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Opinion | How customisable data widgets power storytelling and boost engagement

Data widgets are a user-friendly, informative and engaging way of enhancing editorial content, removing the need for laborious and costly integrations. Colin Armitage, head of operations for sport and page ready data at PA Media, explains how media outlets of all kinds are using customisable widgets to boost engagement.

5 June 2023 Colin Armitage

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The sports data industry has been a huge part of my life for more than 15 years working at PA Media, part of the PA Media Group. When I first started at our Operations Centre in the rural East Yorkshire market town of Howden, we were still providing data to the Teletext service (remember that?!). Since then, I’ve seen the sports data industry develop at an expeditious rate, and during that time we’ve been doing our very best to stay ahead of the curve.

It’s a very crowded marketplace these days – many of the “household names” in the sector were new businesses 15 years ago, jostling for a place at the top. The increased desire within the market space for fast and accurate data, driven by a rapidly growing online betting culture, meant the competition for market share grew and grew, as suppliers looked to create their own unique selling points. Over time these enhancements in rich content have, in turn, systematically allowed betting markets to broaden exponentially.

The betting market is not the only space that requires rich sports data content, though – although it could be argued that it’s the space where there is most revenue to be claimed. Within the media sector, there is still a huge clamour to boost traffic using engaging data, whether that be through raw data, graphics, visualisations, or data-driven editorial content.

In my work at PA Media, our teams have provided a breadth of enhanced and rich sports data content into both sectors, across varying sizes of businesses – some very much household names, some less so. We have worked with betting operators who use our content for market validation while, on the other hand, we have provided data to many high-profile media organisations and broadcasters who are looking to maximise the level of engagement experienced through their channels.

While initially we were a business whose focus was on the delivery of raw data feeds – working across varying sports which include but are not exclusively football, rugby, tennis, golf, F1, cricket and US sports – we have, over time, begun changing our strategy on the back of feedback we’ve received through various commercial conversations.

Especially since the onset of Covid, when some businesses are still struggling to compensate for the detrimental impact on revenue during that time, we have found that in both existing and potential partnerships, some organisations cannot afford the same level of investment in development resource as they perhaps could previously. Alternatively, given their cost-saving efforts, those conversations have swayed towards requiring ready-made data delivery solutions, rather than a product that requires significant integration.

So, while we recognised raw data can provide a more granular and comprehensive way of accessing our vast library of data, we also appreciated some of our prospective clients’ need for a more user-friendly and engaging way of ingesting and displaying said content. The solution to which was to deliver data in a widget format – a more cost-effective solution which provides a palatable balance between simplicity and complexity.

A case in point was the conversations we were having with several startup women’s sports content sites that were looking to complement their extensive provision of editorial content with some informative and interactive data. Again, on the back of some raw data feed talk, their challenge was being able to find resource to carry out laborious feed integrations. We were able to be more than accommodating in terms of the level of data content we could provide across several women’s sports. The challenge was finding an easily ingested solution, which is where sports widgets came in.

When compared against raw data delivery, widgets have several advantages, which can often drive successful conversations. Data can be consumed easily and quickly, encouraging user-friendly interaction. Widgets can be customisable, whether it be colour schemes and branding or levels of available data (live, non-live, etc), and can all be adjusted swiftly to meet the user’s needs.

Widgets can be integrated or embedded readily across various platforms, applications or websites, too, allowing economy of scale. In sports data terms, widgets can be configured to provide content across multiple sports within our catalogue, whether that be real-time live updates across the entire F1 season, point-by-point scoring from anywhere on the ATP or WTA Tour, or live in-play updates from the Women’s Super League (WSL).

Being able to provide a widget solution is not reinventing the wheel. However, what it is doing is allowing us to be more flexible with our product offering, while allowing our customers to have more choice about how they want to receive, and ultimately display, our broad spectrum of sports data content on their platforms.

What a widget solution also allows us to do is package content from other divisions of PA Media Group, whether that be editorial content, pictures, graphics, or video. This, in turn, allows us to provide a “one-stop shop” for all the varied services our group can provide, without the requirement for multiple integrations across the business.

And finally, what a widget portfolio may also allow us to do in the future is work more closely with our wide array of print and page ready customers, in the hope of aiding them to build a digital media strategy that might go some way towards replacing declining revenues within the print space. More to come on that!

Find out more at https://pa.media/sport/.

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