Why fantasy football may hold the key to the future of news

This season, after years of loyalty to the BBC/Channel 4 fantasy football competition, I’ve switched to The Guardian’s. Their game takes advantage of the reams of player data now available to newspapers – not just goals scored, clean sheets and assists, but also clearances, interceptions, tackles, shots on target, and so on, making for a very different challenge indeed.

The move mirrors that made by The Telegraph a year ago when they introduced a Flash element to their match reports that allowed you to look at an incredible range of match statistics. As I wrote at the time: it’s like having your own ProZone.

What’s all this got to do with the future of news? This: data. It’s one of the few advantages that news organisations have, and they should be doing more with it. What the Guardian fantasy football and the Telegraph demonstrate is the flexibility of that data.

And if we can do it in sport, why aren’t we doing it more elsewhere? Schools tables, pollution records, crime data, geotagged information, and election results are just a few that spring to mind – can you add some more?

For a good example of a particularly creative use of data (again with a sport twist), see Channel 4’s alternative Olympics medals table, which matches medals results against various other country stats, such as human rights record.

Oh, and by the way, if you want to join my fantasy football friends’ league, search for Game 39 – or just post a comment below…

More database-related posts

6 thoughts on “Why fantasy football may hold the key to the future of news

  1. Allison White

    Isn’t the best part about Fantasy Football is how often it updates during games? It seems for many of the news situations you discussed, it would be seldom updated (such as pollution records) and so would people frequently look at the nifty graphs you spent so much time on for unchanging data?

    Perhaps that sort of data organization would be better for on-going stories, constantly changing information (such as the stock market?) or maybe to keep track of certain political figures and their old and new policies and voting habits?

    Perhaps I’m wrong though. I’ve never done fantasy football and I would imagine you don’t mean “American football” so that furthers skews my view of fantasy football.

  2. Matthew A. Gonzalez

    This is a very interesting example of how data sets could change news! Now, I have to say, what you call fantasy football is a little different from what I call fantasy football, but I get the point. I’ll just change clean sheets to shut outs and shots on target to yards or completed pass attempts.

    Just yesterday I was talking to a former colleague from The Independent Florida Alligator (http://alligator.org). He was telling about the loads of data sets the government here in the states puts out for wide consumption.

    His most recent endeavor as the managing editor of online media was to create a heat map of Florida depicting the recent reports of gas price gouging by county in the wake of the most-recent hurricane.

    The data set came from a government agency and the end result was very encouraging though it was not finished in time to be posted. He hopes to use his experience yesterday to do more of these sorts of things.

  3. Matthew A. Gonzalez


    These projects, if done right, would always be as fresh as the data.

    If the data is pulled or scraped dynamically from a government agency or any other group that puts this sort of information together and updates it, the dynamically updated information would keep the news project fresh.

  4. The Worst of Perth

    Interesting. It may be the advantage big organisations have, but how much of this type of data will they be able to dominate to make it pay? Anything publicly available will be able to be gathered almost as well by the amateur. It comes down to money doesn’t it? They will dominate where it costs, and bloggers or amateurs can’t follow. Having wallets big enough to fund deep, long term investigation is another plus for them, but they can’t make that pay these days either.

    @ Mathew. Could a news organisation get that data to pay? It would seem that it would be almost as easy for an enthusiast to put it together. Where it costs, like sending a football expert to every game looks more promising for big guys, but even there I’m not sure they could effectively corner the market forever.

  5. Pingback: Sport and data - now it’s more than just ‘interactive’ | Online Journalism Blog

  6. Pingback: More support for my ‘Fantasy Football as future of news’ hypothesis | Online Journalism Blog

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