Outsourced sports solutions free up news sites to focus on the local
This column appeared March 19, 2002, in the Online Journalism Review. Here’s the version on the OJR site.
Do you know the No. 1 sports event for online sports fans? Nope, not the Super Bowl. Not the World Series.
March Madness — or, for the uninitiated, the NCAA college basketball tournament.
And that presents something of a challenge for thin-as-a-wafer online sports staffs. How do you cover 64 college teams with the depth and tenacity demanded by hoops-crazed Net denizens?
For more than 100 online newspapers, the solution has been to leverage the print paper’s sports staff, use the wire services — and sign up with The Sports Network, an outfit in Hatboro, Pennsylvania, that you’ve almost certainly never heard of.
Peek under the hood of an online news site and you’ll likely find a handful of third-party vendors. But few have as compelling a story as The Sports Network, founded 22 years ago as an audiotext service for newspapers. Somewhat remarkably, the Net — and the thirst of online users for instantaneous information — has helped transform this small company into a news service with a global reach.