Baseball America is continuing its evolution into the digital age.
In February 2017, the legacy baseball publication was purchased by a group led by Alliance Baseball, LLC, which also owns three minor league teams, the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers and the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits.
“Minor league players were turning into Major League talent more quickly and the coverage out there was limited,” said Gary Green, CEO of Baseball America Enterprises. “Baseball America was available, so we said, ‘Let’s take this publication and take it into the digital age.’”
A little more than a year into the publication’s transformation, Baseball America’s digital audience has experienced a whopping 300 percent growth. Now, there are even larger plans for 2019.
Baseball America has long been a go-to publication for fans and baseball professionals alike in its bimonthly magazine format, but with the acquisition, the publication began its major transition into the digital age.
Shortly following the acquisition, former Sports Illustrated veteran B.J. Schecter joined as editor and publisher to lead the transition. Following 20 years at Sports Illustrated, Schecter saw a major opportunity to take Baseball America into the future of media, as he was familiar with the publication’s dominant position as the premier niche baseball destination.
“Baseball America has a great brand name and a huge opportunity to grow and modernize the brand,” Schecter said. “Especially in today’s landscape, being niche and owning the space, it can be very valuable.”
Already one of the most respected baseball publications, Schecter felt as long as it was modernized in a timely fashion, it could maintain and further solidify its spot.
“So much of the content was there,” he said. “From there, it was ‘how do we transform from a traditional legacy publication to a multimedia platform?’ That’s what we’ve really focused on doing, being digital first.”
The website was torn down and completely rebuilt to be a responsive, easy-to-navigate and mobile-first site. The magazine also went through an initial “clean-up and modernization” of its look and feel.
The transition hasn’t been about changing the content Baseball America creates, rather enhancing it and providing its audience with a more fully immersive array of content. Schecter also mentioned excitement about how many sports journalism consumers have responded to the pay-for-content model The Athletic has rolled out.
The publication is read all across baseball organizations large and small in America and is often cited with its scouting reports and prospect rankings, including the Baseball America Top 100 MLB Prospects and organizational prospect rankings.
With the increased web presence, Schecter said instead of twice a year, the Top 100 Prospects list updates at least twice a month and the organizational Top 10 Prospects likely will increase to Top 30.
“We think our content is very valuable and creating something people can’t get anywhere else,” he said. “Our rankings, our scouting reports — there’s a detail and a sophistication in our content that is nowhere else.”
Heading into the New Year, Baseball America will undergo several other changes. The magazine will go all glossy and a slightly smaller size. Starting in February, it will go to monthly, but will more than double in size.
In addition, Baseball America still believes there’s a value in print.
“You’ll get the same or more content,” Schecter said. “It’ll have much more shelf life and put us in a better position and allow us to have better-themed issues and dig a little deeper with organizational reports and big features.”
Schecter said there are conversations with production companies for episodic videos celebrating youth baseball and other video storytelling components.
The company will also launch Softball America, a digital publication. Initial feedback from advertisers has been off the charts, Schecter said.
“We’re coming into a space that is desperately needing a publication that covers it,” he said. “It will be the same type of formula, but tweaked for softball.”
With all the exciting aspects of Baseball America’s move forward, Schecter is staying busy talking with clients and explaining it’s not the “same old Baseball America.”
“We’re not your grandfather’s Baseball America,” Schecter said.
Focusing heavily on baseball organizations and publications might not immediately seem like a savvy investment, but Green said they believe in their passion.
“We took on something in baseball that has headwinds; we’re trying to get younger,” Green said. “The publishing business has some headwinds and is going more digital. We took on something with two sets of headwinds, but we’ll make it work.”