Friday, May 09, 2008

What Is Mainstream Sports Media?

This post was kind of interesting, but probably not in the way that most people are thinking about. Lost in the discussion of MJD is this:

Yahoo Sports IS mainstream sports media.
Deadspin IS mainstream sports media.
AOL FanHouse IS mainstream sports media.

What makes something "mainstream?" It's certainly not the date the technology powering the platform was invented.

I would qualify it two ways: (1) Reach and (2) Influence.

Reach is audience size, and I don't think anyone would dispute the massive audience size of any of those outlets.

Influence is whether what you say has impact; you could either be in front of so many eyeballs directly that you influence them OR you could influence the influencers.

(As any sports-talk-radio or daily-sports-TV producer would tell you, Deadspin is a must-read -- even more for its show-topic ideas than for its entertainment value.)

That doesn't mean that Mottram or MJD or Leitch or MDS (or Brooks or Drew or Ufford) don't have editorial perspectives firmly rooted as "independents" (or whatever the opposite of "mainstream" is... "alternative?")

And that isn't meant to demean them. There is nothing pejorative about "mainstream" -- for all its flaws, most of us would love to have "mainstream" reach and influence.

What those above-mentioned blogs (and certainly others) have done is combined "mainstream" access with "indie" spirit; it's something that "typically" mainstream sports outlets have tried to -- or want to -- capture, but can't almost by necessity.

I think that part of what made Buzz Bissinger so nervous was that he recognized the growing reach and influence of blogs within the mainstream, displacing legacy mainstream sports media (as I went into at length last week).

But the future of sports media -- mainstream or otherwise -- lies clearly with the talented folks who can infuse their core independent spirit with their emerging mainstream reach and influence. They might come from blogs or they might be innovative people who are buried within mainstream sports media hierarchies. But talent has a way of bubbling up.

-- D.S.

PS: No stranger to the nexus of mainstream access and indie soul, Dan Steinberg is a little late to the party on Bissinger, but it was worth the wait -- one of my favorite takes of the entire affair. (By the way, I haven't mentioned this really, but I continue to give credit to Bissinger for talking with basically any/every blogger who asks to speak with him on the topic. He even commented on my post about it -- he did: I checked with him to be sure it wasn't one of you loose-cannon commenters that the mainstream defenders are always railing against.)


Devil Ray Guevara said...

I see your point and it makes sense, but the scientist in me says "how do you test it?" In other words, there is a lot of grey area.

my personal definition says that the difference between mainstream media and "alternative" media or "new age" media (whatever the flavor of the week is) is the difference between primary and secondary sources of information.

Most "journalists" provide a primary source of the news. they do the interviews, provide the boxscores, break down what happened.

on the other hand, "altermative" media are *usually* reliant on the primary sources.

now again, there is grey area here also, but i think less of it.

for example. Deadspin gets 99% of their stories from other sources. BUT, they might take from obscure sources, and then bigger Fish (ie. ESPN) might pick up on the story from Deadspin. Still, in this case, I would consider Deadspin the secondary source, because they did not generate the story. They just gave the story life.

Dan Shanoff said...

Fair point. How would you classify "mainstream" columnists - newspaper, magazine, Web, whatever.

These guys regularly do just about as much "primary" research as bloggers (ie, not much) -- and it's even worse if you factor in their TV work, which is the most "mainstream" of all.

Devil Ray Guevara said...

i guess I am not breaking it down by the individuals, but rather by the institution that hosts the individual.

let's look at Kornheiser and Wilbon on PTI. outside of "5 good minutes" there is almost nothing "primary" about what they do. In fact, is there really anything different between PTI and Deadspin, other than the fact one is on TV and watches their language?

If Wilbon and Kornheiser did nothing but PTI, would they be mainstream journalists? perhaps that could be argued either way...BUT, ESPN is still a primary source, and hence mainstream, no matter what occurs on one half-hour show.

On the other hand, while Deadspin may send somebody to Super Bowl parties and take pictures or even do a ragtag interview every once in a while. those few pieces are primary, but rare. most of what Deadspin does is secondary and constitutes what makes Deadspin what it is.

Christopher Byrne said...


I would argue that a small market newspaper would not meet both the definitions you state here. Sure it probably has local influence, but hardly has reach beyond their market. Yet we still consider them to be "mainstream" media, even though the publish content not originated locally.