Sports Prove the Long Tail

Really outstanding piece by Jason Fry today over at the National Sports Journalism Center (Indiana University’s finest journalism contribution). In it, he argues that the sports desks around the country have adapted to digital a lot faster than most of their reporter colleagues…thanks to the unique nature of sports. Among all of his points, I think the one that serves the most utility is the nature of sports fandom and the quirkiness of sports information create an entire industry for the online world:

The Long Tail Of Fans A3 Poster

“There’s ample demand for sports news, and from the beginnings of the consumer Web, sports fans used the Web to get information they couldn’t get from their local paper. Some of them were out-of-town fans who wanted more than a box score or 15 seconds on SportsCenter. Others wanted more than they could get from their town’s single paper. Lots of them wanted to talk about the last game – or the next one – with other fans. Sports departments have been finding new ways to meet this demand for nearly two decades now, giving them a head start over other departments.”

All of the points are excellent, and I really think it’s one of the best pieces I’ve seen today, but I’m focusing on this notion because, to me, it’s what really solidifies the place that digital has in telling the sports story. For a long time, the best we had to help the long displaced fans was expensive cable packages, sports bars and satellite dish networks. Digital bridges the gap for even the most obscurely placed fan, helping not only bring them content, but helping find a community of fans wherever they may be.

My go-to example has always been the college football message boards. Trust me, even those teams that don’t have the rabid fan bases still have populated and vocal communities dedicated to their teams. That’s the long tail at it’s finest: because there may not be someone on your continent who cares about some lower division school or club, but trust me, you can find them on online.

Hopefully Fry is right that the sports departments are following this. That’s what they need to do to keep up, because if they won’t serve the online local community, someone else will.

Photo (cc) via Owen Kelly

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