Plethora of Player Publishing Prefaces Progressive Press Paradigm

Between #DeflateGate and Marshawn Lynch’s incendiary (non) statements, some of the most compelling media during this past Super Bowl week, in advance of Super Bowl XLIX, have come from players, themselves, picking up the (virtual) pen. Whether it’s Seattle CB Richard Sherman writing his column on SI/Peter King’s The MMQB website (a season-long column), embattled Cleveland WR Josh Gordon firing back at his naysayers in a letter published on The Cauldron, a Medium publication, or Seahawks QB Russell Wilson sharing his personal thoughts following Seattle’s miraculous NFC title win on The Players Tribune, a site for which he is a Senior Editor, the players are bypassing the traditional press, taking matters into their own hands.

Players using their own voice to tell their own story isn’t an entirely new idea. ESPN The Magazine had anonymous Player X columns for years, newspapers and team websites have had player-written blogs, but, even as athletes got their own websites and Facebook pages, the presence of active players communicating thoughtfully in a direct manner with fans rarely went beyond the handful characters in a tweet or Instagram comment. Until now.

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As social media increasingly gave players the ability, for the first time, to control and disseminate their thoughts themselves, instead of having to go through the media or team media relations, players began to realize the value of their voice. Some of the best team content in sports is that showing player personalities — a bit about them off the court, ice, or field. Fans welcome any opportunity to get what they perceive to be a peek behind the curtains of their favorite athletes’ thoughts, motivations, and everyday lives. So, if players have the power, if their content reigns supreme, what’s to stop an imminent future in which players control their valuable content?

There are certain to be implications when star players begin producing their own media on their own terms, instead of being summoned by the public relations director to the nightly scrum. If a player feeds the media a few quick cliches and then pens a thoughtful post about that night’s game on his own website (from which he can make money) that drives far more web traffic than the poor beat writer’s blog, what’s to stop the press paradigm from paralysis? Content is king and where the value is derived and a future, and present, of easy personal publication, is certain to change as quickly as the modes of content delivery. Fast.

Have you noticed this trend? What do you think are the implications for sports business, for teams, for media, for players? Be social and share your opinion!

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