In October 2012, World Soccer Talk published an analysis of the health of the top 100 soccer blogs according to a 2011 list that was created by The Guardian newspaper of the best soccer blogs worth following. At the time of the review of the list in 2012, 37% of the blogs were defunct with more on the edge of extinction. Now, almost two years later, 55% of the top 100 soccer blogs are no longer in business, while another 12 are considered endangered and could be gone shortly, which would increase the total to 67% of the soccer blogs having bit the dust.
My definition of extinct was rather generous, which was no new articles published since March 2014. Considering the World Cup was this summer, and if your blog couldn’t even publish World Cup content it probably was in no way sustainable, this was a kind definition. For the endangered blogs, I considered those that only published 2-3 articles per month since March, which I consider a sign of the blog potentially burning out and soon to die.
All told, 55 of the 100 blogs on the list have failed to publish a new article in the last five months and another 12 have low enough output to be considered endangered. This list, to note, does not include sites that moved their URLs (11 Tegen 11) or changed their name (your very own World Soccer Talk) as they are still viable.
In the past two years we lost some major sites that were on the list. While still active on Twitter, The Swiss Ramble has essentially stopped publishing the long, in-depth analysis it was known for and for educating soccer fans on the financial aspect of the game. The Offside family of blogs was acquired by SB Nation in 2011 and held on as a separate site for a few years before finally being totally assimilated into the larger site in 2013. Others, like Iain Macintosh’s site fell by the wayside as he was hired by ESPN and wrote a popular book.
So why the continued drop in the number of blogs? I think many of the original reasons we posted are still in play, including the larger trend of media consolidation, the use of a blog as a stepping stone to larger jobs, and the fact that it’s really, really hard to maintain a good blog for years especially lacking major funding. But there are two big reasons I want to focus on as driving factors.
The first is social media. For these defunct blogs, many of them still have active Twitter accounts, either through the publisher/author or under the blog’s own name. This shows how easy it is to produce content in short 140 character bursts and still be considered a news source. Consider the Swiss Rambler, who recently created a stir among soccer fans by publishing analysis of the English leagues’ clubs’ spending using Twitter and pictures of charts. He didn’t need to write long articles, but rather let the pictures speak for themselves, and the followers do their own analysis.
Second is the fact that the mainstream media is doubling down on soccer based in its popularity. More and more mainstream sites are acquiring blogs or bloggers to provide an existing loyal audience and instant credibility for their own content. Mainstream media faces a choice of build or buy. To build a soccer web presence can take years to be successful, but by buying a blog or blogger, the audience and content are available overnight, as well as the credibility of the blog/blogger. With the success of ESPN’s Grantland – which is populated with soccer content and many writers from The Guardian’s list – more major media sources will undoubtedly continue to create content hubs, which will further cull the list of independent soccer sites.
The irony is that as coverage of soccer increases, it goes more mainstream. That is why the remaining 33 sites on the original list are so unique. In their own ways, they have weathered the storm to continue to provide valuable content, and many of them are stronger than ever. Some have rebranded, some have come back from a short break stronger than ever, some have changed their format, and some look exactly the same. Regardless, all are worthy of your attention simply because they have survived the trend and offer a glimpse into what can be considered success in this tough world of sports blogging.