Re: (Shhh, Don’t Tell Anyone)

by , Nov 11, 2008 | 12:12 pm

A comment from the sports editor regarding commentors complaints about the “spoiler” of the WSOP Main Event winner in the headline:

To our readers:

We regret offending the handful of commenters who believe we should either not be reporting on the outcome of a news event like the World Series of Poker, or should have dumbed-down the headline so as to not give away the outcome on the Sports front page. However, we believe you are in the minority.

The traffic to the site today — in which the coverage of the World Series of Poker has received more page views than any other story in Sports — suggests the majority of readers are interested in knowing the outcome now. We confront a similar issue every two years with the Olympics, in which some users suggest we are ruining their evening by covering the outcome of news as it happens instead of letting them learn who won by watching television’s tape-delayed coverage. In both cases we feel we are serving the greater good with immediate coverage.

In this day and age, in which information is available everywhere and much of it instantaneously, it is almost impossible for a news organization to NOT report news when it knows it — because someone else will. Indeed, USA TODAY is not the only news organization reporting the outcome of the final table. Fox, CBS, Yahoo, every Website that subscribes to the Associated Press, radio, TV… even ESPN itself has coverage of who won. Unless you get your sports news from, and only that site, how were you planning to make it through the day consuming news and information without stumbling upon the final table outcome? If USA TODAY does not tell you who won, we know that most users will just go elsewhere to find out. Not every user wants to wait, and not every user plans to watch it on tape-delayed television.

Similarly, we would be at a competitive disadvantage to tell users in our headline that the event is over without revealing who won. While some users may have entered our site at our homepage or Sports front and discovered the news, almost half of our traffic these days comes from search engines — people who increasingly start at Google or Yahoo and type in search terms. The more specifics we get into our headlines, including the name of the winner, the more likely we can attract the audience that is searching for that news.

It’s not the same as revealing the outcome of a book or a movie. That’s pure entertainment. This is entertainment too, but it’s also news.

As to the issue of whether poker coverage belongs in Sports or not — we can debate all night long whether poker should be considered a sport. We take no position on that. By placing it here, we are merely indicating that people who follow sports, moreso than other sections of USA TODAY, are most likely to be interested in the World Series of Poker.

2 Comments to “Re: (Shhh, Don’t Tell Anyone)”

  1. Phyllis Patterson

    I came to your site specifically to find out who won. You didn’t let me down.

  2. Aaron A.

    Ehhh, I still think he’s only preserving the rights of USA Today to be able to report INSTANT news. News folks are nasty though. They take on the idea that people are weak and want to hear the punchline before the joke… Oh wait, maybe that’s true…