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Blogging The Future
2004-02-03 09:32
by Will Carroll

Kid Gleeman has a good (and, for him, terse) post on the emergence of blogging. When I got to the end of the column, I was left hanging, wondering where Aaron was going. He has some good examples and catalogs the explosion of blogs, but he doesn't finish it out. Where is this thing going? What does it mean? Who wins?

I think the 'acceptance' of the format by larger media outlets is a bit dangerous for those in the smaller format. If the Times and ESPN get to blogging, will it knock out the more normal newspaper/magazine metaphor? I doubt it, simply because they are, for the most part, competing against hobbyists. Alex Belth, Christian Ruzich, and Zach Manprin, as far as I know, don't make much off their blogs besides good karma and they're among the best in the genre despite being three very different guys and very, very different writers.

I'm a bit more surprised that some writers aren't being co-opted by larger formats. The Post-Intelligencer does a Mariners blog, but wouldn't it be easier and certainly better if they let the USS Mariner crew or Peter from Mariners Musings do it? While I can't speak for them, I don't think cost would be a major issue. Ed Cosette moved the Bambino over to the regional Fox for a while and I have to think that was win-win. Most teams have at least one good blog and last I looked, most towns are down to one daily fishwrap.

(Off topic for a second ... I got a bunch of emails late last week about me leaving BP for the Indy Star. Not even remotely true.)

So if a newspaper or TV-associated blog can't knock someone out of existence in the normal competitive marketplace, it can take away mindshare. It'd be much easier for WGN to start up some sort of Cubs blog than it would be for Cubs Reporter to gain the type of eyeballs the former would start with.

Aaron also leaves out the lack of quality in the blogging world. Sure, there's 150+ blogs in the baseball part of the sphere, but how many are worth reading? How many differentiate themselves on quality (Belth, Jaffe), niche (Dugout Dollars, Ball Talk), or something like journalism or research? Sadly, very few. Part of that, as Aaron rightly points out, might be the lack of editing. Lord knows an editor might have saved me some grief over the last couple days! In some cases, a passion simply doesn't equate to an interesting viewpoint or isn't enough to make up for a lack of writing talent. It's also extremely difficult to write something every day. I have an immense amount of respect for guys like Joe Sheehan or Rob Neyer who create something out of whole cloth and don't often have it handed to them on a platter. (UTK might be daily, but I don't have to go looking for material.)

David Pinto slightly shifted his blog to be associated with BIS, his new employer. While there aren't any visible changes yet, I'd imagine David might just get better access to stats and might start being a good marketing tool. There's NOTHING wrong with that. Lee Sinins uses his ATM Reports as a marketing tool for his SBE (go buy it!), using his proprietary stats to educate the rest of us. That type of marketing arrangement could work, but I'm also curious about blog aggregation. I'm sort of part of it here at all-baseball and there are other efforts doing similar things, but none of them have worked the model into something sustainable.

So what's next for blogs and net based baseball writing? I'm not sure. I'm reasonably sure that it might follow the dot-com or worse, the Napster (Fanning, not Roxio) model, but then again, that would take a massive shift in public awareness. It will probably be tested by the path that politics and blogging blazes in the 2004 election, especially if some blogger has a Drudge-Lewinsky moment.

To me, the biggest issues are quality and marketing. The first happens naturally in any endeavor of the virtual pen, but the latter is often beyond the reach and skill set of the writer. Someone will solve that issue - or bring in funding - and then the game will truly be on.

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