Saturday around 250 bloggers, media types, interested parties and sports enthusiasts gathered at the world headquarters of Bloomberg in New York for Blogs With Balls 4. The event was a day long (as well as a preparty the night before and an afterparty last night) Petri dish for where media is, and isn’t today. Along with scores of sports bloggers and those who work in the digital side of the industry, established media and broadcasters from Kevin Blackistone and Jamelle Hill to Richard Deitsch and Darren Rovell took part in the day long panel discussions on topics ranging from brand building to the importance of blogging to advances in the digital sports world and roles for women in the sports media world.
While there was the requisite complaining about “mainstream acceptance” and sometimes a misunderstanding of what the media business still is all about…big brands and big dollars still rule…the event continues to evolve into a “must attend” by those who are involved in sport and want to get a feel for the ever-changing landscape of the business. One of the most positive aspects of such an event is that in a world where physical connection has been replaced by a virtual connection (one speaker continued to reference “virtual” friends throughout her discussion, vs. people she actually has met or talked to on the phone), the ability to actually meet and speak to a peer or a media member in a casual environment enhanced a bind that had grown online. For all the craziness of the world we live in, ties can still be formed by a face to face conversation, many of which were facilitated by Bwb4. It is that ability to tie reality to virtual that makes BwB so valuable.
However one of the downsides that BwB continues to expose is the continued disconnect between leagues, teams and even brands and the blogging and digital world. Despite an extensive outreach, only Major League Soccer chose to send a representative to the event. No other league, team or college in the busiest marketplace in the world for sports found the time to either respond or send a representative to sample the fare at what was a very eclectic consortium of people passionately involved in sports, some of whom came from as far away as Japan to attend. Now yes it is a busy time…in New York the Mets and Yanks were both home, the Giants and Jets away, hockey is starting and some colleges have football…but the ability to not have any representatives attend and at least observe was very loud and somewhat disappointing. What did those in attendance hear? Thoughts looking both back and forward on the NFLPA from George Atallah, great insight from industry vets but still considered rising stars like Bonami Jones, Jonah Keri and Josh Elliott, some news from Deadspin’s AJ Daulierio on a staffing addition and lost of other tidbits that can be weighed against the growing marketplace of digital sports.
Was it a room full of heavy hitters? Not necessarily. But it was a day full of people that are passionate about an industry that is still billion dollar in scope, in a setting that any veteran or young person could have learned. from. The event has grown in stature and scope every year and should continue to over time, and really is a must-attend for even the most established industry vet to get a little better feel for the landscape. Those who didn’t missed the ball.