Earlier this year, the Fox Sports website made a controversial decision to entirely ditch the written word as part of a “pivot to video.” This decision to completely remake the mainstream sports website was part of the larger implosion at Fox Sports with the departure of Jamie Horowitz amidst some fairly serious allegations.
Horowitz also had a key role in the extreme makeover of the website, turning it from a source for news, opinion, and analysis to little more than a highlight page for FS1’s variety of lightly-watched debate shows.
In the wake of the “new and improved” FoxSports.com, the reviews were universally negative. Many sports fans suddenly discovered there was no point in visiting the website when mostly all of its offerings were outdated or irrelevant.
And true to expectation, that has shown up in the first substantially reported numbers about the traffic to FoxSports.com. SI’s Richard Deitsch reports that traffic dropped an astounding 88% since the “pivot to video.” Their traffic has gone from over 143 million in a monthly period to just under 17 million.
FROM A SOURCE:
Fox Sports Digital page views for August 19-Sept. 17: 16.7 million.
From May 27-June 25: 143.9 million.
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) September 17, 2017
If those numbers seem bad, keep in mind that most sports outlets see an increase in traffic when the fall comes along thanks to the return of college football and the NFL.
There are a couple caveats to these numbers, though. First, it’s not clear if it includes Fox Sports affiliate sites that could have been counted in the company’s overall numbers in the first chunk of pageviews and not the second. But while that could account for a decent percentage of the drop, it surely wouldn’t be enough to overcome the narrative of the bottom falling out from underneath the FoxSports.com audience.
Second, there’s the question of whether or not FoxSports.com is in fact profitable. The entire strategy of “pivoting to video” isn’t so much about maintaining pageviews as it is making money. Higher ad rates for videos plus all of those writer salaries off the books means Fox may not be actually doing all that bad from a business perspective in spite of what seems to be terrible news about their disappearing audience.
That’s when Fox Sports has to ask if it’s all worth it, though. Is perhaps a few extra bucks in video ads worth all of the negative publicity and a rapid descent into complete and total obscurity in the online sports economy? When was the last time you visited FoxSports.com? Days? Weeks? Months? It’s been removed from my bookmarks and the only times I can recall visiting the website recently is to see how far behind the rest of the world they are in relevant sports news.
There’s absolutely no reason right now for the Fox Sports Digital audience to increase with this current strategy. What are those advertisers going to do once they realize all of the visitors are gone? With such a sharp decline, it’s hard to imagine this working out for the company in the long run.