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Go where your audience goes

Given it's prep football season, so lots of folks are trying their hand at posting stats, photos, video, and whatever other whiz-bang thing they can imagine.

Here's the problem. No matter how you cover high school sports, the real problem is how to get high school students to your Web site. Believe it or not, high schoolers don't tend to drop by newspaper and TV sites on a Friday night or Saturday morning. Generally, they see those sites as more for their parents than for them.

I'm told that Augusta sends people to local games to take "Spotted" photos. You know those by now. Volunteers take pictures not of the games, but of the people at the games. They hand out business cards telling folks, "You've been Spotted" and directing them to find the photos on the Web site.

Now that's a good marketing ploy. (But I don't see the Spotted photos in the prep football section.) It's a start, at least. Someone actually got out of the newsroom and made an effort. Let me know if you've heard other good ideas for getting high schoolers online.

Bottomline is newspapers can't afford to use the "Field of Dreams" approach to Web design. "If you build it, they will come" is a fictional storyline, not a business model.

Comments (2)

I have long heard about the resistance of professional photojournalists and sports writers toward preps. Many (not all) of them think they are too good to cover preps. They want to cover college teams and the pros. Snobs.

Combine this with the shrinking pool of high school journalists -- high school principals like to shut down newspapers, or at least censor them. Bad p.r., you know?

Why not train the high school students to cover their own school's sports, in detail? Train them to shoot video and stills (yeah, I know, you're saying: "Training?!"). Give them a nice-looking area on the newspaper Web site and access to uploading tools.

I'm thinkin': Naples News's PrepZone -- but as a training ground for the future audience, the kids now in high school.

The idea of encouraging the students themselves to take control of the content is the right one. But it has to be in areas, such as Spotted photos, where there isn't already editorial coverage.

By getting them to do the work, they'll also inherently start the marketing, as well, via word of mouth.

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