The Paradox of Offseason NFL Coverage
June 2, 2017
This morning, I received this ESPN update: “Free agent DT Devon Still is recovering from October foot surgery.”
The update adds that Still only played 25 snaps, has never been an impact player, and is on schedule in his recovery. As far as a significant update, this falls somewhere between “the sky is blue” and “new developments in abacus technology.”
The offseason coverage of the National Football League (NFL) is a paradox. Writers often complain and mock the NFL for pushing its sport to year-round coverage, and yet they still pump out articles around the calendar. Journalist Mike Tanier, for example, writes a yearly article titled “The NFL Offseason Nonsense Index.” Yet Tanier also has written thirty-three articles in the last three months, ranging from the thought provoking “Fear and Free Agency in the Era of Political Activism“, to, well, nonsense: “Ranking the Most Underrated Players in NFL History.”
Nothing exemplifies the oversaturation of NFL coverage like the NFL Draft (Tanier’s article “Survivor's Guide to Reaching the NFL Draft Without Losing Your Mind gives a pretty good sense of the absurdity). Football reporters release mock drafts by the thousands, all wildly speculating which teams players will land on. Tiny actions, like the body language a coach exhibits while discussing a player, are analyzed for days on ESPN. And immediately following the draft we get scores of arbitrary “draft grades” that are ultimately pretty meaningless, along with plenty of “way too early mock drafts” for the following year’s draft.
These sportswriters are following the NFL’s lead, which has carefully arranged its events to limit gaps. The Super Bowl springs into Free Agency, then the Combine, the draft, Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and soon after, training camps. The creation of the NFL Network, a 24-hour NFL television network, was built with the goal of expanding the NFL news cycle and churning out “news”.
It seems strange that the NFL would stretch itself so thin, and risk watering down its product. And yet, when you look at the numbers, maybe it’s not so crazy. Bleacher Report’s Mike Miller, author of the 2018 draft rankings released 361 days early, got 424,000 clicks. Tanier’s article ranking underrated players attracted 240,000 views, 170,000 more than his super bowl wrap up! And, according to page view analysis from Alexa, NFL.com has managed to stay competitive with NHL.com despite having to go up against the Stanley Cup Championship.
The lesson here is that content is king. Just because your company may be in the “offseason” does not mean you can rest. Building and maintaining a brand is a year-round commitment. Perhaps no organization understands that better than the NFL.
Isaac Hubley is an intern at Bond Moroch.