Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the Blogs With Balls 1.0 Conference in New York City. It was a chance for bloggers to meet each other, put faces with names, talk to mainstream media writers and reporters and to network. In addition, there were several panel discussions on the influence of blogs, how the mainstream media is adjusting to blogs and how social networking is influencing sports.
The event was held at Stout on West 33rd Street. While this was a good venue, it did not provide us with the chance to live blog from the event. More on that later. Let’s recap the day from the beginning.
First, I got up. …. No, I won’t do it like that. Sorry.
I met up with Ian Bethune of Sox & Dawgs at Grand Central Station. He came down from the S&D World Headquarters in Hartford, CT. From there, we walked to Stout.
After a brief wait in the main section of the bar, we were ushered downstairs to where the event was taking place.
During the registration hour between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., it was an opportunity to meet those in attendance. I was able to catch up with fellow New Englanders Jessica Camerato of WEEI.com and Keith Thibeault of Sports Media Journal.
Between 10 and 11, some 300 people entered. You can take a look at some of those in attendance.
Shortly after 11 a.m., the first of 8 panel discussions began. Knowing the organizers wanted to get a star-studded lineup and get a lot of Q&A, they packed the panels. I felt we had two panels too many. And there were some that did not work. I’ll give you the panels, the participants and my quick review of each.
We began with a video from Sports Illustrated’s Peter King welcoming us to the conference (thanks to Jerod Morris of Midwest Sports Fans for letting me know that Lacrosse All Stars had the clip).
After a couple of tries, the video finally got off the ground.
Panel #1 – The Future of Sports Media with Jim DeLorenzo of Octagon, Richard Ting of R/GA Media Group, Christopher Russo (not that one) of Fantasy Sports Ventures and Kathleen Hessert of Sports Media Challenge.
This was a fascinating panel. The personalities all discussed those athletes who have embraced social media like Twitter have found the network to be a great tool to get their messages across. Kathleen Hessert discussed how Shaquille O’Neal, instead of going after a fake Shaq on Twitter, just signed on, then began Tweeting and then squashed the imposter. Richard Ting discussed how the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard uses social media to reach his fans. Overall, this was the best panel of the first part of the day.
Panel #2 – Confirm or Ignore, Leveraging Social Media with Sarah Braesch of BlogHer, Julia Roy of Undercurrent.com and JuliaRoy.com, Dan Levy of On The DL with Dan Levy and Matt Sebek of JoeSportsFan.com.
Easily the worst segment of the conference to no fault of the panelists. This was supposed to be interactive with the audience Tweeting questions to the panel. However, no one was really feeling this. I later learned that the Tweets to the panel were supposed to be seen on the monitors all around the room. However, this did not work for various unknown reasons. The audience was mostly bored. While the panelists did their best to talk about the subject, the discussion lacked flavor. Had we seen the Tweets to the panel, this segment would have worked better.
Panel #3 – Hi Mom! Claming That Earned Media with Michael Tunison of Kissing Suzy Kolber, Todd Lippincott of Who Dey Revolution, Sarah Spain of Mouthpiece Sports and one other panelist (I forgot, sorry).
By this time, I had found another section of the room that had a large bar and was losing interest fast. However, there were some good points in this. Tunison was very funny in talking about his firing from the Washington Post after he revealed his identity at KSK. Sarah discussed her gaining notoriety when she tried to auction herself as a date to the Super Bowl in 2007. And she discussed the difficulty of being a woman covering sports.
By this time, I was hanging out and eating lunch when of all people, Newsday’s Neil Best walked into the room. After brief introductions, we talked for a good 20 minutes about a whole myriad of topics, blogs, newspapers, sports media, other sports media writers, etc. It was a great discussion that spilled over into the next portion of the schedule.
I did not pay attention to the next two discussions, “Making It Big: The Secret of My Success” with A.J. Daulerio of Deadspin, Matt Ufford of With Leather, Dan Shanoff of DanShanoff.com and Jimmy Traina of SI.com’s Hot Clicks; and “Power In Numbers: Content Networks” with Pete Vlastelica of Yardbarker, Jim Bankoff from SB Nation, Jarrett Myer of Uproxx, Dan Kelly of Bleacher Report and Adam Best of FanSided and Arrowhead Addict.
When you have an opportunity to schmooze with Neil, then Jimmy Traina, Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy and Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead, you have to take it. And I did. Fun to meet and talk with all of them. And it’s nice to know that they all read Fang’s Bites. It’s much appreciated. I may have Statcounter to see how many hits I have here, but I don’t know who’s behind each visit. It’s nice to see that the blog is recognized. I’ll never have the hits of Deadspin, but getting read by a loyal audience is appreciated.
I also did a video interview with the great Keith Thibeault of Sports Media Journal and look for that in the next week or so.
When I got back to the main room, it was time for the three best panel discussions of the day.
One of the most entertaining panel discussions. I wouldn’t say there was much advice for those who want to make blogging their full-time jobs. Jason did suggest to not quit our day jobs first, then try to make blogging work. He said to make sure the blog becomes successful before making that leap.
Greg said one of the more controversial comments of the day when he said that he has been in hockey press boxes and found reporters to be quite staid and emotionless. Greg also said he had no interest in talking to athletes and listening to their cliched quotes after the game. This sparked an argument, but we’ll get to that later.
All talked about how much they loved blogging and setting their own hours. Jason talked about working for US magazine and having fun doing The Big Lead.
Very entertaining discussion.
This was a discussion of how to set rate cards and getting the right advertiser to your website. Good talk.
Panel #8 – Why We Hate You: The Media’s Take with Bethlehem Shoals of FreeDarko.com, Jeff Pearlman of Sports Illustrated, Amy K. Nelson of ESPN, Mike Hall of NESN.com and Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post’s DC Sports Bog.
I loved this discussion. The controversy over Raul Ibanez and the Midwest Sports Fans blog came up.
Pearlman and Steinberg both were bothered by Wyshynski’s comments. Pearlman said part of the experience of sports reporting is not just hearing the cliched answer from the star athlete, but talking to the second string or third string players and finding stories.
Bethlehem Shoals was absolutely fantastic giving us anecdotes and analogies. Mike Hall said NESN is not going to break stories, but cover stories that involve the two main teams on its network, the Red Sox and Bruins.
Amy K. Nelson said one blog (Sharapova’s Thigh) actually helped her in covering the Nick Adenhart story back in April.
All said while they did not like what was in Midwest Sports Fans, they felt what Jerod Morris said about Ibanez was well-written and researched. Pearlman felt that Morris should have asked Ibanez about it. But it was pointed out that since the Philadelphia Inquirer had access to Ibanez, the paper was able to ask him about the blog’s thoughts. Amy said Jerod did not have to talk to Ibanez. All felt that blogs needed to show some responsibility and respectability.
Pearlman said that the reason newspapers are dying is that stories are getting shorter. He used to write 2,000 to 3,000 word stories. Now they’re down to 500 words and that newspapers are fast becoming outdated. People want to read stories about today’s news not yesterday’s and before.
Shoals kept being colorful and was the best panelist of the day. Moderator Dan Levy could not cut in fast enough as each panelist wanted to get his or her say. It was tremendous. All said they did not hate blogs and did not feel they should dislike them either. By the end, the bloggers gave the panel a standing O.
Now, I don’t know whether an argument between Steinberg and Wyshynski took place before or after this discussion. But they apparently sparred over the comments that Greg made about going into locker rooms and reporters being lazy.
Our last speaker was Greg Vaynerchuk, a guy who talked about following the dream. Fine. He had some good one liners, but he made his money in wine, not sports. What did this have to do with blogging and sports?
Praises and Criticisms
Overall, it was a good conference.
My criticisms: There should have been a bigger venue. While being downstairs at Stout was nice, we were packed in tight. The lighting was too dark. I felt the organizers were trying to tell us something by putting us in the dark basement at Stout.
Free Guiness beer was served starting at 1 p.m. and lasted for an hour. I’m all for free beer, but hand it out at the end, not in the middle of the day. People were getting tipsy after 2 p.m.
We should have been allowed to bring our laptops and live blog. Because of the limited space, we were advised not to bring our computers. The organizers asked us to Tweet instead and while that was fine, many of us lost battery power in our iPhones, Blackberrys, etc. in the middle of the conference. Please let us bring laptops for the next conference. And it would only help to promote Blogs with Balls and create more of a demand for the next one.
There were too many panel discussions. This should have been cut down by two or three.
Also, the conference began at 11 and ended at 6:30. I would have begun the conference at 10 and ended at 3 or 4.
Eliminate the keynote speaker or get someone who is involved in blogging. Yeah, Gary has a blog, but he’s made his money elsewhere.
Praises: The conference moved quickly. The panelists were solid.
Food was excellent. Nice mini-hamburger and cheeseburgers. Good panini sandwiches. Water and coffee was served throughout. I give the wait staff massive props for its hard work.
I was happy for the opportunity to meet fellow bloggers and talk strategy of getting noticed.
Thanks to Ian Bethune for being a great guy to hang out with. I thoroughly enjoyed his company.
To get a flavor of the Tweeting from Blogs With Balls, go here.