Thursday, March 28, 2013
Update: The story below was originally published on April 3, 2012. Today we learned of 12 sports writers and editors fired from The Sporting News even as it partners with a UK-based company called Perform to chase digital sports rights and invests millions of dollars into this project. Another bad digital decision for this very strange management group.
It's been a long and winding road for The Sporting News (TSN). The weekly "Bible of Baseball" that started publishing in 1886 is now an online publication struggling for an identity. Pictured above is a 1949 edition featuring Jackie Robinson.
In 2006, TSN was purchased by American City Business Journals (ACBJ). If this company sounds familiar, it should. Scenedaily.com and Rowdy.com are two NASCAR online brands owned by ACBJ. The company calls itself the largest publisher of metropolitan newsweeklies in the country and is known for its business journals.
Back in 2008 a new online version of TSN was rolled-out called Sporting News Today. The project was designed to deliver updated sports news in a daily online publication. Click here for a story from sportscircuits.com about the ultimate demise of the product in August of 2011.
In a subsequent move to gain digital market share, ACBJ pulled-off one of the most unpopular moves in recent sports history. Click here for a story from sportsbybrooks.com on how ACBJ paid America Online (AOL) millions to kill the popular AOL Fanhouse and replace it with TSN-branded sports content.
"Our target is to be a top 10 sports site in terms of traffic, and the immediate combination with AOL should satisfy that on day one," TSN president Jeff Price said to paidcontent.org.
Price left Sports Illustrated Digital in April of 2009 after working as SI's Chief Marketing Officer for years before being named president in 2005. His history is one of mergers, agreements for shared content and purchases of smaller sports websites. He joined TSN in February of 2010.
Price's shared content efforts appeared to get a shot in the arm when AOL decided, in what some called a desperate move, to purchase The Huffington Post for over $300 million. Click here for the official press release where the top executives from both companies talk about everything under the sun, except sports coverage.
TSN boasts of its connection to the Huffington Post through the AOL deal. Click here to view the front page at HuffingtonPost.com. To get to sports, users must click the "More" button. The sports tab sits between the "Good News" and "Gay Voices" sections. Once on the sports front page, there are no links to NASCAR or motorsports of any kind. TSN is a tiny link at the bottom of the page.
All of this brings us back to NASCAR and ACBJ's record in the sport. Most fans remember the day in January of 2010 when stories began to appear online about a massive layoff underway inside ACBJ. It was targeted at NASCAR and it was not pretty.
Click here for a link to a Tom Jensen story about the demise of the NASCAR Scene publication. Once the dominant publication in the sport, ACBJ never "got it" during the digital transition and in the end Scene was closed and staff members terminated.
Two of the remaining NASCAR-themed business interests of ACBJ were SceneDaily and Rowdy, both online projects. Rowdy was a small and independent effort led by a group from Charlottesville, VA. ACBJ liked their efforts so much they bought the entire thing and moved the Rowdy staff to Charlotte, NC.
Click here for the note only weeks ago from Rowdy.com co-founder Tom van der Voort about changes to that business. After several years of floundering without direction or support, Rowdy.com was closed. Any remaining NASCAR content will appear on the TSN website.
Tuesday, word began to creep out that this time it was SceneDaily about to be affected. Reporter Bob Pockrass then confirmed that later this week visitors to SceneDaily.com will be redirected to the TSN NASCAR page. Just like that, another stand-alone NASCAR website is gone.
Pockrass advises that he is still working full time on the NASCAR beat for TSN. Click here to view the TSN NASCAR page which features little original content, many links to other news sources and a generic feel. It's clearly a move to put NASCAR content into a much broader online framework within a specific brand.
Price has the backing of top executives at ACBJ who are putting it on the line that he can bring The Sporting News brand back to life and make it a profitable business. With bigger fish to fry, NASCAR is going to take a step back on the sports priority list.
SceneDaily and Rowdy were both good websites that made a concerted effort to provide fans with original content. Thanks to those who worked on them both, your efforts will be missed.
We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for taking the time to stop by The Daly Planet.