Monday, January 26, 2009

Mark Cuban says old media is necessary for pro sports -- who woulda thought?

Mark Cuban--owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, serial entrepreneur, Internet bubble timing genius and fellow blogger--describes in his blog why he believes that local newspapers, not team websites, rumor sites or fan blogs, are key to the successful marketing of pro sports teams.

I was surprised to see this opinion from one of the experts on and proponents of new media. But his reasoning is logical. Basically, it's a numbers game. As a marketer, you need to send your message to as many relevant eyeballs as possible as efficiently as possible. Local newspapers stil function as that medium in the sports world.

The Yahoo & and Fox Interactive & acquisitions make sense for marketing to the hardcore fan; but for communicating to the masses to try to get those needed ticket and concessions dollars from families or corporate accounts (which are incredibly important to sports teams), old school newspapers are still the most effective forum.

Bottom line is that despite the huge volume of sports coverage, the local coverage of teams for the most part sucks. There is little depth and certainly not the consistent coverage of a newspaper with a team beatwriter or 2. Thats a bad scenario for sports leagues. Teams in every league need as much local coverage as we can get. The more stories that are written by sportswriters and columnists, the more opportunities for fans to connect and stay connected to our teams.
...those fans that go to the national sports sites, the local team website and blogs are our customers and hard core fans. While we will do everything possible to keep them happy, they are easy to reach. The newspapers reach our hardest to connect to customers, the casual fan.
The problem of course is that newspapers are pushing themselves to the point of irrelevancy. They have cost structures that dont support they business they think they are in. They don’t have a vision on what a profitable future might look like. They are getting crushed by disappearing advertising revenues . They are doing what anyone in their position would do, they are cutting every penny they can and praying for divine intervention. Professional Sports Leagues and teams, if we want to continue to connect to our local casual sports fan, needs to work with our local papers to try to keep them alive as long as possible.

The question is how do we do this? Cuban's solution is for sports teams to "pay for placement" similar to how consumer products companies pay for shelf space in grocery stores. He says that sports teams could sponsor 1-2 sports writers (based on market size and goals of the team) to cover the team and provide original, in-depth, daily content to put in the local newspaper. Financially this makes sense because this would place the writer's salary on the sports team's books (who is essentially paying co-op advertising dollars--a staple in the consumer packaged good world), cut costs at the newspaper and allow newspapers to do what they do best--distribute information and sell ads.

What do you think? How should sports teams spend their marketing dollars to promote their financial success? Is there any point advertising even more for sports on a hardcore fan forum like CarolinaBlue? Would this "sponsored writer" structure make sense for newspapers? How can media companies best integrate their offline and online sports coverage?

More here on Cuban's blog entry.

Hope you enjoy my first post. Can I still be in this class if my first post touts the benefits of old media versus new?

Change happens, but over time.

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