SES: How Online Media is Revolutionizing the Coverage of Sports


nhl media day

When SES Chicago takes place October 18-22nd it will offer 70+ sessions, intensive training workshops, and an expo floor packed with companies that can help you grow your business. Programmed by the SES advisory board, you can be assured – SES content really is king!

I had an exclusive email discussion with Simon Heseltine, the Principal Marketing Manager for the News & Information division at AOL Inc, working on sites such as FanHouse.com Aolnews.com and PoliticsDaily.com from their Dulles, VA location.

For more on SES and part one of my exclusive with Heseltine go here.

By Paul M. Banks

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PMB: How is the changing face of media affecting how professional and college teams garner publicity, and therefore market their programs? What are the current online ad revenue models for news organizations, and how will that change when the internet becomes the primary way most of the population receives their news?

SH: I had a conversation with several journalists at AOL a few weeks ago, and part of that discussion revolved around the fact that the best way to generate traffic was to break interesting stories that people want to read. Admittedly that’s not much of a change from how journalism has traditionally worked. The big difference is that the delivery mechanisms have changed. Teams can, and are, using those new delivery mechanisms to differing degrees of success, but what has changed is that you now also have fans and players with access to tools that can, and are, generating publicity.

Whether it’s Chad Ochocinco tweeting from the sideline, or Kevin Pietersen tweeting about being dropped, information is getting out there. Sure, leagues can try to ban players from blogging, tweeting, or using social networks to talk about events with their teams, but in today’s cell phone society any outburst by a player can turn up on YouTube 10 minutes later, which then becomes an issue for the club / league.

The teams and leagues that succeed are going to be those that embrace new technologies, and use them to pull in new fans. As a Brit I love the English Premier League, but they have a strict policy on highlights on YouTube. As soon as any get posted, they are removed due to copyright violations. This means that fans around the world don’t get a chance to see that spectacular goal/save/tackle that may draw them in to watching the game on ESPN2 the next weekend. It’s a missed opportunity.

CPM advertising seems to be the most prevalent online ad revenue model right now, with some news organizations operating on subscription models. The problem with subscription models is that you really need to hide your content from the search engines to prevent the content from being accessed by anyone, and you have to have a unique enough selling point to encourage people to part with their cash, given that all other things being equal they’ll just go get the same info for free. Some organizations may be able to make subscriptions work if they have the brand/content/high quality writers/niche coverage that others don’t, but for the rest it’ll most likely be CPM based.

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PMB: In the experience of myself and my colleagues, college programs are currently light years ahead of professional teams when it comes to accommodating online journalists and bloggers. Why is there such a gap here? Could it be due to the fact that professional teams have bigger budgets to spend on individuals who provide video and written content about their own teams?

SH: It’s possible that it’s just a question of mentality. The professional leagues are comfortable dealing with traditional media outlets, and don’t necessarily see the benefit behind embracing online journalists, unless there’s a print/tv outlet behind them.

Now, that’s not true of all, there are inroads being made, with teams such as the Washington Capitals embracing bloggers, but there’s still a long way to go. College programs tend to be happy to get whatever coverage they can, especially when they’re in a market with a number of professional teams, so bloggers have the potential for more access.

PMB: When it comes to generating awareness and publicity, and therefore selling tickets, how true is the phrase “all publicity is good publicity”? What opportunities are there for revenue streams in Twitter, Facebook, and similar sites?

SH: I’m not sure that the LA Galaxy is particularly thrilled with the headlines about David Beckham’s alleged extra-marital exploits, or the Dodgers about their ownership issues. Sure, notoriety can also sell tickets, but that only lasts for so long. Online reputation management is something that teams & players are going to have to think about in order to minimize the damage to their online presence.

As far as social media sites and revenue streams, there’s a lot of opportunities out there, some sites are already tapping into it, i.e. ESPN in April had almost 13% of their traffic coming from Facebook. If you’re a site that talks about sports, or if you’re a team/player/league and you’re not looking at/working with social media sites, you really should be, because the people that are on them are those that are going to drive your revenue, whether through clicks or tickets, and if you ignore them, someone else will come in and get them.

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