Why Sports Websites Don’t Get Me: An Open Letter

Targeting and Personalization


Dear sports websites,

We spend a lot of time together. A lot. You are the first websites that I visit in the morning and the last websites I check at night. I bookmark you, share your stories on my Facebook page, and compulsively consult you on my phone all day. Some of my friends and loved ones feel jealous of the time that I spend with you, but they realize nothing will drive us apart. I’m devoted.

However, despite all the time we’ve spent together, you don’t know me any better than the first day we met.

Let me explain what I mean – I’m not here to break up with you, I’m here to make our relationship better. But tell me one thing: how many times have I read your articles about the Oregon Ducks Football squad? The answer, as you should know, is “countless.”

I’ll give you another chance: how many hours have I spent reading about our new Defensive Coordinator, our upcoming opponents, and our chances to finally win the National Championship? The answer to that one is “too many”…just kidding, I don’t regret a thing.

And yet you think I care about Notre Dame’s new gold helmet and Texas’s new practice regimen. You show me these stories, over and over again. I never click on them because I don’t care about them, and yet you persist. I’m making my preferences clear, but it’s like you aren’t listening. That hurts.

In today’s day and age, where information moves at the speed of light, nobody cares any more about who broke what story – we have a surplus of information. But information abundance leads to attention scarcity, so my time and attention is precious. And yet each and every time I visit, you want to tell me about the Southeastern Conference. Have I ever expressed interest? No? That’s because I. Don’t. Care.

I’m only telling you this because, one day, a sports website is going to come along that really listens. That website will recognize what a great guy I am, and it’s going to notice the very obvious hints I drop. And when it does, it’s going to show me what I want to see – and that website is going to be personalized to reflect my needs.

But like I said, I don’t want a new sports website – I want the sports websites I already love to get better. So I thought of some easy suggestions for all of you sports websites out there. In fact, all of the websites I read, regardless of what they’re about, could probably benefit from these hints:

  • Monitor my engagement, and respond by presenting articles that are most relevant to me. For example, each time I visit a sports website, I would ideally see stories about the Ducks and the PAC12 (both of which I spend hours reading about) at the top of the page. My behavior is easy to read, and could be easily responded to with personalization tools. It shouldn’t even require me to log in.
  • Note my geographic location and respond accordingly. I live in California, so when I check the schedule for upcoming games, the game times should be presented in Pacific Standard Time. Small change, big boost in relevance for me.
  • Retarget me with banner ads. Retargeting ads can get a bad rap, but if they’re actually relevant, they can be incredibly effective. For example, if I see a banner ad telling me that there’s a new story about my beloved Ducks, I will click on that ad with lightning speed. If you know there’s a topic that I like, why not proactively engage me in conversation?

In conclusion, I’m not asking for you to be completely different. I’m just asking you to consider what I want sometimes – ideally, you’d consider it all of the time. When a sports website finally learns to listen, fans will flock to it faster than the Ducks score touchdowns.