Sports Journalism Insights from the SportsManias Digital Conference

Sports news aggregator and app SportsManias recently held an impressive gathering of sports journalism pros and legends for the SportsManias Digital Conference down in Miami, FL, to discuss how the space is evolving, from a number of angles. The knowledge and experience of the panelists and depth of conversation was great and uncovered a lot of insights. Here were 11 of the most memorable ones:

  • Be real, own mistakes – When you’re sending out thousands of tweets, breaking hundreds of stories, and writing countless quotes and names as a sports media and social media pro, mistakes, from big to small, are inevitable. Even the trolls can relate to human fallibility and rashness. The key is to own it, admit it, explain it, and don’t let it happen again. Be human.
  • Blogs dilute journalistic principles, keep credibility – Everyone can be a reporter now. Blogs continue to grow, with varying degrees of professionalism and talent. As sports publications have consistently championed accuracy in the pages of the morning paper, the proliferation of news-scooping, click-baiting blogs are disrupting the paradigm. That isn’t a charge to bend your brand. Credibility still has value, but not if it’s continually compromised.
  • Serve the fans, not yourself – I liked the analogy used at the conference about a radio DJ that should stick to the hits and not force his/her own tastes. This doesn’t mean daily tales of Tebow, but it’s more to simply reinforce that the fans must be front-of-mind. It’s too easy to go elsewhere for news, so if you’re not adding value about something your fans care about [or you can convince them why to care about something], they won’t stick around for your stuff.
  • Make the most of coveted content – When you have content you know has value, maximize the ROI. Re-purpose it across channels, be thoughtful with what you do with it. Content is king and that should be considered with the weight it deserves. Don’t blow a winning hand by ending up with a minimal pot of winnings.

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  • Access is power – Teams, leagues, and journalists all understand that access is the root of much power. It keeps relationships cordial, keeps power [somewhat] balanced between team and press, and the a last bastion of influence and power resting squarely in the hands of the team. Appreciate and be mindful of access.
  • Fans are 19% more likely to engage with video content on social posts – If video is not part of your content game, it’s time to change that.
  • All about personalization – Content is king and there’s more and more of it out there now, immediately accessible at our fingertips. With the proliferation of content of all sorts, it has to become more personalized. Consider your broad audience, then your fans, then your segments of fans engaging with content, and act/serve/adjust accordingly. When fans consistently get content they want, they keep coming back. And everyone wins.
  • Diverse, unique skill set needed – A point that was reinforced by several panelists was the need for a niche. Or, as Liam Neeson can only put it, a particular set of skills…There is no magic formula, it’s about bringing something valuable and something different or unique to the table. What can you do for the team, media entity, or fan base that others cannot or do not.
  • Why should we care? – I won’t echo the notion at the conference that the propensity to know why they should care about a topic is a trait of Millennials, but conveying the value of a story is key, now as much as ever with all the noise, in engaging and reaching fans with content. It’s not such a new idea; even in grammar school, establishing the why of an essay was always an integral idea. With the average attention span of eight seconds nowadays [yes, yes, we know….shorter than a goldfish], giving someone a reason to  care about the content or story, and doing so as quickly as possible, is vital.
  • Phone is the new front porch – I love the “front porch” idea being attributed to mobile. There are so many mediums on which media is now consumed, that it’s now important to consider the context of fans’ content consumption. The pone is now often the first, and most likely, place content is discovered, consumed, and shared, so to not optimize content for this experience is simply a disservice to fans. It’s not just about the content, it’s about the entire fan experience around you and your content.
  • Fantasy is driving fan engagement – If you keep up with sports business trends, there’s no doubt a stat about fantasy participants consuming far more sports content has come across your radar. This point ties together a lot of the insights shared above — from why fans should care about a story, how much that story is personalized to them, how much credibility it has, how it’s delivered, how it’s enabled by access and is delivered by a human that owns up to, but avoids, mistakes. Whether it’s their daily fantasy team, the office fantasy league, or a friendly wager, the lines of emotional and fiscal and competitive investment in sports are becoming increasingly intertwined and blurred. Those that recognize this and act upon it will win in the years to come in sports media.

Thanks to the folks at SportsManias for bringing together so many magnificent minds and decades of invaluable experience or this event! These insights just scratch the surface of all the knowledge shared at this event.

Do you agree with my 11 takeaways? What would you add? Get the convo going in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @njh287!

Posted by Neil Horowitz Follow me on Twitter @njh287   Connect on LinkedIn

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