Back in October, I had a chat with the gregarious Nancy Haley, who was on her way out as CEO of Tehama at the time and she mentioned one of the effects of megabrands on the golf industry and how golf shops were becoming homogenized.
Her theory was that golf shop proprietors are getting complacent in their buying, counting heavily on big name apparel companies as one-stop shopping instead of discovering new items that might make a shop unique and different than the one down the road.
You can read that entire story here.
In many ways, the same thing is happening to the golf media, and media in general for that matter.
In the case of the golf media in this country, it’s occurring in the opposite way than in the apparel business, according to Haley’s theory. Continuing with our series on the Canadian golf media, it is an industry that has been fragmented into small pieces.
Of course, there are the bigger TV and radio stations, at which golf is part of their daily sportscasts, and the daily newspapers where somebody such as Lorne Rubenstein of the Globe and Mail has built an admirable career as a golf columnist into deserved membership in the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
Of course, Rubenstein’s contributions in the newspapers and on its website are part of an overall sports package, while media outlets devoted solely to golf have become plentiful with each carving out a small piece of the overall pie, but that small piece of the pie also means a small operating budget for most.
Factor in such influences as the recent downturn in the economy, which we seem to becoming out of now, the trend to potential advertisers relying on public relations firms to get their message out instead of making an ad buy, which we discussed yesterday, and the budget hardly justifies a big staff of writers.
At many of these media outlets, editorial people have always been considered a drain on the budget to begin with because they are not revenue-producers if you’re looking at the narrow, bottom-line picture. With the recent economy and trends within the industry, that opinion has been magnified.
As a result, many golf media outlets are flying on one wing editorially, many of them working strictly with part-time/freelance people, which makes the convenience of press releases attractive with some websites not even rewriting them, but just cut and pasting them verbatim.
This is where Haley’s theory of homogenization enters into it, only in the case of the Canadian golf media, it isn’t megabrands offering the convenience of one-stop shopping, it’s a whole bunch of smaller outlets with limited resources feeding off the same information distributed in press releases.
For the advertiser, it’s a smoke-and-mirrors situation in that a reader will only consume a story on the same product once and move on before that story drops from sight with no consistent message about the product afterwards, but press releases aren’t the only convenience that media outlets count on these days.
There are a variety of sources to draw from for companies trying to keep their operating expenses down.
The teleconference is a common practice these days and they are convenient for time-strapped writers who just have to phone in. Many of them don’t even ask questions, but still get the same quotes as those who do and, ultimately, stories end up looking remarkably similar when they appear.
Many stories are the same when media outlets use wire stories from AP, CP and other news gatherers.
There’s also a tendency in the media to follow conventional thinking, even if the theories they espouse have never been backed up. For example, I read a recent blog about a golf equipment company being on a roll because one of its staff players won on the PGA Tour.
I’m not sure if that means on a roll sales-wise because I don’t think the average consumer knows what brands most tour players use, except for maybe the top four or five names, even if I do get why companies want to associate their products with success.
Another one that comes to mind is the talk recently about how the success of Canadian touring pros influences participation in the game. As I stated in a previous blog, I think tour pros might be one factor among many that contribute to people getting into the game including family tradition, lifestyle, affordability etc.
Going against the popular opinion, 80 per cent of readers agreed with me in a recent GNN Poll, so theories in the media don’t always come true.
Press releases, teleconferences and press conferences are necessary tools that we all use in the media, but the key is to go beyond that and many media outlets do that.
What I’ve always liked about Rubenstein is that he usually calls on his vast list of contacts and often goes beneath the surface. Bob Weeks at ScoreGolf often comes up with a few good nuggets and Robert Thompson, love him or hate him, is usually good for a stinging opinion that makes things interesting.
Here at GNN, we’re in a unique situation with our niche being the Canadian golf industry, which has no other media vehicle for timely news and opinions, but I believe the key to this website is the perspectives at the ground level from bloggers such as Kevin Thistle, Tiffany Gordon, Kyle German, Ted Stonehouse and Tom Jackson.
Features such as the GNN Poll and the comment section allow for some lively discussion on various topics and what would a golf industry website be without opinions from those who circulate within that industry?
Whether media outlets strive to be unique depends on the philosophy of those who run the show in each case.
Less advertising revenue means less of an inclination to invest in your product, but if it isn’t a quality product and looks pretty much the same as others, what’s the appeal to readers and advertisers? It’s a Catch-22 and there is no clear answer about how to escape from it.
One thing is clear. If the answer isn’t found, the homogenization of media will continue, likely with more casualties, and the state of media will remain in a flux.