Make your website attractive to fans

Originally posted June 2010

So what are you doing to create ‘the‘ place where fans turn for sports news on your campus? Or do you feel cocky, believing no other media can beat you for sports coverage? But does that include your own sports information department, which is probably cranking out copy, developing resources, and posting links all over its Web site?

Yeah, but that’s not journalism right? Think fans care? Really?

College newspapers are going to have to deliver more content on many more multimedia platforms much more frequently, if they are to remain relevant.

Nobody is safe in a media environment where leagues, associations, conferences and schools are trying to take complete control over media coverage.

You’ll need to ask yourself some questions before deciding where to start.

For example, do you offer video of press conferences for all sports, as the GatorZone does?

  • Do you cover all sports equally, including sports perceived as minor by editors. The Georgia Dogs site offers 400-plus word stories that includes embedded links, results, photos and video from each event – even from women’s tennis, a sport that receives scant coverage at most college newspapers besides briefs written off agate.
  • Do you offer a way for fans to get texted updates on games or reminders about future events?
  • Do you embed information in every story to link to player profiles, archived stories or related information?
  • Do you offer interactive quizzes that teach readers about sports medicine, sports terminology or recruiting regulations, as Arizona does? You can even find a sponsor for this feature.
  • Do you offer live stats for all games, like Ohio State and nearly every other NCAA school does?
  • Do you offer trivia for sports fans wanting to learn more about the program’s athletes and teams?
  • Do you offer a schedule for all sports events that includes links to preview stories?
  • Do you offer podcasts that address games, players or feature angles, like Michigan does.
  • Do you offer information daily on a blog that includes notes from practices, honors for players or general updates. This is also a place where fans can speak to one another.
  • Do you use social media like Twitter and Facebook to promote coverage or events like a BCS game, as North Carolina, LSU and Alabama do? This creates another place for fans to talk to one another.
  • Do you offer photo galleries connected to games, practices or feature stories?
  • Do you offer fan polls? Afterward, do you write anything about the results?
  • Do you offer one-minute video highlights on rowing, softball and tennis, like Texas does?
  • Do you offer 600-plus word features on players, events and on more obscure teams like Nebraska’s rifle team?

If you’re not doing most of these things, readers are going to continue to drift away. Don’t get overwhelmed. Start with one new item at a time. In time, your newspaper’s Web site will grow stronger and your reporting will drill deeper.

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About jgisondi

I covered sports and worked as a sports copy editor for more than 20 years at several newspapers in Florida, including the Fort Myers News-Press, Clearwater Sun, Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. I started writing for a weekly sports publication in Coral Springs, Fla., at age 15. I have been hooked on sports journalism ever since. I was fortunate to have worked with some amazing editors along the way, journalists who took the time to help me even when my copy was not top-notch. Now, I teach journalism at Eastern Illinois University and work as an editor for Landof10.com, a vertical that focuses on Big Ten athletics. A second edition of the "Field Guide To Covering Sports" will be available sometime in February 2017. The book is a practical guide to preparing, observing, interviewing and writing about 20 different sports, from auto racing to wrestling. Chapters also address ways to cover high school sports, fantasy sports, to develop sports blogs. You can also learn how to cover games, to write features and to interview better. Fans can also learn basic rules of these sports, along with ways to better observe the action. New chapters in the second edition will address social media, advanced analytics, fantasy sports coverage and revised, expanded chapters address game coverage, features and columns, among other new sections.
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