Sports are the ne plus ultra of live, real-time coverage. When the match is on, it’s on. Every second – every millisecond – counts.
It’s a natural fit for television, Web, and social media (especially Twitter, the social network for live events bar none).
It doesn’t seem a natural fit for once-a-day, static newspapers.
So what’s a predominantly print-based media group to do when faced with covering the much-anticipated boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.? How do you compete with broadcasting and Internet pure-plays for the attention of an audience hungry for information about what had been touted as the fight of the century?
I write this having just come from a testimonial dinner our top executives gave for the #PacMay coverage teams, a dinner attended by Rep. Manny Pacquiao himself. Amidst the never-ending selfies (groufies is a better term) people were having with the guest of honor, I had a chance to reflect on the things we did that made the coverage the success that it was:
1. Go inter-disciplinary. The #PacMay team involved people across platforms, business units, and functional lines.
Multi-platform media groups like the Inquirer tend to become a collection of platforms. Each platform has its own strengths, weaknesses, objectives, and resources. Forming an interdisciplinary team allows each platform to compensate for its weaknesses and enhance its strengths.
In the case of #PacMay, our print team had deep experience in covering boxing while our Web, social, and mobile teams had the digital skill sets to leverage that experience online. Combining the two teams not only resulted in an inter-generational exchange (younger reporters learning from the war stories of the older reporters; older reporters discovering the joys of Instagram, Periscope, and Viber), it also cancelled out weaknesses.
2. Integrate business with editorial. Being inter-disciplinary was also important on the business side. Just as our editorial teams came together, so did our marketing teams – and, more importantly, the two teams, Church and State, worked in parallel. Make no mistake, the wall was still there and boundaries were respected. But each side knew what the other was doing.
3. Put a single person in charge. Interdisciplinary teams can be great, but they can also diffuse accountability. For #PacMay we put one of our top editors in charge of the coverage. He worked closely with all the teams in play, but everyone knew he was in charge and finals calls were his.
4. Coordinate, coordinate, coordinate. For #PacMay, we had a home team based in the Philippines and a United States-based team. Several platforms. Several units.
What kept everything together was the use of chat apps such as WhatsApp. From coverage advisories to sharing breaking news for posting to requests for verification, WhatsApp acted as the virtual newsroom, war room, and office water cooler for the entire #PacMay team.
5. Use your platform reach. Having multiple platforms not only broadens your reach, it also lets you play each platform off each other for the best effect.
We learned a lot from our #PacMay coverage, and it’s likely that it will become the base template for future major coverage events.
How about you? What lessons have you learned in handling major coverage across your platforms? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.