What's Burgundy and Gold and Read All Over?

By Andrew Alexander
Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Washington Redskins kick off their regular season Sunday afternoon with an away game against the New York Giants. But many readers already think The Post deserves a penalty for providing too much coverage.

A caller from Gainesville, Va., recently played a recording of "Hail to the Redskins" at the ear-splitting level of a rock concert. "That's how it seems to me in the paper," she complained. "Enough, already!"

Frank J. Adrian of Olney e-mailed several weeks ago, wondering how the money-losing Post could defend having a small army of writers covering a "meaningless" exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. "Tell us, please, how these expenditures of resources jibe with the economic difficulties cited by The Post in justifying its recent drastic cuts" in content and staffing, he wrote.

Since training camp opened in late July, The Post has published about as many stories on the team as it has on health-care reform. More than 3,500 column inches have been devoted to the Redskins. That's roughly equivalent to a 100,000-word novel.

Excessive? Not to Post editors, who cite reader demand.

"There are some readers who will say that we're giving them too much Redskins coverage, and I appreciate that," said Sports editor Matt Vita. But interest in the Redskins is "huge."

In recent years, reader surveys have gauged those "extremely interested" in 15 local professional and college teams. The Redskins consistently rank far ahead of the others.

More recently, a Post survey assessed interest in more than 20 professional, college and recreational sports. Among Sports section readers, NFL football was alone at the top by a wide margin.

The Redskins also dominate page views for The Post's online Sports section. From last September through May, traffic to the Redskins page on the Web site was three times greater than for the Capitals hockey team and six times as heavy as traffic for the Washington Wizards basketball team. Among sports blogs, the Redskins Insider is the most popular.

And during last year's NFL preseason and regular season, overall sports traffic to the Web site rose 8 percent. If the Redskins make the playoffs or if there's big news involving the team, traffic goes "off the chart," said Jon DeNunzio, a Post online sports editor.

High reader interest does not necessarily boost circulation. It's "difficult to attribute any consistent sales lift to Redskins games or coverage," said Post circulation vice president David C. Dadisman. The most recent figures put circulation at 622,700 daily and 858,100 on Sundays.

But broad interest in football helps ad revenue. "The affiliation to the NFL and football is very strong," said Post advertising vice president Kenneth R. Babby. Advertisers view it as "incredibly compelling content."

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