When Is A Blog Not A Blog?

We can all agree that new media is rapidly taking down the mainstream media on almost every subject. But there's a good argument to be made that sports is the one slice of the media pie that's surviving. Why?

Robert Weintraub, who you'll recognize for his mastery of turn-of-the-century sports writing, knows a little something about the 21st century too. In the latest issue of the Columbia Journalism Review(yes, I'm one of those), Weintraub makes the case that the establishment in sports media has done a better job than anyone of self-preservation, and they've done it by beating the blogs at their own game.

To wit: the bloggers themselves coming under the corporate umbrellas. The True Hoop crew at ESPN, Pro Football Talk at NBC, and everybody under the sun at AOL Fanhouse.

This programming strategy isn't just an attempt to monetize audience participation - it's a canny co-opting of the enemy.

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Recognizing an unwinnable war when they see one...the mainstream sports media have decided to keep these guerrillas close. Sportscasters seldom deride bloggers as people writing from their mothers' basments anymore—theirs is a more symbiotic relationship now.

Then what of the anti-blog crusaders like Bissinger and Cowherd, whose impression of an "anti-establishment" blogger is someone who would jump at the chance to take a job at say, New York Magazine(his example, not mine)?

They're not as at-odds with each other as they appear. Each side, in their own way, makes the point that when it comes to sports media, the outside that's looking in isn't so far from the mainstream. The blogosphere never wanted to set itself apart from the MSM, except for perhaps covering more tabloid-y subjects than the big boys will touch. It's just a explosion of new outlets, a natural flowering made possible by new technology.

And like any good conglomerate, the big names snapped up the best content. Abbott, Florio, Leitch and others aren't doing anything different content-wise than they were before, but all of a sudden they're mainstream? Blogging is just a word. It encompasses everything from reporting to humor, from analysis to aggregation, from live commentary to finding attractive female athletes. None of these are anything the establishment hasn't done before with, like blogging, varying degrees of success.

If the line between blogs and the MSM appears to be getting blurrier, it's because there never really was a line in the first place.

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