Apr 21, 2008

Cuban’s Dilemma


Sports blogging may be even more popular than ad blogging and the preponderance of sports bloggers has brought up the issue of who exactly is a journalist and thus qualifies for access to the locker room for post-game interviews.

Now for those of you who don’t follow sports, this sort of access is key since many very important facts/slip-ups/secrets emerge during the pre and post game interviews. Plus the players are actually showering. (I’ll just leave that one alone.)

The issue came to a fore when the inimitable Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team (and fellow blogger) decided to allow all bloggers into the Mavs locker room: literally anyone with a Blogger or Typepad account. Now this wasn’t an act of generosity as much as a protest against what he felt was mistreatment by bloggers writing for mainstream sports publications and newspapers and (secondarily, I’d reckon) the overflow crowd of journalists in the locker room since “official” bloggers were added to the mix.

It’s an interesting issue though, one I’ve opined on before in a different context: where do we draw the line? At what point do we need to separate the experts from the amateurs and how do we do that? If everyone is a journalist, then how does everyone get access to an event where space is limited by the laws of physics (e.g. SXSW)? And more importantly: how do we find the worthwhile voices in a sea of fairly banal ones.

It’s something I think will need to be dealt with, likely by the marketplace itself: not everyone can write; those who can write well constitute an even smaller subset. Eventually there will be some sort of shakeout, where certain voices rise to the top. How this will come about is anyone’s guess, but I can see it happening one of two ways: Natural selection, where the most popular blogs create their own little universe, ignoring the less talented voices, relying on readers to point out worthwhile newcomers. Now that’s a variation of where we’re heading now and the downsides are (a) groupthink and (b) an inability to deal with what I’ll call Cuban’s Dilemma—how do you “officially” cull the ranks?

And that’s where I think choice (b) comes into play: the rise of independent “best of” aggregators, who function like a more sophisticated online version of Reader’s Digest or (for those of you in Brooklyn and Berkeley) the Utne Reader. It would be up to an event’s organizers as to which of these aggregators they put their faith in, but the aggregators would provide a list of the 10 or 50 or 500 bloggers they’d grant access to.

All of which goes against the whole notion of total accessibility online and the notion that everyone has a right to offer their opinion and have it heard in the marketplace of ideas. It’s where that notion collides with the laws of physics though, that a solution is needed. Because though it often feels as if we “live” online, the fact remains that most of what we do occurs live, in the physical world, and that world has space limits that need to be accommodated.

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