Wednesday, December 02, 2015

"Is Facebook killing Blogger?": Emily Benham's opinion

“Is Facebook killing Blogger?” During the last years, I've been worried about this subject and decided now to explore it with your help. Let my give you an example, a kind of starting point: We have in Portugal a webpage lodged in the Portuguese Orienteering Federation's site, which is called OriOasis. It's kind of a “mini-World of O” site, where 23 Portuguese Blogs and Sites are represented. More than a half of them are completely dead and only six blogs have articles published in 2015. Five of them have 25 articles overall published along this year. The other one, Orientovar – –, has 390 articles published so far. Orientovar is my personal blog and I know what I'm talking about; but I also have to say that I have now around 80 visitors each day, while that number, three years ago, was higher than 400 visitors each day. At the same time, I can see that the “dead blogs” administrators, are still quite active on Facebook, which mean, probably, they moved their attentions from Blogger to Facebook in an almost definitive way.

So, I tried to listen some top bloggers about this subject, having their feedback about five questions (the same for everyone). Emily Benham, Catherine Taylor, Mikhail Vinogradov, Lizzie Ingham, Hans Jörgen Kvale or Jan Kocbach are some of the bloggers that, during the next days, will leave here their opinions. Of course, you're also free to participate, leaving your contribution on the Portuguese Orienteering Blog's commentary corner. We'll certainly appreciate that!

Looking for the Portuguese example above, do you feel the same with your blog and blogs around you? Is this a problem for you?

Emily Benham (E. B.) - I have certainly noticed many athlete blogs that are no longer active. It's a real shame because I think blogs provide a great opportunity for athletes to tell the story of their races, and other interesting things they've been up to. I also think, that in our small sport, it's a good place to promote sponsors in a small way. Society today tends to be a lot more 'here and now' than it was a few years ago, so race reports tend to be confined to just 149 characters on Twitter or via Instagram. I've always been a 'wordy' person, so I still like to write about my races on the blog (often in 1000 words or more!). In 2015 however, I was often quite slack and didn't write anything for a week or two post race - because I'd already done that work on social media. I don't think we've had less hits on our website, but there are definitely posts that seem to attract more readers. It's been interesting to note the difference between SkiO and MTBO in recent years. Both Hans Jørgen and I have been near the top of our sports, but we often had more hits for HJ's occasional SkiO posts than for my fairly regular MTBO reports. It's often struck me that more Ski Orienteers are using social media and blogs. In MTBO, the number seems to be far fewer - amongst the top ten women only myself and Susanna Laurila have blogs, but Susanna hasn't written anything for a few years. It would have been great to read about Martina's gold medals from her perspective; or Gaëlle's mistakes in the Middle Distance that still led to gold; or even Svetlana's fight for silver.

I also think an important role of the blog and race reports is to show to developing athletes something about our thoughts about races, our mistakes and our training. Giving others something to aspire to and motivated to achieve themselves will hopefully raise the competitive field in future years, and allow us all to develop further as athletes.

Have you an Orienteering Facebook page? Could you tell us about your experience in having both Facebook and Blogger?

E. B. - Our Facebook page takes all of our Twitter, Instagram and blog feeds, and promotes it on Facebook for us. I often forget it's there!

Is it clear that, being Facebook a quick way to talk about Orienteering, it's also the best way to promote our sport? Is Blogger condemned to be extinguished?

E. B. - I think there will always be a space for blogs. Interviews with athletes, and post race analysis 'World Of O' style. MTBO really lacks a site where all the blogs, social media feeds and websites feed into it. I'm sure if this were the case, and we had a 'go to' site to find all the latest athlete generated info, we would be in a better situation in terms of sponsors, promotion, athlete idols etc. I actually no longer see Facebook as the best way to generate interest in anything. Whenever I browse my FB feed, it's full of rubbish; people sharing videos that are often neither interesting nor tasteful; or lots of (very) opinionated political statements. There rarely seems to be anything happy and joyful there - mostly negative comments or news. I think people often click and view the things they are already interested in, so I don't see that we 'the MTBO community' can use FB effectively right now to generate interest from other users groups.

Did you ever felt the wish of stop writing?

E. B. - Not at all. I wish there were more blogs out there in the MTBO world to read. There are only a handful of users who post their maps to DOMA post race. It's becoming increasingly difficult to stay in the MTBO world and I often feel like we are just individuals who attend events, race and go home. Sometimes it doesn't feel like there is a community to support outside of events. We should be making a bigger deal of our national champions, we should all know who won the Russian sprint champs, or the Finnish long distance. Without valuing these achievements within the sport, it will become increasingly difficult to attract sponsors to support us: as individuals, teams, or event organizers.

Ultimately, that's what writing comes down to. The promotion of 'I' on personal sites and social media, and the promotion of 'we' on journalistic blogs such as the Portuguese Orienteering Blog. It's about allowing others a view into our secret world - whether that's friends and family at home, or a wider public who may develop an interest in following or participating in our sport.

Have you some general ideas about Communication in our sport that you would like to share?

E. B. - I've started getting into cyclocross this year. It's never been a branch of cycling I've considered before, but last winter, when fed up of snow and cold, I started watching their World Cup races and following the athletes on Twitter and Instagram. Every day, my feeds were full of the latest mud fest, race wins, and crashes. Videos were shared, cheering spectators thanked and more and more media and public interest was being generated. All of those factors made me think this was something fun to do, so I tried it. I'm utterly sh*t at it, but I finish with a smile under all the mud. The reason I've kept going back, just for fun, is because I am continually bombarded with CX posts on social media. Every day it's on my mind at some point of the day, much as XC is in the summer months and fatbiking in the winter, mostly down to those frequent posts. If it weren't for following these athletes, my feeds would be pretty empty, and I wouldn't find much else to be inspired by.

I would love to find myself inspired and motivated to do MTBO every day, through the posts of other athletes; to see the cool places they train around the world and the amazing trails that make me want to ride there too.

I hope that we aren't losing athletes after junior level because there are other interesting sports out there that are at the forefront of their attentions day in day out. I really hope that the next generation are inspired by MTBO thanks, in part, to the work put in by athletes now who are active on social media. We've made a start, but we can do a lot more!

Joaquim Margarido

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