SBJ/April 29-May 5, 2013/Olympics

Digital media outlets account for 25% of U.S. credentials for Sochi Games

Digital media outlets will take their largest percentage of credentials ever for an Olympic Games next year.

Outlets ranging from Yahoo to ESPN.com to FoxSports.com will receive 25 percent of the more than 400 credentials allocated to the U.S. for the 2014 Sochi Games. That’s a major increase from the 15 percent of credentials digital outlets took for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and the 9 percent of credentials digital outlets received for the 2006 Games in Turin. There are traditionally fewer credentials issued for Winter Games, which has only eight sports, compared to summer, which has more than 20 sports.

The shift reflects the continuing challenges that traditional newspapers face. Outlets ranging from The New York Times to The Seattle Times, which traditionally send a large contingent to the Winter Games, either offered buyouts or laid off staff last year.

As those papers have struggled to adjust to changes in the advertising business, digital outlets have filled the void and found ways to monetize online Olympic coverage. FoxSports.com, Sports Illustrated, USA Today Sports Media Group and Yahoo Sports all developed special websites and editorial content for the London Games. They also secured advertising support from Olympic and non-Olympic sponsors as a way to produce revenue from those special sections.

Last summer, IOC sponsor P&G advertised on Yahoo, U.S. Olympic Committee sponsors Citi and DeVry advertised with Fox Sports, and non-Olympic sponsor Lexus advertised with Sports Illustrated.

The USOC, which credentials U.S. media, has seen the total number of credentials it receives from the International Olympic Committee decline 10 percent since the last Winter Games in Vancouver, from 480 credentials to between 400 and 450. The organization has allocated all of its credentials for the Sochi Games and is requesting additional credentials for media.

USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The New York Times are the most credentialed outlets for Sochi, but fewer local outlets are sending reporters than in the past, USOC Chief Communications Officer Patrick Sandusky said.

“We’ve certainly seen a shift to more of the national publications putting an emphasis on the Olympics,” Sandusky said. “Regional papers send fewer reporters and utilize the wire papers more, but we still have people coming from Indiana, Chicago, Boston. Smaller papers have scaled back, but generally coverage is up because you’re getting more wire and more national coverage from outlets that have staffed up and are sending more people.”

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