Are blogs as important as bloggers think they are? The question itself is a bit of a stretch, but I think the shortest answer to it is one of the most American of all answers — the sports metaphor.
“Old media” — television, newspapers, magazines — are like Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) with some more minor players like the National Hockey League (NHL). Blogging is like Major League Soccer (MLS).
Actually, the MLS really doesn’t matter all that much, even to soccer fans. It’s just kinda.. well.. there. What matters more are the many youth leagues, SAY, AYSO, ODP and regional travel leagues scattered around the country. If you did not recognize any of that, you’re not alone and it’s ok. Soccer doesn’t really matter.
In the United States, about 4-6 million kids play soccer, depending on whose numbers you believe. That is more kids than football and baseball combined. By the time they reach high school most of them have dropped out to play other sports like football or baseball. While their kid is playing soccer, parents are engaged, almost fanatically, but when their kid no longer plays soccer, the parents quit caring about the sport, dedicating their time now to an extra dose of football and baseball.
“It’s a good thing Johnny finally got into a real sport like football,” most dads think quietly to themselves with a sigh of relief.
Sportscasters openly mock soccer as not being a real sport much like television and newspaper journalists mock bloggers as not being real media people. Sports departments cover soccer only when they have to or when it fits a pre-determined narrative, like during the World Cup and then only begrudgingly. Mainstream advertisers won’t buy placement in soccer venues. Many have soccer initiatives only because they are looking to attract the soccer mom and many times only as an ancillary buy to a larger media placement. Soccer-only product enthusiasts find out quickly how shallow and cost-concious the market really is, many going out of business within a year after launching their product or service. The parallels to blogging v old media almost rise up and slap you in the face.
And how does soccer respond? Not by being itself but by trying to emulate the larger sports leagues. It organizes the sport into a large national league (MLS) instead of deeper, hyper-local clubs tied to the community. It encourages rule and play format changes to make the play more exciting to American audiences. More goals, more points per goal, more physical contact, shorter fields, fewer players on each side for more ball touches per player, more tournaments, more, more, more….
And even internally, soccer people turn on each other, gutting one league to form another, jealously guarding their own piece of turf or breaking off to form their own club or league when the director pisses them off. (Read points 2 & 3 at Brass Tack Thinking) Sound like a typical impromptu parent sideline meeting? Sure does.
In the end, it is blogging that will change to fit an old media model, not the other way around. Sure, there will be some hold-outs like we have grizzly soccer guys who collect in pubs to watch a Arsenal game and complain about how kids today don’t play futbold like they did back when they were young. And they will eventually die and take their fan loyalty with them.
In keeping the metaphor alive, millions of bloggers write a million and a half blog posts a day. More citizen journalism, opinion editorials, lifestyle, industry insights, restaurant product and movie reviews are published each day by bloggers than network journalists combined. And still we ask, does blogging matter?
Does soccer matter?
This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about “Do blogs matter?” To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.