On this episode, my guest is Henry Winter. As Chief Football Writer of the Times, he is one of the most respected and influential sports journalists currently working the UK.
Winter’s career started well before social media but he has fully embraced the medium and now boasts a Twitter following akin to that of a mid-table Premier League club.
This is a wide-ranging conversation taking in the state of sports journalism, the newspaper industry, TV and sport as well as social media. But it is all underpinned by the thoughtful analysis and humility Winter’s readers will know so well.
1.55 How he got into sports journalism and his rise to the Times
3.12 Whether those tactics would still work today
4.02 How important are the skills of writing
6.04 Writing v video v contacts
8.13 The effect social media has had on his job. Which platform works best for him
10.25 The effects on the style of writing
12.15 His attitude to haters
14:43 His tactics for replying to haters or ‘disagreers’
15:34 The training has had on social media
17:20 Why journalists are bylines not brands
19.34 Naming your Twitter feed and digital contact
21.31 Clubs becoming media outlets and avoiding the “us v them” in press conferences
23.45 When player and teams need a favour from the journalists
26.34 The YouTube fan channels – their sweet spot and their one problem
29. 23 Where club channels fit in
32.03 Is the explosion of content good for mainstream sports journalism?
34.36 Having a ‘Trump bump’ in sport? Paying for quality
37.10 The tonal balance – Piers Morgan, the Gettysburg address and War and Peace
38.39 Why are there no sports dailies in the UK. ‘If it is not a Golden Age, it is an unrivalled time’
40.39 The adaption of the newspaper’s business models. The EPL deal and the obsession with
42.33 Advice for young sports journalists
44.51 The pull of sports journalists through social media. Did the Times ‘sign’ Henry Winter because of his social media following
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The phrases ‘fan engagement’ and ‘fan experience’ were rarely used in sports before the turn of the millennium. Certainly, in the UK, a winning team was considered the key to supporter satisfaction.
That has changed in recent years and the Fan Experience Company have been at the vanguard of this movement. Director Mark Bradley has wide experience in challenging environments across England and Europe. His vision is not just Family Stands and face-painting, he argues that a coherent fan engagement strategy will reap a commercial return, especially for those clubs operating outside the upper echelons of the Champions League.
If data is the new oil then Customer Relationship Management is the process of mining and refining the information for business use.
Over the last few years, major clubs have spent millions of dollars on getting the right message to the right person at the right time on the right platform. But what if money is tight, you don’t have the scale and those who run the club would rather put their resources elsewhere.?
Bas Schnater is an international fan engagement consultant. He has just left Dutch football team AZ Alkmaar after two years running the marketing department.
He built a CRM ecosystem from the bottom up. Appointing a partner, dealing with internal stakeholders and the changes they must accept, managing the messaging, commercialisation v content.
There is a lot to consider but the improvements can be significant.
George Orwell once wrote that sport is “war minus the shooting”.
But that was in December 1945, just after the end of the second world war.
The use of sport as a political tool has evolved considerably since then.
Prof Simon Chadwick has studied the way football, F1 etc have been used as part of ’soft’ power plays by nations attempting to grow their ‘brand’ and authority.
While countries like China and Qatar, as well as clubs like PSG and Man City, spring to mind, the UK and the US are also adept at utilising their stars on the field to enhance their influence overseas.
Match of the Day is a British institution.
The BBC’s Saturday night football show started in 1964 and still sets the weekly agenda for the sport that dominates the UK and the League that enthralls the world.
So it is incredible to think that it took until 2007 to hear the voice of a female commentator for the first time.
In this podcast, Jacqui Oatley talks to me about the attention see received on the back of that appearance. We also discussed the state of play for women sports broadcasters and journalists in the UK. What is changing, what is not and, as usual, how the social media has changed the landscape.
As you’ll hear, everyone, including me, has a lot to learn.
Russian football is undergoing a makeover. It has just hosted a successful World Cup and its club sides are regulars in the latter stages of European competition. The Russian League revealed a radical rebranding last year and its leading club, Zenit St Petersburg, are thinking beyond the serious stereotype into which the country’s persona sometimes falls.
They are creating high polished content, translating it into 15 languages and are not afraid to take on the world’s big teams and major media outlets on social media.
New Media Director Egor Kretsan leads the club’s content strategy. He spoke to me about their approach.
The emerging football leagues around the world might consider the J.League as a model.
Since starting in 1993, it has formed the foundation upon which Japanese club teams have become a force in the AFC Champions League and their national side regulars in the latter stages of major international tournaments. They even co-hosted the World Cup in 2002.
Now, the J.League is looking to expand overseas using digital as a driver.
Kei Koyama, from their international development department, spoke to me about the past, present and future, including the J.League furoshiki (translated as 'wrapping cloth'). This is a digital asset hub which allows them to create better content quickly and efficiently.
We also discuss the competition’s very different demographics and the strategic importance of the 10-year broadcasting deal with DAZN.
Cricket, lovely cricket.
England's national sport has been under pressure for many years, with the four-day County Championship widely perceived as the domestic competition in the most precarious position.
However, there has been genuine hope in the blossoming audience for a relatively basic video streaming service synced with the traditional radio commentary.
It is a League-Wide scheme developed by the England and Wales Cricket Board but Somerset CCC have been at the forefront. Digital marketing & communications executive Ben Warren runs the service for the club.
With a controversial new franchise-based tournament starting next season and threatening to take attention from the longer-form game, the pressure is on.
But can digital media really help save county cricket?
In terms of digital and social media, Major League Baseball is perhaps the most enigmatic sport in the world.
We are constantly told that America’s pastime is past its prime. It is an ‘aging sport’ that is struggling to hold on to the coat-tails of the major players, NBA and NFL whilst coming under increasing pressure from up-and-coming sports like soccer.
However, MLB Advanced Media and incarnations were at the very forefront of innovation long before other sports started to plough resources into digital and continue to be a leading light.
The Colorado Rockies are not the most fashionable team in baseball but they have built a reputation for quirky interaction and content with personality.
Julian Valentin leads the strategy at Coors Field. With the 2019 baseball season fast approaching we discussed the past, present and future for the Rockies and how the hell his team covers 162 regular seasons games!
The Sunday Times described Alex Fynn as the ‘Spiritual Godfather of the Premier League’. He is uncomfortable with the label but, in many ways, it is an apt description. The marketer and author also had an influence on the inception of the Champions League and he is critical how both conceptions have developed.
Now, Fynn is outlining his proposal for a fully-fledged European League. The concept has been talked about a lot in recent months and, if you believe the revelations in Der Speigel last year, the Continent’s elite clubs are trying to hammer out a format right now. It is fraught with difficulties but, more importantly, is it dangerous to the future of the game?
Increasingly, football clubs come in groups. Wealthy owners have multiple teams in different leagues on different continents. Sometimes there is an obvious vision, sometimes not.
US-based soccer investor Jordan Gardner is taking a different approach. He is leading a consortium that hopes to take over a top-flight Danish club and change their business model. A major part of that is developing talented players from the overseas, primarily the fertile development area of the US, then selling them on to major clubs.
It is a twist on an established approach and the among the first to link the North American game and Europe in such a direct way.