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Posted on Thu 11th Feb, 2016 in: Influence, Public Relations, Social Media, Sponsorship by Aberfield

His football club may not be table-toppers, but the Evening Chronicle's Newcastle United reporter, Lee Ryder, is today named by Aberfield as Britain's most influential regional sports journalist. Ryder, the Chronicle's chief sports writer, who has been with the paper since 2005, beat Liverpool Echo's James Pearce and the Manchester Evening News' Rob Dawson to the top spot. Our in-depth research evaluated more than 600 sports journalists working in over 200 regional media titles in England, Wales and Scotland. We analysed their social media followings, audience interaction, engagement rates, website article comments and shares, and even their blog posts, to identify the extent of their influence among fans. Weighted to take account of any 'big club bias', the results were then combined to create an overall influence score for each journalist, which allowed us to identify Ryder's success. The research was carried out by the sponsorship team at Aberfield to help brands involved in sports sponsorship engage fans by targeting the most influential journalists in regional media, discounting national journalists, who brands often concentrate on. Our analysis found that the top ten most influential journalists in the UK were: 1. Lee Ryder - The Chronicle (Newcastle) Lee's insightful, finger-on-the pulse reporting on all things Newcastle United scored him top marks overall in our research, thanks in part to a very strong showing on Twitter, as well as Facebook and Vine, where he demonstrates a formidable influence over the Toon faithful. 2. James Pearce - The Echo (Liverpool) James is The Echo's chief Liverpool FC writer, and thanks to the Reds' huge global reach he recorded the largest social media following in our study. He was neck and neck with Lee Ryder across a number of our research criteria, but his lower overall engagement rate meant he had to settle for the runner-up spot. 3. Rob Dawson - Manchester Evening News Rob's position as a Manchester United reporter at the MEN means he's one of Britain's most followed, and influential, sports journalists. Rob - who has also covered United's rivals City while at the MEN - recorded an unparalleled score when it came to our analysis of how extensively stories are shared online. 4. Stuart Mathieson - Manchester Evening News Rob's colleague at the MEN, Stuart Mathieson, has covered Manchester United for more than 20 years and has built a reputation as one of the most influential regional sports journalists in the UK. His overall influence score in our research was only narrowly behind that of Dawson. 5. Tim Spiers - Express & Star (Wolverhampton) Spiers is the first journalist on our list covering a team from outside the Premier League. He may have the lowest Twitter following in our top ten, but his expert coverage of Wolverhampton Wanderers has made him a firm fan favourite. Tim had to settle for fifth place overall, but he had the highest engagement rate across social media. 6. Phil Hay - Yorkshire Evening Post Phil is the main football correspondent at the YEP, so he's the man responsible for its coverage of Leeds United, arguably the biggest team outside the Premier League. Phil's reporting of the constant ups and downs at Elland Road has ensured a large and loyal following on social media, with the third highest score for social engagements. 7. Marc Iles - The Bolton News He may not have the largest social media following, nor the most shares and comments for his articles, but Marc scores highly for his coverage of the Trotters. His influence among Bolton fans is clearly seen through social media, often spiking in-depth conversation amongst fans, recording an above average engagement rate in our research. 8. James Robson - Manchester Evening News Sports reporter James - whose beat includes City, United and boxing - is the third MEN writer in our top ten. He scored consistently well across all criteria, but was particularly strong when it came to the number of shares his articles receive via the MEN website. 9. Anthony Vickers - Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough) Anthony's position in our top ten shows you don't have to be based in a big city to be an influential sports journalist. The frequently outspoken Vickers scored well across all categories, but we were particularly impressed by the engagement rates he achieves on his Boro blog. 10. James Olley - Evening Standard (London) James is the Standard's chief footy correspondent, so it's little wonder he has almost 75,000 followers on Twitter. Although he is responsible for the Standard's news on Arsenal, he covers all of London's top clubs - an ultra-competitive beat. That probably explains why his engagement rates and influence scores are below some of his provincial rivals. Although we have only reported on the top ten, it is worth giving honourable mentions to a few of the sports reporters who scored highly in our study but just missed out on that list: Simon Cambers (The Herald), Paul Taylor (Nottingham Evening Post) and Greg O'Keeffe (Liverpool Echo). It's no surprise football fans follow their local journalists religiously, but what was really interesting was the levels of interaction between reporters and fans, with conversations flowing through social media that help to further boost their engagement rates and overall influence. Regional media titles may be suffering declining print sales, but it's clear that online - and in sport - they can still be hugely influential. To steal that famous Mark Twain quote: News of their death has been greatly exaggerated! If you are (or want to be) involved in sports sponsorship and need advice on how to reach, engage with and influence your target audiences, please contact us.

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