Hobby Q&A: Upper Deck Blog's Toby Wachter

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Upper Deck announced that it is entering the blogging world last week with the Upper Deck Blog (www.upperdeckblog.com), so Beckett Media’s Chris Olds asked a few questions to learn more about the company’s venture.

200tobyHere’s our Q&A with Upper Deck Online Media Content Manager Toby Wachter:

Q: How did the idea for launching a blog come about — and how long did it take to materialize?

A: I’ve been a big fan of sports blogs for years now, really since I started working at Upper Deck five years ago. It’s clear that in 2009, the sports audience is going to ESPN.com, or Fanhouse, Yardbarker or Deadspin to get their sports news, as opposed to the old-fashioned back page of the newspaper.

With that being the trend, it made perfect sense for us to get involved in that space. Once we decided this was an avenue to explore, it really only took us about three weeks to get off the ground.

Q: What’s the mission, the aim, of Upper Deck having a blog?

A: Speaking for myself, honestly, the goal is to have fun. I really enjoy writing about sports, I enjoy taking pictures of things we have going on in the building and showing them to our readers. I enjoy doing interviews like this, and getting the word out about the blog.

I know that sounds a bit phony if you’re a cynic, because let’s face it: this is a blog run by Upper Deck, and at the end of the day, Upper Deck is a business. But from my perspective, if we’re having fun with this and showing that we enjoy sports, we enjoy our jobs, and we like posting stories that sports fans and collectors will enjoy, it’ll do nothing but good for us.

Q: How’s your traffic been so far? Does it seem like there’s already a lot of natural interest?

A: Traffic has definitely been very good considering we’ve only been around for a few weeks. It helps that we have some crossover appeal, between regular sports blogs like Yardbarker and Fanhouse, and of course industry blogs and websites like yours. And really, those are our two goals here: create engaging content for the average sports fan, in addition to behind-the-scenes content for collectors who are already familiar with this industry.

Q: Who (or how many employees) at Upper Deck will be involved with the project?

A: You’ll definitely see more employees involved as we grow. We’ll have more voices in the coming weeks, for sure.

Keep in mind that many of these posts are a team effort. For example, last week’s Brag Photo of the Week was written by me, but I had to talk to different people about getting access to the whole fossil, the Quality Assurance department and the cards we had there and so on. Everyone here has been really helpful with lining up the resources we need to make these posts entertaining.

Q: So does that mean we’ll be seeing and hearing about more of the behind the scenes stuff that goes into making cards?

A: That’s definitely in the works. There’s actually a regular feature I’m working on that will tackle many of these elements.

I’m always running around the building with my camera, trying to get exciting shots for you guys. And my motivation is always, “What can I show that will make people feel closer to this company?” So as long as I’m doing that, we’ll be posting stories and photos of things you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

Q: How about interaction that lets collectors be a part of the process? Perhaps picking a player’s photo on a card? Or perhaps a design?

A: This is something we’ve tossed around a bit. I hope we’ll have a promotion like this in 2009. A big part of social media is letting the fans feel more involved with the company, so hopefully we can do a few things to get you guys more involved with certain decisions, as you mentioned.

Q: Do you see the blog as a place for your company to release product info? After all, you already have a website (upperdeck.com) and a Facebook account where similar info gets released already. Or perhaps this venture could over-ride peripheral stuff like Facebook?

A: To be honest, I don’t think the blog will be a place to post product info in its entirety. That would kind of contradict the “we’re not a corporate blog” mentality. We already have UpperDeck.com to promote current and upcoming products and promotions. UpperDeckBlog.com is more of a place to read interesting stories, and not a place where we’re always trying to sell you something.

Of course, when there’s a product that goes along with a story – like the Bulls Floor Brag Photo of the Week – we’ll talk about the product. And sure, we’ll use the blog to bring attention to cool things we’re doing. But the vast majority of the time, the story is going to be the focus, as it should be.

Q: Your news release last week emphasized that it won’t be a “corporate blog.” What’s your definition of a corporate blog, anyway (we’re not sure if we know what one is), and what, if anything, would you say to critics who question that?

A: I think that a lot of companies are finally catching up to online space in 2009, and many of them don’t understand the content side of things. There’s a perception of “Hey, we should make a Twitter, make a blog, put together a Facebook page,” but there isn’t much foresight beyond that because the audience experience isn’t accounted for, and goals are strictly based on profit. It’s just a perception of, “Well, this is the thing to do I guess, so let’s get one out there.” And when that’s your approach, people are going to see right through you, and not care much about what you’re broadcasting.

So in that sense, I can tell you we’re definitely not a “corporate” blog. If you read my posts on baseball or MMA, you can tell I’m coming from a place of genuine interest (and admitted geekery), just like many of your readers. You know, I’ve got the MLB app on my iPhone, and when the Mets game is on, you’ll see me walking through the halls here with my ear buds in, pumping my fist when we get a key RBI, or shouting frustration when we can’t get a runner in from third with less than two outs.

That’s me. I’m a genuine sports fan, and when I write, you’ll see that. You’ll see the same with other guys who have already contributed, like Patrick Sullivan and Terry Melia. And as others get on board, you’ll see the same out of them too. It’ll help get readers and fans closer to the people who work at Upper Deck, and that’s fun for everyone.

Q: We’ve already seen some behind-the-scenes stuff with “brag photos” of players at the Upper Deck headquarters and things like the Chicago Bulls floor. What else do you guys have in the works – perhaps videos from signings or content from events like the Rookie Premiere?

A: Anywhere we have access (yes, like the NFL Rookie Premiere Photo Shoot), we plan to get the blog involved. This is a very important part of what we’re doing, as it differentiates us from your average sports blog, and gives collectors like you a peek at things you wouldn’t see otherwise.

Q: We’d like to see looks at some of the memorabilia you guys have stashed away for future use or future products — or older archival cards perhaps that never were made or are rarely seen. Is anything like that possible?

A: If they let me into the game-used room, sure! Honestly, if there’s anything the audience wants to see, I’d recommend posting comments to our blog, or posting some to our Facebook page. If there’s enough demand to see a post about something, it’ll be hard for us to say no.

Q: Do you have anything to add?

A: I hope your readers check out UpperDeckBlog.com, bookmark it, and visit every day! We’re having a lot of fun with it, and I think it shows. Join our Facebook group, too. Your readers are core hobby fans, and these avenues are the best way to keep tabs on what’s going on with Upper Deck, and to interact with people who work here.

Most importantly Chris, thanks for the opportunity to express what we’re doing and why to your readers, it’s much appreciated.

Chris Olds has collected sports cards and memorabilia since 1987. Before coming to Beckett Media, he wrote about the hobby for the Orlando Sentinel on his blog, SportsStuff, and for the San Antonio Express-News and The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News. Do you have a comment, question or idea? Send e-mail to him at colds@beckett.com.


  1. Posted May 5, 2009 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    “A big part of social media is letting the fans feel more involved with the company, so hopefully we can do a few things to get you guys more involved with certain decisions, as you mentioned.”

    Brilliant! I’m pretty sure that’s the ‘social’ part of social media… it’s more than a big part of it… it is it!

    In other news, AT&T would like customers to have a conversation and be able to speak to each other instead of just one person talking and someone else listening. :)

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist… I only tease.

    It’s is great to have UpperDeck and other companies join the blog world. I’m anxious to see what content they’ll provide. Social media is about transparency – give me something I can’t get from the web page and press release.

    Congrats to UD – I look forward to seeing some good content.

  2. Toby Wachter
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    JRJ: You got me there, it is a bit of a redundant statement ;) But to be fair, a lot of companies still view social media as a one way street. Especially blogs, which are often a modern version of a traditional publication.

    Glad you’re enjoying it though, and feel free to tell us what you’d like to see up there moving forward, whether through the comments, or Facebook (or some other avenues we’ll implement soon…)

  3. Posted May 5, 2009 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Toby – I’ll check it out thanks for the comments. You are right, a lot of corporate america is waaay behind on social media. They see it as another medium, instead of a way to interact with customers. I fight that battle every day! Ugh.

  4. Ron Bordeleau
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I had called upper deck and the woman told me to come here and state my problem . I have 2 2008-09 fleer ultra cards with the same number but different players, 1 card is Brian Rolston card # 46 ,, 2nd card is Rick DiPietro card # 46 I also took pictures of them both if needed. Can someone tell me what to do or is it worth any thing? Please reply thank you. Ron

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