Friday night light: High school sports mag kicks off

news-scrimmageBart Isley and Ryan Yemen tap into the interest in high school sports. PHOTO BY LISA PROVENCE

As the economy has tanked, traditional print media is gasping for air. So why not start a new niche magazine? That was the thinking of two former Daily Progress sports writers. On Thursday, August 27, the high school sports-centric Scrimmage Play hits the stands.

Bart Isley and Ryan Yemen, both 25, know all too well the dire predictions for print publications.

"Print is failing because news can be covered so easily on CNN," says Yemen.

"Our theory," says Isley, "is print media can still work if it's of high quality and focuses on certain things. Our coverage is local and very specific."

With the help of stringers, Isley and Yemen plan to cover four to six high school football games every weekend in a nine-county area. Game summaries and video will go up promptly on their website; in-depth features and analysis will fill the bi-weekly magazine.

"We take what each medium does well," says Isley, noting the "scrapbook quality" of the magazine and how passionate people are about high school sports. With 10,000 copies of a glossy, 40-page magazine distributed for free, it's not to hard to imagine parents mailing copies to grandma.

"We're unique," says Isley. "No one is doing what we're doing."

Though Isley's dad, Bob Isley, is financing the project and is co-publisher along with his son, Yemen and Bart Isley are doing just about everything else, including selling ads and distributing their first issues. At least in the beginning, anyway. They do plan to take advantage of local photographic talent, and Isley's wife, Anna, has pitched in with the start-up as well.

Ten issues of Scrimmage Play are planned before February 1, working around the holidays, and 10 more in the spring. "There's no point in publishing when school's out," points out Isley.

The first issue is a fall preview, and along with football, it covers golf, field hockey and volleyball.

"Covering high school sports is different," Isley explains. "There's no information director handing you stats and setting up interviews after the game. You've got to run down your own interviews." And that's something both men have experience doing.

"We have great stories– not just puff pieces," promises Yemen. "If you pick up the magazine two months into the season, it'll still be timely."

"Kids all over this area are doing amazing things," adds Isley.

Sports radio station WKAV program manager Joe Thomas thinks the odds look good for Scrimmage Play.

"High school sports– certainly it's a niche audience," says Thomas. "I think they'll stand a very good chance."

Even their former employer, Daily Progress publisher Lawrence McConnell, has an encouraging word.

"There's a lot of interest in high school football, and these are talented people who have a good shot," says McConnell, noting that the pitfalls they face are the same for anyone else in publishing: managing expenses and generating revenue.

"Those are kind of basic," says McConnell. "Beyond that, I don't have enough information to handicap them."

Isley remembers his own tendencies as a youth, and hopes they'll work to Scrimmage Play's advantage. "When I was a kid," he says, "I didn't want to read anything but sports."

Updated 4:42pm with correct co-publishers.



I am very much looking forward to following Scrimmage Play. I'm a Fluvanna alum and have always been disappointed by the lack of details after a big game (or any game for that matter).

Wish you two the best.

I'd like to know what a Fluvanna Flying Fluco is. Specifically, the part about the flyig.

Glad to see Bart and Ryan starting this up. During their time at the DP, that paper really improved its coverage of local high school (and kiddie rec) sports. Since w/out them the DP may slip a bit in that dept., we are locally lucky that the guys have stuck around to start this venture. Best of luck to you!

Agreed. The Hook just got a big boost with these two. Looking forward to reading.

Good luck, guys. What the public has always wanted is local news, including sports the morning after. As a former local radio newsman in Wisconsin, we sold our radio station on sports news. Later, when I worked for the FCC, we licensed piles of new FM stations across America in an effort to jumpstart local broadcasting and create competition of ideas. Unfortunately, the regulators went to sleep and let a few giants buy up all the voices and duplicate the same mindless formats, mostly music or talk, on multiple channels. They got their just deserts when the web came along and provided no cost voices. If you can provide a site with local results, highlights and maybe even a short video by your stringer, you've got a hit.

Good luck Ryan! Looking forward to reading. See ya around.