Connect with us

Digital Media

Behind Baseball America’s Evolution Into the Digital Age

Since its 2017 sale, Baseball America has continued its evolution into the age of digital media providing the same content at a greater depth.

Published

on

Baseball America

Baseball America is continuing its evolution into the digital age.

In February 2017, the legacy baseball publication was purchased by a group led by Alliance Baseball, LLC, which also owns three minor league teams, the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers and the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits.

“Minor league players were turning into Major League talent more quickly and the coverage out there was limited,” said Gary Green, CEO of Baseball America Enterprises. “Baseball America was available, so we said, ‘Let’s take this publication and take it into the digital age.’”

A little more than a year into the publication’s transformation, Baseball America’s digital audience has experienced a whopping 300 percent growth. Now, there are even larger plans for 2019.

Baseball America has long been a go-to publication for fans and baseball professionals alike in its bimonthly magazine format, but with the acquisition, the publication began its major transition into the digital age.

READ MORE: Through New Company, Former Player Hopes to Change Baseball 

Shortly following the acquisition, former Sports Illustrated veteran B.J. Schecter joined as editor and publisher to lead the transition. Following 20 years at Sports Illustrated, Schecter saw a major opportunity to take Baseball America into the future of media, as he was familiar with the publication’s dominant position as the premier niche baseball destination.

“Baseball America has a great brand name and a huge opportunity to grow and modernize the brand,” Schecter said. “Especially in today’s landscape, being niche and owning the space, it can be very valuable.”

Already one of the most respected baseball publications, Schecter felt as long as it was modernized in a timely fashion, it could maintain and further solidify its spot.

“So much of the content was there,” he said. “From there, it was ‘how do we transform from a traditional legacy publication to a multimedia platform?’ That’s what we’ve really focused on doing, being digital first.”

The website was torn down and completely rebuilt to be a responsive, easy-to-navigate and mobile-first site. The magazine also went through an initial “clean-up and modernization” of its look and feel.

The transition hasn’t been about changing the content Baseball America creates, rather enhancing it and providing its audience with a more fully immersive array of content. Schecter also mentioned excitement about how many sports journalism consumers have responded to the pay-for-content model The Athletic has rolled out.

The publication is read all across baseball organizations large and small in America and is often cited with its scouting reports and prospect rankings, including the Baseball America Top 100 MLB Prospects and organizational prospect rankings.

With the increased web presence, Schecter said instead of twice a year, the Top 100 Prospects list updates at least twice a month and the organizational Top 10 Prospects likely will increase to Top 30.

“We think our content is very valuable and creating something people can’t get anywhere else,” he said. “Our rankings, our scouting reports — there’s a detail and a sophistication in our content that is nowhere else.”

Heading into the New Year, Baseball America will undergo several other changes. The magazine will go all glossy and a slightly smaller size. Starting in February, it will go to monthly, but will more than double in size.

In addition, Baseball America still believes there’s a value in print.

“You’ll get the same or more content,” Schecter said. “It’ll have much more shelf life and put us in a better position and allow us to have better-themed issues and dig a little deeper with organizational reports and big features.”

Schecter said there are conversations with production companies for episodic videos celebrating youth baseball and other video storytelling components.

The company will also launch Softball America, a digital publication. Initial feedback from advertisers has been off the charts, Schecter said.

READ MORE: Marathon Managers: How Social Media Pros Handled Game 3 of the World Series

“We’re coming into a space that is desperately needing a publication that covers it,” he said. “It will be the same type of formula, but tweaked for softball.”

With all the exciting aspects of Baseball America’s move forward, Schecter is staying busy talking with clients and explaining it’s not the “same old Baseball America.”

“We’re not your grandfather’s Baseball America,” Schecter said.

Focusing heavily on baseball organizations and publications might not immediately seem like a savvy investment, but Green said they believe in their passion.

“We took on something in baseball that has headwinds; we’re trying to get younger,” Green said. “The publishing business has some headwinds and is going more digital. We took on something with two sets of headwinds, but we’ll make it work.”

Pat Evans is a writer based in Las Vegas, focusing on sports business, food, and beverage. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2012. He's written two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer. Evans can be reached at pat@frntofficesport.com.

Digital Media

Inside the Huddle: Talking Paid Social With Angela Welchert

For Angela Welchert, a social media partnerships lead at IBM, paid social has become an intregral part of her job and the company’s overall strategy.

Front Office Sports

Published

on

angela-welchert-ibm-paid-social

On February 22, a handful of digital media professionals from across the industry will converge on New York City for the first in our Huddle Series. Participants will get the chance to learn from these speakers and grow their knowledge of five specific areas within digital media: paid social, content distribution, platform strategy, monetizing social media, and vertical content.

In the buildup to the event, we’ll be introducing you to the huddle leaders who will be lending their expertise. Today, we begin with Angela Welchert, a social media partnerships lead at IBM. She will be one of the leaders of the huddle “Pay to Play: Executing Better Paid Social Campaigns”.

Welchert describes herself as a professional who does her best work focusing on the bigger picture.

“I like to focus on looking at the grander scheme and really drilling down into opportunities that are executable,” Welchert stated. “Throughout my career, I’ve heavily contributed to driving forward social presence for companies and organizations.  Now leading paid partnerships for IBM, I’m focused on identifying opportunities for us to really optimize social.”

Welchert also describes her current role with IBM as the highlight of her career. Prior to landing that job, Welchert graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where she studied business administration and marketing.

Before moving to New York, Welchert jumped into the world of social marketing at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota as a social media strategy consultant. In 2011, Welchert migrated to the Big Apple to become the director of social media at Berkeley College before joining IBM in 2014 as its global social business manager. In 2018, she was promoted to the social media partnerships lead.

“In the first six months or so that I’ve been in this role,” Welchert remarked, “I’ve spent a large portion of my time reevaluating how we’re executing and strategizing when it comes to paid social, which is a very heavy investment for IBM. I pride myself on bringing a multidisciplinary attack to the way we’re approaching paid social.”

Over the course of her career to date, Welchert has become very conscious of the multi-faceted nature of social media marketing. In order for other young professionals to find success in the field and specifically in paid social, she recommends that they do the same.

“Social marketing is both an art and a science. The science side of it with targeting, reporting, and optimizing is important. However, you still need to be very cognizant of the art side of social media when it comes to content creation.”

READ MORE: Front Office Sports Digital Media Huddle Series at Bleacher Report

In her brief time at IBM, Welchert has already made a significant impact for the organization. Specifically, her changes to what platforms the company invests money are paying dividends.

“IBM is a massive company, with over 400,000 employees globally. Sometimes change can be slow moving. So I believe the most impactful thing that I’ve done so far in this role is bring together our leadership team including social, paid media, corporate advertising, and our agency of record to change the way we do paid social.”  Welchert states. “we are now in the process of deep diving into our paid social investments, to create a new process that will better position our paid media teams for success. By doing this, we will see significant cost savings for IBM, but we will also improve the return from our investments.”

Meet Welchert and hear more of her thoughts on the current digital landscape at the Front Office Sports Digital Media Huddle presented by Opendorse in New York on February 22. For tickets and additional info, click here.

Continue Reading

Digital Media

DC United’s Broadcast Deal Could Further Demonstrate Digital Media Potential

FloSports’ broadcast deal with D.C. United exemplifies the company’s mission to raise the profile of sports outside the Big Four leagues.

Published

on

Photo via DC United

A positive in increasing segmentation of sports media could be the corresponding rise in the popularity of sports outside the Big Four.

That’s what digital streaming service FloSports has in mind for a variety of sports, most prominently soccer in the United States. The company recently secured a multi-year agreement with MLS side D.C. United for coverage.

“We’ve always had our eyes on trying to get into soccer,” said Mike Levy, FloSports vice president of global rights acquisition. “Strategically, it really only made sense if we could do it with a really good, smart, strategic direction. We held out until we felt like we found it.”

FloSports started in 2006, largely with wrestling and track and field content.

READ MORE: How Wayne Rooney Added Millions of Additional Brand Value for D.C. United and MLS

Most of D.C. United’s home and away games will be aired on FloFC.com, the provider’s 25th sports vertical. The broadcasts will be in both English and Spanish. Also included in the deal with D.C. United is rights into original D.C. content, like behind-the-scenes programming.

“D.C. United is committed to providing fans with an innovative and high-quality viewing experience for all of their regionally broadcast matches,” said Sam Porter, D.C. United senior vice president. “Our deal with FloSports presents a new and unique opportunity for fans to get behind-the-scenes access to the D.C. United first team … while also providing a world-class broadcast production for viewers.”

Levy said the reason major professional sports have captured the American mindset is because of the previous media efforts and marketing. He said the future of other sports is up to the marketing and media opportunities presented to them — and soccer is in an ideal spot with its global popularity and U.S. youth participation.

Traditional media properties like NBC and FOX provide excellent live soccer coverage, Levy said, but there’s a deeper opportunity with the off-hour programming to explore and become a content destination.

“We believe you have to figure out how to create an emotional connection,” Levy said. “You have to do a lot more than just broadcast live sports. Any given Saturday night, there’s a thousand sporting events to choose from in the linear and digital stratosphere. And that’s just sports; there’s general entertainment and news too.

“All these types steal attention spans. So, we look for opportunities where fans aren’t getting that deep level of attention these sports deserve.”

Levy said FloSports will continue to seek other soccer rights deals to further prove soccer deserves the attention level the other major professional leagues receive from traditional media.

Other sports, along with wrestling and track and field verticals, FloSports has zeroed in on include Brazilian jiu-jitsu, fast-pitch softball, and rugby.

FloSports also has rights in basketball with the Euro League and Australian and German professional leagues and is a large platform for high school hoops.

READ MORE: Immersive Media’s Infancy Creates Industry Opportunities

“We’re looking to expand the international pro game in the U.S.,” Levy said. “Basketball is something we’re excited about.”

Football provides a large challenge as it is dominated by traditional media, but Levy said FloSports is seeking deeper penetration in high school sports, as well as some collegiate opportunities. Levy also said he sees tremendous opportunities in baseball at every level outside of Major League Baseball and currently broadcasts a variety collegiate games.

The proliferation of the internet and streaming services has provided the ability for platforms like FloSports to grab serious viewership in sports that previously saw almost zero coverage, even ESPN’s famous off-hour programming, in the past. Sports fanatics will devour content in their preferred sport if it’s available.

“There’s never been this level of fragmentation with this movement to digital,” Levy said. “Through that, we believe all sorts of sports have the opportunity to rapidly grow them as they get passionate viewers, and we can do our part to feed into it.”

Continue Reading

Digital Media

A Pivot Back From Video Feels Unlikely for Sports Media in 2019

The pivot-to-video experiment produced mix results for some, but don’t bank on sports publishers turning a hopeful gaze toward long-form written content in 2019 and beyond.

Published

on

pivot-video-feels-unlikely

Photo via Unsplash

For the better part of the last few years, sports media outlets shifted a lot of resources from written content to video.

FOX Sports was arguably the most notable example of pivoting to video — and still to this day only publishes video content on its website. Initially, the result of the drastic alteration in content strategy was an 88 percent drop in web traffic.

To further complicate things, it has since come to light that Facebook’s video metrics may not have been completely accurate. Long story short, the trend of the pivot to video was not a successful one for the industry.

This being said, a full transition back to focusing on true long-form written content is not something that many industry professionals see in the cards for the near future.

LISTEN: Addressing the Challenges of Working in Social Media 

“Personally, I remain skeptical that long-form written content will really take off as the primary offering for most major sports publications,” said Jared Kalmus, assistant manager of SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty. “The fact remains that web publications depend on clicks to drive their revenue streams, and the effort and writing talent required to publish long-form content is prohibitive when compared to quick-hit ‘click-bait’ posts.

“The ideal approach is likely to have some type of matrix between long-form features and quick news updates, but this requires a staff expansion for most publications. That’s a big ask as most publications are struggling to even pay their existing talent a living wage.”  

The ease of publishing what are essentially small stories in a series of tweets or other social media posts further complicates things. At least this is how Joe Serpico, a reporter for Fox Sports Radio 1340 AM in the DMV area, sees it.

“It pains me to say this, but I don’t see written publications being any better even with video not taking off as planned,” Serpico said. “That’s mainly because of social media. When breaking news happens, we rush to Twitter and Facebook to get the information. A lot of beat writers give most of the information they’re putting into their story in tweets or Facebook posts. These days, we see writers incorporate tweets into their articles too.

“The video experiment did seem to backfire, but I don’t think it will help written publications be the primary focus again. It is social media that has changed journalism most.”

READ MORE: 3 Predictions for Sports Digital Media in 2019

In talking with other writers throughout the sports space, you’ll find many who share a similar opinion. Creatives with a writing background continue to be unoptimistic about the state of the space, especially with stories like that of former Sports Illustrated writer Austin Murphy, who published an account last month of his transition to a full-time job delivering packages for Amazon, becoming more and more common.

This is not to say that other types of creatives are doing anything wrong.

The social media space has given rise to a massive number of talented videographers, graphic designers, animators, and so on. It does spark interest about the time we live in as media consumers, however. The space shifted to a massive focus on something, it was a statistical failure, but it doesn’t seem like it’s really going to change things all that much.

Could 2019 prove that feeling wrong? We’ll have to wait and see. 

Continue Reading

Trending