From the archives: The Web and longform sports

While I’m taking a summer break from the blog, I’m reposting and updating selected links from the archive.

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When I posted “The Web’s longform longform sports evolution continues” in September 2012, I had no idea how much better in-depth stories would become on a growing array of sites, both new and more traditional.

But despite the expanding world of sports media criticism, far too much of this flies under the radar. It’s all about TV, with the critics breathlessly scribbling and podcasting and “hopping on” a sports talk show somewhere to talk about the latest college football contract or personality conflict at ESPN, etc. It’s maddening and boring, and sadly unrelenting. Recent stories about Ray Rice and Michael Sam sent the herd into overdrive, and this is just the way it is. There is no seeming end.

There wasn’t much of a peep last week when Dave Anderson and “League of Denial” co-authors — the latter reporting on NFL concussions, a hot sports topic — were honored by the PEN American Center.

BASW 2013Yet I still stand by my concluding paragraph that there’s a growing appetite for something better and more intelligent:

“After so many discouraging years of the so-called ‘race to the bottom’ mentality prevailing in the wild expansion of sports sites, there’s an emerging realization that chasing page views and appealing to the lowest common denominator just aren’t enough.”

Again, you can’t tell from the key sports media influencers, who talk a good game about all the great sportswriting out there but mention it only in passing, if at all.

Only when a grievous mistake is made — as Grantland’s hotly criticized piece about the transgender creator of a golf putter attests — is there a serious look at how the sausage is being made. It’s more about journalistic issues, and sometimes this still gets buried under the avalanche of TV musings.

How are these newish ventures — Grantland, Sports on Earth, SB Nation Longform, etc., faring financially? Are they making their corporate owners happy? Are some skating on thin ice? Are they resonating with their readers? Building new audiences? Attracting premium advertisers? Paying writers enough to keep making it stronger editorially?

With newspapers continuing to gut their staffs and the newsholes that once housed so much quality work, is there a strong reason to believe these entities can replace what’s being lost?

The leading sports media writers rarely ask these questions. When they do, they’re quite revealing.

Web longform is gradually blending into such volumes as the Best American Sportswriting collection, which for the moment is still dominated by dead tree prose.

I’m not knocking print — certainly not as a print refugee. But I’m more and more bullish about what’s emerging online, and the advertising world is taking notice.

You wonder when the rest of the sports media world will follow suit.

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