The media industry is doomed, which means every day brings the promise of witnessing a publication hitch itself to yet another “game-changing” monetization strategy. Today’s innovator is Yahoo Sports, a once-proud website that is now sweatily cornering you in a club and shouting, “Sure, you’ve heard of a subscription-based sports publication, but have you ever seen a subscription-based sports publication that pays money to the team it covers?”
Such is the plan laid out in this New York Post report about Yahoo’s latest venture, which will be known as the Queens Baseball Club. What is the Queens Baseball Club? It’s a place where dedicated New York Mets fans can pay $5 a month for coverage that Yahoo paid the Mets to obtain:
It will include three writers covering the team, while planning to give members a behind-the-scenes experience, such as access to batting practices, press conferences and front-office Q&As.
The team and Yahoo have a three-year agreement, according to sources. Yahoo declined to say how much it will pay the Mets. The Mets declined comment entirely.
Journalistic entities have had to navigate compromising business arrangements before—ESPN’s long and sordid relationship with the NFL comes to mind—but the conflicts of interest are usually at least a half-step removed from the reporting. ESPN pays the NFL billions of dollars for the rights to broadcast games, but that transaction doesn’t do the Outside The Lines crew any real favors when they report on the league. What Yahoo is doing is putting the actual act of producing journalism at the heart of the transaction; the arrangement feels akin to a beat reporter slipping a team PR flack a $100 bill in exchange for an 10-minute interview with the GM, but on a much larger scale.
If the Queens Baseball Club’s reporters and columnists are going to use that purchased access to write all sorts of adversarial stories and publish scoops that the Mets would not want made public, then more power to them. I have a hunch that’s not how this relationship is going to work, though, and that subscribers to the Queens Baseball Club will find themselves paying for a lot of headlines like “Amed Rosario Is Ready To Take The Mets To The Next Level.”