The Times rugby league correspondent Christopher Irvine has announced plans to the RLFANS network that the newspaper intends to launch a blog dedicated to the sport. Irvine hopes that a positive response towards the blog will put pressure on The Times to give over greater space to the sport in the print version. Slated for launch towards the end of the January, the blog is initially planned to run through to the end of the 2008 Rugby League World Cup in late November, but a successful run might see it become a permanent feature.
Although blogging as a concept originated outside of the mainstream media, traditional media companies have in recent years recognised the opportunities presented by the medium, with professional journalists using blogs as a more informal way of distributing their work. With the rise of online media constantly eroding the market for traditional print media the development of online offerings, including popular features such as blogs, is no longer a matter of differentiation but one of necessity. The development of online media opens up the possibility of online advertising revenue streams, with the online advertising market being one of the strongest growing sectors of the advertising industry.
Rugby League has often struggled to attract the attention of the mass media, especially the quality end of the market, lacking the mass support of football whilst carrying the perception of a narrower geographic distribution and lower socio-economic supporter base than comparable sports such as tennis and rugby union. Where a rugby league blog holds potential for The Times is its capacity to extend the audience for the content it produces beyond the traditional readership of the print version, many rugby league fans may not have any interest in purchasing The Times newspaper, but that won’t stop them reading the blog.
If the online rugby league audience can show a viable demand for a rugby league blog, it will not only strengthen the case for more coverage in print, but it may also force competitors of The Times to evaluate the potential of their own rugby league coverage. This would ultimately have the double benefit of raising the exposure of the game to a general audience, but in particular raising awareness of the game amongst the corporate readership of the quality press (and online versions) increasing the marketable value of the support. A win for the media companies, a win for rugby league fans hungry for quality journalism, and a win for the administrators of the sport itself.