Forgive the overly cheesy paraphrased reference to a 1980’s one-hit wonder. It does, however, cover the subject of the following ramble. This won’t be yet another sports-related blog as the vast majority of those paying any attention to Washington Redskins content have taken a leave of absence until the regular season draws near. And who could blame them? Being a Redskins fan is exhausting. It wasn’t the subject matter of the song but Stevie Wonder described what it’s like being a Skins fan in a few verses:
You took me riding in your rocket, gave me a star
But at a half a mile from heaven you dropped me back
Down to this cold, cold world
So, when fans exit message board forums stage left even at the first sign of the end of the Redskins season it’s not only unsurprising but understandable and expected. It’s also unsurprising when forum staff do the same. For them it’s not only the emotional drain but also the mental drain of months of (often) thankless work. It takes a lot to keep a forum operational, much less to keep one active and growing.
For website administrators the challenges are greater still. There is no off-season for a website trying to survive and carve out a niche in what is an overly-saturated market. There are, literally, tens of thousands of sports websites all trying to be unique in some small yet meaningful way. That’s the result of competing with one another for traffic. If competing with the specific niche of other Redskins sites wasn’t enough of a challenge the internet has recently presented a new one: Social Media.
What used to be unmatched quality and ethics in print journalism has been replaced with instant gratification. Print media is struggling to survive in a digital age. Long form media is struggling to survive in a 140 character limit age. Many would rather speak but not be spoken to or talk but not listen or digest information in bytes small enough for toddlers. Social media leads old school journalists to believe the world is coming down with a severe case of attention deficit disorder. If social media is any indicator the vast majority of people stopped reading this two or three paragraphs back.
But social media serves a purpose. It’s a manner of disseminating more information to more people more quickly than is possible even with huge, established sports media outlets. Very few are concerned with the lack of ethics in social media. Everything is regurgitated. Nothing is vetted. No one gives a crap. Two seconds after they’ve read some complete nonsense they’ve moved on to the next hot topic.
Ideally, the solution would be to combine the best of social media with the best of traditional print media and the best of message board forums. Each has its merits and its caveats.
Here is where it gets personal. I’ve been webmastering and administrating websites for twenty-five years. I began venturing into message boards back in the days of AOL and dial-up, even before the marvel that was the 56k modem. I love everything about creating a site and equally importantly, creating the sense of community that goes along with it. I love receiving member opinion on how to make a site better, although admittedly not all of it is practical or even possible. I love working to make a site grow and adapt with the times. Having said that, I’m at a complete loss for how to effectively counter the migration of so many good members to social media.
If a site has social media in the forms of facebook, twitter, instagram, etc. will members actually spend any time reading the articles and blogs or posting in the forums?
This site has lost quite a few members over the years to something else which has occupied their limited “me” time. Any number of life circumstances may have contributed to their leaving. This site isn’t alone in that. Every sports website is suffering. I’d like to know why. Is it social media alone? It it life circumstances such as marriage, children, job changes, etc.? I’m reluctant to throw a poll up because I’d like some level of detail in the answers.
If you’re spending less time on traditional sports media sites and you’d like to tell me why I’d love to know, not for the purpose of judging but solely for the purpose of knowing if it is possible to change and adapt a site to the social media age. I don’t mind fighting lost causes. I’ve been married. I’m familiar with losing battles. If it is impossible to meet the “needs” of the masses with a traditional website not to fret. This one isn’t going anywhere.