Triathlon & Endurance Sports Media Outlets. Summoning the spirit of Ben Bradlee.
Posted: Oct 23 2014
In our most recent, post-work, wine fueled, recap of what’s going on at Coeur, in triathlon and around the world in general, we meandered onto the topic of Ben Bradlee’s recent passing.
For those of you who don’t know, Ben was the charismatic, intelligent, and fearless former Sr. Editor of the Washington Post during the Watergate scandal. In the early 1970's, two of his young reporters had come to believe that, with approval from the President himself, people had wire tapped the office of the Democratic National Committee. The reporters had a source they couldn't reveal and wanted to run the story. Despite enormous pressure from the Whitehouse and significant risk to his reputation and career, Bradley guided them through the process and eventually approved the publication of perhaps the biggest news story in U.S. History. After its printing, over 40 administration members went to jail and a President resigned.
Bradlee & Washington Post Owner Katharine Graham
So, in honor of his passing, we thought we’d spend a few minutes to opine on news sources in endurance sports and provide our (unrequested) opinion of the state of affairs. By the way, you may not have known that our very own Kebby was at one time a cub reporter herself at the Athens Banner Herald. The glamor of covering the vibrant music scene in Athens, Georgia, kept her on the beat for a while but alas, the smoke in the newsroom, the desire to pursue a more creative career, and being required to write one story too many on anatomical anomalies eventually drove her from the profession. A loss for journalism was a win for endurance apparel.
But alas, we digress. More to the point, we like to think of endurance sports and triathlon in specific as an eco-system made up of age group athletes, professionals, race owners, gear and equipment providers (Coeur is in this camp), and the media. All the constituents play a role and the industry wouldn't be what it is without them working together. In our humble opinion, the media plays an especially important role. They have the power to shape the perception of the sport, make stars out of athletes, and convince potential new-entrants that the triathlon lifestyle is worth exploring.
By and large, it seems that the major publications in triathlon have followed a formulaic approach to covering the sport. A typical magazine cover would show the picture of an athlete or a celebrity, tease you with the (insert some random number) tips for a better (insert swim, bike, run or recovery), and highlight some new gear. From time to time, they’d also share an outline of a training plan or provide you with the (insert some random number) tips on staying fit in the offseason.
Now don’t get us wrong. We are faithful readers of Lava, 220 Triathlon, and the other endemic publications. They serve an important purpose and have done a yeoman’s job of building the sport to where it is today. However, the dynamic that is really intriguing to us is the proliferation of other sources of triathlon news. Here’s a recap of some of the ones we follow (listed alphabetically):
Babbittville:http://www.babbittville.com/ While technically being fairly new, Babbittville is, in reality, one of the most established outlets in the industry. Hosted by the historian of triathlon, Mr. Bob Babbitt, the outlet includes video, radio, and online interviews with practically everyone in the industry. Bob is a masterful interviewer and people consider it an honor to be on his show.
Beginner Triathlete: http://www.beginnertriathlete.com/As the name suggests, Beginner Triathlete is the first stop on many a triathlete’s journey. It is loaded with content and has an active and very supportive community section. New entrants to the sport can find free training plans and plenty of information on races and gear.
Endurance Planet: http://www.enduranceplanet.com//. Endurance Planet is a well-established producer of triathlon related content. They have high quality video content and an interview list that includes the who’s who in triathlon.
First Off the Bike: http://firstoffthebike.com// A great site for coverage of triathlon in the Asia-Pacific region. Due to the reversal of seasons between North America and Australia, triathletes in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, can still get their fix of race coverage during the Australian spring and summer. The site contains interviews, race previews, training tips, and related content.
Slowtwitch: http://www.slowtwitch.com/ As we mentioned, we listed the outlets in alphabetical order. That being said, Slowtwitch is usually our first stop for triathlon “news”. Founded by Dan Empfield, who has had a profound impact on the sport of triathlon, Slowtwitch is (again, in our opinion) a true news service. The articles are thoughtful, occasionally blunt (which is very refreshing), and well written. Combine all that with probably the most active forum section in the industry and you have a true “must visit” outlet.
Some Random Thursday: http://www.somerandomthursday.com/. Kelly who is the author of Some Random Thursday is a race director, an Ironman, a sponsored athlete, and an attorney. Consequently, she has a unique view on the endurance sports industry. She shares her updates and opinions in her blog and consistently provides thoughtful and direct posts that are refreshing and enjoyable to read.
Witsup: http://www.witsup.com// One of our absolute favorites. Witsup is a full service media outlet that covers women in triathlon via video, blog, and a content-rich website. The team, led by Stef “the chief” Hanson, does an amazing job of providing global coverage of the sport.
Now, this is just a list of the sites we frequent, not a compendium of all the triathlon and endurance sports outlets. We’re sure there are others and we’d love to learn about them. Which leads us to the following point.
Thanks to the reduced barriers to entry, it is relatively easy to set up a site, podcast or video blog to cover the sport. Now, mind you, we said it was easy to set one up. Not easy to keep it going or make it profitable. In fact, doing that is incredibly challenging.
To thrive as a media outlet, the content has to be fresh, interesting and it probably has to include something different than what is already available via the other outlets.
Of course, defining different will not be an easy task. While there will always be an appetite for race coverage, nutrition tips, and pro interviews, we suspect that there is a limit to the number of ways to cover those topics. If that is the case, the new outlets may have to branch out to survive. Clearly, the pressure of competition will force them to continue to produce more content and get it published more quickly but our gut tells us that something else will happen too.
Time will only tell what that “something else” will be but we hope that someone will channel the spirit of Ben Bradlee and be fearless enough to do something bold. If they do, we’ll be sure to be one of the first readers.