You might have heard something about the study that was released yesterday by the folks at the Newspaper National Network. It proclaimed in large type that “Sports Fans Rank Local Newspaper Sports Pages #1” and that “The Study Validates the Unique Benefits of Newspaper Sports Content to Advertisers.” You can read the study here.
Now being the open-minded sort of guy that I am, I read through the study with great interest but also with a very large wad of skepticism. You see, it strikes me that everything we read about newspapers has to do with the decline of daily readership. Given the “right now” nature of sports information in particular, I was surprised that the study found that newspapers are still the top source for sports news for sports fans. Let’s see what you think.
Sports news and information is one of the most hotly-contested content areas. Having lived in it for decades, I know that the competition is fierce. Other than the big guys – USAToday and Sports Illustrated, I can’t think of a single daily or even weekly print source that can compete for the sports audience. Still, according to the study:
- Print Newspapers Beat Traditional Media Sports Analysis as the “Go To” Source and
- Newspaper Websites Beat Key Digital Competitors as the “Go To” Source for News
Wow! Now I read a couple of newspapers every day but I must admit that I don’t do so for the sports scores. I’m also out of the demo that was surveyed – Men 18-54. I was also quite surprised by the second point. The study shows that 76% of the respondents identified newspaper websites when asked to identify all the places you typically go to for sports news, information, and/or analysis, not including live games or competitions. Only 65% mentioned ESPN.com and 46% identified either Yahoo Sports or a league website. Given everything I know about traffic numbers in sports, that 76% seems weird, even aggregating all of the newspaper sites (except USAToday) into a number.
That’s when I took the advice I’ve given you here on the screed a number of times: when the results seem weird, check who was asked the question and how the question was asked. In this case, half the men surveyed identified themselves as regular sports pages readers (2x or more/week). Given that the ongoing Pew Study found late last year that only 29% now say they read a newspaper yesterday – with just 23% reading a print newspaper that seems like a skewed sample to me. In fact, it’s hard to accept that 69% of male sports fans identify the print sports section as the “go to” source when over half of those who read the newspaper do so electronically according to Pew.
The best research is enlightening and can’t be picked apart very easily. Unfortunately, this does neither. Do you agree?