November 22, 2014

USA Today Taps Yahoo! Sports Exec to Captain Sports Content

Dave Morgan

USA Today is setting sail in sports with a new captain. His name is Morgan.

Beginning Nov. 1, USA Today’s sports content, mobile sports applications and sports social media will be shaped by former Yahoo! executive Dave Morgan, who helped build the Yahoo! search engine and online portal into the No. 1 sports destination in the country.

On Monday, Morgan was named senior vice president and editor-in-chief of USA Today Sports Media Group.

In hiring Morgan, USA Today Sports Media Group gains a charismatic leader. When he left Yahoo!, Morgan was so popular that several top writers changed their Twitter avatar to a photo of Morgan, according to a Mediabistro report.

Big Job

USA Today Sports Media Group President Tom Beusse made the announcement, and it is — indeed — a big job. USA Sports Media was created by Gannett Co. Inc. in January to shepherd not only the online efforts of the nationwide USA Today newspaper, but 82 daily newspapers, 23 broadcast televisions stations and the stand-alone portals HighSchoolSports.com and BQNT.com.

Statements made in conjunction with the appointment, and Morgan’s pedigree, indicate USA Today Sports Media Group will push in new directions designed to capitalize on the sports social media boom.

Morgan’s Credentials

Previously, Morgan was executive editor of Yahoo! North American Audience, where he built Yahoo! Sports into the No. 1 online sports destination. Morgan left Yahoo! in May, underscoring the brain drain of executive talent from the company, according to a report in SportsBusiness Daily.

In recent comments to the TEDx Penn Quarter, former AOL Sports head Jimmy Lynn credited Yahoo! for remaining as the No. 1 sports destination by relying on fantasy sports, when it could have easily lost its focus as sports social media broadened.

In addition to a fantasy focus, Morgan has a news background, including setting a website record of 40 million unique visitors for coverage of the Winter Olympic games in Vancouver.

The unanswered question is whether Morgan has enough savvy in the development of mobile applications to drive USA Sports Media toward meaningful content for smartphones, iPhones and iPads, which is considered the wave of the future for sports fans and publishers alike.

Changing “Virtually Everything”

Without a doubt, Morgan will bring change to Gannett’s USA Today Sports Media Group. A former executive at the Los Angeles Times, Morgan told The Associated Press Sports Editors in 2008 the following:

“I was posed this question: what would I do differently if I went back to newspapers now that I have been in the web world?,” Morgan wrote.

“Virtually everything.”

Rising Competition

Morgan’s appointment comes during turbulent times in sports media. Rival new online media/sports social media properties are enjoying increased success, and seem to have little trouble raising millions in venture capital.

For example, SBNation and bleacher report have gone from start-ups to rank among the top 10 most-trafficked online sports destinations in the last three years. Yahoo! Sports, ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports and others are increasingly hard pressed to stay ahead of newfangled competitors.

Flat out, USA Today Sports Media is an also-ran among competitors, which Morgan will have to shore up to be taken seriously in the brave new world of mobile sports content.

USA Today Sports Media Group’s Beusse said Morgan will take responsibility for fully developing the potential of its sports business, including charting strategy.

Lazarus: A 2nd in Command with Connections

Along with Morgan, USA Today Sports Media Group named Peter Lazarus as senior vice president and head of multimedia sales. Lazarus came from Univision Communications Inc., where he oversaw advertising operations for the Univision, TeleFutura and Galavision networks.

In naming a sales executive in the same announcement as Morgan, Gannett signals that it sees partnership as key to building a sports social media content powerhouse.

Prior to Univision, Lazarus was senior vice president of sales at the sports management agency IMG Sports and Entertainment. It is likely that Lazarus will use his IMG connections to forge alliances between USA Today Sports Media Group and athletes. For example, USA Today could use its newspapers to promote contests that encourage people to follow an athlete’s twitter account, where products the athlete uses are endorsed.

What to Watch

Creation of the Sports Media group in January is consistent with widespread consolidation underway at old-media stalwart Gannett, which is concentrating on shared national services as a means to make money with print newspapers. MobileSportsReport.com will be watching Morgan’s appointment closely to see whether Morgan and Lazarus can marshal the resources necessary to create a broad social media network that captivates national audiences, as well as meaningful corporate-sanctioned applications that allow individual newspapers and television stations to maintain market share in their local communities.

In addition, Morgan and Lazarus will need to re-invigorate a sports staff shaken by years of layoffs and weak dot.com leadership, and identify leaders on local newspaper sports desks ready to step up. In addition, it is likely some Yahoo! sports staffers will be anxious to rejoin their popular former leader at Gannett. With Gannett facing stiffer competition with each passing day, it is safe to say Morgan and Lazarus have their work cut out.

Monday’s Tech Tidbits — My Battery is Dead Issue

Ubuntu seeks to storm into Tablet, Smartphone and TV market
Ubuntu Linux is the latest operating system that seeks to establish itself in the growing mobile and smart video market spaces. ZDNet is reporting that the Canonical, the parent company behind the Linux development will announce the move at its Ubuntu Developer Summit in Orlando. First the company plans to bring out a stable version of its Ubuntu 12.04 distribution and then focus on the new segments. However do not hold your breath as it is not expected for at least 3 years.

Forbes publishes a Top 10 list for Tablets-sort of
Forbes has published a Top 10 list for Tablets, combining 7-inch, 9-inch and 10-inch models. Without any commentary as to why the products made the list, any pros and cons or additional points the list is only really helpful if you want the bare bones information on each model.

Have that drained feeling? iPhone 4S users feel your pain
The iPhone 4S seems to have a battery issue that is causing users fits as it starts draining rapidly even when idle. PC World has a list of suggestions to help you make it through the day on a single charge, for your phone that is. Some sites are claiming that the phone just checks the time too much — what it never heard of Popcorn?


Apple buys another mapping firm

According to 9to5Mac Apple has acquired C3 Technologies, a 3D mapping application developer. According to the site this is the third map developer Apple has added to its portfolio since 2008, the other two being Placebase and Poly9, also a 3D mapping company Apparently Apple purchased C3 several months ago and the deal is now coming to light and it is reported that most of the development team and management is intact and still working as a team in Sweden.

Microsoft provides a patent lawsuit primer
I sue you, you sue him he sues me. That seems to be the standard business operation threes days but Microsoft says so what? One of the company’s attorneys’ said that lawsuits for disruptive technology are a time honored tradition and that it intends to enforce its position. An interesting Q&A on the issue in the San Francisco Chronicle.

eWeek embraces digital-what took it so long?
eWeek, and sister publications Baseline and CIO Insight will no longer have print versions starting January 2012. Instead they will be available for Windows Phone 7, Android and iOS phones and tablets. The company said that it will offer the publications in “full suite of optimized suites and native apps.”

Twitter Loves ESPN Loving Twitter

This is very meta-meta, but: A screen shot of a picture taken by Twitter of ESPN showing live Tweets on a TV broadcast:

I think it’s safe to say we’ll see more folks on Twitter tonight. Go Game 7!

Friday Grab Bag: HP is Back!

ViewSonic offers low cost Android tablet
Looking for a low cost tablet? Well ViewSonic wants you to know that it is now in the game with its ViewPad 7e Android tablet. The 7-inch display uses an older version of Android and not the more recent Honeycomb version of the OS but it does have a $200 price tag and includes a 1GHz ARM A8 processor, dual cameras and 4GB storage with a microSD card slot for expansion.

Dodgers blame beating victim
I know that blame the victim is a standard tactic in legal matters but do the Dodgers really believe that they can convince any rational person that Bryan Stow, beaten into a coma at Opening Day at Dodgers Stadium was responsible? It sure looks as if they are going to as part of the owners’ battle with MLB. It couldn’t be the funding siphoned from the team to support the owners’ expensive lifestyle, could it?

ESPN teams with Nokia for sports fans
ESPN has teamed with smartphone developer Nokia to offer a mobile sports technology for the fan on the go. Called the ESPN Hub and slated for release in 2012 it has been specifically designed for the latest generation of Nokia smartphones that run Microsoft Windows operating system. The ESPN Hub will have a different look from other ESPN products and the company claims that it will help make navigation of content smoother and more intuitive. Hopefully this will turn out better than the Mobile ESPN effort from a few years ago.



HP- We are back! Will not leave the hardware business after all.

Hewlett-Packard back in the hardware business, gee we hardly missed you. The company has made an about turn and has decided that it will not spin off its personal computer unit after all. The decision was made by CEO Meg Whitman. The move reverses the proposal put forward by Whitman’s predecessor, ousted CEO Leo Apotheker who announced the move as part of a corporate overhaul. AT the time the company was smarting over the poor sales of its tablet computer, the TouchPad. It now looks like future tablets are in store for the company, but may use the Microsoft OS.

iPad 3 to sport new connectors?
Rumor du jour: C|Net is reporting the possibility that Apple will launch an iPad3 in March and that it might have connector issues. The site, citing another site, reports that it will have a redesigned dock connector that uses the same number of pins as the old one but in a different, and smaller, configuration. The screen is expected to remain the same size and there is now word if it will stay at the current resolution level or move to the Retina Display technology already in use in other Apple products.

Can teams be a bit too touchy about Twitter?
The recent tempest in a teapot comes from Boston where New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski felt obligated to apologize for appearing in photos with BiBi Jones, an adult film star who then posted them on Twitter. It was taken during a bye week and he is free to do as he feels. I wonder how long it will be before Puritan in Chief Roger Goodell issues a ruling on what players can do in their free time?

Road Runners to Attempt Sports Social Media Milestone at NYC Marathon

A massive sports social media blitz is in the works for the New York City Marathon, according to a New York Times report.

The New York Road Runners, organizers of the Nov. 6 race,  and MapMyRun expect greater than 100,000 people to download the Official ING New York City Marathon Mobile Spectator App, which will be released on Oct. 24 for iPhones, iPads at iTunes App Store and Android Market for Andoid devices at a price of $2.99. (A limited free version is also being released.)

If successful in reaching its six-digit download goal, the New York City Roadrunners will acheive the broadest use of an event-specific sports social media application to date, according to Mobile Sports Report.

The NYC Marathon application is also innovative. It enables double opt-in marketing that permits sponsors, including Subway, Dunkin Donuts and five others, to use GPS to deliver user-specific offers depending on their location.

Location-specific direct marketing is key to the success of event-oriented sports mobile application developers because it moves beyond a cost-per-measure advertising model into a customer acquisition model. And marketing within the application is not just tied to those watching the event live. Consumers will receive offers from Subway, Dunkin Donuts and others regardless of their location in the United States.

New York Road Runners executive vice president for business development Ann Well Crandall told the Times:

“We’re providing (sponsors) with direct access to consumers. We’re just scratching the surface on this.”

The 2011 application is an upgrade from last year’s version, which was used by about 50,000 people during the NYC Marathon. Runners can be searched by name, number or team, and locations will be shown. There’s also a Friend Finder function, which allows runners to be tracked throughout the race if they carry their own mobile device in their pocket during the event.

(W)hooping it up at TEDx, Jimmy Lynn Says Sports Social Media Key To Consumer Tech Demand

Former AOL Sports head Jimmy Lynn said “sports always drives adoption of new technologies,” and “we’re in the fifth inning” in determining winners and losers in the sports social space.

Lynn, who made his comments at TEDx PennQuarter on Oct. 24,  is managing partner of the global strategic advisory firm JLynn Associates and on the faculty of Georgetown University’s sports industry management program.

From 1995 to 2009, he was a driver in creating AOL Sports as a major online destination, and central in AOL’s overall success.

Lynn said sports social media content developers must focus on mobile devices. In such countries as China, Brazil and India, there are huge sports audiences, and those people already get their content on mobile devices, he said. Reliance on the mobile device for sports information is bound to occur among fans in the United States, he said.

“I tell my students: go global, mobile and green,” Lynn said.

The Twitter Opportunity

Lynn said Twitter is already ingrained in the sports fan experience, and it has paved the way for professional athletes to — for the first time — begin making money through digital sports information.

“We’ve been trying to figure out how to monetize athletes on the Internet since 1995,” Lynn said.  ”And, we could not figure it out. Twitter is one of the first ways. Athletes can tweet they are wearing a product, and that (tweet) moves people (to purchase the product). All of sudden (the athletes) are getting paid  five grand, seven grand, 10 grand.”

Facebook Promising, But Untapped

Facebook is also a complete game changer, Lynn said. It is one thing to have a healthy presence on Facebook, and quite another to turn that audience into paying customers, he cautioned.

“To me the Holy Grail in social media is how to take this huge social media audience and drive e-commerce,” Lynn said. “That’s the end game.”

Sports Blogging Sites Promising

Make no mistake, big media is in a run for its money in the brave new world of sports social media, Lynn said. He identified the rise of such sites as SBNation and bleacher report into the top 10 most-trafficked online sports destinations as indication that speaking out on sports is every bit as compelling as reading about sports.

“These guys are competing with ESPN, Yahoo, CBS and Fox,” Lynn said. “And they are right there in the top 10. Why? People like to get their opinion out there. Just like sports radio was the big thing in the 1980s, now, people are blogging, blogging and blogging.”

Lynn said SBNation and bleacher report hold an advantage of the media mainstream. That is, they provide an outlet for people to talk about community sports, including high-school sports. They also facilitate the production of sports video by amateurs, and give amateurs the opportunity to try their hand as sportscasters. That kind of sports social media would get lost on outlets that focus on college and professional sports, and it is a huge opportunity for SBNation and bleacher report and others going forward, Lynn said.

Sports drives consumer demand for technology

“Sports always drives adoption of new technologies,” Lynn said.

In making this case, Lynn took a historical perspective. He pointed up that horse racing, baseball and boxing were key to getting consumers to purchase radios in the 1930s, and that baseball and football drove television purchases in the 1950s, and color television set purchases in the 1960s. In the 1990s, satellite television allowed displaced fans to tune into teams they loved buy couldn’t see because they did not live in local markets, he added. And sports drove the digital revolution beginning in 1995 by providing sports scores and fantasy sports statistics. Today, sports will drive consumers to purchase mobile phones and tablets in ever-increasing numbers, he said.

Lynn on center stage

Lynn’s comments signal that sports social media thought leaders are focusing almost exclusively on the impact of mobile devices when evaluating new sports business opportunities. His appearance at the nonprofit TED means the thought-leadership clearinghouse has begun to see sports social media as a major cultural phenomenon.

As mobile devices win the day among consumers, competitors in the sports social media space must continue to provide the basics, Lynn said.  

“Scores drive a sports site,” Lynn said. “It was (true) then and it is now.”