Deron Williams wants to make sure Deron Williams gets fair coverage. So he hired a reporter to cover him.
It’s a continuation down the road journalism is taking — newspapers are struggling, more people are getting their news online at places like this (and NBCNews.com) but companies are still trying to figure out how to make that profitable like papers. Meanwhile teams are hiring their own reporters to cover the team and even break some stories — but always with a positive spin.
And now D-Will has his own beat reporter for his own site, something Kobe Bryant has done before but Williams has taken to a new level, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal (at tip to Craig at our sister blog HardballTalk, who apparently reads the WSJ daily):
He employs his own team of beat writers. Their mission? Spread the gospel of D-Will on his website, DeronWilliams.com….
Taking all that into account, DeronWilliams.com is cutting edge. Operated by a company called Athlete Interactive, the site has Williams-centric game stories, Williams-centric features and Williams-centric photo galleries. The site’s editors shoehorn “Williams” or “D-Will” into roughly 90% of their headlines, which, to be fair, is sort of the point. The headline of one particularly exhaustive 1,850-word game story last week: “D-Will Stars as Nets Topple Knicks.” “They do a great job of making sure it’s personalized,” Williams said.
This isn’t muckrake journalism—Williams and his representatives at Excel Sports Management get to vet everything that goes live on the site—but they feel it serves a purpose. Launched not long after the Jazz traded Williams to the Nets in 2011, it was originally conceived as a way to enhance his appeal to sponsors in a new market. Jaymee Messler, the senior vice president for marketing at Excel, described it as “creating a larger brand portfolio” for him.
This is all about business, spinning story and controlling (as best one can) the brand identity. That’s why teams have reporters — they don’t spend time speculating on a coach’s job or what player is slumping and losing minutes like fans do, they report what is going on but with a team-sensitive spin. It’s not to say these men and ladies don’t do good work, some do very good stuff and understand how to use the access they have to provide insights, but they have to do it within a box.
So if you have the money — and with his new $99 million deal this summer he has the money — it makes sense for a top player to have his own writer to promote the brand. To keep up what he is doing on Facebook. To spin stories for him.
It’s smart. It just means media consumers — people like you if you are reading this — need to be smart and understand the motives of all the writers you read.