Apparently, the Yahoo Sports Bloggers are all convening on California this week -- not being a Y!SB mafia member, I only hear about these things offhand through Twitter.
I'm sure they will have much to discuss and celebrate: After all, as a group they put out one of the most well-produced, well-written and well-read products in sports media, online or off.
YSB's template -- as engineered by Jamie Mottram (who adapted the model he built at Fanhouse, which sort of makes him the Bill Parcells of the sports-blog universe) -- is a range of vertically oriented, single-sport blogs, managed and largely written by absolutely outstanding, best-in-their-sport editors. (Disclosure: Count many of these folks as my friends.)
This strategy allows for complete coverage of virtually every topic that fans may want to read about, regardless of team allegiance. (Intentionally, they leave deep team-by-team analysis to individual independent bloggers and partners like SB Nation.) This dovetails nicely with Yahoo's competitive advantage of driving tens of millions of readers through Yahoo's front door at Yahoo.com -- then directing it to the best of their own content. A compelling blog post that runs on Yahoo's front page can earn millions of page views in an hour.
This is not to discount the millions and millions coming through sports.yahoo.com (by many publically available metrics, the largest audience in online sports): Many from the Yahoo front page; many from folks coming for their fantasy leagues but staying for the quality sports content; many to Y! Sports directly, because Yahoo Sports' interface is clean, simple and effective; and many because they have learned that the blogs are so damn good.
(Yahoo Sports blogs have been so successful that I think they have eclipsed two other very strong areas of Yahoo's sports coverage: (1) Original reporting that regularly creates "national-discussion" storylines, and (2) traditional -- but no less high-quality -- "newspaper"-style columnists like Wetzel, Wojnaroski and Silver. Once you layer in the bloggers, then pound-for-pound, the relatively small group punches big at the highest weight class.)
Triumphalism aside, as the Y! Sports bloggers gather to talk, what should they REALLY be talking about? What should the agenda include?
(1) Social media. I love Y!S's simple yet wildly effective 4-legged stool of fantasy, blog network, original reporting and traditional columns. How can this group -- particularly the bloggers -- incorporate social media beyond tweeting links to their latest posts? How does "passed" media fit into the strategy, with the bloggers both as benefactors of and, yes, benefiting from the link economy?
(2) The Yahoo firehose. Obviously, a link on the front page of Yahoo is gold -- but every content department at Yahoo understands that. What can the bloggers learn about how that front-page process works to earn more links there for their work? (Equally, can bloggers work both from an absolute traffic count and an "effective" traffic count that discounts one-time placement surges to best think about growing their traffic? And, yes, they should be thinking about that.)
(3) Increasing blogger profiles. Again, the Y! Sports bloggers are among -- if not the best -- bloggers in their sport. They may be the best commentators in their sport, period -- in new or traditional media. Through p.r. outreach, grassroots bootstrapping or larger distribution deals, how can the group become bigger "names," both as individuals and to increase the profile of Y! Sports? Should this include investing time and resources in more "traditional" media like audio (creating their own podcasts, which some do) and/or online video?
(4) Revenue. I am not suggesting the bloggers participate in ad sales (although I would say that, generally, editorial folks have amazingly creative ideas about how editorial and advertising can work together to maintain editorial integrity and best serve the consumer, while creating value for the marketer -- there's no shame in a brainstorming meeting). I am suggesting that it behooves everyone to have even a basic understanding of the economics of both the Y! Sports business and Yahoo's business as a whole. Ignorance isn't integrity, and great writers won't lose their effectiveness if they understand how the business that pays their bills happens to work. (I guess what would really make sense is having a basic understanding of the business realities, and the metrics that drive them -- which the bloggers have substantial control over. Then, specifically, a tactical-level understanding of analytics: Where it comes from, why and how.)
(5) Bargain collectively. Whatever they're paying you -- and it is impossible to discount the correlation between great product and security of a full-time income stream -- it ain't enough. (Kidding. Sort of.)
Commenters: I'm sure most of you consume Y! Sports in some way -- fantasy, blogs, news headlines, front page of Yahoo, etc. If you do read Y! Sports blogs, what's your evaluation and where do you think they need to focus their efforts?