17 February 2015

Transfer deadline day and the pitfalls of content for content's sake

Transfer deadline day

By Harry Becker-Hicks, Account Executive at Farrer Kane

As great sporting events go, transfer deadline day is a rather tedious one. If you're unfamiliar with the occasion, it's the last day that the transfer window (the period in which football clubs can buy players) remains open. It is a day for lawyers and agents and paper-work, work permits and employment contracts. More than at any other time, we are reminded of the bureaucracy and administration required to run a football club. At its best, it is a distraction from the actual football. At its worst, it embodies the worst of the modern game: mercenary players, exorbitant fees, and shadowy agents.

If you were an alien visiting from another planet, however, you might be forgiven in believing that transfer deadline day is the most important day in the sporting calendar. Of any sport. Ever. The amount of coverage it receives, it seems, far eclipses that of real sporting events, which pale in comparison to the sheer weight of content that transfer deadline day generates.

All year round, every single day of the week, the media speculate on potential transfers. These stories are generally baseless: a blurry photograph is produced, rumours are given some airtime on Twitter, the phrase 'a source close to the player reports' is wheeled out, and suddenly 'MESSI in SHOCK MOVE to MANCHESTER CITY' is splashed across the back of a tabloid. These rumours bubble away throughout the year, slowly building up to the tidal wave of content that is unleashed when the transfer window actually opens.

On Transfer Deadline Day itself, newscrews stand in the cold and wet outside training grounds and stadiums doing their best to give the impression of something happening. THIS IS IMPORTANT the glaring yellow and black lettering screams at you from your television set as 'breaking news' headlines are repeated throughout the day. It's all slightly melodramatic. There is even a live clock, counting down the seconds until the window 'slams shut'. The alien I spoke of before would be forgiven for thinking that it was the countdown to doomsday.

Perhaps none of this would be so terrible if actual events demanded such a huge amount of content. But it is, and they do not. The proportion of speculation compared to actual real-life news is skewed. There are simply not enough transfers between clubs to justify that kind of output. It's all fluff, filler, makeweight and clickbait. Used to boost SEO and traffic, in effect, to generate revenue.

But is the game now up? A quick glance over the various serious football blogs will reveal how much this is all mocked. On both TV and radio, the presenters' embarrassment at being asked to repeat non-news is palpable. Credibility is being rapidly lost. There is a sense that consumers have grown weary of TRANSFER DEADLINE DAY because, despite the media's insistence to the contrary, nothing much happened. The constant recycling of rumours that prove to be false in an effort to generate traffic will no doubt take its toll.

Maintaining credibility brings huge benefits to your brand. The BBC for example, rarely publish largely unsubstantiated transfer rumours and consumers know that the chaff is filtered out. When they do publish transfer news, it is taken that much more seriously.

Producing vast quantities of content does not work as a long term strategy. Consumers are cleverer than that and deserving of far greater respect. We often hear how 'content marketing' is key in driving business growth but the truth is a little bit more nuanced than that. Creating reams of content with no real substance will turn consumers away from your product. While publishing a story on how Messi is moving to Manchester may generate interest in the short term, in the long run you risk pushing your readership into the arms of more credible channels.