With Video-Heavy Virtual Media Guides, St. John’s Offers Something for Everyone

Printed media guides may soon be a thing of the past, per a pending NCAA rule, but that’s just fine for the staff at St. John’s University. Relying on a NewTek TriCaster, design support from CBS Interactive, student labor, and creative direction from the Red Storm athletics communications unit, St. John’s has already taken the paper product virtual, and at an affordable price.

Utilizing the same equipment the department uses for live game streaming, Associate Athletics Director for Communications Mark Fratto and his team have produced more than 130 videos that will serve as the backbone for 12 new Websites, home to virtual media guides for each of the university’s varsity sports.

The End of Print
Citing cost containment and green initiatives, the NCAA may elect to do away with printed media guides in the coming weeks. To meet that need, a variety of online guides have begun to hit the market, ranging from static PDF files of the print version to multimedia experiences involving audio, video, and interactivity.

Instead of relying on an outside company to replicate what he has seen elsewhere, Fratto took the job in-house at St. John’s, utilizing the video equipment his department already owns for online streaming. He put his graduate assistants and undergraduate staffers to work shooting, editing, and producing 132 videos on 12 sports. The result is two separate products, one designed to serve the informational needs of the media and the other for alumni, donors, and fans of the program.

“We’re making a distinction between those two big groups for whom the traditional media guide served,” Fratto explains. “We thought that, in moving the guides online, there needs to be a product that is easily printable and scannable, for media and others that need access to records and team information quickly. But we also wanted our online product to have both informational and entertainment value for other external groups, such as alumni, fans, and boosters.”

A Media Guide for the Media
One part of the media guide, he adds, is strictly information-based and must be easy to access.

“The media is still going to want something that’s printable, where they can highlight information, make themselves notes, and reference it in their hands during a game,” Fratto says. “If you’re a TV announcer, you can’t be looking through a Website trying to look things up.”

For that group, the official record book of each sport will be available online as a printable PDF file. To capture the imagination of fans, alumni, boosters, and friends of the program, Fratto dreamed of something more interactive, so his team produced video pages featuring 10-12 short videos that highlight different aspects of each sport, timed to garner the attention of viewers without their having to spend hours browsing the sites.

“Given that 70% of all new online content is video, we wanted to go with short, easily-digestible video segments,” he says.

A Media Guide for the Fans
Each sport’s media-guide page will offer 10-12 one-minute videos highlighting “everything you’d need to know about each one of our athletic programs,” says Fratto, “and that you can easily get through in 10-15 minutes.”

He wanted to ensure that fans and others would not be overwhelmed with too much text or with videos too lengthy to digest, so he arrived at an average 15 minutes of video per site, viewable in 60-second pieces. Narrated by coaches and current student-athletes, the videos illustrate everything from current highlights to history to academic support and facilities. They were all shot with the three Canon GL2 cameras that Fratto’s team purchased to produce live Webcasts and run the video-board productions at Carnesecca Arena.

“This is something that would specifically serve in part to replace a key function of the formerly printed guides and cater to all of those external groups,” he says.

Web partner CBS Interactive built the pie crust of the site design, and Fratto’s team provided the creative filling.

Keeping Costs to a Minimum
“Other sites can cost $80,000-$100,000 for one to three of them, but we’ve built 12 sites for less than $20,000, plus the NewTek, Canon, and other hardware investments we’ve made over the last five years,” Fratto says. “That’s just over $1,000 per sport, plus the hardware investment, which is unbelievably cost-effective for us and a great learning experience for our students on the production end.”

The 12 sites — which cover each of St. John’s 17 varsity sports — will also include links to team rosters and player bios, links for making ticket purchases, social-media tie-ins, and the PDF record book for each sport. St. John’s has purchased URL reflectors for each sport as well, so the site names are simple to remember: STJBasketball.com, STJWomensSoccer.com, etc.

Says Fratto, “That makes it easier for coaches and administrators to put on the back of their business cards when they make contact with alumni, parents, fans, or anybody that they see on the road.”

The men’s basketball video site is now live at www.stjbasketball.com.

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