Friday, June 28, 2013

The Teams Win While The Media Doesn't

The near future of sports media appears to be reflected in the results of a marketing survey revealed by Sporting News Media, based on more than 1,000 interviews of American adultsin 2013. Among the most significant results are that about 44% are now watching sports in HD, while online sports consumption seems to have passed radio and print.

Personally, I find it disappointing that radio and print have been "passed up", after the majority of my years as a sports fan having been spent with both of those playing a major role in shaping my sports world. The results of the SNM Survey show just how much Twitter and Facebook now play a role for sports fans, and to me it is the role that radio used to play.

Not everyone that reads this blog has reacted well to my comments over the past couple of years about sports talk radio losing its luster in many large markets. As much as I would rather this recent survey produced results to prove differently, they don't. Speaking from a sports fan viewpoint, the fact that radio (moreso than print) could have done so much more to prevent this from happening is what makes this frustrating.

Before the internet and mobile and remote access to TV came upon us, radio was the most instant and constant "reporting" media for sports fans. The news stations in major markets would usually have at least one sports focused show or sportscast during each drive time. The (then) few all sports stations spent time reporting on actual sports news and trying to break stories, instead of speculating and guessing with casual fans all day long.

If the radio stations had continued like they used to and maintained a high level of sports reporting and kept the fans' interest, they might not have lost so much of the audience. There have been too many occasions lately where all sports stations air a "scoreboard update" at night or on a weekend, and the out of town scores are often left out or not even updated. A few years ago, this would not have happened this way.

Too many radio stations seems to assume that the listener has access to the updated scores online and/or by phone, and they think they don't need to give them as often, if at all. Therein lies the problem. If I, as a sports fan, need to go online (or somewhere besides that radio station) for the latest scores and headlines, I have far less of a need to listen to that station.

Radio play-by-play has become saturated with more commercials and promos than ever before. It's getting to the point where every type of play is sponsored by an advertiser. Worse yet, the "out of town scoreboard" now seems to be sponsored by still another advertiser, which means it is only heard at certain pre-scheduled times of the broadcast.

Compare this with the good old days when the teams in the same division as your favorite team were mentioned throughout the game you were listening to. No more. The days of "Detroit just scored a run in the 5th inning......" are long gone. Partially because there is so little time for such information because of the clutter of commerical and promotional announcements which plague most play-by-play broadcasts. One more thing that drives sports fans to faster and more instant sources.

The print media has made the huge error of making the internet separate from their operation instead of making it an enhancement. These days, we have newspaper organizations looking to have readers pay for their content online instead of allowing advertisers to make it all happen. Many, if not most, newspapers charge advertisers different rates for the print vs. the online side. Because of that, they guard their online content, even though online viewers almost always see advertising on the same page as the content they are seeking.

Instead of having a newspaper's online site update the morning's content and updating with new stories and columns, they practically hide it from us. Again, because of the prominence of sports related web sites and other news sources, sports fans go elsewhere other than to a newspaper web site. As a result, many sports fans stop thinking of their local newspaper (and often their favorite radio station) as a source of information. Instead, as the marketing survey confirms, they are going to other web sites or even trusted sources online FIRST.

Not all radio or TV stations have adapted well to social media either. We had the example last week of Q101 Chicago, a music FM station which does not do any sports, putting out a controversial tweet. After the (eventual Stanley Cup champion) Blackhawks lost Game 3 of the Finals to Boston, a tweet by the radio station said the team was "raped" during the loss. Needless to say, fan complaints prompted disciplinary action.

However, the fact that the tweet was in poor taste is not my point for this column. The point is that the radio station is being blamed for the tweet as if it went out over the air, and it did not. Now a station with no sports credibility has damaged its "reporting" reputation, and it was over something that was not even on the air. On a different level, this sort of thing is along the lines of newspapers treating their web site(s) as a separate entity, and shows the damage it does for its current, former, and potential audience.

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