How Sport Journalists Can Stay Relevant In The Digital Age

By Chibuogwu Nnadiegbulam, AIPS Young Reporter, Nigeria

Brussels, May 9, 2018 – Sports journalism is evolving because of the digital revolution that has enveloped the world. To this end, the 81st AIPS Congress provided a perfect platform to discuss the topic; ‘Sport Journalism – How to stay relevant in the digital age’.

Over 100 journalist delegates, observers and guests benefited from the expert panel which featured representatives from three of the biggest sports newspapers in Europe; Marca’s Editor-in-Chief Juan Ignacio Gallardo; L’Equipe’s Digital Editor-in-Chief Jean-Baptiste Renet, as well as Gianni Merlo of La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Audience engagement with emphasis on credibility

Merlo said: “One of the biggest problems for the newspaper is the distribution – where you can find them. We have to decide how we can take the newspapers door to door. To meet the people in the streets.”

“Our newspaper must be something that people are going to see to be sure that this is the real news. Even in the digital era, credibility is a must. We must be transparent and honest,” Merlo declared.

While it’s important not to let print die, Renet admitted on the panel that digital media has brought about more reach at L’Equipe with a need for adaptation and innovation.

He said: “We witness an evolution, if not a revolution, in our readers’ habits. Before, our readers were reading us once a day, while buying or receiving the newspapers in the morning. Today, they are consulting our website between 5 to 15 times a day. The reader wants to also have various sources of information: articles, photos, videos, schemes or infography.”

“Even if we have to adapt ourselves to these new habits. We put the emphasis on journalist credibility and our ability to publish verifiable and reliable news. We realise that what will allow us to survive and have success is to keep doing our job like we used to. It is reassuring,” Renet added.

“We need a large audience but we need to retain people with the quality of our work. We need people who are ready to pay for what they get. We are not going to go over night from people who write to people who make videos, we need to find a balance.”

What the reader wants

Gianni Merlo thinks one mistake sports journalists make is to write an article like they are writing for themselves or their colleagues. He also pointed out that these days lengthy articles do not work for many readers.

Merlo said: “We are looking to what the people are interested in not what we are interested in. The new generation are looking a lot at videos now than photos. A journalist now must be able to write for the paper and online, take photo, make video and record for radio, that is five jobs in one which was not so in the past.”

Gallardo shares the same view about the readers’ interest. He also appreciates how digital media has helped Marca with globalization and international expansion, ensuring that they reach other parts of the world without cost.

Gallardo said: “Create a community. The success of social networks is based on the fact that they know how to create communities, people feel they are a part of something. We have to try to make people want to be a member of the brand community, and for that we have to offer them advantages like store brand, discounts and possibilities to access tickets.”

“Think about local information. Right now we all know what Donald Trump has done, but we do not know what has happened in the street next door to which we live.”


Gallardo added that exploring payment channels is also important to stay relevant in the digital age.

“I think we can convince people that they can pay. In Spain there is a culture of total free. But little by little it is being educated that you have to pay for quality content. Is our moment. Netflix, Spotify, have been educating.

He further stated that “we do not do anything that we do not consider to be profitable. Minimum to earn a euro, but never, never lose a euro, because otherwise we can never leave the tunnel, and we have to leave the tunnel to see what is there.”

Renet said: “Advertising incomes are falling down in the media world. This is not new. We cannot stay with our arm crossed and wait for something to happen. The solution we (L’Equipe) chose, and we are not the first one to do so, is to recruit maximal amounts of subscribers. This strategy was not in our habits. The digital subscribers will allow us to survive through a lasting economic system.”

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