Blogger Summit 3, Pt. 3: Those Damn Bloggers!
For their third new media summit, jokingly nicknamed by Ted Black “Bloggers, Black, and Beers”, the Buffalo Sabres assembled their largest list of bloggers yet. Following pizza and beers on the 100 level of First Niagara Center were surprise announcements, a rapid-fire topical discussion, and a closing Q&A session.
This final post, third in a series of three, tackles the expansion of the blogger credentialing program and its pros and cons (yes, cons).
To the surprise and delight of the assembled bloggers at the very first blogger summit, it was announced that blogs would be afforded space in the home media side of the press box. Later that summer, the rules were established and bloggers began filling out the application form for press box and post-game press conference access. I was among them.
Honestly, the set up worked pretty damn well. Desk space to set up the laptop, live blogging the game, recapping afterward…it was all very cool (I never took advantage of access to Lindy Ruff’s post-game pressers…waking up at 4AM for work, going straight from to the arena, then getting home by 11PM was ROUGH). It was also awe-inspiring to be standing there, eating a roller dog with other bloggers when legendary visiting media strolled past (Holy s**t, was that Jim Matheson?). I quickly noticed that outside of not cheering for goals or wearing dress shoes on the press level, my coverage didn’t change much (not a complaint). Without access to players, this was expected. The first year of the blogger credentialing program was an experiment, for all intents and purposes, and one that came with certain restrictions (After all, bloggers don’t exactly anyone to answer to for guideline violations like a reporter would).
At Blogger Summit 3, Ted Black declared the initial experiment a shining success. I agree with him. They gave bloggers the chance to conduct themselves like traditional media in a controlled atmosphere, and conduct themselves like traditional media they did. The reward was that the five most frequently-represented blogs would receive limited dressing room access in the 2012-2013 season. A serious round of congrats for Sabres fans who will get a chance none before them have had, but herein is where the question mark lies. Will they make the most of their access?
Fans read blogs because they offer material that isn’t found at the local daily newspaper. Advanced statistical analysis, CBA expertise, prospect coverage, long-form stories, offbeat musings…the best blogs feature something that fans, casual and diehard, aren’t finding via mainstream channels. Some even take on the hard news format and put out a pretty good product. But with actual player access, will we the readers get the same regurgitated quotes? Given the nature of the five blogs rewarded with access (Buffalo Wins, 3rd Man In, Sabres Hockey Central, Queen City Sports, and Die By The Blade), the potential exists to get great information from access. Personally, I’m a fan of 3rd Man In’s game recaps and would love to see what a critical mind like Eric’s would ask given access. Ditto Buffalo Wins and their tone. On the flipside, the potential exists that bloggers don’t really take full advantage of their extraordinary opportunity . At that point, coverage saturation just becomes more noise.
I’m excited to see what the five lucky blogs will do with their access. I know I have a million questions rattling around in my brain that I’d want to ask players if given the chance. Unlike the Sabres Hockey Hotline, which I have low expectations for to start, I have high expectations for what bloggers can accomplish with access like this. There will will be that nagging fear that it won’t lead to anything special or furthering the narrative of each blog, but all it will take is a recap or two to make it go away (Likewise, all it will take is an episode or two of Sabres Hockey Hotline to hopefully prove me wrong). Don’t hold back, fellow basement dwellers. Produce badass content with your access and show the Sabres that they were right to let you (us) in.