Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hyper localism

One of the trends going on in sports media today is hyper-localism: sports outlets making a bigger effort to cover local teams and athletes. The argument goes something like this, "We have to be local because that's the only place our audience can get stuff on local players and teams. There's no point in doing national sports because people can get that from ESPN."

But what happens when ESPN goes "local?"

The self-proclaimed WWLS (World Wide Leader in Sports) has now created branded ESPN web content in several cities, such as Dallas and Chicago. The content is split between ESPN staffers (who voice over SportsCenter updates targeted to the specific market) and local writers and bloggers who cover the specific market on a daily basis. (In the case of ESPN Dallas, the site poached several sports staffers who were working at the Dallas Morning News).

In a somewhat related story, GrandStadium.TV has started making in-roads into televising local high school sports events. The content is completely produced by high school journalism students (under the direction of teachers), and the quality is apparently good enough that some broadcast TV outlets have signed deals with GrandStadium to show the games, an arrangement that works out for both sides.

Both of these developments show how the sports media are becoming much more hyper-local, and both are a threat to the traditional (or 'legacy') media, such as local TV and newspapers. It's interesting to see how local TV is partnering with GrandStadium, which seems to be a very smart move. If sports media consumers can go to their TVs or computers and watch these hyper-local sports on demand, or if they can turn to ESPN Yakima, what then becomes of the role of sports in the legacy media?

This would seem to be the single biggest question facing these traditional media today, and how they answer it could mean the difference between survival and extinction.

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