When it comes to digital, we are stuck with predominantly reach and impressions for measurement, a lowest common-denominator philosophy. So sports publishers are rolling up other sites, some not even sports-related, to create the farce of a bigger audience to accommodate this antiquated evaluation criterion. Publishers have pivoted their traffic strategies from relying exclusively on the home page and SEO to having a larger percentage of their traffic come from social media platforms — in some cases, as much as 70%.
If social remains the primary traffic driver to a great digital sports experience, the commercial model needs to be a larger reflection of that, enabling the publishing industry to advance into a truly unique social-first experience for consumers and advertisers.
Here are ways to facilitate this evolution:
Social should be the commercial launch platform. Advertiser campaigns should not be amplified through social, they should start with social -- the same as a publisher’s traffic does. If you can manage to bring users in through engaging, brand-infused, but not sponsored content, publishers can evolve beyond paid and into the owned and earned media business.
Be fun and irreverent. If consumers simply wanted the news, they would go to CNN or Fox News. The majority of social is about expressing authentic expression. Leveraging the platform to convey opinionated, right of center point of views is what drives this “in-the-moment” interaction. Not only does tone and voice matter, but social should be configured to fill the gap that mainstream media often do not deliver on, especially in sports.
Social needs to be a function of everyone in the newsroom. True social-first platforms do not have social as a separate function in the newsroom. Instead, social is a function of everyone in the newsroom. Writers and editors need to be comfortable with a secondary role of being social influencers and brand ambassadors and consider social an extension of their content creation duties.
With a slight shift in mindset to focus on social-first, the sports media industry can adapt to meet the needs of a changing consumer and advertiser base and deliver the right content through the right interactive vehicle.