Anecdotal--but heartfelt--evidence of the impact a great blogger can have on sports fandom

The walk between Safeco Field and the heart of Seattle's Capitol Hill is two miles, or about 45 minutes if you're doing the uphill trek at a somewhat leisurely place. I could stretch it into an hour if I stopped off for a late dinner at the taco truck-like joint holed up in an old KFC or the Dick's Burgers down the street. During the 2010 and 2011 seasons—during which the Mariners lost a combined 196 games—I made that late-night walk roughly 100 times. And it felt like three times out of four it was following a 3-1, 2-1 or 4-2 loss.

When I arrived home, usually around 11, I knew I had roughly an hour to an hour and a half before I'd be able to sleep—regardless of how exciting or dull the game may have been. So I'd fill it with some ESPN3 highlights of the XBox, random reading and then climb into bed for the last of the usual postgame routine: looking over game highlights on the iPad and, if I hadn't passed out yet,  reading the regular game recap to come online from Jeff Sullivan at Lookout Landing.

For myself and many other Mariners fans, reading those recaps and the other regularly-outstanding writing and analysis put forth by Jeff  was as much a part of the Mariners fan routine as the games themselves. For some, it was even more-so.

So it came as quite the blow to the entire Mariners community when Jeff announced he'd written his last post for Lookout Landing, citing the desire to make following and writing about the M's feel less like a job and more like the hobby it was intended to be—to make it fun again.

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Dan Levy and On the DL Podcast show an unfortunate side to sports blogging

When I started my first sports blog in 2006, and really got things rolling over the coming years, I almost regretted the subject matter. See, instead of blogging on University of Montana sports and pulling in a boatload of visitors through that, I almost wished I had picked a different subject matter. I didn't realize how young the sports blogosphere was at the time and wondered how I would've done had I written on sports in general.

I looked around the mainstream sports blogosphere, thought being one of those guys would be phenomenal and believed I might've had a shot. I thought I could pull a Simmons; I'd pour all my time into writing (because I thought work ethic was all I needed) and work my way into the mainstream media. In a dream world, I'd blog my way to the my place in the Wrigley Field press box and the Cubs beat at the Trib. Ridiculous, I know.

The thing is, there really aren't many Bill Simmonses out there. And the life of the rockstar sports blogger doesn't really have as much rockstar to it as I would've thought. Today, the story of Dan Levy calling it quits on the long-running On The DL podcast stands out as something of a lesson, maybe a sports blogging parable.

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Sports blogging & marketing lessons to be learned from Kanye West's 'G.O.O.D. Fridays'

Ask 10 people what they think of Kanye West and at least six will respond with something close to "he's an idiot." 

Looking at things from an artistic standpoint, that's reasonable to disagree with. One of the hip-hop industry's most talented producers transformed into one of the best lyricists out there, demonstrating it from the get-go on his debut LP, The College Dropout. Don't agree, missing things a bit? Check out the long list of samples he's melded and shaped into several of his genre's best tracks.

Stepping away from music and more towards his public persona, it's easy to see why some people would characterize Kanye as an idiot. His antics in the past leave something to be desired. But as of late, it's a completely different story.

Joining Twitter and giving followers an unadulterated view inside his head was a fine start. Now, he's going beyond that, starting what he calls 'G.O.O.D. Fridays'. Named for his record label, G.O.O.D. (Getting Out Our Dreams) Music, Kanye promisies to release a new song, for free, every Friday until Christmas. Thus far, it's been a phenomenal success. So, what can sports marketers and bloggers learn from 'Ye?

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Social media very important in finding a job

Over the past decade we've gone from worrying about what people might find when they're searching your name on the internet to worrying about what they won't. Of course, no one wants random bits of embarrassment to come up when someone Googles their name but almost worse: finding nothing. How unimpressed are you when that happens? I'm usually stunned.

Over at Innovation in College Media they have a great post on utilizing social media to land a job, with some insight from David Spink of Scribnia.com.

A personal blog or portfolio site can serve as the corner stone to the online image that new journalists must shape, said Spinks.

"It's really important that you shape a that image of yourself -- that image that comes up when people seek you online," Spinks said. "It's up to you personally how you present yourself. Part of blogging and social networking is showing more of your personality and being more transparent. But then there's the saying that you shouldn't have anything online that you wouldn't show your mother."

In college, "what's your major?" is the ice-breaking line to beat all cliche ice-breaking lines. Whenever I used this and somone answered journalism, I advised them—almost on the verge of desperation—to start a blog. It's crucial. But as Spinks points out, there's a little more to it than that.

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Athlete blogging done right: Mark Titus' Club Trillion

When it comes to athletes and social media, the experts in the area preach about education. Athletes must be educated on what they should say and what they really shouldn't share. Often times—at least on blogs—their language is cleaned up to the point that it lacks any kind of distinguishable voice. So, what happens when you play things a little bit more loose? When the athlete actually writes and sometimes comes dangerously close to going a bit too far? Mark Titus of Club Trillion gives us an idea of how athlete blogging could be done, and its potential effect.

From Pete Thamel's great New York Times article (free subscription required; shorter registration-free blog post here):

He is so popular that student sections in opposing arenas hold up signs and chant his name, and the Ohio State star Evan Turner admits that Titus is the most popular player on the team.

And what's so appealing? The blog title itself hints at Titus' style and sense of humor:

trillion is basketball slang for a player entering the game and not recording any statistic other than minutes. That leaves the box score with 12 zeros, or a trillion, and Titus’s followers are known as the Trillion Man March. (People have actually booed him for getting a rebound and ruining his potential trillion.)

Athletes, teams and the marketers they work with could learn a great deal from Titus, who doesn't consider himself a journalist, but more an entertainer. His take: "Here, I have some stories and jokes to go with them."

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Coverage of Chris Henry tragedy highlights need for responsibility in online journalism

I am not an old school journalist. I'm not one who believes blogs and Twitter should never be trusted. Blogs and Twitter aren't people, one cannot cast everyone using the medium under one light. It'd similar to saying "the phone should never be trusted" or "anyone who emails you isn't a credible source." That's absurd. Online sources pulled from Twitter and blogs should be treated the same as any other source, with a bit of skepticism.

While it's been debated for some time, this issue was framed in my mind by the coverage of the Notre Dame hiring process and further highlighted last night by the premature reports of Chris Henry's death.

Going back, Twitter and blogs should be treated the same as any other source. For some reason, people have skipped the process of evaluating potential sources. Things to consider:

  • Do I know this person?
  • Are they hiding behind anonymity?
  • Have they provided trustworthy information in the past?
  • Are they a firsthand source or is the information being relayed through someone else?

With many online media outlets, questions like these have been ignored and any accountability is passed from the journalist to the source.

For example, last night a fake Twitter account claiming to be someone from the Dallas Morning News prematurely announced the passing of Chris Henry, despite the fact that he was still on life support. Michael Rand of the Star Tribune has a great post on how this played out via Twitter and he does highlight the point I'm trying to make, this has less to do with the viral nature of Twitter and more to do with online news outlets taking some users' word as gospel.

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Athletes should avoid ghost blogging when possible

Twitter and blogging have become an essential part of the marketing strategies for many of today's prominent athletes. With the rising popularity and apparent 'hipness' of blogging, one has to wonder how much of the content is actually produced by the athletes and how much is ghost written by their PR team and more an attempt at marketing than connecting with fans.

When it comes to ghostwriting, I have to side with Neville Hobson, who is Head of Social Media Europe for WeissComm Group. His take:

There’s nothing inherently wrong with ghost blogging when you disclose the fact that your blog posts are ghost-written by someone other than you, the named writer (or whoever in your company is the supposed blogger). If you really do believe in transparency, truthfulness and trust, that’s the extent of disclosure you would make – the fully Monty.

But let me further say that the very idea of someone writing your posts for you, even with disclosure, is a very bad idea and not worth doing at all. A blog is about the people you engage with through your writing getting some insight into you, the person, over time in addition to connecting with your thinking, views, opinions, etc, as expressed in your writing. So I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, client or anyone else.

 

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Is live blogging sporting events dying?

Almost every sports blog has, at some point or another, ran a live blog on a particular game or event. This process of rapidly updating one blog post with short insight and commentary on a game was extremely popular a few years ago and almost expected of any blog covering a particular team.

As Shel Israel of Global Neighborhoods notes in his blog bost, In loving memory of live blogging, the practice was very popular in the coverage of technology conferences but has since faded with the advent of Twitter.

Then along came Twitter. Obviously, I considered this also important and revolutionary. I still do. But it has occurred to me that this, faster, easier, shorter way of reporting through "live tweets" has replaced the longer, deeper, more thoughtful social media form,at of live blogging. It has done so in a very short period of time and my sense is something is being lost.

Tweets by their nature are terse. An audience members usually says who is speaking & maybe the topic. A rave review is the that she or he "rocks." But the coverage of what is actually being said is reduced. So are the questions and comments coming from outside the room.

This is happening in the world of sports as well. But with sports, Twitter isn't the only thing tool being used as an alternative to true live blogging. A service called CoverItLive is used on several popular blogs. ESPN has also jumped in the live blogging game with their Section 140 and Virtual Pressbox, which operates very similarly to to the CoverItLive. While both are better than traditional live blogging, and each have their advantages, they aren't what I would use to cover a game.

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Why freelance sportswriters should blog

Newspapers are laying people off like crazy. Who knew, right? Whether newspapers are headed for a tragic extinction or some form of miraculous resurgence, the reality right now is that reporters and other sportswriters are losing their jobs and looking for work. Some have turned to freelance writing as they look to get by.

For those who have reached this point, they’ve probably already heard that starting a blog is a worthwhile venture. However, this is shortly followed by the fear of writing for free. Get over it.

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Make your sports blog more personal

This shouldn’t even be an issue. As far as topics to cover on a blog, sports are as personal and emotional as they come. Anyone who’s sat down to write immediately following one of those losses that not only sucks all sense of joy or optimism from your body, but prevents you from watching SportsCenter for a week knows what I’m talking about. Still, you’ll see it, a sports blog spitting out quotes, some bland analysis and possibly even remaining anonymous. Definitely not a good approach.

Darren Rowse of ProBlogger had a couple posts (somewhat) recently on the prospect of making one’s blog more personal. He listed a few things he does on his own blog to assure readers that, yes, there’s actually a person behind this thing.

  • I use my real name

The days of anonymous sports blogs should be long gone. There’s no need for it now. If you’re looking to use your blog as a step towards anything in the future, it’s essential that you put your name on it. It builds credibility and trust. If you write under a pseudonym, no one has any more reason to trust in what you have to say than a commenter. You just happen to write the blog. You’re not just the blogger, you’re the author. Put your name out there and lend a sense of both credibility and accountability to your writing.

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