Monday, February 16, 2009

Why I Left MLBlogs

I've resisted doing this, but the actions of the MLBlogs administration has forced me into a detailed list of reasons that I took my work to my own website. It's one thing to be rationally self-absorbed; it's another to unilaterally erase someone as if they've been cast out completely because they made a conscious choice to leave. In yesterday's posting of the MLBlogosphere community blog, the "rankings" were again listed. My blog, Prince Of New York, which is still on MLBlogs despite my posting of nothing but notes and links to my new home, PaulLebowitz.com, has received enough hits to be at least in the top 15 of their rankings. In what can only be seen as a decision based on my departure, it was omitted completely as if it never existed and doesn't count in their rankings. I haven't wanted to do this; haven't wanted to let my longstanding feelings known about the way the MLBlogs site is handles because there wasn't really a point, but if this is the vindictive way in which the administration is going to run things, I have no choice but to state my case and let readers come to their own conclusion.
  • The site is handled unprofessionally and promoted cluelessly:
If you Google the terms "baseball blogs", you'll notice that the "official affiliate/unofficial opinions" outlet directly connected to MLB.com comes out ninth.
Think about that for a second. Ninth.
Would the NFL, if they had a site for fans to blog, allow whoever's in charge of that site to remain in their current position if there was such a lack of knowledge of its existence? If they spent so much time and money creating the site, working on it, using it to promote and sell items and then allow it to be such a non-factor on the web? Say what you want about the cold and ruthless way the NFL does business; about how it's a cutthroat entity with inordinate power that wears out their assets and dispatches them; but they have their house in order; and if something's not working or living up to expectations, it's fixed. Can that be said about Major League Baseball and their affiliates?
Do you have any idea how many people who are now regular readers of my work have said to me (in various different presentations of the same theme): "I only recently found your blog and would've been reading it all along had I known it existed"? I was writing on that site for almost three years and I've developed a loyal following of readers, but to be completely honest, nowhere near as many as the work itself deserves. That's fact, and it's a clear problem with the way MLBlogs is run.
Do they not realize that the site can be used for selling Alyssa Milano's hoodies and promoting the MLB Network and being a spot for qualified analysts to have their work shown and read? Do they not understand that with their selfish and random ignorance that they're not administering to their clientele? Are the bosses at MLB even paying attention to what's going on?
Last year, the site publisher was changed from Typepad to Movable Type; fair enough. Maybe it was a business decision or an honest attempt to improve; but the change was made not in January or February when traffic was probably at its lowest; no, it was made on opening weekend of the 2008 season. This isn't just an accident of circumstance, it was pure stupidity and incompetence.
The act itself was the final straw for some longtime and hardworking bloggers who'd been with MLBlogs since the very beginning and were the lifeblood of its existence. Matt at Diamondhacks; Michael at Some Ballyard; and Russell at Arizona via Slough all left after that debacle and started their sites elsewhere. I hedged; I started a duplicate site at Blogspot, but maintained my presence at MLBlogs. For awhile, late last year, it looked like it would pay off. My blog was heavily promoted on the front page of MLB.com and on the homepage of MLBlogs; then it all just stopped.
The site was once a paid service of $50 a year; then, like that commercial for The Ladders, it went free and everyone and anyone started a blog. The quality work was caught up in people trying to sell stuff; starting a blog on whim and never contributing anything; ignorant fan rants; or just colossal self-promoting wastes of time. Just like that, the entire site was saturated and it diminished the quality even further.
For a brief while late last year, it appeared as if quality was being promoted intentionally by the administrators of the site. My blog, along with Jeff and Allen at Red State Blue State and Jane at Confessions of a She-Fan were featured regularly on the MLB front page and on the front page of the blogsite; then after the new year it became a free-for-all with random blogs who weren't putting in the time or the work to warrant the attention. The importance of promoting the selling of items or that interminable MLB Network took precedence over pure baseball talk and the result was the lack of traffic to qualified blogs such as mine and then led to my departure.
  • The rankings:
Whether or not you realize it, the rankings are twisted, manipulated and skewered. Certain blogs that make "stunning leaps" into the top ten are only there because they spent a week or so sitting on the front page of the MLB site. And just having web hits doesn't mean there's anyone actually reading the blogs. I haven't posted anything of note there in almost two weeks and my traffic is cut in about half from what it was. The people who read what I was writing came to my new site along with me. The other hits are either people who are looking for tickets to the Artist once again known as Prince in New York; want to find a photo of some player or person I've embedded into one of my postings; need information about Tim Lincecum's mechanics; or are googling some random person I happened to mention. Many times they're on the site for too short a period for them to register as having been on for any amount of time at all...but it's still a web hit. The spammer blog known as The Rumor Mill was a prime example of this phenomenon.
The Rumor Mill deserved credit for one thing: coming up with a clever, hittable title to draw traffic, but that doesn't mean there was anyone reading it, because there was nothing to read other than links to betting sites; ticket exchanges and other crap, but until recently, he was always at the top of the rankings because he got a lot of hits whether he was posting anything or not. If there are those who sit around and post comments all day on other blogs and Twitter; who are poring over the rankings to boost their own numbers for some kind of ego boost to be "number one", they either don't know or care that no one's reading the thing. And that's fact.
  • It was a losing proposition in which I was getting almost nothing of consequence from my participation:
After being a member in good standing (with the daily postings to prove it) for three years, it was easier to stay than it was to start my own site. I've owned the name PaulLebowitz.com since I got my publishing contract for my novel in 2000. I never did anything with it in the eight years since; but in looking at the traffic and who was reading my work, there was no reason for me to stay at MLBlogs if there wasn't going to be any promotion done for my work. No reason to sit there and waste my time when I could just let my loyal readers know where I was going and have them follow me.
What kind of an organization is so inept that they just let big news pass without promoting those that are discussing it? There are of course the huge stories like ARod and steroids that warrant their attention and a link from the front page of the blogsite, but do you know how many times I had to let them know that something big was happening in baseball and they needed to mention it on the front page? When Willie Randolph was fired from the Mets in the middle of the night, half of the next day had a series of links promoting "hot interleague matchups"; the manager of a huge market team had just been fired clumsily and this was what they were interested in promoting. That's either a case of people being asleep at the switch or just not caring about what they're doing; of looking forward to some other avenue for their career without paying attention to where they currently are or what they're doing; and just like eliminating my justified spot in the rankings, that's a self-centered and embarassing way to conduct oneself and if that's how they want to be perceived, as a flunky who's looking for a way out, then fine. But until MLBlogs gets it's house in order from the top, there's never going to be anything more than what there is now, whatever "it" is.

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