The threat by Australian news organisations to boycott the Rugby World Cup shows that the old ‘top down’ model of managing the news media by imposing rules is out of date.
Once upon a time, organisers of international sporting events like the RWC could guarantee saturation media coverage – it was as simple as inviting media outlets from rugby-mad nations to cover the event.
IRB cashed in on that exposure, selling sponsorship and television rights that would make your eyes water. They also imposed strict rules on how media covered the event to ensure maximum value for sponsors, in particular, around advertising.
But the reality of media convergence and digitisation means that in the space of four years, news outlets expect to cover the event quite differently from the last competition.
With print and television media now relying heavily on their online news website to generate revenue, they offer a wide range of content online to satisfy their readers – including video, photos and opinion. They also expect to sell advertising around those stories – just as they do with any other story.
IRB’s rules for how media outlets cover the games – and no doubt organisers of other sporting events – haven’t kept up with the pace of change. Their rules are just too restrictive – so it’s not a surprise that some commercial news outlets have decided the return on investment to send reporters to cover the event isn’t worth it.
What’s resulted is a clash of the titans; powerful media outlets expect to have the freedom to cover an event in a way that maximises revenue, and the IRB is trying to do the same.
Unfortunately the loser is New Zealand. At a time when RWC sales aren’t as high as we’d hoped and we’re trying to tempt our Aussie cousins to attend the games, we need as much media exposure for the early games as we can get. For that reason alone, the rules require a rethink.
Posted by Amanda Woodbridge on Monday 29th Aug 2011