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NEW MEDIA AND METS FANS. | metsgrrl.com

NEW MEDIA AND METS FANS.

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This headline – from the Daily News – is causing a lot of outrage today. It’s causing fans to be angry and either harass Martino – known as @surfingthemets on Twitter – or to post collective grar at him. Who does he think he is! How dare he! What a douchebag! I myself stopped following Mr. Martino after a tweet during spring training in which he referenced “Future Yankee Jose Reyes” (and in the interests of full disclosure, I probably hurled some grar at him before I did).

The problem is: Martino’s story isn’t a bad story. It’s accurate. It’s well-written. It reads more like a well-written fan blog than it does a story filed by a professional sportswriter, but as someone who writes a fan blog, and who can skip writing about a particular game if I feel like it, I get where he’s coming from. The problem is that no one is reading the story. They’re RT’ing the link and people are clicking through and I’m sure his editor loves the pageviews he’s getting, but no one is reading the actual story. People are talking about him, but they’re not talking about how the story is oddly empathetic with the plight of Mets fans. They’re just calling him a douchebag.

I don’t expect, nor want, the beat writers who cover my baseball team – or any baseball team – to be fans of the team. It is tough to walk the line between being a fan and being an apologist. While a fan will bring you the years of history that you internalize, it’s tough to walk that line and know when that color is useful and when it’s starting to veer into homer territory. (Howie Rose does this the best in my opinion, but there is only one Howie Rose.)

People say that the problem is that Martino is a Phillies fan, and I don’t even know that that’s true–in fact, I’m pretty sure that it’s not true–but that’s not why he’s writing these kinds of headlines or Twitter posts. He’s writing them because he’s trying to get eyeballs, and it’s new media, and there aren’t a lot of rules in the AP Stylebook about what you should and shouldn’t do in new media. Newspapers are desperate for survival and survival means eyeballs and you get eyeballs by standing out. A headline reading “Mets Lose to Astros, 6-1” would make you yawn and go somewhere else. This headline made everyone click on it. Clicks equal money.

But this is a shortsighted strategy, because what the Daily News isn’t getting is readers who stick around, readers who click on other stories, readers who will think to read Martino first when they’re thinking about the Mets. The novelty of playing devil’s advocate wears off and only a small group of people with a lot of time on their hands has the kind of time to make Martino into a cause they will personally fight. The bounce rate – how many people went to this page and then left – on this story will be astronomical, and the News should care about that. And, you know, maybe they do–I don’t pretend to be part of their target demographic–and maybe they have studied this and someone on their social media team has told them that this is the right way to approach things.

There are writers — Steve Popper is a good example, in my opinion — who can interact with fans without patronizing them. I have disagreed with him on Twitter multiple times, but I still value his insight and still read him. He probably doesn’t have astronomical page views, but I bet his repeat visitors are higher, and stay longer than the do for Martino.

Or I could have spent too many hours in product development meetings this week.

If you want a writer to step up their game, then don’t read them, don’t follow them, and don’t react to them. Or if you do react to them, try to make it constructive a few times, and then move on. If you don’t like Martino, don’t give him the page views and don’t follow or RT him. Ignore him. Just like you would with any internet troublemaker.

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