The Sweeper: The Decline of SoccerAmerica

soccer-america

Big Story
It won’t surprise you to learn that newsstand circulation and subscriptions of American magazines declined 9.1% in the second half of 2009, after a 12.36% decline in the first half of the year. Double digit declines were previously recorded in 2008. Newsweek’s circulation fell 41.3%.

I don’t know what SoccerAmerica’s decline was, but we can presume they were hit hard as well, based solely off their recent announcement that they are ending their monthly print issues, instead offering special print guides to events like the World Cup and the MLS season.

Their next issue will be their “Complete Guide to MLS 2010″, which promises the following:

  • In-Depth Previews of
    All 16 MLS Teams
  • Features on MLS’s Top Stars
  • Profiles of MLS’s
    10 Best Young Players
  • All-New Fresh & Dynamic Look
  • Brilliant Photography

Will you be buying a copy? At $12.95, I won’t be, and that’s not meant as a slap to SoccerAmerica. It will probably feature some fine writing. The problem is, my google news reader will be chock full of “in-depth previews” and “features on MLS’s Top Stars” before the magazine drops in mid-March. I’ll already be saturated, for free.

The question Steve Davis asks on his Daily Fix column is whether we are losing quality with the decline of a respected print magazine and its replacement by the plethora of bellicose voices on the internet and television.

Ridge [Mahoney], Mike Woitalla and Paul Kennedy at Soccer America have long been the leaders in providing smart, moderated voices in domestic soccer. It was always a shining example of how specialized media can work exactly as it should, with intelligent people using their access to influencers to help readers (and the outside media at large) develop a better understanding of it all.

They’re still doing the same good work, but their influence has waned. Their diluted voice has nothing to do with diminished skill or desire. Rather, it’s about their platform. Soccer America, like so many other print platforms, has simply struggled to keep pace in a rapidly changing media world. The words and wisdom still exist – but it gets short shrift, frequently obscured among the everyday tsunami of quasi-informed opinions.

In all honesty, I truly don’t know of anyone who gets the magazine anymore. Ridge’s excellent MLS Confidential is known and respected inside the industry, but I don’t know how many fans/readers it reaches. Same for Woitalla’s good work. (If you’re interested to any degree in youth soccer, you absolutely must check out his ongoing work on kiddoes in soccer. It is truly terrific and essential reading.)

There are other good sources of information and opinion on the U.S. soccer scene out there. But only a precious few have the ability and inclination to layer it all with context, perspective and supporting data. It’s much easier, after all, to fire off a few sentences, sprinkle in some outrage in the appropriate places (but with no consideration for offering alternatives) and then head out to lunch.

SoccerAmerica has tried to make the move to the internet, with their daily email subscription service. But their website’s never been compelling, and doesn’t appear to generate more than minimal revenue itself. Taking a glance at it today, the headline piece is “Rooney ranks among the greats” by Paul Kennedy, a 314 word recap of the Madrid-Man Utd game from yesterday that offers absolutely zero new information or any insight not available at dozens of other outlets I’d visit before SoccerAmerica to read about European football. It’s a completely pointless piece.

Buried below, Paul Kennedy has another brief piece that’s interesting and well-done because it offers me some information on something I haven’t seen a million times already, covering the latest recruitment by Virginia in college soccer. Digging through the site, there’s obviously a ton of unique and interesting content on parts of the American soccer scene going under-reported everywhere else, especially on youth soccer.

So why is SoccerAmerica wasting Paul Kennedy’s time having him write a wrap-up of yesterday’s Champions League action when he’s obviously capable of so much more?  The magazine, with a core staff of quality reporters, should focus 100% on their niche to stay relevant: they have to adapt to the new platform of the internet, and part of that is recognising there is little point covering what’s already covered everywhere else now we all have access to so many information sources.

Quick Hits

The Sweeper appears every weekday, and once at the weekend. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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