Sports

A message from the publisher about the future of our sports coverage

Pinewood's Gabby Harris attempts to score during a game against Palo Alto High School on Nov. 18, 2021. Courtesy Karen Ambrose Hickey.

I wanted to let you know about some decisions we've made about our high school sports coverage and invite your input on how we can best cover prep sports within our financial constraints in the future.

As you know, for the last six months we expanded our sports coverage by launching the Peninsula Preps Playbook email newsletter in hopes of building a larger and more engaged audience of prep sports enthusiasts. Starting in August, our sports editor, Rick Eymer, with assistance from sports writer Glenn Reeves, put together the newsletter with short updates and links to game and feature coverage on our website, announcement of our athletes of the week and some occasional commentary. To promote it, we ran extensive ads and other mentions in our newspapers, on all of our Peninsula websites, in Express (our daily news digest that is received by more than 35,000 people) and on our various social media channels, including more than $10,000 in Facebook advertising. We also sought help from athletic directors and coaches in getting the word out to their athletes. It was a significant marketing effort.

Our hope was to quickly grow the email list to 3,000-5,000 high school athletes, their parents and other sports fans throughout the Midpeninsula by the end of the winter sports season and to then ask as many who could afford it to become paying members, with a minimum goal of 500. This would enable us to financially cover the expense of covering high school sports.

Unfortunately, in spite of these efforts only 1,700 have signed up to receive Playbook, far short of what is needed to build a viable membership base of support.

Last month, we sent all 1,700 recipients a survey seeking to understand their views on Playbook and how we might improve it. Fewer than 5% (77 individuals) completed the short survey, far fewer than other surveys we've conducted. It was a discouraging result.

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Those who did respond were almost all parents of athletes and showed an insatiable appetite for more of all kinds of high school sports coverage. They wanted more games covered, more coverage of less popular sports, more features of athletes and coaches and more stories about issues facing high school athletics. In short, they liked what we were doing but wanted more, more, more.

Our takeaway from this is that there is a small but passionate group of parents who appreciate our longtime commitment to high school sports, but not enough to be financially viable given all the pressures on local journalism.

We are therefore going to suspend our sports coverage for the next few months and explore different, less expensive models. Since game results, highlights and schedules are generally available through sports websites like MaxPreps, high school websites or on social media, we expect to focus on feature content — interesting stories or profiles of athletes and coaches, issues facing high school sports programs, league controversies, etc. — and stop trying to cover a sampling of games or matches each week.

We are also interested in exploring whether the local high school journalism programs would like to partner with us to publish their sports reporting on our website. These student journalists, who are already working hard to report on sports at their schools and often posting it on student websites or on Twitter, could repurpose their game stories and features and reach a much wider audience. We could even have side-by-side game stories of the same game written by sports writers at opposing high schools. This idea has appeal in part because it would give young high school journalism students a professional platform beyond their own school to publish their work but would bring youth voices and perspectives into the coverage, something we have long wanted to do. Who knows, it could become a model for high school journalism programs partnering with local news organizations, exposing students to the rigors of daily online sports reporting for the broader community.

You may very well have more and better ideas. We'd love to hear them, either by responding to this message or joining us for a Zoom meeting at noon on Monday, March 14. We'll invite parents, coaches and athletes to offer their suggestions on how we can ensure that high school sports continue to get the attention they deserve.

We know that most of you will be disappointed by this news. Rick and Glenn have been fixtures of the local sports scene for many years and we are immensely grateful for their hard work and great reporting. We hope you will be interested in helping find a solution that allows for continued online coverage of local sports at a cost that we can afford and sustain.

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A message from the publisher about the future of our sports coverage

by / Embarcadero Media

Uploaded: Wed, Feb 23, 2022, 8:44 am

I wanted to let you know about some decisions we've made about our high school sports coverage and invite your input on how we can best cover prep sports within our financial constraints in the future.

As you know, for the last six months we expanded our sports coverage by launching the Peninsula Preps Playbook email newsletter in hopes of building a larger and more engaged audience of prep sports enthusiasts. Starting in August, our sports editor, Rick Eymer, with assistance from sports writer Glenn Reeves, put together the newsletter with short updates and links to game and feature coverage on our website, announcement of our athletes of the week and some occasional commentary. To promote it, we ran extensive ads and other mentions in our newspapers, on all of our Peninsula websites, in Express (our daily news digest that is received by more than 35,000 people) and on our various social media channels, including more than $10,000 in Facebook advertising. We also sought help from athletic directors and coaches in getting the word out to their athletes. It was a significant marketing effort.

Our hope was to quickly grow the email list to 3,000-5,000 high school athletes, their parents and other sports fans throughout the Midpeninsula by the end of the winter sports season and to then ask as many who could afford it to become paying members, with a minimum goal of 500. This would enable us to financially cover the expense of covering high school sports.

Unfortunately, in spite of these efforts only 1,700 have signed up to receive Playbook, far short of what is needed to build a viable membership base of support.

Last month, we sent all 1,700 recipients a survey seeking to understand their views on Playbook and how we might improve it. Fewer than 5% (77 individuals) completed the short survey, far fewer than other surveys we've conducted. It was a discouraging result.

Those who did respond were almost all parents of athletes and showed an insatiable appetite for more of all kinds of high school sports coverage. They wanted more games covered, more coverage of less popular sports, more features of athletes and coaches and more stories about issues facing high school athletics. In short, they liked what we were doing but wanted more, more, more.

Our takeaway from this is that there is a small but passionate group of parents who appreciate our longtime commitment to high school sports, but not enough to be financially viable given all the pressures on local journalism.

We are therefore going to suspend our sports coverage for the next few months and explore different, less expensive models. Since game results, highlights and schedules are generally available through sports websites like MaxPreps, high school websites or on social media, we expect to focus on feature content — interesting stories or profiles of athletes and coaches, issues facing high school sports programs, league controversies, etc. — and stop trying to cover a sampling of games or matches each week.

We are also interested in exploring whether the local high school journalism programs would like to partner with us to publish their sports reporting on our website. These student journalists, who are already working hard to report on sports at their schools and often posting it on student websites or on Twitter, could repurpose their game stories and features and reach a much wider audience. We could even have side-by-side game stories of the same game written by sports writers at opposing high schools. This idea has appeal in part because it would give young high school journalism students a professional platform beyond their own school to publish their work but would bring youth voices and perspectives into the coverage, something we have long wanted to do. Who knows, it could become a model for high school journalism programs partnering with local news organizations, exposing students to the rigors of daily online sports reporting for the broader community.

You may very well have more and better ideas. We'd love to hear them, either by responding to this message or joining us for a Zoom meeting at noon on Monday, March 14. We'll invite parents, coaches and athletes to offer their suggestions on how we can ensure that high school sports continue to get the attention they deserve.

We know that most of you will be disappointed by this news. Rick and Glenn have been fixtures of the local sports scene for many years and we are immensely grateful for their hard work and great reporting. We hope you will be interested in helping find a solution that allows for continued online coverage of local sports at a cost that we can afford and sustain.

Comments

goodluck
Registered user
another community
on Feb 23, 2022 at 10:29 am
goodluck, another community
Registered user
on Feb 23, 2022 at 10:29 am

Thanks Bill and staff for the innovative effort, and thoughtful and complete explanation and analysis! Working with the high school journalists sounds like a great idea!


Anne Anderson
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 23, 2022 at 2:12 pm
Anne Anderson, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 23, 2022 at 2:12 pm

I am confused about why a local, community newspaper would not include high school sports as a matter of course. I realize these stories are expensive to cover; I just don’t understand why they are less important than other issues that the news org chooses to cover. It seems it can be a great community builder to know what our local youth are accomplishing.


staying home
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 23, 2022 at 2:19 pm
staying home, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 23, 2022 at 2:19 pm

Second the idea of sourcing stories from high schools in the region. Can't imagine why the local programs wouldn't jump at the chance.

I agree with the above comment, that coverage of local high school sports is a key aspect of the community that should be covered. I recommend you involve the AD's from the local schools.


Sarah
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Feb 23, 2022 at 5:51 pm
Sarah , Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Feb 23, 2022 at 5:51 pm

The main reason I bought a subscription to this publication was to follow local sport! Hopefully you find a way to continue your excellent coverage!


Shawn
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 23, 2022 at 8:29 pm
Shawn , Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 23, 2022 at 8:29 pm

Please find a way to cover high school sports , these kids work so hard and it’s very enjoyable for them to read their accomplishments and have a “spot light” on them.


Teddie
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 24, 2022 at 11:39 am
Teddie , Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2022 at 11:39 am

Ever since I participated in high school sports back in the 80s always look forward to the local coverage that the Palo Alto weekly provided
Thank you for doing such a wonderful job all these years
I agree with your idea about getting the high school kids involved at Palo Alto high School Viking magazine does a terrific job of sports updates on their own website so for those in the Palo Alto community it's a great source of keeping track of high school athletic programs
I know I personally had sent my email address for the sports update that you were providing but I never received any emails maybe there was an issue with your software?
Thanks again for your coverage and Rick's terrific work hopefully he can continue to be involved in the community athletic programs


YP
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 24, 2022 at 5:03 pm
YP, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2022 at 5:03 pm

Sad day when I read this

As a parent with two Paly student/athletes (2018/2022) I appreciated the coverage from Rick/Glenn and before that Keith.
I do question the timing of this, with winter sports in playoffs and spring sports to come why couldn't have kept this going a couple more months??
I agree posting scores can be seen in many places like maxpreps, but would love some game coverage of big matches and behind the scenes stories.
One thought is get not only student writers, but ask for volunteer parents to cover events and give a brief summary of the game with some color.
again , thank you Glenn, Keith, Rick!!



Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Mar 1, 2022 at 8:29 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Mar 1, 2022 at 8:29 am

This is the canary in the mine and as such is a precursor of what could well happen with all categories of local journalism.

Embarcadero Publishing has been remarkable innovative but we as a community have not rewarded that innovation. Once local journalism is gone it will be almost impossible to recreate it.

We all need to realize that unless we are individually willing to support local journalism (now that ad revenues for local journalism have all but disappeared) then we will soon have no local journalism.


III
Registered user
Midtown
on Mar 9, 2022 at 2:53 pm
III, Midtown
Registered user
on Mar 9, 2022 at 2:53 pm

Your local sports coverage is probably the best coverage you have.
World events, is ok at best. Local events, very good, but much of
it WHO CARES. Your bloggers are interesting.
Subscription will lapse until you figure it out.
III


Bob's
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Mar 9, 2022 at 3:38 pm
Bob's, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Mar 9, 2022 at 3:38 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of the prior commenters. Coverage of high school sports in particular is for sure the primary reason I have subscribed to and read PA online for the past couple of decades. You are a local publication and our schools, including sports in particular, are a core part of our community cohesiveness. My kids have graduated but I still keep close track of local HS sports. I do appreciate some of the creativity around continuing coverage, in particular involving local high school student reporters, but I also suspect you have a 'silent majority' of readers who check in primarily for local sports coverage. I know anecdotally that this is the case amongst many friends in Palo Alto. Thanks for your excellent coverage up until now!


Joel
Registered user
Barron Park
on Apr 14, 2022 at 3:53 pm
Joel, Barron Park
Registered user
on Apr 14, 2022 at 3:53 pm

Excellent explanation about local sports not being covered. Hope you find a solution. I, especially, liked the student sports reporters idea. My grandson is graduating and the last of my progeny to play in local sports at Play. So I'll still be interested in how they do but not as much.
Thanks, Joel


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