Masters Madness: WMA website snores while athletes go all-world

NCAA has big bucks, but most of all it has imagination.

NCAA has big bucks, but most of all it has imagination. That’s free.

March Madness is under way. And the NCAA homepage is all over it. Meanwhile, Budapest worlds are halfway done, and the lead item on the WMA website is: Updated Budapest Schedule (22.03.2014). Come again? No news of world records set, Olga Kotelko’s W95 debut, incredible turnout (nearly 4,000 from 70 nations)? So here goes my biennial rant. Stop the madness! WMA President Stan Perkins can travel the world attending IAAF meets and inspecting bid sites, but can’t afford a penny to afford a photo of a single star at Budapest? Or feature a record? I’m not surprised. Such has been the case for a decade, going back to the first world indoor meet — Sindelfingen. (See how site looked in March 2004.) Besides the embarrassment of our flagship site having no color or excitement, we leave money on the table when potential sponsors judge us as unworthy of attention. Seriously, the WMA website could be monetized without breaking a sweat. Even more galling: Stan has promised a makeover for years.

Gimme a break! Does this site convey excitement, drama, athleticism?

Gimme a break! Does this site convey excitement, drama, athleticism?

In June 2005, I interviewed Stan during his first, failed run for prez:

Me: The WMA Web site is the public face of world masters athletics. But two important features are lacking – a message board (or forum) and an up-to-date seasonal list (such as the IAAF top lists). Will you commit to adding these elements to the WMA site? If not, why not?

Stan: In some ways our Web site is nowhere near as effective as it should be as it is not vibrant and not always up to date. Nowadays the public face of an organization is as you say, its website and I agree entirely with you in this regard. There are many aspects of the Web site that need to be improved and new elements that need to be introduced. I believe we have tried to achieve a low-cost solution but it has not worked and this aspect requires budget support to a level that will allows us to have something that is functional and more importantly positively portrays the worth and values of our sport to our membership and the general public – and other sporting organizations. This is a key part of the development of our sport.

In July 2009, I interviewed Stan again:

Me: The WMA Web site is rarely updated and has been a tool of the WMA president in the past — rather than satisfy a global hunger for news and information about World Masters Athletics. What would you do to expand and improve the WMA Web site?

Stan: I think it is fair to say that the WMA website has been disappointing in that it has not been regularly updated, not just from a WMA perspective but also by the regions who each have allocated space within the website. There have been some administrative problems in the past with the website and whilst this is no excuse for poor performance, it is something that needs to be dealt with by the new Council. Getting the right person with the dedication and drive to make this website an effective information and marketing source will be one of my key objectives when I am elected as president.

Stan made good on his promise to find “the right person.” He hired American Jeff Brower.

I asked Jeff what changes or improvements he has in mind. He replied:

I’m performance minded, so many things I do are under the hood. I’ll simplify wherever possible and look at improving the performance of the site. But regarding the look and feel of a website, I am the brush; the customer is the artist.

So the ball is in Stan’s court.

But being the helpful guy I am, I suggest some immediate steps:

1. Scrap the Web 2.0 (ancient) design and relaunch the site as a WordPress blog. (It’s free!) Pick a theme (design), any theme. But make sure it has room for big photos.

2. Keep the news fresh. I could blog a dozen times a day if time allowed. Imagine what WMA could do if it leveraged its network of affiliates?

3. Patch in John Seto to post a seasonal listings on the WMA site. That’s the money shot. Everyone wants to know how they rank. John’s efforts at a world masters rankings should be rewarded — and co-opted.

4. Invite athletes to contribute stories and comments. Interactivity — via a message board or comment function — would boost page views and profit potential.

5. Start a Google Adsense account. It’s free money if traffic flows. (But steer the cash to athlete needs, not council perks.)

6. Be fun and unpredictable. Post polls. Get a Twitter account. Be more active on your Facebook page.

7. WMA muckymucks, check your egos at the door. This isn’t all about YOU. It’s the sport, stupid.

8. Recruit photographers and videographers to tell our stories. Many of us would work for peanuts if the platform was suitable.

9. Post the Age-Graded Tables on the site in a lookup form. In other words, don’t force us to visit Howard Grubb’s (outdated) site to calculate our percentages and open equivalents.

Get a grip, WMA. If the world masters movement is to grow and thrive, it needs a kick-ass online presence. Today, a visitor to gets the sense we’re a sport of tired self-indulgent fuddy duddies. That’s not us, and you know it.

Show us you care.

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March 27, 2014

7 Responses

  1. Tom Phillips - March 27, 2014

    Right on the button , Ken. I know I’m one of a number of photographers who have said to WMA “all you need to do is ask”. Seems like there is still a hard core of people governing Masters who have the “older people don’t use the internet” mindset.

  2. Terry Parks - March 28, 2014

    Spot on Ken.

  3. Rob Jerome - March 28, 2014

    I’m ready and willing to provide photos, including Olga high jumping…something no woman of her age has ever done. History was made…and documented.

  4. Cassandra Smith - March 28, 2014

    Whenever I need to know stuff I don’t go the WMA website, it’s a fizzer

  5. Matt McCubbins - March 28, 2014

    Well, Ken, at least we know we can always come HERE to get the scoop :).

  6. Matt B. - March 28, 2014

    I believe Earl Fee set a new M85 WR in the 800

  7. Anthony Treacher - March 28, 2014

    The Swedes have an entertaining coverage of their masters athletes at Budapest on their Facebook website ‘Veteranfriidrottare’

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