September 08, 2015

Thoughts on the decline and fall of the site formerly known as Hardball Talk and the blogger called Calcaterra

Over the weekend, and sneakily, a holiday weekend at that, the overlords at NBC Sports overhauled the design of the blog formerly known as Hardball Talk.

More insulting yet, they castrated some of its personality, starting by changing the URL's name from "HardballTalk" etc to "MLB," and doing the same with its name.

Proprietor and chief blogger Craig Calcaterra, unlike his Pro Football Talk compadre Jim Florio (perhaps in part, if comments are correct, due to Florio having legal rights to his blog) has been a mix of sympatico, mock sympatico, snarky and condescending, most notably, on the latter two, on his Twitter feed. (Maybe NBC castrated him, too?)

Long-time commenter Old Gator and others with nuanced insight on baseball are probably "outta there." I'll either read more at Yahoo Sports (which I semi-abandoned after its similar "ass" redesign of a few years ago, or go to a successor to Grantland, after the contracts of most the folks Bill Simmons recruited expire and they don't come back.

But, if they do a site that's long-form only, like Grantland, with no blogging and no commenting, that's not a good option either.

OG mentioned CBS. Well, yes, but Scott Boras mouthpiece Jon Heyman is there, tho I don't know if he does any blogging.

IMO, brand loyalty (and as someone in the media, I've seen plenty of this) is to authors, not sites. So, if Craig wants to continue to suck at the NBC teats, he risks ever more abandonment.

As for his comment that people like OG adjusted after a redesign of a few years ago, they eventually stopped bitching and came back?

Yes, but you hadn't built your brand up so much yet, Craigie. However, you had already built it up somewhat; that's why NBC picked up Shysterball.

You're risking the equivalent of a Tylenol scare. For yourself, not NBC. At least, if you continue being a corporate flak.

But, you don't have to be. More below the fold.

First, unless any contract you have is ironclad, you're a lawyer. Break it! Grow a pair. If you're going to stay, note that not only did Florio get Pro Football Talk to go back to its old version, but Golf Channel apparently never changed.

(And, if you gave up any legal rights to Shysterball as well as future posts, whether to Aaron Gleeman when joining Hardball Times, or along with Gleeman when NBC picked you up, well, that law degree in that case is toilet paper. I mean, you'd been baseball blogging on your own back in 2005, maybe earlier? Hardball Times picked you up in 2008, so, already then, you had some "branding.")

Grow a pair while recognizing that NBC is giving you the back of the hand. If it won't change, then leave.

Or, if NBC's already shoveling you THAT MUCH MONEY, then maybe, your economic liberalism posts ring a bit hollow? And, your concern for NBC first, commenters second, rings a bit more true. And, the love is, or has been, somewhat one-way.

Now, before you actually leave, if you do, of course, start job hunting. Yahoo. ESPN. Grantland 2.0 as it comes into being away from ESPN. Fox. Please, not CBS. You'd have to kiss Heyman's butt.

Your decline and fall need only be brief.

But, the decision is yours. You can either follow the trend in modern branded media (dammit, won't Truthout or somebody pick up my brand?) or you can be a corporate lackey.

Or, a "toady," as I said today at the site FKAHBT. And, one of the commenters there, the primary impetus behind this blog post about commenters on sports sites, couldn't accept that Calcaterra was a toady. (I used just that word.)

That said, the commenter back, besides being a general PITA, doesn't even "get" the world of "branded journalism." Now, it's a debatable issue how big a brand Craig is, but ... per the above and NBC's move, he's not that small. And, said PITA claiming Craig could be replaced by any 30-something? Well, GE owns NBC, and if Jeff Immelt wanted to be that cheap, he would.

Meanwhile, long-term commenter Old Gator has mentioned me over there, and another commenter has started a refugee spot. And, per what "Weiters" the founder has said, and Gator, and my own thoughts, if enough of the "right" commenters head there, and "Weiters" throws up some blog posts, we'll head there to talk to one another.


Old Gator said...

And speaking of long-term commenter Old Gator, no, I'm not around HBT much anymore. I'm not trying to "make a point" or feigning PMS, either. It's just that I don't care to live in an ugly house, even a virtual one. I don't really hold anything against Craigster since he's answerable to his corporate employers, as most of us ultimately are (or, in the case of us arsepadded retirees looking forward to finding that monthly issue of Modern Codger in the mailbox next to our social security checks, were), I figger I'll segue in and out of the place from time to time, but it has the feel of how one drifts away from one's favorite restaurant, reluctantly but inevitably, memorialized flavors fading from the tongue, when that "under new management" banner goes up over the door.

See, I don't know how much pull he has. I've never looked as his employment agreement. And given my radical antipathy to lawyers, I have to empathize with his horror at the thought of maybe needing someday to fall flat on his Esquire to salvage himself. Hell, if I thought I'd have to become a lawyer some day, I'd throw myself under the bus too.

JimeeJohnson said...

OG: will look for you at CBS Sports, here, and of course on Craig's "And it Happed" blog. It amuses me that some bloggers were offended by Craig's Twitter bashing of bloggers who said the new site sucks. Chefs like us cannot afford that thin skinned luxury! After all: some people abhor mango! Have a great one!

JimeeJohnson said...

I'm with you, OG! CBS, here, and even HBT.

JimeeJohnson said...

With you, OG. Anyone who likes HBT redesign does not like mango, and that's bad . See you at CBS or here or eve n on HBT.