Are you a passionate Toronto Maple Leafs fan? Are you intelligent? Are you active in digital spaces, either blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or other? If you answered "yes" to all three questions, this entry is for you. All others can pick apart my 40 favourite Christmas songs over here.
Following the Leafs game on Monday night, I had a lengthy discussion with Jonathan Sinden from MLSE. Jonathan is a recent hire who's tasked with improving the interactive component of MLSE's teams, which include the Maple Leafs, Raptors, TFC and Marlies. For the first time in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs, they're making an effort to encourage online dialogue, good and bad, amongst folks like us.
As Jonathan and I spoke, a vision began to emerge. We can both see it. It's a consortium of passionate, intelligent Maple Leaf fans who are unofficially empowered by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. Allow me to explain...
The digital space belongs to us. It's our blogs, our forums, our podcasts and our content. MLSE would have no editorial privilege and no veto power. MLSE would give us access normally reserved for the traditional mainstream media, and would empower us with tools, funds and some degree of promotion, but we would be the stars of this show. This is where our biased but realistic voices would be heard.
I just described the Barilkosphere. The Barilkosphere already exists in a sense. There are a core group of us who create good blog content and collaborate and communicate on Twitter each day. We love our Leafs, and we express this with others online. That's the Barilkosphere, a term I've been using for years but one that was completely unknown to Jonathan. In this new vision, MLSE treats the Barilkosphere the way it treats the reporter for the Toronto Sun or Fan 590. We're invited to games, given media access (like I was on Monday), given access to multimedia traditionally reserved for television and mapleleafs.com and empowered. But unlike MLSE interactive properties like mapleleafs.com and official Maple Leafs Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, there is no spin. It's raw, it's organic and it's from the hearts and minds of an independent body: The Barilkosphere.
I know Jonathan shares this vision, and having someone on the inside of MLSE with the mandate Jonathan has is a huge step in the right direction. Inviting bloggers to sit in press row is also a huge step for MLSE, so I'm optimistic. With the right pitch, buy-in from MLSE management is entirely possible.
The fact is, young people today are unlikely to read newspapers or listen to the radio. The next generation of fans is immersed in the pervasive web, with omnipresent internet access. This digital space is MLSE's final frontier and they can't permeate it by controlling the content found on their official channels. We're too smart to buy what they're selling over there.
Members of the Barilkosphere, this is a call to arms. I'll keep you abreast of developments as I continue to work with Jonathan on what I hope will be a long term, mutually beneficial collaboration. Our time is now.