On the heels of reading Letting Go?: Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World, I felt it appropriate to review the massive blogging consortium Sports Blog Nation, better known as SBNation.
SBNation is probably the foremost example, at least in sports media, of sharing authority between user and expert… at least in a productive fashion. I’ve previously chided Bleacher Report for sharing authority in a destructive way when it comes to creating worthwhile meaning and discussion.
I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bathwater because there are many great writers toiling for Bleacher Report, but on balance that consortium is better known for headlines such as this: “20 Much-Mocked Athletes Whose Lives Are Way Better Than Yours.” Thankfully, not all the commenters were believers in such an article’s utility. “is there a point to this article?” chimed Micah Torsden.
In contrast, SBNation often has thought-provoking material that runs as its featured material, not buried beneath mountains of fluff.
Articles are regularly titled with questions like Tom Ziller’s “Who Belongs in NBA MVP conversation?” The use of the word “conversation” alone gets public historians giddy. Opening the article, you certainly see that Ziller has an opinion that’s expressed, but it’s not a simple listing of who he thinks is MVP-worthy.
The article begins with some priming as to how the MVP race is shaping up and even throws an unwitting bone to the authors who composed Letting Go?:
With transparency, sure, we’d spend a lot of time laughing about x writer giving y player a vote that the data and common sense indicates is absurd. But we’d also, perhaps, get to see more writers explaining their picks, making those cases. That’s one of the benefits of new media, I think: the lack of space restrictions allows basketball writers of all strains flesh out their opinions. This is one of those areas where loquaciousness is warranted. I want to hear the effusive case for James Harden!
I don’t want to overstate the case. Just like Bleacher Report has islands of great writing, SBNation has islands of unfortunate posts.
Moving beyond the written content, SBNation can still be considered at the forefront of social media interaction. All of their blogs have twitter accounts to instantly update when a new story has been posted. The blog icons all have a similar look so as to produce instant recognition from a readers that this is indeed the SBNation family of blogs:
The layout of the website is sharp and definitely has a “clean” feel to it. Many websites often get a cluttered feel to them when they have so much content to present. The use of photographs to highlight the top stories is highly effective in solving that clutter problem.
Each link to a story also shows the number of comments that have been left by users. Personally, I don’t care to have such a notifier, but I do realize that it can steer people toward what may be a rich discussion. However, it can have a deleterious impact on other articles that may deserve attention as well, since traffic may indeed be steered toward an “undeserving” article. In the end, though, this is purely a matter of taste and has no real influence on the site’s effectiveness, in my opinion.
Finally, SBNation has become renowned for its tongue-in-cheek humor, particularly from its Twitter feeds. Exemplifying this point is the SBNationGif account. This form of interpreting and presenting sports simply could not exist outside the digital world. The short moving images are always presented with a tweet displaying humor as only the internet could provide, too.
Furthermore, the SBNationGif account does what any good museum curator would demand in interpreting information: match what the audience reads with what it sees. The avatar for the gif twitter account does that to perfection, which is unsurprising given the sites general level of excellence.