...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
I… here. This is for you. Is there a thing that makes these things? If there is a thing that makes these things, this is slightly crazy. If there isn't I don't know what you can even say. Other than FTW. It came from the message boards.
This is where we are this week.
Thank God for Adidas. I know Michigan would never go for something like this…
…or do I? I mean, we are currently enduring hyper-loud blasts of Bob Seger and AC/DC on a regular basis. There is some possibility Special K, Michigan Marketing Droid, thinks "wicked sweet" when he sees things like this "tribute"…
…to Ohio State's championship team on their very special 55th anniversary. I think you're supposed to get her a wicker lawnchair. 54 is a tea set made from the bones of your enemies. Adidas may have put stupid piping* on the away jerseys and convinced a lot of players to wear weird stripey undershirts, but it's not Nike and their band of evil scientists.
Yes, yes, I know. There's a "get off my lawn" tag for a reason.
*(Nameplates on the back cover up the piping if the name is of any length—Smith works, Forcier does not—and look stupider than even regular stupid piping, which also looks stupid.)
I don't know the answer to this complicated question, let's ask someone else who doesn't know and be kind of a jerk about it yay. This is just another stock answer to a dumb press conference question that's sort of adversarial and makes the questioner feel fuzzy about asking truth to power, but it's more irksome than most because of MCalibur's extensive offseason research project on the matter:
Rodriguez disputed the notion that his spread-option offense puts quarterbacks more in harm’s way than other systems.
“I think when you’re a younger guy and you’re 180 pounds and you hadn’t had a chance to get a couple years in the weight room and a couple years of maturity and growth, I think you’re more likely to get banged around,” Rodriguez said. “But other quarterbacks when we were in the system played entire years without missing a snap. So I don’t think it’s the system.”
The MCalibur study has five years of numbers behind it now and has a clear outcome: quarterbacks who run the ball more often actually miss less time than quarterbacks that are exclusively passers. (They are slightly more likely to get injured, but tend to lose fewer games when they are.) You could ask the coach about something or you could do it yourself—in this case you could just look it up. Who cares what Rich Rodriguez—who might have a stake in this—thinks about this? You might as well ask Bobby Bowden if he thinks he is awesome.
While I'm on the kick. Michael Rothstein put out an article at AA.com disputing the notion that Michigan is a particularly young team:
On this week’s depth chart for Purdue (noon, Big Ten Network), Michigan will start eight players on offense who have been in college for three years or more, including redshirt years.
On defense, eight starters fall into the same classification.
So to point to the roster and say 60 freshmen and sophomores are on it, including walk-ons, as a youth excuse a false truth.
This has been picked apart on the message board already, but to echo: just because the starters have "experience" doesn't mean they are good options. To cite another extensive research project by a diarist here, Michigan has endured four years of terrible retention on defense, giving them few or no options beyond players who do not appear very good at football. Not every high-rated recruit works out, and not every "experienced" player—and Kevin Leach counts in this metric as an experienced player—is good when you have recruited Penn State-sized classes and experienced sub-Alabama level retention.
Arbitrarily drawing a line at redshirt sophomores and arguing that Michigan is plenty experienced enough to win without providing any context is not a good way to argue when there's an extensive study that shows Michigan has fewer, and much younger, options than its primary competitors. Youth does not exist in a vacuum. Michigan is vastly younger and thinner than its rivals, and that's a valid reason they are not very good at football.
This is why UFR exists. It's rip on people for not being engineers day, apparently. BTN analyst Chris Martin never says anything useful as a color guy so it's unsurprising he's dead wrong about Michigan's problems on defense this year:
Big Ten Network analyst Chris Martin, who’ll broadcast his third Michigan game Saturday against Purdue, said the secondary has played like “part of the hospital burn unit,” and its problems are compounded by issues up front.
Michigan ranks ninth in the Big Ten with 16 sacks and has one of the smallest defensive lines in the league.
“I think their inability to get pressure up front has kind of caused them to pressure a little bit, no pun intended,” Martin said. “Now it’s like they’re working so hard to get to the quarterback and get sacks, they’re getting gashed on run plays."
"Inability to get pressure" is something you'd say if you looked up those sack numbers and had no other context in which to judge Michigan. Other than the Notre Dame game, Michigan has gotten to the quarterback plenty, they just haven't ever covered anyone long enough for Graham to get his due.
That article cites the following people in a discussion of Michigan's defense: Martin, Lee Corso, Shawn King, Ray Bentley, and Matt Millen. Other than King that's a short list of people I wouldn't trust to count to five.
This unnamed "evaluator" is interesting, however:
According to one talent evaluator, defensive end Brandon Graham is Michigan’s only high-level NFL defensive prospect. Warren projects as a "later"-round draft pick, and Mike Martin is “a good college player” who “might have a chance at the next level,” the evaluator said.
Here's hoping Warren is indeed a "later" round pick and decides to help his stock by coming back, because Michigan needs him badly next year.
Run chart. The run chart from the Illinois game is up; I think it's a little less harsh on Brown than it should be and packs it in after the rage-inducing goal line stand. A reader emailed me a good point: if Minor wasn't available on the goal line, wouldn't a package of Moundros and Grady gotten the job done? What is with the marginalization of Moundros this year anyway?
Apologies for a moment of meta and self promotion, but we are the champions.. This is apparently the best college football blog in the universe according to Sports Media Challenge, a consulting/marketing firm that operates in the digital space and other such droidwords. It's a narrower field than it should be, though, with the exclusion of a subset of blogs that tend to be good ones:
We do not include blogs that are subscription based or backed by traditional media outlets. This is especially true of blogs that do not have full editorial control over their content.
That's the only reason Doctor Saturday isn't anywhere on the list, right? I get that they're trying to distinguish between blogs run by newspaper folk that are mostly extensions of beatwriting and fan-driven media, but DocSat is firmly One of Us.
A couple of notes on the list:
- The Big Ten lands five of the top ten slots, the SEC two, the ACC and Big 12 one each. Two general blogs (EDSBS and the Wizard of Odds) show; if you want to file EDSBS as a Florida blog I think you're wrong but whateva you do what you want.
- SBNation has either six or seven of the blogs on the list, depending on how you classify EDSBS. Hall gets his funding from SBN but has not converted over to the software monolith. This place, the Wiz, and Eleven Warriors are the only indies.
Etc.: We are on the spot this week, and how. Michigan has a huge hockey series against #1 Miami of Ohio this weekend; I would have said more but the only non-exhibition game I've seen this year was the Thursday night Niagara game so I don't have any smart opinions. Having this series so early is frustrating.
Brian will appear on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA in... oh, about 10 minutes or so. Presumably, he'll be discussing the Freep Jihad.
Listen live on WTKA's website, or at 1050 AM here in Ann Arbor.
Hi. I'm formerlyanonymous. You may recognize me from other Michigan sports blogs as Maize 'n Brew and Varsity Blue. For those of you not familiar with my posts, my primary topic has been Michigan baseball. Obviously the season is a well over, but I'm also following our players through their summer leagues. There are plans on the table to include more non-revenue sports in the future, and info on that will come after the dust of MGoMerger settles.
Also, for those with concerns about "non-revenue sports clogging your mgoblog internet tubes," the current plan is for my posts to be presented on Sundays. Brian's previous football season schedules have generally left Sunday open for reflection on the previous days game with the column like post on Monday. I'm hoping these non-revenue posts will take up that open space and not interfere too much with your football dependency – at least during the football season.
To see the previous summer baseball update, visit Varsity Blue (July 4th Edition). Also, those of you familiar with the team or my previous posts, I'll try to remember to include some information on who these players are in this post, but I'll go ahead and apologize up front. You're basically walking into the last line before the credits of a movie. You've missed all of the introductions, action, climax, and a majority of the falling action. I promise there will be less parentheses in future posts.
Honors – Several players have received honorable mention for Pitcher and Hitter of the Nights, as well as Team Players of the Week. Hitter and Pitcher of the Night are named by SummerBall. Charts:
|7/9||Tyler Mills||Northwoods||Hitter of the Night Honorable Mention||2/4, HR, 3 RBI, R|
|7/11||Tyler Burgoon||Cape Cod||Pitcher of the Night Honorable Mention||1 IP, 3 K|
|7/16||Kevin Vangheluwe||Northwoods||Pitcher of the Night Honorable Mention||1 IP, K|
|7/17||Matt Miller||Northwoods||Pitcher of the Night Honorable Mention||2 IP, BB, 4 K|
|7/24||Mike Dufek||Leesburg||Player of the Week||On Sunday,went 3/5 with HR, and a walk of single|
The Cape Cod League (the most respected league) – Tyler Burgoon (Michigan's sophomore closer) has continued to be the best Michigan player this summer and ergo making the most news. As of the 20th, he’s racked up 17.1 innings of work with a 1-1 record and a 0.00 ERA. His 9 saves lead the league and his 27 strikeouts (14.2 per 9 innings) is ridiculous. He made the Cape Cod All Star Game at Fenway, but alas, the rain ended the game in just the 4th inning. He was slated to throw the 9th (or as necessary). Meanwhile, Ryan LaMarre (Michigan's starting left fielder and 3-hole hitter) still struggles, but less badly by comparison. He’s now got his average up to .243, good for third on the Gateman team. He’s also second on the team in RBIs with 12.
Prospect League – Garrett Stephens (back up 1st baseman who sees time when Dufek pitches) represented UM and the Richmond RiverRats at the Prospect League All Star game. He’s currently 8th in the league with 21 RBIs. John Lorenz hasn’t seen much playing time since the last update.
Lima Locos – Lots of good has been coming out of Lima lately. Kolby Wood (occasional 4th starter) has his ERA down to 0.66 in 11 relief appearances stretching 13.2 innings. His three saves are good for second on the team, which makes me contemplate his role next season for Michigan. Could we see another attempt at moving Burgoon to starter and put Kolby Wood as the closer? Looks good on paper right now.
Meanwhile, Bobby Brosnahan (redshirted last year as a freshman) is cruising right along with a 2.35 ERA over 15 innings pitched thus far. He’s making his case to be a middle inning or set up guy next season as a redshirt freshman. The last Michigan player with the Locos is short stop Anthony Toth (starter) has raised his average from .215 to .281 and has played solid defense.
Also, Toth was interviewed in a piece about baseball gloves by the LimaOhio.com. To give you a small sample of why baseball budgets are fairly large:
“We have a contract at Michigan with Louisville Slugger. The rep just came, had a bunch of models out and we got to pick out whichever one felt best. I went with that one and it worked out pretty well. … I think this is a $320 glove.”
That’s just one glove for one player. Not multiply that by the 20 or so on the roster, plus backup gloves each player probably has, you’ve got yourself quite the bill just for fielding gloves.
Alexandria Beetles – Again with the closers Michigan’s been developing, Matt Miller (one of our setup men) has 7 on the season, 4 in the last three weeks. He’s dropped his ERA a full run over that time. Kevin Vanghelwue (saw very limited time during the season and what he did wasn't good) also is pitching better and has lowered his ERA almost 2 runs. Tyler Mills (redshirted as a freshman this year) isn’t playing much. The freshman is just 6/36 hitting in limited playing time.
Valley League – At Fort Royal, Jeff DeCarlo (left handed reliever who saw little time) is pitching so far above his normal level I’m just perplexed. The guy has a 2.35 ERA now, and since the last update he’s thrown 5 appearances (9.2 IP) and only given up one earned run. He hasn’t even hit a batter in that stretch. He got a save? Who is this guy? His teammate Kevin Krantz (redshirted as a freshman this year) has tailed off and seems to be seeing less and less playing time. Krantz's defense has been spotty at best at third/shortstop. His batting average has also fallen .050 points to .239.
At Winchester, Brandon Sinnery’s (another occasional fourth starter) had a rough 3 starts, but his team has bailed him out each time. His ERA jumped from 2.00 to 4.31, but he has kept his 9 K’s-per-9-IP. Teammate Matt Gerbe (one of our setup men) continues to watch his ERA fall, this time from 9.69 to 6.29. It’s good to see he’s doing better since moving back to the bullpen.
Mike Dufek for the Lightning
Leesburg Lightning – Alan Oaks (right fielder and pitcher) went 1-1 over three starts in the last 3 weeks. His ERA has dropped to only 3.89, but his strikeout to walk ratio over the last 3 starts is 9:7 which isn’t good. Those walks have to go down. Eric Katzman (left handed pitcher) has just one relief inning in three weeks. He’s become buried in the pitching depth it looks like.
Mike Dufek (first base and sometime closer) has held down the closer role for the most part, recording 2 saves in 3 outings in the last three weeks. Not much playing time, but he’s made the most of it to a 0.93 ERA. At the plate, Dufek is only hitting .268, but he has cut down his K’s per At-Bat to just about 1-in-5. During the season he was closer to 1-in-4 at bats. It became crippling at times. I think our strategy for next season should mimic the MLB All Star Game. Let’s just throw 5 closers to shut down every game.
Travis Smith – Looks like Smith (3rd or 4th starter) has lost his spot in the rotation. After a few tough luck losses of the 1-0 variety, he lost two ugly starts over the last 3 weeks and was then used out of the bullpen. He’s currently 0-5 with a 4.58 ERA. Not good my friends.
Coley Crank – Crank’s (backup catcher or designated hitter) struggling. He’s still the everyday catcher, but his average is down to .198, third lowest on the team and lowest regular starter.
Matt Broder – Despite Broder's (redshirted as a freshman this season) team’s horrible website, I ran by an article in The Observer. Broder went the full 7 innings complete game, facing only 24 batters in the effort. Great job Matt.
Hi. MGoBlog was a one man show, and then a guy I didn't know emailed me a bunch of stuff about how he was pretty sure Bryce McNeal was going to decommit given his Facebook status updates and wall posts. As per standard policy, I noted the information and didn't say anything about it since the tipster in question hadn't proven his mettle. Bryce McNeal proceeded to decommit, and Tom VanHaaren proposed he function as an MGoBlog recruiting correspondent using the magic of the internets (and, soon after, his phone).
I'd been thinking that social media was an untapped source of information and agreed, and soon started posting things like Anthony Fera chillin' with JoePa based on Tom's sleuthin' and talkin'. Tom set to providing a ton of valuable content and being the main force behind much of the news this site has managed to break in the last seven or eight months. It's surpassed all my expectations, and just goes to show that if you find someone with the right skill set and put them in the right spot, Good Things result.
MGoBlog is absorbing Varsity Blue, and intends to deploy Tim Sullivan as an internet-aware beat writer this fall. We've talked with the athletic department—which has been shockingly open and helpful with all this—and Tim is good to go. Paul will also join up in a capacity we'll work out as we go along—he's got a "job" that requires him to "go to work". Formerly Anonymous' outstanding baseball content will be imported 99% untouched. Important: I will not be writing any less.
This represents quite a reversal from MGoBlog's previous position on being a primary source and requires some explanation. So:
I don't plan on being the guy. One: I'm bad at it. Two: I'm good at other stuff. I've spent four years developing an expertise that has nothing to do with the tasks commonly associated with sports journalism. That expertise has propelled this blog to a living and represents a nigh-insurmountable hurdle for any other organization to clear. Spending my time doing something other than that's pretty dumb. So I won't.
I'd like to remain insulated from the corrupting influences of access*, and this arrangement will allow me to do that, mostly. The threat of losing access for your content is unavoidable once you start to benefit from it, but this site has already positioned itself as a site that's usually in Michigan's corner. I know they monitor this site and others, closely. They have not mentioned any issues.
The Varsity Blue guys all bring valuable expertise to the table. Paul and Tim were longtime WOLV stalwarts and have a four-plus-years head start on me in the stuff I'm bad at. As you might imagine, they also can do stuff with video that is extremely helpful on the web. And FA has encyclopedic knowledge of Michigan baseball, again something I lack. They all can use bigger platforms, and by joining up they can use some of the institutional cred I've accumulated over the past four years.
I think it can work. I'm not sure if twentysomething beatwriter with an internet orientation who might ask questions like "what's the deal with that formation where Greg Mathews is covered up in the slot?" will bring a ton of value to the table but it's at least worth an experiment. I'm going into this with the expectation it will be a two-year trial on both the part of the AD and MGoBlog, one that might not work. But think it will be valuable.
Offloading a portion of the daily burden should allow me to focus on some other stuff. Mostly this refers to recruiting, which VB already covers with aplomb. I plan on handing off a significant chunk of it to them, which will give me some extra time to work on research-heavy posts and more columns and whatnot.
This will also necessitate some changes as far as the presentation of information goes. Right now there's just a front page that gets updated 1-4 times daily and then the diaries and message board. More stuff will be hitting the front page now and we'll have to work to make that make sense for readers. I've always tried to avoid bombarding readers with way too much stuff to grok; that's going to be tougher now.
As always, try to bear with us—and it's now an actual us!—as we feel our way through this… undiscovered country. Spock.
Tim's first foray here is a trip to the Big Ten Media Days, where he will hopefully end up less pwned than I did.
*(I don't want to write something critical in UFR and have to worry about whether the player in question will give me the evil eye. And I don't want to get all friendly with another guy and pull my punches. Sportswriter bravado about facing down the subjects of your pieces is just testosterone.)
A lot of newspaper sports writing strives for objectivity, and it holds itself a little bit aloof. And then when it tries to talk to about the intense emotions inspired it kind of falls flat. To the readers it’s like asking a virgin for his opinion on what an orgasm feels like.
ZING! More at the link, with possibly some audio coming up later.
A note on something omitted, maybe? I said this: "There’s a lot of advice out there. It’s always like write this or do this, and I kind of defy it." I managed to not explain what any of this "advice" was during the interview. Let me repair that: 95% of sites that offer advice on how to blog advocate posts like "10 Reasons Your Mother Is A Whore," and whatnot. The style they advocate is attention-grabbing, keyword-laden headlines reminiscent of a Vogue cover backed by very, very short paragraphs with simple sentences and lots of bold. Posts are rarely to exceed a certain small threshold of words.
Though I'm not entirely opposed to this style—witness this very post—most of the blog's popularity derives from columns titled things like "Teeth and Blood" and "You Were Killed By A Bear And I Am Sad" and 5000-word exegeses on half of a Michigan football game, which are neither search engine- or link-friendly. With some limited exceptions (like throwing the name of each committed recruit into the post title, and providing SEO-friendly headlines for actual news posts) my philosophy has been to make the content as good, and as difficult to replicate, as possible. (Evidently I feel a good, weird title goes a long way.) The cookie cutter is eschewed.
Can you bring Mike Floyd with you? AnnArbor.com has yoinked Michael Rothstein from the earthly paradise of Fort Wayne, Indiana:
I am heading up to Michigan and specifically to Ann Arbor to join the staff of AnnArbor.com. While there, I'll be leading the coverage of Michigan men's basketball and helping out with Michigan football.
Is this interesting? I don't know. Beat writers seem like beat writers. From what I've seen of Rothstein he's more web-aware than most, which obviously made him attractive to a newly web-centric organization.
(HT: Big House Blog)
Big Ten Meetings. Michigan's representatives at the Big Ten meetings:
Stevie Brown, Sr., LB/S
Zoltan Mesko*, Sr., P
Mark Ortmann, Sr., LT
Zoltan obvious, Ortmann one of two reasonable options on offense, Brown an odd choice instead of Brandon Graham.
Graaaagrrghaaargh. Frank Deford can always be counted on for some quality invective when prompted to write about the NCAA. I saw some speech he was giving on the youtubes once where he made the provocative (but in an interesting way!) point that you could see the NCAA as a massive system designed to take money earned by largely poor black athletes and give it to largely wealthy white athletes who make no money. Which… whoah, man. That's kind of true.
Anyway, I can't decide whether this is over the top or just good plain fun:
Because just as the BCS is unfair to certain colleges, the NCAA is an evil overseer to its athletic minions.
Holy hyperbole, Batman. Aaaand more:
As this billion-dollar business booms, the NCAA clings to the outdated Victorian concept of amateurism in order to keep powerless athletes -- many of them indigent minorities -- under its thumb. And because amateurism is a sham, the NCAA wittingly underwrites hypocrisy, because it knows athletic department boosters fill the vacuum with illegal under-the-table payoffs.
There you go with the… erm… "indigent minorities" thing. Now Deford will slumber, grow a fantastic mustache over the course of two hours, and awake to prattle about horse racing for the next six months. I have something of a love-hate relationship with him.
A friendly plug. When Carcajous Attack(!) has gone on a quality posting binge of late. Here's a review of UCLA's 1982 defense, which you might be all "uh…" about but it did feature Greg Robinson's first foray as a defensive line coach. Here Marcus digs up a bunch of old newspaper articles from Year 2 of Rodriguez at West Virginia. There's more. Recommended.
Etc.: When confronted with virtually anything PETA does other than take naked pictures of hot chicks, the girlfriend exclaims "get off my side!" This is how I feel about John Feinstein's latest terrible article about the BCS, which Braves and Birds fisks mightily.
1. Any discussion on MSM- or corporate-owned blogs, e.g. Yahoo! Sports' SB nation? How does the company interface? Do the bloggers get a salary? Do they sell their own ads or focus on material? Are they profitable? Who gets the money?*
As mentioned, I missed a good section of the panel, but I have talked to a number of SB Nation bloggers and they report back that they get very little money from SB Nation. This is probably because of their low traffic numbers. Even the busiest college football blogs I've seen over there—SBN makes all their traffic data public—are doing like 2-3k pageviews per day, and at current CPM rates offered by ad networks that's somewhere between 3 and 10 dollars. Still, even on the low end you'd probably be making $100 a month from that much traffic, and then you've got other opportunities like text link ads and so forth and so on. I highly doubt SBN is profitable at the moment, as they took venture capital in January.
OTOH, Fanhouse and TSB and the Yahoo blogs just pay people as 1099 contractors and take the burden of monetization upon themselves.
My biggest problem with the SBN model isn't the lack of pay, as most people haven't put themselves in a position where that's the main thing to worry about. Until you're getting five digits of traffic daily, your monetization strategy should be "ignore monetization," as the rewards aren't worth the time and traffic, in my experience, grows geometrically. No, my biggest issue with SBN is lock-in: they own the URLs and the (sweet, sweet) software, so if you do happen to make a name for yourself and do happen to build a worthwhile enterprise, it's their enterprise. Leaving it means you leave behind all that linkage and archived content and brand equity and start all over. Let me tell you as a person whose ghostly old blogspot blog occasionally wins google fights and gets linked on other blogs: this sucks. They've got all the leverage.
There is a hard example of this kind of suckage, too: when Matt Hinton went from Sunday Morning Quarterback to Dr. Saturday, SMQB up and died. Hinton (and I, and everyone else) lost his entire archive. No one who is career-serious about blogging should ever cede control of their URL or their archives to anyone else.
2. Software. Software? Software... Software! Software [insert punctuation]
The full suite of stuff I use to make this blog go:
- Drupal is my CMS of choice, but I couldn't tell you if it's better or worse than Joomla or Plone or whatever since I've never used them. If you're not a developer (half-assed in my case), go with Wordpress.
- The posts are written in Windows Live Writer, which is by far the best desktop blogging software. It's not even close, and I've tried a number of them. I'm pretty sure UMHoops and MVictors have switched to it as well—there are telltale drop shadows on their images now.
- WLW has obviated the need for 90% of simple photo-editing—which is half the reason it's so good—but when I need for more detail on a picture I use an ancient version of Photoshop. GIMP is a free alternative I've used but it sucks unless you're used to UNIX conventions.
- Bittorrent supplies the games I cut up for UFRs, and I discovered after an inexplicably long, horrible search that various "AimOne" products were the simplest way to slice out individual plays from those videos. I watch the games in Media Player Classic, which has the best hop-ahead-hop-back hotkeys and convenient screenshot-grabbing abilities.
3. What's a click? What's a read? What kind of read generates revenue for advertisers? You say 2 M pageviews, but how do you check for bots, etc.? Anybody getting themselves reviewed? Web analytics, bler?
There are three main metrics simple enough to have passed into the general consciousness. They are:
- Pageviews. Hit F5. You've given me a pageview, and somewhere between a tenth and a half of a penny.
- Visits. You did not increment the visits, however, and won't do so until you visit again in at least 30 minutes. (I think. It may be less depending on who's tracking it.)
- Uniques. You certainly didn't increment uniques, and won't do so for a month.
4. Out-of-Blog Experiences: how do you translate 2 million blog readers into an active community? What kind of events work? Anything that generates revenue? Anyone have a successful "conference" of readers yet?
Well, 1) that's not two million readers. If I had two million readers I would currently be dictating this to my Wednesday eunuch whilst the most comely of my harem fed me pre-peeled grapes. Monthly uniques around here, as calculated traditionally, are around 100k, and Quantcast thinks about half of these are duplicates, so on average about 50k people check out the blog at least once in a given month. It's been dropping as the hard offseason hits, as per usual.
I am not aware of any successful reader conference in the sports blog world. MGoBlog had a spring game tailgate that featured about 10 people standing around freezing their asses off, though, and that was declared a success because no one got throttled.
As far as revenue: an active community certainly helps with pageviews. Since I moved from Blogger to Drupal and added the diaries and message board pageviews per visit have gone up about 30%. The goal there was to leverage (and focus) the community, though, and the pageviews were just an ancillary—though expected—side benefit.
5. Blog-to-Print: Who's exploring? Case stories? Does it translate? Is it worth it?
A few bloggers have published books, most prominently Will Leitch, a couple of the KSK guys, Orson Swindle, and Free Darko. Since none of those people are me I can't tell you how well they've done. More personally, Maple Street Press has been deploying bloggers to write an ever-expanding set of season preview magazines of which HTTV was the second variety to be published. They appear to be profitable.
One thing I've been considering is a Simmons-esque repackaging of blog content into a book heavy on annotations and explanations from the cold, hard distance of time. With e-publishing, finding the time to do such a thing is the main barrier there.
6. Web Sponsorship -- what's the value for the advertiser?
I'm not an ad guy, but my intuition: if we're talking about display ads like MGoBlog currently sports, the main value is in branding. It's the same sort of stuff that causes Coke to carpet-bomb the Super Bowl and the like. Clicks are nice but by this point are sort of peripheral to the cause. If we're talking about big takeovers like Gawker's successfully deployed, that's much the same thing only far less ignorable. It's all about getting your message in front of a viewer.
If you're talking about serious sponsorship, where one brand becomes a sort of flagship "brought to you by" thing, there I think the corporation is trying to leverage the positive associations readers have with a blog. As a consumer it's pretty easy to be dismissive of the Weed Eater Bowl but considerably harder when the Weed Eater guys are putting money on the table to keep the one guy who you really like up and going. It's one thing to buy space via which to distract a reader from his goal—most of the time the ads on this blog are a necessary evil of minor interest to the reader—and another entirely to buy a small portion of the reader's loyalty by allowing the blogger in question to go (or stay) full time.
I haven't seen any examples of this sort of thing AFAIK, but assume that it's coming. The catch is that it's the internet and certain people who don't like the opinions purveyed by your sponsorship or advertisement might not appreciate it. A brand sponsoring this here blog would have to consider what an Ohio State fan would take from it. The Maker's Mark kerfuffle is a good example of this: I just won't buy it now, no matter how stupid and irrational that is.