"In that case the only difference is going to be more questions about that damn formation where the slot receiver is covered up."
Everyone benefits from this.
It's the hard offseason now, with nothing happening outside of recruiting until August. So it's meta time. Apologies to anyone who couldn't care less about this.
A couple weeks ago I was on John Bacon's show talking about the demise of the Ann Arbor News and its effect on me. I think I surprised Bacon and co-host Richard Deitsch (of SI!) by not dancing on its grave. To paraphrase myself, I said that one of my roles on this blog is as an aggregator of content and things that reduced the content I could aggregate were negatives. I am not in competition with the Ann Arbor News.
It's an odd situation. I'm not really in competition with anyone. I very rarely feel threatened by the presence of anyone else's content. Sometimes I feel guilty because I'm not covering basketball like UMHoops or Varsity Blue is pumping out bi-weekly recruiting updates instead of weekly ones. But when Evan Smotrycz commits and I've got to put together a googlestalk and UMHoops already has one up it's just time I can spend on other content. I'm just a guy.
I have the feeling that other people are in competition with me, and with Dylan and Tim (x2) and Paul and various others, that they resent the thriving Michigan blogosphere as a thing that reduces the need for their services. But I don't feel like I'm in competition with them. It's a strangely unbalanced situation. Their content helps me. Their lack of content helps me. Whatever happens, traffic goes up and my mom becomes incrementally less petrified at the career path I've chosen.
So I'm not put out, especially because—at least when it comes to sports—I still think the coming demise of the Ann Arbor News is considerably overplayed. The overlords of the new thing that's not a newspaper, except twice a week when it is, have stated they intend to cover Michigan football and basketball much like the News did, and they're thinking about hockey. Other sports will have to fend for themselves, I guess, but it's not like their existing coverage was extensive. The net change might be a couple fewer people at press conferences and slightly fewer links on mgolicious; it won't be the end of history.
Others disagree. Maize 'n' Brew took the opportunity to pen a dissertation-length post on the chaotic period we're entering. It's really long and thus hard to summarize in a pithy blockquote but let's try:
The current information distribution system (for college football at least) is set up in three tiers: The University (school, coaches and players) possess the information; the credentialed press gets the first crack at it; and the rest of us are left to sort through what reaches us. That credentialed access let the News into the room, to observe first person what was going on. They had the right to pepper Rodriguez, Beilein, Amaker and Carr with questions and receive answers, where bloggers do not. The system is still set up to allow nearly unfettered access to the print media. And in return it bears the responsibility of using that access to relay the information we all crave.
Certainly any person with a notepad or microphone can record the players' and coach's quotes and stick them up on a piece of paper. But the Ann Arbor News didn't do that. They didn't give us the canned quotes we see on the University's websites. They weren't under the employ of the University to give us a happy picture. They gave us perspective on what was said and how questions were answered. They asked tough questions on decisions and results. They could observe the reactions from coaches, gage responses first hand, and had the ability to ask the questions where we do not.
This isn't going to be much of a surprise, but I largely disagree with the above, and with much in the MnB post. A few paragraphs on Dave asserts that you can't find stories along the lines of "Player X was horrid or Coach Y blew his cool at an inopportune time" on Rivals or Scout, but when has a newspaper ever published an honest assessment of a player's performance? I'm not talking single-sentence 600 word columns written by provocateurs here, I'm talking something along the lines of UFR, if less obsessed: Left Guard X struggled in pass protection. Coach Y should have gone for it, here are the numbers that justify it. It's single sentence paragraph time:
This has never happened.
Maybe Scout and Rivals are incrementally more dependent on being in the good graces of the athletic department, but the differences in practice are small. The Ann Arbor News' academics investigation, if you want to consider that a positive and a thing the internet can't do, is a vast outlier in a sea of game recaps and press conference rephrasing. And it's hard to say that sort of thing will go away when the only other entity around that's doing much in the way of investigative work is Yahoo.
The information PLANTS CRAVE either comes directly from press conferences or random people on the internet these days. The press conferences will still exist, and coaches will still be asked about injuries and other tangible things and then blather away minutes of our lives with "We have held practices this spring." And every once in a while someone will provide an unwise snippet of an answer that will blow up into a media firestorm because everyone's gotten so damn boring there's nothing else to talk about.
Heck, Jim Carty's blog is taglined this:
Fulfillment of a legal dream or an overdue realization you can't spend your life asking football players the same questions indefinitely? Definitely a bit of both ...
99% of sports journalism as practiced by newspapers is repetitive, inefficient grunt work. Sports stories come in three flavors, as far as I can tell:
There's a reason everyone wants a column, right?
As for "tough questions," they have little value. This isn't 1930 anymore and you can't hop on a bus with the baseball stars of the day and get unfettered access to their lives. You get packaging. You get this:
BHGP is running a contest to see if anyone can condense these 81 seconds into something more concise than "We have held practices this spring, and players have competed for positions in the offense." Just showing up at a press conference and asking about the head coaches' nepotism doesn't do anything constructive, especially when your tough question is coming from a position of ignorance relative to the person you're asking. Tough questions always boil down to "why did you lose?"
So what are we losing when the Ann Arbor News goes away? I don't think it will be much. Even in the extreme version of newspaper implosion where the Detroit News goes away and the Free Press is piloted by a skeleton crew you're still going to have people at these press conferences from Scout and Rivals and the Daily and at least one Detroit newspaper and AnnArbor.com asking the standard set of questions.
The demand for information about sports isn't going to disappear. If there's a void it'll get filled, possibly by this site if it continues to grow. In that case the only difference is going to be more questions about that damn formation where the slot receiver is covered up.
"In that case the only difference is going to be more questions about that damn formation where the slot receiver is covered up."
Everyone benefits from this.
"Everyone benefits from this."
Except for guys who like to use newsroom computers to look at the pedo.
I was referring to that damn formation.
I was referring to Cnockaert failing to cover up his slot receiver.
Great post Brian. The print media's bland coverage of Michigan athletics drove me crazy; you'd think people who got paid to cover Michigan sports would do more in-depth work and analysis. You'll never find a UFR or a MGoBlog-primer on a new recruit with the print media. Perhaps it's time for the system to finally embrace the blogosphere and give us many of the same privileges that were granted to the MSM?
So maybe you missed the interview and didn't know that Brian turned down a press pass. Maybe you missed it when Bruce Madej came on and confirmed that. But how do you comment on a post without even reading the title?
I enjoy the "OT" posts as much as anything else.
Brian's got what plants crave...
full of fertilizer?
You summed up a portion of my point in your last paragraph, but not all of it. Your link above to my article doesn't work so I'll provide it here. We're losing more than you think, but that's not to say that gap won't be filled. From my piece:
"In the end, what path will bloggers take? Will they become more specialized, more compartmentalized, more professional? As Graham Filler of The Rivalry, Esq., pointed out, blogs may well start bringing in campus reporters, hockey, baseball, football and other specialists to comment and provide insight on a limited part of their coverage spectrum... Blogs are now breaking the news. Scooping the press. Getting out commentary and analysis before anyone else. Somehow, blogs have adapted before the changes in the media have really hit home."
People will still be there to ask questions in the long run, I have no doubt of this. But those who ask the questions will change, and that will be dependent upon the universities who allow access to ask those questions. I know you disagree with this, but I think a lot of the information we take for granted will shrink during the transition before it finds its new outlet. It's the period of change I was focusing on, not the long term.
Also, comparing UFR to post-game columns doesn't fit.
"When has a newspaper ever published an honest assessment of a player's performance? I'm not talking single-sentence 600 word columns written by provocateurs here, I'm talking something along the lines of UFR, if less obsessed:"
While you may not agree with the style, someone calling out a coach or a player is the same in newsprint as it is in a box with a Vidler link. The phrases "torched," "beaten badly," "mistake filled," etc... routinely pepper print accounts of Michigan games. Anything describing Steve Brown in spring practice makes ample reference to his horrific 2008 season. UFR is unique in its thoroughness, but not unique in taking coaches and players to task. You're right, I've never seen a column as direct or complete as UFR in discussing a player. But that's not to say a newspaper doesn't tell it like it is because they don't print Sheridan=DEATH.
I know you disagree with this, but I think a lot of the information we take for granted will shrink during the transition before it finds its new outlet. It's the period of change I was focusing on, not the long term.
I can't find it anywhere, but I swear Brian had a post before where he linked to five or six different versions of essentially the same story posted by different MSM outlets. And I think this is why we won't be losing much as newspapers are essentially cut down extremely local-focused AnnArbor.coms. As long as all we are losing more copies of press conference summaries, game summaries, and he said, she said articles, there isn't going to be much of a gap to be filled.
As taken on a new feel.
Lazy journalism plus canned answers = fish wrappers. I honestly can't believe it has taken this long.
Nice Brain Candy reference, Brian.
Seriously, though, I don't see how you can say that healthy newspapers = more readership for you. I definitely see how it makes your job (a little) easier, and probably makes the website better. But if newspapers went away entirely, and people were, you know, in the mood to read something, they'd have to Google Michigan Football which currently has this site turning up in the top ten.
Maybe you don't need those readers, but if you got them, you could hire more interns or whatever.
You're confusing the medium itself for the quality of work that each is currently producing. The dailies are still in a better position than blogs to end up the top news source for their corners of the world.
Blogs are the semi-pro teams that first experimented with pitching from the stretch. Daily newspapers, they're MLB.
Not a great analogy, but you get the point. Dailies are having a rough go of it right now due to a number of economic factors, but everything a blog can do, a Daily can steal.
UFR is awesome. But what's stopping AA News from hiring a couple of old D-IA coordinators and doing a UFR?
Bloggers can force the dailies to get back to providing quality, or force them out of business, but you're still talking about a massive funding difference that overwhelmingly favors the machine.
Also this: the uber-fan reads UFR, Joe Schmo wants fast answers:
You're fighting a 20-year trend that climaxed with Mitch Albom as the closest a sports fan will get to literature in any given month. And a sports press that adapted very well to the modern attention span.
In doing so, the dailies lost the old quality. And they lost the revenue to support it. And they lost the competition that would force them to it.
You can provide that competition. But really, blogs don't have the financial wherewithal nor the size to be all things. They're like little dictatorships: without the Big Man, they fall apart.
What happens when Brian Cook has a 13-year-old and a 10-year-old, and one has Little League practice and the other wracked up a ludicrous download bill on her phone/comp? Will MgoBlog ever become institutionalized enough to weather a lack of interest, and the inevitable loss of passion that comes with age?
It absolutely, absolutely could. But it would need to expand, and take on management, and feed things to the masses that its owner has no interest in. It could do that, but it's so much easier for the dailies to simply adapt.
They survived radio and TV. What makes you think Internet will be any different, when the only thing the blogs have that they don't is a passionate intelligent guy in the middle?
I want to respond to two different points you make here.
1. Newspapers are better at providing shallow coverage for a wide audience that blogs can never match.
2. To the extent that blogs are successful, newspapers can imitate them and, thanks to their superior resources, do it better.
I think point #1 is right, and that's why Brian says he doesn't feel like he's competing with newspapers. The basic beat reporting will get done, either by newspapers or on their online counterparts, and it will probably always have a bigger readership than MGoBlog.
But an enterprise dedicated to providing shallow coverage for a broad audience can't easily adapt to take over blogs' territory of providing extraordinary depth, as in UFR. Yes a newspaper could throw money at reporters to provide in-depth coverage, but they're basically paying someone to pretend to be as passionate about a subject as Brian actually is. In that fight, I'll take Brian over Joe Sportswriter any day.
Big media companies seem poorly positioned to compete in tiny niche areas against people who are passionate and willing to devote incredible resources to a subject that relatively few people are interested in.
I agree that things will evolve, and eventually blogs and newspapers may begin to resemble each other more, but if some nefarious editor at AnnArbor.com decided to devote a lot of resources to competing directly with MGoBlog, I think they'd have a lot of trouble doing it. The "passionate intelligent guy in the middle" is exactly why eveeryone reads MGoBlog. Without it, you've got nothing.
Ultimately, I'm probably not disagreeing with you much. If your point is that blogs aren't going to destroy newspapers, I'm on board with that.
But I have to argue becuase it is fun. If Brian has a family, he can still be the dictator of MGoBlog but have the staff you are talking about. Anyone with a family knows that you learn to balance your time with them and work. Some of us learn the hard way. Since Brian doesn't "cover" events regularly, and is more of a fan,(I assume) then why can't he keep that habit for the next 40 years with a family?
I would also argue that the blogs can adapt way better to the attention span of our nation than the Dailies. They have and that is why the papers are dying. I looked at my Grandpa reading the paper one morning while we were on a family vacation, and thought to myself, "man, he is so far out of touch". He was reading yesterday's stuff. Literally. In your life and my life, we can get home from work do the family thing and then jump on MGoBlog. Shoot, who are we kidding, we are getting all the up-to-date info while at work.......maybe that is what is wrong with our society....I digress.
Anyway, I don't know what I am trying to say anymore other than I can see MGoBlog and others, having departments, reporters, etc. while at the same time keeping some of the insider feel. I am not a member of Scout or Rivals, but I assume it could be like that with less of a corporate feel. More of the hometown touch. Does that make any sense?
An aside about the future of press conferences: The demise of print newspapers and trimming of field reporters will change the dynamic of future press conferences. Is it really that far fetched to think that press conferences will start to incorporate the internet? I won't comment on the semantics of the format, but questions from remote audiences will become a budget-driven necessity.
The ties back into your piece, Brian, in that it redefines "access." Right now, many bloggers are aggregators solely because they don't have the manpower to be anything more. They can't generate content because they just don't have the time to attend events such as press conferences. The internet is a public and (generally) free landscape. If press conferences morph into a internet-based event, bloggers suddenly have the manpower to cover and even participate in such events. Maybe you wouldn't choose to do this because of your stated goal as an aggegator and partial observer (i.e. a fan), but I'm sure there are many blogs that would welcome the opportunity to start competing with the online manifestations of newspapers.
In summary: internet -> demise of print media -> restructuring of "news" distribution -> "access" for all
"demise of print media -> restructuring of "news" distribution -> "access" for all"
In the long run perhaps "access for all" may occur. But I doubt it. People in possession of information are always attempting to regulate how that information is distributed and who gets the first crack at it. Look at Schembechler hall under Lloyd.
I disagree that Bloggers are mostly or solely aggregators of information. For the most part they are sources of commentary that provide new aggregation as a by-product of their desire to comment on the news. Frankly, it's hard to put together all the news that's fit to print or post. It's much easier to pen a 1000 diatribe that scour the internet for good information to provide to everyone.
The transition your seeing is that Blogs are beginning to provide the news rather than the other way around. newspapers, for all their faults were the original aggregators. They lost their way when they focused on commentary rather than news. Now things are going in the inverse direction. Blogs provide news now instead of just commentary. Look no further than MGoBlog's coverage of Lloyd's replacement and the bumbles and stumbles prior to RichRod. Mgoblog was a destination for information rather than commentary, whereas prior to this sure you'd show up for a UV but you really came here for Brian's writing and commentary.
What's happening is that blogs with the ability to fill that void in information are beginning to do so. But a lot of sites that don't have the time or energy to do so are dealing with fewer resources to comment on.
What you'll ultimately see is the same limited access to information (probably less), just different people/sites/aliens delivering it.
I completely agree. Blogs filled that niche of in-depth commentary and analysis so lacking in newspapers with the exception of a single and minuscule op-ed section.
My concern is that blogs may transition too far into the realm of news aggregation and away from the commentary that makes these online megaphones unique. I don't think I have ever felt such a sense of loss as when Brian vacationed in Egypt. Quite frankly, I thought the quality of the site declined markedly until his return. But it had nothing to do with the fact I was missing crucial news stories (I read the signing day info elsewhere), it was the literary uniqueness of Brian's writing that I have grown to enjoy.
Brian's UV is a great source of news links mixed with snarky commentary, an equation that is replicated with success on many other blogs. However, at the end of the day, I don't get breaking stories from MGoBlog. Just like I don't read Matt Yglesias or Marginal Revolution for breaking stories on politics or economics. Part of that is because Brian does not want to be the guy sending two-line mobile updates from a football presser like the Freep or Det News does.
I use iGoogle as a personal aggregation tool and feed countless news sites and websites to get breaking recruiting news from Rivals/Scout or Michigan sporting news from the Detroit papers. I come to this blog for the UFR, nihilistic Greg Paulus rage, and the existential ramblings that make Brian so interesting to read.
So even if Brian has a gaggle of children or, God forbid, cuts his hair, as long as the commentary and analysis continues along the Cook Standard I will continue to check this blog for updates seemingly every thirty minutes. And my hope is that niche blogs such as MGoBlog continue to operate in this fashion while the news sites (now in online form) continue to aggregate information. Things may mish-mash and evolve, but just keep feeding my addiction for in-depth Michigan everything. Thanks.
I'm not arguing that everyone will have access, but that there will be more competition for that access. The barrier to entry will be lower from a financial/time commitment. Thus sole proprietors, aka blogs, have a better chance of competing with traditional outlets. This is a good thing. It presents a meritocratic system where good journalism and good content wins.
As for the function of bloggers, you're correct. What I meant to say is that most blogs either aggregate or comment on reported news; there are very few that currently break the news. This is changing though, as you mentioned.
My flowchart is an oversimplification, but we're trending towards this in all news genres.
"Is it really that far fetched to think that press conferences will start to incorporate the internet?"
They do. We do a majority of pressers online these days, with meeting software, or just VOIP.
Misopogon - Good, well-thought post. I would point out that newspapers could do things like UFR but that was exactly Brian's point - that the journalists don't ask difficult questions or get in-depth answers enough to get something other than "this was how the game went (very generically)."
Furthermore, something like UFR wouldn't be possible due to space limitations in the dailies, and seeing that they are suffering from their readership viewing online only and not clicking on ads, therefore not creating much revenue, dailies would be hesitant to do such a thing. Had they done this 10 years ago, start charging the readers just like they do for the printed copy, and using the infinite space of the internet to provide a better service, maybe they wouldn't be in this spot.
But you are absolutely correct by wondering aloud if, say, Brian decided one day to up and leave - we'd all be screwed. As far as I can tell, it's a one-man operation and the reason why so many of us come here is because we enjoy reading Brian's work - not Brian's friend or colleagues. The week he was gone, I appreciated the guest content, but it showed me clearly why I only read this blog.
It is not a sports writers job to say what a coach should or shouldn't have done. Maybe in a column, but not in a story.
Writers call out players for doing poor jobs all the time. Less in college but that's so they don't alienate sources.
You call out a left guard for playing like shit and see if Rich Rod will talk to you a week later. And you need Rich Rod to talk or you don't get a story and then you have to listen to your editor bitch.
Then the question is, is the access more important than the accuracy? Do you need the access to tell the story accurately? Who are you serving by favoring those providing the access instead of those who want the accuracy?
("the accuracy" here == writing "the running game went no where because Blue Chip left guard got blowed up over and over")
Newspapers have too often hedged their bets on these fundamental questions, and overvalued access. What is that next story you're going to looking for from Rich Rod after ripping the slobfest at guard -- another suck job?
to quote tony kornheiser:
HITLER? WHO SAID ANYTHING ABOUT HITLER?!?!?