Coverage of baseball’s winter meetings and the future of journalism

I hesitate to use a beat as trivial as baseball as an indicator of other, more important, kinds of journalism, but here goes:

As MLB’s winter meetings begin, baseball geeks are chattering about possible deals and analyzing the personnel moves that are made. Let’s compare where they might go for winter meeting coverage. If you’re a baseball fan, where would you spend more time?

  • In Chicago, fans might go check out Phil Roger’s “MLB Whispers.” Rogers has 8 sentences with 6 nuggets of news and conjecture. (Roger’s 225 word piece has 7 hyperlinks, seemingly sprinkled in at random, to the Tribune archives. One is to the article itself, another to a two-year old news item.)
  • MLB Trade Rumors (Chicago-based, coincidentally)had 14 posts on Saturday, more than 3,000 words. The most recent entry has 9 news items and about a dozen links to articles outside of its site. MLBTR tracks, and links to, reports from across the web and Twitter. Each post is tagged with relevant players and teams; side-bars send readers to lists of top available players, player rankings, and a summary of the ‘oos best trades.

I’ve thought about MLBTR during the spate of Murdoch-inspired debates over the future of newspaper payrolls. The conundrum: focussed aggregators like MLBTR are better sources of information than the individual news organizations they use on sources. On the other, they drive traffic to those sites; traffic that most, at least the newspapers, say they can’t turn into revenue. (ESPN, with its subscription-based Insider service, never seems to complain.) MLBTR wouldn’t exist without the Phil Rogers of the world– though I expect that many paid journalists, particularly those working for smaller newspapers– use the site themselves for information.

But what’s preventing the Tribunes of the world from starting, or buying, their own MLBTRs– or at least integrating some of the most basic of web tools– such as hyperlinking to outside sites, building relevant sidebars, and tagging?

[My favorite analyses of Murdoch’s “off the grid” proposal from last month came from Nick Carr and Umair Haque.

Carr:

Murdoch’s suggestion that he’ll pull News Corp content out of Google’s database could turn out to be a brilliant signaling strategy, one that could alter the balance of power on the Net….There are signs that the signal is working. Bloomberg reports today that the publishers of the Denver Post and the Dallas Morning News are now considering blocking Google in one way or another. Faced with a large-scale loss of professional news stories from its search engine, Google would likely have little choice but to begin paying sites to index their content. That would be a nightmare scenario for Google – and a dream come true for newspapers and other big content producers.

Haque:

If Murdoch “wins,” society is worse off. Readers lose, because choice in news is limited, and prices inevitably jacked up, without better news having been created…. the challenge for newspapers is scarcity — real scarcity, not artificial. Can newspapers offer distinctive perspectives, rich with knowledge, expanded into topics, that make readers authentically better off? That’s what scarce, distinctive news might look like.

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