From My Mom's Basement: Mark Cuban's Take on Internet Writers

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban never has trouble getting his name in the headlines. Ninety nine percent of the time, I love the antics he throws out for the sports consuming public. Storming onto the court to argue with a ref or bashing the league publicly and paying their cute little fines, it doesn't matter to me. The guy is a self made man, and he is exactly the type of sports franchise owner I would be if I had $754 billion or whatever he's got.

Sometimes, however, his logic escapes me. Like tonight when, via Twitter, I ran into his latest post on his blog saying that internet writers have no place in the locker room of sports franchises. To see an owner who made his fortune giving people the new technologies they craved so badly pull this, not only did this catch me bit off guard, it was supremely disappointing.

Make the jump to find out why. It's another lengthy one, folks. Buckle up.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's another in a long book of blogger vs main stream media, right? Wrong. His argument is not the typical, "Any idiot can start a blog, so why should we let any of them hacks in here?" type argument. Some of his logic is actually surprisingly sound. It's the conclusions he draws from that logic that fail him.

His argument against internet writers... sorry... paid internet writers, seems to be that all internet people are looking for is hits and don't care about the quality. In fact, he writes almost that exact statement:

The internet reporters who get paid , IMHO , are to the Mavs and any sports team, the least valuable of all media . I'm a firm believer that their interests are not only not aligned with sports teams like the Mavs, but in fact are diametrically opposed.  They tend to look at the number of page views they get for any article as ‘their ratings". More is better. Which in turn leads them to gear their work towards generating more pageviews.    

Correct. Those people are out there, Mr. Cuban. The vast majority of them write for Bleacher Report and Hockey Buzz (or whatever the basketball equivalent is), but they most certainly are out there. There also those of us who care deeply about the quality of our product, sir. Care so deeply that we have walked away from stories guaranteed to get hits simply because we knew the quality just wasn't there. We do exist, sir. I promise.

Moving down his post, Mr. Cuban fleshes out the difference between the newspapers, TV, and internet writers covering his team. He says newspaper writers absolutely have to be let in:

Newspaper has to be in the room. I know this is counter intuitive to some, but it is a fact. Why ? Because there is a wealthy segment of my customer base that does not and will not go online to find out information about the Mavs.  If I don’t have a PRINT beat writer and /or PRINT columnist showing up and writing about the Mavs, both sides lose.

Agreed. There is an unfortunate portion of your fan base that will not go online for Mavs coverage. They will only go to the newspaper. But are they all wealthy? What about your poor customers that only read the paper? Or your blue collar family that reads the paper at work, but can't afford an internet connection?

On the flip side, what about your customer that only goes online for their news? Shall they not be entitled to independent coverage of the Mavs? They should only get team created content? 

Mr. Cuban also makes the same argument for TV. They have to be in there, because they provide an invaluable service to the fans and the team. Agreed, they certainly do. Games on TV wouldn't be much without, you know, the TV station.

However, then we come to the internet writers, sorry... paid internet writers, and all hell breaks loose. Mr. Cuban feels these writers are all, yes all, no better than TMZ, and that they all, yes all, are only there to garner hits and use their access to increase their page views.

Questions for Mr. Cuban here: Are newspaper reporters not there to help sell newspapers? Are the TV folks not there to increase ratings? Do you, Mr. Cuban truly believe those people are there for the greater glory of the Mavs? I guarantee the Dallas Morning News doesn't cover the Mavs because you want them to. They cover the Mavs because their readers want them to. 

Do you think that Fox Sports, TBS, ESPN, and whoever the heck else covers basketball pay millions for the rights to the Mavs because the Mavs want them to? No, sir. Their viewers want them to, and that makes their ad price go up. They honestly could not care if the Mavs were on or open wheel racing, as long as people will watch, they would put it on the tube.

One of my favorite passages?

I’m not saying that all questions and columns are bad. But it is much, much harder to find the good. It is rare for me to encounter an article/post on one of the sites and think to myself " that is really good for us". And that is from a franchise that has won 50 or more games for more than a decade. I can’t imagine how other teams feel.

That was really good for us. It's not about you, sir. It's not. I promise you, on everything holy, it's not about you. It is about them. It's about them and their relationship with their audience. What you think of it doesn't cross their minds. Nor does it to the newspaper reporter, nor to the TV announcer. Their job does not hinge on you being happy. It hinges on their editor, and their audience being happy.

Same goes for the good internet writers you are having such a difficult time finding. You're a rich man, Mr. Cuban. Hire it out. I work cheap. I can find you the good sites, and weed out the bad sites. It takes about three minutes and a basic reading level.

This is where it all falls apart for him.

So  why do we let them in the door ? What value do they serve to the Mavs ? Its not like they are journalists. They are Fox News/MSNBC for sports.  They may be popular, for now, but whatever benefit they served 4 or more years ago seems to have quickly disappeared.

What value do they have to the Mavs? None, except that they serve an audience that includes your fans. They're not journalists? You're right. Some of them aren't. Don't let them in. It's not that hard to tell the difference.

Unlike TV and Newspaper,  I have access to reach their online audience. Not only do I have access, but so does each of my players through their own twitter and facebook accounts. Why not just use twitter, Facebook fan pages, Mavs.com and  or our own media platforms to communicate with online Mavs customers and fans ? How many customers and prospects could we possibly be missing  by losing internet writers ? And could we just spend money to reach whatever of their audience we don’t currently cover ?

So, you have the money to access the fans via the internet, but not via newspaper or TV? You're a freaking billionaire. Buy a newspaper, give some people some jobs and get the coverage you so desperately want. Buy a TV station while you're at it.

How many customers and prospects could you lose? Any number of them that you will never, ever hear from, sir. They will just turn and walk away. 

By competing with them as an information source, can we pre empt their negativity with information that does a better job of selling the Mavs ?

By leaving them out of the locker room and organization, do we reduce their ability to have a negative impact on players ?

On the first question, no, you can't preempt their negativity. Sorry. A constant flow of sunshine and rainbows isn't going to cut it. No employee of the franchise can ever be objective. I love the work of the Wild PR team, and that of Glen Andresen on Wild.com. Do I think I am ever going to get the non-butterflies and cupcakes angle from them? No. I don't expect to. If I suddenly read a post from Glen blasting the team, I would ask him if he just got fired.

If a site is constantly negative, people will walk away from that as well. It's the truth they want. Tell us the story the way it happened. Don't sugar coat it, and don't lace it with arsenic either. Just tell us what happened. Add some analysis, and some opinion, and we'll flock for more.

The Point

The point here is, Mr. Cuban blasts paid internet writers because they want to increase hits. What if they aren't paid by the hit? And how much do they have to be paid before they go bad? I get paid. Not much, but I get paid. Am I evil? Or am I still good because I have to have another job and can't dedicate 100% of my time to the coverage my readers deserve?

Is Hockey Joe evil? Is Greg Wyshynski? Is Travis Hughes, NHL editor for SBNation? I need a scale rating where the evil seeps in, so I can try to avoid it. 

After labeling internet writers as TMZ, Mr. Cuban gives examples of TV stations that are useless, yet TV still gets to come in. What about the National Inquirer? Do they not tarnish the honor of the glorious newspaper? 

No, neither of those things happen because the StarTribune is not the National Inquirer, and Fox Sports is not Fox News. But Mr. Cuban somehow finds the differences there. There are some 700 channels out there. How does he sort through them all? How does he read every single newspaper in the country to know where the good and bad papers are?

Wouldn't want any of them getting access to his his pride and joy, right? I mean, after all, what value do they provide to him?

Love ya, Mark. On this one, you're wrong.


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