Using networking sites like Twitter has become commonplace for organizations looking to deliver information more effectively, and the University’s Athletic Department is no exception.
Last week, the Athletic Department announced that the University — as well as Ohio State University — plans to immediately stop printing media guides due to a gradual realization that the information they contained could already be found online.
Media guides are informational packets traditionally published during the preseason. They provide background and historical information along with statistics about players and athletic teams.
Both schools estimate that cutting printed guides will save them more than a combined $250,000 per year.
According to Bruce Madej, associate athletic director for media relations, while the cost of the printed guides was one of the reasons the universities decided to stop printing them, their diminishing usefulness was the Athletic Department’s main concern.
Madej said that the information traditionally put into the media guides had already been available online for the past several seasons, and that the decision to move away from print was straightforward.
“Why spend $100,000 if you’re not getting what you need out of it?” Madej said.
Madej added that the push to eliminate media guides had been discussed by numerous schools in the past five to 10 years.
At a conference for Big Ten athletic directors last month, the issue of stopping printed guides was discussed, but no schools were able to reach a final decision due to printing contracts they had with the companies that publish the guides.
But because the University and OSU were not contractually obligated to continue printing, Athletic Director Bill Martin and Ohio State University Athletic Director Gene Smith decided last week that both universities would stop printing the media guides.
Madej said the inherent problems of print provided the biggest motivation for the Athletic Department to publish the guides online.
“As soon as the first game’s played, the media guide’s no good,” Madej said. “The records probably changed (and) before the first game is even played, the roster’s probably not correct.”
Madej added that the University started to move printed materials to online databases more than 10 years ago. In 1994, the Athletic Department launched its first website, an informational hub which featured rosters, statistics and other data for the media.
The Athletic Department has recently enhanced its online coverage by creating Twitter accounts for various athletic teams.
In February, the Athletic Department made Twitter accounts for the varsity basketball, hockey, wrestling, baseball and women’s gymnastics teams. In April, Twitter accounts were also added for eight additional varsity sports, along with an account for Michigan head football coach Rich Rodriguez.
Since December, the Athletic Department has been focused on expanding its online content. Along with Twitter, M Magazine, a supplemental publication that covers student-athletes, and M Notebook, a hub for news about varsity sports, are featured on the athletic department’s website.
During the baseball season, the Athletic Department also set up live blogs to cover games and allow fans to comment on the action. The website also features a statistics archive with player and game data for the varsity football, basketball and hockey teams.
Dan Wallenberg, assistant athletics director for communications at OSU, said transitioning the information from print to online would help fans find the information they want more effectively.
“We are better able to provide information on our website than we are in a printed piece that becomes outdated as soon as the game is played,” he said. “We can better serve our media and our fans with more information on our website rather than having to depend on the media guide to do that.”
Madej said that the Athletic Department is ultimately concerned with utilizing the most efficient modes of communication available.
“Basically, we’re getting into the 21st century,” he said. “We’re not talking about changes that take place over decades anymore, we’re talking about changes that happen quickly.”
“We have to be nimble, we have to be smart and what we have to do is be able to be an efficient communications office in the 21st century.”