On New Years Eve in 2010, The Guardian published a list of the top 100 soccer blogs worth following. The list was an unbiased review of the best soccer blogs on the planet. Now, almost two years later, a shocking 37 percent of the top 100 blogs are defunct.
The criteria I used to define a blog as defunct focused on any blog that hadn’t posted since June, 2012 (during the European Championship tournament). Many of the blogs on The Guardian‘s original list continue to thrive, but there are several on the list that are near death, not having posted any articles since August, 2012. By the end of this year, the 37 percent may increase to almost 50 percent.
In the past two years, we’ve lost such hallmarks as Run Of Play, European Football Weekends, Studs Up, Two Footed Tackle, Pitch Invasion, The Spoiler, The Global Game, A More Splendid Life and many more. Run of Play, certainly the best of the lot in my opinion, has now morphed into a Tumblr, which is reduced to a list of published articles by blogger Brian Phillips.
So what happened to cause the demise of these blogs? There are few reasons. Some of the bloggers went mainstream (Richard Whittall from A More Splendid Life became the editor of a Canadian media site, while the aforementioned Brian Phillips of Run Of Play now writes for Grantland, which is affiliated with ESPN). Some of them used their blogs to help land them jobs as journalists. One went on to create a print magazine (Tom Dunmore, XI Quarterly). But the rest of them just seemed to fade away. Whether the bloggers lost their passion, had too little free time or got burned out, it’s difficult to say.
Interestingly, many of the blogs that went away were UK-based. That’s not surprising since the list emanated from a UK publication. But the UK soccer blogosphere is still relatively in its infancy compared to soccer blogs in the United States that have been prevalent for far longer.
Five reasons why I believe that many of the blogs ceased publication:
1) There’s little to no money in the business. For the vast majority of soccer bloggers, it’s the love of the game that keeps them going. If it was for the money, most soccer blogs would have shut down a long time ago.
2) The prevalence of social media. It’s so much easier and less time consuming to simply post a person’s opinion on Twitter than it is to write a blog post. A single blog post could take a couple of hours. A few tweets or Facebook status updates could be done in under a minute.
3) The rise of the one-stop-shop media sites. The Guardian, ESPN and FOX Soccer were slow to catch on to the popularity of blogs, but all three soccer behemoths have blogs incorporated into their websites. As these online heavyweights keep soccer fans glued to their websites, they generate more revenue from advertising. Plus, the more the giant soccer websites cover in terms of news, it makes it harder for soccer blogs to differentiate themselves.
4) Blogging, for many, is a stepping stone. Very few people leave college and say that they want to embark on a career as a blogger. For many bloggers, it’s a means to an end. It’s an opportunity to build a portfolio, establish contacts and to gain access that they would otherwise not have been able to achieve.
5) It’s bloody hard work. On the surface, blogging seems pretty straightforward. The tools are easy to use, but the reality is that it takes a certain type of individual to continue blogging on an ongoing basis. It’s not for the faint hearted. And it’s not for someone who doesn’t have thick skin. It can be brutal at times, and the burn-out factor is extremely difficult to avoid.
Last but not least, what is a blog these days? It began as a web log, a personal diary of thoughts and writing. But nowadays, the design of most major news websites (The New York Times and The Huffington Post, just as two examples) look like blogs. In most instances, websites are blogs and blogs are websites. It makes it harder to differentiate.
So while social media has made a dent in the soccer blogging world, it’s also opened a new chapter. The demise of 37% percent of the top 100 soccer blogs is due to a combination of the above reasons. Whatever the reason, we’ve lost several remarkable sites. But as with life, we evolve, new voices bring fresh ideas to the conversation and we change. For. The. Better.
Side note: It’s not a rosy picture for the newspaper industry either. The Guardian has cut 200 jobs in both its editorial and commercial departments in the past year. And according to Britain’s Sports Journalists’ Association (SJA), the newspaper wants to reduce the staff by 100 more. As a result of the pending changes, it looks likely that The Guardian will let go of the following veteran reporters: Kevin McCarra, Harry Pearson and Martin Kelner.
The SJA reports that “The proposed redundancies come as part of The Guardian’s latest attempts to reduce its editorial budget by £7 million, a 10 per cent cut, following the business reporting £44 million losses and suffering a rapidly declining circulation. across the daily paper and its Sunday stablemate, The Observer.“