So Greg W. of Puck Daddy fame posted today regarding the NHL wanting to ban bloggers & online based journalists from visitor’s locker rooms. It’s quite a provocative issue, as the growth of online blog conglomerates like SBNation & Bleacher Report has muddied the line between “professional writer” and “blogger.” It’s especially gotten stickier as traditional MSM outlets are now starting to rely on sites like Bleacher Report for their sports content. The thing is, there’s no real hard and fast playbook for how teams need to deal with the rapid growth of social media entities. Twitter & blogs have definitely changed how sports have been covered. Discussion happens instantaneously and teams have to monitor many different entities. It can be taxing role for whomever is assigned that duty by a team.
As has been pointed out by multiple entities, the NHL as a league has embraced social media. They run active Twitter & Facebook entities. They work to organize tweet ups where fans can meet. They “get it.” It’s when the ball is passed to individual teams that things start going haywire. Each team has its own social media effort and way of looking at things. Take the Sabres, for example. Their Twitter feed is especially active and helpful during the season, and if your only complaint is the all-caps postings and the circular links to Facebook and then to Sabres.com, then they have to be doing something right. Other teams are different and may very well be dragged into the social media area kicking and screaming.
On Twitter earlier this afternoon, Mike Harrington pointed out that teams might be afraid that bloggers will become a substitute for team websites. That’s a valid point and one I hadn’t considered. But how many fans out there come to my blog – or any of the other blogs out there – to find breaking news? Most people still hit up team websites and MSM vehicles first. In my opinion, the MSM is a news destination, the blogosphere is the commentary/opinion/snark source. There’s nothing wrong with either, it’s just that news is news. Player A said this. Player B said that. There’s no room for an opinion in a news article. A blogger can take the words of Players A & B and add their own opinions & comments. Again, neither is wrong. It’s just two different ways of looking at the game and two different ways of consuming information.
If a team wanted to take away the perception that they won’t be the first source for team news (and really, it’s a source for PR), they can just add a newsfeed to their homepage. I’m not just talking about a link to The Buffalo News (which I’m sure their management would appreciate), but reports on the more fringe papers, like those of the players hometowns, the away teams for that week, etc. Adding a newsfeed would turn a team website into a content aggregator very quickly. If my fellow bloggers and I can operate “The Google” and find a link to a story in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle about the summer that Tyler Myers spent herding cattle*, then why can the Sabres website not do the same thing?
*To my knowledge, Tyler Myers has never been in Cheyenne, Wyoming, nor has he ever herded cattle. But you get my point.
As media consumption habits change, the traditional MSM is seeing its audience shift to other sources, whether it’s the traditional MSMs web presence or an independent internet source. We can’t deny that broadcast sports reports and newspaper column inches are shrinking as more and more people get their news from the internet. While the internet can sometimes be a scary place for sports teams, they should also embrace it, using it as a tool to mine suggestions on improvements that can be made (say to the off ice experience, the website, et al). While fans are your biggest critics at times, they can also be your biggest allies. And fans with blogs are the most passionate ones, the ones that take the time to write about their favorite team and sport. Aren’t these the fans you want to court? Or is it the idea that these fans don’t go to the games since they’re firmly indented on mama’s basement sofa so the team doesn’t have to worry about them?
Sorry, old stereotypes die hard.
Now I’m one of those bloggers that wouldn’t know what to do with locker room access. I’d get lost in the fuss in the locker room. If you’ve ever met me, you know I’m reasonably quiet & shy. I don’t burst in and demand attention. I’d probably trip over my tongue (or my own two feet) while trying to ask a question. However, that doesn’t mean that there are Sabres bloggers out there that wouldn’t want the locker room access. I’d love to see what it’s like in the press box, but I realize that my little blog probably won’t get me past the velvet rope up there, and I’m ok with that.
A lot needs to be done on both sides in order to come to a happy medium. Bloggers should have to “earn” their credential from a team, whether its by supplying writing samples or interacting with the media relations staff enough so that they can feel confident that you won’t be a blabbering idiot. Or maybe start with a practice and then work your way up to game coverage. Teams need to realize that bloggers are not the enemy. We’re all reasonable people, except for, you know, when we go on our bi-monthly weekly “fire them all” rants.
I’m looking forward to seeing where this discussion leads. The NHL has some of the most passionate fans, bloggers and media members out there. Getting everyone on the same page in the same book is probably going to be a long, frustrating road, but in the end, it will be worth it.
Moving on, the NFL is having a social media trouble of its own. Mediapost reported today that Ochocinco was fined 25k for tweeting from the sidelines during a preseason game. That’s almost a “no shit sherlock” thing for me. I mean, these guys are paid to play sports and have their heads in the game. There’s a time and place for interacting with your adoring (or heckling) public, and in the middle of a game is not it. If the NFL wants in game tweeting about what’s going on on the sidelines, send an intern down with a smartphone or netbook and let them have at it. Tell me that Brian Moorman is chatting with Poz about the philosophies of Kant as they wait for kickoff. That’s fine. But players themselves should not have the freedom to tweet from the sidelines. I know football is a little different than other sports where there is a lot of idle time, but as professional athletes, their heads should be in the game at all times. And really, I’ve heard that a professional athlete or two has left the Twitterverse because he was upset that the fans were leveling criticism at him. How would he react to critical statements if he received them in game as opposed to afterward when he’s had a chance to cool off? It would not end well for anyone.
And finally, Drew Stafford wants to be a duck? You only have to watch until the 1:50 mark to get the gist, and there is some language in the video as well. And is it me, or does Mr. Staffy look slightly ticked off in this video?