Inside the Tourney Central Project

As the Internet continues to become the dominant medium for news, it is becoming more and more necessary for media outlets to change their tactics for covering events online. Not only are news organizations emphasizing Web first journalism and breaking news coverage, but now they are covering entire events online using multiple platforms to reach their audiences.

This concept is a great opportunity to produce large amounts of revenue and boost online traffic while using different multimedia tools to cover a big event live on the Web. By using video, photos, text stories, mobile alerts and more, you can deliver countless options to the user and can also sell sponsorship advertising for each of the multimedia elements.

For the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina, I built a Web site to cover the tournament through multiple platforms. The Web site serves as a model for online news coverage of a large event. The Web site served as a container for several multimedia elements and live coverage of the tournament. Below, I will outline the contents of the Web site, detail the coverage strategy and list statistics and revenue successes from the week of the tournament.

ACC basketball is extremely popular in North Carolina so I decided that covering the event online would be a great opportunity to give fans a ton of interactive content while increasing Web traffic for the Burlington Times-News, the newspaper I worked with for this project. I led a team of four Times-News employees in the online coverage of the ACC Tournament. Three sports reporters and one photographer helped contribute content to the project. The site required a lot of planning with the sports and advertising department at the Times-News and after obtaining credentials for the tournament I mapped out the Web site structure and layout.

The main elements of the Web site include a rotating section in the middle of the site, which contains a large photo and headline of the most recent story on the site. The section rotates between the six most recent stories from the tournament. Above the main section is a live update strip, which included in-game updates from each game during the tournament using a Twitter feed. I provided live updates courtside and they posted to the site immediately. These same updates also were included in a live chat section of the site where fans could interact with each other by posing questions, debating sports topics and more. This was especially popular at the beginning of the tournament during the week when people were logging on at work for live updates and to chat. The live chat generated over 1,600 page views and had 302 unique visitors.

In addition to live updates, the site contained video and photo galleries from every game of the tournament. Each photo gallery contained over a dozen photos from each game and generated 1,018 page views. Each video contained postgame interviews with players and coaches and included photos from the game. The videos accounted for 3,802 page views during the week of the tournament.

Other elements of the site included links to social networking pages on Twitter and Facebook for fans to keep up with the action on those platforms. Also, I sent out e-mail and text message alerts following each game. Final scores were sent via text message at the conclusion of each game and daily e-mail newsletters were sent at the end of each day to recap the day’s games and included links to related content. Close to 100 people signed up to receive mobile alerts throughout the week of the tournament.

Another interactive element of the ACC Tournament Website is the map, which includes basic information from each school in the tournament. The map shows the east coast of the United States and includes logos of each team located on the geographic location of each school. When you click the logo and information box pops up on the right detailing the team’s record this season, their leading scorer, their history in the tournament, a photo and the distance traveled to get to the tournament in Greensboro. The Web site also contains a bracket of the tournament, which was updated throughout, showing each team’s progression during the week.

Advertising is a key part of creating and maintaining a Web site like this. The ACC Tournament Web site contains a top banner advertisement, which was sold to Wings to Go, a local restaurant in Burlington for $3,000. Wings to Go also sponsored the ACC Tournament pick-em contest which I built for the Web site. The contest let users pick the winners of each game of the four-day tournament and the person who picked the most games correctly won a $25 gift certificate from Wings to Go.

Below the banner advertisement is a block of team logos which when clicked goes to each team’s section page. Each page contains the latest news, photos and video specific to the team chosen. So, if you are a North Carolina Tar Heels fan, you go to this page to get news and information about your favorite team. This section gives users another option to navigate through the site. They can click the top stories that rotate on the homepage or they can click the logos of the team they interested in reading about.

In order for the Web site to be successful, I had to let people know about it. I created a marketing plan at the beginning of the process that included print advertisements in the Times-News and a peel-back corner advertisement on When clicked, the online advertisement brought readers to the ACC Tournament Web site’s homepage and the position was used during the week of the tournament. The Times-News ran a print special section a few days before the tournament began and I created a print advertisement to go in that section as well which promoted coverage on the Website.

In addition to the advertisements, I created a rack card that was used during the week of the tournament. The card was displayed on Times-News newspaper racks across Alamance County. The card included the url of the ACC site. Outside of Alamance County, I marketed the site to other newspapers in the Freedom Communications chain. The Gaston Gazette, Shelby Star and Jacksonville Daily News linked to the Web site on their homepages during the tournament. They also used a lot of the content on the site in their print publications and on their own Web sites, so additional page views can be attributed to the shared content.

The Website contained preview stories in the days leading up to the tournament and once it began, stories from each game were posted throughout the week. In addition to live updates, a halftime story and photo were uploaded to the homepage and at the conclusion of every game, a new story was added with the final result. In order to keep up with the fast pace of the tournament, it required a lot of hard work by the staff members covering the event. Stories needed to be written in a fast and accurate manor. Photos and video needed to be edited and posted as fast as possible. This was a difficult task to accomplish because the next game started almost immediately following the one before it, which didn’t leave a lot of time to conduct interviews and update the Web site.

By providing all of the above-mentioned content, users had all the information they could have ever wanted from the tournament. They also could get it immediately. As Web sites become the most desired source for news content, news organizations needs to make sure they are making every effort to provide their readers with this information through a platform like the ACC Tournament Web site. Because there are many different avenues to produce and distribute content and because there are many ways for a user to retrieve that same content, news organizations need to make sure that all their bases are covered.

By creating a place that has many different multimedia elements and ways for users to interact, read and view content, a news organization can increase their Web traffic and online advertising revenue.

The ACC Tournament Web site was viewed by 3,377 unique visitors, which accounted for 12,401 page views during the week of the tournament. Through the Wings to Go sponsorship, $3,000 in new revenue was brought in with the opportunity for more in the future. This model calls for sponsorships from multiple businesses on multiple platforms. For example, more revenue can be brought in if we had sold sponsorship for the live updates or the mobile alerts. The videos could have been sold to a business and could have included pre-roll commercial advertisements. The top banner advertisement position could have also been sold to several businesses and could have rotated with each refresh of the page.

These are just examples of the opportunities that exist for covering a large event like the ACC Tournament. The first year of covering this event in this capacity provided a lot of incite into how it should be done. Certainly, there is an opportunity for other organizations to sell more advertising for a project like this and market it to a larger audience. This is certainly the way that news organizations need to move when covering events like this on the Web.


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