Welcome to Day 3 of our look at New Media, hockey and the NHL. After covering everything from Facebook and Twitter to YouTube and Podcasting, it’s time to look into the backbone of the online hockey community: blogs. 140 characters can point you in the right direction and YouTube can give you visual stimulation—but it’s the blogs that will give you the most in-depth coverage and analysis for hockey on the net. And I’m not just saying that because you’re reading one. Any breakdown we submit to our readers is always firmly planted in neutrality. Always.
One of the strengths of blogs in the hockey world is that it gives the fans so many choices in a world where they never had any. Any fans of the Nashville Predators used to depend on The Tennessean for all of their hockey coverage. Now, they can hit up Preds On The Glass, On The Forecheck, The View From 111 or the Section 303 websites and have more information than fans ever could have imagined. All 4 sites are well written, filled with excellent analysis and keep the fan up-to-date (even during the off-season). In a world where we’re always looking for more information, it’s the respected blogs that fill our void.
You can break out a simple bit of math if you want to get a general idea of the scope of hockey blogs in the world today. You figure that each team has at least 3 good blogs that have everything you may want and more (quite a few teams have more than 3; this is just for arguments sake). At 30 teams, that’s easily 90 good hockey blogs to serve your hockey addict needs. Add in some of the great general hockey blogs out there like From the Rink and Puck Daddy, and it’s easy to see how there are well over 100 blogs that a fan could try to keep up with. Where in the world were these when I was growing up?
There are so many good blogs out there, there are tools to help you follow along with the ones you like the most. Many sites allow you to sign up for email alerts any time there’s a new post on the blog. If you follow a lot of blogs, there are RSS Feeds that help you keep track of everything going on in your own little personal hockey blogosphere. I have 60 sites at my fingertips every morning to see what’s going on. If I want to check out what’s going on with a certain Ottawa Senator, I can check out places like Stay Classy or Seven Deadly Sens. If I want to know how the Sharks and their fans want nothing to do with the same unnamed Senator, then I can check out Fear The Fin. The point is, I can find anything I want, from any perspective I want—and it’s at my fingertips. If you’re on Google a lot and you’re not using Google Reader, then you’re doing yourself a great disservice. I hear that VFMS looks EXCELLENT through RSS feeds. *hint hint*
Another way to follow your favorite blog and all the insight they provide is through Twitter and Facebook. There are plenty of blogs that have a presence on both social media platforms just waiting for you to follow them, become a fan or just simply be their friend. If you’re on Facebook all day (like the VFMS editor), then the site gives you a perfect opportunity to keep up with your favorite blogs through links on their Fan Pages. If you’re more a Tweet Nazi, there are more than a few people dropping links from all corners of the internet for your viewing pleasure. If you find a particular website that you enjoy, just follow them on twitter. I guarantee they’ll tweet links to each and every post they publish.
Lately, there seems to be a huge rift between traditional media and the blogosphere. More often than not, members of the print media will get on their soapbox and use words like “integrity” and “journalistic standards.” Just because there are a handful of reckless bloggers, its short-sighted and self serving to say that the entire medium is irresponsible. That would be the equivalent of saying that all newspapers are trash because the New York Post and National Enquirer are trash. Somehow I think that the Wall Street Journal would be offended to be placed in that kind of company. The blogging world is no different.
Here’s something to think about: in 20 years when the Hockey Hall of Fame is inducting journalist into their Elmer Ferguson wing, who will be the candidates? It’s naïve to think that journalists who have exponentially higher readerships would be shut out simply because their words aren’t printed on paper and delivered to doorsteps. Greg Wyshynski, James Mirtle and the like are the go-to place for hockey fans all over the world. So what makes you think they won’t be considered for hockey writing’s ultimate recognition? Do you read content that’s published online more than newspapers? If so, then why wouldn’t online writers be the next step in the evolution?
I’m not about to get into the Print Media vs. Blogs debate. As far as I’m concerned, there’s an important place for both outlets in my life. If I want a straight news report on something that happened, I’m more likely to hit up a newspaper site or TSN. If I want to know what people think, laugh or just think of a common story in a different way—I’ll be heading to the blogs. If I want more than the box score or a premeditated post-game quote, there are better places to go than the same ole traditional sources.
Defending Big D had a great TWO part discussion with people from both the traditional media and new media that highlights some of the problems ahead for the changing face of NHL media. (Part 1 & Part 2)
As it stands today, accessibility is the biggest advantage that Old School Media holds. When I want quotes from a hockey player that was just named the Number 1 star of the game, traditional media and their media credentials hold all the cards. But what do they do with the quotes? Nothing—and that’s the problem.
Oftentimes, I’ll check out a team’s blog and I’ll find the same quotes that the reporter heard. The difference is that the quote is used within the blog to tell a bigger story for the game. I can look at a score to see who won the game. I want to know WHY they won the game. I want to know if they deserved to win the game. And I want to know if they’ll keep winning games. There are talented bloggers for every team that give me insight that I never would have had before.
The format of a blog is also more appealing—so much so that I find that I enjoy the blogs of newspaper writers much more than the actual stories that they’re forced to fit in a finite section of the Sports page. Rich Hammond of the Daily News has a fantastic blog where he uses his access with the Kings to relay the information to Kings fans as quickly as possible. He throws in opinions when needed, expands on stories as they call for explanation and throws out the facts when the situation calls for it.
To go further, I always feel like I can get more truth and honesty out of writers on their blogs. Maybe it’s that the blogs are a more relaxed setting, but the journalists always tend to let more of their personality into their online writing. Would you rather read something that sounds like a person telling a story or something that reads like an encyclopedia? That’s the outlet that the blogosphere provides.
But more important than the quality of writing and readership numbers is the interactive nature of hockey blogs. The comment sections after an article on a blog provide a place for fans and writers alike to interact. As regular readers continually frequent a particular blog and contribute their thoughts and opinion, a community can build around a blog. The two-way nature of communication that is a blog’s structure makes it better than the one-way megaphone model that has endured for all these years. If you love what a writer said, you can tell them. If you hate what you read, you can tell them. If you think they have fantastic insights when talking about hockey and Social Media, you can do that too.
Just think of the alternatives. When TJ Simers writes something that’s controversial (or just plain wrong) in the LA Times, all you can do is sit there and wonder how he has a job. Likewise, if Helene Elliott writes something that perfectly sums up your feelings, there’s no way to thank her for a beautifully written piece. Blogs change all that.
If you’re truly into hockey, there’s a wealth of knowledge and information out there for you to experience. Just because it doesn’t have the label of a big name distributor doesn’t mean that it’s any less factual or entertaining. Sometimes it’s fun to read a well thought out article that doesn’t come to the same boring, predictable conclusions. Sometimes it’s better to read an article by someone that PASSIONATELY follows a team as passionately as you follow your team. And sometimes you want a place that you can read an article then throw in your two cents.
Sometimes, it’s just BETTER.
If you’re looking for a list of excellent hockey blogs, our blogroll is a great page to bookmark. Feel free to check out the first 2 installment of our New Media and Hockey series that were published earlier this week.
–Day 1: Twitter and Facebook
–Day 2: YouTube and Podcasts