July 23, 2014

“Content is another word for too much crap,” Sports Illustrated Executive Says

Ford (left) and McDonell

Terry McDonell, Editor, Time Inc. Sports Group, and Mark Ford, president, Time Inc. Sports Group, debuted today in an video interview where they said they didn’t know how Sports Illustrated would monetize its sports social media, and McDonell called “content another word for too much crap.”

Speaking to MeetTheBoss.tv, McDonell and Ford don’t say anything all that different than what sports social media leaders at major print publishing brands are saying today. It is the unfocused nature of the interview that was unusual.

MeetTheBoss.tv focuses on “business challenges that matter today, clearly explaining the solutions, competitive strategies, people, and thinking around them,” but it is also a content provider aimed at aspiring executives. That may help explain the free-wheeling, non-substantive nature of the SI executive’s comments.

The interview underscores that few, if anyone, really knows how to make money on sports content as it flows to smartphones and tablet devices, and just a few basic principles are what business leaders have to go on as they push brands further into the social community space.

In leading the interview, MeetTheBoss.tv points up Sports Illustrated was first to market with a tablet application that delivered a major magazine brand to readers. Later, it brings up the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue was one of the first to include experiential marketing, smartphone, and tablet distribution for a major print product. McDonell said experimenting with sports social media has opened up SI’s corporate structure.

“Specifically at SI everybody basically created new jobs for themselves,” McDonell said. “It got fast and fun. We started inviting everyone from I.T. (information technology) at SI to our parties, and they acted like they had never been invited to a party before. So, they all showed up and then pretty soon they said, “pssstt what about this”…(Pretty soon), we had a real hot unit, and — you know — we haven’t cooled off much.

Then SI’s McDonell says,

“Content” is another word for too much crap. If you can break through that and not have “content” but have something good, people will pay for it.”

In making his “content is another word for too much crap” comment, McDonell plays off a famous line made famous by Sumner Redstone, who is majority owner of  CBS CorporationViacomMTV NetworksBET, and the film studio Paramount Pictures. At the dawn of the Internet as a commercial medium, when everyone was trying to figure out what dot.com meant to media, it was Redstone who famously said “content is king.” Microsoft chairman Bill Gates borrowed the famous line, and wrote an article in 1996 titled “Content is King.” Eleven years later, Redstone wrote in 2007 an article titled “If Content is King, Copyright is Its castle.”

In a section of the interview where McDonell and Ford say SI doesn’t plan to monetize sports social media content, the executives said the focus is on authentic content.

“We have some big-time social media people at Sports Illustrated,” McDonell says. “All that stuff works for us but it is kind of an orchestra coming together. I’m not sure. I’m not sure how we get the money.”

Ford then says,

“We don’t even use that language (referring to money). It is about building an authenticate community and an audience that’s true to the brand. Through that, opportunities will come up..It would be a big mistake to try to monetize that too quickly.”

McDonell adds,

“It is not a community. To be really successful, it has to be beyond community. It has to be tribal. You are building a tribe. And if you are in that tribe, you join that tribe, you want all that tribe stuff.”

Ford then says,

“Terry was in motorcycle gangs up in Northern California, you can tell. It was very tribal. We both love motorcycles.”

You will have to register for an account, but here’s the full interview:

Mark Ford & Terry McDonell Interview

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