Wednesday, June 13, 2007

NFL sayeth 'we do not need video coverage from any stinkin newspapers'

So now the NFL is also trying to limit newspaper coverage of their teams, something that seems absurdly ridiculous. A newspaper offering (free!) coverage that will promote and market its team, the ultimate goal of every public relations and advertising manager. I guess the NFL believes it is above such petty coverage, that it can market itself just fine, thank you very much. Where have you gone, Pete Rozelle?

The Houston Chronicle's NFL beat reporter takes a humorous swipe at the NFL's rule that online sites limit videos to 45 seconds and that they use only portions of taped interviews. The video, which far exceeds the limit by going about two minutes, 50 seconds, includes Texans owner Bob McNair and several players. (I'm sure they'll be fined for this inexcusable swipe at the almighty NFL.) I read that the video has already been pulled from YouTube. The NFL does not want competition for its own web site that now includes more and more streaming video.

On the other hand, newspapers should not rely so heavily on video coverage. The strength of a print publication is its more complex, in-depth coverage. Print reporters need to analyze, assess and then present the information they receive. That means asking a great deal of questions, reading as much as possible related to the topic and then critically assessing the material in order to present a concise, illuminating story to readers. That's why sports roundups are helpful -- someone waded through all the information I probably did not want to read to compile a brief look at sports in general or the NFL in particular as part of a notebook.

So these quick videos of players speaking works well as complementary pieces, but they typically do very little for substance. These taped interviews should really be only a small part of a bigger story. This is not like the NFL preventing papers from reprinting pictures of games. This is a smaller problem.

Yet, the NFL, like the NCAA, is not acting in its best interests. The more videos fans watch of players, the more they connect with these players, and the more these fans follow these players, meaning the more they will watch NFL games, which leads to them buying jerseys with these players' names on them. Isn't that basic Marketing 101? So why the 45-second video rule or the draconian handling of newspaper's online coverage. (These videos do send more readers to a newspaper's online site, something that attracts readers to the more complex issues and stories. So the videos do serve a purpose.)

We'll see what happens. In the meantime, do the more important coverage by digging in and reporting on the key issues and on gaining perspective for better feature stories and profiles. Ultimately, that will capture quite a few readers (and fans) as well.


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