New Orioles policy provides bloggers limited ballpark access
There's no cheering in the press box, but there is plenty of blogging taking place there thanks to a new Orioles policy for the 2011 season.
The team is credentialing Baltimore's baseball bloggers on a daily basis throughout the year, providing press box access to two bloggers per game, with the exception of Red Sox and Yankees games when only one blogger pass is available due to space restrictions.
Bloggers will typically not have access beyond the press box; however, the team will host an event in May that allows invitees on to the field level during batting practice and provides them the opportunity to interview a player as well as a member of the Orioles staff.
"We recognize that fans are getting news and information about the team in different ways than they were five years ago," says Orioles PR Director Monica Barlow. "Interacting and having good relationships with bloggers not only helps the team but helps the blogs as well."
Approximately seven to nine blogs are currently part of the Orioles' credentialing process. The team's general criteria when considering blogs for press box access include that the sites are Orioles focused, are updated regularly, and have an established track record for producing content. Barlow says the team also looks for balance in the content, meaning they are "not 100 percent pro-Orioles all the time, but also not taking unecessary shots at the team."
Barlow notes that blogs are a regular topic of conversation among PR directors at baseball's winter meetings. The majority of teams have relationships with blogs in some form, she says, with blogger nights at the ballpark being a popular option. Space restrictions tend to limit press box availability.
The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), which is owned by the Orioles and Nationals, has hosted bloggers nights at Camden Yards during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Attendees have had the opportunity to view MASN's behind-the-scenes operations, to meet the team's television personalities, and to watch the game from MASN's luxury box. In 2010, bloggers met and interviewed Orioles President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail at the event.
MASN is featuring guest bloggers - including Camden Chat, Roar from 34, Dempseys Army, and Oriole Post - on its website in 2011.
MASN's efforts are operated separately from the Orioles' Communications Department, which handles the credentialing process.
"I think the Orioles started off on the right foot with bloggers. The two blogger nights held in the MASN suite along with press box access last season was a nice gesture," says Stacey Long of Camden Chat. "I was hoping that access would expand this year, and I'm disappointed and frustrated that it hasn't. Sitting in the press box is a nice experience, but without additional access to the team it doesn't do much to enhance my coverage of the Orioles.
"I understand the trepidation in providing access to bloggers - after all, anyone can set up a blog, it doesn't mean they deserve press credentials - but other clubs, including the Washington Nationals, have done so for a number of established blogs," Long adds. "I believe the Orioles need to determine criteria that blogs must meet, whether it be years in existence, web traffic, whatever, and then, if they meet it, they're in. I believe that not far in the future this will be common practice, and it'd be great if the Orioles were on board early."
In 2010, the Orioles allowed one blogger per game into the press box during a June homestand against the Marlins, Nationals, and A's. The blogs that participated in that trial run were Baltimore Sports Report (Zach Wilt), Camden Chat (Stacey Long), Baltimore Sports & Life (Chris Stoner), The Loss Column (Neal Shaffer), Oriole Post (James Baker), Camden Crazies (Daniel Moroz), and Roar from 34.
Based on the success of the initial effort, the team extended regular access to bloggers in August and September last season. This is the first time that bloggers will be credentialed for a full season.
"Blogs are produced by fans and by people who genuinely care about the team. Many use a professional approach and take what they do seriously," Barlow says. "Blogs are not just a passing fad; they're something that's here to stay."