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News' executive sports editor answers fan questions about

Josh Barnett, the new executive sports editor of The Buffalo News, recently solicited questions from the readers of about Bills coverage and the new

Here is a sample of the questions and his responses.

Q: Why are we being asked to pay for the same content that was free in the past?

A: We have expanded our coverage and coverage team to provide much more than in the past. We are posting more than 20 Bills-related articles per day since launched (we had 35 last Wednesday, 21 on Thursday, 27 on Friday and 33 last Sunday). We have put Mark Gaughan back on the Bills full-time after he spent several years on colleges and he is breaking down game tape for both the Bills and their upcoming opponents, looking at trends and much more. We have added Kimberley A. Martin as another voice on the Bills as a columnist and she also is doing feature stories. We have expanded our use of analytics – breaking out stats watches for players such as Taylor, McCoy, Dareus and the kicking game – among other analytics-based content. I have seen a reference on the board to
all I want is a good All22 breakdown of the opponent.” Well, we have that.

We are doing more stories on the people who love the Bills in this community and beyond  -- helping the fans who travel to see the Bills with trip guides, those who remain in town with bar guides and introducing you to celebrities who are Bills fans.

While many of the hallmarks of the BN coverage remain, there is much more available than before. There is not a single outlet doing more on the Bills every day than we are.

So. … we are offering a free 2-week trial for anyone who signs up. Sample it and see precisely what we are offering. If after 2 weeks you do not feel we provide you with something worth $2.99 per month, you can cancel.

Q: Why is there a total blackout and not a mix of free and paid content?

A: We do have a mix. There are 3-4 free articles after every game and around three every day, depending on the day and the content. The articles on our site with the red football icon with the star are only for subscribers. Articles without that icon are free.

You can always go here: to see our latest Bills content.

Q: Why can’t you just sell ads like other outlets?

A: No doubt digital advertising is an important part of how we will sustain our business in the future. But it is only one small piece of the overall picture. It used to be that subscriptions were the small part of our revenue picture and advertising was the much larger piece. Now, it is, and needs to be, the opposite. Subscriptions are a much larger piece so we need to charge for our content to support the business. However, the advertising helps hold down the price of subscriptions. Without advertising, the cost of subscribing both digitally and in print would be more.

Keep in mind also that the advertising landscape has changed. One expert estimated that Google and Facebook accounted for 89 percent of digital advertising growth last year. As more advertisers coalesce around Google and Facebook, other outlets need to find other ways to generate revenue.

Q: The Buffalo News is profitable. Why should I pay you $3?

A: There are a lot of businesses that are profitable that all of us support on a regular basis, but they also don’t give away their products for free. Your favorite fast food chain is profitable and they don’t give you hamburgers for free. Your favorite movie theatre is profitable, and they don’t let you into the movies for free. Or your favorite grocery chain or Target. And on and on.

We think we are offering a service that is valuable and warrants the investment – and we think the sum total of what we are providing on the Bills is worth it, even if you don’t like a particular columnist, feature or some element of what we do.

Q: Why are there pieces of content aggregated from other sources and why is that behind the paywall?

A: Sometimes they are and sometimes they aren’t. Our goal is to do as much Bills content as we can via the reporting and analysis of our staff. Items such as “what the national media is saying about the Bills” or “where the Bills are in power rankings” add to our coverage by providing a perspective from outside this region. But someone on our team is taking time to piece those items together and put them in one easy package for you to use. We are saving you time and becoming more of a one-stop shop for everything Bills.

Q: I don’t like your columnists and I won’t support where they work. (That isn’t really a question, but you get the idea.)

A: Yes, I’m new here so I can’t speak to the history or more of the longer view. Here is my view on opinion writing in general and what I have told all our columnists/opinion writers: You are entitled to your own opinions; you are not entitled to your own facts. In much the same way, the reader is entitled to disagree with the opinions or conclusions expressed or the tone. If we have something factually wrong – in columns or elsewhere – we will correct it. You now all know where to find me. Again, the reader can disagree with the interpretation or conclusions drawn. That’s your prerogative.

We have three jobs that we try to accomplish every day that comes from a mix of news, opinion, human interest, stats, etc.: Inform, entertain and surprise. Some days we are better than others. But we will continue to work every day to hit the trifecta.

Q:  Corollary to above, The BN has too many columnists and too much opinion.

A: We have two full-time beat writers on the Bills. That is more than Syracuse or Rochester or or Olean (that is not to disrespect how hard everyone works at other news organizations, but just to indicate that we are putting in more resources to covering the Bills). We have three columnists who write Bills but also are free to write about other topics. We have an enterprise/long-form writer who writes on the Bills but also other topics. We have a number of analytics writers on the Bills in various forms.

Within those roles, anyone and everyone is able to break/report on content that has traditionally been handled by the “beat writers,” even if they are not designated as “beat writers.” We had five people in the press conferences this week with McDermott, Taylor and McCoy and then other reporters added when the locker room was open. We then broke our team apart to determine the most important elements, storylines and posted lots of materials. We also then ran the transcripts of what was said directly from the podium and beyond. And our reporters were tweeting as information was acquired both in the press conference and the locker room with our live coverage from One Bills Drive.

I saw someone posted a list of what they deemed analysis or opinion from us on Two Bills Drive off Sunday’s game against Carolina and determined it was too much. But we aren’t looking at it as a static list. Our goal is to deliver Bills content as it’s happening and when you want it. That means before the game, during the game and after the game and into the overnight Monday morning. Or if you want to see it all in one place at the same time after it’s over, you can do that, too. We post an analysis of each quarter as the quarter ends. We post Hot Reads from the game after the game ends. We post more extensive pieces after being in the locker room and talking to the principals.

That extends beyond just what happens at the practice facility. Don’t have time in your day to listen to The John Murphy Show? We’ll give you a recap. Plus, we have our own podcasts with Vic and Jay, radio and TV appearances and a Daily Drive podcast from Kevin Sylvester and Paul Peck. You can catch up with that content at any time.

Q: How do you balance the need for accurate reporting with the need to be out front in the era of social media, and increased competition between different media sites, bloggers, etc.? 

A: Sure, we WANT to be first, but we NEED to be right. It’s tough out there with competition from a lot of outlets that are working hard too, but accuracy is what we have to stand on. Some of you have mentioned the coach and GM searches in your comments. Keep in mind those are fluid situations with a lot of changes. It’s no different than when you or your wife or kids apply for jobs. The employer likes someone one day and then talks to the next person and might like him more. Maybe the candidate the employer really likes wants too much money or has another offer and so circumstances change. Maybe the person in one part of the organization has a favored candidate, but the owner vetoes that choice or has a different view. We will provide the best and most accurate information we can at the time we report it.


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