A look into what one baseball team’s recent success has done to the blogging world. How long will the craze last, even when the greatest run in franchise history comes to an end.
Mike Meech missed blogging. He temporarily shut down his site, TheFightins.com, in November in 2010 and never really knew when he was going to bring it back.
But on April 12, Meech announced to his 3,500-plus followers on Twitter, “F*** it, I think I’m bringing The Fightins back.” A day later, The Fightins made their triumphant return to the blogosphere.
“I just missed doing it, plain and simple,” said Meech. “I thought by not having The Fightins around I’d be able to pay attention to the Phillies and random Phillies news less, and that wasn’t the case. So if I’m still involved in everything besides the writing a blog part, I might as well just write the blog.”
The Fightins have been around May 2007, before Phillies blogging escalated. Meech had been blogging a year prior to that before starting up his site.
“I started out writing on blogs in ‘06 on a site called ‘Bugs & Cranks.’ They had a writer for every team and I wrote so often that I felt like I was hogging up the site with my Phillies nonsense,” said Meech. “So I got the guy who hired me on that site to make a spinoff site specifically for me. I teamed up with a “Deadspin” commenter named Chamomiles Davis, thought up the whole idea of ‘The Fightins’ and launched in May of ’07.”
Along with “Phillies Nation,” “Beerleaguer,” and the all-Philly site “The 700 Level” (now affiliated with Comcast Sports Net Philly), The Fightins were a gateway blog to the hundreds of Phillies blogs attacking the internet today.
The blog has also been around before the Phillies broke their 14-year playoff drought in 2007, won a World Series in 2008, won another National League pennant in 2009 and their fourth straight division title in 2010.
One of the site’s The Fightins helped get onto the map is “I Want to Go to the Zoo With Roy Halladay.”
“I didn’t ever really think it would become this popular,” said ZWR, who’s anonymity is a part of the mystique surrounding the site. “If pressed, I’d say that in the early days the thing that helped most – and most immediately – was the fine folks at The Fightins helping me to gain an audience. In mob terms, because you know, that makes sense, Meech ‘vouched’ for me.”
With the team’s recent success and entrance in the next level as one of sports top franchises, the fans have doubled and the interest in creating a blog dedicated to one’s favorite team has peaked at an all-time high.
Blogging was getting bigger already. If you combine the nation’s interest in voicing their opinion with a local fan base’s increased interest in their sports team, you get what you see here today.
140 characters of promotion
Twitter has become arguably the biggest marketing tool for blogs today. More than just 140 characters of thoughts shared by millions and millions of “tweeps,” many blogs have turned to the use of Twitter to market their blog. Some of the devices including linking and hash-tagging while others revert to humor and genuine personality to market their site.
“The Fightins” (@TheFightins) shockingly uses its account for linking purposes only. But others have taken Twitter to a whole new level.
Zoo With Roy has busted onto the blogging scene through Twitter and on Blogger.com through their blog. With the Twitter handle of @zoowithroy, ZWR has remained anonymous but still found a way into the hearts of Phillies fans on Twitter, totaling over 4,000 followers.
“Twitter became the biggest influence,” said ZWR. “The reasons are two-fold: One, it allows me to ‘announce’ bolg (not ‘blog’) posts to followers as they go up on ZooWithRoy.com. Then folks do the re-tweeting and replying and word of mouth takes over and everything is beautiful. Two, Twitter allows me to build relationships with folks and present myself as a personality that they enjoy. It’s a lot more fun reading the bolg of someone that you enjoy and wish well.”
Blogging has found it’s way into the professional world. With many print publications such as the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News trying to survive, they have turned to promoting themselves online where today’s readers get their news.
In doing so, they have encouraged their Phillies beat writers to blog about the team, adding faster updates than their print version. Many writers have already either started or taken over blogs for the newspaper or website for which they write.
Todd Zolecki of MLB.com runs a site he started back with the Philadelphia Inquirer called “The Zo Zone.” Dave Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News has a blog titled “High Cheese” and his Philly.com partners from the Inquirer Matt Gelb and Bob Brookover run “The Phillies Zone.”
Another writer, Ryan Lawrence of the Delaware County Times, runs “Phollowing the Phils.” He’s been running that since he started with the paper back in January 2008.
“I created the blog for the paper,” Lawrence said. “They hardly did any blogging, especially Phillies stuff, before I took the job. It’s meant to complement the coverage. And it’s a good vehicle for getting news out there ASAP.
Many of the beat writers, like Lawrence said, use their blogs for breaking news or little articles to compliment the articles they write for their publications.
Their main focus, though, relies on getting the published article finished for the main site or morning newspaper the following morning.
“I still spend more time on the final product – the stories that appear in the paper or online – than I do on the blog,” Lawrence added. “That’s only because I spend the majority of my time reporting and writing for the main stories of the day. But the blog is definitely a nice sidekick to the regular coverage.”
The battle between amateurs and pros
Journalists and bloggers are all crammed into a sports-crazed media market in Philadelphia. But despite the journalists getting paid in the end, they still have to fight with a bunch of Joe-Shmoe’s trying to get their site hits and gain popularity in the field.
With that, it creates almost a love/hate relationship between the two.
“There’s a mixture of resentment and genuine support and respect. That will probably always exist to some extent,” said Jessica Quiroli, an online minor league writer for Baseball Digest, a major league writer for Junior Baseball Magazine and the Trenton Thunder (a minor league team in the Yankees organization) for Scout.com.
Along with her work, Quiroli runs a site called “High Heels on the Field.” She has established herself as one of the best minor league bloggers, through her site, work and Twitter (@heelsonthefield).
Blogger’s actually depend on the beat writers to release the news on Twitter or through their sites so they can get it up on their sites as quickly as possible.
“For me, personally, it’s not about pro writer versus amateur blogger,” said Meech. “I know I need the information that the beat writers gather in order to make a lot of my own posts, so I just stay in my lane and make sure to keep things light-hearted and never pretend to be a journalist. I’ve developed a friendly rapport with most of the Phillies beat guys and never felt obligated to start a feud with them no matter how strongly I may disagree with something they’ve said.”
With the sudden surge of blogging, a debate has risen on whether or not bloggers deserve the same treatment journalists do.
Press credentials are the hot topic. Many sports bloggers feel that if their site reaches a certain level of credibility that they should be able to apply for a press pass in order to get regular game day and off day access to the clubhouse, dugout and field.
“There are fans who have blogs and are actually surprised when they don’t get press credentials. Or ask how to get them,” said Quiroli. “The writing profession is changing a lot, but in both a positive and negative way. I believe the integrity of the profession should be upheld. But I hate that bloggers are treated like they don’t have a worthy opinion because they don’t get paid to do it for a living.”
Once the economy in the journalism industry is re-established, a union between the two parties will be reached. Like Batman needs his Joker, the two need each other to thrive.