Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What’s next for sports blogging: a call to action

This is a call to action for sports bloggers and others who work in this space. I recently attended Blogs with Balls 2.0 at Blog World Expo. The good folks from Hugging Harold Reynolds did an excellent job organizing the event, which was sponsored by heavy hitters including Fox Sports and my own employer Yardbarker. You can read reactions by many of those who attended on the BwB blog.

We had a lot of fun socializing and sharing our perspectives on various topics. But I felt like we were missing an opportunity to truly move sports blogging forward. I wanted more to be accomplished given the impressive collection of people from many aspects of sports media who were in attendance.

I’ve decided to write a series of posts about what’s next for the sports blogosphere, expanding on some issues raised at BwB and providing ideas for action steps. Below is an outline of topics I plan to discuss, which I’ll update with links as I finish the posts.

1) LINK. Success can be more dependent on distribution than content quality. We cannot assume the best quality content will passively “float to the top.”

2) LINK. Those in control of mass distribution have incentives that don’t necessarily line up with those of sports blogging. We need to take charge of convincing them of the value of sports blogging and perhaps sometimes play to mass appeal needs.

3) LINK. The old “blogs vs. MSM” paradigm is no longer very relevant. However, ESPN may present a special challenge for blogging in the sports category.

4) LINK. In order for sports blogging to be successful, we need to prove its value to content distributors, advertisers, and league/team/player entities. In order to prove that value, we need to be proactive, business-oriented, and organized as a community.

I’m writing this because while those of us at BwB were all competitors (competing for eyeballs, advertising dollars, and talent) we’re also very collaborative and many of us are good friends. We’re all fighting for slices of the pie, but there’s an opportunity for us to work together to grow the whole pie bigger. In fact, it’s not just an opportunity; I actually think it’s a necessity. Unless we work together, I’m not sure that we’ll be able to achieve mass distribution, prove our level of influence to advertisers, or gain legitimacy with teams/leagues and mainstream media outlets. These things may not be important to someone who blogs for fun, but they are important for those trying to make a living in the space.

Note that I’m sharing my own personal opinions, which may not necessarily represent those of Yardbarker (though many of these topics have come up in discussions with our CEO Pete Vlastelica, who plans to comment). My perspective is both enhanced and limited by my personal experience in the sports blogosphere over the last 3+ years. I started out blogging independently as a hobby while I was in law school and have since been in many roles, including a paid FanHouse blogger, Ballhype advisor, FanHouse executive producer, interim Yahoo Sports Blog editor, and Yardbarker’s Director of Programming (my current role). I’m not pretending to have a complete perspective nor any definitive answers. My goal is to get those involved with the sports blogosphere thinking, talking, and doing. I welcome any insights or disagreements in the comments or by email. Thank you for reading!

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