Buzz Bissinger, Will Leitch and the New Media of Content


Two nights ago, Bob Costas hosted Buzz Bissinger (author of Friday Night Lights), Will Leitch (founder of the web's largest sports blog, DeadSpin) and Braylon Edwards (starting wide receiver on the Cleveland Browns) on his talk show Bob Costas Now. The debate became an immediate internet sensation... which is probably shocking to stubborn-minded people like Buzz and pretty obvious to web savvy leaders like Will. Once Costas leads with the blogs vs. journalism question, Buzz Bissinger goes wild:

As the founder of beRecruited (a site and service based on user-generated content), I clearly have strong feelings about this:

1. I have met and interacted with Will Leitch on a few occasions. He is smart, articulate and has built a readership larger than most journalists can dream of.

2. You might not enjoy DeadSpin's content - but Will's blog is read nearly 1,000,000 times a day. The market has spoken.

3. More proof that the market has demanded this new media: PerezHilton has a greater readership than People Magazine - the top read magazine year after year. Old Media has followed with constant streams of news and debate. For sports, SportsCenter rolls on ESPN for 6 hours while ESPN2's First Take features (very enjoyable) debate on yesterday's topics. E!, TMZ, Access Hollywood and a dozen other shows do the same things for pop culture. Old Media has moved to constant streams: their own blogs, podcasts, radio, etc.

4A. More proof (again): beRecruited is home to one of the web's largest sports blogs, SportsWrap, which has been read more than 10,000,000 times in the last six months. Look at the server logs (a fascinating part of blogging) and you will notice that people arrive on SportsWrap seeking new breaking news, commentary, and very particular (often strange) tidbits of information. In the last 120 seconds on SportsWrap, users came from Google looking for the following (and this just a small slice of the data):

Candace Parker Tattoo akin ayodele traded to the Miami Dolphins Best Air Jordans Lemans Crash Peyton Manning going insane on the sidelines Mark Jackson Knicks Coach High school football highlihts Paul Pierce fined Atlanta Hawks scorekeeper Maria

4B. Why the market demands this media: once-a-week publications like Sports Illustrated now serve a different purpose than news-breaking sources. SI is the pinnacle of sports reading and I continue to be a subscriber... despite having not found once piece of 'breaking' news in the last few years (it's always already broken and available). I read SI for the writing and commentary - I get my news through other sources: the web, mobile, podcasts, radio, etc. Here is a great example.

Dr. Z (one of the great NFL writers) published his NFL Draft Preview last week in SI. This used to be *the* way to prepare for the draft. Dr. Z is one of the most connected NFL gurus, but has to publish the article days before the draft begins. His results weren't pretty:

- 1 correct pick in the top 10 - 4 correct picks in the top 31 (first round) - predicted 5 wide receivers would go in the first round... not a single WR was picked

I am not critiquing Dr. Z. Rather, I am demonstrating that this new media that Buzz despises has value. We correctly predicted the top 6 picks in the NFL draft on SportsWrap and InGameNow. Does that make us smarter than Dr. Z? Absolutely not. But it does demonstrate the power of constant connectivity.

5. Buzz and Costas clearly don't understand how blogs work. Their attacks on Will were predicated on comments and commenters. Community is unique to blogs and, in my opinion, one of the major reasons that new media content has grown so quickly. An article on DeadSpin might only be a couple hundred words - but the dialog can go on with hundreds of comments and is fascinating. Sometimes its intelligent. Sometimes it's crass. But they are comments, not Op Eds.

6. Braylon Edwards comments on the panel also bugged me. First, like it or not, this isn't the 1960s. Athletes make $10,000,000s - and a good deal of that contract inflation is due to increased media, promotion, awareness, etc... the web plays a major part there. Second, technology is everywhere. Be aware of it. Matt Leinart is a very rich celebrity athlete (and he revels in his celebrity). He should be more than aware that people have cameras and access to publish content... he should consider this before publicly doing beer bongs with herds of females. People should think about this before publishing photos to their own MySpace and Facebook profiles.

7. Another example of why Bob Costas and Buzz Bissinger don't get it: for two smart people, they failed to get their message through effectively and caused massive backlash. Even if you agree with their sentiment (and you're more than welcome to do so) - they didn't deliver the argument well and probably caused a greater divide than existed previously. Bissinger has become an internet celebrity for all the wrong reasons: he surged to the top 10 google searches, had his wikipedia page vandalized throughout the day (hysterical stuff too) and has become the model for old-world thought 'leadership'.

An excerpt from his new Wikipedia entry, which sadly seems very accurate:

H. G. "Buzz" Bissinger (born November 1, 1954, in New York City) is a pompous windbag. He is also an American journalist.

Most recently Bissinger appeared on an HBO's Bob Costas On The Record to discuss the evergrowing sports media landscape. Bissinger then proceeded to make an ass out of himself and lose all credibility what so ever. His journalist tag has now been revoked.