Report from the APSE West Region meeting, held Nov. 14 in Phoenix:
By Kati Seyk
The Arizona Republic
While advertising revenue and sports staffs are continuously diminishing across the country, newspapers are increasingly turning to content partnerships as an innovative way to supplement content without incurring more costs.
John Triplett heads up the content sharing initiative at the Arizona Republic. Recently hired as the newspaper’s content partnership editor, Triplett has been exploring many opportunities in this area. On Nov. 14 he presented his company’s ideas, and additional examples from news organizations around the country, in a session on partnerships during the APSE West Region meeting, hosted by Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in downtown Phoenix.
Triplett, a former sports editor at the Austin American-Statesman, has worked in various digital and broadcast roles for companies such as Cox and Belo since 1992.
The most recent example Triplett discussed was a partnership with Bleacher Report, a national sports blog that feeds supplemental sports content to the Republic’s website. Other papers have a similar arrangement.
Bleacher Report adds more entertainment-focused stories to complement the journalistic articles written by the newspapers’ staffs. Some recent stories included “30 Biggest Egos in the NFL” and “Most Hated NHL Players.”
After initiating the partnership, the newspaper saw the number of page views jump from 5,000 to 35,000 in a two-week period.
Triplett also talked about SB Nation, a rapidly growing sports website with many local pages, including western regions like Arizona, Los Angeles and the Bay area. SB Nation tries to provide a stronger, in-depth reporting style that’s closer to newspaper content than other blog sites.
Because sites like SB Nation are in direct competition with the newspaper industry, Triplett encouraged the attending editors to watch them closely and look for opportunities to collaborate.
“There’s a lot of growth going on there,” Triplett said. “That’s what we should be worried about. We’re not growing at the rate they’re growing, so there’s something going on there that we need to pay attention to.”
Triplett proposed that successfully developed partnerships with competing sites could provide new content while also creating new ad sales opportunities. Every partnership has a unique business model, but if merged properly the relationship should create positive revenue streams.
With some partners, such as Bleacher Report, there is a complete revenue share. Both the Arizona Republic and Bleacher Report sell ad space and split the generated revenue. Another form of partnership involves an upfront fee model, where the newspaper pays for content and, in return, gets full ownership of all ad space.
Triplett talked at length about the rising opportunities in the field of high school sports, including live video streaming of games and detailed statistics aggregation. Some of the sites in this niche have been around for years but are re-focusing their emphasis; highschoolsports.net, for instance, seems to be heading toward an emphasis on the youth audience rather than parents and coaches.
“There’s all types of ways this could go,” Triplett said of sports content partnership. “This is still a very, very young business. I can’t really tell where it’s going, but it bears watching and testing where we can.”