‘Network effect’: Why Medium is courting the sports world

New Bill Simmons publication The Ringer is not the only well-known media entity embracing Medium as a place to publish sports stories. Others including Sports Illustrated’s The Cauldron, The Cycle and SportsPickle are hosted on Medium.

And it’s not just media outlets that are covering sports: Athletes, teams and leagues have also started publishing their own content on Medium. Take, for instance, this Kobe Bryant retrospective from former NBA star Derek Fisher. Italian soccer club A.S. Roma is using Medium to publish long-form interviews and profiles of team personnel. Meanwhile, the NBA spent the playoffs giving fans detailed breakdowns of matchups through the NBA Finals.

This is all part of Medium’s plan, said Jeff Segal, lead of sports outreach for Medium. On Medium’s homepage, sports is one of five main verticals next to world news, arts, life and technology.

“Sports is a rich landscape. There are so many different angles to cover in the sports universe,” said Segal. “And because of how network effects work, we want a rich ecosystem of sorts that can drive engagement with content across the board.”

Thirty-five percent of traffic to an article on Medium comes from another article on the platform, according to the company. This, when combined with the popularity of sports leagues, teams and athletes on social media, is why Medium has been actively recruiting the sports community. Overall, the company has been focusing on serving as a social networking platform for influential voices to share content directly with their fans — similar in ways to what Derek Jeter’s The Players’ Tribune and The NFL Players Association’s ACE Media are looking to do.

Italian soccer club A.S. Roma is one of the first pro sports teams to publish on Medium. Launching its account in early June, Roma posts three articles a week on the platform in three different languages: English, Italian and Arabic.

For Roma, Medium presents an opportunity to new reach audiences: Egypt accounts for the most followers across all of Roma’s social channels, and yet Roma’s website only offers content in English and Italian. Early results are promising. Seventy percent of people who click on A.S. Roma’s Arabic posts complete the article, tops among the three languages it uses.

“If you’re already a fan, you would come and visit our website, otherwise I just don’t think you would,” said Paul Rogers, head of digital and social for A.S. Roma. “The beauty of Medium is that it’s basically a social network and a publishing platform, and it opens us up to a different audience.”

Soon, Roma plans to run two publications on Medium: one covering A.S. Roma and another devoted to captain Francesco Totti’s final season.

Sports publishers are attracted to Medium by its ease of use and the fact that it’s inexpensive to publish on the platform. Medium does not charge anyone — whether it’s a major media company or a random individual — to open an account and publish.

“It allows us to make technology investments in other places that are possibly more revenue-generating than a traditional website,” said Jason Stein, founder and CEO of Cycle, which covers sports and culture.

The Cycle has three people dedicated to Medium, in addition to full-time writers and freelancers who might contribute an article for the platform. The staff combines to push out 30 to 40 articles per month on Medium.

The Cycle adopted Medium six months ago to host its website, which today averages 50,000 minutes read per month. It’s a far cry from social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, where The Cycle does 20 million views per month. And yet, Cycle puts Medium alongside those social channels as a vital part of the company’s distribution strategy.

“There are network effects that show what content is relevant to you and bumps that to the top. There are push notifications for popular stories,” said Stein. “And because it’s all tied to Twitter, they have a lot of good data on what will be relevant to each individual user.”

Image via A.RICARDO / Shutterstock.com

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