Among the panels at 2.0 in Vegas was a star-studded one titled “The Future of Sports Media.” It featured Bethlehem Shoals (FreeDarko, Bloomsbury USA, The Sporting News’ The Baseline), Matt Ufford (WithLeather/Kissing Suzy Kolber/Warming Glow), Kevin Blackistone (Around the Horn/FanHouse/Shirley Povich Chair in Sports Journalism at the Univ. of Maryland), Amy K. Nelson (ESPN.com) and Ed Bunnell (VP Programing, FoxSports.com).
The panel was presented not long after Amy was assigned to the ESPN local microsite in Boston. Not surprisingly, especially with Nelson, a guy like Blackistone who has seamlessly transitioned from a major daily to digital (and succeeded in both) and with an executive from Fox Sports – who was doing local long before the 4-Letter, the conversation lead to the “Localization of Online Sports.”
Shoals may have put it best when he said during the conversation:
“When it comes to actually knowing your team, knowledgable fans of a single team who have a blog are kind of an unstoppable force.”
The topic was so nuanced and relevant that we decided to make it its own panel at BwB 3 in Chicago. We’ve lined up interest from a major newspaper who has taken digital by the horns, and 2 cable outlets who are positioning themselves to do the same. To round that out, we wanted to include a major independent city-based blogger or two to discuss how they can compete for pageviews with traditional news sources – be it local or national – making concerted efforts to conquer the same space.
As a Philadelphia sports fan, among the first people I thought of and reached out to was The 700 Level‘s Enrico. The site, covering all major (and minor) teams in the city, simply has no peers. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that nationally they are the prototype for what city-based independent blogs strive to become – not just a blog, but a forum for online-savvy fans.
Today, I’m excited to announce that The700Level.com has entered a new stage in its history. We have officially partnered with Comcast SportsNet and CSNPhilly.com. The700Level.com will retain editorial independence, while tapping into the unique access, technology, and resources of Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia.
Over the past five years, through two business consulting jobs and a two-year stint in grad school, I’ve spent the majority of my free time trying to make this site as fun, entertaining, and interesting as possible. Now, it will be my full time job to do so…
You may be thinking, Why now? Will the site change at all? All fair questions. Through hard work and solid writing, blogs have fought their way into the mainstream media conversation. The700Level.com has enjoyed somewhat of a first-mover advantage in the Philly sports blog space. We’ve been doing it a long time and I like to think we do it pretty well. But there were maybe two or three other Philly sports blogs in existence when I started. Now there are hundreds. This move allows us to not only differentiate, but to also put my undivided attention and effort into making this site a must visit destination for Philly sports fans.
The move makes the scheduled panel in Chicago even more relevant. While sites like The Big Lead, Sports by Brooks and only a handful of others have a national reach that allows for a larger, more sustainable audience, do local sports sites reach a point where they plateau and can only become a full-time source of revenue if they partner with companies with a much larger, more diverse distribution network? Previously, bloggers had only online options – be they networks like SB Nation, or on a larger, more selective scale Yahoo! Shortly thereafter, we saw the success of ESPN’s True Hoop network. Now, other national companies are diving in. We see Fox Sports partnering with Yardbarker. We saw Pro Football Talk moving under the NBC Sports umbrella. And now we have major regional networks like Comcast spreading their wings and gobbling up prominent local/regional bloggers.
Is this good or bad? It’s hard to say, really. No one can fault these bloggers for growing their audiences (and really their personal brands and businesses). The question becomes how it affects the rest of the blogosphere – those who remain independent be it by choice or through demand (or lack their of) for their product. What it does encourage, however, is for bloggers of all levels to take a hard look at their sites and determine, quite simply, what they want them to be.