Tuesday, October 17, 2006

An Open Letter To Rink Readers

Let me preface this by saying that The Rink isn't going anywhere. I started writing this blog as a release and it has, quite frankly, far exceeded my hopes and expectations. I couldn't be more appreciative of the positive feedback I've gotten from my readers, and hope to have a lot more fun in the days, months and years (years?) ahead. But as you may have noticed, posting has been a little light on The Rink recently. Part of that has to do with commitments I've had that have prevented me from seeing some of the Caps games, so I've felt ill-qualified to make generalizations about how the team is doing in the early goings (though it's not as if that has ever stopped me before). But more of it has to do with what is going on in the hockey blogosphere, especially here in Washington.

It sounds odd to say that Washington is leading the NHL in something, but when it comes to diversity of online coverage, there's no doubt in my mind that the Caps are way out in front of the rest of the League. There are plenty of fan blogs, the mainstream media (in this case the WaPo) has not one but two bloggers that cover the team, the team has it's own blogger, the owner blogs, and there's at least one site that is somewhere in between the first and second of these overly-broad categories. Without question, the team's progressive embracing of alternative media coupled with a charismatic young superstar has created an environment in which the Caps' online presence could explode (if the team can improve in the standings, look out!).

But with the blurring of boundaries between mainstream and alternative media and the sheer volume of online coverage come casualties. When the team itself has a paid employee dedicated to inside coverage and newspaper beat reporters are filing reports that hit the 'net in real-time, it creates a difficult environment for the blogger who tries to cover the kind of things the newspapers wouldn't bother with or whose primary advantage over mainstream media coverage is the ability to break news to a community that would otherwise have to wait until the next morning's hard copy hit their driveway.

As I see it, there are two ways a blogger can go when confronted with this mini "crisis of faith" (well, three if you include quitting, which I don't). The first is to try to compete in terms of access to the team (and I'm loathe to use the word "compete" because I know that this isn't a competition, but in a very real sense it seems that there is an increasingly sharp divide between the "insiders" and the "outsiders" and bloggers are choosing - or having chosen for them - on which side of that chasm they want to end up). There is probably no better organization in all of sports than the Washington Capitals when it comes to granting access to members of the alternative media. I know that several bloggers were invited to the team's media day (I couldn't make it), and as far as I know, every blogger who has applied for media credentials to cover the team has had their request granted. This is, of course, great - if you have the time and desire to approach blogging from a more mainstream media angle.

The second option is to get more focused. It's no secret that one of the keys to success on the internet (or just about anywhere, for that matter) is to provide something that no one else is providing. As a friend of mine told me, "the more niche your blog is the more you own the discussion," and the more people will seek it out. On second thought, maybe he said, "the more Nietzsche your blog is..." Whatever. I think what he was saying is that if you don't have the time or the access that the bigger blogs or the mainstream media has, go for an angle no one else is approaching the topic from. Perhaps your schtick is the witty-but-foul-mouthed pessimist. I'd read that. Or a site dedicated to haikus about how bad Richard Zednik is ("Oh so much promise/That's never to be fulfilled/Won't get fooled again"). I'd definitely read that.

Point being, you (and by "you" I mean "I") need to go somewhere the team-oriented payroll guys and the borderline-mainstream alternative media won't go. So I've got a couple of exciting ideas that I've been working on putting together (and one great idea that probably won't come to fruition - but I'll throw it out there at a later date in case someone wants to pick it up and run with it), and you'll see the results soon enough.

As for The Rink, I'm going to keep at it just like before, but will do my best not to simply regurgitate the other stuff that's out there on the Caps. If you want a recap of the previous night's game, you're better off reading it from any of the sites that I'll link to in my posts. But if you want strong opinions, analyses of faceoff percentages, ice time, prospects, etc., that's what I'm here for. And I'll keep doing the Daily Awards because, really, that's the only unique - for the moment - feature that people seem to enjoy.

So thanks for indulging that cathartic rant. And keep your eyes peeled for what's next from J.P. and The Rink - you won't be disappointed.

- J.P.


Anonymous said...

That Nietzsche was a hell of a linebacker. I tend to like out-of-the-mainstream-alternative-blogs. Creative freedom is a great thing.

Spe said...

Lots of blogs cover the Caps. How many cover the Jr Caps and other local amateur teams?... I'm only half-joking. There's at least one great story in Halpern already. Plus, the kids love the internet, I'm told. Extend the brand. Break from the horizontal and go vertical. DC amateur hockey is uncharted at least. My $0.02.

Spe said...

Or what about some Jamesian stat analysis? There are important stats not being recorded. And vice versa. Break it down.

Garrett said...

When I think of hockey blogs, I don't think of my own, but of Japer's. Believe or not Japer's rink inspired me to start my own blog. But my first stop whenever I turn my HP on is to Japer's site. It's a great unique look at a fan's thoughts and rants in a way that no newspaper, website or anyone else could do. It can't be duplicated in any way shape or form. There are posts that makes milk squirts out my nose laughter when I read the rink, and others I just disagree (which is fine). Japer, if you were ever to quit this blog I don't think I could go on. Oh, and sorry for stealing all your ideas. G-

JP said...

Wow - check's in the mail, Garrett.

Thanks all. And like I said, I'm here as long as y'all come to visit (and probably long after that).

Anonymous said...

1) We are reletively recent visitors to this site, but have found it an excelllant source of information about the DC squad
2) Keep up the good work JP