ESPN launches local sports sites

There’s still time for small- to mid-sized newspapers to capitalize on their local franchises — especially in sports. But it’s starting to erode, and quickly.

The Worldwide Leader is launching “local” sports sites, starting with Chicago. They’ll have not only a Chicago sports focus, but also a Chicago-centric version of SportsCenter.

It’s already bad enough that I can’t get Mizzou basketball on my iPhone from anyone besides The Network. Or that neither local newspaper can seem to post/update/tweet news during MU basketball games (props to the Missourian for their online football coverage this year.) But this is getting ridiculous.

Yes, sports have traditionally been less profitable than other sections of the newspaper, because men don’t generally make buying decisions. But sports blogs like Rock M Nation are building a franchise that’s being ignored by local newspapers, and they have advertising on their site. Most of their content is produced by three guys, and a thriving group of users. It’s not rocket science, folks.

Now, I don’t anticipate that ESPN will start a Columbia site. We’re not a big enough market — yet. (Or, put another way, they likely don’t have the scalability to make this work on a lower level.) But they can certainly launch a site/show in St. Louis or Kansas City that covers Mizzou sports.

Bottom line: We cannot afford to ignore our local strengths. We cannot afford to be complacent about what we have to offer because it’s “too local” for anyone else to care about. And we have to aggressively expand into areas where we own the market, to make sure we keep owning that market.

Buggy makers didn’t die because someone else made a better buggy — they died because another technology stole their core business. Why don’t journalists get this?

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3 Comments

Filed under New media

3 responses to “ESPN launches local sports sites

  1. In the development of the ESPN monopoly of sports media (combined with shrinking sports sections in papers nationwide), there’s become more of a market than ever for locally based sports coverage. That’s where blogs like ours come in. There will never be a citizen substitute for the day-to-day beat reporting required in sports – that’s a job that can’t be fazed out. But sites like Rock M Nation help serve as a community that’s somewhere between the analyst/fan division. We’re able to embrace our bias while still maintaining our intellectual sovereignty.

    Newspapers and sports have such a symbiotic relationship. Both could survive without each other, but the decline of one certainly has ramifications upon the other. Mark Cuban had a fantastic blog post once about why pro sports need newspapers, in which he proposed a controversial business model that I think would really be in the best interest of each entity. I’d be interested to hear your response to the post: http://tinyurl.com/a2hoet.

    I assume there would be MAJOR upheaval to a news organization being financially supported by the subjects they’re covering.

  2. mdbirdlover

    I read Cuban’s post way back when and can’t get to it anymore.
    There is a huge cry for coverage for local sports.

    ESPN getting their hands in the mix is a shame.
    But a natural progression. They’ll crowd out papers and make coverage even worse opening it up for good successful bloggers like that site you named above. I’ll have to check it out.

    Thanks for the tip. I hope ESPN doesn’t come to Baltimore for this.
    http://www.mdbirdlover.com

  3. weirr

    I took a look at the Cuban post about why pro teams need newspapers. I remember reading it at some point but it’s worth another look.

    I don’t have a problem at all with his premise, which I will oversimplify to: newspapers are the main place for solid fan information about teams; but they rarely offer much in coverage when there’s not a game.

    In response to that (again, simplifying) Cuban says that it would be in the economic interest of pro teams to pay for coverage in newspapers. They would do that basically by buying two reporters for a newspaper, in exchange for the paper providing at least two pages of coverage every day. Papers retain editorial control.

    Leaving aside knee-jerk responses (papers retain editorial control, hello) and practicalities (yes, you also need editors & designers), I don’t have a major problem with what Cuban proposes. I’m not sure there’s two pages worth of news on a pro team every day, but what he’s basically proposing is subsidizing some news content. That’s really no different from what advertisers already do, it’s just not (currently) as direct as what he proposes.

    Basically, if there’s no quid pro quo for specific stories, I’m all for it.

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