The Crazy Business of Fabrizio Romano

Of all the records you can break, the most

liked picture on Instagram is probably one

of the hardest.

With billions of users around the world, the

competition for attention and likes is fierce.

So – can you guess what’s the most liked

post ever by a sports team?

It’s not France winning the World Cup.

It’s not the Lakers winning the NBA.

…and it’s also not Red Bull winning Formula

1.

The most liked sports team post ever on Instagram

is Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Manchester

United.

A post about a football transfer.

And this is not a one time thing.

The second most liked post by a sports team

is Messi joining PSG!

The players’ personal posts about their

new clubs get even more likes.

Football fans are crazy about transfer news

nowadays.

Players moving clubs create even more hype

than players winning championships.

But it wasn’t always like that.

Transfer news is a relatively new category

of sports journalism.

So how can we find out more about it?

When you google “transfer journalist”,

it suggests this guy.

So…let’s just ask him?!

“Hi Guys, this is Fabrizio Romano, welcome

to Athletic Interest and here we go!”

For this Athletic Interest case study, we

invited the man himself Fabrizio Romano to

help us explain how football and the media

have changed and how that created a whole

new category of sports coverage.

Fabrizio was just 18 when he broke his first

bit of transfer news.

After spending six months writing for a small

website in his native Italy, an agent called

him from Barcelona with some inside information.

The agent asked him to write a story about

two young players that he was trying to sign.

One of them was Mauro Icardi.

Fabrizio still doesn’t know how the agent

got his number.

But he agreed and a couple of weeks later

he was the first to announce that Icardi would

join Sampdoria .

That’s how he got started and fell in love

with being a transfer journalist.

For him, the transfer market is a jungle,

where you expect the unexpected every day.

“Things change.

It’s part of life.

And I think it’s also why transfer market

is beautiful.

Messi was in Barcelona to sign his new contract

and 12 hours later he was talking to PSG.

People love it because it’s crazy.”

For Fabrizio, transfer journalism is like

playing football and breaking the biggest

news is like scoring a goal.6

More than ten years have gone by since he

broke the Icardi story and Fabrizio has become

the go-to guy for all important transfer news.

If you want to know what’s going on in the

market, simply check his Twitter feed, where

he is providing updates to his nearly 6 million

followers.

Yes, you heard that right.

He has more followers than ESPN Football.

And this is a full-grown media company, not

one single journalist.

The biggest transfers are no longer announced

first by TV stations or newspapers, but by

Fabrizio Romano.

How is it possible that one single journalist

became THE go to person for transfer news,

attracting more readers on Twitter than traditional

newspapers and more viewers on Twitch than

TV companies?

There are two developments that we need to

understand:

1) How the media has changed.

2) How football has changed.

“But I think now – talking about Transfer

market – the world is changing and so I think

sometimes this kind of Social Media is helping

to be faster.

People are not waiting for an Update maybe

for a TV show at night or maybe the paper

on the next morning to have the update.

They want the Update immediately.

(…) I think this is the process:

– To be fast

– To show your face

– And to be reliable

I think this is the real revolution.”

Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and so on, the

media industry has become faster, clickier,

and more personal than ever.

Social media, especially Twitter, has given

journalists the chance to build a public profile

that would have been impossible to build 20

years ago.

Now they can interact with readers, share

unfiltered thoughts, and amass a following

that can travel with them from one job to

the next.

Thanks to the ability to publish news online

at any time of day — the old practice of

submitting a story for the morning’s newspaper

is dead.

When news breaks, journalists are expected

to cover it.

Immediately.

The downside is that moving fast means people

are more likely to make mistakes.

The race to be first is real, and moving fast

doesn’t always correlate with getting things

right.

And that’s where Fabrizio is different.

His approach is simple: be accurate rather

than be first to the news.

Fabrizio Romano basically combined the reliability

of traditional journalism with the agilityagility

of blogs and social media.

Overall, social media has done a quick job

of changing the centuries-old profession of

journalism.

But it is not only the media that has changed.

“I think in the last six, seven years transfers

were completely changing.

Now people are waiting for transfer news more

than team news (to know what is the lineup

of their teams).

They prefer to know more about a signing than

watching the actual football game.(…)”

Since the Bosman ruling in 1995, the transfermarket

in football exploded.

In 96 the most expensive player ever was Ronaldo,

who moved to Barcelona for converted 15 million

euros.

Five years later Zinedine Zidane moved to

Real for almost 80 million euros.

And we all know what happened in 2017.

As the transfer sums grew, the public interest

and coverage of these transfers did as well.

Fans created countless blogs, subreddits and

boards to discuss the latest rumours around

their club.

A prime example for this is transfermarkt.com,

which was founded in 2000 and quickly became

the largest database for transfer information

and player values.

Today it even functions as a reference for

agents and club executives.

In 2008, the website was acquired by German

media tycoon Axel Springer, the largest publishing

company in Europe.

One reason for the rise of transfer news – and

the interest by major media companies – is

that most of it is happening in the off season,

while not much else is happening in football.

Experts found that 95% of fans want to interact

with their favorite leagues and teams throughout

the year.

Transfer reporting fills that gap with timely

tweets, player interviews, and other content.

It also means that clubs focus more on presenting

transfers than ever before.

It is no longer enough to just do a simple

press release.

The clubs now hire agencies to prepare full

blown media campaigns.

Which in turn helps out journalistsjournalists

like Fabrizio Romano.

“So maybe ten years ago, twenty years ago,

thirty years ago – when you had a negotiation

in the transfer world – it was “club by

club” or “club by agents” so there were

maybe two or three people involved in a negotiation.

Club director, the player, his agent – that’s

it.

Now there are many people involved in a negotiation.

Because when you talk about agency they have

like the main agent and then there are people

working for him and then people are working

on Social Media for the agency.

Then there are people involved in the deal

as intermediaries.

So you have like 20 people knowing about the

deal.

People in the club, people close to the player,

people close to the agent.

It’s a crazy process – but I love it.”

A changing media and a changing sports landscape.

These two developments created a niche for

a completely new category of sports coverage

– and Fabrizio Romano pioneered that category.

We live in the first era of history in which

people are THIS fascinated with money, how

it moves and what it accomplishes.

It’s almost as if the new star of sport, next

to the likes of Federer and Messi, is this

money and how it flows.

There is a whole new world to cover off the

pitch.

The stories behind the athletes and teams.

The stories of how sports function as a business

and reflect our culture.

The stories of Athletic Interest.