The local media scene — it’s changing

Everybody’s on the Internet. Everyone wants a piece of the pie. Nobody knows how the future is going to unfold, or how anybody’s going to make any money off the insatiable appetite we now have for two things above all others: information and free stuff. And not in that order.

Nobody wants to pay for anything, including me, although I’m admittedly behind the curve when it comes to piracy. I was still buying CDs in college when everyone else was using Napster (back when Napster was actually useful, before Lars Ulrich ruined everything). I was flabbergasted when I found out that my fiance had been watching all the new “Weeds” episodes at work before it became available on Netflix. Just this week I bitched on Twitter about how I couldn’t watch the NBA Lottery at work because ESPN told me that I didn’t have the right network connection to get something called “ESPN3,” and within minutes someone alerted me to a site where I could pretty much watch everything in the world I ever wanted for free.

There’s a million things to distract us, and the major media providers’ solution is to provide more things to distract us. Not that I’m complaining. I’m procrastinating on a work project right now while writing this. But it’s going to be interesting to see how all this market segmentation works out, especially when it comes to sports media.

What I’m talking about is the rapid takeover of our living rooms and radiowaves by Comcast Bay Area, which will soon face some stiff competition (at least online) from ESPN San Francisco. ESPN already has city-related hubs for Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Dallas, which I’m guessing will soon be followed up by San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle, Miami, et al.

Does this mean we’ll stop worrying as much about national news at all, or we’ll at the very least semi-ignore coverage of our local teams by those who aren’t specifically working for a site/channel that caters to that region? How will this new wave affect guys like me, independent bloggers who get good traffic but don’t have the marketing budget or access that the larger blogs do?

Brooks of SPORTSbyBROOKS had a great column about a week ago about his favorite bloggers, and how the mainstream “blog” sites like AOL Fanhouse and Yahoo! are playing it too safe by simply scooping up every laid off and/or frustrated newspaper writer. I couldn’t agree more. Sure, it’s self-serving to cry that what I’m providing is what’s missing, but the readership doesn’t lie. I’m not the only one who’s tired of reading the same old stuff from the guys (and gals) with access.

We’ve all been reading the same style of journalism for years — the by-the-numbers columns and feature stories that, while good, have been done time and time before. And there’s a place for it. Journalistic integrity should always be observed, especially when what you’re reading is presented as absolute fact. Duh.

Absolute fact is something that intermittently appears here on BASG, along with rampant speculation, jokes about local media “icons” and vomit stories. But most of all, what this site is meant to be is a place that is constantly gauging exactly what it is to be a sports fan around here. And that includes critiquing the TV talking heads, writers and radio hosts who cover local sports as need be, as well as attending the games and reading/watching as much as humanly possible about the teams and players who we all know and love/tolerate. It’s not enough anymore to let you know that the Giants can’t hit and the Warriors can’t play defense. People want to know why beers costs so damned much and why Monta Ellis always smiles after missing shots at the buzzer.

But while it’s a good thing that these local sports hubs run by the mainstream media will provide more jobs and better analysis in parts of the country that Bristol, Conn. has completely forgotten about, I worry that this medium, blogging, will become watered down. With so many options that have shiny logos attached to them, will anybody have the time and patience to sift through “Indy Blogs?” And does that last sentence make me a hipster? (I better get to work on that beard.)

And after ESPN creates a Bay Area site, then Yahoo, AOL and the rest follow suit, what will happen? Are we just going to be reading a bunch of repackaged versions of the Sporting Green/Bay Area News Group, or will uncensored thought still have a place?

I wish I had a nice little bow to stick on this column, but I don’t know how this situation is going to wrap up. More local coverage is good, but a stronger and more unified good-‘ol-boys network than what already exists isn’t really that appealing. And while Comcast Bay Area has done a nice job putting together a studio and hiring everyone in the world who’s ever been on KNBR more than once, the fact that they broadcast each team’s games (except NFL) could lead to questions about objectivity. And I’m guessing while ESPN San Francisco will be slightly more detached than CSNBA, the same rules will apply and the same Chronicle/BANG writers will be hired. (Not that the writers for these publications are bad, far from it — it’s just a really insulated network that doesn’t always put a lot of pressure on the local teams to strive for championships.)

Don’t get me wrong, if Comcast or ESPN gave your buddy the BASG a call I’d certainly listen. However, I’m not sure if I toe the line enough. Of course, let’s get real, if paid enough I can toe any line asked of me…I work in an editorial capacity at a large corporation right now (not sports-related) and not once have I written anything that would make my grandmother blush. Still, with my writing style and warped way of looking at things, I think I’m going to have to wait until Deadspin San Francisco gets started up. A.J. Daulerio, I’m waiting for your email.

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