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SBJ/June 18 - 24, 2001/E SportsPrint All
In two weeks, Baseball America garnered 1,000 subscriptions to the new online version of its magazine, Baseball America Online, representing a 4 percent increase in paid subscribers, a significant jump in the magazine industry.
The online subscription costs $36 a year, the biweekly print edition $49.85. Publisher Lee Folger would not give the operating expenses of the project, but did say, "I think we feel like it's been a success already. We are having to combat the false perception that you could get all the magazine for free on the site already. It's also a test: If we ask you to write a check for something and you don't think it's worthwhile, we need to know why."
The online magazine contains much of each print edition, plus extra in-depth information that didn't fit the print edition. Folger sees several benefits. International postage can run more than $100 a year and make foreign subscriptions loss-leaders, even at their higher subscription rates. An online subscription makes money and "arrives" immediately, a big improvement over slow international mail.
"We also like that we're interacting with our customers directly, which is important for a small media company that depends on selling its ancillary publications, like yearbooks," Folger said. "We can't do this as easily with people who buy us at Barnes & Noble."
Folger does not see the online version as a way to encourage people to graduate to the print version. He believes each version appeals to different styles of information-gathering, especially the more detailed hard-core information online.
Some print subscribers have canceled in favor of the cheaper online version, not necessarily a desirable outcome, but Folger said research showed some of them were planning to cancel the print subscription anyway, under the impression that the free online version was the complete magazine.
"There have been a few examples of traditional print publications selling online, such as The Wall Street Journal, which [like Baseball America] has a rabid fan base, in this case for financial information," said Patrick Keane, vice president and senior analyst at Jupiter Research, a division of Jupiter Media Metrix. "This works for what you can broadly define as trade publications."
For that reason, apparently, broader-based sports magazines have shied away from significant co-publishing online. Sports Illustrated leaves a lot of material on the editing-room floor when producing the weekly print magazine, and its Web site, cnnsi.com, runs roughly 150 items a week from SI writers, most of it not concurrently in the magazine and all of it free.
CNNSI.com vice president and general manager Steve Robinson was impressed with Baseball America's numbers and the notion of reaching overseas readers profitably. But he said: "The simple answer is that we have no immediate plans to charge for writers right now, and we're not posting much from the magazine, so it's not an issue. If you want to blue-sky it, down the line, five to seven years from now, it's possible essentially all magazine content will be delivered online. But the act of sitting and thumbing through is so fundamental still, it's not going away."
ONLINE DOMINANCE CLOSER: In just more than two years, the number of companies controlling 60 percent of the time users spend online dwindled to 14 in May, down from 110 in March 1999, according to research firm Jupiter Media Metrix. Its conclusion is that market dominance is possible, a contrast to the assumptions of a few years ago, which held that the potentially infinite number of online "channels" made for a level playing field.
That may not come as a surprise to the folks at AOL and Microsoft, who have been planning for this day for a long time, but the numbers are still sobering: Only four companies now combine to control 50 percent of the online user minutes; two years ago it was 11 companies.
Mergers and acquisitions, the big companies' increased ability to differentiate their content from that of the upstarts, and economies of scale are the reasons adduced by Jupiter Media Metrix.
The top four online properties are the AOL Time Warner network of sites (32 percent of user time), Microsoft sites (7.5 percent), Yahoo! (7.2 percent) and Napster (3.6 percent). Juno, eBay, EA Online and its applications, Excite and iWon are the next five, with between 1.9 percent and 1 percent of the user audience.
Noah Liberman can be reached at email@example.com.
SportsLine to miss Russell cut?
SportsLine.com Inc. is not expected to make the minimum market capitalization of nearly $130 million needed for inclusion on the Russell 3000 when the stock index is updated later this year, according to a report of thestreet.com. The index covers the stocks of the 3,000 largest U.S. public companies. SportsLine is expected to be one of many tech-related companies that made the list last year but will not repeat this year.
Mountain Bike site rides again
Mountain Bike magazine relaunched its Web site at mountainbike.com.
Tour's online store launches
The PGA Tour and Electronic Commerce Solutions, a division of USA Networks' Interactive Group, launched pgatourstop.com, the tour's official online store. ECS and Styleclick, also a USA Interactive Group company, handle operation, technology, e-commerce and marketing operations for the venture.
Hawaii golf site tees off
TravelGolf.com launched hawaii-golfguide.com, the company's 24th online travel golf publication. The site provides information about golf courses across Hawaii. The site is sponsored by The Golf Travel Center.
Hulabee serves up kids news
The creators of Humongous Entertainment have started a new company, Hulabee Entertainment, which is launching a sports-news Web site for children. The site features daily news, scores, player and team stats, schedules and interactive content. After a debut month of free service, the Bellevue, Wash.-based company plans to charge a subscription fee of $3.99 a month, or $5.99 a month for an ad-free subscription. Shelley Day and Ron Gilbert launched the company nearly a year after leaving children's software maker Humongous.
Mizuno selects Internap
MizunoUSA, wholly owned subsidiary of sporting goods manufacturer Mizuno Corp., agreed to use Internap Network Services of Seattle as its Internet service provider. Finanical details of the deal were not released.
Tiger's ride up for bids
The 2001 Buick Regal LSE that Tiger Woods drove at the 2001 Masters was up for auction on the site eBay last week. Proceed from the auction, which was to end Sunday, were to go to the Tiger Woods Foundation.
Carlos Giron, a Guatemala native who moved to the United States at age 12, believes he understands the desires of one of Major League Soccer's biggest fan bases.
Hispanic spectators, who make up nearly a third of MLS fans, are often emotionally attached to the Spanish language, Giron said. To capitalize on that, he helped develop mlsnet.com En Español, a section of the league's Web site that launched in April.
"Hispanic fans needed a place to go where they can talk about the league, a place they can call their own," said Giron, the director of Hispanic communications for the MLS. "Our core fans understand it [Spanish] better."
Three-quarters of En Español content is original. A feature story on Tampa Bay coach Alfonso Mondelo, for instance, did not appear on the league's main site. Tournament scores from Mexico and South America are posted.
Three writers cover Hispanic concerns for the site. One, Rigoberto Cervantez, wrote a column that ran for years in La Opinion, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States.
Though mlsnet.com has not broken down the traffic numbers to assess En Español's effect, anecdotal evidence points to early success.
MLSnet.com Webmaster David Richardson said that since the site launched, "We're receiving much more fan-based e-mail in Spanish. They feel more comfortable dealing with the site in Spanish."
En Español has not yet been promoted by the MLS, but by month's end the league hopes to strike a deal with Yahoo! En Español (espanol.yahoo.com) to produce a page dedicated to the MLS, including content from and a link to En Español. Giron said advertisements for En Español will appear in Free Kick, a free magazine distributed at MLS games.
The MLS is not the first U.S. pro sports league to tout non-English-language areas. NBA.com provides sections in Spanish and Japanese. Those sites are attracting attention.
"The traffic on the Español section alone is equivalent to the traffic on a single team site," said Brenda Spoonemore, an executive at nba.com, who said the league plans to roll out more Spanish-language sections in specific geographic regions.