(From Sports Business Daily -- By John Show)
BLOGS continue to be the buzz within politics, technology and entertainment, and now increased offerings in THE SPORTS INDUSTRY are forcing leagues, teams and the media to adapt to the new form of communication.
While some professional sports leagues have developed BLOG NETWORKS on their Web sites, media outlets have been more apt to embrace the concept and meld it into existing operations.
"The thing to watch here is not whether blogs will have the same effect in SPORTS as in POLITICS, but what sort of effect they will have on THE MEDIA," said ECHODITTO CEO NICCO MELE, who served as the leading Internet strategist on HOWARD DEAN's 2004 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN.
ESPN OUT FRONT
ESPN.com has been the most aggressive with blogs, the common name for WEBLOGS, and has moved some of its more prominent writers into blogging under the ESPN INSIDER PAY SERVICE, which costs $6.95 a month. The content in these frequent filings differs from standard daily form to include notebook-type nuggets of information and commentaries that would seem out of place in a normal column due to tone or length. Bloggers also provide online links and comments to national stories. ESPN.com has one blogger for each of the major sports it covers, as well as fantasy sports and sports business, but don't expect every writer to start filing a blog. "We have to identify the people who have the right amount of time and the right voice for this," said ESPN.com Executive Editor PATRICK STIEGMAN. "Some people are much more comfortable in a more structured contemporary column format; other people are a little more comfortable writing in this informal style."
SI.com, SportingNews.com, FoxSports.com, and CBS SportsLine.com also have added blogs in some form, all free. SPORTING NEWS columnists KEN ROSENTHAL and SEAN DEVENEY and radio personality RICK BALLOU have all added blogging duties to their regular work. SI.com features THE DAILY BLOG written by BILL SYKEN, and NFL writer PETER KING this year filed training camp diaries in blog format. Likewise, some newspapers have added a blogging function to their online offerings that feature columnists and beat writers, and some leagues and teams have adopted blogging as an entertainment feature.
MLB earlier this year launched MLBLOGS, which now features more than 60 blogs written by notables such as TOMMY LASORDA Lasorda and BROOKS ROBINSON, as well as by fans, players and members of the broadcast media. "Fans and newsmakers alike use self-publishing tools to reach millions of people every day," said DINN MANN, MLBAM Senior Vice President and Editor-In-Chief. "And any major site that doesn't offer them or have a strategy to add them and build upon them is doing its visitors a disservice.”
The NBA's BLOG SQUAD appears in five languages on the league's Web site and taps a wide range of personalities, including GMs, coaches, players, broadcasters and actors. "We will be expanding our stable of regular bloggers as well as using blogs to cover events,” said STEVE GRIMES, NBA Senior Director of Internet Services.
The NHL has focused on the entertainment value of blogs, but also monitored fan blogs during the lockout to identify issues that later formed the basis for specific market research studies, said BERNADETTE MANSUR, NHL Vice President/Group Communications. "These blogs might not have existed before, and the majority of them won't exist for a long time, but those that will have become really important voices," said Mansur. "It's another opportunity through better technology to communicate with your fans and understand what they like and what they don't like." With the lockout over, the NHL plans to continue monitoring blogs and to take advantage of their entertainment value with player and fan blogs.
NFL.com had a blog around this year’s draft in which analysts provided real-time analysis. The league also expects to incorporate blogs into fantasy football programming and other areas of NFL.com.
CUBAN USES BLOG MAVERICK TO DISH ON DIFFERENT ISSUES
The most well-known blog among pro sports owners is MAVERICKS Owner MARK CUBAN's BLOG MAVERICK, which started in March 2004. Cuban uses the platform to chime in on everything from media coverage to ticket scalpers, as well as topics unrelated to the NBA. Cuban stresses the importance of monitoring individual blogs from the franchise level, writing in an email, "If someone in management isn't doing it now they are making a big mistake.”
THE PLACE FOR FANS TO VENT
But the main application of blogs is still being felt at THE FAN LEVEL. One of the more enterprising team-specific efforts is SPORTSBLOGS, which has a network covering 25 MLB TEAMS and has attracted the interest of OAKLAND A's General Manager BILLY BEANE and new owner LEWIS WOLFF, who have each offered exclusive interviews for the A's forum, ATHLETICS NATION. But despite his interest in covering the team in depth, SPORTSBLOGS President TYLER BLESZINSKI, who operates THE ATHLETICS NATION SITE, doesn't believe the line will ever blur between bloggers and traditional journalists. "I don't think that’s ultimately what blogs are about," said Bleszinski. "The newspapers do a fine job of covering the games on a day-to-day basis, and that's what their strength is. The blog has a tendency of looking at the big picture, and that’s what is appealing to people."
MORE TO COME
SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY, in conjunction with sister publication SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL, this week examines blogs and their relevance in the sports world. Monday introduces blogs, Tuesday profiles a blog created by WHITE SOX Vice President/Communications SCOTT REIFERT, Thursday covers A PODCAST published by THE BLACKHAWKS and Friday discusses SportsBlogs.com. On Wednesday, we launch a new weekly feature, called BLOG HOUNDS which offers a sampling of some of the subjects being discussed by SPORTS BLOGGERS.