Alas, we are all witnessing the slow death of a college athletic department tradition:
The media guide.
Polar bears, the rain forest and even the ozone layer will probably all outlast our longtime friend, the media guide. Historians years from now will trace its demise to the financial struggles now facing college athletic departments around the country.
- Washington State is reducing the size and number of media guides it prints.
- The University of South Florida is eliminating printed media guides.
- Division I hockey power St. Cloud State University is also cutting printed media guides.
Those are just three examples of the slow demise of the media guide. A simple Google search will offer up a few hundred other examples.
So, how will all of these athletic deparments see their recruiting efforts tarnished by the elimination of media guides?
It won’t effect recruiting one bit.
Now, that’s not to say that people won’t miss media guides, or that the media guide isn’t a useful document. I love media guides. As I’m typing this, I’m looking at a media guide from a school that is one of our Total Recruiting Solution clients…we use them all the time to help find information that might be helpful to highlight to prospective athletes as we help coaches craft a more effective recruiting message. The local sports media, ultra-devoted fans of the college, and a few other groups also love media guides.
However, the payoff isn’t worth what it costs to print these glossy works of art. I saw the question marks starting to rise up over the last two years. When we would be working for an Athletic Director as a part of visiting their campus to conduct our research and one of our On-Campus Workshops, many would ask me, "So honestly, what do you see other colleges doing about their media guides? Is it worth it to still print them?"
The tone in their voice was usually a mix of hopeful anticipation that they might be able to justify axing this expensive line item in their budgets, combined with a little sadness at the realization that this longtime friend’s days were numbered.
So, what does the death of the traditional printed media guide mean for a program’s recruiting efforts, and what kind of new recruiting opportunities can it mean for you and your coaching staff? Here are three big ideas I wanted to pass along:
- Transition the information to a team blog – our recommended solution – or, at the very least, a permanent place on your department’s website. A blog will be better referenced by people doing Google searches, which is why we recommend it. Plus, it’s easy to edit and add information to as the need arises.
- For colleges and teams that are moving to put their media guides into PDF form, make sure that you include as many active web links embedded within the document as possible. The advantage in doing so is that you help the evolution of the traditional static media guide into an interactive, interesting document. For example, if you are referencing the game summary of your conference championship win back in 1997, link it to video that show the final seconds and the celebration. From a recruiting standpoint, you turn irrelevant information from a game that today’s teenager really doesn’t care about and transform it into an emotional connection to what it means to play for your school.
- In an interesting footnote to the hundreds of hours of interviews we have done with current college athletes all over the country, they tell us that the printed media guide had virtually no impact on their decision to come to the school. Nearly 9 out of 10 said that they barely looked at the media guides they were sent (you can survey your own athletes, if you’d like…I’m confident that you will get the same results). Interestingly, they recommended that if coaches wanted to send out a media guide they should do it after a prospect commits to the school. Why? Simple, really: They care about the other people on the team now. The stats, the history, the people…they all matter now. Keep that in mind as you figure out how media guides fit into the recruiting process moving forward.
As we witness this evolution of the media guide, find ways to transfer the information electronically to a more permanent online home and remember to make the content – the history, the scores, the legends – meaningful to the teenager who you want to be a part of the story in future media guides.
As for the old-style printed media guide: It’s been a fun ride, old friend. Say hello to your buddy the newspaper in that big printing press in the sky.