you to think "big" before you tackle the basics.

Day two was all about the CMS.

For those that don't work in our field, "CMS" stands for content management system, which is essentially the tool that allows you to manage a website. There are million different types of CMS programs, each tailored to what is needed from the particular web portal it is designed for.

While that sounds complicated, they are just parts of how you view a website, and the ways we can both update and style the platform to make it more appealing.

If you look at the team's homepage,, it is a collection of modules. The "centerpiece", or what you see as the main story window, features the top news items (with pictures) created by our writers (Dipee/Drew).

Each area is customizable, giving us the chance to experiment with what works best. The great part about the staff is that they quantify those decisions, carefully evaluating statistics to suggest ideas.

If you are a fan of numbers, this was the place for you. The folks had reams and reams of data, pinpointing every single part of our website. The fact that each league team is operating underneath the same platform allows for even deeper analyzing, creating a specific model that suits each franchise.

To bring it back to the Einstein quote, now I know. But understanding? That will only come with time. Armed with my 10 or so pages of notes, the goal now is to implement that knowledge as the season rapidly approaches.

There are a few countdown clocks on the walls here in the Reliant offices, reminders that only hours remain before the 2013 campaign begins.

Every day we continue to move forward.

Another chapter complete here at Field Level. See in you the trenches next week. 

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