Archive | October 2014

Survey results: who in the world blogs and why?

Why I blog word cloud

Why I blog word cloud

If ever a survey deserved a century, it was the cricket blogger survey. Unfortunately, it was sawn off a couple of quick singles short. This first post on the survey results looks at who those 98 respondents are. For those of a more academic bent, a short post on the sample and method has also been prepared.

I start the profiling of cricket bloggers with a review of how else they are active in the sport. Over half regularly attend matches, with 37% playing regularly. The overlap of blogging with professional coverage of the game is evident with 29 doing some paid writing and 15 involved in broadcasting. The range of activities cricket supports and inspires is captured by the ‘other’ category which includes historians, book collecting, gambling, consultancy to sponsors and advice to national cricket boards.

Cricket involvement-page-001

Most bloggers, sooner or later write about their formative cricket experience. By asking a question about which match started their passion for the sport, I have been able to derive how long ago that happened and what type of match first grabbed them. The chart shows that bloggers responding to the survey are fairly evenly distributed across the last forty years. Cricket obsession is neither an older person’s preserve, nor blogging an activity for the young alone. Test cricket was the hook for 58% of respondents. The World Cup and domestic cricket each accounted for 11% of respondents’ first matches, with the former found among the more recent followers and the latter with those whose interest dates back further.

seminal match-page-001

The cricket authorities’ notion of the ‘marquee series’ does earn support from these figures: 26% of all respondents (45% of those citing Test cricket) identified an Ashes Test/series as their starting point, with the 1981 and 2005 series gaining multiple mentions.

The survey respondents appear skewed towards UK residency (49%) and support for the England cricket team (35%) – see the post on the survey method and sample for further discussion of this. The full breakdown of location and allegiance is tabulated below. One point of note is that around 60% of respondents live in the nation whose team they most strongly support – lower than I would have anticipated.

By country-page-001

I didn’t ask bloggers to name cricketers who first caught their eye, but many did. Gary Sobers, Viv Richards, David Gower, Richard Hadlee and Kevin Pietersen all got mentioned, but so did Ed Giddens. One of the pleasures of sorting through the survey responses is reading the details remembered of that formative cricket experience.

west indies v australia. adelaide. 26th jan 1993. 1 f-ing run… when Peter Lever’s bouncer almost killed Ewan Chatfield… Quite ridiculously, the 2007 World Cup game between Pakistan and Ireland… Ashes 1986/87. All matches. Liked the cartoon duck. And Bill Athey.

This first post in the series ends with a consideration of why we blog.

I asked respondents to complete the sentence, “I blog because..” Those answers have been sorted for motivations, which have then been clustered into five broad categories. I have taken the love of cricket for granted, and indeed most respondents mentioned it. In this diagram, the distance from the centre represents the frequency with which a motivation was mentioned.

I blog because-page-001

Explanations of the categories and motivations with examples from the responses follow:

INTERNAL – this category comprised the motivations of those for whom the process of blogging brought its own reward, rather than the outcome of the writing.

Enjoy writing: the process of expressing oneself about this pastime provides pleasure enough for many bloggers.

I enjoy it .. I don’t care about readers or payment.

I quite like writing and get a warm, weird glow inside when I put together a sentence which I am proud of.…

To learn about the game: the blogging process develops a better understanding of cricket

it helps to make sense of the messed up game

it gives me a chance to find out what I think

An escape: an activity that demands concentration and helps take the mind off or manage other pressures

Writing allowed me to mentally evade (albeit momentarily) the stresses of corporate life and provided an outlet which helped manage mental illness. As my coping mechanisms evolved, so did my need to write.

It fills time: separated from other cricket fans, blogging provides the pleasure of discussion by proxy

none of my current circle of friends like the sport that I’m quite mad on, so basically it’s a conversation to myself.

PURPOSIVE: blogging as a way of achieving something beyond blogging itself.

(Want) to do it for a living: a small number (given how many we know do write professionally) related their blogging to writing, or wanting to write professionally.

there’s also a vague hope that someday I could find a away to be paid for watching cricket. That’s the dream.

DECLARATIVE: to make use of the web’s almost unique ability to enable people to be heard across the world.

To share/showcase thoughts: wanting and enjoying being heard, getting read.

I like the fact that my views are something that someone else also might be trying to say. It feels good to share your thoughts with random people on the internet.

Have something unusual to say: possessing distinctive insights or perpectives that you don’t hear in the mainstream media.

I couldn’t find anyone out there who looks at the game in the way I do.

I was fed up reading staid, ecb approved media reports.

To promote part of the sport: this motivation is related to that of having something unusual to say, but focused on giving air to a specific element of the sport that gets little coverage.

I want to promote women’s cricket

Also a response to being told I don’t exist – “no-one watches County Cricket anymore” – “well, I do”!

SOCIAL: to be part of a community with shared interests, using a dynamic new social force.

To get feedback/be part of a community: two way communication.

And also because I love the comments. The best part of the site’s the bit I don’t write.

Ease/excitement of blogging: it’s so easy to write and to have your words out there.

I love the sport and the meritocracy and immediacy blogging offers.

REACTIVE: as a way of responding to the cricket world.

To vent at authorities: a channeling of frustration with how the game, or its coverage is run.

Otherwise I’d be shouting at the television

an avenue for expressing a lot of pent up anger at the world and the ECB in particular.

Most bloggers are active in the sport, in the main by attending matches, playing or writing professionally. The duration of their interest in the sport and, therefore we can deduce their age, varies. Most were first drawn to the game by watching an international match, usually Test cricket. Their motivations for blogging differ, but many consider they bring an unusual perspective to writing on the sport or simply enjoy the act of writing or being able to share their views with others. In the next post on the survey results, I will look at the blogs.

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This post was re-written after images and text were lost when it mysteriously returned to an early draft version – 8 November 2014

The cricket blogger survey

Blogger survey-page-001

If you are a current or former cricket blogger, please take part in the survey by clicking this link: Cricket blogger survey 2014

Cricket faces commercial, political and governance challenges of an unprecedented scale. The fate of its disparate group of unpaid, online chroniclers is trivia in the grand, complex narrative of the sport. This attempt at some informal research will not uncover answers to any of cricket’s dilemmas, but don’t dismiss the subjects of this survey too quickly.

From my vantage in England, two of cricket’s biggest stories in 2014 have been the surrender of collegiate control of the ICC to ‘the big three’ and the ECB’s efforts to establish a ‘new era’ for the senior men’s team. With the exception of Cricinfo, the professional media in the UK were slow to subject both stories to critical scrutiny, denying for some time that there really was a story – or two sides to that story.

Cricket bloggers have been at the forefront of those challenging the official versions of these stories, applying critical thought to the evidence, asking awkward questions and facilitating the sort of debate that cricket’s authorities might seem to want to suppress.

I do not pretend that cricket bloggers can influence outcomes in the form of the distribution of the cash the sport generates or who leads internationally on and off the field. But surely members of the sport’s mainstream media are beginning to recognise the disdain with which it is held by many of the sports most passionate followers. And won’t this influence them or their publishers? Time will tell.

Declaration Game is three years old, making it early middle-aged in cricket blog terms. Throughout that period, twitter and blogging have combined like Laker and Lock. Brian Carpenter (the blogger’s blogger) of Different Shades of Green, has commented how attracting an audience was more of a waiting than chasing game when he began writing in 2006. For many, twitter is an end in itself, not a marketing tool for wordy material that sits in the background.

Blogging arose as a manisfestation of the self-publishing enabled by the internet. What’s true of the written word has since been played out for the spoken word, still and then moving images. Blogging, in the fashion I practice here, has long (in technology terms) ceased to be cutting edge. Creative cricket followers have quickly adopted the ability to produce and distribute audio and video material.

In 2010, Nishant Joshi’s Alternative Cricket celebrated a high-water mark in cricket writing by featuring the best in independent cricket blogs. Four years later and opportunities have opened up for the most able bloggers to have their work featured on professionally produced platforms: from Cricinfo’s Cordon to The Nightwatchman; from digital only sports magazines to the blogs of media companies and for a very few, Wisden, through its annual Cricket Writing Competition.

Some of the first bloggers have, through their excellence and distinctive voice, made the move to professional sports journalism. Blogging perhaps was always conceived of as a stepping stone to the paid gig. It’s now a prerequisite for any writer who aspires to be paid for his or her words.

Blogging varies (though, perhaps not enough) by topic, writer’s motivation and style. It is not a movement (unlike, for example, the ‘parent blogging’ world that I also inhabit). The danger in surveying something diverse is focusing on the average and missing the range. I’ll try not to do that when I present the results in future posts and I invite anyone who participates to make use of the data to carry out their own enquiries and draw their own conclusions. So, I don’t know what the survey will show. I’m not testing any hypotheses. With other bloggers’ assistance, I may be able to depict aspects of a vibrant, fulfilling activity; or one that is slowly deflating, albeit with some mighty fine writing still being produced.

So, if you do (or used to) create written on-line content about cricket for free, please take part by clicking the link: Cricket Blogger Survey 2014.

Thank you.

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Acknowledgements for assistance with the development of the survey: Russ Degnan (@idlesummers), Nishant Joshi (@altcricket) and Neil of Row Z (@RowZ6).

 

Checking under the bonnet

carsWho should be England’s ODI openers? Which player should bat at three for Australia? A favourite to take the new ball for India? How should Kallis be replaced? Who’s ready to step up when Sanga & Jaya step aside?

It’s only the most successful teams who don’t have selection dilemmas. For the rest there’s always some sort of uncertainty over personnel that we, the cricketing cognisants, will have a view on. There will be a player that we will fancy seeing given a run in the side. Somebody that we have a sense, a conviction, could be their side’s next 100 Test player. A new player, whose excitement on debut we can share and who might just give us confidence for the future. Or an established pro, ready for a recall, toughened and capable now to hold their own in the international game.

It’s one of cricket’s sideshows, vibrant on non-match days or in rain delays: speculating, giving testimony, lobbying amongst our peers who have as little ultimate influence as ourselves. What expertise and insight do we, would-be selectors, really bring to these debates?

My car is nearly eight years old and has covered 100,000 miles. But it’s the knocking noises and the escalating cost of services that have forced me to the decision that I need to replace it. But replace it with what? I don’t want a blue one again, nor one of that shape and I’ve no loyalty to that manufacturer. I can come up with some positive requirements too: a figure it must cost less than, a desire for fuel economy, big enough to fit the family for occasional long trips and a boot that can swallow three cricket bags. But that gets me no nearer than saying England need an opener with a solid technique, experience of batting at the top of the order and a good record against pace.

I like the look of some cars more than others. I would rather watch an opener who gave it the full face than an nudger and nurdler. Some brands are more reassuring; some I would positively like people to associate me with. A young batsman bursting into the team excites me more than the pro who has worked his way up the pecking order to be picked. There’s data: tables of emissions, acceleration, load capacity. I want any contender for a batting spot to be near the top of the season’s averages and aggregates, with a history of converting starts into hundreds.

I don’t know which car is better. I wouldn’t know what to look for under the bonnet. I just know that my judgement is swayed by all of the factors I have mentioned, none of which, necessarily points to a better vehicle. In fact, they are all features that are marketed to me, to influence my decision, to draw my cash. I am just as prone to distraction and deception when plumping for the player I would like to see next in the England team. I see far too little professional cricket below international level to have any meaningful overview of who deserves an England cap. Are you any different? Maybe you watch a lot of one county; providing you with a deep and biased understanding of one squad of players?

I consult ‘What Car?’ to perform the function of the cricket correspondents whose proximity give their tips credibility. But still there’s a gut reaction: Woakes, VW, Mazda and Hales; not Stokes, Fiat, Vauxhall and Robson.

Opinionated ignorance costs me nothing in one sphere. In the other, I have a real and pressing decision to make, with large financial consequences. I would be interested to hear your interpretation of the cricketing equivalent of throwing my lot in with a Skoda in metallic Topaz.