Interview: insidethegames.biz's editor Duncan Mackay and Managing Director Sarah Bowron talk SAC, Mo Farah and Diving

28.03.2014

1) In your opinion, what was the greatest sporting moment of 2013?

Mo Farah's World Championship 5,000m-10,000m double in Moscow - following on from his Olympic dominance - gave him a double-double that had only been achieved once before. It may have lacked the sheer spine-tingling excitement of London 2012 but it confirmed that that performance was no fluke and that the Briton deserves to be ranked among the all-time greats.

 

2) What would you like to achieve in 2014:

The things we would like to achieve in 2014 do not differ from our primary aims since the day we launched - to be the leaders in our field, to break ground and innovate, to have a user-friendly product, to maintain and increase readership and to break the news ahead of anyone else.

We have a mix of very experienced journalists – Duncan Mackay, David Owen, Mike Rowbottom, Alan Hubbard and Philip Barker - and new younger reporters – Nick Butler, Paul Osborne and Gary Anderson, supported by Emily Goddard and Zjan Shirinian in the office.  We want to encourage and develop the entire team, so they have the tools and knowledge to enable our entire business to grow and evolve, and to continue to be the best at what we do.

We constantly strive to have a user-friendly product that is attractive to all our readership and that, put simply, works. We always want our website and our mobile sites to work how we ourselves consume the internet – quickly, efficiently, easy-to-navigate, and for free. Our team of Alex Crawford and Lauren Mattera will continue to work tirelessly to ensure our readers and our clients have the best possible experience. We will innovate where necessary, but we won’t re-invent the wheel.

We hope that the key partnerships we have developed over the last few months and years continue to grow.  We are very proud to now be working with ANOC, the IJF, the First European Games Baku 2015, the OCA and SportAccord Convention, and over the coming months we will work to consolidate those partnerships and grow this area of our business.

We are extremely pleased with the annual magazines that we publish to complement our attendance at SportAccord Convention, and know that they have set a bench mark.  We are developing this area of our business and now work in partnership as contract publishers. This is an area of our business that we are actively developing.

Our overriding ambition for 2014 is to develop and retain in all areas of our business – product, readership, clients and staff.

 

3) How do you feel about the development of sport in emerging markets?

Sochi 2014 proved that, with organisation, planning and a big enough budget, there is no limit to what a country with ambition can achieve when they host major events. The fear is that Brazil is heading for a double disaster with, first the FIFA World Cup later this year, and then the Olympics and Paralympics in 2016 that it will make everyone afraid of awarding major events to emerging nations.

I think there has to be a balance struck between going to "new" countries and still nurturing traditional markets. London 2012 illustrated that the "old" countries still have plenty to offer events like the Olympics. This is something that we examine in our specially produced SportAccord Convention magazine.

The bid race to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics is going to be fascinating in this respect. Few countries love winter sports like the Norwegians and Oslo would seem to be the perfect venue. But their bid threatens to be undermined by lack of support in Norway, both from the public and Government, who each fear the runaway costs of hosting the Games.

I think the favourite is Almaty in Kazakhstan, another emerging country. They have a good track record in hosting major events and a huge appetite to stage more. More importantly, they have the financial capabilities to do it and, I think it is safe to assume, there are unlikely to be too many protests.

 

4) What would you say is the most important development made to your products/services:

There have been three key developments in our business over the last year that have made a great impact.

Probably the most visible to our readership was the creation of our “Live blog”.  Like most editorial on insidethegames.biz, this was the idea of our editor, Duncan Mackay, it was designed and deployed by our website designer Alex Crawford and written mostly on the ground in Sochi, with additional content from the office in the UK. It was extremely well received, with IOC members and TOP sponsors competing to be mentioned and quoted. Duncan took great pleasure in walking through the MPC in Sochi and seeing the insidethegames.biz Live Blog open on many laptops, tablets and phones.

Another key development for us is the partnerships we have entered into over the last 12 months. Particularly important for us are partnerships with the IJF, ANOC and Baku 2015. These have demonstrated to us a desire for key leaderships within the Olympic sporting world to work with us and that they see value in partnering with us and being visible to our readership.

The third key development that has made a big difference is a change in our web server from Apache to Nginx. Because we break news stories ahead of the field, we often have spikes in traffic which Apache can struggle with. By deploying Nginx we have ensured that when we have a breaking news story our reader and our clients will see no break in service and all users attempting to access our website will be able to read the news story.

Not a recent development, but one of the best development in our service is our effortless mobile site. It needs no downloading, it works on any device and is seamless. 40% of our readership during February viewed our site on their mobile device.

 

5) If you could change the rules of one sport, what rules would you change?

I would make it an automatic red card for any footballer diving. That would quickly drive the Tom Daley’s of the game out of the sport (That's you Mr Robben....)

 

6) How do you feel about your partnership with SportAccord Convention

We are extremely selective regarding who we will be a media partner with. We will only work with one or two, very possibly three, conferences in any given year. There are several reasons for this.  I am absolutely convinced that the only people who look at the media partner section of a conference website are the other media partners. I don’t believe delegates or exhibitors take any notice or care who the media partners are. We are not in the business of “badge-swapping” with anyone. We need to see a solid business result from everything we do and media partnerships are no different. A media partnership, if done correctly, takes a lot of work from the media organisation and should result in an extremely rewarding, mutually beneficial partnership – the raising of the profile of both the media partner and the conference.  For the conference, they want to achieve the best possible profile raising of their brand to result in the greatest number of delegate places sold and the highest number of exhibition stands sold.  For the media partner the opportunity to carry great editorial content, meet key figures in the industry and have some exclusive access to people that through their own channels they cannot reach, plus exposure of our abilities as the best news provider in our field. Not many conferences can satisfy our side of a media partnership, but SportAccord Convention does. We regard ourselves as the No.1 Olympic news website in the world, and work with the International Federations, both Olympic and non-Olympic, with their over-arching body, SportAccord, plus we work with the NOC’s and their over-arching body, ANOC. Our work with organising committees and bid committees makes us at the forefront of news coverage.  Put all that together and you have an unbeatable partnership – insidethegames.biz and SportAccord Convention.