I’m a fan of the written word.
That may go without saying since this column appears in print weekly in a newspaper. I have been involved in some way with newspaper since 1989 and have somewhat made a transition to digital and online channels. I have taught writing at various levels.
With this context laid out, it makes me sick what Fox Sports has done with its NASCAR coverage. Last week, the network that carries one-half the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series and all the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series canned all its writers and editors. They now plan to deliver all news on their website via video. The move applied to all sports coverage for Fox Sports beyond their NASCAR coverage. In all, 20 people were laid off in the move, including veteran NASCAR reporters Tom Jensen and Joe Menzer.
“Gone are the days of uploading content to a hub and hoping an audience seeks it out,” wrote Jamie Horowitz, who used to be the head of Fox Sports’ national networks and digital outlets. “We will be taking a proactive approach to distributing our content to sports fans on their preferred platforms.
“This evolution in our digital strategy is a decision driven by comprehensive research, data, sales numbers and hours of conversations we’ve had this year. Our findings can be boiled down to these three core tenets:
“We are watching how fans consume content …
“We are listening to our advertising partners …
“Premium video is our advantage.”
In that previous attribution, you notice I wrote “used to be.” Ironically, a few days after the announcement, Horowitz lost his job amidst a sexual harassment probe. The word karma came up more than once in response to that news.
Beyond the salaciousness of that story, this whole thing is bunk. I avoid news videos on websites like the plague and know there are many people who do. Research shows for this type of media, you have about 30 seconds of someone’s attention to watch a news video online. Eye-tracking research shows the average time someone spends on a page of written news text is four times longer.
As I think about this, it makes sense that Fox Sports would do something like this. They are the same network that continues to dump money in Skip Bayless and Jason Whitlock.
Not to get too far afield from what you came to read, but this is very disheartening. It represents the further dumbing down of our culture. It’s also insulting to fans. Let’s be real honest about what this is, and Horowitz said it in his memo to staff: advertising. Click on a story that leads to a video and you get hit with an advert that is harder to ignore. I get that advertising makes all of this possible (and thank you to everyone who advertisings in these papers), but I also believe in the line between editorial and advertising.
The industry term used for this move is “pivot,” but what is this pivot – from what to what? The easy answer is written to video. I hope it doesn’t go beyond that where the pivot is from good reporting and commentary to advertising-driven tripe.
Andy Cagle writes a weekly NASCAR column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.