Media organizations and websites often have to make the difficult decision of redesigning and rebranding. They have to look fresh, new and exciting. Tradition can become staid and stale, especially when trying to draw new consumers. Naturally, a new brand also runs the risk of alienating the original audience, coming off as an unnecessary change or perhaps implying that what people loved before doesn’t quite matter anymore.
Sporting News is a name and brand that means a lot to past generations of sports fans, especially baseball fans who once viewed it as “The Bible of Baseball.” But transitioning from old to new media has been a difficult process for the publication in recent years. As a magazine, the decision to reduce coverage of the four major pro sports — notably baseball — and devoting more resources to NASCAR was a gamble that turned out to be a mistake. Then the harsh realities of trying to survive as a magazine while readers were increasingly moving online forced Sporting News to reduce its publishing schedule. By 2013, the company shuttered its print edition, only publishing yearbooks for newsstands.
With a talented staff of writers and editors — among them Jesse Spector and Ryan Fagan (MLB), Alex Marvez, David Steele and Vinnie Iyer (NFL), Sean DeVeaney (NBA), Bill Bender (college football), Mike DeCourcy (college basketball) and Michael McCarthy (sports media) — Sporting News has established a foothold online, providing plenty of content worth reading for every sport.
But looks are important too, and that classic Sporting News logo was reflective of a time that passed long ago. To open a new era, the publication decided it needed to make a change, update to appear more modern. On Tuesday, Sporting News unveiled a new logo, along with a new look for its website. Here is the result:
New brand. Who dis?
That certainly looks very, very different. The logo is probably better suited to an app or a favicon on a web browser tab. But does it still say “Sporting News” at first glance? Do you see an “N” or a “Z” when looking at the new brand? Are you reminded of the NC State logo? (That reveal tweet also generated only six retweets and three likes in two hours, which doesn’t appear to be an encouraging sign. Do people just not care?)
What this undoubtedly represents is a break from the past. But was it too drastic of a change, one that readers and fans might take a while to become accustomed to — or worse, choose not to embrace at all? We asked readers on Twitter what they thought of the new look and here are some of the reactions:
@awfulannouncing i mean, it could certainly look *more* like a swastika
— Ursus in Winter (@maije7) November 8, 2016
@awfulannouncing The old one is a classic. I predict a return to a variation of it in a couple years.
— Chris Fung (@SPTO) November 8, 2016
@awfulannouncing The S is the white space instead of the N so it really threw me off.
— KA Ashauer (@KAAshauer) November 8, 2016
@awfulannouncing screams desperate attempt from consultants to stay relevant and hip after 130 yrs of quality sports journalism, so sad
— The Idiot Goalie (@IdiotGoalie) November 8, 2016
Naturally, some of those responses are probably harsher than necessary. Snark plays well on Twitter. But what’s clear is that no one seems to like the new logo.
Change is difficult, not easily accepted, and almost certain to be rejected initially. Will Sporting News stick with this new brand, or will this eventually lead to a celebrated return to a classic look? (Start making your New Coke vs. Coca-Cola Classic jokes now.)