Labor Day and the Work of Hockey Bloggers

I’ve been on a nostalgia kick lately for the hockey blogosphere of old. This isn’t to say that the current version is bad, but there are things I miss about the way things were, before blog networks and twitter (blog killer).

I was pruning my links in my blogroll, taking out some of the dead links and adding a few others, and clicked over to James Mirtle’s Big Blog Listing from several years ago. It was a list of blogs, big and small that Mirtle had compiled to point out other hockey blogs all over the blogosphere. Other attempts were made, including this gigantic list of links from the old Japer’s Rink site, but most of these lists went away pretty quickly. Even my own attempt to help promote new hockey blogs and podcasts didn’t gain much traction, and over half of the blogs listed have faded away, less than a year into their life.

What’s striking about these lists is how many blogs are no longer around. I’d say about a third of the blogs on Mirtle’s list are still in existence, with some of those moving on to join SB Nation and other blog networks. Hockey blogging is sometimes it’s own reward, but sometimes, that reward isn’t enough. And sometimes, life just gets in the way.

If I were to shut down Jerseys and Hockey Love, something I think about from time to time (let’s be honest, I don’t have the time to dedicate to this blog that I would like), after a brief period of time, no one would miss it. Not in the way many of us still pine for Jes Golbez’s Hockey Rants, or sidearm delivery.There are many solid hockey blogs out there to take up any slack I show on a regular basis.

The point is, it’s labor day today, and there are many hockey bloggers and podcasters out there that do this for free. They enhance our hockey lives by caring and devoting time to their craft. Most of them will never get paid for their work, and many will give up at some point when life gets in the way.

Take a minute to thank them for their work. Do something that takes a little effort on your part to tell them you appreciate what they do. Something a little more personal than a blanket follow friday mention, or a link. Sometimes, all it takes to make someone feel appreciated and to stay with it is to post a comment, or a tweet.

Hockey blogging and podcasting, much like pimpin’, ain’t easy.

That’s all. Enjoy your labor day.

Tomorrow, thirty twitter-sized team previews in one post. Oh yes, it will be done.

Press Creds: A Few More Thoughts

You wouldn’t think there would be any more to say about press credentials than I said yesterday, but here we go.

- Press credentials are the badge of honor that says you are a successful blogger. This isn’t to say that they are not useful, or to downplay their importance for some, but that they are another indicator that a blogger has ‘made it.’ whatever that means. When I started this blog (get off my lawn, you kids!), my indicator of success was being linked to. I got a ton of links for my writing at the time, and as new blogs would start, they would put me in their short blogrolls. A few people even said they started their blog in part because of my blog. That’s as flattering as it gets, and it told me that I was doing something right.

That changed when AOL Fanhouse came about. You knew who the top tier bloggers of the time were, but now they were in one place, and they were getting paid to do it. They weren’t getting paid much, but it was more than most other blogger were getting. And suddenly what success looked like was a little different. Not long after came Puck Daddy, and then SB Nation. There was money out there, and people wanted it. There were invites out there, and people wanted in. The bar had shifted again.

Press credentials are another shift. There were a ton of bloggers and podcasters who were at the 2010 Draft. It’s great to see them there, and some of them did great work with their newfound access. But it isn’t everything. And it shouldn’t be treated that way.

- I guess I should say what I would want for myself. I don’t really want a seat in the press box. Maybe once for the experience (and if it worked out or I really liked it, then do it again), but overall, for now, it doesn’t sound that appealing. I would like to be able to pick up the phone and call an organization for an answer to a question or a statement. I would love to be able to talk to someone at a team and get a helpful voice on the other end, or simply some clarification. That doesn’t have to mean locker room access, or a seat in the press box. But it does mean being recognized as some sort of media outlet.

I am considering applying for press credentials for the 2011 NHL Draft for The Rink Podcast. I’m actually less interested in talking to the draftees and hockey personnel than I am talking to the people in the stands. A press pass means I could bring my recording equipment in, and not get hassled talking to the fans for the show. Also, a press pass gives people some idea that what you are doing is legitimate.

- Eric McErlain, the man who wrote the guidelines for the Washington Capitals on issuing credentials to bloggers, weighs in. This is must read, but this is the takeaway for me:

In the meantime, I do have a message for independent bloggers who have been watching this episode with growing alarm. At the end of the day, your credibility is based on the trust you build with your readers everyday, not whether or not you have a laminated plastic badge hanging around your neck. If you follow your passion and develop an audience, there will come a time when the powers that be have little choice but to let you inside the gate, if that’s what you really want.

Please note that little bit at the end. Press credentials aren’t something that are for everyone. And you should consider if you really want them or not before going after them. Really think about what you would do with them. Not having a press pass for every game doesn’t make you any less of a writer, and it doesn’t mean less people will read you. Just like the Jim Rome show, have a take. Or in more blogger friendly terms, have a voice and use it. Then see where that leads you.

- I had a few questions on twitter yesterday for the bloggers out there, and I would love to get some responses. Have you called your local hockey team and asked what their policy for giving credentials are? And I mean, have you yourself picked up the phone and made contact? And are you proud enough of the work you have done to submit it for consideration? Because you are going to have to do that at some point. Like it or not, and no matter if you feel like a review is going to be about controlling the message, someone at a team is going to take a look at your work and make a decision. Are you happy enough with your work to say it’s ready?

- What happens next? Well, we sit back and wait. The credential issue is in the hands of others for now (some of whom are on the bloggers side). In the meantime, write your ass off, develop a voice and a style, and don’t worry about your site meter. Do all the things that will make your work shine, instead of taking shortcuts for short term gains. And don’t sweat the credentials. Just go create something excellent with these wonderful tools we have at our disposal.

There, I said it.

Bloggers and the Press Box: All Of This Has Happened Before…

To quote a song from Consolidated, “Well, well, well, here we go go again.”

This blog is just past four years old, and for the life of Jerseys and Hockey Love, the issue of credentials for hockey bloggers has been kicked around and debated to the point of becoming stale. I started before there were big blog networks, before Fanhouse, before Puck Daddy, before Sports Blog Nation, and the Washington Capitals were just starting to allow bloggers into the press box. Not that this is a feather in my cap or anything, it’s just my personal point of reference.

Chances are, I don’t have to tell you about Eric McErlain and the excellent work he has done for other bloggers to help them get into the press box. If you haven’t read his draft of blogger guidelines for getting credentials, you really should. Read them, and then take another look at the date of that post. August, 2006. Four years ago, the fight for credibility was being fought by people who deserved to be there, and for people who would come later. And the fight continues.

Greg Wyshynski talked about a conference call that happened this week about the media and bloggers getting access to the locker rooms of teams who don’t credential bloggers. The gist of the issue, from Puck Daddy:

Yet several prominent NHL franchises, including the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers, have strict “no blogger” policies in their arenas. They don’t see them as working journalists, and they certainly don’t see a need for them to have access to cramped locker rooms after the game.

On Monday, these teams emphatically voiced those concerns during an annual preseason conference call between NHL executives and team media-relations directors. Their issue: If my team doesn’t credential bloggers in its home arena, why should bloggers haves access to my team’s locker room on the road?

Well, it is a good question. If the credentials are issued from the home team, then yes, I feel like a visiting team should respect the home team’s decisions in these matters. It seems simple enough. When any media is critical of a team, they should just realize that not every voice out there is going to be on your side. If an MSM reporter doesn’t write in a way the team wants to be represented, they don’t lose their credentials. As a professional courtesy, the same behavior that is displayed towards professional journalists should be extended to bloggers who are credentialed. If a blogger is expected to behave professionally when granted the privilege of press credentials, then they should be treated like a professional as well.
But not every blogger should be granted full access to teams. Hockey blogs are too often treated like they are a genre, and not a medium. The complaints range from not being journalistic enough (I’m proud not to be a journalist) to being too classless. But a quick tour shows that blogs vary in their voices and styles, and all it is easy to see the differences (as long as you are willing to make the effort or have an open mind). My blog isn’t like your blog, and even network blogs are different from one another (take a tour of the SB Nation blogs, and you will see what I mean). I don’t look or act like Deadspin, and I’m damn proud of that fact.
Being established and building a voice, style and reputation should count for something. You shouldn’t be asking for credentials if your blog is under six months old (and I’d even take that to a year). Teams know that the local newspaper isn’t going away overnight (mostly), and that if a beat writer leaves, the paper will have someone there soon to cover the job. Blogs come and go, and you can’t guarantee that one will last longer than half a season these days (I’ll save that rant for another day). It isn’t the job of the team to subsidize a blog with credentials (here, have a press pass and make something of yourself, kid). It isn’t easy to keep a blog going with little support, but establishing yourself should come before the credentials.
The journalism complaint is the one I hear the most, that blogs are mostly opinion, and not suitable for being granted credentials. In reality, the business of sports writing is merging the opinion side of things into the beat writing / straight reporting side. Look at the changes that have happened to newspapers, and the jobs their beat reporters have added to their workload. Do you know of many beat reporters that don’t contribute to a blog of some sort? And how much of that blogging is straight reporting? Opinion has been added to the job of beat reporter, and they still have the journalism aspect to satisfy (and usually do). As for straight opinion, newspaper columnists have had access to teams for years. I don’t know anyone who would say that Woody Paige is a reporter, but he can access teams as needed. He is a columnist, and he makes his bread and butter on his opinions about sports. But access isn’t a problem for him.
If I have a single issue with hockey blogs (and I do have a few, but I’m trying to keep it in context here), it’s a lack of editorial review. I mean this from a spelling and grammar standpoint, as well as for content. There is a lot of content out there that doesn’t get a second look before the publish button is pushed. Editorial keeps writing on target and quality high, and it helps address the issue of accountability. Editorial does not mean the mainstreaming of a blog, it doesn’t mean censorship, and it doesn’t mean stifling someone’s voice. For some reason, editing has gone away (hell, even rewriting has gone away), and it’s a bigger issue than most blogger recognize.
Cutting off all access to all blogs doesn’t solve the problem, though. When teams keep blogs at arms length, blogs start to get louder and more critical of the treatment. Blogs continue to cover the coverage, and produce speculation that may or may not be close to reality. When blogs are cut off, they aren’t able to report on the facts. They aren’t able to base their opinions on anything but the coverage they get (or lack of coverage). And as you could imagine, teams don’t appreciate that, and look at blogs with disdain again. The cycle continues. This part of the equation sits in the hands of the teams. They would also be charged with policing the credentials that are handed out, but the benefits should be obvious to them.
Here in Colorado, we have to contend with the closed media network of the Avalanche. The Avs are broadcast on their own cable station, Altitude. They control every aspect of how the team is covered there. Outside of that, Denver suffers from having only one newspaper, and one prominent hockey voice at that newspaper. Regardless of my feelings toward that coverage, not having a second newspaper in a city the size of Denver is an issue. Not having enough voices to challenge each other makes the lack of coverage even more complacent.
So should bloggers be allowed access to the teams? And really, should ‘new media outlets’ be allowed access (since podcasters are in on this as well). I think they should, but much like player contracts, clear guidelines should be set by each club, and maybe even reviewed by an outside party to make sure they are somewhat in the spirit of a free press, and not trying to control the media. Eric McErlain’s guidelines are a great place to start. From there, something can be built.
There’s a lot of discussion on this today. If you aren’t tired of it by now, you can see the various points of view from around the web from Justin at the Goalie Guild, Justin Bourne, Kevin DeLury, and more from Puck Daddy. I’m sure there is more out there, and I’m curious about what you think. This is just my opinion. What’s yours?

Update: Something I’ve thought about in the past, and was just talking about on Twitter, was that so many bloggers want into the NHL press box, but have no experience in a press box. If you were coming up in the ranks of broadcasting (or even an NHL team in just about any position, from player to coach, and refs as well), you would be cutting your teeth in the minors. Minor league teams need every bit of exposure they can garner. They have an appreciation for their fans that doesn’t scale to the NHL level. I realize that not every blogger can do this, but if I were in charge of handing out media credentials to bloggers, I would suggest spending a long weekend with a minor league affiliate, and see what that blogger produced. It isn’t cheap, it isn’t easy, but that’s how it goes. A guitar doesn’t come with a business plan, and neither does a blog. Sometimes, you have to work hard and make sacrifices along the way. Ask some of the professional hockey writers who are nice enough to give us some time. They can tell you.

Reading Hockey Blogs the Easy Way.

The internet is awesome, isn’t it? I mean, we have all sorts of things to keep us occupied, like hockey blogs, and hockey podcasts, and… other hockey blogs! But clicking around the internet is tedious work, and disappointing when you visit a site over and over only to find it looks exactly the same as before.

Or what if the site itself just plain looks bad, makes it hard to read (fonts too small, bad color choices, eye straining or distracting flash banners and ads), or is so chock full of advertisements that you can barely tell the ads from the good stuff. An unreadable site isn’t going to keep you coming back, even if the writing is amazing.

This post is completely devoid of hockey content, but may help a few of you. From delivering content to you automatically to making the web easier to read, use any of these tools freely available to make reading hockey blogs simpler and more enjoyable. Even the experienced among you may find something new.

If you have something that helps people read hockey blogs, feel free to stick them in the comments.

RSS:

The absolute simplest way to read hockey blogs, or find out when new content is available, is to use RSS. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication (or Rich Site Summary, but what’s the fun of that?), and it really is simple. RSS will deliver content to you, as it is updated. You don’t have to do anything special for the content to come to you. What could be easier? If you see this symbol on a website, or even in the address bar of your browser, that means the site has RSS available:

Untitled-1

Note that the color of the symbol may be a little different from site to site, or browser to browser, but it looks relatively the same. Click on that, and you are on your way to the easy days of reading content.

Very few blogs, podcast, or websites that are dynamically updated (as in, new content producing sites) turn off their RSS feeds. Your browser should automatically detect if the site you are on has a feed available, and will show you the feed icon, making life super easy for you.

Some sites (like my sites) put the full content of their site into their RSS feed, and some only put a summary of their content into the feed. This is at the discretion of the site owner, but even so, you know that new content is available, and don’t have to waste your time going back to a site over and over to see if there is something new.

Feed Reader:

Now that you know about RSS – and how simple it really is – what do you do with that RSS feed? Stick it in an RSS reader, of course.

And RSS reader – or feed reader – updates periodically and checks for new content at set intervals. It’s much the same as the iTunes podcast feature (you do listen to podcasts, right?) in that it brings the content to you. There are a bunch of feed readers out there, some online and some as desktop programs. There are even readers for mobile devices. Here are but a few:

Online

Google Reader – This is widely the most popular online reader, thanks to the google name. It’s also super easy to use, and has plenty of organization to keep your feeds in good shape. Best of all, it’s free. If you tell it the URL of a site you want to subscribe to, it will find the feed for it automatically, making it even easier to deal with RSS.

Bloglines – another popular choice.

Here’s a Google Search that will help you find more options.

Mac

Endo – I use Endo for my desktop feed reader. It’s easy to use, I like the organization, and it keeps things fairly organized. It’s not as well supported as it could be, but it works, and works well.

NetNewsWire – A popular choice.

Times – Not my favorite, but an interesting interface, and some people like it. Not as user friendly to set up, but once it’s set, it’s good to go.

Here’s an article with more mac based options.

PC

Feedreader – Simple and efficient. I think this is what I used when I was PC based.

FeedDemon – From the same people as NetNewsWire.

Here’s a few more from About.com.

Keep in mind that most browsers (Safari, FireFox, etc.) can act as feed readers, as can many email clients. I like using a program dedicated to the task, but with all the options you have, it’s all about how you like to read your content.

Instapaper:

Instapaper is a game changer. It’s a web based… it’s hard to describe. In fact, it’s so simple, it seems like it should have less impact than it does. But here goes.

Instapaper will save online content for you to read later. With a simple bookmarklet (a bookmark that sits in your browser and executes a function when you click it), Instapaper automatically saves the page for you to read when you feel like it, be that in an hour, a day, or a year. Think about it this way. With one click, I can save something I would normally have skipped over and forgotten, kicked to curb in a fit of tl:dr (too long, didn’t read).

This is from the Instapaper FAQ:

From a personal perspective, I appreciate great writing, but I’ve become frustrated with the quick-consumption nature of many devoted blog readers. Authors are encouraged to cater to drive-by visitors hurrying through their feed readers by producing lightweight content for quick skimming.

There’s no time to sit and read anything when you’re going through 500 feed items while responding to email, chatting, and watching bad YouTube videos.

As a result, popular blogs are now full of useless “list posts” with no substance or value.

Well-written content is out there, and we do have opportunities every day to read it — just not when we’re in information-skimming, speed-overload mode. But we can all read while waiting in long lines, commuting (although please not while driving), or sitting on the goofy chairs in the shoe area and being supportive while our wives are shopping.

The times we find information aren’t always ideal for consuming it. Instapaper helps you bridge that gap.

And how. Again, it’s amazing how a simple little button can change how you read on the internet, and how easy it is to come back to good writing. If something is too long to read in the moment, or you don’t have the time or mindset to read it right now, click the link, and move on. It’s that easy. Try it out for a while. Instapaper is free, and it may work for you too.

Readability:

This is something new I found, and it’s helping me read more and more content, with less distraction and less aggravation. Readability takes a blog page, or other websites, and strips out the BS. It formats a page to bring you only the content, and eliminates sidebars, ads, images, footers, and headers. It changes the font and background into a more readable style. You didn’t go to that website to watch ads, did you? You didn’t start reading hockey blogs so annoying flashing banners would tell you about things you could care less about, right? You don’t have to watch the videos on the sidebar, or have rollover popup ads get in your way. You don’t have to squint to read unbelievably small font sizes, or suffer through poor site design choices just to get to what you really came for. Readability is the best thing to hit my browser in a long time. And again, it’s free.

Key commands on a Mac:

Two small helpful tips for Mac users. Command + and Command – will make the font size of a website bigger and smaller. Command 0 restores it to default (that’s command plus, command minus, and command zero).

Also, for a cool trick, try command-option-control-8. That turns the screen color negative. Instead of black type on a white screen, you get white type on a black screen, which can help take the strain off your eyes for a while. The same keys change the screen back.

Free:

Everything I posted here is free. Every program, every site, every trick, it’s all free. It’s designed to help you get to the content other people are producing, and get that content easier, better, faster, and in a more enjoyable fashion.

You want to read hockey blogs, right? You want to make it easier to get to those blogs, and the people who write the blogs want you to read. Why else publish it on the web? So pick up a few tools and start subscribing. You will find that you can read more in less time, and enjoy the experience even more.

Good luck, and get to reading.

Technorati Tags:

Vroom Vroom Party Starter: Caps Take It to the Ladies

Remember a week ago when Jose Theodore was talking about his position with the Capitals vs the Avalanche? Of course, he got it handed right back to him in the form of a 4-1 loss against his former team. But for all the faults of the Avs management, they wouldn’t make him do this:

Screenshot 01-40

That is a screen cap from the new Scarlet Caps website, “the official Web site dedicated to the Caps’ female fanbase.”

Is this what the female fanbase wants? I’m sure some do, because there are all kinds of people in this world and all, but come on, Jose as the bad boy of the band?
Screenshot 02-12
Screenshot 04-2
I’m sorry, which one is he? The bad boy? The sensitive one? The one who lets in too many goals and needs a hug? The one who needs hair restoration solutions, even with a full head of hair?

A few of the other Caps were subject to the same treatment. Here are the highlights:

Come on, Sergei, no.
Screenshot 05-4

Subtle. Very subtle.
Screenshot 06-2

Vroom Vroom, Party Starter!
Screenshot 07-1
Beefcake!!!

Screenshot 08
There is something deeply disturbing about all this, such as the guys had to all share the same bad leather jacket.

Keeping an Eye on the Games

I can’t watch the games tonight. Work, eh?

But thank you NHL, for the real time scores feature.

Screenshot 01-39

This is how I roll.