October 3, 2013

Mission of the Mag

A birds-eye view of what we do at LM (and why we do it)

by Matt DaSilva | LaxMagazine.com

A version of this article appears in the October 2013 issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

A college field hockey coach emailed me in August with some kind words for Lacrosse Magazine that led to an off-the-cuff philosophical exchange.

"I wanted to compliment you on your magazine's content," he said. "My wife is a former lacrosse All-American and a current high school coach. I read your magazine every month. I feel connected to the sport, and I don't play or coach. Lacrosse has exploded all over the country and world. A huge part has been your magazine, how it reaches everyone."

The coach went on to ask a series of questions about the philosophy and production of LM. "I want to help make a change in our sport and basically copy what you guys are doing," he wrote.

After thanking him profusely for making my week, I crafted my response and thought you, our members, could benefit from this bird's-eye view of what we do:

"While US Lacrosse is a relatively young organization (formed in 1998), Lacrosse Magazine predates it. The first issue was published in 1978. For a while, LM was the only media source for the sport. When more outlets emerged in the 1990s, USL made a decision to invest more specifically in its flagship publication and generally in its communications. We wanted to continue to lead the dialogue as the sport took off nationally. The magazine's mission is to 'connect the sport's community, educate players, coaches and officials, entertain fans and keep the membership of US Lacrosse informed.' I'm glad to see we are making strides.

"When we became a monthly magazine, it made it easier for us to be timely and to peg content to specific audiences. Six issues (February, March, April, May, July and October) go to the full membership. All youth members (and their parents) receive these editions, so we tailor our more kid-friendly content to them while also keeping parent education in mind. Most overlap with the heart of the college season, of which we provide the most comprehensive coverage possible. The college game is the apex of our sport. The remaining six issues go to members high school-aged and older, with an upgrade option for youth members. We'll target our more mature content to these editions.

"We don't have set quotas on content pertaining to specific aspects of the game, except from a gender standpoint. If we're devoting 20 pages in our college preview edition to Division I men's lacrosse, for example, you likely will find 20 pages devoted to Division I women's lacrosse. We strive to represent both games equally. We also have seen our percentage of US Lacrosse-centric content increase in recent years, as Lacrosse Magazine remains the No. 1 vehicle by which we can connect members not only to the sport, but also to the work of the organization and its impact. The key here is to weave US Lacrosse seamlessly into the larger narrative of the sport and to use creative storytelling. We avoid fluff pieces.

"Lastly, since the national teams are our most prized possession, we provide unmatched coverage of Team USA. From training weekends to exhibitions and world championships, we'll have reporters on the ground for all Team USA events. This also connects our staff with some of the best and most influential people in our game.

"Regarding your question about obtaining data for college and high school previews, that is not difficult in the information age. It can be difficult from a manpower standpoint, which is why we employ several freelancers to support our full-time staff in providing national coverage. The high school stuff can get tricky, especially when covering areas of the country where the sport is not nearly as entrenched as it is in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. We're not perfect. We make mistakes. But the benefits of providing this exposure outweigh the drawbacks.

"I hope this email has provided some helpful context. According to annual surveys, members rank Lacrosse Magazine as the No. 1 benefit of their membership — even though US Lacrosse provides so much more than just a magazine. As a result, US Lacrosse continues to invest in Lacrosse Magazine and views it as an important tool in its mission 'to inspire participation while protecting the integrity of the sport.'"

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