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'I ate paper and drank ink to prove how attached we were to print'

Danny Kelly is this week’s guest on Behind the Lines.

THIS WEEK’S GUEST on Behind the Lines is Danny Kelly, former editor of NME, Q and Total Sport. 

If you’re unaware, each episode of Behind the Lines features a lengthy chat with a sportswriter about their career along with their favourite pieces of writing.

The show is exclusive to members of The42, and to subscribe and gain access to a 24-episode back catalogue, go to members.the42.ie. 

The above is only a small section of Danny’s CV, and he is also one of the founders of the immensely popular website Football365, one of the cornerstones of the 365 Corporation. 

The site has a rich origin story, as he plotted on the podcast. It began in 1997 with a presentation on behalf of Britain’s print magazines against some new-fangled notion called the internet…

“I was working for IPC, the huge publisher in Britain. They knew I could do a bit of show, so they told me, ‘These two guys are coming from America. They are going to tell us about something called the internet in front of all the major editors of magazines in Britain. Will you do something to defend print and paper?’ 

“I made this speech – and God forgive me for this – I ended it with a frankly blasphemous reproduction of the Catholic consecration ceremony.

“I ate paper and drank ink to prove how attached we were.” 

I distinctly remember thinking after that: ‘I won the showbiz battle but they won the argument.’ I saw this thing called the internet and thought, ‘What, you don’t have to chop down the trees in Scandanavia? Lorry drivers don’t have to drive this thing around again?’” 

From there he wiped the last of the ink from his mouth and found enormous and almost instant success online. 

“A person who I’d never met came to me and said, ‘Look, I like your work, do you want to own your own work and do it on the internet?’ 

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“I launched Football365 in the summer of 1997. It looks and feels the same way as we launched it. I’m very proud of it, it was floated on the stock exchange and all that stuff, eventually, Mr. Murdoch got hold of it and he owns it. 

“In 1997, me and three others launched it from a single room in Islington. My recollections are that we had no windows , we were literally in a box room. 20 months later, such was the insanity of that wave of the internet, we had 1200 employees. The thing was moving at such a speed, we bought a telephone company to make sure we could get the new iterations out to people. 

“But my job was to make sure the concept was good, and that hasn’t changed. that is the same, regardless of what you do. 

“We had two great pieces of luck.

During the 1998 World Cup we did this thing called ‘World Cup talk-in with Doctor Stephen Hawking.’ All it was, was a voice put through a voice processor, and it sounded like Dr. Stephen Hawking giving predictions every morning. That took off.  Then when David Beckham got sent off against Argentina for kicking out [at Diego Simeone], we replicated the child’s game Buckaroo and called it Beckaroo. It made the back pages of the Daily Mirror where Harry Harris, God bless him, said, ‘What is this filth? What is Football365? Who thinks it can treat our national hero in such a way?’ 

“Little did he know that every word he wrote was putting another 10,000 users onto 365. It was one of the great migrations. I can think about the Israelites leaving Egypt, but the single greatest migration was caused by Harry Harris slagging off Football365 on the back page of the Daily Mirror.”

Listen to the full interview with Danny by subscribing here. 

To listen for free to some highlights from the first 12 episodes of this series, follow this link. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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