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Are Athlete Blogs in Trouble?

1/20/2009
Athlete blog networks support a large portion of the industry. Getty Images

Are athlete blogs about to take a hit in 2009 during the current financial crisis? Not according to the two places that house close to 100 of them, who denied rumors of their demise.

Yardbarker, which has had over 80 athletes contribute blog postings since their inception, including the likes of Greg Oden, Rajon Rondo and Donovan McNabb, has recently made some fiscally-minded moves to prepare for a softer ad market in 2009. Though the company lays claim to the largest and most varied pool of athlete bloggers on the Net, it is also buoyed in large part by the Yardbarker Network, which supplies advertisements to 638 sports blogs across the Web.

"Market conditions are certainly tough right now but our business is on solid ground," said Yardbarker CEO Pete Vlastelica. "Our investors are supportive and despite the softer advertising market that everyone is anticipating in 2009, Yardbarker brings a lot of uniqueness to the table. We're in good shape to take advantage of all the great opportunities ahead."

Like Yardbarker, Weplay in part features athlete blogs, but its main catalyst is a youth sports social community.

In a recent phone conversation, Weplay CEO Steve Hansen said any rumors of the company being in trouble financially could be summed up with the slight variation of the famous Mark Twain quote:
"Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated." Hansen pointed to the multi-million dollar round of funding Weplay received in 2008. He also noted 2009 will only be "bigger and better" for the Web site.

So what do the rumors and responses mean?

First, that all sectors of sports, from MLB team payrolls to companies that have athletes Blackberrying in their blog posts, has been hit by the financial crisis.

Second, that if these companies were to belly up, there would be around 90 athlete blogs looking for a home. That's a pretty sizeable chunk of the market.

Weplay's association with the Creative Artist Agency supplies them with 10 current or former athlete for their youth sports social community, including the likes of LeBron James, Derek Jeter and Tony Parker. Their blogs within the community are oftentimes slow to update, so if Weplay were to close its Web doors most blogs would be gone for good, perhaps save for Jennie Finch, who maintains her own personal blog.

Yardbarker is more of a mixed bag. Though some of the bloggers do come from agencies, a good chunk come independently and others also maintain their own personal blogs that are aggregated through Yardbarker.Chris Cooley is one such example.

And most of the best and brightest athlete and exec bloggers, Rod Benson, the aforementioned Chris Cooley, Mark Cuban, Paul DePodesta until recently, Curt Schilling to name a few, blog independently, relying on nothing more than Blogger.com to keep their thoughts coming.

Bottom line: If an athlete is truly interested in blogging, and disseminating their thoughts to the masses through such a channel, there will always be a place for it on the Web.

Elsewhere …

Mark Titus rarely sees the floor for the Ohio State Buckeyes. This season, he's averaging one minute of playing time a game. So, where does his mind wander when he's on the bench? To Erin Andrews, of course:

"Last night we beat Indiana in a game that I admittedly had no idea was going on until there was about five minutes left in the first half," he writes. "It goes without saying that there was one reason and one reason only why I was so distracted during the game, but I'll say it anyway. My main squeeze, Erin Andrews-Titus, was in attendance and looked like a trillion dollars."

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It's been a while since Dodgers outfield Andre Ethier has dropped a restaurant review on his blog. But, he's finally back as he hit up Fry Bread House in Phoenix. And he really, I mean really, dug the place:

"As I began to think that my taste buds couldn't handle anymore pleasure, a grand smell of flour, water, and lard all FRIED refocused my attention and reminded me of what I was here for," he writes. "The fry bread with red chile on it. As it sat in front of me, I couldn't hold back and had to dig in."

"The bread was so soft and gooey as I tore into it, it simply melted in my mouth. The red chile, no mistaking here, is done the right way. I would say now 'Forget the tortilla, bring me the fry bread.'"

"As I left this place and began to drive off with an exalting smile, I couldn't help but come to terms with the feeling that this might have been my best meal of the last year."

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If there is any knock on super scrapper David Eckstein, it's that the media is a bit too obsessed with his heart, hustle and grindiness and sometimes graze over his stats.

With the Padres recently signing him, Paul DePodesta wrote about it on his blog, and though he did drop some stats, he brought up Eckstein's attitude as well:

"Over those years he compiled a .284/.351/.361 line (including two World Series rings) while establishing his reputation as a winning player," he writes. "David is a true grinder who is a very tough out and does all the little things well—a great example for our younger players. We expect him to play primarily 2B in 2009, which was his position in college and throughout the minor leagues.

Even DePodesta, a Beanie-ite and the stathead of all statheads, can't help but be enthralled with Eckstein's grindy attitude.

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