Cuban’s Plan to Save the Sports Page

I gotta hand it to Mark Cuban, he likes to think outside the box. 

Case in point; Cuban wrote on his blog last week why he feels it’s important for the local newspaper to retain its viability for the sake of their professional sports teams.  Cuban claims that most fans are of the casual variety and they tend to follow their team via the print media. He also contends that with the drastic cuts facing the newspaper industry, combined with more boilerplate coverage, these fans are getting short changed.

But Cuban is not just complaining about the impending end of print, he has a solution to save it:

My suggestion to the powers that be in the leagues I have spoken to is to have the leagues work together and create a “beatwriter co-operative” . We need to create a company that funds, depending on the size of the market and number of teams, 2 or more writers per market, to cover our teams in depth. The writers would cover multiple teams and multiple sports. They will report to the newspapers where the articles will be placed, who will have complete editorial control. In exchange, the newspapers will provide a minimum of a full page on a daily basis in season, and some lesser amount out of season. That the coverage will include game reporting that is of far more depth than is currently in place, along with a minimum number of feature articles each week in and out of season. And most importantly, these articles will be exclusive to print subscribers. They can do all the ad supported short summaries online and minute by minute blog posts and tweets they would like. To make this work, print editions and subscriber only online sites have to become the defacto destinations for in depth and unique coverage .

Cuban then touches upon the obvious conflict-of-interest issue;

I know this is in violation of all previous principles of editorial church and state, but then again, watching papers going out of business and not even being able to give themselves away means its time to start a new branch of that church. Having the world of professional sports realize the value of locally created content, available in an offline format, might just be a proactive step that saves us a lot of money in the long run

At worst, its a starting point for discussion.

Sorry Mark, but this starting point should also be its ending point.

I agree that there is still a market for the newspaper, but as time passes, that market is shrinking.  The facts do not lie.

In terms of teams paying for beat reporters, even if the teams have no editorial control over content, the casual fan would still cast a quizzical eye on their reporters’ performance.  Positive team coverage will be looked at as checkbook journalism while negative coverage will cast doubt as to whether that reporter will soon lose his/her job.

I was an early advocate of newspapers providing exclusive content to print subscribers as a way to add value to the paper.  The problem is that as soon as the print issue reaches the stand, the 24/7 news cycle will have an independent blogger sharing that information with the rest of the world.  All readers will eventually get the scoop.

I find it amazing that someone as technologically savvy as Cuban does not realize that even though more people still read newspapers, online resources provide his team (and others) with more coverage now then they ever did before.  Cuban should encourage these vehicles to cover his team in the way he envisions.  If they feel these ideas are worthy, they will.


  1. Really, newspapers need to start thinking of their print editions as loss leaders for their online editions, not the other way around.

    If only someone would come up with a workable web revenue model…

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