In perhaps the stupidest move in publishing this year, the Orange County Register is going behind a paywall. The newspaper announced today that one had to be a subscriber to either their print or online version to read their content. In the contemporary media environment, though, their content isn't worth a dime.
Here is THE LINK TO THE ANNOUNCEMENT that may as well be a timestamp for a funeral.
Once a central pillar of the Orange County establishment, the Register is now a pointless addendum to a world that has long passed its quaint approach of celebrating vanilla culture and championing Wally George's values.
I once had an email exchange with Register columnist Mark Whicker. He explained to me in a tone of sneering superiority that he had a million readers, basing his number on the newspaper's Sunday print run. I corrected him - at his greatest he had 5,000 readers apart from the 995,000 coupon clippers who pay for the Sunday Register. He blocked my emails. This sense of denial pulsates throughout the organization.
Free of charge on the internet, the OCR's site has an okay place for a hardcore sports fan to get a lite fix of Angels coverage, but in the marketplace of ideas and the user-sphere of accessibility it is the tenth place an Angels fan goes to for information, breaking news or commentary about the team. Fans go to OCR columnists twitter feeds for information long before they go to the OCR proper for anything.
But nobody in their right mind would spend five cents for the publication's Angels coverage online and now it will cost even more than that. Imagine someone coming up to you at your work, the girl at the desk pages you "the OC Register Salesperson is here" and you go up to the front office and there a salesperson is holding today's OC Register. You explain that you skimmed Drudgereport and CNN and even ESPN.com in the morning and you didn't need any OC Register today. Imagine the pitch the salesperson fires back - The OC Register has unique content you can't get anywhere else. Imagine someone offering to sell you the latest Smacktalk-Schtick of Jeff Miller, 750 words of empty provocation that are dwarfed in intensity and intellect by a thousand garden variety internet snark posters on any one of a hundred dynamic sports message boards and posting forums.
Jeff Miller's writing is not worth the paper it is printed on nor the subatomic photons that deliver the contrasts in the light on a computer screen that clicks over to the OCR's website - better snark is available literally everywhere. And that isn't even trying to sell you the regurgitated hackathon that is a Mark Whicker cut and paste column. He was never any good at anything other than sounding important; the democracy of the internet has denuded (now there is a scary mental picture) any pretense that he has special insight beyond a casual fan with a good thesaurus.
And those are the two columnists that Angels fans are saddled with as delivering the unique content you can only find at the OC Register.
It is astounding that people whose job is journalism lack the basic curiosity to examine the world around them and see that their inferior product mimics a same-old/same-old that has been bypassed by a half-dozen vibrant models of content production and delivery. I can learn more about the Angels by reading those twitter feeds of the OCR sportswriters for free than I can in trying to make it through yet another safe, bloodless, professional sportswriter essay. MLB.com has the stories about the Angels that the OCR basically either rewrites or pens-in-tandem, like a creative writing class with the same assignment and an axiom to make the prose as dull as a styrofoam tray in a cafeteria.
But nobody's job at the OCR is journalism. Like Whicker, their job is to prance around on the backs of a million subscribers and kiss corporate booty to keep the last cush jobs in non-tech white collar 'Merica.
But I am not complaining about the paywall. Oh no. Laughing maybe.
Every single Angels fan who wants to read about the team online can find this site as easily as they can find the OC Register. And every last one of them will come back here a second time, a third and never pay for something that is worth much less than the free, superior product (aka, this site among others) that is out there.
There has only been one good thing in the OC Register that made it a must read for Angels fans over the past decade. That was Sam Miller. He has, of course, gone on to great prominence covering all of the sport for Baseball Prospectus and for writing the ESPN-The-Magazine cover story on Mike Trout.
Since the OC Register hired Sam Miller, one could construe that the OC Register occasionally has a genius masterstroke in spotting talent to propel its coverage of the Angels. And if this is true, one could make the assumption that the publication may yet again find a prodigious fountain of baseball wisdom. If this is so, the stock holders of the OCR need to then know the process that went into Sam Miller writing about the Angels for the OCR.
Here is how it happened. After the 2008 season, Keith Sharon, then the head of the OCR Sports page took me out to lunch to pick my brain about running an Angels blog. We went to Mister V's in La Mirada (the only good restaurant out there) and Keith bought me a big fat rib eye steak and it was delicious and we talked. I think I even ordered the cheesecake and that was great as well. I gave him the basics of what running a blog was like, what dealing with commenting trolls would be like and passed on the opportunity to have reciprocal links on our blogs (an offer that the Angelswin.com fansite wisely took Keith up on a few months later).
And I gave Keith a suggestion of what would make his Angels blog really stand out. And here is the email Keith sent me on November 18, 2008 saying he had taken my advice:
So, when we had lunch, you made a brilliant suggestion: Wouldn't it be
great if a sabermetric guy covered the Angels? After we met, I found one in
our newsroom and got him transfered to sports.
He's the stat geekiest of stat geeks. His name is Sam Miller. And today is
his second day on the job. You HAVE to see the argument his in with old
school columnist Mark Whicker.
Check out the Angels blog. The argument goes back several posts.
Thanks again for the suggestion.
The subject line of that email read: "Your influence being felt".
So the only good idea that the OC Register has had in regards to Angels coverage that manifested into something compelling came straight from yours truly. And that is why I for one am thrilled with the OCR's decision to erect a pay wall - it will make the shockingly tiny traffic to their Angels coverage shrink up even more, which directly benefits this site and its readers, its parent company and its advertisers.
Thanks again for that steak, OCR.