What became of the football blogging class of 2011?

14 Oct
blog titles

What happens when you put the title of every blog on the Guardian 100 list into Wordle

Concluding my three part series into football blogging this was meant to be a section.  On December the 31st 2011 James Dart of the Guardian published a list ‘100 football blogs to follow in 2011.’ It was a huge moment for blogging, more than just a moment of recognition it was an acknowledgement that football blogging had really transformed football writing..

The class of 2011 is in many ways blogging’s equivalent of Man U’s much lauded class of 1992; the pride of the blogging world, the freshest, the most promising. The question I wanted an answer to though is where are they now?

So I clicked through every blog in the 100. Just under four years on how many of the 100 are still active?

Guardian blogs 2

Just under half of the blogs featured on the list are still active. A similar number though appear inactive whilst a small number seem to  be dormant with their last post dating from August 2014. Interestingly some of the inactive blogs contained final posts which shed some light on the bloggers reasoning for calling it quits (and it will come as no surprise to those who have read the results from my blogging survey that time features particularly prominently).

In a post titled ‘The last post’ and dated Monday the 6th February 2012 Danny Last of European Football Weekends looks forward to a life beyond blogging when he says:

This will be the last post on European Football Weekends. But hey, don’t be shedding any tears – it’s been a thunderously good ride. At the start of 2012 I decided to take a little break from EFW, and see how things panned out. I’ve enjoyed that freedom so much that it now feels right to hang up the old keyboard. You don’t realise how much time it eats up until you stop. 

Other bloggers point to a change in their circumstances. For Tim Hill of the blog Talking About Football  2011 was definitely not the ‘year of the blog’ – on March 22nd of that year he explained his decision to quit blogging:

This is not a article  on how Tesla’s work on electromagnetism is subsumed within the football of Eastern Europe in the late 1970s. I wish it was, but it isn’t. No, it’s a post explaining the scarcity in posts recently.

Truth is, I’m engaged in work that has had me away from football since the turn of the year. To my knowledge, Roy Hodgson is still in charge at Liverpool, Gareth Bale is the best player in the world and Andy Gray & Richard Keys are respectable members of the Sky Sports team. I know no different.

I’ll be gracing the internet with my #newseriousness tag at the start of the summer.

Dominic Pollard was another blogger on the 100 list to quit in 2011. In a post titled ‘A Fond Farewell’ he says

Between having to finish my Masters dissertation and getting a new job, the time and focus is no longer there for me to continue running the blog with anything like the regularity and consistency that I would like. Thankfully there are many far better blogs than this which are thriving and growing all the time, all of which I intend to continue to read and recommend.

Rob Marr of dormant blog Left Back in the Changing Room, similarly points to a change of circumstances leaving him with less time to blog – though he signals his hope for a comeback. In a post on the 11th August this year he says:

I’ll be taking a bit of a break from the blog. Two weeks ago I became a father and, as you will either know or can imagine, this has left me previous little blogging time.

I shall return.
RCM
In all fairness it has only been two months, but will he like Danny Last  find the freedom from blogging liberating and move on, or find that he just doesn’t have the time to return? Time will tell.
Of course the story isn’t all doom, gloom and disillusioned, time-strapped bloggers. Some of the class of 2011 have gone on to greater things. Adam Bate, of the blog Ghostgoal – which is still (but only just) active writes in a post earlier this year about how blogging helped to open the door to a dream career:
I work for Sky Sports as a football feature writer. It’s my first full-time writing job. And yet, my dad is a retired mechanic from Wolverhampton. He’s not the editor of Sky Sports. In fact, I had no contacts in the industry. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I did have some contacts. I wrote a blog. I was a blogger.
For  at least 46 bloggers though they continue pretty much as they had done when they had been on the cusp of 2011 – still blogging.

Were you blogging in 2011, or were you one of the bloggers in the 100 list? If so please leave a note about your blog and how things have changed since 2011 – whether you’re still blogging, or enjoying life after blogging!  

The Geography of Fandom: The Three Levels of a Football Clubs Support

6 Oct

 

In an attempt to locate the boundary between the supporters of Southampton and Portsmouth (all evidence does point to Park Gate/Locks Heath) I carried out a small-scale survey which involved a total of 161 self-identified supporters of either club (87 Southampton supporters and 74 Portsmouth supporters). Using an online questionnaire I asked people which club they supported and the first half of their postcode. Despite some contraversy about Gosport and Emsworth this showed some interesting things about both sets of supporters and their geographic distribution

Supporter geography stacked bar

For both teams, a significant number of supporters resided within the city boundaries. In the case of Southampton this was 23.0% and Pompey 33.8%

A great deal of supporters also appeared to live in a relatively concentrated area. Taking the top four postcodes for each club reveals the extent of this. In Southampton this was SO18, SO16, SO19 and SO31 (all but one of which are within the city boundary) which were collectively home to 23.0% of Saints supporters. For Pompey the concentration was even higher with 27% of supporters calling PO2, PO4, PO3, or PO6 (all within the city boundary) home.

Looking at the areas surrounding each city 24.1% of Southampton supporters live in the SO postcode area and Isle of Wight while 25.7% of Portsmouth supporters came from the PO area outside the city. It needs to be considered however, that this area is geographically much larger and contains more postcode areas. In fact if we look at the density of supporters per postcode area within the city boundary and outside it there is a dramatic drop. If we treat the Isle of Wight separately there were in the survey are 4.2 responding Portsmouth supporters per postcode area within Portsmouth, however for the wider PO area outside the city (excluding the IOW) this drops to 1.0. Similarly for Southampton the figures are 3.3 and 0.9 respectively

amrnded postcode average

Looking further afield 52.9% of Southampton supporters reside completely outside the combined SO postcode area and the Isle of Wight. The figure for Portsmouth supporters beyond the realms of the PO boundary is a much lower 40.5%. In this category are both supporters from areas such as Guildford, Reading and the New Forest, but many also come from much further afield, as far as Singapore.

What all this tells us is that support for Portsmouth is much more localised – 59.5% of the support-base resides in Portsmouth, or the surrounding area, whilst this is 47.1% for Southampton. This is probably to be expected from a team in League Two as compared to a team in the higher profile Premier League and no doubt looking at teams such as Arsenal, Chelsea, or Manchester United we would see a much greater proportion of supporters from outside their geographic areas, while for Eastleigh and Havant & Waterlooville support is even more likely to be concentrated in a small geographic area.

This all led me to create my general theory of clubs support:

Essentially a club has three layers of support, support within the city (or in the case of other teams the town, or village), support from the surrounding area and support from outside the area.

Within the city

Within the city boundaries can be found areas of concentrated support. In many of these areas there will be visual reminders of the club such as, memorabilia in pubs and cafes, or murals in club colours. In the immediate area is the City, which in almost all cases gives the club its name. The club is close and features in peoples conceptions of identity. There are also however, some areas  within the city of very low support density – such as areas with a high number of students.

The surrounding area

Although a club can expect a similar proportion of its supporters to be from the area’s immediately around the city as from within the city boundary the level of support is considerably less concentrated.  There is less importance to identity, though there may be an importance in terms of those who previously lived in the city, or who work there. People in these areas may also be more likely to choose to support local non-league clubs, or to support a big club such as Arsenal, Liverpool, or Manchester United.

Outside the area

These are those who support the club, but who live outside the city and the surrounding area: The bigger the club, the higher the proportion of supporters from outside their area. Supporters may have old ties to the city having lived there, studied there, or worked there, or have a relative who fits into one of those categories. Similarly they may also hold an attachment to the club based on some kind of affection for an aspect of the side, or the way they play.

graphic support

A diagram to show the three spheres of a clubs support-base

 

I once read Wendy Fonarow’s (1995) ‘The Spatial Organization of the Indie Music Gig’ which looked at the make-up on an indie gig in terms of the mosh-pit, the middle and the back. In this all three groups felt a closeness for different reasons – those at the front, in the mosh-pit interacted with the music physically, those in the middle claimed to have the best acoustics and those at the back because they were the friends, families, roadies and sound-techs. In a sense people in all three areas can feel closeness to the club. Those in the city feel it is a core part of their identity; those outside the city feel that they are making a conscious choice to stay in contact with the city, choosing to support the local club despite having arguably greater freedom to wander. Those far away choose to support the club, either to feel a connection to the city, or else have demonstrated their support by choosing the club out of a whole plethora of other clubs they could have supported.

Super Blogs, Content Shock and the Blogging Eco-System

3 Oct

One thing which occasionally gets mentioned in discussions around football blogging is the subject of the super-blog, or the mega blog. There is though no definitive definition of what constitutes a super-blog, but it can generally be taken to refer to one a blog which receives a very large amount of visitor traffic compared to other blogs – in other words an outlier.

In the survey bloggers were asked for their usual numbers of visitors with the top category being 1,000+ visitors per day. In total seven bloggers reported visitors in this top category. In the category immediately below 500-999 there were only two bloggers and the category beneath this 250-499 only three. By contrast just under half of bloggers reported receiving less than 99 visitors per day.

Blog visitors

The disparity between traffic is made clear if we assume that the seven receive the minimum 1,000 views per day whilst each of the remaining 34 blogs (one response was a Don’t know) received daily views at the maximum end of their category ranges. This rough-reckoning suggests that between them the 34 receive a maximum of 7,116 daily visitors while the seven receive a minimum 7,000 visitors. Therefore at the very least the super-blogs account for just under half of total traffic.

As the survey is limited in length it is hard to tell what sets the super-blogs apart in terms of their characteristics. One possible explanation though is age. Older more established blogs may have an advantage in possessing a readership and to benefit from search engine rankings. All but one of the 1000+ visitors per day blogs had been run by a blogger who had run football blogs for at least three years, with three being in the 5 years plus category. This characteristic alone though did not distinguish them as there were many other blogs operated by bloggers who have been football blogging for five years and over who reported having visitors in the less than fifty category.

The key difference between these 1000+ view-a-day blogs and the rest of the field appears to be the frequency of posting. All four of the respondents who reported posting on a daily basis were running 1000+ visitor-a-day blogs and an additional two respondents among the group reported their posting frequency as being more than weekly, but less than daily. What’s more it appears that many of these are planning on increasing their activity levels. Five out of the seven reporting that they expect their activity levels to increase over the next twelve months.

Blog int by visitors

It is here that I want to introduce another concept, that of ‘content shock’. This is the term used by Mark Schaefer who blogs on marketing (this link was made by Jake on the blog The Inside Channel). To begin with Schaefer conjures up a golden age

Let’s say that in 2009 I spent 5 hours a week creating content that would be consumed by my blog readers. This was a happy time because not only was the content competition weak, consumption was dramatically increasing too — more people were piling on to the web, on to social media, and on to mobile devices that extended the amount of time each day they could consume content.

His argument is that now however, thanks to content multiplying far faster than our capacity to consume said content we are approaching (or have already reached) the point of ‘content shock’.

What this means for bloggers, as content producers, is essentially the law of diminishing returns; the same effort now produces less impact in terms of readers than previously. As one blogger in the survey mentioned their biggest challenge was

Being satisfied with far less pageviews than articles of comparable quality would get 3 years ago.

How then to overcome this? In a follow up to his initial post Schaefer discusses strategies for overcoming content shock, stating that:

The only sustainable content strategy is to find an unsaturated niche and overwhelm the web with so much quality content that search engines only discover you. Effectively, you are creating content shock for your competitors.

You don’t necessarily have to be the best content creator if you are in this situation, but you have to be first and overwhelming. This is an uneasy fact we don’t often discuss but it is true.

What he calls a ‘shock and awe’ approach would seem to be a strategy which many bloggers would find difficult; As we also know from the survey one particular issue among bloggers is time. Any individual blogger seeking to post daily is also very likely to quickly achieve burn-out and/or run short on ideas.

If we choose accept this part of Schaefer’s arguments it would seem that in this new landscape the blogs which are better adapted to the environment are the ones which are more of a collective endeavour and benefit from at least several writers, or a community of writers. In fact Chris Nee defines the super blog as

sites that are written by (a large number of) multiple authors and have a layer of editing

It is these blogs which can best produce the necessary volumes of quality content to thrive in the current landscape.

There are of course counter arguments. Another marketing expert Joe Pulizzi suggested that content shock is something which will not occur. Using the analogy of the newsstand (think the magazine section in a large WH Smith’s) Pulizzi points to the developing of niches. This mirrors a debate which is also ongoing in football blogging. Beyond a doubt there is more crowding-out than before, but as one blogger in the survey drew attention to some areas they feel are underrepresented.

There need to be more good club blogs, especially in the lower divisions.

Others have pointed to similar areas of underrepresentation, women’s football for instance and in my personal experience I also find the posts which receive most attention relate to Wessex League football, a level which appears to be comparatively free of bloggers..

Pulizzi is also confident that real quality can still rise to the top, but beyond this he also talks of innovation and new platforms. In the context of football blogging this ties in with a discussion about whether blogging is more than just the likes of WordPress and Blogger.

Returning to the issue of the super-blogs, are they a bad thing?  Not necessarily. Many super-blogs have achieved their positions quite simply because they are good, very good. Think IBWM which manages to present an alternative to the mainstream and has maintained a distinct identity. It more than fully deserves its super-blog status. Even if there are lots of blogs which are creating content shock, there will always be a niche so long as your only area of interest isn’t Arsenal’s tactics (or if it is you’d need to be a sublimely brilliant writer)

As Chris Nee also points out occupying niches has been blogging’s biggest achievement

Football blogging is, in some places, still doing what it’s always done: providing quality coverage of the game where nobody else is bothering

To sum up in an increasingly crowded blogosphere super-blogs are those which are best adapted to survival in the current cyber-ecosystem. There do though remain niches where smaller blogs can survive and even thrive. The fundamental question though is what motivates someone to blog? It would be disingenuous to say that bloggers shouldn’t care about hits, but chasing hits is for the vast majority of bloggers is clearly now a fools-errand. Bloggers need to be seeking a different over-riding purpose, whether that’s as the case of the Caribbean Football blog to raise awareness of Caribbean football, or if it’s ultimately simply a case of having fun.

Southampton U21’s 2 Norwich City U21’s 0: Monday 29th September 2014

30 Sep

DSCF3679

The U21 Premier League has had a rather short existence. Set up for the 2012/13 season response to several clubs simply abandoning structured reserve-team football for a regimen of behind-closed-doors friendlies between development squads’. The new league would focus on youth – hence the name U21 league – though a limited number of over-age players are permitted (three outfield players and the goalkeeper) .

Many games are still played away from public view – partly no doubt due to a concern that others will seek to poach the assets of the future, but the new league’s rules stipulated that at least three games must be played at the clubs main stadium “to enhance the matchday experience for the young players and fans.” 

One of the chief attractions of these games is always the chance to see future talent. To say I was one of the first people to see a legendary player – This is not unlike the kudos a music-lover achieves from seeing a band at a tiny venue before-they-were-famous. Of course this is always a retrospective pleasure as most of the names on the team-sheet will be unfamiliar, save for the one or two who have made a handful of first-team appearances.

The scorer of the first goal Harrison Reed, is amongst that number having appeared in the first team. His speculative shot taking a fortunate deflection to ensure it evaded the Norwich goalkeeper. Luck aside, it was a deserved goal and a deserved victory which was made certain by Jason McCarthy’s second half goal.

The players appearing tonight display undoubtable skill – as you would expect from products of the renowned Southampton academy. Among them Matt Targett who has been with the club since the age of eight – provided a solid defensive performance, while Omar Rowe on the left wing continually harried the Norwich defence.

Playing on the very turf of arguably the world’s top league the U21’s seem within touching distance of untold riches, of being millionaires. Yet, they are still, in reality, far away. According to the PFA around three-quarters of players who are with league clubs will be out of the professional game by the time they reach 21. 

For some young players the fall will be great. It was revealed recently  that 150 ex-players are currently in prison. Among them Michael Branch; change in manger was cited as being the root cause  in the case of his long fall from promising young player at Everton in the late nineties and which concluded with him being imprisoned in 2012 after a police raid had uncovered £50,000 worth of cocaine in his house

Many though will simply disappear from view, maybe playing non-league, maybe moving abroad, or simply hanging up their boots. In some cases the margin between success and failure can be thin, as well as arbitrary: Illness, injury, change of management, a bad choice can all end a career at this fragile time. A shot can be deflected away from the net as well as into it.

State of Football Blogging 2014: Survey Results

24 Sep

In a Guardian article listing 100 football blogs to follow in the new year published on December the 31st 2010 James Dart, looking ahead to 2011, posed the following question:

The year of the blog? Very possibly, especially with the current batch of outstanding sites out there which have grown, improved, developed and cross-pollinated in recent times.

Four and a half years on however, and the landscape appears different. Rather than looking to the future with optimism a number of high-profile bloggers have asked whether the era of the blog is over.

In an eloquent post Jonathan F of the blog Just Football asked the question Is football blogging dying? Or just morphing into something new? He observes:

I’ve seen many a debate on Twitter about The State of Football Blogging and, often, the reasons given by those who chose to pack it in fall into one of three categories: time constraints, it wasn’t going anywhere and/or it wasn’t fun anymore.

As any other blogger this is a topic I have many thoughts on, but seeing these debates gave me an idea. Rather than simply write a post outlining my views I decided to design a survey for football bloggers which would ask about their site, their plans for the future and their view of football blogging.


 

Methodology:

The questionnaire was hosted on Surveymonkey and was open to responses between the 31/08/14 to the 15/09/14. The survey was promoted via the WSC forum, the Singletrack mountain-bike forum and Twitter. To increase the response rate individual bloggers were then tweeted and invited to complete the survey. Lists of blogs were obtained from Twitter, Google searches and lists of top football blogs.

In total 42 bloggers completed the survey. As there is no definitive list of how many active football bloggers there are it is impossible to determine the relationship between the sample size and the overall population. The response data however, indicates that the 42 bloggers represent a reasonably wide spread of the football blogging community. There do though need to be considerations; firstly recruitment via Twitter may mean bloggers who don’t use Twitter are under-represented. Secondly there were, due to language issues, more of a focus (though not entirely) on English language blogs.


 

How long have you been running a football blog?

Blogging is a comparatively recent activity which has been facilitated by the growth of the internet. Of the two biggest platforms Blogger was started in 1999, dating its birth to the tech-boom, and was subsequently acquired by Google in 2003 – the year in which rival platform WordPress was first launched.

Of the 42 bloggers who responded 14 had been running a football blog for 5+ years, representing 31% of the total. In the scheme of blogging these can be regarded as seasoned bloggers. A further 14 had reported running a football blog for 3-4 years, representing 33.3% of the total. 13 respondent’s reported that they had been running a football blog for 1-2 years while only 2 respondent’s reported running a football blog for less than one year – a mere 4.8%

Length of blogging

This shows that just under two-thirds of football bloggers have been running a football blog for at least three years, while just over a third have been running a blog for less than three years. There also appears to be relatively few bloggers who are new to blogging.

There are two possible explanations for this. The first is that bloggers who have taken up football blogging in the past year are under-represented in the survey. New Bloggers may be less visible, particularly as search engines favour established blogs. They are also possibly less likely to be on Twitter and may even be less likely to complete a survey on football blogging.

The alternative explanation is that there are fewer people taking up football blogging. Those tempted to blog may also be put off by what appears to be a relatively crowded marketplace, or as one blogger explained “ Other formats are easier – photos on Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, etc – don’t take so much effort. Also, I don’t think blogs are perceived as “cool” any more, so people are less likely to start them.”


 

Blogging activity

Looking at bloggers current activity levels, the single highest number, 12, reported posting more, than monthly, but less than weekly. Only seven bloggers reported posting less frequently, and a similar small number, four bloggers, reported posting daily. Only a small minority of bloggers post daily – though as we will see these represent a distinct group.

Freq posting

 


 

Daily visitors

The profile of daily visitors is an interesting one. Twelve bloggers reported visitors in the lowest category, less than 50. This was largest amount for a single category, with the number of blogs roughly diminishing as the category for the number of visitors increased. Set against this however, was a small, but significant number of seven blogs who all received 1,000+ visitors per day.

Blog visitors

The key difference between these 1000+ visitors-a-day blogs (which can probably be regarded as the super-blogs) and the rest of the field appears to be the frequency of posting. All four of the respondents who reported posting on a daily basis were in the 1000+ group  and an additional two reported their posting frequency as being more than weekly, but less than daily.


 

Plans for the Next 12 Months

When asked about how they saw their their blogging activity changing over the next 12 months, the majority of bloggers indicated they anticipated this either staying the same, or increasing; Of this group 19 bloggers reported that they expected activity levels to stay the same with 13 expecting their activity levels to be increasing. By contrast only a small number, five, indicated they anticipated there being a decrease in their blogging activity whilst only three bloggers suggested they planned to stop altogether.

Change activity blogging

When asked why they were decreasing, or stopping altogether seven of the eight provided reasons. Three clear themes emerged from this. The most common reason was time which was provided by six of the group. Four of the group suggested that motivation, or general disillusionment was an issue with one blogger mentioning they had a “dwindling interest in football.” Two bloggers referred to lack of ideas, while one mentioned that there was no longer a need for their website.

Delving behind the headline figures comparing the bloggers who reported increasing their activity, to those reducing their activity, or stopping altogether produces some interesting results.

Burn out may indeed be an issue as it appears to be bloggers who have been blogging for at least three years who are more likely to give up – though equally some bloggers at that point are considering increasing their activity.

Blogging intentions by years

The next factor is current activity levels. Half of those who plan on decreasing their activity report posting at a rate of less than monthly. This suggests that they have either decreased activity already, or are more casual bloggers. By contrast all four bloggers who reported posting daily plan to increase their activity levels. Another five who plan on increasing their activity currently report posting on a basis of more than weekly, but less than daily.

Blog intentions by activity

Finally if we look at visitor numbers the distribution again appears similar – that is until we reach the 1000+ visitors-per-day group. It appears that these are by far more likely to be increasing their activity. In fact five out of the seven indicate they plan to increase activity over the next twelve months.

Blog int by visitors


 

Challenges

When asked to describe the biggest challenges facing their blog over the next 12 months, 31 bloggers responded. Interestingly the main challenges highlighted were very similar to the reasons provided by the bloggers who indicated they would be reducing their activity levels, suggesting there is a bit of overlap.

Blogging challenges

Time again emerged as the key issue, being mentioned by 12 bloggers. A particular issue is fitting the time for blogging in around other commitments. As one blogger stated their biggest challenge was “trying to find the time, fitting it in with my full time job”

In addition bloggers face the challenge of generating new, good quality and original content – something which can be particularly time-consuming. 8 bloggers referred to this as one of their main challenges.

A number of bloggers also referred to the challenges of increasing, or maintaining readership with 7 bloggers mentioning this as amongst their main challenges. Four bloggers referred to the challenge of maintaining their enthusiasm, or motivation.


 

Evolution

One suggestion which has been made is that bloggers need to innovate by using media such as video, or exploring other new content. When asked to pick from a list what they plan to over the next 12 months (if they do not do so already) bloggers provided the following responses:

innovation

The biggest single area was collaboration with other bloggers. 24 bloggers reported they were planning on doing this in the next 12 months. This covers things such as guest posts however, could also include other collaborative pieces such as the Football Attic’s League of Blogs where bloggers are invited to submit a design for a football kit and club crest. The second most popular item on the list was interviews, chosen by 13 bloggers while 9 bloggers selected podcasts and articles on other topics was chosen by 8 bloggers.


 

Too many blogs?

A common complaint of bloggers – though by no means a universal one – is that there are simply too many football blogs. Of the 42 bloggers in the survey just under half, 20 bloggers, stated that they felt there were currently too many football blogs. 8 bloggers felt there were the right amount while another 8 thought there was not enough. A further 6 responded that they were not sure.

Too many blogs

For those bloggers who feel the market is already over-saturated looking to the future would seem to provide little comfort. A clear majority of bloggers, some 24, indicated that they expect the number of football blogs in 12 months time to have increased. Only four bloggers predicted there will be a decrease.

One question however, is whether the issue is the number of blogs, or the type, as one blogger observed

There need to be more good club blogs, especially in the lower divisions. There need to be more in depth, researched pieces and less that simply provide match reports


 

Bloggers on blogging

When asked their views on football blogging in general 36 of the 42 bloggers provided a response. A number of over-arching themes emerged, with one of the biggest themes being discussion around the quality of football blogs. Though many bloggers agreed there were good quality blogs, they also suggested there were a significant number of poor quality blogs

There are lots of very good ones and ones that ‘need improving’ a lot ! Loads of good ones and loads of bad onesToo many want to do it, so the quality is diluted.A lot of very poor attempts out there. Few ideas on what they want to say and how they want to say it

One common complaint was that content was too “samey”

Some very very good lower league stuff, but also a lot of very commercial guff out there just regurgitating the same stuff over & over.

There’s too much generic stuff going on, while content theft is rife and nothing appears to be done.

Another blogger made the point that some of the issues with content may be due to bloggers peripheral status:

The same stuff everywhere. We have no access to write anything of value and everyone is too nice to players and teams

There were, however a few bloggers who were more unreservedly positive about football blogging and the impact of blogs, providing a good alternative to the mainstream.

I probably spend as much time reading football blogs as I do reading professional football journalism. There are some excellent writers blogging, and the best manage to combine a passion for a club, or a section of the sport, with genuine insight and wit.

Several other themes in the comments touched on bloggers motivations. Football blogging has been regarded by some as a route into the paid profession of sports journalism, and indeed there have been instances of bloggers making this transition. One debate is about how many opportunities that exist – likely to be very little – and whether over-saturation is making it harder for such writers to get noticed:

A lot of great young writers, struggling to get an opportunity to progress down to the lack of opportunities out there.

Although, the market is over-saturated at the minute and it is becoming harder for the higher quality bloggers to shine through, there is still opportunities there to turn blogging into a career in football journalism.

One blogger suggested that the solution is for aspiring football journalists to find a niche

if you are a football blogger and genuinely want to try and engineer a way into the journalism industry, my advice would be to write about things which are different and original.

Other bloggers though emphasised that blogging was purely a hobby – an activity which was an end in itself

Just fine. And also, who cares? If you do something for fun, what does it matter what anyone else thinks?

Not really about making money out of it, just the satisfaction of people reading and (if they feel moved to do so) interacting with it.

People need to blog more and tweet less and people need to be less concerned with hits and concentrate on the main point of it which is to enjoy it.

It’s saturated, sure, but unless you’re worried about making money—professional writing is a separate topic in my opinion—who cares?

This sense of corinthian spirit appears to also result in a general dislike of blogs which appear to prioritise revenue generating above quality. One blogger suggested that one problem was that blogging is..

saturated by people thinking they can make a quick buck, who quickly realise that you can’t unless you write deliberately misleading headlines – which many then do

Similarly there is some questioning over those who see blogging as a route to stardom

Too many people are writing to try and get hits and think they’re going to become the next ‘top football journalist’ and get themselves gigs on radio and TV.

In terms of bloggings relationship with other forms of media one blogger saw the relationship between blogs and the mainstream media as problematic, whilst another suggested that platforms are providing greater competition.

Mainstream publications are using bloggers more and more to fill their webpages and garner click-throughs and I think this is detrimental to the overall state of football blogging

Competition from other platforms (eg Twitter) and rise of MSM “blogs” (often unpaid or low paid writers who began by writing for their own blogs) means making an impact is more difficult

Within the blogging arena, the question of mega-blogs also came up, with a blogger suggesting that these had changed the spirit of blogging

Lots of good writers are generally overlooked in favour of ‘mega-blogs’ who favour hits over content. Very cutthroat and missing much of the comraderie of the initial boom. Acts as a metaphor for modern football, I suppose.

With thanks to all the bloggers who took part

Twitter Followers or Average Attendance?

18 Sep
In one of my recent articles I put forward the idea that average attendances have become less important as an indicator of a clubs level of support and potential. This is based on two things:
  1. As clubs income streams diversify attendance has become less reliable as an indicator of a clubs financial potential
  2. Attendances are subject to physical limits and therefore may not reveal the true differences in supporter bases between clubs
My view was that Twitter followers could be used as a measure for clubs wider support.
As a test of this I decided to run some simple tests of correlation using the following data:

Finance data from the 2014 Deloitte Football Finance League. This contains details of the revenues made by the top 20 revenue generating clubs in Europe, using financial information from the 2012/13 season.

Average attendances from the 2012/13 season

Current UEFA correlation coefficients

Twitter followers

 

UEFA coefficients:

The UEFA coefficient is in effect a ranking based upon a clubs results in European competition. Like the FIFA rankings it is based upon several years worth of results. Quite simplistically this measures a clubs success on the pitch. Taking the 20 money league clubs there is a correlation coefficient of 0.71 between a clubs number of Twitter followers and its UEFA coefficient (the maximum is either -1 or +1). This compares to 0.57 for average attendance. If we just took the top 10 money league clubs the correlation coefficient for attendance drops to just 0.34, compared to 0.69 for the number of Twitter followers.

correlation twitter 2

Revenue

Looking at total revenue for the top 20 the result is much closer. For the top 20 money league clubs the correlation between total revenue and Twitter followers was 0.66 compared to 0.60 for attendances. Again looking at just the top 15 the correlation coefficient for Twitter followers rises to 0.72 while for attendance it weakens to 0.54. Looking at just the top five however, the correlation between Twitter followers and revenues becomes an even stronger 0.93, compared to 0.50 for attendances. This seems to support the point that the number of Twitter followers better captures the differential between the top
clubs who thanks to physical constraints are all likely to have similar ground capacities, yet may have very different levels of wider support and therefore earning potential.

  • Correlation twitter
  • Conclusions
  • This brief analysis shows that when compared to average attendance the number of Twitter followers appears to be strongly correlated with clubs on field success and revenue generating ability. For revenue generation more so, when looking at the handful of top clubs.In both cases – success and revenue generating – it is reasonable to assume that both are related to a clubs profile in that successful clubs attract more support, while more support should lead to more success by boosting resources such as cash revenue.
  • There are a number of issues. Firstly Twitter (and other social media platforms) have different levels of penetration in different
    geographical areas, therefore English clubs may be over-represented compared to say, Eastern European sides where Twitter is not the dominant platform. This makes the figures less comparable than attendances. Data is also less available as unlike attendances, it is not (yet) routinely recorded.This though provides a challenge to find new ways. One possibility is to use a composite social media index which works across platforms. Survey data may also prove useful in determining the extent of clubs profiles.
  • Correlation Coefficients: UEFA Coefficient
  •                          Twitter Followers       Average Attendance 12/13
    Top 20                         0.71                               0.57
    Top 15                          0.67                              0.36
    Top 10                          0.69                              0.35
    Top 5                            0.82                              0.78
  • Correlation Coefficients: Total Revenue
  •                           Twitter Followers       Average Attendance 12/13
    Top 20                           0.66                             0.60
    Top 15                            0.72                             0.54
    Top 10                            0.65                             0.77
    Top 5                              0.93                             0.50

Saints and Pompey – Some more analysis

12 Sep

It seems that the map I posted the other day has generated a fair bit of interest. In the discussion which has taken place there have been some key points raised about the validity of the map and some further discussion about what some of the other figures reveal about both clubs support profiles. This post is to address some of these issues.

Gosport and Emsworth

Though these are both in red on the map, I don’t believe they are bastions of Saints support. In total there were 87 Saints supporters and 74 Pompey supporters who responded to the survey. Discounting the areas outside the SO/PO area this left 49 saints Supporters and 52 Pompey supporters.

As many of these were concentrated within the city boundaries themselves this meant that the results for some of the areas outside the respective cities could suffer from response bias. Undoubtedly increasing the sample size would resolve this, but at the end of the day the exercise was just meant as a bit of fun and not to be taken entirely seriously.

If this were to be a serious exercise with time and a budget then the best way to establish both clubs support in the region would be to take a stratified random sample which is based on each postcode areas overall population. To do this would need a complete as possible list of addresses, or phone numbers, some money and a lot of time.

Why don’t more people from surrounding areas support the teams?

Despite the relatively small sample size there were some interesting conclusions which has led to some interesting debate. The Emsworth/Gosport situation came about mainly because both teams support is concentrated within the city boundaries. Step outside of these and the number of people who identify themselves as supporters of either club diminishes.

I’ve gone back to the figures from the survey and separated the postcodes which constitute (in main) the respective cities: SO14 – SO19 and PO1 – PO6

In the case of the SO14 – SO19 postcodes this was home to 20 Saints supporters who responded to the survey, representing 23% of the overall support for the club. In PO1 – PO6 there were 25 Pompey supporters accounting for 34% of the total support for that club.

Looking at the rest of the SO postcode area there were 16 Saints supporters in the survey representing 18% of the total number of club supporters who responded to the survey and in wider PO area (excluding the Isle of Wight) there were 16 Pompey fans accounting for 22% of the clubs support. The Isle of Wight accounted for 6% of Saints supporters and 4% of Pompey supporters. Support from beyond the SO and PO areas accounted for a total of 44% of Saints following and 34% of Portsmouth’s. what this suggests is that while Pompey has a much more concentrated support base the Saints enjoy a greater share of support from beyond the region. In some ways this figures as a Premier League club invariably attracts more attention.

per cent from each area1

It needs to be remembered though that the geographic bulk of the SO and PO areas lies outside the two city boundaries. If we look at the number of supporters per postcode area we can see how dramatic the change is. Unlike the percentages the figures between the two clubs aren’t strictly comparable, but nonetheless provide a good indication of how the level of support diminishes.

amrnded postcode average

Within the Southampton itself there were, on average, 3.3 responding Saints supporters per postcode area. For Pompey there was, on average, 4.2 responding Pompey supporters within the city boundary. Step over the boundary though and in the wider PO area there was, on average 1 Pompey supporter per postcode and in the wider SO area the figure was 0.9.

The question this leads to is why is support so sparse outside the city boundaries, in places like Gosport, Emsworth, Hedge-end and Romsey? Undoubtedly there are plenty of fans from those areas, but if, as I have done you do the cyberspace equivalent of standing with a clipboard and collaring 87 Saints fans they are more likely to be from a postcode area within Southampton itself, or from a postcode completely outside the region than they are from Eastleigh. In fact the chance of them being from Eastleigh is quite small – hence the Gosport/Emsworth problem.

One explanation may be population. Southampton and Portsmouth are the largest cities in the region with (according to the ONS figures for 2012) populations of 239,428 and 206,836 respectively so it may be that more supporters can be expected to come from these areas than the wider region. This is a possibility, but the areas around the cities are also well populated Eastleigh Borough has a population of 126,764 Test Valley of 117,032 , Winchester 117,702 while Fareham and Gosport’s combined population is 196,078 and Havant’s is 121,271. The postcodes outside the cities are also larger to take into account population density.

The other explanation, and the one I favour, is that in both Southampton and Portsmouth, and particularly in those areas where support is strongest – older suburbs and estates the clubs are a much stronger force when it comes to peoples identities. In Millbrook Southampton, just near the Saints Pub, is a water tower on a block of flats painted in red and white stripes. On the other side of town, in SO19 there is a café named after a former Saints manager and also decked out in red and white stripes, and the windows of the Bitterne Park hotel in SO18 has recently acquired Saints crests on all the windows.

By contrast outside these heartlands, across the city boundaries, there are few visible signs of the clubs. There are also local non-league clubs like Eastleigh who have reached the Conference and Gosport and Havant & Waterlooville play in the Conference South. More than that though I believe that in places like Park Gate, Titchfield and Whitely it is not a case of choosing Saints, or Pompey. The choice is far more likely to be between Liverpool, Arsenal, Man United and Chelsea. People living in these in-between suburbs can, if they want follow any of these clubs closely on Television, or via a medium like Twitter – there is no need to go to the ground of one of the clubs which is closest geographically to see a game.

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