football.london, sports media and an opportunity to thrive in the digital age
When I left my job at Manchester United to join the Regionals arm of Trinity Mirror in 2015, it is fair to say that some friends and colleagues were sceptical. While United offered the stability and security that only the investment of Japanese noodle companies and South Korean tyre firms can bring, the challenges facing the Regional press were well documented.
However, it was during my time at Old Trafford and previously at Goal.com that I noticed a number of patterns emerging in the behaviour of football fans, including my own. I saw journalists such as James Pearce at the Liverpool Echo (a title I work with) build a huge following of supporters through social media, talking to them, answering questions and doing what any great club reporter does: telling the stories fans care about.
I saw The Anfield Wrap in Liverpool blurring the lines of what it is to be a digital media business in Sport; fans talking with fans and not at them, with an authentic voice that resonates with supporters in Texas as much as it does Tuebrook.
I saw US sports organisations and players opening up their channels of communication with fans through multiple digital platforms, circumventing traditional publishers and broadcasters who for too long had delivered sports content on their terms and not supporters’, barely skimming the surface of what it means to obsess over a team or club in a 24-hour news cycle.
My conclusion was fairly simple: fans care more about their club, their players and their fellow supporters than they care about the media. Sorry, fellow journalists.
It was with this in mind that I approached my new role as Head of Digital Sport at Trinity Mirror. With tools that can tell us exactly what loyal and local users of our sites want to read and will return to, it would be the fans who dictate our agenda and not the weekly cadence of: MATCH-REACTION-PRESS CONFERENCE-MATCH which so often failed to tell the stories of our clubs.
Be it through the Liverpool Echo’s award-winning coverage of the Hillsborough inquests or the Teesside Gazette’s support for thousands of SSI steelworkers, many of whom are Middlesbrough fans, the regional press has the privilege of telling stories and supporting people at the heart of their communities. Sport is central to our towns and cities because sport is central to our lives.
We in the regional press also have an obligation to move with our readers and reflect their habits. Through apps, podcasting, video, AR, VR and any other digital platform through which we can tell stories effectively, we must. If our club’s fans are there then we must be too. Sport allows us an opportunity like no other to be ahead of the digital curve and beyond even that. If we are loyal to groundbreaking coverage of our clubs, supporters will be loyal to us.
Trinity Mirror’s titles reach more people across the UK than any other media publisher except for the BBC. I genuinely believe the regional press is more relevant and more vital than it has been for generations. Our sport clubs may become more globalised but our experience with them can be more personal than ever before.
It was with this in mind that, just over 12 months ago, we made the decision to launch a regional football site for the biggest gap in our portfolio: London
Launching in January and taking the principles of a regional site covering large clubs like we have successfully done with brands such as the Echo and Manchester Evening News, football.london is already reaching millions of supporters every month, producing exclusive content, videos, features, podcasts and daily Facebook Lives to fans of the capital’s sides.
Based in Canary Wharf, the site is now six months old and already making a significant mark on the sports media landscape. With an extraordinarily talented team of journalists and digital producers, FL is getting its voice, echoing that of the fans, heard in an extremely crowded market place.
This summer we are looking for a new Chief Editor for the site as we look to continue to grow and diversify our brand. As a new site but with the audience and infrastucture of a traditional media player, it presents an extraordinary opportunity to shape an innovative platform covering some of the largest football clubs on the planet.
As such, this blog is a call out for anybody with the ideas to take football.london to an exciting new level of audience growth, innovation and impact among our clubs’ fans. If you believe you could be the right person to run football.london on a day-to-day basis, please contact me over email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a full job description and details of how to apply.
I look forward to hearing from you.