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Sports hubs focus on traditional media

As leading sports sites experiment with new kinds of reportage, two start-ups show that the online medium is a popular way to track traditional sports media.

    Even as leading sports sites continue experimenting with new kinds of reportage, two start-ups are showing that the online medium is a popular way to keep track of traditional sports media. and ArmchairQB are attracting loyal readers--including sports professionals--by serving up simple aggregation as well as media criticism. Content is the attraction, not convergence or portal utilities, unlike the focus of many other specialty hub sites.

    The formula seems to be working, as recently won a Webby Award nomination as the year's best sports site. Meanwhile, ArmchairQB's cofounders have been approached about a radio program.

    "The site is a place for sports journalism professionals to see their colleagues' work," said's Rich Johnson, a veteran radio broadcaster. "The focus will always be the pros--no chat rooms, no fantasy leagues."

    As for ArmchairQB, "We see ourselves as a sports media authority. We cover those that cover sports," said cofounder George Stahl.

    Sportspages is the older of the two sites, founded a year ago this month. ArmchairQB launched last fall.

    Linking to more than 175 different dailies and about the same number of columnists, is essentially a daily shortcut. Most of the site is free, though Johnson offers a premium section of links, charging $20 for six months or $35 for a year.

    Last September, turned about 3,000 pages per day. More recently that number has climbed to around 9,000--and Monday it rocketed to an all-time record of 13,639, Johnson said. Those aren't big numbers, but maybe it's the audience that counts. Subscribers include noted baseball writer Peter Gammons, ESPN's Charlie Steiner, and pro baseball pitcher David Cone. counts itself among some heavy hitters for the Webby award, including The Sporting News, SportsLine affiliate SoccerNet, SportsLine's GolfWeb, and Quokka Sports, a high-profile design shop.

    Sportspages earned its nomination because it's "really, really comprehensive," according to one of the judges. "The bottom line is, people always return to good content."

    ArmchairQB takes it cue from old media--specifically building on USA Today sports media columnist Rudy Martzke--but aims to generate its own material, preferably as soon as possible.

    "One of the things we pride ourselves on is timing--right after a game you can read a review" of its coverage, Stahl said.

    Typical fare might be a report of ABC's Fiesta Bowl coverage or broadcaster Tim McCarver's departure from the New York Mets and subsequent signing with the cross-town Yankees. The site also reviews each week's contents of Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, and ESPN: The Magazine.

    Stahl and cofounder Randy Williams, both employed by Dow Jones Newswires, say they talk by phone or email about "15 times a day" during the weekend to stay abreast of major broadcast events. They update the site themselves and rely on their wives to pitch in with a variety of tasks.

    ArmchairQB carries advertisements (including Sports Illustrated and, but says it is never going to charge for content.

    "We're looking for some financing for the site that will allow us to do some mass advertising," Williams said, declining to discuss the site's traffic specifically.

    Johnson and a partner spend two to three hours per day compiling In addition to subscriptions, the site also carries ads for, but Johnson hasn't yet approached major sponsors.

    "I'd love to produce the Nike Sportspages or the Wheaties Sportspages," he said, "but I've made no intense pitches."