Even though live sports coverage looks vastly different this season due to the coronavirus, the Local Media Consortium (LMC) Board and Google News Initiative recently announced The Matchup, a peer-to-peer service sharing of sports content among participating publishers.
When E&P spoke to LMC, the group was planning on launching a beta test of the model in four to six cities around the country when the NFL season started in September. In addition, it plans on launching a national destination sports site early next year that would feature original content and potentially act as a competitor to ESPN.com or The Athletic.
Last month, LMC announced Kevin Lockland as general manager. Most recently, Lockland served as vice president of editorial and general manager of SB Nation.
Mike Orren, chief product officer for the Dallas Morning News and LMC board member, said for example, if the Dallas Cowboys play the Philadelphia Eagles then stories from Philadelphia media would appear on Dallas media sites and vice versa. Subscribers would be able to access that content without hitting a paywall.
“The goal is very simple and very clear. It is to drive subscriptions and consumer relationships for local media outlets,” Orren said. “One of the things that’s very unique about this is that we’re not trying to make big money off The Matchup.”
Initially, what readers will see is a curation of content that publishers already create and share. Publishers will not be asked to expend any effort until they make money from the initiative. Any extra content or collaborations between the publishers will be entirely voluntary in the early stages. However, the hope is that the publishers will collaborate on content in the future.
Publishers will share content utilizing Google AMP. When a publisher circulates their AMP version of a story, it will have ads in it and any revenue generated will go directly to the publisher. On the publisher’s various news sites, there will be a widget, and revenue from there will go to support The Matchup. Beyond that, the model is 100 percent based on local subscriptions.
When visitors are on the national site and hit a paywall on a piece of content, they will be prompted to subscribe to the participating local newspaper in their area based on their IP address. If a user is already a subscriber, they will have full access to The Matchup.
At press time, the organization was in the process of finding publishers to participate in the beta testing. Twenty publishers were committed, but a couple more publishers agreed to participate after the beta phase. Additionally, Orren said that nearly 90 media companies who are LMC members are also involved.
“We’re at a point where collaboration is no longer optional,” he said. “We have to find ways—especially where we’re not competitive—to collaborate, or we’re not going to be around to compete in a few years.”