Im always intrigued at what brings Old World media to the web. I say that noting the G4G blog started six years ago “ and that Ive been writing for the Web, either at PGATour.com, SCOREGolf.com or at G4G since 1998.
I occasionally get asked how I became a blogger. Generally I was exceptionally skeptical of blogging when it first started to gain traction. Back then it was being billed as an online diary? And why would anyone care to read about ones personal ramblings? Thankfully it became something else and in 2004, my gig with PGATour.com was ending and I was seeking a depository for the writing Id done for the site, which was basically travel and some features and profiles. At the time another colleague at the Post, Mark Evans, was covering technology and was, like me, a skeptic. He started a technology site at the same time I launched my golf archive. There was no grand aspirations for either site, but Mark has gone on to become one of the most noted technology bloggers in the business, and an expert on social media in general. I just became a golf blogger “ one of the first.
Sure G4G has mutated over time, and lately it is often a link for what Im writing elsewhere. But it gives me an opportunity, at a time when newspaper coverage of golf is shrinking and nonexistent in many places, to occasionally break news and offer my opinions on the game. It also allowed me to write about my passion “ golf courses, golf design and the business of operating a golf club. There really isnt an outlet for that in Canada, and Ive enjoyed speaking my mind on the subject, regardless of how much it irritates some. I dont see any reason to change. A comment on another Canadian golf site recently said I seem to be the only Canadian golf journalist left who still seeks accountability. Sure I got my wife to leave that remark “ thanks honey “ but it is nice to see someone consider that to be my role. Im the gadfly of the business. Long may I buzz.
With that as background, I found it intriguing when a new website (golfindustrynetwork.ca) was launched by Links Marketing, a Canadian company that produces the magazines called Pro Shop Magazine, as well as Canadian Golfer. I’m sure I’ll make myself even more popular, but here’s my take on the site.
Heres what they have to say via their press release:
PRO SHOP MAGAZINE – Prior to the start of the PGA Golf Show in Orlando next week, Pro Shop Magazine – Canada’s leading golf trade publication for over 15 years is pleased to announce the official golf industry trade web site for Canada.
Okay. Gotta stop there. How does one become the official golf industry trade web site for Canada? Is that like 680 News being the official weather station of Toronto? How does one get these titles? Do they come from God? Is he really sitting around saying, Gosh we need an official industry site for the golf business in Canada. Peter, can you get something going on that?
I digress — let’s continue:
Written and produced for Canada’s golf industry, we are committed to educating, informing and promoting the Canadian Golf Industry with unsurpassed editorial, video and information sessions. We will tell it like it is with no influence or affiliation with golf associations. Our editorial staff uses its expertise and knowledge to create publications and web sites that make us the leading and trusted golf industry media in Canada.
Okay. Isnt this the magazine that said it was affiliated with the CPGA, but was asked to remove the reference? I digress again.
GolfIndustryNetwork.CA Has TEED-OFF with a long Hard Drive for the Canadian Golf Industry
I think in the era of Tiger Woods, one has to be careful how many long hard drives they reference, even if it is just a bad pun on technology speak.
What about the website, the second such industry site in Canada? Of course that begs the question about whether there is room for one golf industry site, but lets not stop there.
A lot of what golfindustrynetwork.ca does is the antithesis of what I hoped to accomplish when I started my blog. I figured a blog would offer freedom. I think this site, beyond being garish in appearance (red, green, yellow, blue, oh my eyes!) offers the tried and tested “ bland and promotional writing. Take, for example, the course review on Redcrest, the new facility at Cardinal north of Toronto:
Thats definitely true at Cardinal Golf Club in Kettleby, Ontario.
RedCrest is the latest addition to the Cardinal rota, an unparalleled 72-hole golf experience, located north of Toronto, and only 20 minutes from highways 400 and 404.
Cardinal is Canadas largest golf facility and sits on 600 acres of prime real estate.
Yep, reads more like an advertorial. I hated this sort of writing years ago, and it disgusts me still. To this way of thinking, every new course is worthy of hyperbolic accolades, and every course review reads like a press release. How does this help the average golfer “ or club pro for that matter? You may not agree with my take on things “ and Ive got more than 100 of my course opinions here “ but I put myself out there. Like a film critic you always disagree or agree with, my perspective doesnt waver. Call me an ass “ Im okay with it. But my opinion isnt there for a price. What do I learn about Redcrest from this piece? Nothing. And that is the problem.
And not to get too deep here, but I do wonder about the separation of church and state when it comes to media and marketing. Perhaps I shouldnt be surprised to see a lot of PR-related info on a site run by a marketing company, but man, theres nothing subtle about the links on this site. Links Marketing clearly offers their services through the site including press releases, media lists (yep, there I am) and production services. And, according to Links Marketing, how do you get media coverage if you are a golf course or company? You buy it:
So how do you receive editorial coverage? To be perfectly honest, the media is a business and usually run by entrepreneurs. Their business survives and grows from advertising revenue. In these economic times the media will support those who support them. In other words, if you advertise with the media it will be easier to receive coverage.
Wonder if that is how companies get into Pro Shop? No wait “ let me quote their press release:
We will tell it like it is with no influence or affiliation with golf associations.
No influence or affiliation? Interesting. I guess it just depends on how much money one spends.
Perhaps Ive got this all wrong. There are some fine individuals working on the site “ Rick Drennan, who won a couple of awards for his work at the GJAC lunch last year, and longtime pro Ken Trowbridge, who is a fine gentleman. And I did like some of the site “ including the secret shopper bit. But then again, I suspect all of this material has been in the magazine last year. Just repurposing info wont cut it in this business “ and golfindustrynetwork is going to need to be updated regularly if anyone is to care.
Heres the secret “ in order to gain an audience you have to be putting your opinion out there and not just once or twice a month. I mean every day, or four or five times a week. And since most people probably think a blog will die a quick death “ as is often the case “ it might take months before you have a regular readership. Think of it as watching a serial drama on Fox. You know it might get canceled, so do you put in the effort? Most blogs are that way “ and in Canada only an exceptional few have lasted more than a couple of months or are regularly updated.
The truth is that golfindustrynetwork.ca comes more than a year after golf equipment writer Ian Hutchison, who is also the golf columnist at the Toronto Sun (and a former contributor to Pro Shop Magazine), launched his own blog/site (www.golfnewsnow.ca) that reaches out to the golf business in Canada. I cant say how successful it has been “ but Ian has been active and updates it regularly. We often disagree on things “ but I check his site out a couple of times a week.
The way I look at it, the golf industry in Canada may directly consist of a few thousand people. Those who are interested in the inner-workings of the business and a site like golfindustrynetwork.ca are likely GMs, pros, employees of equipment companies, some owners and a handful of others. In other words, this is a pretty narrow playing field.
With that in mind can two sites exist in this niche? Can one?