Friday, July 17, 2009

Point, Counterpoint

The United States Basketball Writers' Association and the Football Writers' Association issued a joint statement last week imploring college athletic departments not to abandon the printing of media guides. The statement, interestingly, says that the USBWAA and FWAA agree that these guides should not be used as recruiting tools.

TigerBlog found the statement interesting. And astonishing in its lack of ability to understand the practical realities not only of the current challenges faced by college athletic departments but also the evolving world of media.

The state of budgets and reality of ongoing and looming personnel cuts has left colleges of all sizes in unprecedented need to save money wherever possible. If you want specifics, check out the Ultimate Sports Insider blog, which currently is on No. 39 in its series on athletic budget cuts.

In this new world, the easiest place to look for savings is printed materials, especially media guides. TigerBlog shudders at the thought of all the money thrown blindly into the printing of these guides through the years. With the number of guides that were never used and ultimately either thrown away or still sitting in stacks of stacks of boxes on E level of Jadwin, it would have been more practical to simply hand $5 bills to fans who came to athletic events.

Forgetting that, however, there is the bigger issue of what guides are, what their purpose is and most importantly, what are you going to do if you're not doing guides. Princeton and TigerBlog covered this topic extensively two weeks ago and won't rehash it all here.

Still, for two large groups of media members to publicly embrace the status quo, with the caveat that guides shouldn't be used for recruiting, is somewhat out of touch given the new realities of both professions. The statement mentions an inability to get online at events and references something from the basketball Final Four a few months ago (where apparently there was trouble getting internet access). This is not a justification for printing anymore. It's a justification to get a cellular internet card, a relatively inexpensive device that enabled Little Miss TigerBlog to be online in a moving car from Princeton until she got car sick somewhere before we reached the shore.

Also, TB feels that statement is wrong to suggest that media members need huge publications that don't also get used for recruiting (which is the overwhelming use of almost any guide). Media members get far more use out of game notes that change for each event than they do out of a guide. These notes are also some of the most read items on any school's site.

Even more than all of this, TigerBlog is still struck by media members who don't understand the evolution that has happened and still operate as if the relationship that existed between a sports information office in the pre-eveyone-has-their-own-Website days is the same as the one today.

The challenge for the USBWAA, the FWAA and newspapers all over the country is to figure out a way drastically increase revenues off of on-line content. Some great writing and coverage of some of America's premiere athletic loves – big-time college football and basketball – come from those two organizations and from local papers around the country. They need to devote their attention to figuring out how to make sure they still have a platform on which to do their work.

Princeton's Office of Athletic Communications was 90% a media relations office in 1994. Today, it is 90% its own media outlet. It's an outlet that produces its own multi-media content and has plans to increase those platforms over the next months.

It's an outlet with an eye to the future. It's not an outlet that can afford to throw money into outdated technologies, and it admires its fellow outlets who do likewise.

1 comment:

FormerOAC said...

I'm of the mindset that the nation's sports information directors should have issued their own statement on the heels of the FWAA and USBWA release - a statement that suggests that beat writers continue to staff all games, but only write stories that cast teams in a positive light. It's no less ambitious than the statement issued by the writers.