Two sister dailies joined forces for an online ‘Watch Party’ during a football match involving teams they cover.
Portsmouth daily The News and the Sunderland Echo teamed up for the Portsmouth FC v Sunderland AFC fixture by inviting fans of both clubs to interact with their journalists as they watched the game on television.
Journalists from both The News and the Echo were joined by fans of both clubs on a live video stream, broadcast on their respective sites and on Facebook, as they discussed the match in real time on Tuesday.
Other supporters were also urged to get involved by sending text-based messages giving their thoughts on the game.
Mark McMahon, head of sport at The News, told HTFP the event “proved a huge success”.
He said: “It is certainly something we at The Portsmouth News, along with our sports colleagues elsewhere in the company, will be looking to roll out again in the very near future.
“In terms of numbers, it ticked many boxes, with engagement, activity around posts, and viewing figures over various platforms demonstrating it was a worthwhile exercise.
“I refer to it as an exercise as you are never quite sure how such a concept will go down with our website viewers and social media followers, but the uptake was good and the feedback reassuring. The content produced on the night will have been a key contributor to that.
“The journalistic perspectives offered from both the Pompey and Sunderland camps, coupled with the input provided from fans from both teams, ensured the conversation was flowing and interaction good. It was definitely a good blend of personalities.
“And even though there’s a bit of a modern-day rivalry between both clubs, with both Watch Party camps wanting their side to come out on top at the final whistle, no-one overstepped the mark or rubbed someone up the wrong way, which is, of course, always a danger when using such a format.
“Yet the product and the slick operation which was there for all to see also ensured a successful launch, as far as the Portsmouth News was concerned. There were no glitches, no system failures, no sound issues – which you are always fearful of when so many factors are at play.”
Mark went on to praise JPIMedia head of football Ross Gregory, “whose planning and work behind the scenes guaranteed nothing that could go wrong went wrong”.
He said: “It was he who introduced me to the idea at the start of the year, with our colleagues in the North-East test-driving it first.
“The concept was to provide our readers with something different on a match-day and help boost enthusiasm levels on the day their club is in action.
“With fans currently locked out of grounds and games being played behind closed doors, there’s a general sense that supporters might be finding other things to do on a Saturday afternoon or Tuesday night if they’re actually not inside the ground.
“But there’s always that pressure to make your match-day coverage relevant and in keeping with modern demands, irrespective of current lockdown measures.
“The Watch Party certainly ticks that box, but is only one of numerous ideas currently in development to ensure match-day coverage doesn’t become stale.”