RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — The final daily chapters in two of the better sports sites around were written last week as VilCom of Chapel Hill sold off its highly praised GoHeels and ACCToday Web sites.
Today, click on GoHeels and you are taken to TarHeelBlue.com, the “official” site of Carolina athletics.
Try ACCToday and you will be taken to CollegeSports.com.
Both sites are owned by Learfield Communications of Missouri which is promising Tar Heel fans quality sports coverage.
“I still think it stinks,” wrote one disgusted Tar Heel fan in an online forum.
The Internet and the World Wide Web have revolutionized the way many companies do business — particularly in the media. With a few clicks, a reader can travel the world and read, watch and hear the best of print, radio and television journalists.
But rather than just going to The New York Times or the BBC, I enjoy going to the wide variety of media upstarts which have used the Web to compete, lacking the millions (billions?) needed to launch a traditional competitor.
The Drug Report, WorldNetDaily, World Tribune, to name just three.
But special fun for several years has been the tightly focused sports sights such as GoHeels and ACC Today. GoHeels was there to offer in-depth coverage, fan forums and statistics not found in daily papers or traditional Web sites. ACC Today was a launch pad to all things Atlantic Coast Conference.
Economic reality and the failure, thus far anyway, of Web advertising as well as the general reluctance of people to pay for online content, have sent many sites to the cyber scrap heap. TotalSports (launched in Raleigh) is long gone — yet in many ways its legacy lives on in what we see at ESPN and CBS Sportsline as well as Major League Baseball’s MLB.com — from expanded stats to pitch-by-pitch Web casts.
Unfortunately, what we’re left with most of the time are the traditional media outlets (Ask yourself: How different are these sites than their regular print edition or 6 p.m. newscast?) and a growing glut of “official” sites.
Whenever I read “official” in a Web site or publication, I cringe. Official usually means dispensing of the party line, cutting off discussion, and whitewashing on a daily basis. While GoHeels as a name might imply it is a site for homers — it wasn’t. Sure, the focus was UNC sports. But Matt Dougherty, et al could expect to get criticized and flamed in online commentary and discussion groups.
MLB is an exception. Its writers are not paid by the teams they cover, MLB says, and the site is entertaining — not soft sell.
What will happen to Heel sports now?
Gauging by the comments posted on a number of sites, some Tar Heel fans are wondering.
“Well, the administration hates this site,” one said of GoHeels.
“Man, this is sad,” wrote another.
Fortunately, some alternatives remain, including TarHeelsUnite.com, insidecarolina.com, and tarheelnation.com.
Jim Heavner, president of VilCom, went online on Aug. 28 to discuss why he was selling the sites. As good as they were — with candid commentary and a fine collection of sports writing talent — the sites weren’t financially viable enough to be kept alive, Heavner said. He alluded to other ventures VilCom would be involved in, and Friday it was announced VilCom would get involved again with WCHL, Chapel Hill’s AM radio station which is owned by Curtis Media.
Heavner deserves a “Thank You” for what he tried online.
Too bad his efforts didn’t pay off – for him andthe fans.
Rick Smith is managing editor of Local Tech Wire and is not a graduate of UNC. Just a sports fan and former sports writer.
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