Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Too Many Bloggers? Not Enough Bloggers (Video)

While attending the Blogs with Balls conference, I was even more aware how crowded the sports blogosphere is. Panelist after panelist referred to the difficulty of standing out in a crowded market. The room was filled with talent, and I knew many more talented bloggers who were not present. While developments such as the emergence of Grantland validate bloggers, it also signals that bigger, more powerful competition looms. Paradoxically, receiving the very legitimacy bloggers crave could be the end of sports blogging as we know it.

At and since the conference, small fracases have broken out about the need for more female and minority bloggers. There was a early-morning panel at the conference about women in blogging, but I was strangely dissatisfied with it. If I were the head of a blogging network, why would I want to hire a female blogger? In my opinion, I felt the panel missed an opportunity to confront this question head-on. I was also shocked to learn via Punte just how few women had attended previous Blogs with Balls conferences. For a reference point, I tried to coax two NYC female sports bloggers to go to Blogs with Balls 1 a few years ago. Had they attended, if I understand Punte's numbers correctly, the number of female bloggers in attendance would have nearly doubled.

Also, a debate has since broken out about the need for more minority bloggers, spurred by AJ Daulerio's reply to being asked why Deadspin had no black bloggers*. (For more on that, see Bomani Jones's essay). I understand that if you make your living through blogging, it can't be fun to be accused of being racist and/or sexist. But if you will, please watch this short video clip of Deadspin's Emma Carmichael, the first full-time female hire at Deadspin, giving her thoughts on how blogging could be changed:

I think she makes good points on the need for greater interactivity, points that perhaps the traditional male perspective on blogging has missed. The reason we need more bloggers, not less, is there are still many more ways to blog and things to say that we aren't covering. Bloggers who are underrepresented in blogging offer us a chance to rethink and learn from others. There's no inherent magic about being a female or minority, but there is a tendency to bring up a different perspective to blogging that we need. (I've written about that in the past as far back as 2007). This doesn't have to be complicated...right? I personally pledge to do my best to bring at least one new female blogger and one new minority blogger to Blogs With Balls 5, should I attend. And I hope you all will join me in doing so, and that if you have hiring power at a blog network, that you'll consider looking for such bloggers.

*I think it's also fair to point out that AJ did a lot to promote the success of Katie Baker (now at Grantland) and Emma Carmichael (still at Deadspin). I saw him personally getting in arguments on Twitter to defend one of them when other bloggers tried to tell him they weren't good enough. But Bomani and Jemele Hill were also fair to point out the poor track record with attracting minority talent.


  1. Well said man...You didn't even get to meet myself and my female staffer. I don't look at my female staffer as a woman but as a solid writer. I think women bloggers should be looked at just like guys. They either are good or not.....doesn't matter what sex they are.

  2. Maybe not calling it Blogs With Balls would help. lol

    I dunno - isn't blogging as a whole kind of a term that's passed or at least passing? When the term emerged, the format and software were a novelty. But at this point - when most publications are online (and Grantland is a publication, not a blog), shouldn't it just be referred to as "writing"?

    Then you have pro writers and indie writers.

    I know this is playing semantics in some way, but isn't the discussion really "how do you break into professional writing"? I feel like even using the term "blogging" confuses the issue, especially - and this is something I'd LOVE to take on with an entity that could promote it - when you could publish a 15,000 piece via Kindle Singles and sell it at .99?

    Would 20K buy a SPECIAL REPORT of some kind, that was an in-depth profile or long-form investigative piece of journalism? This is going on in other sectors - why not in sports writing?

    In conclusion, I 'm glad I got out of sports-blogging.

  3. @Brian The First: I definitely agree hiring just to make one's staff look more diverse is a mistake. There is nothing readers hate more than feeling like they are getting bad writing pushed on them.

  4. @Brian the Second: Sorry it took so long to reply. Ha, excellent point about the Blogs with Balls title. "Hey, women, I don't understand why you don't want to come to our blog convention when it sounds like a frat party. I'm shocked!"

    You know, I think you're right about the pro writer and indie writer sentiment. I didn't feel like I was seeing a roomful of bloggers with non-mainstream opinions. I felt instead that I was looking at a roomful of writers trying to get their big break. There was more than a hint of network schmoozing.

    Brian, I think your Kindle Singles and Special Report ideas make a lot of sense. Why not create great content and get paid for it? The current ad-heavy model makes little sense. I've seen bloggers write books, but I don't know if that is best use of their skills. A lot of the books just seem like blog entries held together by string. So why not sell blog entries themselves?

    But the 20k idea...let's be honest, I think most bloggers couldn't do a truly investigative report. We don't get many true reporters in blogland, at least not by what I've seen. Still, I kind of wonder if a more low-key model, where I could hire a blogger to write a story on a topic of my choosing, could work. Consider a patron model: I pay a blogger $100 to write a story on the 1980 Browns or what not. Couldn't that work? Are you still a big fan of the self-publishing model, btw?

    And yes, you definitely made a great move to get out of sports blogging. I'm more convinced than ever that there is little $ in sportswriting: got to do it for the love of the game, heh. The cushy 6-figure jobs also seem to be disappearing in some ways.

  5. I have done some investigating reporting in my days covering college baseball from being the only publication that actually went with a student athlete breaking his neck sliding into second base or when the Chicago State baseball coach had lies all over his resume. We ended up beating the Chicago papers to that story.

    Here is the original story

    Then how the papers in Chicago reacted