For most people, Major League Baseball's online presence is just a place to get the latest news on your favorite team or buy licensed merchandise. But some die-hard baseball fans pay to use MLB's blogging service. For MLBloggers, the technical problems that plague MLB's internet endeavors are more than a matter of inconvenience; they're a matter of real money.
Early this century, each team was responsible for its own web site. Some teams fielded excellent pages, and were understandably upset when MLB centralized and standardized them in 2001. Now every team's website looks exactly like every other team's website. It's great for consistency in navigation, but, like most anything that's been centralized and standardized, it's encouraged mediocrity.
For example, if you go to any team's website as of this writing and do a search from the front page, you will receive only news items from 2005. It is possible to get news items from this year, but going to the news archives to get hits from the year we're already three months into isn't very intuitive.
Or, if you're looking at the boxscore and click on one of the players' names, you're taken to a player stats page that does not include the player's name. You have to click a second time to load the player bio in order to find that kind of information.
And don't even get me started on the weekly online chats that are supposedly available to anyone who's willing to add their e-mail address to the MLB database. I haven't yet been able to log into one, and the text of the “Help” file, which helpfully instructs me to type my comments into the box but provides no troubleshooting information at all, fails to help much.
At least I can honestly say that I haven't missed an e-mail offer to buy MLB.tv yet.
These things drive me completely nuts, but at the end of the day, they're just annoyances. I use free services, and I get what I pay for. Alternately, I've now received e-mail messages from two separate paying customers of MLBlogs who have inexplicably found themselves unable to log into their accounts. They don't know what's causing the problem, and the help information and links to technical support are only available after you log in.
In one case, even a call to technical support couldn't resolve the issue. They told him to make sure cookies were enabled.
Major League Baseball isn't a fly-by-night organization. They have the capacity to provide a quality product. With as much money as their online endeavors could bring in, they should make their blogging software a priority. What better user testimonials could they ask for than their own MLBloggers? These are people who are paying MLB to participate in a buzz marketing campaign for baseball.
To be more exact, right now they're paying MLB to tell them to ensure cookies are enabled.
Bloggers are among the most dedicated baseball fans there are; MLB has to wake up and make things right for these valuable users. The sport needs to demonstrate that it values its online community for more than just the $5 a month in MLBlog fees.