Wednesday, November 14, 2007


On MSM Blogs


For some time now, there have been discussions in the hockey blogosphere about the intersecting of blogs and traditional media forms. Eric McErlain has written guidelines for bloggers wishing to get press credentials from teams. He’s also been critical of the New York Islanders and their “Blog Box.” James Mirtle, who runs his own hockey blog as well as writes for the Globe & Mail, has countered McErlain’s complaint. He’s also congratulated him, as well as others, for their successful moves into the MSM world. Other non-MSM hockey bloggers have been recruited to write for sites like AOL Fanhouse, the CBC and The Score.

There have also been discussions on the subject throughout the Oilogosphere. I have recently written a few posts on the subject. So too have Tyler and Dennis. Many members of the Oilogosphere have worked for or are working in traditional media. The man I consider to be the Godfather of the Oilogosphere, Colby Cosh, successfully moves back and forth between the blogging and MSM worlds. Interestingly, in addition to writing their own blogs on the Edmonton Journal’s website, newspaper writers John Mackinnon and David Staples have started popping up in comment sections throughout the Oilogosphere. We have always linked to their posts, and now they are beginning to do the same. The lines continue to blur.

When is a website a blog? When isn’t it a blog? What are the qualities that indicate a difference to a reader? What are the basic requirements of a blog? Is there such a thing as an “authentic” blog? Does a blog have to be free and independent of corporate control to be considered a blog? Is a blogger who makes money a sellout? Can attempts by the Main Stream Media (MSM) to blog ever be considered authentic, or is “MSM blog” a contradiction in terms?

These are a few of the many questions shaping the current debate about traditional media formats like the newspaper, radio and television, and new media formats like blogs, wikis, and podcasts. I am very much interested in these matters, and not only because of my involvement with this site. This debate is part of a much larger issue, which is the effect that globalization, the information revolution, and the rise of the knowledge based economy is having upon our society as a whole, and traditional industries in particular.

As I am a giant nerd, these things pique my interest. I decided, therefore, to take a look at attempts by Canadian newspapers to operate their own hockey blogs. Their motivation in doing so is obvious: they want to stay relevant, and they want to continue making money. But have they been successful in their ventures? Can their blogs really be considered blogs? Will they get back the many readers they have lost, or are their attempts too half-hearted, too little, and too late? And so down the rabbit hole we go.




The Spreadsheet

General Commentary

Vancouver Province/Vancouver Sun

Edmonton Journal/Calgary Herald

Ottawa Citizen/Toronto Star/ Ottawa Sun

Montreal Gazette/National Post/Globe & Mail


I didn’t have an answer to the question “what qualifies as a blog?” before I started this project, and I’m not sure I have an answer now. I’m not sure I even wanted an answer to that question, as much as I just wanted to explore, record, and ruminate. As such, here are some final thoughts:

Further Reference


That is the best post about this subject ever written.

You will inspire many.

This post would've been so much better if it was about BDSM.

Excellent work, Andy, and I can see that this took hours and hours and hours of work.

As I mentioned to you, the issue of commenting on our blogs at the Journal is a major problem for us.

At first, our blogs came without any comment buttons at all. People had to email us if they wanted to comment, then we could post the email. That was a huge frustration.

Now, with our new and somewhat improved blog tool, we have a "comment" button the size of a micro-dot, which announces to our readers: "We don't give a crap what you think."

But, of course, we, too, want to be part of "the wisdom of the crowd" and we also want to have successful blogs -- we're just like any other writers in that regard -- and one way to do that is to have a thriving comments section.
We all know how key the Letters page is in the daily newspaper.

Today, I am crafting an e-mail to our head office to complain long and loud about this teeny weeny comment button issue.

BTW, did you see the Journal's new dedicated page, Oilcountry? We took it over locally last month and have been doing a much better job of it. It's more of a site than a blog, though.

Cheers, David Staples, The Cult of Hockey

Look, ma! I'm a bibliography!

I've written a lot about this subject and read a lot about this subject, and kudos for an outstanding post. Really, really great read.

If MSM and non-MSM blogs are compared, I think what it comes down to are accountability and purpose. Blogging for NHL FanHouse, I have accountability to my corporate masters and to the standards and practices that keep me from using language that I, as a proud native of New Jersey, choose to use in everyday life. Same goes for a newspaper or other MSM blogger.

As for "purpose," that's something I've learned a lot about since I opened communications with some bloggers after bashing the "Blog Box" out of the gate. I was wrong to judge so quickly. I think the gimmick harms non-MSM bloggers who are fighting for access, but I think there are blogger who do an outstanding job and aren't interested in that access.

It's a large tent, and that's what makes the form so damn exciting to see grow. FanHouse is a good example of that: You have bloggers like myself, Eric McErlain and Mirtle who do the "pick up the phone" journalism thing; and Jes Golbez, Tom Luongo, JP and Earl Sleek who are more "fan's eye view" hockey bloggers. I think we're blessed with a lot of writing talent, and that speaks to what I think is your best point:

In the end, it all comes down to whether a blog is a great read or if it stinks. That applies to the MSM or a guy in his pajamas watching the Oilers game at home.

PS - David Staples called me the "funniest writer in the NHL" the other day, which for me means he has the best hockey blog since Al Gore invented the Internet.

That's a wicked guide/introduction/primer to the MSM hockey blogs, AG.

As to the meta-issue, I'm glad that you harp on the "community" issue. Something like Inkless Wells, with no blogroll and no comments, is really the exception that proves the rule. If someone thinks they're as insightful, funny, and interesting as Paul Wells -- and will post at least daily -- then they might have a slight shot at a relevant blog. If they're not, it won't happen.

Since you bring up Coyne, in fact the first iteration (or two) of his site was a behemoth; way more trafficked than other blogs on the topic -- precisely because he had lively unmoderated comments and a big ol' blogroll. There are at least a dozen political blogs I know of, that still exist, that were created by people who started as commenters at his site.

I also have no doubt that Staples' traffic has surged -- and beats the other Journal blogs -- because he has been engaging others.

All that said, I think you're right not to come to sweeping conclusions. You can no more pin down "blog" than you can "TV show" -- past the format similarities, it could be just about anything, good or bad.

Thanks to everyone for the kind words. Yes David, it did take me hours and hours to do this. So many hours :) But it was really worth it. As to the comments on your site, I'd suggest that the button size isn't really the problem. It's that you have to register an account and then login with a password. The funny thing is, despite you being one of the most open to interacting with the non-MSM blogs, your actual page is one of the hardest on CanWest to leave comments on. If you look at the spreadsheet I made with the Journal sites on it, you'll see that everyone else's sites only require a name, and then the comment sits there until someone approves it. I didn't even leave a comment on your specific blog, because you have too many filters for me to care. Some might say that I'm making too much of the registration and login component, because it only takes a couple minutes, you only have to do it once, etc., etc. But when I did this project, I just behaved the way I would always behave. For me, those couple extra steps are impediments not because of time, but because I find them insulting. That's just my thing, and may not be that way for others, but for me it says, "we want your information for our purposes, but we don't trust you enough to not control your comments." So I just never bother, and I usually don't bother going back to the site, either. As to your site, I don't know why the access to comments is more difficult than the rest. On Cam Cole's site I just typed in my name, put in a comment, and it was up immediately. And it's a CanWest site. So it can be fixed, and probably quite easily.

So I suppose the next step is for some MSM writer to put together his review of the non-MSM blogs.

I'll look forward to that in about 35 years.

That applies to the MSM or a guy in his pajamas watching the Oilers game at home.

Whoa. Do you read minds?

Here's something you don't read every day:

"The short version: our current server capacity has been overwhelmed by the number of new users signing up, and we're dealing with the problem as swiftly as possible."

They are obviously doing something very, very right.

That applies to the MSM or a guy in his pajamas watching the Oilers game at home.

For some reason, I fit into both categories.


Glad to see HI/O getting props on BoA. I've been a somewhat regular reader of BoA since Edmonton's Cup run.

Quick note: the archived comments (all of em) will return when we get the server upgraded to meet demand.

first time, long time...

Great stuff, Andy.

Speaking of blogs, why does David Shoalts want us to think about his ass? Thanks for ruining my day, DS;)

I think that Newsday beat writer Greg Logan's blog for the Islanders should be the template. It has been hugely successful. Last winter it was the most popular sports blog in the NY area, according to him ... and it's the freaking Islanders for crying out loud.

He throws in bits and pieces that he couldn't fit in his column. Breaking news on occasion as well.

Sometimes the comments section has gotten completely out of hand, with Ranger/Isles fans using profanity. Spammers also. At one point he got pissed off and decided that he was going to moderate them. He's backed off that now.

At times, he's been hammered by commenters for being a shill (rightly, IMO), and he took it very personally. I was impressed by that. (In his blog yesterday he let Ted Nolan and DiPietro quotes sell the Hempstead real estate plan, which is the smarter move) I mean I think that a guy like Matheson probably thinks he getting away with it, if a journalist has thick enough skin, this sort of instant feedback can only make them better.

He's also taken some criticism for deleting comments with rumours in them ... and stated the reason being that they were right, but he didn't want his paper being scooped before morning. In a peculiar way, I can agree with that, but mostly I just admired the honesty.

The way Logan (NOT a knowledgeable hockey fan, btw) is doing it ... this is what people want to get. Not sure if it's what most papers want to give, though.

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