5 Minutes, Hunh :- )
Go fer yer guns, pardner Dept.

.

I/O:  In the Times 2013 season preview live chat, a beat writer is asked why a reader should cough up $14 per month to read his shtick.  The writer's acid reply:  you can learn more in 5 minutes from actually being around a team, than you can in a month's worth of "watching the team on TV from 1,000 miles away, even if bloggers' guesswork turns out to be right once in a while."  Or words to the same effect.

CRUNCH:  Way to draw down, pardner.  Gotta love it :- )

...

HEH!  To tell you the truth, Dr. D hates over-reactions on stuff like this.  Who wants to read Blogger X going into a self-defensive diatribe over a perceived slight from Blogger Y.  

In this case, however, we wanted a chance anyway to make a couple of important points.  Love the smell of napalm in the morning, another mainstream media outlet going "on tilt" over the fact that they now have to grovel quarters in the street.

.................

SSI, objectively speaking, would be better off just walking past the car wreck.  

Show me the reader who is going to see this little swipe and go, "Heeeeeyyyyyyy!  Maybe you're right!  Maybe I should stop reading SSI and LL and USSM, now that you mention it!  I didn't really realize the papers had clubhouse access.  Guess I should have thought about that."

I mean there's unlikely to be ONE reader who changes his habits based on a sniff and scoff that the elite Seattle blog-o-sphere is "watching the games on TV from 1,000 miles away."

...................

But let's start with this question.  

If 5 minutes' of one beat writer's time -- if a single sportswriter's intuitive impression of who walks around the clubhouse with swagger -- is worth more than a month's worth of Bill James' sabermetric analysis ...

Then wouldn't 5 minutes' worth of Dave Valle's time be worth a year's worth of the sportswriter's time?

If the clubhouse view is The Tree Of Knowledge, then wouldn't I want to go to the PLAYERS?  The beat writer sees the game from the press box.  Dave Valle saw it from the batter's box, and from the catcher's gear.  Wouldn't Valle's ideas render the beat writers' opinions trivial?

And so the true colors are manifested.  Given the chance, the peripheral folks around the clubhouse would be just as eager to jump into the Inner Circle, form a seamless perimeter, and exclude all Who Do Not Belong.  This makes the reality of their own non-inclusion that much more ironic in its purgatory.

........................

When I was 12, in the 1970's, I used to "watch the games on TV from 1,000 miles away."  Nowadays, I use film to analyze the sport.  

Ask Bill Belichick, or Mel Kiper, or the Harbaughs, whether film study is trivial compared to a beat writer's impression of who is walking around the clubhouse with swagger.

.........................

That doesn't even consider F/X pitch vectoring, which has revolutionized the sport.  It doesn't include Pitcher Families, templates, and pattern recognition.  Have we even touched on sabermetric theory yet?  Or on BaseballHQ-style roto projection systems?

(If I were a more casual baseball fan, I would place a good bit of value on this particular little community -- as local football fans do on the Field Gulls community.  Personally it would appeal to me, the convergence of aiki/Japanese film analysis, sabermetric theory, pattern recognition, and Think Tank cooperation among so many thoughtful analysts.  

As DaddyO and Merks noted, if it's Eric Wedge quotes that are the truly critical aspects of Mariner literacy, we can get those from a lot of places.  Including from the M's site.

If I were a casual baseball fan, I honestly think that it would be this community's take on Brad Miller that would be the one I wouldn't want to miss.)

Anyway.  You have your own opinion as to how many light bulbs Jeff Sullivan has on, or Geoff Baker, or Dr. Detecto, or Gordon Gross.  

This article wasn't to try to get you to re-think your ratios.  It was just to notify you of the sea change, as far as SSI's view of the Times.

...........................

Funny thing was, 2-3 years ago USSM (and, mostly, LL) were scoffing at the Times.  It was the ugly stepsister of the literate sector of M's fandom.

Mostly due to SSI's arguments, those constituencies came to realize that the Times' perspective was interesting and valuable.  The Times faces vastly less derision from those angles than it used to.

In a wan turn of irony, now the Times stops arguing that its perspective is valid and that its perspective should be included in the literate discussion.  Now, having been afforded respect by the elite Seattle blog-o-sphere, it turns around and begins arguing that only its perspective is valid.  

This, gentlemen, is as far as we go.

..........................

When you tell me that the pilot knows more about the 777, after five minutes of flying it, than the entire pool of engineers and factory workers who put it together, I know what you're trying to say, yeah.  But I'd still say you don't know anything about engineering.

When you tell me that one street fight tells you more than four years of study in the dojo, I know what you mean, yeah.  But I still have come to realize that you have never set foot in a dojo or a kwoon.

When you tell me that 5 minutes' field dressing of a wounded soldier means more than 4 years' med school classes, I know what you mean.  But I still stop short and realize that you never took any med school classes.

And when you tell me that bloggers don't understand baseball, that they're just guessing, I suddenly come to realize that you don't understand much about their subject-matter expertise.

Which is all fine.  The mainstream media has been arguing for 70 years that it should have sole control of American information flow, and it will get to argue the same .... for another couple of years, maybe.

Be Afraid,

Jeff

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

1
GLS's picture

I've thought quite a bit about the Seattle Times' new pay wall. I'm sympathetic to the plight of the newspaper industry. The business model has been mostly demolished by the internet and no one has figured out how to make a whole lot of money off of internet advertising. So how do you pay the bills? How do you pay for beat reporters covering the Mayor's Office, City Council, the County Council, the State Legislature, the UW, the Port, Boeing, Microsoft, etc.? Who's going to attend local school district meetings? How do you pay all those salaries and keep those people on the beat long enough to build relationships (sources) to uncover the stories that the public needs to know?
The sports coverage side of this is fairly minor. So far, I haven't ponied up for the Seattle Times because they haven't made a compelling case to me about what it is they stand for. Tell me what my $14/month is getting me in coverage. At the present time, I'm more likely to buy a digital subscription to the New York Times.

2
SeattleNative57's picture

Today my free access to The Seattle Times expired. My Seattle Times free smartphone app still works however, and the posts seem to match. I dunno, haven't missed any stories far as I can tell.
I don't claim to understand newspaper economics, even with my degree in economics, but when I access the Times digitally, it's littered with the same and sometimes even more ads than the print version. Those ad placements are not gratis and must cost the advertiser something. How the digital/internet version of the paper can't make money defies logic. Page views and web hits are easily tracked and should go into the ad pricing structure. The reasoning behind the paywall is not making sense to me unless the suits just don't know how to recover the cost of reproducing the paper digitally. It doesn't add up.

3
ghost's picture

A few facts that really cannot be denied at this point.
1) Free market economics is the most efficient method for deciding what the people actually need in goods and services and delivering those goods and services to them at a price they're willing to pay.
2) The news print media is dying. The free market has decided it doesn't need news print media because blogs, cable news, and internet news aggregating sites are faster ways of getting more information, and because people no longer trust the ones who used to hold the bully pulpet.
3) The quality of news print media has been going down hill for a century, to the point where they offer nothing unique and insightful that can't be gained in other ways.
4) Ergo...the news print media deserves to die.
I have no sympathy whatsoever for the Times. Going behind a paywall guarantees their demise as a Seattle institution. If they wanted to remain relevant, they needed to find other ways to generate revenue. It's simply not true that no one has figured out how to make money with web advertising. If that were the case, Facebook wouldn't still exist, Google wouldn't be the economic giant that it is, and the NY Times wouldn't be hurting for revenue from their well-traveled website. The Times needs to get more creative and work harder to make the new age model work...or it needs to go away...and I won't be crying over its departure.

4

I can only imagine Geoff's reaction when his editor first told him about the paywall. It must have been quite the gut punch.
Geoff's done a tremendous job building that blog up. Yeah, his yearly "windmill to tilt at" theme was a little irritating but understandable when viewed through the prism of building readership while covering a team that pretty much stunk the entire time. He knows that the paywall will really hammer his readership and there is nothing he can do about it, short of getting really creative. And innovation is not really a hallmark of the newspaper industry.

5

Monopolies are much, much easier for those who run them than the free-for-all Wild West of unregulated commerce. But monopolies tend to eventually be overrun by the inexhorable tides of history. Once they sense the tide is coming, they get nervous that their privileged position and the perks they enjoy might be in jeopardy. When the tide starts to engulf them they go into denial and bray defiantly. Once the water gets up to their necks the defiance turns to a sense of betrayal, to outrage and anger that they can no longer enjoy the things they had come to believe was their birthright. Once the water gets up to their mouth and nose, nothing is left to them but whimpering.

6
Brent's picture

With all the discussion going on about the Seattle Times going behind a paywall, I'm a little surprised that nothing has been said (at least none that I've seen) about the Tacoma News Tribune doing so as well. I didn't find SSI until August 2012, when the AAA season was nearly over, so the TNT was the place (as far as a newspaper) to go for stuff about the Rainiers. Glad that there's now Mariners Talk to fill in and greatly expand. Thanks, Spec!

7
Geoff Baker's picture

When I made the comment, it was not with SSI in mind. This has become my go-to site for informed discussion on the Mariners over the years. When I made the remark, it was more directed at the people who say "We don't need newspapers to tell us what's going on, we get it all free on local blogs.'' Well, I can tell you that much of the info I read on local blogs, from Hisashi Iwakuma supposedly being ready to start last season in the rotation, to the idea that John Jaso was the "best hitter" on the team last year is hopelessly out of touch with reality. Actually, Jaso may have been the team's best hitter last year, which says all you need to know about that team. But we'll never really know because he didn't play full time, which is a concept that many blogs miss. You can't just take part time stats and extrapolate them into full-time results. MLB teams understand this. Spend any degree of time around them and you will understand how they separate full-time and part-time players and value them accordingly. I don't see this distinction made in the majority of the blogosphere. But I also don't include SSI among the chief offenders in this regard. My words were aimed more at the blogs and bloggers that assume they really know what is happening with a team and write that so-and-so should have done this and could have done that, without taking the time to really understand what they are arguing about. And in some cases, bloggers actually have the media credentials and could have taken the time to ask about things like Iwakuma, but choose not to because: a) they are lazy; b) They are afraid of being told they are wrong and having to correct themselves after a year of writing nonsense; c) They are simply afraid of facing a manager or player they have been lobbing bombs at from a distance
It's easy to write in a blog that spring training doesn't matter when the reality is, you're doing it because you can't afford to be there to properly cover it. Spring training clearly does matter or we wouldn't be watching Brandon Maurer and Blake Beavan in the starting rotation. We wouldn't see Jason Bay in there over Casper Wells. You don't have to agree with the decision, but if you were at spring training and seeing what goes on behind the scenes when the team isn't on TV, you would comprehend it better and have a basis from which to write opinion that has some foundation behind it.
Lonnie at Mariner Central went to spring training a couple of weeks ago and got wind of a plan to send Erasmo Ramirez to AAA in the event Jon Garland was kept. That the Mariners were even thinking of this back then -- I can tell you that they were -- tells you more about how they valued and viewed Ramirez at the time than any degree of stats-watching from afar. And when I made my comments, I did indeed have Lonnie in mind.
There is value to hanging out around a team. Not 24/7, but yeah, when you are exposed to a team round the clock, there is info you can gain that others don't have. I have never seen SSI make a counter argument to this, so again, my words were not directed at this blog.
And so, in effect, the mistake is mine. By making such a sweeping statement, I threw the baby out with the bathwater and that was not my intention. Prospect Insider, another fine site, does make efforts to find info firsthand and yet, my comments could also be construed as a shot at them. It wasn't. Nor was it meant that way toward SSI or Mariner Central.
And for that, I apologize. I went too far. Hoping to move forward.

8
GLS's picture

This is a good point. The TNT has always had great sports coverage, so why not go there? The Seattle Times so far has failed to make the case that it is a superior product worth paying a digital subscription for.

9
GLS's picture

I think the problem is that digital advertising just doesn't work that well. Page views, impressions, and clicks can all be measured, but if the conversion to sale just isn't there, the value of those metrics goes down. Facebook just lost a major customer (General Motors?) because that customer did a study and found they weren't getting much out of the contract.

10
tjm's picture

As an old print hack, let me make a defense of paywalls and of print generally. Digital advertising is a non-trivial but not large part of the revenue of a newspaper. They wish it was more and for a long time thought it would grow substantially, but it simply hasn't produced the revenue. The ad rates on the web are grossly less than in print and now that many web readers are moving to mobile devices the effect is even worse. Mobile rates are virtually zero.
I have to argue with Ghost's notion that print serves little information function. Almost all local news is produced by print. Television, radio and web news sites have either very, very small news gathering staffs or they have none at all. By and large, those other news providers recycle what was originally produced by the newspaper. National news is a slightly different story. There is more original content produced by non-newspapers than is done locally. Opinion journalism has been revivified on the web. I haven't read a newspaper editorial in years, but I read scores of opinion pieces on the web every day.
The same is true with sports. In fact, sports might be the web at its finest. The events are generally available for viewing and analysis at little cost allowing sites like this one to flourish. I live in LA and am a big NBA fan. I root for the Clippers and the local web coverage of the NBA on-line is far superior to that produced by the LA Times. I could care less if the blogger never talks to a manager, coach or player. They mostly have little to say. Having to sit in sweaty locker rooms begging some overpaid although excellent athlete to answer questions is a fate worse than death.
But this model does not work in news for the simple reason that news reporting is very expensive. I spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars reporting on radical Islam. The LA Times paid for almost all of it. If the paper hadn't, the reporting would never have been done. We know this because it wasn't done by anyone else. The same is true with almost any subject you can name possibly excepting politics.
Newspapers are indeed withering away. The LAT, for example, has about a third as many reporters as it did a decade ago. I don't see any way that is going to revert course. I know this sounds insufferable to newspaper critics, but the country will be worse off because of it. Democracy requires informed citizens to function well. Last I checked, it doesn't seem to be functioning very well at all.

11

The fact that you will come here and post a thoughtful response like this says a lot. I'm sure the readers here will appreciate it.
The problem with the paywall, of course, is that a healthy percentage of your readers really don't give a rip about 95% of the content the Time generates. It's really tough to pay for all the content when all you want is the small slice that matters to you. I'm a former Seattle resident and I like the sport coverage since I retained my fanhood when I moved away. But I honestly could not care less about your local and state government, local theatres, et al. Certainly not enough to pay for it.
Now if you had an app that got me all of the Mariners coverage from you and Stone for the season I would probably click buy in the app store, provided it wasn't too expensive. A lot of us do pay for M's coverage via MLB so there is precedence there...

12

Agree that standing up and clarifying reinforces my positive view of you as a man and journalist.
Add me to the group who wants an app to get you and Stone. I care about Seattle, but mostly I care about the Mariners, and to a lesser extent UW sports. Your Kindle app would be nice if I owned a Kindle, and would be selling point if I didn't already have a tablet. But if you could get it changed so Stone is included and it can be used by an ASUS transformer or LG phablet, I'd pay the $0.99/mo. without blinking.

13
GLS's picture

It isn't that no one makes money off of internet advertising. Money is made. The problem is that for an online newspaper, those dollars simply don't compare to the lucrative ads they would sell in print editions. I don't know what the actual numbers are (I'd like to!), but the business model of the past is broken.
Facebook does make money yes, but not that much. That's why their stock has never taken off. Google makes most of their money off of paid search, which is a form of advertising, but not really the same thing.
In my opinion, if the Times wants people to pay for content, they need to go big and create a world-class news organization that is relevant regionally, nationally, and internationally. If you want me to pay, I really need to know what my $14/month is going for.

14
GLS's picture

Classy. 'Nuff said.

15
ghost's picture

Hey Geoff.
I was very impressed with your willingness to post this apology and clarification. I do feel I also owe you a sort of apology as well. In this same thread, I explained why I had no sympathy for the print media regarding its own demise. I don't think the truth can be owned and I don't think only a few gatekeepers can be in charge of disseminating the truth either. I stand by my belief that print media has badly declined in the last century, and especially the last forty years...but I should definitely clarify that I was not including you specifically in that. Actually the Baker blog is a highlight of my Mariner fandom and your willingness to put yourself out there and do everything from podcasts to live chats and stick up for your beliefs is always impressive to me. And I do in fact have sympathy for the EMPLOYEES working in print media. The reporters and the paper staffers and editors etc. All of those folks are in a grim moment right now with print media collapsing. I think your market needs to adapt to a changing reality, though. I think reporters shouldn't work under a corporate umbrella...I think they should be seeking the truth freelance in a decentralized, democratic, and free-market manner. The central bureaucracy made sense when the economy was centralized, but this is the information age, when you can no longer take hold of a service and put it in a box, because there are so many out there who can provide something similar, if not identical. This is the fourth great age of human economy...a new era demanding new business models. Print media, cable television, radio music, and Hollywood film is going to be forced to radically alter their method of delivering the goods. The newspapers are dying...and they deserve to die. They don't give us something we can't get easily on the web. Cable TV is dying and it deserves to die...the companies have, for too long held a monopoly on providing entertainment and the TV Networks have for too long had monopolistic command over media messaging. Hollywood is thriving for now...but will soon face its own death as it gets cheaper and cheaper to produce high quality entertainment. And the music industry has already made its radical adjustment and will thus thrive. To their credit, the networks have realized that more and more people don't want to pay 200 bucks a month for cable when they can get the shows on the web...so they're starting to sell to Hulu and Netflix and iTunes and put episodes on the web with advertising etc. So perhaps the media moguls there will survive delivering content in new ways...but the boob toob is on death's door. News print media has got to find similar ways to adapt.
Your readers have told you what they want - they don't want to buy the whole paper...they want to buy YOU...that's how the economy will work in the future...the Times would be wise to see that.

16
ghost's picture

The reason I say that news print media doesn't produce anything that the other outlets can't already provide is not so much that there isn't original reporting in those papers...but that no one is reading them. No one is getting their news in print anymore...it's just not how we, as a people function.
Any business we do in media now has to be based on that fact. It means we've got to find new ways of making it work financially to produce the same content on the web that we used to in print. There's got to be a way. Although I should point out that if the print ads really cost that much more than the web ads...that's a sign that the papers were living on a bogus model to begin with and that the money people paid for advertising was clearly too much before the web.

17

The NY Times is arguably the finest print journalism on the planet and they face the exact same issues as the Seattle Times. They retreated behind the paywall some time ago. It's just a really rough space to be in right now. Quality of content doesn't appear to be that big a factor.

18

As a regular positioned literally 3,000 miles away, I certainly appreciate the limitations of remote viewing.
Of course, I have been verbally smacked around from time to time for exactly that - *some* of my opinions and analysis dismissed specifically because I do not get to watch the Mariners on TV or attend any games.
While I have always admitted that my remoteness is a hindrance that prevents me from seeing many things directly, I have also noted that my remoteness also ... deters certain biases from forming. Being in the stands is beneficial in many ways compared to being limited to a box score. And being in the clubhouse is certainly beneficial in many ways compared to being in the stands. What I think is too often forgotten (and sometimes dismissed), is that there are potential problems with unfettered access.
For me, in NC, *EVERY* team, (except my Braves), is viewed through the same microscope. I can look at Seattle stats and Angel stats and Ranger stats and draw whatever conclusions I might within a framework of similarity. A "local" reporter gets a specific view from the local clubhouse. And he might get glimpses into opposition clubhouses, (having "some" access there). But, the extra added value in seeing the local team is complicated by lacking that same view for the other 29.
In the clubhouse, a reporter can directly see Smoak and Ackley and make a judgement on change in carriage or attitude or work ethic that may well be 100% valid. But, that doesn't say "Boo" about what Trout and Trumbo are looking like or Cespedes or Elvis Andrus. Ultimately, all sports are competitive. The final equations are about RELATIVE skills and abilities.
In the end, I think the bulk of the bloggers succomb to the downside of fandom - getting too focused on just the one team they follow and therefore not following the other 29. So, the local reporter is still bringing extra value in most cases. But, for those (few) bloggers who manage to maintain a certain level of detachment, I think they do compete reasonably well with the clubhouse access guys - because my experience is that it is VASTLY more difficult to remain professionally detached if you are literally in the middle of the society that you are covering. While it might be a fun job, I definitely understand it is a HARD job.
Best wishes to you, Geoff, as you continue doing your best to make a living.

19

Let me echo the others regarding my respect for your work with the Seattle TImes, Geoff. Your blog will be what I use for my 15 free views per month, and it is one of a handful of valuable items I will miss because of the paywall.
No doubt Seattle would be the poorer should the Times sink so low as to lose it's ability to adequately to do original news reporting in the area. The same holds true for all cities and their newspapers. Newspaper economics have become extremely difficult, and I'm sure those are the pressures that forced them to consider and then implement this change. But paywalls appear to be the first moves of an end game in their existence as we know it. Many, many average guya these days simply cannot justify the expense for just one website when he sits down at the breakfast table on Saturday morning and pays his bills.
I wonder if new consortiums of local and national news might help. If I could pay $15 a month and gain access not just the Seattle Times but a network of previously unrelated news and opinion web sites, with each getting a split of the revenue, that might be worth considering. Or maybe the cable company needs to step in and negotiate internet viewing rights for major newspapapers as a part of their package. If I'm honest, how much we are willing to spend on our cable TV speaks volumes about our relative attitudes towards TV and newspapers. Myself, I can't stand to watch local TV news. Clearly they are not up to their task in the same way as a major metropolitan newspaper.
These are just a few comments from an outsider, from the peanut gallery if you will. One thing is sure, though. The implementation of paywalls that effectively eliminate readership by large sections of the population cannot help but change the orientation of that newspaper. In the end they will tailor the news they cover and the way they cover it to their revised demographic. The niche will yet be bigger than the vast majority of local bloggers, but over time it will morph into more of a niche enterprise.

20
ghost's picture

The local stuff...anything not having to do with the Federal govt or international policy stuff or world news stuff...that is not covered well at all by the blogosphere because it doesn't draw audience. That has to be covered by local papers.
That's one of the reasons why when they teach you about trying to break into the blog world, they say "do local politics...it's an underserved market!"

21
tjm's picture

I guess my original point wasn't clear. Your point:
No one is getting their news in print anymore...it's just not how we, as a people function.
This is true as far as it goes, but the more relevant fact is that more people than ever are getting their information from newspapers than ever. Many more. They just aren't reading it in the print product largely because they can get it free on-line. Hence, paywalls. And, again, it is under-appreciated how much of the reported material on the entire web originates with print reporters. There are vanishingly few web-only reporters covering legislative budget hearings, or city councils, or almost anything else outside the entertainment business.
On the difference between print and web ads: Yes, print ads cost multiples more. Web ads can be purchased literally for pennies. Print ads cost more largely because newspapers had advertising monopolies. The internet broke those monopolies, first in classified, then in general advertising.
The monopolies existed because the newspaper were a general market product - they had something for everybody. It's no accident that their largest traditional advertisers were department stores; they had the same business model. Take a look and see how many of those department stores are still in business. Retail markets have been fragmented and so, too, has the advertising.

22
CMB's picture

can you fix the access denied issue I have with the shouts?
I've got no problem respecting the dojo :)

23
M's Watcher's picture

I like Divish at the TNT, and depended on his video links for ST Mariner highlights. However, he doesn't write grammatically well and apparently doesn't have an editor. Baker is better at the Times, but the pay wall frustrates me and I'm not sure how I will deal with it. I hope the Baker lands on his feet when the paper fails. I am also getting used to some of the new local bloggers. For some, their language is unnecessarily colorful, and I hope they clean it up. It detracts from their otherwise interesting work. All that said, I have higher expectations of those that supposedly do this for a living, and most certainly those behind a pay wall.

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