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Wrapping things up

April 29, 2012

While this project will come to an end, the technologies it explored will continue to expand in both application and popularity. It’s hard to imagine the ways in which fans could possibly have more access than they do now, but it was similarly hard to imagine the current level of access just a few short years ago. This growth will likely involve new technologies for analyzing the sport, like Matt suggested, or, like Mac suggested, more coverage of minor league baseball, an area that is exploding in popularity as more and more fans want to follow their favorite team’s prospects and know who the next great player is going to be before they make the major leagues. Wherever and whenever this expansion happens, I can confidently say that I and countless other sports fans around the globe will welcome the advancement.

It is my hope that this blog has given you an idea of how much the technological evolution of the past few years has changed the sports media world. Social media presents a new medium for fans and members of the media to communicate with each other so that both experience the game of baseball in new ways. Blogs take that communication to another level, allowing for in-depth coverage and analysis that exceeds 140 characters. Together, they shape an ever-expanding media world with endless possibilities for expansion, both in terms of the technology used as well as its application.

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The fourth interview: Bexy

April 29, 2012

For my final interview, I talked to Bexy, a fellow Yankees fan and one of the founders of You Can’t Predict Baseball, a blog that seeks to point out all the peculiar and unpredictable moments in a sport that has experienced more attempts to use statistics to predict outcomes than any other. After questioning a professional sportswriter, a blogger, and a journalism student about the state of social media and the blogosphere, I wanted to talk to another friend who would approach my questions primarily from a fan’s perspective, rather than the perspective of someone writing for a specific team-related blog.

RI: How has the advent and growth of blogs and social media changed or improved the way you follow baseball?

It’s definitely changed it for the better. I can have intelligent conversation with people from pretty much everywhere about any aspect of the team, or the game as a whole really. Sites like Fangraphs and Brooks Baseball let me explore the statistical side of the game more. And Twitter provides news about the team (or other teams) before anywhere else does.

RI: You write for a blog called You Can’t Predict Baseball. When did you start blogging for YCPB and why did you choose to do so?

I started writing for YCPB around May 2010. There was a week where a bunch of weird things happened – the Pirates beat Roy Halladay, Mariano Rivera gave up a grand slam, and there was other stuff I can’t remember right now – and a friend and I realized there wasn’t a general “wow, baseball is wacky!” blog, so we started one. I’ve always liked writing, especially about things I feel passionate about like baseball, but I’m also not very creative at coming up with ideas to write about, so this gives me a topic every night. It’s been very fun to write.

RI: How do you think the ever-shortening news cycle due to the instantaneous nature of Twitter and other social media has affected coverage of baseball? Is there an emphasis on speed or quantity over quality of content?

Before Twitter, I didn’t read a lot of writing about the Yankees except for what was posted on the main website and Sports Illustrated every now and then. It seems like there’s definitely an emphasis on speed, or at least being the first to report something – for example, a fake account using a capital letter i instead of a lower case L “reported” Prince Fielder had signed with the Nationals and an official CBS Sports guy picked the fake story up and reported it, which was kind of hilarious – but when it comes to the actual quality of writing I don’t know if it’s been affected. Some beat writers still write pretty incredible game stories most of the time, even working with a time crunch.

RI: How has interaction with other fans and members of the media through social media added to your own experience as a baseball fan?

It’s added a lot to it. I don’t have many friends in real life who are into baseball, so it’s great to have someone to talk to about it online. I’ve come to think of aspects of the game I wouldn’t have thought about before, and I’ve met some people I legitimately consider good friends through Twitter and blogs.

RI: How important is the ability to follow and even interact with professional athletes on Twitter to you?

Honestly, for me personally, it’s not very important. At first it was kind of cool, but it lost a lot of its novelty. Most of the accounts are clearly run by a PR person, which I have no issues with, but they’re rarely interesting to follow.

RI: How do you expect online coverage of baseball to change in the future?

I wish I had a good answer for this but I don’t. I’m guessing more outside clients will start paying beat writers and analysts to put content on their sites, like we’ve seen recently with Sulia.

The third interview: Mac Ramos

April 29, 2012

The third person I talked to was Mac Ramos, a journalism student at Mills College in Oakland, California. Mac is a fan of the San Francisco Giants and blogs about them for Aerys Sports at Third Street Kings. She can also be found on Twitter at @cornerinfielder. As part of the next generation of sportswriters, I wanted to hear Mac’s thoughts about the current role of blogs and social media in baseball coverage and how much of an emphasis there is on them in her journalism education.

RI: How has the advent and growth of blogs and social media changed or improved the way you watch and write about baseball?

MR: I think that, because the use of blogs and social media is so widespread now, it’s enhanced the way I watch and write about baseball. I’ve learned more about the game thanks to people on Twitter and my interest in sabermetrics developed to a love for the numbers because of blogs.

RI: As a journalism student, how much of a focus on new media is there in your coursework?

MR: New media is stressed in my coursework a lot. We’re encouraged to get on Twitter and Facebook if we don’t already have accounts on those sites. We’ve spent about two weeks worth of lectures and discussions regarding the role of social media in journalism and why it is important for student journalists to utilize the tool.

RI: You write a blog about the San Francisco Giants. When did you start blogging and why did you choose to do so?

MR: I started a San Francisco Giants blog on Tumblr in the spring of 2009 (I have since closed the blog). I joined the Aerys Sports network in January 2011 and started blogging about the Giants there. For me, it was an outlet to express my opinions and analysis about the team when, at the time, I didn’t have many friends who were interested in baseball. I was also unsure about studying journalism at the time, but I knew I wanted to write about the Giants. So I just dove into it.

RI: How do you think the ever-shortening news cycle due to the instantaneous nature of Twitter and other social media has affected coverage of baseball? Is there an emphasis on speed or quantity over quality of content?

MR: As a reporter, you always want to be the first person to break the news. I see a lot of beat writers getting the basics out there first and foremost and following it up with, “More details to come.” I’ve noticed a lot of emphasis on speed, but there has been an equal amount of emphasis on quality of content — then again, I know some people do choose to follow only whom they think is a better beat writer than all the beat writers. I know I do that. The instantaneous nature of Twitter has definitely affected the coverage of baseball in my opinion. Years ago, I don’t think anyone would have heard about the Ryan Braun P.E.D. story the minute the news broke had it happened before social media — you would’ve heard it on ESPN later in the day or maybe even in the newspaper the next day. Fans and baseball writers everywhere can get the news the minute it happens; I think it’s added a lot to the coverage of baseball as a whole.

RI: How has interaction with other fans and members of the media through social media added to your own experience watching and writing about baseball, both as a fan and as a journalism student?

MR: I’ve learned different ways of writing about baseball — whether it be from an analytical standpoint or a feature story standpoint — and that there’s not just one “right” way of telling the story. I’ve gained more insight about teams that I barely follow. Since my team is the San Francisco Giants, I barely follow the AL and choose to focus more on the NL West. But because I follow fans and members of the media who root for/write about teams all over the leagues, I’m more aware of everything that’s happening. As a journalism student, it’s definitely a learning experience; I see how social media — and the internet itself — is a powerful tool for journalism nowadays. It’s been a hands-on experience outside of the classroom lectures about its importance.

RI: How do you expect online coverage of baseball to change in the future?

MR: I don’t really know if I have any expectations for the online coverage of baseball to change in the future, but I do have some hopes. I’d love to see more minor league baseball coverage online and I think there’s definitely been movement in that direction.

The second interview: Matt Imbrogno

April 29, 2012

The second person I talked to was Matt Imbrogno, the editor-in-chief of The Yankee Analysts. The blog has gone through several changes since it began as the founders moved on to other ventures, but it remains one of the premier locations for Yankees insight and analysis on the Internet. When he’s not writing for The Yankee Analysts, Matt teaches English and tweets about baseball at @mimbro1. I wanted to know Matt’s feeling about the impact of blogs and Twitter on covering baseball for personal rather than professional reasons.

RI: How has the advent and growth of blogs and social media changed or improved the way you watch and write about baseball?

MI: Writing a blog has greatly improved the way I watch baseball. Because I choose to write about the game so frequently, I, by necessity, have to watch the game more closely. And, due to the relative frequency of blogs, I’ve been able to find out a great deal about other teams, which has only increased my enjoyment of baseball. Social media, mainly Twitter, has also greatly improved the baseball-watching experience for me. While there’s definitely a lot of bridge-jumping and a lot of knee jerk reacting, watching a game while tweeting is normally great. On any given night, I can essentially watch a baseball game “with” hundreds of other people and that’s nothing short of wonderful.

RI: When did you start blogging about the Yankees and why did you choose to do so?

MI: I started blogging about the Yankees in August of 2008. I’d been commenting on internet sites a lot by that time and saw a lot of great work out there. I figured I could add something of value to that community. I’ve loved writing since high school and I’ve loved baseball for as long as I can remember; luckily, I live in a time when the ability to combine both things is easy.

RI: How do you think the ever-shortening news cycle due to the instantaneous nature of Twitter and other social media has affected coverage of baseball? Is there an emphasis on speed or quantity over quality of content?

MI: The biggest change has definitely been the interaction between the content providers and the fans. Via Twitter, I can interact with newspaper writers and baseball TV personalities about any number of baseball related things. On an even more personal level, I joined Twitter for the express purpose of interacting more actively and intimately with my audience and other writers.

I think the answers to the quantity v. quality and speed v. accuracy questions depend on who you’re getting the content from. For the site I run, I always aim for quality and accuracy before quantity and speed, but for some sites, that’s just not possible. If a site, say MLB Trade Rumors, is based on getting information quickly, then it behooves them to post quickly and then go back and edit later. For smaller sites, though, like mine, getting it right is the best way to attract readers and garner positive attention.

RI: How has interaction with other fans and members of the media through social media added to your own experience watching and writing about baseball?

MI: Like I said before, using social media during baseball games and as a medium to discuss them and the sport as a whole has been great. It’s like watching games with 200+ people at any different time. It’s like being in a sports bar where, even though it’s crowded as all hell, you can find a way to interact with everyone individually. More importantly, though, it challenges me to make sure my opinions are well refined and my facts are beyond accurate. There are a lot of people reading what you put out there and you need to make sure what you say is well supported. I started using the internet to talk baseball back in 2006 and the first thing I learned was that if you’re going to make a statement, you’d better have the numbers, facts, etc. to back yourself up.

RI: How do you expect online coverage of baseball to change in the future?

MI: It’s hard to say. I honestly can’t comprehend or imagine how it could get any faster or more expansive than it is right now. The level of access the fan has now, thanks to social media and the Internet, is incredible and I think it’s probably at the greatest level we can expect. Of course, five years ago, I couldn’t have imagined what we have now so for all I know, leaps and bounds could be made.

The first interview: Marc Carig

April 29, 2012

The first person I talked to for my project was Marc Carig, the Yankees beat writer for the Star-Ledger. Marc has covered the Yankees since 2009 and he has developed a dedicated following on Twitter, where he can be found at @MarcCarig. His articles can be found on the Star-Ledger’s website at NJ.com. Marc was one of the first people I followed when I started using Twitter during the 2009 baseball season, and he has earned a reputation as one of the most engaging and accessible people in the business. I knew that I wanted to ask Marc about his experience covering the Yankees online as soon as I decided on this subject for my project. As a professional journalist, Marc definitely has the busiest schedule of anyone I talked to, so I’m especially thankful that he took the time to answer my questions.

RI: How has the advent and growth of social media changed or improved the coverage of baseball games?

MC: Social media has essentially replicated the experience of watching a game at a sports bar. It has allowed fans to congregate with one another while also sharing the experience with people at the ballpark, whether it be other fans or in this case, writers who cover the team they follow. I think the social media aspect, at its best, adds a level of enjoyment to the games.

RI: How and why did you personally choose to use social media to expand your coverage?

MC: My office made me do it. They wanted us to interact with fans. I really hadn’t used Twitter at all in my personal life so I wasn’t familiar with how it worked. At the beginning, I didn’t even know why it appealed to so many people. But over time, I noticed that my audience on Twitter tended to be more highly engaged and focused, moreso than my audience in the newspaper or even our web site. So, I wanted to use social media to connect with this audience.

RI: How difficult was/is it to adapt to the ever-shortening news cycle due to the instantaneous nature of Twitter and other social media? Is there an emphasis on speed or quantity over quality of content?

MC: It’s difficult in that there’s no longer as much time for reporting. Twitter, in my view, provides a picture of the news in tiny, incomplete, fragments. That can be frustrating because the fundamental job of the journalist is to bring as complete a picture as possible. Yes, there is an emphasis on quantity over quality, but you hope that readers are savvy enough to gravitate toward the quality.

RI: How do you determine the roles of print and online media in your coverage and what content do you provide for each?

MC: In my mind, these are two completely different audiences. Sure, there’s some overlap, in that I’m sure there are people who read me in the newspaper and also follow me on Twitter. But the two audiences have distinct needs. Online, through blogs and Twitter, you’ve got to be timely to remain relevant. It’s a good place to share opinions and pass along breaking news. In print, my focus is on providing something more in-depth and meaningful. In print, I’m asking a reader to devote some of their time to read my story, and I want to make sure that it was worth their while.

RI: How different is it to write for a larger audience online in addition to the New York market?

MC: My focus is on the New York market. I work for a newspaper based in New Jersey so my concern is writing to serve those folks. If a larger audience happens to find my work useful, that’s an added bonus. But my priority is writing for the people in my back yard.

RI: Has interaction with fans and other members of the media through social media added to your own experience watching and covering baseball?

MC: Absolutely. It’s like having a stool at the sports bar. I like the feeling of watching the games with a group, of being able to trade ideas, of being able to agree or disagree. I like that things I’ve seen in social media have made rethink my view of the game, or even my work. It has definitely enhanced the experience.

RI: How do you expect the way you cover baseball to change to the future?

MC: Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I hope there is still a place for thoughtful storytelling. While social media has its uses, it can also be overwhelming. It’s a steady stream of unfiltered information that often lacks context. I’d like to think that audiences will gain more of an appreciation for longer form work to balance out the instantaneous coverage we have now. There is tremendous value in knowing immediately whenever there are important developments in a story. But I also believe there is tremendous value in taking the proper time to put those developments in their proper context.

Last August, Marc did an interview with Moshe Mandel, the former editor-in-chief of The Yankee Analysts who now writes for River Ave. Blues. In it, he discussed some of the same topics found in this interview and answered many more specific questions about his job and some of the difficulties it involves. I can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone who’s interested in reading a more in-depth look into the role of a beat writer in the evolving media world.

What can blogs and social media do for you?

April 28, 2012

Whenever I tell people that I use Twitter extensively to follow baseball and enjoy it with others who do the same, I’m met with the same questions about what exactly I use it for and if there’s really any room for coherent discussion or productive analysis. When I say that I’ve tweeted nearly 85,000 times since I started using Twitter during the 2009 baseball season, I’m usually met with expressions of shock or disbelief. The fact is, however, that Twitter has exploded in popularity in recent years and made a huge impact in the sports world. Every local writer and every national columnist is on Twitter now, and it has become the go-to place for the latest breaking news and the most up-to-date analysis. Every professional sports team in almost every major and minor sports league around the nation and the world uses Twitter to promote their brand identity and expand their following.

Before Twitter became a national phenomenon, another medium revolutionized the sports world. Blogs created all sorts of new possibilities for newspapers and magazines to reach their audiences, and they also presented fans with an opportunity to write about the sports and teams they loved without the need to earn a degree in journalism. Websites like MLB Trade Rumors shortened the news cycle from days to hours or even minutes before Twitter shortened it to seconds. Today, blog networks like SB Nation host hundreds of blogs written by thousands of fans, all of whom share a love for sports, even if their league and team allegiances vary greatly.

To a cursory glance, social media and blogs may not appear to have much of substance, but there is a lot of value under the surface waiting to be discovered by anyone who takes the time to look for it. My own experience illustrates this. When I first heard about Twitter, I remember thinking it was a more annoying version of Facebook, nothing more than a place for people to post pictures of their cats and what they had for lunch. I joined the social network in the middle of 2008, but at the time I still didn’t understand what the purpose of “tweeting” was. Far too much time has passed and far too many updates have been tweeted since then to find out what my first tweet was, but I know it was something along the lines of, “I don’t get the point of this thing.”

I tweeted a few times after that, but I didn’t follow many people and I didn’t have many followers of my own, so it wasn’t something that I ever went out of my way to do. Then, in the summer of 2009, something changed. I suddenly discovered that Twitter was very different from other social networks: Facebook and its derivatives were primarily a way to communicate with people I already knew, but Twitter provided an opportunity to meet and communicate with new people with similar interests. At first I tweeted mostly about one of the things I love most, baseball, and followed people who were interested in that only, but I soon branched out and began to discuss other topics, such as my other love, English literature. I discovered that some of the people I had already followed were also interested in literature, and I followed more people who were interested in that and many other things.

Over three and a half years and nearly 85,000 tweets later, I can say with confidence that Twitter has changed the way I watch and follow sports more than anything else. There is no better place on the web to keep up with the news happening around the world of sports. And if you need more analysis of a decision or roster move than can be recorded in 140 or fewer characters, then there are dozens of bloggers who have already covered it from every conceivable angle. During baseball games and other events, Twitter is like a global sports bar, where anyone can go to share their game-watching experience with thousands of other people enjoying the same game, whether they live around the corner from their favorite team, across the nation, or around the world.

What this blog is about

April 27, 2012

First of all, welcome to my project blog! If you’re reading this post, then you’re certainly wondering what this blog is about. I love sports, especially baseball and the New York Yankees, so I wanted to explore the ways in which the sports world has changed as a result of new and evolving technology, particularly the advent and growth of blogs and social media. Sports fans have benefited greatly from these technologies, so that the level of access to the teams and athletes they follow is unprecedented. Many of the features available to fans on the Internet today didn’t exist until recently, so that they enjoy access that they would never have dreamed about ten or even five years ago.

For my actual project, I wrote about my own experiences as a sports fan, and conducted a series of question and answer sessions with several people with whom I’ve developed personal and professional relationships. I wanted to discuss the subject from a variety of perspectives, so I talked to four people: a professional sportswriter who covers the Yankees for a living, a blogger who writes for one of the premier destinations for Yankees insight and analysis on the web, a journalism student who also writes a blog about the San Francisco Giants, and another fan like myself. I met each of these people through Twitter, where we discovered that we all shared the same passion — baseball — and enjoyed talking about it with people who enjoyed it as much as we did.

In my next post, I will relate my own experiences as a sports fan before and after I joined Twitter and discovered the community of sports fans there. This will be followed by the question and answer posts with each person I talked to, so that anyone who reads this blog can gain a thorough understanding of how different people take advantage of the various opportunities that social media presents to those who follow and cover sports.

The title of this blog is a reference to the song by Tinie Tempah and Eric Turner, which was featured in commercials such as this one during Major League Baseball’s playoff ad campaign in October 2011.