Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Athletics Online: A Content Analysis of Athletic Department Websites

Academic journal article Journal of Contemporary Athletics

Athletics Online: A Content Analysis of Athletic Department Websites

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Websites serve businesses and organizations in many ways. They offer a unique way to market products and it is argued here that websites are also an extremely important communication tool. The introduction of the Web and online technology has certainly transformed how businesses and organizations communicate with their stakeholders (Hur, Ko, and Claussen, 2011).

When focusing on the communication benefits of online technology, it is important to understand websites from a public relations (PR) standpoint. PR concerns managing the information flow between an organization and its key constituencies (Grunig and Hunt, 1984; Pedersen, Miloch, and Laucella, 2007; Ruihley and Fall, 2009). Websites offer businesses and organizations the opportunity to directly communicate with their public without any sort of filtering of their message (Kriemadis, Terzoudis, and Kartakoullis, 2010).

The importance of effectively using a website is evident by the growth and use of the Web. Pew Internet and the American Life Project (PEW, Pew Internet and the American Life Project, 2011b) report that as of 2011, four out of five United States (U.S.) adults, or 78%, are online and using the Internet. Additional PEW research indicates that 83% of U.S. adult Internet users go online to seek out information on a hobby or interest and 52% of adult Internet users specifically go online in efforts to obtain sport scores and sport information (Pew Internet and the American Life Project, 2011a). The Internet and Web support sport organizations in providing a venue to distribute wide-ranging information that is focused, instant, and in many cases, without filter. In a discussion of sports online, Real (2006) states that the Web is an -ideal" sport medium as a result of its -accessibility, interactivity, speed, and multimedia content" (p. 171). Pedersen et al. (2007) argue that the Internet has -laid the framework for new and emerging media in sport communication, and more than any other medium, the Internet has allowed sport consumers to feed their craving for information regarding their favorite sport products" (p. 213). This type of hunger for sport information presents itself in an assortment of shapes and forms in the way that it allows users many types of sport outlets. This assortment may include statistical information (i.e., scores, in-depth box scores, or player information), news releases (focusing on coaches, athletes, administration, or a game), informal conversation or formal expert opinions (analyst, columnist, friend, family, or stranger), and other information about an athlete, coach, or administrator. This information may be disseminated through the organizational websites or social networking sites like Facebook® or Twitter®. The Internet also creates an advantage of reaching a national or international audience with the same amount of resources as reaching a local audience (Kriemadis et al., 2010). The only limitation to accessing the website is whether a consumer has the technological ability to access it and the needed infrastructure to have Internet access. This is particularly important to colleges and universities that may have alumni spread throughout the nation and world. The Web gives these organizations the ability to develop and maintain relationships with alumni and fans of their sport teams regardless of geographical location (Kriemadis et al., 2010). The website of a sport organization can be a revenue tool, as it can be used to sell merchandise and tickets while at the same time, generate advertising dollars. It also can be used as a way of directly communicating to stakeholders (Lombardo, 2007). Thus, websites present sports organizations, and in the case of this study, colleges and universities, an outlet to promote their teams and program directly to fans and thus have the ability to control the message being delivered (Cooper and Cooper, 2009). It is important to assess what messages are being delivered by college athletic department websites. …

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