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Should the 30 for 30 series send a message to newspaper editors?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Alma, Oct 19, 2012.

  1. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    That message being: If people will watch the equivalent of quirky takeout stories on TV, maybe we should press for more of those stories in all sections?

    That is:

    More narrative
    Visually interesting
    Telling stories about specific interests and hoping readers buy in
  2. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    I think people are more willing to watch than they are to read.
  3. this.

    I won't read really long newspaper, magazine or internet articles. I imagine most readers have a shorter attention span than I do.
  4. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    Pretty much.

    I posted a link on Sports and News to an outstanding 11-page piece on Junior Seau. No replies. Had it been a 30 for 30 -- which I think it might end up being -- we'd be on Page 8.
  5. podunk press

    podunk press Active Member

    Considering that almost everyone ages 30 and younger are simply reading Tweets, no, I do not think more long-form stories are even remotely the answer.
  6. UNCGrad

    UNCGrad Member

    Maybe this is a little off topic, but I look back on my time (12 freaking years) as a small-daily SE and I think about how much time I might have wasted with gamers. It was only in my last year (three years ago) when the deadlines began getting slashed, so I never really had the time to transition away from a heavy reliance on gamers to what I feel like my former paper should be doing now -- features, features, columns, features, notebooks and features -- and pretty much throw away the VB, soccer, SB, etc. gamers. Obviously, football gamers need to stay put, but even basketball and baseball could probably be better covered without relying on gamers. I look back now and I would've approached handling the sports section of my newspaper in a completely different way, a way I feel like it absolutely should be doing now that deadlines are 9 p.m. This probably doesn't need to be done at large papers and metros, or should it?
  7. Lugnuts

    Lugnuts Well-Known Member

    High quality-- properly promoted-- is often a winning combination.
  8. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    This is an idea that's been bouncing around journalism for a long time that I really don't agree with: That the games -- the whole reason anybody pays attention to sports -- don't matter one bit.
    There's a segment of the sports journalism world that would rather be at every single practice and ignore every single game. It's baffling to me. Features definitely have their place, and in some cases (weeklies, magazines, papers with ridiculously early sections) the coverage should obviously be geared that way. Even at larger outlets where pro sports drives things, I can see it. People have seen the game and then they look for features, news and analysis.
    But to ignore gamers completely, almost with disdain, is short-sighted in my opinion. It's still the reason people watch sports, and to say the gamers don't matter is saying the games themselves don't matter. It's great that Joey Smith came from poverty to earn to a scholarship to State U., but if he runs for 20 yards on 12 carries they'll quickly forget about it. The reason they care about what Johnny Halfback looked like in practice on Wednesday is so they can see what he does on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Explaining that Josh Hamilton was in a prolonged slump because he quit chewing tobacco is an awesome story, but two days later people still want to see if he broke out of the slump.

    On the local level, not covering high school basketball, baseball or softball gamers is silly. It's what people look for. You can write a 50-inch feature on a kid, but if you don't chronicle what they're doing on the field on a daily basis people will notice and wonder (and often call and e-mail to find out) why.
    Plus, if you're at a smaller shop, cranking out those 20-inch features even 3-4 times a week is a fast track to insanity. You end up forcing them, and you run out of material pretty quickly. If you can manage one or two a week, that's good. In the meantime, you need to feed the beast and fill the section with something, so why not actually write about what people expect you to write about?
  9. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Toward the end of my journalism career, I started getting the daily numbers of how many clicks my stories were getting each day on the web site. It was so fucking depressing because the takeout that would take a shitload of work and research would get a tenth of the hits that something as mindless as power rankings or position-by-position matchups get.

    I'd love to see the numbers that SI's story about Rae Carruth's kid got compared to something like MMQB, which, while is very long, is in the quick hit format that people like...

    I have no problem sitting down and reading a good takeout, either something in SI, or Wright Thompson or something along those lines, but I don't think many other people do, which is really unfortunate.
  10. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    Oh, I think it depends on what the story is. Don't you? I think more than a few takeout stories can be tremendously boring and much too labor-intensive. I think talking to a bunch of folks who went broke - and how they went broke - is not boring and not necessarily that mind-numbingly hard.

    Beyond that...Web hits is an incomplete way of showing value of a tentpole story. And web presentation has greatly evolved in recent years.
  11. SoCalDude

    SoCalDude Active Member

    Newspapers screwed themselves by making the deadlines earlier to save money. The good gamers used to be able to provide readers the answers to WHY something happened that they saw watching the game. Why did that pitcher get pulled at that point. Why did they change quarterbacks. But with earlier deadlines, writers can't get those answers.
  12. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    I don't think the comparison works, but I'll play along anyway. A few things must be considered:

    1. Is your story good enough? There has to be some juice. We talk a lot in my line of work about writing the headline for Web purposes. That's more than SEO, which mostly matters on breaking news. You need to be able to write a compelling headline that will cause every reader who sees the story to engage. That can be very, very difficult on a boring feature. The TV equivalent is making the commercial. "Broke" drew 2.5 million viewers because it was well-hyped and the commercial made it seem awesome. The content was sexy. "There's No Place Like Home" drew 1.0 million viewers, which isn't horrible but is a huge dive, because there's just not much visceral appeal to the story of James Naismith's house. If you can't promote it well, then you can't engage readers.

    2. Is your writer good enough? This can mean all different things. But there's no point in letting a bad writer attempt to hold an audience for 3,000 words. By the same token, the critically panned episodes of 30 for 30 drew very little buzz. How much did you hear people talking about the Red Sox-Yankees one or the Marion Jones one? When you're asking readers or viewers to invest considerable time, you have to make a good product or they won't come back and they won't recommend it to their friends, which is how social media is driving traditional media.

    3. Will you promote it properly? This takes my first point and flips it on its head. What are you going to do to tell your readers about the story? If you have something really special coming in that Sunday edition, make mention of it. Use promo boxes in the days leading up to that story. Some prominent newspapers even take out radio ads (which aren't too expensive) to promote the content of the Sunday edition. What are you doing on the Web? Make a video, a photo gallery. Mix up your visual presentation. Give it top billing on your website for at least a full day. Make it easy to find for a few weeks. 30 for 30 succeeded in no small part because ESPN promoted the hell out of it. They wrote accompanying feature stories for the Web. They had SportsCenter and other shows promote it. They made some of their roundtable shows talk about the issue presented. You have to make the story important.
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