The Monday After & Media Matters

We’ve decided to take a different approach to our Monday After posts from today forward.  Rather than focus on attendance, we thought we look at any business issues that arose over the weekend and focus on one or two significant “gates” on either the high side or low side.  We are also starting a new regular feature called “Media Matters” when we will comment on the presence of soccer coverage in mainstream media.  If you stumble across such coverage, feel free to drop us a line at footiebusiness@gmail.com

On to the weekend.  For MLS fans it was a great Saturday night on Direct Kick, with games kicking off at 7:30, 8:30, 9:00, 10:00 and 10:30.  Add in the FSC game from Houston and there was plenty of soccer to choose from.  Attendance was generally poor across the league despite generally good weather nationwide.  Perhaps most dissappointing was the 15,400 in Los Angeles where the undefeated Galaxy beat expansion Phill 3-1.  Los Angeles is off to a great start this year and the franchise generally draws well and has had plenty of games in the Beckham era near the 27k capacity at the Home Depot Center.

WPS attendance has also been disappointing this year.  The weekend was notable for the 8k that saw Washington win 3-1 at RFK.  The match was part of a doubleheader with stumbling DC United.  Less than 3k were in Philly for the expansion franchise’s win over fellow newcomer Atlanta.

A couple of notes in our media matters section.  Two soccer stories in the most recent edition of Sports Illustrated.  One was a great feature on Jozy Altidore.  With the World Cup 6 weeks away, we should anticipate a number of these types of features in mainstream publications.  The other piece was in the “Scorecard” section that analyzed MLS’ status at the gate.  The article provided a neat two sided argument that compared MLS to the NBA and NHL with respect to attendance and provided reasons both in support and against the staying power of American soccer.

Keeping with the media theme, ESPN has certainly ramped up its World Cup coverage across both the internet and television platforms.  Ads for the World Cup are omnipresent on all programming on the ESPN networks and ESPN.com is running an article every day.  The WorldWide leader has invested an enormous amount of money in the World Cup and they are working hard to push their coverage

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MLS: The Value of Exposure Revisited

Back in January, we discussed MLS’ efforts to mesaure the value of its televsion exposure through various local and national broadcasts.  Through the website criticalmention.com, MLS tries to alert media  to the “value” of its presence on various television programs.  Since a couple of months have passed since we last checked in on this metric, we thought providing a snapshot of this “worth” of MLS media exposure.

In Houston, the local Fox affiliate devoted 30 seconds to the Dynamo signing of local product Francisco Navas.   Critical Mention estimates that the broadcast reached 93k households in the Houston area.  The estimated publicity value?  $920.00. The local CBS affiliate did a similar story on the same day but two hours earlier.  The broadcast reached about 30k less people, but the estimated publicity value? $1328.00  While the monetary numbers seem low, more than 150k households saw a story about the local soccer team signing a neighborhood kid.

In Columbus, WBNS (CBS) devoted 45 seconds to the Crew’s 2-2 draw against Toluca in the Champions League as part of its a.m. news. For a tournament that generates limited interest, the people woke up to a stirring comeback and coverage of three goals.   The broadcast (at 5:00 a.m.) reached approximately 70k households for a publicity value of? $2008.00.   Lastly, more than 135k households saw the Denver NBC affiliate provide more than two minutes of coverage of the team’s trip to London   According to critical mention, the spote generated almost $15k in publicity value.

As we said in January, these numbers are both interesting and informative and provide some tangible basis for comparison when looking at the value of exposure in the broadcast media.  This analysis is especially important when sponsors see their names splashed across jersey fronts during highlights or signboards show their brands for prolonged periods of time.  Moreover, given that many of these broadcasts are local, references to franchises (to a partially captive audience) stress the presence of the team to the community and may remind a viewer of the intention to buy a ticket or watch a game.

Covering the Coverage: Local Newspapers

soccer paperWith the Summer winding down, we thought we would take a look at the coverage of American soccer in the United States.  A  couple of weeks ago, in Part I, we took a look at the mainstream media.  To read that article, click  here.  Thereafter, we took a look at sports radio. Today, we are going to take a look at local newspapers.  Although many consider the local paper a dying enterprise, papers still represent an important source of news and sports coverage; especially for local teams.  Despite shrinking staffs at many papers, beat writers still cover local teams and provide the regular features not available in the insta-news driven internet.

Levels of coverage vary widely across the country.  Some papers like the Washington Post and Houston Chronicle provide regular and detailed soccer coverage of both national and local teams.  They offer dedicated beat reports who follow the local MLS franchise and provide the in depth feature and news reporting common to the rest of the  major sports.  Others like the New York Post and Boston Globe provide limited soccercoverage of their local teams and often rely on pool reports or stringers to cover their games.  The recent departure of a dedicated soccer write lie Frank Dell”Apa has weakened the once strong coverage of the Globe. Some markets like Seattle, Toronto and Salt Lake City have multiple media outlets that provide regular coverage of their local MLS teams.  Papers in these markets offer multiple articles a week and sections of their websites devoted to their local team.  Yet,   in Los Angeles, soccer doesn’t even make the primary lists of sports of the Times.

Some reporters have moved to other outlets to continue to cover the beautiful game (often in addition to their paper responsibilities).  Many fans are familiar with Steve Goff’s Insider and Soccer By Ives.  Others, like Dell’Apa contribute to ESPN or follow Andrea Canales’ lead to soccer publications.  Kyle McCarthy of the Herald has taken much of his content to Twitter.

So yes, soccer fans are typicaly an internet savvy bunch.  Many get their coverage through web sources, including first person accounts by fans and message boards such as Big Soccer and others.   Yet there is a huge soccer audience, largely under-acknowledged by these internet fans, that still relies on local papers for their news (whether online or in paper form).  When MLS is relegated to standings table or short AP blurb, their opportunity to follow the team is greatly diminshed. The absence of such local coverage is a severe detriment to the teams and the fans.

Perhaps more importantly, it is the local reporters that ask the tough questions of coaches and players before and after games.  Their familiarity with the team allows them to provide unique insight not available to the national media.  Without local reporters, fans are left to their own observations or those of the web sources where analysis frequently turns to argument.  Local coverage allows fans to get closer to their teams whil providing a typically objective and reasonable view of the day-to-day of the squad.

So is local coverage still necessary?  Is it important?  How does your local paper cover soccer/MLS?  Please let us know your thoughts.