Wired.com: NFL Teams Embrace iPads

27 12 2011

When I decided to write a story about the effect iPads are having on the NFL, I knew at least four or five articles about the topic would come out in other publications before mine. I was spot-on.

My research on the subject began in early September after I read an article in the St. Petersburg Times about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ use for the tablets. I knew the way I would start it was by contacting each team in the NFL. It was necessary to run team-by-team to see who was putting their playbooks on iPads, who was using them to watched edited video and to see who was and wasn’t using iPads, or other tablets, in the first place. It’s a responsible thing to do when writing a national story, as I intended this to be for Wired.com.

Given that I didn’t have a particular locale to cover, it was better for the story that I cover all my bases. So, I contacted each team. As you might suspect, that is a lengthy process. Some teams respond immediately; others doesn’t. For those who do, it then takes awhile to coordinate interviews with those willing to talk and it takes time to convince other teams to discuss things. But this was just one part of what I knew had to be a well-rounded story.

By October, I noticed the New York Times had a story of their own. In it, they detailed the Bucs and the Baltimore Ravens creating digital playbooks via iPads. The story also incorporated information from the NFL on how the league monitors security issues. Contacting the NFL was a given, but this story made it that much more of a priority that I included it in my story.

I recognized that my goal for the story had to encapsulate as many aspects of the NFL’s relationship to tablets as I could find. That meant embracing teams which use them for more than just playbooks, as the two stories I had seen represented only that part of it. Which led me to contact the software companies which make applications and programs that make it possible for teams to view playbook information, scouting reports, video edits and other stuff on their tablets. (I discovered early on that iPads were the only tablets relevant to this story.)

So, I called and emailed XOS Digital and DV Sport, two software companies I already knew of. Through speaking with people there and with more teams which were getting back to me, I became aware of Hudl and Coach’s Office. Then I found out about Ironworks Sports through an email the founder of that company sent my editor.

Player quotes weren’t a valued asset for this story. They’re in the newspaper stories I mentioned above as well as subsequent stories in the Baltimore Sun and Los Angeles Times, which each outlined only the Ravens’ incorporation of their playbook into iPads. (A CNN.com story shined a light on how iPads were revolutionizing several sports, including basketball.) While those newspapers likely included player’s quotes on iPads because fans are intrigued by what they have to say, I avoided players for their lack of specificity. I did make an exception when the Bills told me they would rather offer a player to speak with than someone in their front office; I relented.

By and large, I wanted this story conveyed by the several teams I spoke with and then the software companies to explain what they’re focused on developing. The NFL interview would play a supporting role in it. That’s how this story came together.

Click on the link below to read the story:

For NFL Teams, iPad Is Valuable Playbook