Ted Leonsis on the Caps and the media

September 17, 2013
(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Ted Leonsis has given his history of how the Caps overhauled the local sports media landscape before, but I always find it compelling. This time, it was delivered on a Newseum panel about the future of the news media, which included our boss, Marty Baron.

This part of the session began when the moderator said something to Leonsis about how he’s no longer just a sports franchise owner, but also a media mogul.

“It’s interesting,” Leonsis said, turning to Baron. “I have said on a number of occasions, The Post forced me into that position. I bought a hockey team, and attendance was really bad, and we’d make news, and there’d be one reporter who’d come from the Washington Post. And The Post basically decided what was important, what got coverage. And they did their best. And I had to take into my own hands coverage.

“So the first thing I did was say, ‘Well, let’s activate a blogosphere. Let’s open up the information away from NBC and The Washington Post, and say fans who really really cover us and understand us, let’s give them the means and the tools to be just like the newspaper.’ And several of them took up that opportunity, and some even created businesses around it. And now when we have a press event, there’s literally more than 200 people that cover us — national, local, global. The blogosphere boomed. And now The Washington Post is A voice.

“And the algorithms that are out there -– I think we haven’t spoken enough about what Google meant, and how people find information, and the importance of that Google algorithm, and the ability to move information back and forth so that you can move up the algorithm….

“If you type in Alex Ovechkin from the Washington Capitals, or my name, now for the most part The Washington Post articles don’t appear there.”

[Note: I just typed Alex Ovechkin into Google. Three of the first eight returns were from The Post. Then I typed in Ted Leonsis. One of the first three results came from The Post. Two out of the first four, if you count the "News" returns.]

“It might be my own blog, Ted’s Take,” Leonsis continued. “I was forced to do my own blog so that I could control the algorithm. And you’ll see, we push traffic back and forth from my blog to Monumental Sports to the Washington Caps and the like, so that we control the algorithm, so we control the traffic and the page views. And that also generates page views where we can sell advertising. Our network of sites right now, just as an example, is up to about 5 million monthly unique visitors. So we’ve built our own media company aside The Washington Post.”

The moderator then joked about how The Post forced him to do this.

“I would say cover my team,” Leonsis responded. “And I’d hear back, ‘Well, we can only afford one reporter, and we believe we will set the agenda that this is where hockey — just using one example — fits on the landscape.’ And I didn’t want to hear that as an answer.

“Since we’ve done that, by the way, we have 200 sold-out games in a row, we’ve become a bit of a phenomenon,” Leonsis said. “And I really see that as the blogosphere exploded, the coverage exploded, the team started to do better and the business picked up. And so yeah, I do believe that we’re seeing that across verticals verticles, and that everyone is seeing that hey, I can be in the media business just like The Washington Post.”

“You’re welcome, by the way,” Baron quipped.

(Full disclosure: I came across this video on Leonsis’s blog. Here, let me link to it, so that I can push the algorithm and explode it into several verticals verticles, plus one or two horizontals.)

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg · September 17, 2013