According to SI a huge number of people tuned into this past weekends Euro 2008 final and the DC United vs. Galaxy match that preceeded it. (3.76 million and 1.2 million viewers respectively.)
These are fantastic numbers for a sport that no one allegedly cares about. The numbers are even better when you consider that for the matinee game, half of the potential audience was still shaking the sleep out of their eyes at kickoff.
I was deeply critical of MLS for allowing a game to kick off at 9am PST when one of the teams playing is from California but the numbers were pretty good with that difficulty.
The numbers really jump out at you when you look at the Euro numbers. 3.76 million viewers is staggering. Keep this in mind when viewing the numbers. The network, The CW, normally gets 4 million or less viewers in PRIMETIME. That is to say nothing of some other networks getting similarly weak numbers in those same money slots. To pull 4 million viewers on a Sunday morning/afternoon is nothing short of fantastic.
Sure it’s not NFL 1pm/3pm game numbers, that would be a lot to expect, but it is similar to ABC’s feature college game of the week according to THESE numbers. Numbers like the ones from the Euro final Sunday can only help gain more exposure of soccer in America on TV and mean more money for the league and SUM since we all know the kind of money that is thrown at college football. If soccer got half that money it would explode in quality in this country. With all that good news and obvious interest that can only mean news editors around the country would be looking to exploit the sectors of their markets that are hungry for the most popular recreational and youth participation game in the country right?
Nick Green, Andrea Canales and Luis Bueno have been covering the withering newspaper coverage of soccer in Los Angeles for a while. This is positively crazy considering the popularity of the game in this city. Granted, much of the interest comes from the Spanish speaking audience of this city, but there is still a sizeable English language fanbase who are apparently being ignored if these cuts come to pass.
However, I wonder if it isn’t more indicative of the newspaper publishing business in general. First the struggling economy has to be considered as these papers are largely publicly held and need to keep revenue on an uptick and profits in the black. This is usually done with job cuts. Who better to cut than the people covering the least popular events?
Add to this the fact that sports in papers are silly. Newspaper in general have the ‘you are getting the news 24 hours later’ onus hung on them but it is especially true of sports where you are reading stories about games that are 1 or even 2 days old. With the speed of the internet, many of these stories are coming out in real time.
Add to this formula the sheer bulk of soccer related blogs and forums on the internet that probably exceeds any other sport in terms of sheer volume of potential news sources and you begin to see how newspapers would cut those jobs. Do yourself a favor and type in ‘football blog’ or ‘soccer blog’ in google or even at WordPress.com you will see hundreds upon hundreds of them.
Ultimately, newspaper brands won’t fold and go the way of the dinosaur. They will simply reinvent themselves. The online presence will be the place for news and updates since that is where most people go for such things as it is. (do you know anyone that doesn’t check BBC, CNN, Foxnews, NBC for news online?) They will keep the print edition in a slimmed down form with collectible pull outs and opinion pieces that aren’t dated material like sports scores are and also to cater to restaurant guides and coupons and the like. It is bound to happen and many publishers including Felix Dennis of Maxim fame told Alexis Glick as much on a recent episode of Money for Breakfast on Fox Business Channel.
So while it may seem counter intuitive to dump the coverage of a sport that is clearly on the rise in the papers, it seems more of an inevitability than a move made out of spite. It is simply incumbent upon people to re-invent themselves and make their niche in the online world. Ives Galarcep made the transition from the tiny newspaper he was writing for to the online realm and seems to be doing well according to his own proclamations. If he can do it, pretty much anyone currently employed by a newspaper can do it. It’s no secret that I find much of his reporting to be left wanting as he clearly never researches rules before commenting on them and his analyses are clearly coming from the mind of someone who has never actually played the game on a competitive level. (which he hasn’t by his own admission) More than a few of the ‘scoops’ he does get often come from Latin American/Spanish sources first.
I’m not trying to make it sound like I’m blasting the guy, really I’m not, but I think he is about average as far as reporters of soccer go; nothing great nothing terrible. If he can find success, there must be others who could make a similar successful transition to the online realm.
Internet ad revenue is starting to boom. I can attest to that. I have a modest website (see link in upper left of sidebar) that is 100% supported by AdBrite ads and it more than pays for the upkeep and leaves a little bit (not enough to live on) left over for some beers. If a tiny website with modest at best pageviews can be self sustaining someone with an audience and a voice on a subject (soccer) they love can certainly cut through the bits and bytes of the internet and succeed.
In short, it’s not time to lament the loss of newspaper column space for soccer, it’s a dying medium in that regard anyway, it’s time to look forward and take the step toward innovation or reinvention…or go take a job as a bag boy instead.
Be bold, or grow old wondering “what if?” for the remainder of your life. A lesson for soccer and a lesson for all of life. That used to be the American way. Let’s keep that going, shall we?
Happy 4th of July to my fellow Americans.