Our global sports editor, Michael Giarrusso, provides a preview of our Summer Games strategy and explains how content seen on a second screen can offer an enhanced viewing experience for fans.
Ahead of the Opening Ceremony on Aug. 5, I spoke with Michael Giarrusso, our global sports editor, about our newsroom’s plan for covering the games.
Michael will be speaking about the Olympics with Rick Cordella, a senior vice president with the NBC Sports Group, at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit on July 13 in Seattle.
The following has been edited for length and clarity.
What’s your strategy for covering the Summer Games next month?
I’m excited to tell stories that are unique and a little different, whether they’re about the athletes, fans, organizers or someone else. I think if you make people feel like they’re seeing something behind the scenes that they won’t necessarily see on television, that has more relevance to readers nowadays.
We know that fans are on their phones and may even have a tablet or computer nearby while they’re watching – we can provide context and a deeper sense of storytelling than can be shown only on television.
Plus, a viewer can only see so much on TV. There might be a great story in sailing or badminton that we want to alert folks to ahead of time.
And AP will have the best local coverage. We’ll be covering these stories like experts, not like people parachuting in just to tell one story and then getting out again, because we’re on the ground in Rio year-round.
That’s where we can have the most resonance with readers around the world.
How are you covering the winners and results?
We will still be covering all the big results as we always have. But I think readers appreciate it more when we find angles that nobody’s really written about before.
Will Graves, our gymnastics reporter, wrote a great story about how nations with small gymnastics populations were going to U.S. college students who had never been to their country, offering fast-track citizenship for the chance to compete in the Olympics.
That’s an interesting story to tell, especially before the event starts happening, to provide insight to viewers and make them feel smarter when they watch the event.
The Summer Games are less than a month away. How is your team preparing?
We’ve got folks all over the world attending top trials and doing previews of every sport – something we haven’t been able to do in the past. We’re in Brazil 365 days a year and have already done hundreds of stories, including features on the culture and people. These can range in topic anywhere from race to travel opportunities to the fruits you can only find in Brazil.
Aside from the content, though, is the logistics of having more than 200 team members in Rio for a month. We already know the territory from having dozens of reporters attending the World Cup two years ago, staying literally across the street from where the Olympic park is today.
Knowing things as simple as traffic patterns, taxis and restaurants will help us be more efficient.
Our tech team is already down there, setting up offices and testing the wireless technology we’ll be using. We’re setting up remote cameras at finish lines, inside goals and on stadiums to be able to push photos out faster to our members and customers.
We’ve even secured locations around the city to capture rights-free live video of the action inside and outside Olympic Park. That will allow us to get great shots of the closing ceremony fireworks, for example.
What’s new this year in our coverage?
We have our “Inside the Games” blog where we can place content that’s a little more visually driven and built for social. We’ve trained almost all of our reporters to produce content for the blog themselves, compared to past years when we’ve had a separate mobile-social team.
We want our team to take advantage of the nearly 2,000 photos we expect to be taking every day – not just attaching them to stories, but putting them on social media with the proper watermarking.
Expect to see some behind-the-scenes stories about fans and life around the Olympics, as well as embedded photos and videos from the athletes themselves.
How can members and customers get this content?
The “Inside the Games” blog, and by extension our entire summergames.ap.org site, are part of our Digital News Experiences, which allow members and customers to place their own branding on our pages and split any advertising revenue with us. There are already customers who make tens of thousands of dollars per quarter on our pro and college football sites in the (free-to-use) DNE program.
In addition, the social content we’re putting out on the blog is ready for them to share. They can use it as an idea to create their own cards linking back to their content if they don’t want to use ours. I think it’s also a way to show them that we know that social is a big part of their game, too.
They can take the image and post on their Facebook page with a link to our story on their site. And I think we’ve made it easier to do that by doing some of this on our own, and by doing it quickly.
Jake is the text and multimedia product manager at The Associated Press and the former editor of Insights. He previously covered college sports as a reporter for AP and helped design its multi-year strategic plan.