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Slow on stories and motivating Caro: Is AFL media still relevant?

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Roar Guru
6th September, 2021
8

Next year will mark the tenth year of AFL Media, an organisation who seem to perennially swing between being an independent body creating and promoting AFL content, and the AFL’s Public Relations arm.

A decade is a long time in footy, and the question is fast becoming simple. How long will the AFL Media model stay relevant?

The rise of social media the biggest change AFL Media has seen. It has made news real time, easily generated, and once it’s out, it’s right out. The announcement of Lachie Neale’s intention to leave, which was dropped by 7 News reporter Ryan Daniels, blew up over Twitter before the Lions could even muster a press release.

We even got some Mitch Robinson fake news on it!

The relationship between journalists and the AFL has altered for the worst because, funnily enough, not every journalist believes AFL Media is independent. They will dig deeper for stories that don’t necessarily fit the views of the world, and the release is much faster.

When Caroline Wilson broke the Alastair Clarkson story this year, it created a huge (and predictable) storm of public Caro hatred and the Old Boys club sent Ben Dixon out to attack… until it was proven right.

Senior coach Alastair Clarkson of the Hawks

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Ex-Carlton coach David Teague’s entire tenure with the Blues was media driven.

First we said ‘all aboard the Teague train’, then some more expectations management led to frustrated supporters getting vocal on the socials.

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He lost his playing group when he failed to publicly support captain Patrick Cripps in a press conference, then his last two weeks were when Liam Pickering slammed the players, the board and even the sky for being blue. It was started and ended in the media, by the media.

Every established news outlet needs to be constantly generating content to stay relevant, be talked about, get views, and bring in dollars. It doesn’t always have to be good content – just relevant. I know when I see a Kane Cornes story on Facebook, he will probably just be listing his least favourite toilet paper for forward pockets to use, but dammit I’ll still click just because.

Meanwhile, anyone else can generate content that can start to direct the real-world narrative. As George Costanza once said – “Jerry, it’s not a lie, if you believe it”.

So, back to the question of relevance and lifespan. How long will AFL media stay relevant? Despite this tough environment, it has one good thing going for it – exclusivity.

Halftime interviews, player stats, and of course quality broadcasts. This is the most concerning for us. As commercial news media becomes more fast paced and uncontrollable while Foxtel slowly suffers death by a thousand streaming services, there is a good chance that the AFL will exert more control by putting increasing amounts of content behind a paywall.

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You don’t need to tell people the news, just everyone that you have it, and you can pay or miss out. The alternative would be free-to-air matches and everyone having access to everything, but that won’t work will it?

You can’t protect the game without a healthy profit.

It’s a bit weird now to think now, but before AFL Media, all your footy news would come from The Footy Show, the Sunday Footy Show, and Scotty Palmer’s Punchlines.

AFL Media will keep on punching; I just hope the punters don’t cop a black eye.

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