It’s all very easy to criticize The Kansas City Star anymore, but sometimes The Star itself just makes it so easy.
A topic The Star should be able to take ownership of online quite easily is high school sports. The interest level locally appears quite high, so the potential for revenue – something The Star desperately needs, if we go by the layoffs and two weeks of furlough this year – should be there.
Thus a concerted online effort for prep sports would seem to be a natural (why The Star doesn’t have a site devoted to the Chiefs is an even deeper mystery). Instead, what Kansas City’s biggest news gathering operation puts out is a little abortion of a website called Varsity Zone. It looks bad, works worse, is in need of a jolt organizationally, isn’t being updated during football season (huh?), and doesn’t even compare to more professional-looking sites locally. It looks downright amateurish.
What’s it even doing there at all?
What started all of this for me was wanting to see how Lee’s Summit High School was doing this season. Let’s visit the Lee’s Summit page on Varsity Zone and find out, shall we?
So, according to The Star, there are results for only three games, and of those, only two of the games have scores. Three of the games scheduled don’t even have scores listed. The games aren’t even listed in chronological order. The home games are first and the away games are next. I figured that out. I was unable to figure out why, however.
If the Chiefs issued a pocket schedule that listed home games first, away games last, you’d chalk it up to a printing error and throw it away.
I also figured out there had to be a better high school sports site in Kansas City, even if it was run by a bunch of nine-year olds. I quickly found one. Now let’s take a look at prepskc.com.
Overall record? Check. Games in chronological order? Check. All games have a score? Check. Tidy. Well-organized. And lots of advertising. Run by nine-year olds? Seriously doubt it.
So, PrepsKC.com 1, Varsity Zone zero. But as far as content and usability go (not to mention accuracy), prepskc.com is scooping up Varsity Zone fumbles on every possession. It’s not even close.
I can see why Varsity Zone only gets a single mention on the home page of kansascity.com: frankly, I’d be embarassed to mention it at all.
It appears they’ve managed to con local grocery store chain Hy-Vee into advertising on the site, but beyond that there are no other advertisers.
If The Star’s future is online, the future has pretty much passed The Star by when other sites can come in and take over preps coverage online and capitalize on The Star’s lack of effort towards high school sports.
Preps may not be everybody’s field of interest, but the Varsity Zone effort – if you want to call it that – is indicative of an organization that, with bodies flying out of every door at 18th and Grand, is trying to do too much with too little.