Friday, July 3, 2009

Starting Over

The 1994 football media guide was the first publication that TigerBlog did after he came over from the Trenton Times. Right there on the first page is a picture of Princeton captain Carl Teter, or at least the person that TB thougth was Carl Teter. Only it wasn't Carl Teter; it was a different player.

In other words, TB made a huge mistake on the first page of the first media guide he ever did.

The evolution of media guides at Princeton has been pretty dramatic. They've gone from existing only for a few sports to being small guides shared by men's and women's teams to huge publications for every sport and now, ultimately, to the same scrapyard that is home to the Zip drive, fax-on-demand (or basically the entire fax machine, for that matter) and media day.

Princeton announced today the launch of a new video Website,, which will be a supplement to beginning Sept. 1. Princeton jointly announced that along with the new site, media guide production will be eliminated.

Basically, what we did here at TigerBlog HQ is ask ourselves one question: What would you do if you were starting athletic communications from scratch?

Would you have a Webpage with rosters, bios, pregame stories, postgame stories, features and all the content on


Would you make a commitment to as much video as possible, including live and on-demand streaming of games and original content that highlights the athletes off the field?

Of course.

Would you pour tens of thousands of dollars into a publication that cannot be updated during the season and is basically out-of-date by the first game of the season?

No way.

Media guides are something of a misnomer, since they aren't really designed for the media. Members of the media need basic information, such as year-by-year results, records, career-highs, player bios and a roster. That's about it. If you were putting together information solely for the media, you would have it be all facts with little in the way of design. There'd be no need for four-color covers and catchy layout inside.

The media in 2009 doesn't even need the guide. TigerBlog brought no men's lacrosse guides to both the Big City Classic at Giants Stadium or the NCAA quarterfinals at Hofstra, and not one media person asked for one. TB did bring game notes that provided all the necessary information for those specific games, and featured updated player bios throughout the season.

"Media" guides are actually recruiting guides. NCAA rules limit what coaches may send to prospective student-athletes, but one permissible item is a publication that can have color on the covers and black-and-white printing on the inside. It can be no more than 208 pages long.

The 208-page limit was a rule that was enacted to curb the "arms race" that had been going on, especially at BCS football schools, who were producing 500+ page guides whose sole intention was to show recruits that Power University had the biggest publication.

As for Princeton, it used to be that the only guides produced were one for football, one for men's basketball and one for men's hockey. That was it. The 1992 NCAA men's lacrosse championship team, for instance, did not have a media guide.

Gradually, Princeton began to do small (very, very small) tri-fold brochures for other sports, which then progressed to eight-page, 5.5x8.5 black and white publications that were shared by the same men's and women's teams (swimming, soccer, tennis, etc.).

As technology progressed, the guides became bigger and bigger. Most sports had their own guide (some, like crew, didn't want individual ones), and these guides were all 8.5x11 with four-color covers.

The big issue then became getting them done earlier and earlier. The TigerBlog HQ philosophy used to be to have them done in time for the team's first competition, but recruiting seasons for winter and spring sports kept getting earlier and earlier. What value was, say, a softball guide on March 1, if recruiting had been wrapped up by then?

TigerBlog's own personal dislike of guides began early on, when he was updated the opponents section of the football guides of the 1990s. What value was there in having letterwinners returning/lost for a game other than the opener? Who could care about the assistant coaches at other schools? Football guides list the other teams offensive and defensive schemes; is there anything sillier than having "Multiple Pro I" or "4-3" listed under "offense" and defense?"

The last guide TB did was the men's lacrosse guide of this past spring, which has a great picture of the nine seniors together in Ireland. It also has a season outlook that goes about 2,000 words and held absolutely no value once Princeton had played Canisius in its opener.

Princeton printed 400 men's lacrosse guides this past year. The season preview online had more than 1,000 page views, or 2.5 times the number of guides that were printed. There were more than 400 views of Greg Seaman's video with TigerCam in the first two days it on the site.

In other words, it was becoming obvious that media guides were not the way to go. The future is in multi-media and immediacy, not in stagnant publications. Multi-media, as in video (streaming of events, as well as original content that highlights the athletes), blogging (TigerBlog's readership is skyrocketing) podcasting and the written word, on the Webpage and through social networking sites. And immediacy, as in constantly updated. It is what TB often refers to as the "Inside Lacrosse" model.

This also means that there is no need to do guides and then have them available as pdfs online. Instead of downloading a bulky version of player bios that haven't changed since the season started, it's more important to be able to go to the Webpage and see an updated bio, perhaps complete with some accompanying video.

Still, it wasn't going to be an easy sell to the coaches. If TigerBlog has learned anything in 16 years here at HQ, it's that some coaches 1) do not like the concept of abandonment and 2) there is a strong, strong attitude in college sports that "we" must do it if "they" do it and that if "they" do "it" and "we" don't, then we're at a natural disadvantage. It often doesn't matter what "it" is.

Knowing that, it was actually a pleasant surprise to see how on board the coaches were when it was first presented to them in April. Yes, there were some holdouts, and those holdouts are still skeptics. is going to feature a mix of subscription-only event streaming with an army of free video content. We have endless ideas, some of which is on the youtube channel and the current Website. The new channel will take those to new levels and will provide fans with a very up close look at Princeton athletes. It will also scream to prospective athletes that Princeton is a progressive school offering a great experience.

And there you have it, the end of the media guide era and the dawn of a new era in athletic communications.

TigerBlog once left the Yale game off the football schedule on the back cover of a media guide and could do nothing about it for the entire year. On the other hand, loyal readers of TigerBlog notice a spelling mistake or two in blog entries from time to time and email to point them out, after which they are easily fixed.

That's how it should work in 2009.

We're looking forward to our new era.


Anonymous said...

What do you mean when you say coaches don't like the idea of abandonment? I don't think that is a fair comment and at the very least, a generalization. I think you have a responsibility to explain here...

Princeton OAC said...

TB wasn't intending to insult coaches; rather, I think it speaks to the idea that coaches like to have every base covered. In many ways, that's a sign of being a successful coach. It's the ability to be prepared for every possible scenario and to react accordingly. Again, TigerBlog is not in any way attempting to demean coaches and hopes the post isn't taken that way at all.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that smaller sports usually have detailed bios and summaries in their media guides that never make their way online. There are no roster blurbs online for many of the smaller sports so media guides were the only way for a sport to present themselves well to recruits.

Princeton OAC said...

Everything that was in a media guide can, in some form, be put on the Web. Historical pages like those in men's basketball, just for example, on Bill Bradley and Pete Carril, etc., have made their way on the Web as articles in a record book on the MBB page. As we get away from media guides, we'll be figuring out how to move all that content onto the web. A lack of hierarchy of sports is a point of emphasis here at Princeton, so all 38 sports will see content in the "new media" way we've chosen to proceed.