Legacy Media Company Short on Resources Aligns with Niche Digital Sports Outlet
‘La Vida Baseball’ [LVB] recently announced a partnership with the Houston Chronicle that could ignite a larger trend across the media landscape – legacy companies aligning with niche digital properties. As newspapers – and sports departments in particular – find themselves short on resources, upstart digital outlets can serve to fill the void; LVB’s feature-based content (will be predominantly written to start) will complement local beat coverage of the Astros and Rangers. While syndication is a cost-effective solution for understaffed editorial departments, the reach – and credibility – that an independent outlet can gain from a deal with an established media brand is equally as valuable.
Howie Long-Short: LVB founder Jay Sharman explained that “upstart digital media entities can’t rely on inbound traffic. In the social media age, people simply consume content on too many different platforms to assume a single article will stand out in a stream of news.” Instead, the objective should be to “create valuable content and then find ways to get it in front of the right audience” ; ideally in association with an a trusted brand.
The deal was a no brainer from the La Vida Baseball perspective. The Houston Chronicle will drive traffic (i.e. click-throughs) and brand awareness for LVB and an affiliation with the paper “furthers [LVB’s] credibility with the players, the teams and the league – which ultimately leads to more access and betting storytelling.” It’s also the agreement Sharman believes will “help to expedite conversations with some other potential distribution partners.”
On the other side of the negotiating table it was the importance of the Latino audience to the Chronicle business that drove the legacy publication to do the deal. Adding some “great storytelling that is relevant to the Latino sports fan” – without adding costs – made for an easy decision on their end.
La Vida Baseball is going to be selective in the markets it chooses to replicate the content syndication model in, but Sharman cited potential in “the smile states (Southern California to Maryland), San Diego, Chicago, New York, Boston and Miami.” The Houston Chronicle is owned by Hearst Corporation, so there would seem to be an opportunity to align with other newspapers under their corporate umbrella, but a closer look at company holdings only reflect two papers that would be an obvious fit; the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News. New Media Investment Group, which owns USA Today and 100+ other daily publications, might be a better fit; the company is looking to scale hyper-local businesses and sports content curation may be able to help them accomplish that.
Moving forward Sharman believes “original content with some curation” is the model that many legacy media companies with brand equity – but limited financial resources – will follow. He suggested that “it’s not too dissimilar to the Associated Press model where you have publishers creating content with some utility for a lot of different outlets.”
Fun Fact: LVB believes that there are 16 million Latino baseball fans in the United States.
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