Home > Business, Mainstream Media > What Does the Deseret News and BYU Football Have to do With an Empire?

What Does the Deseret News and BYU Football Have to do With an Empire?

Within a twelve-hour period, the shape of the Latter Day Saints media operations has been turned on its side.  While some see the downsizing of the Deseret News to be a sign of financial weakness, I see that move and the independence of church owned Brigham Young University football to be the foundation of a Mormon media empire.

Let’s go back a few steps though and let me explain why I’ve come to this conclusion.

I’m a college football fan.  It is my favorite spectator sport.  Off season usually has a merry-go-round of coaching changes.  This off-season the merry-go-round included conference realignment.  First it was the possibility of the Big 12 dissolving and then a PAC-10 superconference.  What wound up happening was a complete realignment in the West…namely the Mountain West Conference and the Western Athletic Conference. 

Soon after Utah accepted a move to the PAC 10, we were made aware of BYU’s desire to go independent in football and move its other sports to a new conference.  Plans to move back to the WAC dissolved when the MWC invited Nevada and Fresno St. to join and they accepted.  Many people thought BYU would stay in the Mountain West.  I didn’t.  Neither did Kurt Kragthorpe.

Around the same time, I was reading about the Deseret News planning to shift its operations.  It looked to many to be a cost cutting move, but it’s not.  It’s a complete realignment of the religion’s media empire.  They’re not downsizing, they’re consolidating.

Two trends kept coming out during the discussion of both the football conference and the newspaper.  First, both divisions were relying on the attention of the built-in religious audience.  For football, the school estimated viewership of 60 million world-wide.

Part of BYU’s unhappiness with the MWC stems from the fact that it receives only about $1.5 million in television revenue from the league. It believes it can get more by negotiating its own TV deals, or by televising games on its own network, BYU TV.

For the newspaper, numbers show 60% of its audience is out-of-state viewing online. 

…the church connection provides an unusual opportunity to build beyond the typical local audience. Gilbert, who describes himself as “a devout Mormon,” said there has been “a world-wide diaspora (of the faith) and that gives us a chance for a world-wide audience — 60 percent of the traffic is not Utah-based.”
That prompts content that “is more thoughtful, more global” than just local breaking news. “We don’t want to be normal,” he continued, citing, as an example, coverage of church relief projects “improving people’s lives” after the Haiti earthquake.
The second trend was tailoring content to the audience.  BYU knows the value its football program offers to the school, students and the faithful.  The same applies to the newspaper which is now combining with the church’s other media properties like KSL TV and radio.

Both moves are particularly bold for a religion that is known to be conservative and thought to be behind the times.  If successful, it could prove to be a model other businesses emulate in the future.  By tailoring content to groups of similarly minded people, traditional media organizations may find a way to become relevant in the new, digital world.

On the other hand, failure wouldn’t be too damaging.  The cost cutting efforts at the Deseret News should offset any losses there.  Plus, that’s something newspapers need to do in this day and age.  The football program can always rejoin a league if independence proves too daunting. 

I also find it no coincidence both plans were announced on the same day.  August 31, 2010 marks the birth of a media empire.

Considering all the options out there, I think these two bold moves by the LDS church will indeed prove beneficial and probably a model to study and adopt in the future.  Only time will tell of course, but I’m real interested to see how this all plays out.
  1. Lance
    September 1, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Making the BYU announcement the next day after DNews major layoffs takes the media attention away from DNews fiasco. Coincidence in DNews timing of layoffs?


    • seobyswaby
      September 1, 2010 at 1:48 pm

      No coincidence. This was planned.


      • September 1, 2010 at 2:49 pm

        I’m with you, it was planned. The church does nothing without planning it out, extensively.


  1. September 1, 2010 at 10:59 am
  2. September 3, 2010 at 12:15 pm
  3. September 17, 2010 at 12:11 am

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