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June 12, 2014, 12:53 p.m.
Reporting & Production

It’s World Cup time: Here’s how 8 news orgs will tackle the world’s biggest sporting event online

The gooooooooooaaaaallllll is increased engagement.

The wait is finally over.

After a grueling three-year qualification process, the World Cup starts today in Brazil. While the 32 finalists have been hard at work training for the tournament, news organizations have also been busy preparing to cover the monthlong soccer tournament that is the largest sporting event on the planet. So as Brazil and Croatia prepare to take the pitch this evening, and as journalists continue to arrive in Brazil, here is a sampling of how some American news organizations are tackling the big event — one that, unlike recent Cups, will take place on a roughly North American schedule.

First, the full-time sports guys. ESPN holds the TV rights to the Cup, so in addition to broadcasting all the games on television, it will also stream them online and on mobile. You’ll need a cable login to watch the ESPN coverage online, but if you don’t have a cable subscription you’ll be able to watch at least the early round games online via Univision — though you’ll need to dust up on your Spanish to understand the commentary. In advance of the Cup, ESPN also launched a redesigned website and app for its soccer coverage. The redesigned ESPN FC website is fully responsive and has separate versions aimed at American, British, and global audiences. There’s also a Spanish version of the site. The app is also available in Spanish and will provide personalized news and updates. Live coverage in the app will also update with videos of goals and significant plays so users can get highlights quickly on their phones.

Just in time for the World Cup, Sports Illustrated has unveiled a new standalone website — Planet Futbol — to house its soccer coverage. SI launched Planet Futbol initially as a blog last year. Aside from the new site, SI has put a lot of its focus on Instagram, with its reporters and photographers all been posting photos during the leadup to the World Cup, many of which have been regrammed by the main Sports Illustrated account or the Planet Futbol Instagram account, which are also featuring video.

The New York Times has been planning its World Cup coverage for about a year, assistant sports editor Andrew Das told in-house blog Times Insider. He said the Times will borrow features from its coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics, like its Photo Firehose, and produce a number of interactive features in addition to day-to-day coverage. It already produced an interactive, illustrated examination of Brazil’s devastating loss in the 1950 World Cup Final, which was also held in Brazil. The Times will also have a daily World Cup email, which it has been promoting heavily in its stories leading up to the World Cup.

U.S. soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann has said that the United States cannot win the World Cup. But what if the 32 nations participating in the World Cup competed not in soccer but in GDP per capita, or on which smoked the most? That’s a question The Wall Street Journal asks in a neat interactive called The World Cup of Everything Else. (Among other categories, the U.S. “wins” in highest CO2 emissions and obesity rate. USA! USA!) The Journal also has a special World Cup page on its website that highlights social media, video, photos, interactives, and the rest of its coverage from Brazil.


Upstart Fusion will be covering every game of the tournament live through GIFs. Fusion has also launched a new soccer site in time for the World Cup, and it plans to cover each game with up-to-the-minute GIFs highlighting the most exciting plays and goals. Fusion will also broadcast and stream a live show called Soccer Gods from Rio each night of the tournament, summarizing the day’s action.

Gawker Media’s Deadspin has also started a new site for the World Cup. It’s partnering with the quarterly soccer magazine Howler to cover the Cup on Screamer, its new soccer site. They’ll post unique content from writers of both publications throughout the tournament.

For the more literarily inclined, The New Republic will be running a World Cup blog throughout the tournament. (Top editor Franklin Foer already has How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization under his belt.) It began its coverage earlier this week with posts like, “Eleven Writers and Intellectuals on the World Cup’s Most Compelling Characters” and “Why There Is No Such Thing as a Bad World Cup: A philosopher’s theory of soccer fandom.”

And if you’re still not fully prepared for the World Cup, Vox Media’s SB Nation has you covered with a massive illustrated preview to the tournament. They’ll be covering the World Cup as it progresses, but the preview is a good place to start if you want to learn more about the teams competing.


Though it’s not a news organization per se, Twitter is betting that the World Cup will help it gain new users and boost user engagement on the service. As Quartz explains:

Anyone signing up for Twitter during the World Cup will be asked whether they are interested in the matches, and if so, prompted to choose a team to support. Then, in a single step, they will be encouraged to follow popular Twitter accounts related to that team. Once registered, users will also be able to take advantage of Twitter’s World Cup timeline, which doesn’t just feature tweets tagged with the hashtag #WorldCup — the mechanism Twitter has relied upon so far — but also relevant tweets from teams, players, coaches, journalists and fans in the stadiums. Effectively, it’s Twitter’s biggest foray into algorithmically driven content curation so far.

These are, of course, just a handful of the projects news outlets are undertaking for the World Cup — what did we miss? Who else is covering the World Cup in a cool way? Share it with us in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.

Photo by Ola Hodne Titlestad used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     June 12, 2014, 12:53 p.m.
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