Friday, September 2, 2011

Balls Bloggers Juggle: Why Blog About Sports?

The fourth edition of the popular Blogs with Balls conference is coming up September 24th in New York City. In anticipation, I wanted to write some blogs discussing topics of debate within the sports blogosphere. Feel free to comment with your own take on the topic and suggest what you think is important.

Suppose that you have a friend who lives in Denver and just graduated from college in electrical engineering. He loves the Colorado Rockies, skis relentlessly, plays drums in a local band, and has an odd fascination with foreign films. Unfortunately, he can't find a job, and so he wants to write a blog to stay busy while looking for a job. What should he write about?

To be honest, if you look at the Technorati 100, a ranking of blogs, the answer seems to be "anything but sports." How many sports blogs do you think are on the top 25? top 100? Check, you may be surprised. The circumstantial evidence that writing about sports is a mistake is also rather substantial. Look, for example, at Brian Spaeth, no longer writing about the NBA (formerly yaysports, now I'd interview him about it, but I'd have to get in line behind all his new lady fans. Or Drew Magary, who, despite being a successful sports blogger with KSK, decided to write a non-sports book (The Postmortal) and admitted that sports books really don't sell well. Matt Ufford is writing about TV, while Will Leitch writes about movies. Is it me, or is there a brain drain occurring in the sports blog world?

Aside: It's also interesting to see an increase in non-sports content on blogs. To name a few quick examples within the last year or two, Grantland has pop culture, Deadspin has Drew's funbag and comedy, TheBiglead does movie reviews, and KSK does their sex mailbag. If you click on their sites, you might think Sports by Brooks, BlackSportsOnline, and MoondogSports would be more accurate to drop the "Sports" and say "Women" instead. All seem to have increased traffic by doing so. Which do you think got more traffic last month--a lesser known men's mag like fhm, or your favorite popular sports blog?

Second, there's the audience for sports blogging. I've done several types of blogging, and quite honestly, sports are the hardest audience to write for. Heaven help you if you get a fact wrong or dare opine that someone's favorite player may be over-rated. Oh, there's criticism in all sections of blogging, but it's surprising to me how much negativity can be inspired by one blog. It's interesting to watch some sports blogs do their best to control and manipulate their comment section. I used to be quite against this, and that's a topic for another time, but...I can see their viewpoint a little more than before. A comment section shouldn't be a whine section, given that everyone has a red X button they can use.

Finally, let's look at the benefits. If our friend from the Rockies blogs about gadgets, he has a much better shot of having a well-read blog. If he just blogs about his band or does his best low-budget men's mag/Tucker Max imitation, he might be able to get some female fans. If he blogs about skiing, he might be able to score some free ski passes from lodges or otherwise get free equipment to try. If he blogs about the Rockies? Most pro sports teams tend to see bloggers as a nuisance.

I've deliberately painted a rather bleak picture of our man in Denver, but take my bait here, if you will. If you could start over again, would you still blog about sports? What benefits are there to sports blogging that I am missing?

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