To the surprise of nobody in the sports media industry but to the disappointment of everybody, Pro Football Weekly announced Friday that it was shutting down after nearly half a century in business.
To determine why exactly this happened, look no further than the third word in the name itself. Weekly. That just doesn't cut it anymore in this new world of media and instant analysis. So while many of us have for years cherished PFW's in-depth analysis, especially in the publication's annual preview magazines, it just couldn't do enough elsewhere to stay competitive.
The result, according to their notice of assignment for benefit of creditors, was a deficit of over $8 million.
"Over the last five years our majority owner and each of the minority partners invested a tremendous amount of money, time and effort to try to build a bridge for PFW from the rapidly deteriorating world of old media to the new, exploding market of digital media and glitzy, new products. We built some truly great stuff that you all seemed to love, but try as we might, we couldn’t get enough of you to pay what it cost us to deliver it. There comes a time when there is just no more money to lose, and now we are forced to close the doors."
That's the thing. The market has become saturated with free content, and many readers/viewers simply don't value PFW's content enough to pay for it. They have indeed done a great job playing catchup on their website in recent years (I remember a time, not too long ago, when their online presence was almost nonexistent), but the problem is that it's almost impossible to successfully play that catchup game without the capital.
It's a damn shame, though, because Pro Football Weekly did a lot to turn on-the-fence sports fans into football nuts. And while few of us become fans now because of magazines on newsstands, the reality is that many of us in recent generations might never have become such large supporters of this game had it not been for the influence PFW had on previous generations who passed that passion down.
I'll admit that I won't miss PFW. I'm a full-time NFL writer who made use of their scouting reports on occasion and quite enjoyed their incredibly well-researched weekly matchup tidbits. But they just didn't have the firepower to make a difference in recent years with so many other options in the marketplace. It'll suck not having the option to pick up the actual hard copy of the magazine for my next summer vacation, but again, other options exist. Many of 'em.
They were pioneers, though, and I won't forget the underrated role PFW played in helping NFL football with a tiny but still significant boost at a time in which the sport was overtaking baseball to become America's No. 1 pastime.
Pour one out for PFW, football fans. Just as it prepares to join a graveyard already occupied by The Sporting News' print edition. Something tells me it won't be long before they run out of space in that cemetery.