HIESTAND LOOKS FOR BUSINESS NEWS THAT'S MEANINGFUL TO FANS
Last week THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY reported on the
OREGONIAN's decision to hire a full-time sports business writer.
Well, there is one person who has been writing regular columns
about the industry since 1989, and that is Michael Hiestand of
USA TODAY. THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY spent some time with
Michael yesterday getting his take on the industry. Excerpts
from our conversation follow. His column runs every Tuesday and
Thursday. Frequently, THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY will interview
other people that cover sports as a business. Look for those in
the months ahead.
THE DAILY: How do you define the business of sports?
HIESTAND: The definition is fairly broad -- pretty much
everything that happened outside of a game or event. I do not
write about why somebody went for a fourth down, or why someone
is juggling their lineup in baseball. The business angle looks
at how you see the games, what products are available for you to
buy, what research says about consumer behavior, generally what's
new and different.
THE DAILY: When you write about the sports industry you try
to provide a national perspective. What exactly do you look for
in a story?
HIESTAND: We try to focus on news that is interesting not
only to people in the sports business, but also to the average
fan. I think fans are becoming much more aware of the business
side of sports, and that fans are hungry for information as they
try to understand salary caps, television deals, and stadium
construction. We try to make the business issues accessible to
anyone who reads our sports coverage.
THE DAILY: So, your audience is really the fan?
HIESTAND: Ideally, I am writing for both and ideally there
is news that is important for the industry and interesting to the
fan, but -- bottom line -- I really do try to take a writing
style that makes the issues accessible. For example, when the
baseball network was created, there were a lot of stories about
why this was done in terms of television networks and how the
advertising would work. And that's all important, but when I
wrote about it I broke it down a little bit for the viewer and
said, "Okay, here's what you'll see and why you'll see it."
THE DAILY: If someone from the industry is coming to you
with news, what should they know beforehand?
HIESTAND: To be honest, I'm pretty interested in hearing
just about anything. But, what I always ask is "What's new
about your story, what's interesting about it, and why should
people care." I also look for news that has potential --
sometimes you can give a little twist to what seems like a real
insider's story, and make it interesting to just about anybody.
And, if I don't use a specific item, I'll often forward it to
somebody else in our sports department.
THE DAILY: This is a unique time for sports -- one sport is
off the field, another is on its way. What do you think are some
of the big picture implications?
HIESTAND: The big question for me is consumer behavior in
the future -- will consumers change their behavior because they
have become jaded about lockouts or strikes? Will work stoppages
have an affect on licensing and merchandising or the response to
THE DAILY: What is the impact on the demand for sports
HIESTAND: There are some people who might just throw up
their hands and say this is all getting to be just like any other
section of the paper: money and conflict. But there are some
people who are interested in this and they're saying, "What on
earth is going on?" -- these people would like to find out more
about issues like the salary cap.
THE DAILY: What are some of the industry trends you will
HIESTAND: Many of the trends that are interesting to me
concern global marketing -- whether it is overseas expansion,
merchandising, or television. Also, pay-per-view television, the
blurring of traditional sports and entertainment lines, and, in
ticket sales and merchandising, is there a limit on how high the
ticket prices can go and how much sports merchandise people will