The Washington Post Underscores What's Different About SB Nation (and Us)


This site has grown exponentially and will continue to do so in 2011. But not everyone is a fan of what we do. Many  suggest the MMA media's role is to give facts and do a little cheerleading for the sport. Admittedly, members of that group generally know absolutely nothing about modern digital media, so that opinion is easy to dismiss. But don't take my word for it. There's an article from The Washington Post talking about the growth and success of this site's parent company, SB Nation. Here's what our CEO sees as the key to the network's success:

Most sports reporters cover games from the press box. The perch typically provides a view of the entire field of play and quick access to post-game press conferences with coaches and players.

SB Nation bloggers prefer the bleachers.

It's a fitting seat for the legion of team die-hards powered by a common blogging software. The writers have no qualms about marrying fandom with fact-finding as they report on their favorite professional and college teams.

"From an editorial perspective, we put all of our emphasis on being by, of and for the fan," said chief executive Jim Bankoff. "Unlike a lot of other outlets, we will embrace bias and check objectivity at the door. We believe that spectator sports are about being subjective, not objective."

If you're keeping score, the formula is working. CNBC named SB Nation of the five "emerging companies you should be paying attention to". The Atlantic named SB Nation one of the top 10 most valuable blogs in America. Paying attention, yet?

Now, what we do here at is tad bit different than the standard message of "of, by and for the fans". Our message is "of, by and for ourselves". If it sounds selfish, that's because it's designed to be. There is no such thing as the view from nowhere and worse, taking the position that our job is to be proxy PR firms for MMA promotions is the height of ignorance and stupidity. Anyone with a shred of respect for their profession in media would never do such a thing.

Instead, we aim to cover the sport as we see it. It's our perspective and no one is required to agree. In fact, no one is required to even pay attention. But that's sort of where all of the arguments against our model fall apart. We often hear "anyone can be a blogger", and that's technically true. Not everyone, however, can develop and maintain an audience. That's where those who believe we have no right to comment (or at least comment in the way we do) have lost their way.

The reality is the model of subjective perspective as a function of real-time coverage is the future of digital media, not an aberration. The ability of any person to be a part of the discussion is a very natural consequence of the Internet's design and ethos. So is the development of the aggregation model of news gathering. What an open Internet permits is for the democratization of opinion. And for those who work hard enough and have the skills or talent, that openness allows for you to amass an audience for your work. And the reason why it works is because it is personal. When you find the right author, you feel like you're connecting with them. And like interaction with a real person, you see their flaws, biases or brilliance. That's what reading Andrew Sullivan is like for me. It's a much more enriching, engaging if complicated experience.

Admittedly, not everyone is our audience. Plenty of smart and formally educated people won't ever like what we do. That's perfectly fine. If you want straight news, there's plenty. And if you're looking for media lackeys, you're in luck: MMA is full of them, too.

Generally, though, when folks claim all we do is borrow content from others or have a position we shouldn't have by virtue of our occupation, all that tells me is they don't do much reading outside of MMA. Do you know where I got this model? From political blogging. They've been doing it (along with food bloggers, travel bloggers, movie bloggers, comedy bloggers, etc.) for a very, very long time. When I looked around MMA back in 2004 and 2005, I noticed no one was doing that, at least not very well. So, if you think this is unique or if this is the first you've seen of it, I hope you're getting a Kindle for Christmas.

We do have an obligation to try to get things right every time. We will fail at that mission as will every other media source. It's a noble goal, an impossible goal, but the right one. But we aren't going away and neither is this version of news coverage. Not everyone who has a perspective is worth having an audience, but that's a process that will sort itself out naturally. Over the long run, that's not a legitimate concern.

We are not here to save or hurt MMA. We couldn't even if we tried. And the unfortunate news is if you don't like our model of journalism, 2011 is going to be a very, very bad year for you.

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