Stadium Publishing

NFL Embodies Modern Media

Drew Brees

After trading Jimmy Graham rumors swirled that Drew Brees was next.

How does a sport with a 16-week regular season manage to wedge itself into the sports conversation for nearly 10 months of the year?

The National Football League transformed its off-season gradually over the past 20-something years to the point where fans demand instant gratification and updates on their favorite team on a daily basis.

When I served as VP of Digital Content for Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia and later NBC Regional Networks, my core editorial philosophy orbited around one central question: “What is my team doing to win a championship?”

No sport embodies or places demands on answering that question better than the NFL. This week’s NFL Draft culminates approximately 5-6 months of speculation, conversation and anticipation. Once football fans realize their team will not qualify for the playoffs, they instantly turn their focus to the Draft and coaching changes.

Before the season ends, the storylines for January and beyond are fairly set: Coaching/Front Office Changes, Free Agents to re-sign, Free Agents to sign, Salary Cap management, Draft Needs, Mini-Camps and, finally, Training Camp. Indeed the NFL is a well-oiled and organized storyline machine. Everyone knows the topics as they play out during each month of the off-season (organized as such in the previous paragraph).

From a media perspective, this seems to make covering a team fairly simple – even for the other major sports. But, as I said to many of our editors: The off-season is what separates the great beat reporters from the standard folks. In this day and age, Twitter and broadcast media has placed a great deal of emphasis on “me-first” journalism.

NFL Draft

At NBC Sports Regional Networks, Draft talk focused on regional needs

Beat writers today have to watch their Twitter accounts, work hard to keep sources under wraps and do their best to compete with the national Twitter-rumor mongers who have deep tie-ins to agents.

Player agents frequently orchestrate behind-the-scenes drama by feeding the media beast with all sorts of rumors from free agency to trade demands. The reporters with the largest Twitter followings become a one-stop-shop for agents to get their points out to the public. The best reporters, however, go beyond the “me-first” mentality.

Modern media is a lot like trying to play defense in basketball: You’re going to give up baskets, but how your team responds on their next possession is what often wins the game. Modern beat writers must take the me-first mentality and look for alternate angles, impacts and ripple effect.

It’s not enough to get a scoop these days. Editors, beat writers and communications specialists can all take a page from the NFL in terms of viewing the various storyline milestones during the course of a sports’ calendar year.

Identifying these moments creates an incredible amount of opportunity through greater content, debate, communication with fans, social media conversation and, ultimately content segments that can be MONETIZED.

Yes, in the end, there’s a way to make money and who does that better than the NFL?

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