Sports Radio Boston – Josh Nason – The War Has Just Begun

Boston Sports Media Notes: The Content War Has Just Begun

Other than the Revolution, this picture is fine.

In the span of just a few years, the sports media that covers our little sports nation of Boston has evolved from a sniping, angry mob made up of just a few major newspapers, TV stations and some minor radio influence into a multimedia world of collaborative wonder that has become a cash cow of its own.

And that world is going to get some more residents before it’s all said and done…and soon.

The Landscape

With the explosion of the internet and the de-evolution and financial ruin of print journalism both running point, the Boston sports media market began to take advantage of fan furor following the New England Patriots first Super Bowl win, parlayed that with not one but two Red Sox World Series victories and continued to turn it on after the Celtics’ latest return to glory.

During this period, the media members entrusted to present us with the inside track became stars themselves. Sure, we knew people like Dan Shaughnessy, Bob Ryan, pre-ESPN Peter Gammons, Ron Borges, Bob Lobel and others because they provided polarizing opinions and became standout characters when the newspapers still mattered.

However, it’s completely changed now, hasn’t it? WEEI boasts Glenn Ordway and his groupWEEI Sport Radio Boston 850 of merry-yelling-men, John Dennis, Gerry Callahan, Mike Adams, Dale Arnold and sportswriter transplant Michael Holley. Comcast Sports Net has Mike Felger, Gary Tanguay and Greg Dickerson leading the charge, while NESN nearly completely focuses on its game-coverage talent like Tom Caron, Kathryn Tappen and to a much-lesser extent, the Cole Wrights and Heidi Watneys of the world.

But when competition increased, so did the desire to partner. WEEI and Comcast Sports Net created dual roles for talent and Caron can also be heard on their airwaves.

The Globe’s Tony Massarotti, Amalie Benjamin and Nick Cafardo can be seen doing analysis on NESN for Red Sox games, while Gordon Edes – now with Yahoo – has been doing some additional in-studio analysis. The Herald’s Steve Buckley and Sean McAdam also can be found all over the TV and radio dial.

And I haven’t even got to the local TV station talent like Butch Stearns and Steve Burton or the ex-jocks like Scott Zolak, Lou Merloni, Steve Nelson or Fred Smerlas or the proliferation of blogs like this one or even the web content each of these media entities push so heavily these days.

It’s exhausting to think about, but it’s our reality – one that has now spilled over full force into web-driven content and the looming mothership of ESPN ready to touch down for first contact.

But Wait, There’s More!

While news of a print writer leaving for a website isn’t surprising news these days, it was seen as somewhat of a shock when Globe Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss announced he was joining the staff of ESPNBoston.com – yet another new entry into the already-crowded Boston sports content field. The ESPN microsite is going to follow suit from their successful ESPNChicago.com site, featuring all the news, stories and highlights that Boston fans want to hear.

Bill SimmonsGrabbing Reiss as the first major defector was a smart move, as will be utilizing former local talents like Bill Simmons (seen here), Michael Smith and Gammons for what we hope will eventually be original content (even though Simmons recently Twittered that he will be providing repurposed content for now). The site launches on September 14th – aka Patriots kickoff weekend.

This comes weeks after the launch of a new FM sports station – 98.5 The Sports Hub – as a direct competitor to WEEI. While the sports radio giant has had challengers before, this one comes backed by CBS Sports and started strong out of the gate by pairing Felger with Massarotti and Tanguay with Zolak, anchored by being the flagship of both the Patriots and the Boston Bruins.

So with four major teams and only so many hours in the day, you have two choices for radio, several for television and way too many for written content. And don’t forget about us bloggers and podcasters who keep knocking on the door of relevancy trying to get an invite into the dance. We do a great job at filling in the holes between the big rocks, but still there are way too many of us out here – Boston and beyond.

And amidst all of this? We forgot about you – the fan who all of this is intended for, the rare few that look for opinion rather than try to find an outlet to state your own.

Ultimately, all of the stations and networks and websites are trying to attract your business and hopefully, keep you engaged enough to come back and tell your friends. Is it too much for you? Honestly, it feels like it at times, even for a guy like myself who loves this stuff.

At some point, you simply cannot commit the time to take all of it in or else you’ll fall over in a crumbled, twitching heap due to content overload. (Make sure you leave a comment before you keel over, okay?)

I feel like in a lot of ways, we are at the breaking point and it needs to become more about quality of content rather than quantity. Do we really need ESPNBoston? No, but from their perspective, it makes sense and if they can connect with fans using their massive tentacles and resources, they’ll do just fine.

If not, there will be a rush to the e-door to take their place.

What’s now and what’s next?

Sadly, there is one aspect of this grand landscape that is getting left out: local media.ESPN BOSTON SPORTS RADIO Suddenly, your local sportscaster, columnist or radio station doesn’t compare to the big guns in the 617, do they? With WEEI’s expansion into more New England markets via mirroring and with cable/internet in practically every household that matters, what’s the incentive to go anywhere but with the big media stars who can get the big name that we want to hear from?

Honestly, I don’t have a good answer but there’s still something about the whole situation that saddens me. I grew up in a desolate area in Western Maine, so the local media was everything I had. I couldn’t get WEEI or anything near resembling a Boston sports station and fell asleep every night to WFAN out of New York thanks to the weird way radio waves work. These days, this 31-year-old guy is now a dinosaur.

As the silent war between these media powerhouses gets more intense and more ‘soldiers’ are drafted into the fray, always remember that ultimately it’s your choice as to who gets your eyes and ears. Make sure that no matter when you tune in or click, it matters.

Josh Nason is the main writer for Small White Ball, a New England-based sports and media blog on the MVN Network. Reach him via Twitter or josh [at] smallwhiteball [dot-com].

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