Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Who ya gonna count on?

We're going to talk about blogs, contribute to this blog, and try to better understand the legitimacy and impact of the 10-year-old online format throughout the semester.
Ironically, I first set up a blog about nine years ago without knowing it was a blog when my soon-to-be friend Craig Calonica reported by satellite phone for USAToday.com during his ascent of Mt. Everest in 1998.

Today, blogs provide timely, credible information that mainstream media is either unable or unwilling to provide. Hockey is a good example here in the Metro D.C. area. Although Tarik El Bashir does an admirable job in his limited (by his newspaper, the Washington Post) coverage of the Washington Capitals, there is plenty of coverage online, especially on some excellent blogs like Off Wing Opinion. Hockey is just one coverage example in which mainstream media has abdicated its once dominant leadership.
To better understand this trend, here's what former AOL executive and Caps owner Ted Leonsis has to say on his terrific blog, Ted's Take:
This fact of life is exactly why we have helped to jumpstart a blogosphere around our team; why we have developed a great website; and why we will talk and cooperate with every source of news out there. I believe that big city newspapers are a dying breed of media. We have to expand our coverage and also help the newspapers to connect with the new consumer. We will do our best but it isn't for lack of trying. These are trying times for newspapers and we must find viable and alternative means to get all Caps information out there to whoever wants it in the format that they want.

The Washington Post has dedicated one writer to our beat, who does magnificent work, but he can't work 24/7. When he takes a day off, there will be no ink or pixels dedicated to us.

I have received dozens of angry emails and blog post messages regarding the Washington Post and its lack of even a mention of the Caps vs. Red Wings game in Monday's paper. The game was on national television and was being played against the best team in the NHL. I agree with you and your concerns. There isn't much that we can do about it.

The Washington Post is pretty supportive of all sports teams in town but is struggling as a mainstream media property. Its ad sales are down; its circulation is down; its costs are up; and it is struggling with its business model. Based on present course and speed, the paper will soon be a money loser and by their own admission, the Post Company is really an educational software concern now. The paper is cutting resources and even newsprint and it believes -- I think misguidedly -- that it doesn't need to cover the Washington Capitals as much as other news stories because our audience isn't big enough to warrant the coverage. I find this ironic in that the New York Times is a sponsor of the Caps and is selling subscriptions to their paper at every Caps home game. They find our audience desirable because of their educational levels; their income levels; their familiarity with the web; and their passion for all things Caps-related.
Posted by Ted on December 18, 2007 11:14:00 AM
You may not take blogs any more seriously than sports talk radio, but Ted Leonsis does (he takes sports talk radio pretty seriously, too). What he doesn't take seriously are dying industries like newspapers that continually abdicate their traditional role in our lives, then complain that nobody reads them.
As far as the Washington Post -- my hometown newspaper -- goes, it's great if you like politics and the Washington Redskins. I like politics, but I have online sources of information that are just as interesting and informative and, yes, credible (for instance, the Politco and Mark Halperin's fine blog on Time.com, The Page).
You can't avoid (but I can ignore) the Redskins, but if the Post thinks that extensive coverage of the Skins at the expense of other coverage is a working circulation strategy and revenue stream, well, I'm going to agree with Leonsis.

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