Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> School Baseball Web Sites, Part I About the author, Boyd Nation

School Baseball Web Sites, Part I

Publication Date: December 5, 2000

The View from Inside?

In a recent editorial on the College Sports Information Directors of America Web site, Michael Levin, Sports Information Director at Vassar, discusses the production of a Web site as a "black hole of productivity". I don't want to come down too hard on the editorial (or Levin, either, for that matter), since he does show some signs of having put a good bit of thought into the right way to do things -- there's a nice discussion of using analysis of the target audience to prioritize resources to use in creating content, for example -- but I do want to address that main point, since I think he may be missing some of the fundamental changes that the Web can bring to an enterprise whose major function, by definition, is to disseminate information.

The historical model for SID's, I assume, is a combination of producing content and trying to push it on consumers (in this case mostly the media) and trying to answer requests from potential consumers (sometimes the media, sometimes just normal folks) who were looking for specific information. This method, though, was driven as much by practicality as anything else; there was no practical direct way to get general information about the school's athletic programs to the general public (who, in the end, are the ones that the information is for; the whole point of this exercise from the school's point of view is to get more people to be fans of the teams) other than through the traditional media.

Now, though, the very definition of "the media" has changed to the point where it's quite reasonable for a school to consider its own Web site to be its primary means of publication. The number of people who come to your Web site may be a lot lower than the number of people who read USA Today in any given day, but the percentage of those people at your Web site who want information that you have is guaranteed to be very close to 100%, and if they get the information they want from the Web site, then you've done your job without expending any new effort at all.

Note that this doesn't mean that the SID's should ignore the conventional media. Most of the (admittedly few) media folks that I have talked to have said that they would rather grab a press release from the Web site than worry about other means of transmission or having to get someone on their end to pick up the information, so it's really not a problem having the information be available first on the Web site. Rather, it means that they need to re-examine their mission in terms of getting information to the public.

Historical information is a good example of that (and the fact that Levin places "a history page" on a par with "spinning basketballs" is telling). When it comes to sports, most traditional print publications have a very narrow time frame that they're interested in. On the other hand, most of the fans have a longer view. Part of the sell, at least for many folks, is the tradition -- that feeling of continuity with fans of long ago, that you're watching someone play where Joe Namath once swaggered, or someone had a great defensive effort and held Pete Maravich to only 35, or Roger Clemens stood out like a man among boys. Getting that information to the public, even if it's as simple as providing a complete list of results from past seasons, can be priceless.

Obviously, there are balances that must be achieved in assigning resources, and that's where Levin's points are well-taken. It's the attitude that the Web site is one more thing to add to the pile of things to do that strikes me as misguided, and that I think may explain the shortcomings of a lot of the current school sports Web efforts.

I have more that I want to say on this subject, but it veers off into the subject of quality of current efforts, and this is running to full length, so I think I'm going to hold this topic open for another week. Next week I'll identify a couple of current Web sites that I think are doing a fairly good job and present my humble guidelines for those putting together school athletic Web sites.

Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> School Baseball Web Sites, Part I About the author, Boyd Nation