Sports drives clicks.
In communities around the country, sports coverage drives traffic to local news websites. Sports fans check in for the latest scores, and parents of student athletes are eager to see write ups of weekly games and matches. For digital publishers, there’s a major opportunity to monetize local sports coverage.
Monetizing local sports coverage in a meaningful way means thinking strategically and looking outside the box. News and sports are two different beasts, and there’s no reason to think they need to be priced the same from an advertising perspective. By unbundling sports from the rest of their websites, hyperlocal publishers have the opportunity to grow their revenue in exciting new ways
Here are five steps that publishers should take as they develop plans to effectively monetize local sports coverage.
Step 1: Find a niche.
In communities with multiple news outlets, there can be a lot of competition around sports coverage. One site doesn’t have to do it all.
Taking a close look at the metrics, publishers can pretty quickly figure out where their websites fit in and what sports are most popular among readers. Assessing strengths means determining where a site’s reporters can do the best job, what type of content people like to read, and whether advertisers are interested in sponsoring that type of content.
A number of hyperlocal publishers are excelling above the local news competition with real-time scoreboards and play-by-play updates. Digital publishers have the ability be the first to publish final scores in a way that local television stations and print newspapers cannot, providing them with a competitive advantage.
Step 2: Reach out to advertisers who are sports boosters.
It’s not hard to tell which local businesses support youth sports. Check out the list of sponsors inside programs and on the backs of athletes’ jerseys. Sports reporters who are already working local games can jot down the names of businesses they see advertising and then pass those names along to the publisher’s sales department. Those local business boosters are going to be some of the best bets for publishers looking to sell display advertising alongside articles in their sports sections.
Step 3: Bundle sponsorships of sports coverage.
Publishers can charge a premium when they give advertisers exclusive rights to the sports section, or to articles about specific sports within that section. The general popularity of local sports makes this an attractive option for advertisers, as does the ability to target a specific demographic or subset of news readers.
The most common way for publishers to go about bundling sponsorships of sports coverage is to sell display advertising packages that include complete coverage of a sport or a team for the duration of a season. For example, every article about the high school football team would be flanked by a sidebar ad or a banner ad from one specific advertiser, such as a community bank or a medical practice.
For an even higher price, publishers could offer wallpaper ads, also known as full background ads, for complete branding of the sports section for a period of time, such as one day or one week.
Step 4: Get creative with advertising opportunities.
Display advertising isn’t the only way publishers can monetize local sports coverage. BIGR Media, a network of websites in Tennessee that includes TNHighSchoolFootball.com and the Rutherford Source, sells advertising alongside printable team schedules and a game-night scoreboard. The company also partners with local radio DJs and reporters on Facebook Live broadcasts and taped podcasts.
Step 5: Find fans willing to contribute for free.
Experienced sports journalists can craft the types of compelling articles that win awards, but paid writers aren’t always necessary for short briefs and game recaps. Look in the stands during any sports event and you’ll find plenty of people willing to write short stories for free, or send in real-time score updates via text or Twitter. Parents of student athletes can be particularly helpful here, since they rarely miss a game and many are very reliable.
One word of note: Publishers who are interested in going this route should make sure to provide some type of training to parent contributors, including some best practices for reporting scores and taking videos and photographs. Publishers should also consider doling out gift cards, or some other type of gift, as a thank you to contributors at the end of each sports season.