Friday, March 27, 2009

Face the media trend

Face it. If the NHL wants to survive as a going concern, it has to get with the times.

Yes, it has revamped its Website to include interesting blogs, live video and audio feed, and numerous other features. The updates on the media site score sheets are still two to three minutes behind the actual game clock, but it has improved. (See the National Lacrosse League site at for actual real time updates.) However, its media credential policy still lives in the Dark Ages.

There is an old saying -- maybe it's this writer’s old saying: if you want to find your target audience -- go where they go.

We are in the middle of a media revolution: out with traditional and in with new technology. It's ever changing but those that learn and move with the ebb and flow of the Internet will likely find more success than those stuck in the old traditional formats that are drying up.

For example, many have stopped buying newspapers because a) they pile up faster than you have time to read them and b) it is a pain in the backside to take the bulky weight of them to the recycling bin. But more so, people are getting their news and sports online and through cable television because it's instantaneous; it's easy; and you get a broader viewpoint.

Here are the facts:

• The high fixed costs of printing and distribution are not going down any time soon.
• The Rocky Mountain News, which closed its doors in February, was said to be failing in 2001 when it joined forces with the Denver Post; owner E.W. Scripps Co. says it lost $15 million in Denver in 2008
• The Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, and Boston Globe shut down their foreign bureaus; Time and Newsweek downsized their foreign correspondents (
• The Tribune Co., owners of Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, is in bankruptcy proceedings and outsourcing its foreign news coverage; the New York Times is in financial trouble
• (Pew Internet and American Life Project November 19 to December 20, 2008): 70 percent Internet users get their news online; 45 percent get sports scores online; 29 percent listen to live or recorded radio broadcasts; 36 percent get their news online daily; 29 percent look for their hobby or interests online daily; 15 percent look for sports scores online daily
• (Statistics Canada, June 2008): 73 percent of the population 16 and older go online for personal reasons; 68 percent are online every day; men stay online longer than women; most online users earn over $95,000; 84 percent of online users have some post-secondary education
• (The Conference Board and TNS): close to 16 percent of Internet-using U.S. households watch television broadcasts online; 3/5 of those that watch online broadcasts say it’s more convenient
• Television networks have lost 17 percent of its 18- to 49-year-old demographic to Internet TV (comScore)
• (Awareness Inc.) 93 percent of organizations surveyed use some form of unpaid social media in an era of declining marketing budgets

Howard Kurtz adds insight to this issue on his CNN show Reliable Sources and with this column:

The NHL and other like organizations cannot ignore what is happening. The desired demographic is online, not on the networks or reading newspapers. Pew reported in December 2008 that 74 percent of adults use the Internet and if you look at the demographic breakdown – it’s exactly who the NHL is trying to reach to keep its business afloat.

18-29: 87 percent use the Internet
30-49: 82 percent
50-64: 72 percent
65+: 41 percent

And the higher the income, the more Internet use.

One of the jobs of PR departments is to control the company message; whereas the media’s job is to relay the message to the general public that doesn’t have the upfront access. For the organization, the media actually provides free advertising. If the media organizations all dried up overnight, the NHL would not have a venue to market its business.

Because the mainstream media industry is changing, NHL PR departments have to rethink their priority heirarchy when it comes to media importance. They can no longer afford to “diss” the electronic media, as they may be the last ones standing in the new era that is taking place at this very moment. That doesn’t mean accrediting every Tom, Dick, and Jane that has a sports blog or Website. But if the NHL brass actually took a moment to click on the most frequented sites and blogs that are continually updated and those with writers that are serious about writing, the NHL might consider adding those outlets to the list.

Look no further than the presidential campaign of Barak Obama to see where the future is going in media. He brilliantly incorporated social networking (Facebook and Twitter, etc.) as part of his marketing campaign. As of this writing, there are 5,842,010 supporters that have joined his Facebook page and 393,269 Twitter followers.

Rick Sanchez of CNN, who calls his show “Your” newscast” has basically changed the way his fellow anchors deliver the news overnight. He skillfully incorporates viewer feedback through Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, reads and shows some of the comments live. He has 63,383 followers on Twitter.

The time is now for the NHL to get with the times. It owes it to its fans.