Friday, November 16, 2007

Fan Blogging -- What's the Point?

Ever since the Fan House article on the Isles Blog Box, we've been increasingly interested in the role of fan bloggers. After reading the Christian Science Monitor article on the Caps bloggers by Gare Joyce, we found ourselves contemplating the issue further. Not long after penning this essay as part of an off-line discussion of fanblogging, we saw Earl at BoC post this and Finny post this. Suddenly, this seemed worth publishing here. What do you HLOGers think?

The growth of hockey blogs has come to the attention of the MSM thanks to Ted Leonsis's forward-thinking embracing of Caps bloggers to augment traditional media coverage of his team. Leonsis's efforts have resulted in a revolutionary approach to increasing access to sports journalism for the layperson (see: credentialing bloggers to receive press passes otherwise reserved for traditional media), a revolutionary approach to covering sporting events that would otherwise be ignored (see: the World Championship widget), and a revolutionary approach to covering sports teams that would otherwise be ignored (see: the Bloggers Box on Long Island). However, there's a revolution in web-based communication Leonsis has ignored -- Web 2.0.

Several major newspapers have recently run columns profiling the Caps bloggers (The Washington Times, the Christian Science Monitor) but the advantages of blogging that have been presented are limited to offering non-traditional writers the chance to try their hand at real journalism, and offering fans faster access to information than they get from traditional newspapers. These advantages speak about information traveling one-way -- from the writer to the reader. At no point have Mr. Leonsis or the Caps bloggers emphasized the essential two-way conversation that makes blogging such a dynamic element of Web 2.0. The importance of the opportunity for fans around the world to meet fellow supporters of their team (and in the case of a niche league like the NHL, their sport) should not be overlooked. The objective of many bloggers isn't to gain entrance into the exclusive club of sports journalism -- it's to engage fellow fans in conversation. Conversation relies on information traveling two ways, a trend that is seen far more often on fan-run blogs than on more traditional journalistic blogs.

A lively community has been forged in the hockey blogosphere through linking and comment threads. This community does not hold itself to journalistic standards, does not have a greater collective goal of credentials and press passes, and does not answer to any authority but its own fandom. This is the voice of the fans and it is as important to the future of the game as any blog credentialed by Leonsis. When the MSM takes the time to report on the state of hockey blogging, they are not getting the full story by neglecting to take fan-blogging into consideration. Moreover, traditional, journalistic blogs are not utilizing the true revolutionary power of Web 2.0 if they are neglecting to take the voice of the fan into consideration when attempting to embrace a new form of mass communication.


Dare said...

I don't think that Web 2.0 has necessarily been that much of a catalyst in terms of the uniting of hockey fans. Message boards and forums have been doing the same thing for the last...10+ years (I think I joined the Toronto Maple Leafs when I was something like 13 years old). What people can share and the speed with which this information/multimedia can be spread has certainly exploded, but the basic framework hasn't changed all that significantly.

Certainly, the goal of many bloggers isn't to aspire to any level of professionalism, but there are some out there for which that is indeed some level of a goal (and their blogging has in fact led them to a professional writing stint). Like most things in life, people seek out blogging for a variety of reasons.

Do you think it would help or hurt the legitimization of blogging (which continues to be largely be linked to the domain of angsty 13 year olds on LJ) for the focus of the MSM to be on (sometimes poor) fan blogging? I kind of like that for once it's not "haha, stupid bloggers!" but at least some recognition of what bloggers might bring to the table.

Elly said...

Hooray! Someone else thinking this!

As Dare pointed out, there are a variety of different reasons for people to blog (and some have a professional interest), but for many, like myself, it is a way to connect with other fans, especially if you are in a low hockey fan zone. I have never claimed to be professional at this (far from it), and the sole purpose of my blogging is to talk about hockey. That is why I (and Steph) made NPI, because the rest of the people around us were sick of listening to the constant hockey chatter. Through this, I have been able to talk, not only to other passionate hockey fans, but actual Pittsburgh fans...something in very short supply here.

Is it a nice thought to think people actually care about what I write? Sure it is, but to be able to contribute to the community is about as far as my aspirations go on that front: I just simply don't have the time to put in anything else for more in depth work. That's a great thing about blogging: where you suck, someone else can pick up the slack and compliment your failings, as you can hopefully compliment someone else's.

Learning about hockey, talking to fans, and meeting other people has been such a joy to come from being a part of the hockey community online, which I really do think has expanded since last year. It could, of course, just be that I wasn't looking in the right places, but I had no idea that there were even half, a quarter, the amount of hockey bloggers online that there are. When I started this, I had no idea anyone would even be online to read what I wrote, although I suppose it makes sense for long time fans of the older clubs that have had long-die hard generations of fans. Exciting to think that the kids that grew up with the newer teams (cough, such as the Penguins, cough), are now old enough to be having kids of their own and starting new generations of hockey fans. :)

CapsChick said...

You know, it's interesting - in my response to that reporter's questions I actually highlighted the interactive nature of blogs as one of the things that sets them apart from the mainstream media. I talked about having discussions with other fans and how hockey fans (and all sports fans) love nothing more than to talk about their game with other fans. Oddly enough that part was cut out...

I totally agree that even in covering blogs, the mainstream media feels the need to separate between the "journalistic" blogs and blogs that are simply dedicated to a team and lovingly compiled but maybe not interested in sitting in the press box. It's very strange and probably is the next big obstacle bloggers will have to overcome.

That...and we need to separate ourselves from Eklund. That guy has hurt us more than people care to admit.

Schnookie said...

dare, you make a good point that message boards have been in place for ages now; however, Web 2.0 has made for commentary and conversation to be much more elegantly and seamlessly interwoven in hockey's online communities.

While I am grateful for the "legitimization of blogging", I find that the direction most of the dialogs about it take is very limiting. Yes, some bloggers want to write in the style of traditional hockey journalism (and to comport themselves commensurately), but when that approach is the one that is "legitimized" it further marginalizes the fan blogger.

The fact is that the hockey blogosphere has room for all kinds of participants: from serious, journalistic writers to slap-dash, trash-talking, lowest-common-denominator fan blogs. There are lots of us who fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, bloggers who are good writers and ardent fans, who use our blogs as a place to publish our editorials and opinions on our teams and to engage with fellow fans in two-way conversations. My blog might not be a great source of breaking news, but it is a great source to find out how part of the NHL fanbase is thinking. With all the excitement about the possibility of blogs doing the jobs of established journalists, it seems that element of the blogosphere -- the enfranchisement of the fan's voice -- is what's being ignored.

Finny said...

That...and we need to separate ourselves from Eklund. That guy has hurt us more than people care to admit.

very true. I didn't happen to write about it because (well, the damn thing was LONG)... but Eklund was the #1 referenced "bad example" from BOTH media and bloggers alike...

Katebits said...

I think that the attempts to "legitimize" blogging is doing a real disservice to the the form. "Blogging" is as broad a term as "writing". Any attempt to define it further is totally ignoring its true nature. I have a tremendous amount of respect for bloggers who choose to operate under the traditional journalistic rules, but the fact remains that ANYBODY can start a blog. This will never, ever change. You can't clean blogging up, and you can't call blogging "journalism". The 13 year-old writing on LJ is just as much a blogger as anybody else.

Blogging is changing how we communicate not just how we digest our news.

While the incredible blogger access occurring in Washington is certainly worthy of MSM coverage, I think that to present "hockey blogging" as MediaJr. is missing the most interesting part of the entire phenomenon- that a well spoken (well written) fan has real power to influence not just how other fans absorb information about the NHL, but also how they experience the NHL.

Let's put it this way: Despite being a Sabres fan, I find myself giving a hoot about the L.A. Kings, and it's because I think RudyKelly over at BoC is hilarious. I read his posts, I become familiar with his cast of characters, and suddenly I find myself staying up late to watch the Kings play. Although I absolutely respect the work being done by the Caps bloggers, it has not helped me connect emotionally to the team. Yes, I know a lot more about the Caps than I used to, but I am no more or less a fan than I was before. A fan, writing about their experience in the voice of a fan has actual potential to influence my tastes. To me, this is the most interesting "blogging" story.

Dare said...

I think that the 13 year old on LJ is no less of a legitimate form of blogging than someone who subscribes to more "professional" tendencies. I do, however, think that it's in some way positive for blogging to no longer just be associated with that. I mean, we were watching CSI last night and the vic had a blog...written in netspeak (of course). Focusing on the professionalism angle in hockey blogging to the abandonment/ignoring of all other forms certainly does blogging as a whole a disservice. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy that for once blogging isn't associated with "OMG, 2day i went 2 class, saw ur crush..."

I agree, that the voice of the fan is one of the most interesting things to come out of sport blogging. Sick of Damien Cox? Here's seven alternatives! You get different perspectives, and perspectives that aren't hindered or limited by the dominant practices, cliches, and expectations that shape professional media. As traditional media perspectives become all the more limited, I think it's great that people have taken some kind of a stand.

By the same token, that's one of the things that makes the "professionalization" of blogging so interesting - on one hand you're pushing away from "traditional" media, while on the other, you're adopting the same tendencies.

Man...I love this stuff.

Kate said...

Just to be clear! I have a tremendous amount of respect for you and your blog, Capschick. (I read it everyday) I'm feeling like that comment came off as a little aggressive, and for that I am sorry!

Schnookie said...

Man...I love this stuff.

I hear that! Since starting blogging about 10 months ago, this has become pretty much the only topic of conversation in my life. I feel sorry for my friends and coworkers, because all I'm ever saying is, "Aren't you excited? There's a revolution happening!"

HabsFan29 said...

My feeling is that its great the teams embrace the blogosphere, but the reason they are doing it is to get any publicity they can in order to fill the seats. thew WaPo has no hockey section, Leonsis gets his publicity elsewehere.

In Montreal, they wouldn't know a blog even if they posted a naked picture of George Gillett on one. Because they don't need the blogs

Jordi said...

HF29: Oh you make me laugh :).

I think in terms of blogs, there is a way of harnessing the power - aka Leonsis doing his thang everywhere or certain team websites having player profiles and whatnot.

And I know I missed the boat since I was lazy and slow, but I do believe that a CDC forum goer who often posted prospect reports now works for the Canucks in that part.

Blogs can help do the same in tapping hidden potential of many others but at the same time there are a lot of pitfalls.

But there's no such thing as a free lunch, the NHL or sports people wont pick you up unless you know you come with cash.

CapsChick said...

Kate: Don't worry about it! I don't pretend that my blog is anything but entertainment (although I'm grateful for the Caps for giving as much access as they do). I didn't think your comment was aggressive - in fact, I totally agree! :)

(And a Sabres fan reading a Caps blog every day...see? That's what I love about the blogosphere :P)