Paper pulls out its Barnet reporter for lack of clicks

Fancy working out your newspaper’s match coverage based on page clicks? It could be coming to a free paper near you soon if Barnet’s experience is anything to go by, as ANTON RIPPON reports

A local sportswriter has taken to a football club fans’ website to explain why his newspaper has stopped sending him to matches.

To the disappointment of Barnet supporters, Newsquest North London has decided that Tom Bodell had been wasting his time covering the League Two club, because the number of page views on the paper’s website don’t justify the work involved.

According to the publisher’s @Barnet_Bee Twitter account: “The job will be outsourced so there will still be reports on matchdays. In short, Barnet FC won’t be covered as forensically as they have in recent years & this goes for in-game tweets too.

“This is a tough decision which nobody wanted to take but the bottom line is the hits v hours put in doesn’t tally … Carlisle away was a 16-hour day for a couple of hundred hits at best.”

For Barnet fans, the match scores are now a measure of how many page views their games get
For Barnet fans, “match scores” have a new meaning – the measure of how many page views their games get

Bodell will now spend most of his Saturday afternoons at Brisbane Road, home to Barnet’s League Two rivals, Leyton Orient, and will also cover Watford’s Premier League matches for various titles across the division.

He will still cover Barnet news on weekdays, and will also interview the club’s manager, Martin Allen, once a week for the Barnet Times.

As @Barnet_Bee reports: “Martin Allen’s thoughts and news always do better.”

On the website, supporters voiced their disappointment: “Shame as Tom Bodell has done a decent job covering us in the past year and a half … @Barnet_Bee has been the best source of information for quite some time and has been largely covering for the lack of consistent information coming from the club … Big loss in my opinion. Does outsourcing mean nobody reporting from the game? Sounds like all that can be expected is a brief match report after the event.”

Then on the same fans’ website, Bodell himself explained all: “I will out myself now as Barnet Bee. Unfortunately this has been coming but things, regrettably, have come to head. As I stated on Twitter earlier this month I’ve been shifted on to Orient duty for the month with a colleague on holiday but when they’re in the same division and one’s a paid-for-title (the Guardian Series) and the other isn’t, it’s clear where the company’s priorities lie. And, although I’m not happy about the decision, it’s the only logical thing to do from their point of view.

“Sadly Barnet don’t have a big enough fan base to bring in the clicks needed to keep this going. The coverage Barnet have enjoyed for the last few years has been befitting of a paid-for. Trips to places like Carlisle United – and I understand that’s the exception, not the rule – cost something like 16 hours. That means 8.5hrs the company owes me for one game where the match report probably got about 200-300 hits.

“Even the shorter trips add up in terms of hours, and those resources could be better used in improving our coverage in paid-for titles – Watford FC for the Watford Observer chiefly.

“News stories and Martin’s reaction have always done best in terms of hits, though this season hasn’t been great because the team aren’t doing as well as last season.

“Moreover, in recent years there’s been relegation, Edgar Davids, leaving Underhill and moving to The Hive to rile you all up. It’s been pretty plain sailing on my watch and disaster/controversy, of course, boosts the hits, even if stability is what every supporter craves!

“I will continue to speak to Martin at least once a week for the paper and stories will still go online off the back of those conversations because that’s where I’ve always had the most joy in terms of stories. He’s rarely that insightful after a game (not news, I know!). Club news will be covered also.

“In terms of match reports, we have someone who goes to every game who will be – all being well – starting this weekend. The reports won’t go online as quickly, as they’ll be sent over to me to proof and upload. The same goes for reaction. However, I’d confidently predict the reports and reaction will still be more insightful than the sanitised offerings from the club. That’s not a dig at Barnet, just the reality of writing for a club rather than having the relative freedom of writing about a club.

“Hopefully that allays a few fears that Barnet FC will drop off the Times Series’ radar completely. The coverage just won’t be – I’ll use the word again – forensic.

“Speaking for myself, I’ve absolutely loved covering the Bees and I will miss doing it week in week out. I was more bothered about Barnet getting over the line last season than I was my own team – Watford.”

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