State of the Union: A Blogs with Balls Recap

↵Many of you know, if you follow this meta sports blog nonsense, that last weekend was the big Blogs with Balls 2.0 in Las Vegas, as part of Blog World and New Media Expo. I have to say, I've seen videos of a lot of other expos and the lack of costumes and ridiculousness, coupled with the overall professionalism I witnessed at Blog World, was sort of disappointing. In fact, being in Vegas, it seemed that everyone at the conference was oddly well behaved. All-Star weekend, this clearly was not. ↵
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↵But it was substantive. In addition to the schmoozefest these conferences usually turn out to be, including some imbibing on the dime of ESPN on Thursday and my event on Friday (more on that in a bit), there was actually a lot of compelling blog discourse and interesting information to come out of the conference. If there were two things I took out of the conference, they were these – we online writer types are a pretty smart folk, and TSB was all over the joint. ↵

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↵Read far more substantive recaps here and here. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff moderated a panel of heavy hitters, including Kevin Blackistone of Fanhouse and ATH, Amy K. Nelson of ESPN.com, Ed Bunnell of FoxSports.com, Matt Ufford of With Leather/KSK and our own Bethlehem Shoals, that talked about the future of sports media. Are blogs the future? Are all MSM writers turned 'bloggers' just like Jay Mariotti (answer: no) and how long does one have to pay dues before they become a name? Does this fast-paced world of the internet speed up the career arc of writers? Are the days of trolling the sidelines of high school field hockey for a decade gone when you can make a name for yourself on the internet in 1/5th the time? ↵

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↵Shanoff did a very good job of posing the questions and the discourse was engaging. I'm not sure how many of those questions were actually answered, but it was interesting to listen to the conversation trying to get there. The panel was well constructed with the likes of Blackistone and Nelson, who work for larger houses, but really seem to 'get' the shifting landscape of new media. Ufford has this rough, tough blog persona that, honestly, frightened me for a few years to the point where I never had him on my show. But after meeting him a few times now, he's one of the dare-I-say sweetest fellas you'll run into and really understands this medium. And Shoals, well, he steals any conversation he's in – especially if there is a microphone in front of him. ↵

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↵There were other first-day panels, including the panel I moderated on Access, but Shoals, et al stole the first-day show. On day two, there were just two sports panels, and sadly I wasn't able to make the second with SLAM's Lang Whitaker moderating a panel of Rob King of ESPN.com, Jim Bankoff from SB Nation and Jalen Rose. But for this guy, the first panel of day two was the 'can't miss' conversation of the weekend. ↵

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↵Former TSBer Spencer Hall moderated the State of the Union panel, featuring Jamie Mottram of Yahoo, A.J. Daulerio of Deadspin and J.E. Skeets of Yahoo's Ball Don't Lie and The Basketball Jones, the gold standard of sports podcasts. Spencer did an adept job of setting up the panelists to talk about the positives and negatives of the industry now, and what they see changing from this point forward. Daulerio suggested that Deadspin will become a site that only has original content (sorry to all those who used to troll for Deadspin links – myself included – to make your weekly numbers). Daulerio and Mottram also had an interesting debate about the need to be first. Daulerio claims that the need to be first, as a blogger, is insignificant (Editor's note: Oh, the irony.) because the nature of aggregation is that you're taking someone's original material and repackaging already. By definition, an aggregator is not first. But Mottram countered with the argument that the blog audience is a different audience entirely, and while the information may not be original to that blog platform, it could be original to the reader. Being first, in that case, is still important. ↵

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↵Perhaps the most honest moment came from Skeets who stressed on more than one occasion that he is a 'blogger' and doesn't even necessarily consider himself a 'journalist.' It was really the first time I remember hearing a person use the term – blogger – as a separate and entirely unique job description. In the past, I've always heard qualifications. I'm a blogger, but I blog for a newspaper, or I'm a blogger, on the side. Skeets is a blogger. Spencer is a blogger. Daulerio is a blogger. The number is growing. Simply put, that may be the most telling state of this union. ↵

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↵We at TSB didn't plan to try and take over the panel, but it may have looked that way as nearly half the questions posed to the panel came from the likes of me, Shanoff and Shoals. At one point I surveyed the room and saw writers and editors from many of the biggest blogs/online outlets in the country, some aforementioned and others including Chris Mottram, Josh Zerkle, Arash Markazi, Greg Wyshynski, the guys at HHR who did an unbelievable job of running the event…the list could go on forever. Add the CEOs from several blog houses and people who run the likes of ESPN.com, FoxSports.com and anythingyoucanthinkofthatiscoolinsports.com and it really was a who's-who of the next wave of sports journalism. I feel comfortable not overstating that point. ↵

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↵I'm not sure anything was solved in Vegas, but there was far less patting ourselves on the back than at the first Blogs with Balls in New York. We seemed to leave the conference knowing that the industry is shifting and, whether we're ready for it or not, we're the future. What that means for us as content providers, or you as a reader, none of us seem all that sure. ↵

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↵What I am sure about is that Friday night was the culmination of the hardest-working month of my life. I ran – with the help of many, including Lisa Wheeler from GreasieWheels.com and the guys at HHR – the Blogs with Balls Charity Poker Shootout, with the likes of poker professionals Annie Duke, Jennifer Harman, Gavin Smith, Jeff Madsen, Andy Bloch and a host of other pros and celebrities. The 100-person tournament was filled with Blog World attendees, including many of the writers in this recap, and – with kind assistance of sponsors like Carbon Poker, SB Nation, Sports Illustrated, Jose Cuervo, Captain Morgan and Crown Royal – raised $10,000 for Ante Up for Africa. Not bad for a bunch of sports bloggers. ↵
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↵For more information on the charity, please visit their website. For a full recap of the Blogs with Balls event, hit up their site (video of the panels should be available at some point if not already). And if you want a video recap of Friday night, which is basically random shots of me and Annie Duke set to the classic Elvis tune, hit play below. Viva Las Vegas indeed. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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