The New York Times reports that a new digital approach to sports coverage appears to be producing big results for SB Nation (SportsBlog Nation), a network of 249 sports blogs marketed with the slogan "Pro Quality, Fan Perspective." Almost every one of SB Nation's digital properties is devoted to a local team or hometown. The "unapologetically biased" blogs are differentiated with traditional coverage by having being written "by fans, for fans." In April, approximately 3.6 million unique visitors were recorded on its 21 most popular sites alone. In other sports journalism news, industry blog, Newspaper Designing, has just compiled a list of tips from three design and journalism professionals who share strategies for covering the world cup in print and on the web, more details at the bottom of this post.
On the digital front, SB Nation's successful and warrants careful consideration in terms both in terms of the spread of the model of "for fan-by fan" coverage and its possible implications for newspaper sports sites. The NYT article points to one similar approach at DigitalSports.com which solicits school administrators, parents and students to provide coverage of high school sports. Former Washing Post reporter, and current content editor for DigitalSports, Angela Watts, suggested to the NYT that "...the coverage was different from that of a professional reporter, but if we can get 20 people at every school to write, then, yes, it is competition" for newspapers."
Data is not yet available to track the impact of this new breed of sports journalism on traditional newspapers or their websites. The NYT quotes Timothy A. Franklin, the director of the National Sports Journalism Center as saying "Newspaper sports sections are being squeezed from every conceivable angle." In terms of attracting advertisers, sports sections have traditionally been loss leaders for newspapers, however the content tends to increase readership, particularly when a team is doing well.
Chairman of DigitalSports, Jim Bankoff, downplays the potential friction in stating that "[w]e are actually complementary from what newspapers do. We embrace fan bias. Newspapers focus on objective coverage -- and when you combine the two, you get both perspectives." While Bankoff's sentiment is not without merit, the reality of the situation may well be that objective journalism is not priority for sports fans wanting to read about their favorite team.
Moving on to short-term strategies for sports editors, Newspaper Designing's "How can you be creative during World Cup Soccer" looks at a multitude of issues ranging from colour palettes to multimedia implementation to demographic considerations. The panel of experts who contributed to the World Cup editing guide are Charles Apple, visual journalist; Tim Frank, creative director and Lucie Lacava, Design Consultant.