Remember the days when the only way that you could learn about what was happening in BYU's training camp was to pick up a copy of the Deseret News or Salt Lake Tribune and read the quotes from Dick Harmon or Jay Drew?
Those days are long gone, my friends, and they are getting further and further away in the rear-view mirror with every practice interview.
Let's take a look at some of the things that has quietly transpired over the years that BYU fans have just accepted as 'the way things are.'
- Media viewing has been whittled down to basically nothing at each and every practice.
This was an easy thing for BYU to pull off. College football coaches across the country are increasingly paranoid about who sees their practices, and shutting out the media is a common trend throughout the sport. BYU has shut out the media with the exception of a handful of 20-minute viewing sessions throughout camp. Once the season starts, those sessions go away and the media is cut out. If you want insight from practice, the media is just a few 20-minute sessions away from being as much in the dark as you are.
- BYUtv... duh
We don't need to talk much about this one, but BYU has BYUtv. BYUSportsNation produces a daily show of sports content. There are shows like 'After Further Review' throughout the season that highlight the things from the game. There are coaches shows on BYUtv throughout the year. BYU has multiple channels where BYU can cover BYU the way BYU wants BYU to be covered.
- BYU hired Greg Wrubell
For a long time, the voice of the Cougars was actually employed by KSL or IMG, not by BYU directly. Now, Wrubell is a full-fledged BYU employee. The benefits of this move are obvious and make a ton of sense for BYU. For Wrubell, it solidified his place with the team for as long as he wants to have a place with the team. For fans, it means that Wrubell can make his blue goggles as thick as he wants (or as thick as BYU wants) and as long as it generates traffic, then he's doing exactly what BYU would want. The line between KSL's Wrubell and BYU was never very thick to begin with, but now that Wrubell is part of BYU, there is no line at all.
- BYU Cougars YouTube Channel
One of the most important things that the media of old used to do was provide quotes and insight from players and coaches that could only be heard if you were in a media scrum. Those quotes were the foundations of countless features and stories about players, trends in practice, and coaches. Now, anyone with the internet can access those quotes and hear them for themselves. BYU publishes all of their media scrums to their YouTube channel. If you want to hear what a player said in practice, you can hear exactly what that player said in practice on YouTube. You don't have to read anything that the Deseret News publishes in order to know what the Deseret News was told.
- Speaking of media scrums...
BYU only allows a few players and a couple of coaches do media after every practice. That's not abnormal, but it's definitely not a free for all when it comes to who the media interviews. Those are orchestrated and organized by BYU. The media can make requests for players, but they are completely at the mercy of who BYU decides to trot out.
- Written content is becoming more and more prevalent this year
I mean look at this article. I love this article. It's so convenient and easy to read. It has been pushed out on BYU's website, BYU's social media feeds, and all of the other outlets that BYU has. If you like BYU football, this article was easy for you to find. When you open it up, it provides you with a background story of the offensive line and then a bunch of quotes from the players who were interviewed today.
What is left for the media to cover? BYU has essentially eliminated the need for a beat writer. At this point, the only thing that a beat writer is doing that BYU doesn't do on their own is come up with the questions that are asked to the players. Beyond that, what does the beat writer do that BYU isn't doing on their own, with their own slant and their own point of view?
There is probably a worthwhile conversation to be had about whether or not this is a good thing for fans. If you think BYU isn't in the PR game, I would like to tell you about the wonderful tropical climate of Laramie, WY. BYU plays the spin game just like any other business or organization would. Without beat writers, the spin is the only content we get.
But that's another conversation for another day. Today, I want to hone in on what this means for media and fans.
For media, this means that creativity is officially the king. The outlets that are willing to cover BYU differently will be the outlets that garner the most traffic and revenue. The media outlets that stick to the old ways will continue to fall to the wayside because they don't offer anything that BYU isn't offering on their own.
What does 'creative' look like? Well, player features using their quotes from practice probably isn't it. If you're working off the same quotes that every media outlet got in the same media scrum that BYU is going to publish on YouTube, then you will eventually become obsolete.
Analysis has to change. Writers have to become more educated and more insightful. They have to offer something that I can't replicate in my own head by simply watching the interview - that won't be easy to do.
I'm just one man and not a very smart one at that, but more will have to be required from writers. Simply being a talented writer isn't enough anymore. Writers have to have personality. They have to be able to connect with their readers in ways that they haven't connected with them before. Writers are no longer the conduit that simply transmits information from BYU to BYU fan. BYU has their own conduit now. Writers have to win fans of their own now. Writing won't be enough anymore.
What does all of this mean for fans? Well, in the end, it could be a good thing if you make an effort of it.
As the traditional outlets and coverage strategies dwindle away, new ones will rise up. (Cough Give Em Hell, Brigham cough) There will be people who are willing to look at BYU differently. That might be analytics, that might be a more personal connection with players, that might be a lot of things. As those other outlets are formed, better content will emerge and fans will have more information available to them.
Beyond just the content though, fans will have to evaluate what it is that they really want. In the past, information was what everyone wanted because information was scarce and hard to get. But, as the amount of available information is easier for anyone and everyone to find, information might not be what it is that people will want the most.
Community and camaraderie will become more important than it used to be. 20 years ago, nobody was reading the Trib's BYU coverage in the Sunday paper in an effort to find more Trib-reading friends in the process. Now, the information is easy to find, so finding people to discuss the information might become more and more important.
At the end of the day, things are changing. BYU is slowly carving the media out of the BYU football machine. They won't ever say that media isn't allowed in at all, but they are making it harder and harder for media to continue with their traditional revenue streams. As that revenue dries up, those outlets will die off and nobody will be there to replace them.
All in all, it's going to be fascinating to see how things play out.