An Open Letter to the Cardinals about their “Social Media Night” at Busch Stadium

29
Aug
2010

On September 18th, the Cardinals will hold “Social Media Night” at Busch Stadium.

As someone who lives and breathes local and national social media, I’m extremely encouraged that the Cardinals have taken initiative to host an event of this caliber at Busch Stadium. That said, I challenge their motives and question whether this night will advance or inhibit the growth and awareness of the local social platform.

The night is backed by a panel of experts that will provide their experiences in social media. Except, every one of their featured media guests is from the institutional sports media.  Given the Cardinals’ unwillingness to allow bloggers in the press box, this should come as no surprise. However, this night is supposed to highlight social media – you know, the one that contains no encumbrances or exclusivity. This night highlights the opinions of a select few that are directly affiliated with the operational business of the Cardinals.

Is this a problem for anyone else?

The featured guests: Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, Matthew Leach from MLB.com, Derrick Goold from the Post-Dispatch, McGraw Millhaven from 550 KTRS.

Let me be clear. I’m not challenging the merit of the aforementioned personnel. Derrick Goold and Matthew Leach are two of the finest and hardest-working writers in the industry and my exchanges with McGraw have always been pleasant. Specifically, Leach and Goold work long hours, take their craft seriously, conduct open dialog with fans and are extremely honest – with themselves, with their peers and with the team they’re covering. These traits are rare in the industry and they should be lauded because of it.

However, as I’m sure they would attest, social media has transformed the way sports fans consume information about their team. Fans want to be entertained, enlightened or both. Throw journalism degrees, credentialed access and corporate affiliations aside. This new, democratized information comes from anyone, from anywhere. It is constant. And fast. And like the evolving blogosphere, social media is a meritocracy.

Most of all, it is non-exclusive.

The transparency of social media intimidates the Cardinals. As a franchise on pace to surpass 3,000,000 paid attendance for the seventh straight season, they need no promotional assistance. And like most businesses, they would prefer to control their message and underlying image. Thus, we’re presented with their version of “Social Media Night” – which highlights a few media members that work for the establishment.

What have we gained? What will we learn? Think paying audience members will hear about the social backlash of the Cardinals decision to alter their (then first-place) lineup by trading Ryan Ludwick to the San Diego Padres – who happens to be back in town that night?

Doubtful.

Don’t get me wrong, Cardinals fans deserve to hear from Matthew Leach (@MatthewHLeach) and Derrick Goold (@DGoold).  They’ve embraced an evolving industry and they’re helping shape how one of the nation’s largest fan bases receives information about their home team. But that’s one end of the spectrum. The Cardinals are short-changing their audience and the industry to pass off this subset as the de facto experts of the platform. They’re part of it, but hardly represent a majority of the intrigue.

An honest discussion about the trials and tribulations of how content is delivered to the fan-base from both ends of the spectrum (namely, mainstream media and independent journalists/bloggers) would be truly energizing – especially coming from the Cardinals.  Not to fight; to advance the industry by discussing the trials and tribulations of social media.

This city is ripe with homegrown, talented individuals who have contributed and dominated social media for years. They’re not hard to find.

Allow me to name a few…

Will Leitch (@WilliamFLeitch) – Although he’s rooted in mainstream territory these days as a contributing editor for New York Magazine, the Matoon, IL native was the founding editor of Deadspin.com and is a massive Cardinals fan.

Josh Bacott (@JBacott) – Am I slightly biased? Of course. Nevertheless, Bacott founded JoeSportsFan.com, a sports humor website, in ’05 and has turned it into a national presence, collecting over 1.2 million readers in ’09.

Matt Sebek (@MattSebek) – Self-indulgent? Definitely. Deserving of a mention? Eh, why not? Daily contributions and supervision of JoeSportsFan (with Josh Bacott), as well as technical insight to video and podcasting production, has spawned invitations to national sports media conferences over the past three years as a featured speaker/moderator, including Blog World Expo in ’09.

Tim McKernan (@TMcKernan) – On paper, McKernan is local mainstream, serving as an sports anchor for KMOV and radio host for 590 KFNS in the past decade. However, he’s used social means (e.g., personal website, discussion forums, organized meet-ups, etc.) to build a valuable web-property from the ground-up at insideSTL.com.

Aaron Schafer - Featured columnist for the Riverfront Times and headlining contributor to VivaElBirdos.com, the most-trafficked Cardinals website on the internet. Schafer’s “open game threads” on VivaElBirdos.com leverages the active community to help tell a story during Cardinals games and are an absolute must-read.  Must also mention: Dan Moore (current editor of Veb and SB Nation St. Louis) and VeB contributor, Tim McCullough (@azruavatar).

Matt Philip (@Fungoes) – Founder of Fungoes.net; one of the first local baseball bloggers (est. 2004) and one of the most respected for his candor and unique, sabermetric perspective of the Cardinals. His insight led to a partnership with ESPN.com’s Rob Neyer last summer.

Daniel Shoptaw (@C70) – Founder and proprietor of the “United Cardinals Bloggers” – which features collaborative writing and podcasting projects from a contingent of 25+ local Cardinals writers, bloggers and mainstream journalists.  Shoptaw also founded the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, which has now reached 216 blogs across baseball in its year plus of existence.

Erik Manning (@erik_manning) – Founder of FutureRedbirds.net, a website dedicated to consistent information about the Cardinals’ farm teams, an arena that doesn’t get the amount of mainstream attention as their Major League counterpart.

Robert Littal (@BlkSportsOnline) – The founder and CEO of BlackSportsOnline.com, the nation’s largest minority-owned independent sports website. Littal hails from St. Louis and is a frequent contributor to TMZSports as well as the Washington Post.

—–

“Social Media Night” at Busch Stadium has tremendous potential, especially spear-headed by an organization as large and influential as the Cardinals. Let’s hope that this is the first iteration and the Cardinals will take our advice by being more inclusive next time around.

We would all benefit from it.

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