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No gamer on front page?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Trey Beamon, Sep 9, 2006.

  1. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    People are acting like the whole "the readers saw the game on TV" is a new concept. The games have been televised longer than I've been alive. People watch the game, they catch the highlights again on the 11 p.m. TV news, then they read about it in the morning. And they still do, because what they get on the Internet during that brief period between end of game and bedtime is bare-bones AP running, no more satisfying than the TV news.

    Remember, our readers are not entirely like us -- in large markets, they are people who have to wake up at 5 or 6 a.m. in order to get to work. They don't necessarily get to watch the end of the game, nor are they able to wait until a staff story with quotes makes it online. You know, the Dolphin game in question was a night game. It ended late. To think that everyone who likes the Dolphins had the luxury of staying up that late is being a bit out of touch with the way many people live these days. Suburban sprawl has resulted in longer commutes for many people in just about every major metropolitan area in the United States.

    The concept of doing livelier game stories isn't new, either. My first full-time job in 1979 was at a place that had an AM paper and a PM paper. The way you covered a pro night game was you filed a feature to plug for the game in the first edition, running for the second edition, a writethrough with quotes for the AM final, and then you had to file a PM with more of a second-day angle, more analytical. Unless you were insane, you were still wrapping it up by 1 or 1:30 a.m., so when the PM died about a year later, we decided to keep the idea of a PM lead for the AM paper. Newspapers have been trying to give readers more than straight running for at least that long.

    Readers have been trained by us to go to the game story first because that's what always got the bigger headline, not the column. And now, suddenly, there is no game story on the cover? Are readers going to say to themselves "Oh, my newspaper must have decided game stories are obsolete! How cutting edge of them! Way to think outside the box!" or are they going to say "Where the fuck is the story about the game? On Page 3? WTF? I could not care less about the columnist -- I can't stand him no matter what sport he writes about. Screw these people. I guess I'll just read the Internet."

    We're losing enough readers as it is simply because fewer people are interested in reading. That's a lifestyle shift out of our control. But driving away the people who WANT us to be their primary source of sports news is a recipe for disaster.
  2. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    Actually what papers want readers to open up the section and look inside.
    Inside is where the 95 percent of the advertising is. Ads are what pays your check.
    A newspaper or section is not just what's on the cover. You can go with one story or I've seen as many as eight. And actually, now that I think about, I've seen nine-story fronts and also the old-school one- or two-story fronts with 12 or 15 briefs.
    In some ways, that's what the Sun-Sent. did. They take the most important story. And important not just in terms of content, but important in terms of branding. In a hyper-competitive market, you don't want to look like all the other papers in town.
    Then they take a collection of briefs and refers and put them on the cover.
    Also, being able to write analysis on deadline is what sets apart the men from the boys. If you are at a small-market paper and want to get to the bigs, start working on your deadline anaylsis skills or what some call second-day coverage or what it means coverage.
    You can write your own ticket then.
  3. daemon

    daemon Well-Known Member

    I didn't think of it that way, to tell you the truth. And it makes a lot of sense. But newspapers don't have any way to track how many readers actually look at ads. Where we make our ad money is in circulation: how many people buy the paper. The best way to convince people to pick up the paper is to give them a section packed with what they are looking for: information and entertainment. The big advantage the internet has on us, besides its fluid news cycle, is its infinite space. Why waste what precious space we have? In my opinion, finding a creative way to fill another half page is more productive than running a huge picture and a table of contents.
  4. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    There is, to an extent. A consultant hired by my paper told us that there's a gizmo you can put on people participating in a survey that shows where their eyes go on a page -- what they look at first, second, third. So I suppose you could do that and extrapolate the results to show your advertisers.

    BTW, the consultant said people's eyes go to photos first. No surprise there. But before anyone says "AHA!" let me pose this question: Is the goal of a section inside the paper to ATTRACT the attention of someone who already has purchased the paper, or to HOLD their attention? I believe many people think it's the former, but their logic escapes me. I believe that if we worked on HOLDING their attention, we'd be better off.
  5. BTExpress

    BTExpress Well-Known Member

    Well, since studies show a great majority of readers do NOT read jumps, then the S-S must have done the right thing by giving its readers only one jump.

    If they don't read jumps, you sure as hell aren't holding their attention by giving them more jumps to read.
  6. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I think there's a built-in fallacy there. Sure, a lot of people don't read jumps. But are they any more likely to read a story all the way through if it doesn't jump? I think people stop reading after a few graphs no matter what you do, unless the story is especially compelling (which could be a variety of reasons).
  7. JayFarrar

    JayFarrar Well-Known Member

    The stuff I have always seen says that if you don't get the readers' attention in the first four inches, they aren't going to read the rest.
    Jump or no jump.
    Honestly, I'm more likely to read a columnist's jump than a gamer or even a sider jump. The columnist is going to be the one with the strong opinion that people will be arguing about that day.

    I also hate the idea of long-form newspaper writing just on the interweb. Yesterday, I picked up the NYTimes at Starbucks and for an hour I read the special section story on the 9/11 site. No way I would have read that online. I can't physically sit at a computer for an hour or two just reading a story.
    I can do that, if I'm reading it in the paper.
    But I'm also a dinosaur.
  8. Desk_dude

    Desk_dude Member

    With two stories that jump, you're making them flip twice.
  9. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

    frank - i think you're approaching this with a philosophy that newspapers have been doing it right since the wake of the age of the internet.

    i believe the only reason the "gamer first" philosophy existed for so many years is because, for so long, readers had no other option.

    we had a person cover a local college team saturday and wrote a gamer. we received zero responses from our readers. we also had a person write a column follow from the same game that ran a day later ... and have been flooded with responses since our paper hit the street that morning.

    i'm asked by my bosses to stir emotion in the reader. in hindsight, i can tell you which one of those pieces were most important to the reader.
  10. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

    1. i don't believe the column was the only thing that was offered to readers. it's called the sports section, not the sports page.
    2. what time does the super bowl typically start?
    3. even with late games, immediate response or thought is all readers have on their minds the morning after they headed directly to bed following the game.
  11. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I don't think you can take one example and make a case for it always being so. Maybe it wasn't a good game story, maybe it was a great column, we don't know.

    I think we need to stop insulting people's intelligence this way. We need to get over the idea that our readers are dumber than we are -- the stupid people aren't reading at all and won't read no matter what we do. Smart people are going to be offended when we make obvious attempts to appeal to their emotions rather than their intellect. In an attempt to court those who will never read us, we risk driving away our most likely customers.
  12. Montezuma's Revenge

    Montezuma's Revenge Active Member

    Hear, hear, Frank. That's what drives me nuts. We keep chasing the uncatchable. The people who don't like to read are not going to read no matter how much we dumb down the product in the name of making it "reader friendly." We need to be elevating the content and the writing, not diminishing it.

    Papers keep wanting to do those X-game type stories to lure the young readers. Well, guess what? If they're at that point in life where they're not reading the newspaper, they're not going to know the story's in there in the first place because THEY DON'T READ THE NEWSPAPER.

    Meanwhile, we waste space and alienate our actual readers.
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