Tag Archives: NCJ Media

Head to head – Is content creation creating competition between clubs and the press?

After recent events at Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest and Port Vale you could be forgiven for thinking football clubs have lost the plot.

For a long time clubs and their local newspapers have been locked in a mutually beneficial if not always entirely comfortable relationship. The very definition of you scratch my back, I scratch yours.

However nowadays orders are being handed down from the boardroom to ban journalists for perceived indiscretions, no matter how minor, on an alarmingly regular basis. It’s easy to ascribe these decisions to touchy owners but could there be something beyond that which is straining the relationship between the two parties?

Nottingham Forest City Ground

Forest have limited the access that the media have to the club this season

While reports of the death of local media have been exaggerated it’s no secret that the landscape is changing. Budgets are being cut and newsrooms are shrinking. Compare that with football, where every new TV deal pumps yet more money into the game. The big sides have never been richer and they’re branching out. They’re creating content.

The club website is no longer just a portal for the latest injury news and match reports. Money is being invested in media teams. The ease at which video and audio can be produced has resulted in clubs launching their own online TV channels, streaming live commentary and producing their own apps to bring fans closer to the game.

Clubs are no longer reliant on traditional media channels to connect with supporters. Clubs can not only tell stakeholders what is going on but they can exert more control over their messages by cutting out the middle man.

Reacting to criticism about Nottingham Forest’s decision to limit the amount of access the local press has to the club, Media and Communications Manager Ben White said: “We have a media team of our own who are fully focused on keeping fans updated.” In other words, we don’t need the local press because we’re quite capable of telling the fans what’s happening ourselves.

I ask again, are these bans simply about punishing unruly hacks or are they about something more? Are they about competition?

If clubs turn content creators where does that leave the press?

The moment that clubs begin to produce their own content they come into conflict with the local press. They’re competing for readers and, more importantly, revenue. Traditional media outlets can draw supporters away from visiting official channels, thus depriving clubs of the opportunity to monetise these followers with cannily placed adverts for match tickets or the latest replica shirt. It’s no surprise that some owners feel charging journalists for access is the way forward.

In reality this battle is nothing new. Teams have long had designs on breaking into traditional media. The matchday programme is ever-present outside stadiums across the country, many clubs have attempted to produce their own magazines with varying degrees of success and some even have their own satellite TV channels  that cater for the most ardent fans.

None of these types of media are as pervasive, affordable or accessible as the internet and at no point in the past have regional media outlets been so vulnerable.

This is an opportunity that clubs will have to seize upon but as they turn content creators where does that leave the local football hack they’ve shown so much contempt for?

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Banning journalists – what does it achieve?

This past weekend has brought news of football journalists finding themselves barred from doing their job.

Why?

For doing their job.

On Sunday after Newcastle’s defeat to Sunderland journalists from three local newspapers were stopped from asking questions of manager Alan Pardew.

The ban came about after coverage of a protest march in the Journal, the Chronicle and the Sunday Sun.

Coverage of Time 4 Change resulted in three local papers getting banned

This is nothing new. Sir Alex Ferguson dished out a number of bans to journalists and blanked the BBC for seven years, however more and more clubs are now seeking to strong-arm the press into censoring their own coverage.

The proliferation of this particular type of press control suggests that clubs must be reaping the rewards for hammering journalists whenever they step out of line, but is that really the case?

Newcastle United have previously banned the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph for their reporting. Neither newspaper has suffered or changed tact. The club and those in charge are still criticised when bad decisions are made.

Local newspapers have more pages to fill and as a result more to lose, however Newcastle United is not a particularly accessible football club even when you’re in their good books. Now the club have slammed the door in the face of NCJ Media they’ve given them free reign to go to town on them.

If they thought the coverage of the march was disproportionate they’re in for a shock.

So if banning journalists doesn’t work why go down the route of the playground bully.

Simple. They don’t know any better.

This is not an idea formulated by anyone in the club’s press office, or anyone with the most basic understanding of media relations for that matter. Wendy Taylor’s name may be on the bottom of the polemic fired out to the three publications in question, but I’d speculate that was the sum total of her involvement. Football clubs are autocratic institutions. Whatever the person at the top says goes.

In banning the local press Mike Ashley isn’t just showing a contempt for journalism but contempt for the club’s media team and demonstrating why once again Newcastle United are a living advert for employing someone with public relations expertise at a boardroom level.

Not that he’d listen to them.