On Timing Your Conference Expansion Updates To Sell Subscriptions

This is meta. It's not news. You've been warned. We'll have a more traditional article up shortly.

There are the leaders in the conference expansion news race, covering the Big XII, Florida State, Clemson and others. They include Ingram Smith and the 247sports Baylor site. And then there are those whom, for whatever reason, are behind. It may be that they don't want to burn a source. It may be that they no longer have great sources. Or it might simply be a business strategy to sell subscriptions during the slow season.

I think that is what we're seeing from some outlets covering both Big XII and ACC schools. Reports come out from the leaders, and the strategy is to

  • deny the report;
  • call it premature;
  • attempt to discredit the reporters with ad hominem attacks (including implying that the reporter could not possibly have info on expansion because he attended Hampden-Sydney College);
  • say they aren't legitimate new outlets (even if they are more legitimate than the outlet lobbing the criticism);
  • cite their lack of credentials (What event for which someone would need a credential to cover is producing the conference expansion news? Oh, wait, none);
  • refuse to link, cite or even name them;
  • employ a word filter or monitor actively for mentions of the other outlets and deleting any mention thereof;
  • suspend/ban paying members who repeatedly attempt to bring other voices to the conversation; and
  • burn down the straw men they've created by refuting things (which do not exist) they claim are in the reports to which they will not link or cite.

All the while ignoring that much of the last wave of conference expansion news and many, many things in today's media are done by the little guy.

Then, they release a very similar report just a few days later, claiming that the other guy's report was premature, or even irresponsible.

It's just business.

If readers go to other outlets, subscription or otherwise, there is a chance they won't come back. That means a loss of paying customers.

While smaller sites need to be out in front of the story to gain exposure, huge established sites don't. In fact, it might be risky for them to do so, as the potential reputation hit they could take for being wrong exceeds the uptick in credibility from being right. So they hang back and put out the updates only after multiple sites have reported the new development, claiming it as their own and hoping that their subscribers will not remember how other guys had it long before.

And time is on their side.

New Big XII commissioner Bob Bowlsby doesn't take office until June 15, and TCU and West Virginia don't gain voting privileges until June 30. In addition, it is believed that nothing will officially happen until the announcement is made regarding the layout of the playoff plan. That isn't expected to happen until late June. The big subscription sites know this.

Even if the deal is mostly done as guys like Smith and Ethridge claim (and which I am beginning to believe), nothing official can happen until those events come to pass. Even though we all started the race that is conference expansion on different days, every media outlet will finish it when official releases come from the schools.

Because of this, even if they have the info, they are smart enough to mete out their information in controlled doses. They won't be late on the final, official story because everyone will get their release in their inbox at the same time. The timeline dictates as much. Spacing the updates out makes a lot more sense than dumping all the info on one report.

More blurbs means more blurbs to tease. And that means more opportunities to pick up subscribers during the slow season in which some sites would otherwise have to rely on firing the annual 'mystery recruit' bullet way too early or teasing yet another story about a football player turning pro in baseball.

To be clear, the sites engaging in these practices are few and far between. The giants Sports Illustrated and CBS (free), the long-running Democrat (subscription) and the up-start Noles 247 (subscription) seem quite open to linking and discussing a large variety of sources.

Covering conference expansion is quite tough. Nobody on the cutting edge bats even close to 1.000. I don't know for sure that FSU will bolt for the Big XII, though I do think it is likely. And because of the nature of conference expansion coverage, we'll continue to bring as much information to the discussion as possible and allow you to make your own decision.

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