Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The underground economy of sports blogs

I want to bring to light something that I find extremely unfair and all-too-common among large-audience (dare I say 'corporate') sports blogs today: exploitation of high-quality writers.

Since beginning to blog on this site in 2007, I have received various offers to exchange links, trade blogs, and write on other sites as a means of growing the influence of this website. I have even contributed to many websites without asking for anything in return. I like to think my opinion is valid and should be read by as many people as possible.

But much of this changed when I started paying rent. The value of my skills (as a writer or blogger) is now determined by the return that I make on it. Money that I need to pay for groceries, rent, entertainment, cable television and internet (so that I can watch the Sens!).

An email from an $8-million company

Yesterday, I received an email from Bleacher Report (BR) asking if I would like to be a featured columnist for their Ottawa Senators section and sit-in on a conference call that would likely involve players and/or management from the team.

"Great!" I said. "That sounds like a fantastic opportunity. But I don't work for free. Would you be open to negotiating a freelance fee for my work?"

"Not at this time," was their response. BR's representative did not indicate at what time they would be open to paying for my work.

I have received dozens of such emails, from various for-profit sports blog organizations, since this blog was created.

Why sports bloggers should be paid

At community newspapers across Ottawa, anyone with a bit of flare for interviews and language can write an article and be paid. In the past, I've written for community newspapers and been paid anywhere from $75 to $120 for my services. Seems fair for a person who has been educated in this field to be paid a reasonable amount for the time (4-8 hours) contributed to an article.

It's a simple equation. Newspaper gets money from advertisers to be delivered to readers eyeballs; readers pick up newspaper to see articles; newspaper pays writer for article. 

I think it's unfair--and insulting--to ask any person who is trained and proven in their field to work for free. And I don't think that it's unreasonable to ask Bleacher Report for a stipend in exchange for my contribution to their website, their viewership, their ad revenue, and their organizational value.

Over the past few years, Bleacher Report has received more than $8-million in funding from various investors, according to Tech Crunch. And I doubt that the editor that contacted me was working pro bono - so why should I work without pay? Who will pay my rent while BR receives an additional 1,000 readers because of my contribution?

It's an insult

I understand that Bleacher Report is a platform that is meant to empower sports fans and give them an easy-to-use outlet for their opinions. It's a great concept. One that was obviously good enough to grow into a mult-million dollar business. So why not give writers (especially featured columnists) some credit? They can certainly afford it.

I write this not to smear BR or to discourage bloggers who are passionate enough to write on their own accord--obviously, I could myself among you. I write this to empower those who fuel the engines that make others thousands of dollars each week.

Sports bloggers, you are more than a fan with an opinion. You are a writer! A freelance writer! You should be paid (and paid well!). Not exploited. Not asked to work for free.

So when a similar email arrives in your inbox, I ask you to simply request what you deserve: Some money in your pocket so that you can keep paying rent, buying groceries, paying for cable and watching the game.

Anything less than pay for work is an insult to your intelligence and skills.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wake me up when September ends

I can't believe the fans in Montreal. This post isn't really about them, but it has to be said: Booing your still-young and recently ordained #1 goalie in a preseason game isn't just a bit of overkill, it's shooting a butterfly with a machine gun.

Wayne Scanlan does an excellent job of putting this pre-season insanity in its place in today's Ottawa Citizen.

Leafs Nation was close to calling it a season after their 5-0 preseason-opening loss to the Senators. Then, after winning the rematch, normal levels of criticism and insanity resumed. Let's not forget that the Leafs had a record in the realm of 6-3-0 during last season's preseason, and finished 29th during the season that matters.

I'm happy to see that Ottawa, by and large, has not fallen into the same trap. Other than some optimism with regards to 19-year old goaltending prospect Robin Lehner, dodging the hype in the Nation's Capital hasn't been too difficult.

Too many factors haven't been tested and too few Sens regulars have yet to hit the ice together. Now is not the time to condemn or boast about the NHL team which hasn't suited up all at once.

Some say that the off-season, with its increasingly ridiculous free-agent contracts (happy not to address that one, thank you very much), is sport's silly season. Well, I think we've found a new definition.

As the song goes...
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