Siberian Baseball

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Five ways to make baseball more blog-friendly

When I play the "What's My Perfect Job" game from time to time more often than not that dream job has something to do with professional baseball - go figure, huh?

Unfortunately, the jobs seem to be few and far between and from what I'm told you need some sort of letter of recommendation from your senator to be considered for work as the San Diego Chicken.

Recently, I was wondering if it would be worth a team's time and energy to hire some sort of blogger liaison to try and feed content to the blogs of the nation. Here is my simple five point plan to make the home team more accessible to bloggers.

1.) Provide access to the lower-level players - Any plan to actively involve blogs with the team would have to take care not to alienate the traditional media by undercutting their access. We all know the dangers of cutting beat writers out of the loop or the buffet line.

The simple solution to this is to provide access to the clubhouse bottom feeders to bloggers to help drive content. Not even face-to-face interviewing in the locker room, but once or twice a week via a chat window for blogs that feature the home team. Pick someone other than the team's stars and have them answer questions for 45 minutes or so.

Limit access to a few blogs each time - either at random or based on page views/posts in the previous week/or based on who would be representing the team - so it's not a total free for all and there's an opportunity for real information to get out into the blogosphere.

The blogs get fresh, first-person content in a virtual huddle around the player's locker while the traditional media isn't being undercut for access. Additionally, it drives exposure for younger players and allows them to get used to answering questions in a controlled environment.

Given time, it could even become a minor rite of passage. The unheralded rookies - obviously not the Jay Bruce or Joba Chamberlain level guys - are tapped for basic information and the bloggers are now in posession of fresh content that didn't get filtered through the media first.

Transcripts would be made available for those who couldn't participate or whose blogs are still finding their feet.

2.) Blogger night a few times per season - Much like the Los Angeles Dodgers have done in the past with bloggers they've cherry picked, tab a dozen blogs that cover your team and invite those nice folks over for dinner every now and again.

Make those from the front office accessible for a few innings to answer questions and bounce a few ideas off of some informed fans. Three times per season with a dozen or so bloggers means contact with 36 team blogs per season. Minor risk for major reward.

Again, bloggers get fresh content and at the very least the front office has a captive audience for free focus group work.

3.) Release pregame notes to registered bloggers - The notes sheets passed out to season ticket holders and members of the media before games are already being researched and typed up, why not make those available to bloggers as well?

While some teams do have these online, they are difficult to find at times and not always available to those without a password.

Why is this important? Those sheets are a great resource regarding records that players are on hot streaks or closing in on milestones. All of that information is available other places, but having it all in one place saves a lot of time, especially for the fan blogger who is probably working a 9 to 5 and doesn't have time to be chasing down how many times Jamie Moyer has started against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The team can compile a simple roster of who is writing about the team in exchange for game notes they're generating to begin with. Hey, you can't expect to get something for nothing.

4.) Provide a liasion to answer strange questions - A few weeks back, I wrote about why laptops are not prevalent in major league dugouts. To get an answer I was comfortable standing behind, I pored over the official rulebook trying to find any sort of ruling on electronics, sifted through a few posts on the web about the subject and eventually found the answer I was looking for.

Like most of the five points here, the basis is predicated on providing a point of contact for bloggers who are big enough to have an established site, but too small to have people directly contacting them with inside information.

Having someone in the team's press office who watches the blogs and lends a hand is a positive step. Having that person provide an e-mail address to make that a two-way street would be indispensible.

5.) Provide perks, any perks - Aside from the top level blogs that produce a ton of content, post several times a day and generate revenue that allows the writers to continue to do what they do, most blogs are run by regular fans with something to say. This, of course, is a double-edged sword.

This isn't the place to open the discussion regarding the relative merits of fan blogs versus the heavy hitters, but at the basest of levels, most fan-run blogs are done for reasons other than money. (Hey, maybe Brett Favre should start a blog with his free time?)

All told, there are very few perks for bloggers just scratching out a few posts a week between work, family and Xbox 360 marathons - why not throw them a bone? Is the team out of town on a road trip? How much would it really cost the club to invite a few out of shape bloggers to come down to the ballpark and fail miserably at batting practice? Or to do a tour of the behind the scenes areas and the locker room when the stadium is closed for the All-Star Game?

Why is this something a team would even consider? - Take a solid mid-level team like the Twins or the Padres and have them employ one guy to operate out of the media office and help out bloggers, watch to keep track of the fans' pulse and what is being said about the team and any ideas that the fans are throwing around the message boards. Pay them a few bucks - hell, it could even be an intern - and see what happens.

It's worth noting that not once have I advocated putting bloggers in the press box, on the sidelines or in the line of fire for any members of the traditional media.

At worst, the bloggers smell blood in the water and try to pummel the poor sap for high-level information (Why aren't the Royals pursuing Barry Bonds? Why? Why? Why?) and the experiment ends as quickly as it begins. At best, the team builds a degree of goodwill, gives a little back to fans who dedicate countless hours over the course of a season to collecting information on their favorite team and essentially promote the home team for free.

Five simple points - what's the downside?

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