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On the Royals Social Media Contest and Credentialing Bloggers

Yesterday the Royals announced the Fanfest Digital Digest Contest:

Fans selected for this one-of-a-kind experience will have access to exclusive interviews with General Manager Dayton Moore and select players, a behind-the-scenes tour of FanFest, and the opportunity to get a first-hand look at the event before the general public during a preview event on Thursday, January 20.

It's an interesting idea the Royals have here. As far as I can tell, the Royals have effectively combined the Blogger Panel/Blogger Night idea that a number of teams have done, with the more general Fan Forum one. The contest application includes fields for your blog, twitter account, facebook page, or other (myspace? geocities? usenet? ham radio?).

I don't think any other team has really tried this particular kind of event. For the Royals, it looks like a decent way to generate a little online buzz for Fanfest (you have to post about your experiences within 24 hours). Facebook, I think, is really the prize pig here (which is why I'm constantly being told to setup a Royals Review FB page, which I recently have, LIKE US): muscling your way into people's newsfeeds is the name of the game now that everyone on Earth is on Facebook. Twitter operates at a much smaller audience fraction, but is disproportionally popular amongst media and tech types, so also gets some love. A reasonably popular college student likely has more more regular FB readers than most blogs. For the fans selected, it sounds like a cool thing to do on a Thursday night.

Speaking of Twitter, the Organization's announcement sparked a discussion yesterday amongst Greg Schaum, Robert Ford and others about whether or not the Royals should give media credentials to bloggers. I think the Digital Digest Contest is a very small indication that the team is becoming more comfortable with the internet in general, but I am unsure as to any larger meaning. No offense to people who are active FBers or Tweeters (myself included) but those things aren't especially similar to having a regular blog. To the Royals, we're all just fans. To the Royals, the internet now exists, and it exists fundamentally as a marketing vehicle, not really as a place for ideas. (And they may be right.)

When it comes to bloggers being credentialed, I'm not quite the fire-breather that I might be expected to be. Fundamentally, I do think that any blanket league or team policy based on medium is silly. However, with so many mainstream guys now trying to remake themselves as bloggers/internet guys, those days are, technically, at least, just about over. The same thing is happening with the Baseball Writers association, where the shifts of a number of prominent writers has brought about a new acceptance of web guys like Rob Neyer. It's laughable now, but four or five years ago someone at Yahoo or ESPN was just a "web guy" to many in the industry. Now, those are the jobs people want.

A blanket policy makes life easier for the team's media liaison. I think there's a perception out there that there are thousands of blogs about everything, but that isn't really the case anymore. Blogging, as an activity, isn't a fad anymore. In fact, the old early 2000s blogs, as concepts, are just about dead. The sites that survived either had exceptional authors or hooks (and nearly all became book deals) or stayed interesting because of the communities that sprung up in the comments section. When it comes to the Royals, there really aren't that many blogs out there. Teams already evaluate old-media requests on a case by case basis, so there's no logistical hurdle to adding blogs/websites into the mix.

Space shouldn't be an issue. The Royals aren't the Chiefs. There are 81 games each year at the K, along with a month plus of Spring Training. I just can't imagine, that on a random Wednesday night in June, there isn't enough room for an extra body or two. When you follow the Royals media beat, you get the impression that there is a core group there every night, and then there's an ever-different mix of local and national media guys there randomly on any given night.

That leaves the issue of decorum and professionalism. I understand the attitude of the teams on this point. A media credential isn't a backstage pass to hang out with the players, see the locker room, and get a free ticket to the game. I think that, there are, a certain percentage of bloggers out there who would want a press pass for those reasons. There's also the nightmare scenario of someone getting asked an inappropriate or silly question and a full fledged scene breaking out, which is then gleefully covered by the other media members there.

KANSAS CITY - The Royals locker room turned tense Tuesday night, when the creator of was confronted after asking a question...

I don't think this is a particularly realistic scenario, but it could happen I suppose. It already does, with some regularity, amongst members of the mainstream press. A few times a year, for just about every team, there'll be an ugly or semi-ugly press conference exchange. Basically, the entire point of the PR guy's employment is to avoid that ugly or awkward scene altogether, so if that means looking like a jerk to five bloggers a year, he's going to do so every time.

Google and Facebook are changing things however. Depending on how quickly I post a story, and how good a job I do with the headline, things that I write on this site can end up at the top of people's search results. This is why every political campaign now includes blogs on their press release list. The Royals, just like any other entity, are now trying to play the game for their benefit, in a way that they control.

The subject of credentialing often comes up when I talk to family and friends, as well as fellow bloggers. With 100% honesty I can say that I've never requested a media credential, and never really wanted to. For one, I've never lived even close to KC. Moreover, I'm not sure what good it would do. The way in which I try to write about the Royals wouldn't really be augmented by getting to ask questions after a game and in some ways I don't even know enough about baseball to ask good questions. I think the next frontier in baseball writing is at the Pitch f/x level, which essentially is a statistical record of the things that scouts look at (arm slot, etc.). That kind of analysis is still left-handed to me. Sure, an extended interview with a FO guy would be fascinating (if I did it right) but until the Royals start doing those with mainstream guys, it's not worth thinking about.

On Twitter, Schaum made the point that I'm too critical or personal in my writing on this site to get credentialed, which may be true. I was a little surprised to hear that, but maybe it is true. I do worry sometimes that I'm too negative about the team... not because I won't get credentialed, but because I fear becoming biased and unable to be objective.

I hope that some of the regulars here apply for the contest. I'd like to see some people I "know" get the semi-insider's look and some free food or anything else. The Royals going into carnival mode every year at Fanfest is a good thing and I think its a nice idea to let the fans get a little closer to their heroes once or twice a year.