This past Friday the Ottawa Senators organization graciously reached out to this blog to “acknowledge the online/blogging community’s work and development in social media.”
In an email, an Ottawa Senators representative invited me -- and I’m assuming that a few other Senators bloggers received a similar email -- to attend a game in the coming month so that I can “experience a day similar to what is available to the media who cover the Senators.”
Although the Senators did cordially invite bloggers and other online community members to attend the press conference that announced the launch of their 20th anniversary season last summer, Friday’s invitation is just the latest instance of the organization placing some emphasis on engaging the blogosphere to see where this relationship might lead.
It’s certainly unchartered territory for the organization and an unexpected marked change from their policy of years passed.
Don’t get me wrong. Over the past few seasons I have been more than fortunate to interview a number of players, prospects and staff as part of our podcast content. However, getting that access was always a one-way street. Now with the Senators acting the part of the pursuer, the dynamics have changed and for good reason. Thanks to the emergence and prominence of online content, blogs have helped change the manner and rate in which fans consume information as they follow their favorite sports team(s).
I am sure that a number of my peers will raise their arms and triumphantly state that this is a victory for the Interwebs but I have a number of reservations about such a relationship.
If anything, it opens Pandora’s Box to the organization being inundated with requests to join the masses and get access to the players. I certainly don’t envy the person(s) within the organization who will be tasked with having to determine which criteria they will use to pick which blogs are represented. Should it be pageviews? Will it be the number of distinct viewers that frequent a site? Should it be the quality or quantity of the work? Or could the organization simply favor the message or tones that are conveyed by the blogs themselves?
Thanks to an inquiry from the Senators a few weeks ago that wondered what The 6th Sens’ website traffic was, I’m inclined to believe that they will use traffic driven numbers to substantiate who will or will not be invited to participate. Nevertheless, it’s the latter point in the previous paragraph that needs further consideration.
Tweeting the various line combinations or being there in person to record the same mundane or rehashed quotes from the players or coaching staff just does not appeal to me that much. I’m not even entirely sure what the organization has planned when it says that we can “experience a day similar to what is available to the media who cover the Senators”, but if it involves being segregated in a specific area or receiving less opportunity than what is afforded to the media who cover the team than I’m not particularly interested. If I’m expected to hold myself to the same professional standards and etiquettes, then I expect to receive the same courtesies. I certainly don't want to feel like I'm being treated like a lesser person.
Yet, at the same time, I fully recognize that the traditional media members of this city do this as their livelihood. I certainly do not want to disrupt their work as they are trying to meet a deadline. Put succinctly, there is a delicate balance involved that I do not wish to disrupt.
While I’m sure that some of my peers would disagree and relish the opportunity to use their blogs as a medium to brush elbows with the local journalists, the players or coaching staff, if I’m being completely honest, I’m just not sure what I could add from being at the rink that this city’s current beat writers and journalists don’t already do.
Most importantly, one of the distinct advantages that the personality of The 6th Sens offers over the traditional media outlets is that we are afforded the luxury of putting forth an opinion without having to worry about how it may hamper any relationships that I, or any of the other contributors here, may develop with employees of the Senators organization.
As an opinionated blog that hands out more than its fair share of criticisms, I don’t want to have to worry about our content and question whether or not what we are writing could jeopardize such relationships or give the organization grounds to hinder my access.
The spectrum of Senators blogs is pretty vast and fans have a healthy number of alternatives to choose from with each carrying a unique voice. Some are well written and very well structured. Some are funny. Some feel obligated to tow the organization’s line. Others are one slideshow removed from resembling the traffic-whoring Bleacher Report. As such, every blogger is going to have a different opinion on what kind of treatment or access that they would like, but I’m just not sure that there is some all-inclusive solution.
It's great to see the Senators interact with bloggers! As blogger relations grows in importance to PR professionals (in any industry) failing to acknowledge this may have left the organization looking outdated. That being said, I understand your choice not to go.
This could be a huge step for the Sens in terms of social media, and as a PR student, I think it's great!
First off congrats to both you and SSS on invites, I can say that without a doubt you are the two blogs I rely heavily on from the blogging world side.
The debate for MSM and bloggers will always be there but for me as I mentioned in my convo with Ian Mendes on twitter is that I don't necessarily rely on one and shut out the other, it's about a different point of view and he's right bloggers offer a more fan-based view. That being said, if allowing bloggers access means putting constraints on them then the entire purpose of blogging just went down the drain. It's exciting to read that our favourite bloggers may now have better access to information so long as the style and the points of view remain unchanged and if the Sens or any other organization truly want to reach out to bloggers/fans then they have to be very careful with the constraints they put, if any. As for choosing bloggers, I think for Sens bloggers at least some MSM aka Gordon/Mendes have done a great job interacting with some of the most prominent bloggers and it may not be so hard to weed out the most reliable/credible blogging sources.
Again congrats and good luck. Hoping to see this work out, should be fun to have a mix between MSM and bloggers in one place. Make sure Mendes doesn't point and laugh out too much :p
The important thing is, will you still have freedom to express your opinion or will you be shut down by the powers that be, or your job threatened as has allegedly happened to a blogger previous to Web 2.0 who was critical of decisions (last name rhymes with Mallard).
As long as blogs don't become mouthpieces for the team (there are far too many of these already...) I'll continue reading them.
This is finally your chance to meet Bruce Garrioch and act as his mule to smuggle beers onto the plane with him!
I'm happy to say that I received the same e-mail (sounds like it was exactly the same, based on the excerpt you provided), and I'm looking forward to seeing where the opportunity might lead. I've also got similar reservations as yours about what might end up happening between the two sides.
I've also got one you don't mention here: Time. Even if the relationship led to an all-access press pass on par with those conventional media members have, there's no possible way I could afford to devote that much time to the blog. It's enough watching games and writing about them; add in travel time to attend every home game, stick around afterwards to get the same clichés everyone else is getting, and the costs associated therewith and there's no way it would make sense.
The bottom line is that, for the time being at least, blogs and mainstream media will mostly remain two distinct fiefdoms.
I'm also wondering where Silver Seven falls in the categories outlined in your final paragraph...
@rymkrs @erinnicks @6thSens Great to see the #Sens start to acknowledge the importance of blogger relations!
@silversevensens That's a great point about time constraints.
On your last point, I wouldn't worry about my observations about blogs. SSS is probably the most professional looking one of the lot.
Anyway, interesting perspectives from both of you. Nichols, do you feel that you'd be able to get any kind of different response from players than the MSM does? I know Peter was able to get Karlsson to talk about Letang's "sick flow" but that was in a more relaxed setting.