SBJ/Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2011/Franchises

Revolution to credential independent fan bloggers

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In a push to become the most blogger-friendly team in Major League Soccer — a league that already welcomes the blogosphere — the New England Revolution has reached out to independent Boston-area fan bloggers, offering media credentials and regular spots in the pressroom for the 2011 season.

In an e-mail to Boston-area bloggers, communications director Lizz Summers asked writers to “open lines of communication” with the organization to boost content on the team’s website, Facebook and Twitter pages. “We’re more than happy to give you full media access, but we just ask that you remain professional in your interactions while presenting yourself,” Summers wrote in the e-mail. “This is the number one area where we will impress on nontraditional media.”

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According to Summers, a blogger must show that he or she regularly writes about the team and is willing to adhere to the team’s policies on etiquette to obtain a credential. On Feb. 9, the team will meet with bloggers to discuss pressroom policies and etiquette. Summers anticipates between 25-30 writers to attend the meeting. The Revolution kicks off its season March 20.

The Revolution previously had no formal policy for independent bloggers. Summers reserved credentials for a handful of established blog sites, such as Examiner.com and AmericanSoccerNews.net, and occasionally awarded single-game credentials to independent bloggers, but only after vetting the applicant’s work.

“We usually took the organizational stance of the Patriots, and they don’t allow [fan bloggers],” Summers said. “We never did formal outreach to see how many people were writing about the team.”

According to Revolution COO Brian Biello, the rising influence and strong opinions of local blog sites changed the team’s stance. Biello said his communications team regularly reached out to independent bloggers to correct factual errors. Bringing bloggers into the media room, Biello said, is a way to combat the issue.

“I have no problem with opinion, but we want to make sure they’re crafting their opinions around fact and not assumption,” Biello said. “This is a vehicle where we can help them fact check.”

The NHL allows teams to set their own credential guidelines, and the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals both allow independent bloggers in the pressroom on a game-by-game basis. The Capitals request each blogger provide website traffic data and a summary of previous writing experience.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber hosts an annual “bloggers roundtable” at MLS Cup to discuss policies for its online writers, and the league allows clubs to set individual policies for offering credentials to online writers. Representatives from the San Jose Earthquakes, FC Dallas, Chivas USA and MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids say they allow independent bloggers access to credentials on a case-by-case basis, but do not actively reach out to blogging communities and don’t give them regular spots in the pressroom.

Brian Smith, 27, operates the Revolution soccer blog TheDrugIsFootball.com, which nets roughly 1,500 monthly unique visitors and which he describes as “a blog that is very skeptical.” A machinist with no formal journalism training, Smith said he supports the Revolution’s outreach and will attend the Feb. 9 meeting.

“I’m not going to let them tell me what I can or can’t write,” Smith said. “Right now I have no access, so [credentials] can only make things more interesting for me.”

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