It’s taken two weeks, a lot of hot air (from me included) to get to a place where we can have a sensible debate about how to make football journalism work in the digital age.
What started with a disgruntled journalist’s claims of clickbait, low-quality content and the linking of not covering Brentford to not being on the ground ahead of the Grenfell tragedy, has matured into a debate into a sensible discussion, assuming you don’t spend too much time on holdthefrontpage.
Here’s what triggered Jim Levack’s disquiet: Reach, the company I work for, has changed the way it covers football in London over the last two years. This has resulted in the launch of the rapidly-growing Football.London site, which focuses on Premier League clubs but has also begun to cover Championship clubs and those in other leagues in more depth.
As a result, coverage of clubs traditionally associated with Reach’s weekly London titles has moved to football.london. Our aim is deliver large enough audiences through the mass-reach Premier League clubs to be able to sustain full coverage of clubs with smaller fanbases.
Sadly, at the same time, it was clear the way we covered Brentford – Jim’s club – wasn’t sustainable because the audience needed wasn’t there. So we’re trying to find new ways to cover a club whose fans weren’t turning to us in large enough numbers to maintain the status quo.
I can see where Jim’s frustrations come from, even if his analysis of digital journalism is somewhat off the mark. If you value something, and it’s taken away, it makes you cross.
It is a microcosm of the challenge facing the industry: When our belief in what’s important meets business reality, what do you do?