Newspapers are struggling. They are laying off hundreds of reporters, cutting pages, and losing advertising dollars. Just earlier this month, the NY Times announced that they are merging the Business and Sports sections on Tuesdays through Thursdays. The paper says that the actual coverage will not be cut and that this move is just to reduce printing costs. While the NYT may not be cutting sports coverage yet, other print properties are and that has teams and leagues scrambling for ways to keep their property in the media spotlight.
Not only are papers shrinking in size, but papers can no longer afford to send sports reporters and columnists to the big events each year. Instead, they have to rely on wire services or newspaper groups will send just one reporter to an event and use his/her work for all the papers within the group. These developments have sports PR departments everywhere adjusting to how they operate whether it’s reaching out to bloggers, improving offerings on team/league websites, assisting with travel costs, etc.
According to a recent Sports Business Journal article, NASCAR officials are trying to make it easier for reporters to cover their events without actually being in attendance. Their media website includes video interviews with drivers after weekly races and offers conference calls with its drivers every Tuesday.
The NHL is another league that really understands the digital realm and has been the first league to partner up with unique digital ventures like Slingshot and a fantasy hockey league with Yahoo! Sports. So I wasn’t surprised to read the following quote in the article:
“There is a new universe in news coverage – the people who used to be able to write one story if they were lucky can blog 20 times per day,” said Frank Brown, group vice president of media relations at the NHL and a former reporter for the New York Daily News. “You can make the argument that the fan is being better served and more currently served in real time by te evolution and the [Web] coverage.”
I think the two most important things leagues and teams can do to boost their media coverage, especially those smaller leagues, is (1) reach out to bloggers and (2) increase their offerings on their media website to make it easier on reporters. For example, transcribing post-game scrum interviews and quickly providing them to reporters on-site and posting them to the media website would certainly help reporters and bloggers with their work. When you’re in a locker room, you only have a certain amount of time to talk to players. What if you missed a key quote from a player who you didn’t get to talk to? An interview transcription would help ease reporters’ concerns that they missed something important.
People are continually turning to the Internet for its news and sports are a large portion of that. Whether it’s visiting ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, Deadspin, AOL FanHouse, or a smaller blog, sports fans are increasingly turning to digital offerings for their sports news. If you are a team or league that is noticing a decrease in print coverage, turn to those who are talking about you online. For example, the Washington Capitals were unhappy with the amount of print articles they were getting in local papers so they developed a blogging policy and extended invitations to Caps bloggers to cover their team from the press box. I’m not suggesting that you allow every interested blogger access to your team’s media site or the players after the game. I think if you open your team or league up to the right digital websites and blogs, you will get the coverage you want and it’s by people who have already demonstrated an interest in you!