With J Hutcherson — I'm going to start the new year by making an assumption. Most of us have probably read enough live-blogs, 'takes' on other people's reporting, baseless speculation, and lists. To put it as simply as possible, the internet is doing us no favors.
Here's the thing, and I'm making it soccer-specific. I can only hope that anyone trying to run a soccer site gets what I'm describing and would prefer a different model.
Think of it like this. How many writers and editors working from multiple locations would it take to really cover every single issue that arises during the 24-hour Worldwide soccer news cycle? 30? 50? Approaching a hundred experts getting paid for their time? Yet we're operating with the expectation that all sites should be general. Even specialty sites fall for it, looking for ways to extend rather than deepen.
When everybody is a generalist, you get the repetition that has become the basic point of too many soccer sites. Same stories, no depth, and the feeling that you've read this before. Chances are you have, or at least seen a tweet. It's not fun to read, and it can't be fun to write.
I'm not going to pretend like there's a magic moment when this changes for the better. The wire services would like to enforce their copyrights and a very limited understanding of fair use. Newspapers are revisiting the idea of shutting themselves off to everyone except subscribers.
Maybe then sites begin to backtrack and figure out their real purpose. It might be the put up or shut up moment for some. Maybe sites really start filling the need for deep coverage of Major League Soccer, vacated in many markets by the full-time newspaper beat. Perhaps it's a new model for covering American soccer that makes the rest of us revisit what we're doing.
Soccer likes to consider itself the internet-ready sport, but it's not the leader. MLSnet wants to be like MLB.com or NFL.com, its own media outlet. The remaining newspapers are using the same template as the other sports they cover.
None of this is uniquely soccer. That's not a knock in and of itself, but it could be taken as a challenge to find another route to the same goal. Draw an audience to justify a site's existence.
There are US-focused sites that casually throw around audience numbers that would be substantially more than the combined viewers for all televised soccer games in the United States plus live game attendance in a given period. That shouldn't make sense to anybody, especially when it's yet another outlet doing exactly what all the other ones are doing.
Right now, the web doesn't think much of those that go against the idea of multiple posts every single day. Forget about taking time, there's an audience to serve.
Short or long form, it becomes about churn. The more the better, and a site's numbers will prove the point. That has very little to do with building an audience of real people genuinely interested in what a site covers.
Getting past the idea that there's a 'have to' and replacing it with a 'want to' would cure a lot of this immediately. Narrow the focus, commit the resources, and see what happens.
I'm not going to go to MLSnet for international soccer news. I'm not going to visit The Guardian for their MLS coverage. I'm not checking any soccer site for happening bands, fashion advice, or the latest in pop culture. I don't have the patience for writers that want to make everything a joke or a crisis. No thanks to anybody confusing 'long form' with 'bad editing.' Spare me the instant expert.
What I want to read is simple in theory: interesting and entertaining stories well told. I'm going to assume I'm not the only one.
Comments, questions, solutions to problems that have yet to present themselves. Please, tell me all about it.