Friday, January 7, 2011

North American online newspaper soccer coverage: Conclusion

I wanted this series to be much longer and more extensive, but the more newspapers I perused, the more it became apparent that reviewing more of them would be redundant (although the National Post soccer page looks pretty cool, and their Eric guy is doing a bang up job, it wasn't worth a precious post). The East Coast Canadian papers have no soccer coverage at all, except for one or two local stories tucked away where you can't find them.

I suppose the sorry state of soccer coverage in online newspapers is a reflection of the shit creek they happen to be up right now sans paddle, financially speaking. The coverage from television network sites tends to be much better, but of course they have an incentive there to draw in readers to eventually turn on the TV and watch games—one reason why cbc.ca has some of the best TFC coverage around. What incentive do newspapers have to spend resources on a sport that a lot of Canadians and Americans apparently don't think or care a whole lot for, even though there is a good chance they would if it was taken a little more seriously by the aging sportswriter hacks that plague this continent?

I don't have a nifty answer for that, except you might ask just what the hell a newspaper is for anymore at all. We've already heard a lot about how online newspapers tend to all print the same news stories, and reading through the soccer pages, that's obviously the number one reason why many of them shouldn't even bother existing. Okay, so you don't have the money to pay for reporters to drum up local news stories on every sport from basketball to track and field to water polo. Why not outsource coverage to an interested blogger for a smaller, hobbyist wage? He or she could go out and cover a local beat; perhaps a full-match report on some peewee Timbits Tiny Tots Cup final in Brampton or something.

Hyperlocal it up, in other words. In addition to that, the paper could give them free reign to do blogger Goff type stuff, and include longer editorials and the like. A lot of North Americans are already doing this for a pittance on their own; can't be too difficult to give them a moneyed incentive to do more of it and better? Because what other reason does anyone have to visit your newspaper online unless they're offering something they can't find anywhere else on the web? And you can't get more exclusive than solid local sports coverage.

In fact, a lot of local Toronto newspapers lost their chance for that when canadiansoccernews.com launched last year. Now there's even less of a reason for anyone interested in soccer to independently decide to visit thestar.ca or globeandmail.ca. Obviously there are complicated union issues to resolve with this type of set up, but meanwhile Rome is burning, and papers are left hoping their print editions will be enough to sustain them in the coming years. I'll just conclude snippily and say, if the status quo continues, the papers should save their hosting/domain fees and dump huge portions of their online sites. Don't bother if you're not even going to try.

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