In a Monday NY Times article the battle between media, both mainstream and bloggers, and sports franchises/leagues over access was laid out. In a nutshell, the media want more access and the ability to report sooner. The teams and leagues, who have become media channels in their own rights, want to hold on to some of their content.
One of the specific issues was how many photos a media outlet could post from an event. This struck me as analogous to a divorce where the couple is arguing over who gets the betamax and 8-track tape player. Ultimately consumers aren’t swayed by the quantity of photos, or even how quickly ‘official’ content is made available. Let me give you a couple of examples:
The most popular sports blog is Deadspin. Their motto: Sports without Access, Favor or Discretion. They don’t rely on exclusive interviews or costly rights fees, they just produce amazing content that people want to read. They’ve developed a community that fans want to participate in.
I’m a fan of the English Premier League football team Arsenal FC. Since their weekday games happen during midday here in New York, I can’t watch the games. Yes, I could follow them on UEFA.com or ESPN’s Soccernet, but I’m more likely to follow the in-game thread over at bigsoccer.com. This weekend’s game had 310 posts.
One more example? A typical in-game thread at Sons of Sam Horn can have 900+ posts. No photos, no video, no high-priced, celebrity, former player analysts, just a bunch of die hard fans sharing an experience.
Fighting over access is missing the point. The mainstream media does a great job of covering the teams, so do blogs and so do the teams and leagues themselves. There are plenty of eyeballs for everyone. The key is delivering unique, compelling content that people want to engage with. That could be analysis, video, audio, pictures, stats, mobile games, blogs, forums or any number of things.
Focus on creating an inviting environment and providing unique content and you won’t need to fight over the other stuff.