Jermaine Craig, group executive for sport and motoring at Independent Media. Photo: Leon Lestrade/Independent Media

Durban – Building partnerships with major sporting brands and engaging communities using emerging and existing technologies were the key to influencing the future on how people consume sports news.

This was the major theme that emerged during a roundtable discussion on Sports News and Media Innovation at the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) conference held in Durban on Wednesday.

The roundtable panel included Nicolas Henchoz, the director of EPFL+ECAL Lab in Switzerland, Jermaine Craig, group executive for sport and motoring at Independent Media, Rolf Dyrnes Svendsen, chairman of the advisory board of the Global Allied Media Innovation, Cormac Bourke, editor of the Sunday Independent in Ireland and Professor Andrew Perkis of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

In a world where newspaper circulation was dropping and readers were increasingly going to social media for news, Henchoz said there were opportunities for traditional media to partner with sporting organisations such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to innovate and keep audiences whilst still generating revenue.

For an example he said that YouTube’s income was ten times that of the IOC.

“This is really a huge challenge for international sporting organisations. Google and YouTube are just doing their job. Sporting organisations must work with the media together to influence the future… It is about us working together to innovate,” he said.

Craig agreed and pointed to several initiatives undertaken by Independent Media in recent months in partnering with big sports brands in an innovative way.

One example was Independent Media using its Zulu language newspaper, Isolezwe as well as the group’s English titles to form a partnership with the Kaizer Chiefs Football Club where they were able engage with the club’s 10 million fans.

“We made over R1 million in sponsorship with Kaizer Chiefs,” he said.

Craig said that Independent Media had a strong regional dominance in South Africa with its newspaper titles spread across the country that enabled it to create unique native content for specific audiences.

He said that sport remains a major part of any media organisation’s audience and the value proposition and the emotional connection of readers with sport remained strong.

“The consumption of sports news has evolved as sports lovers increasingly use new technology to keep up to date, with mobile particularly important. Sports fans value trusted media environments for their sporting information and sport is a great environment for targeted advertising looking for loyal and engaged audiences,” Craig said.

Bourke, whose Sunday Independent title in Ireland was the biggest selling newspaper in that country said that credibility and trust were important.

“It’s about the audience and about engagement. There is still a lot of revenue in print,” he said.

Bourke said he would like to see the big social media giants contributing costs to journalism within the next five years, “instead of them just stealing from us”.

“There is pressure on our budgets and social media giants must contribute towards journalism because if they don’t there is a threat that it (quality journalism) would be gone,” he said.

Independent Media