Caplan Breaking New Ground With High School Web Site
By Dave Hughes
Scores, schedules, standings.
That's the focus of CountySportsZone.com, a recently launched Howard County-based high school sports Web site.
Rather than providing traditional game recaps, founder Roger Caplan is strictly sticking to the three "s" elements -- and finding it successful.
"We're totally scores," said Caplan, an advertising and marketing veteran. "We want to get them up before everybody else. If the game ends at 9 [p.m.], we'll have the score up by 9:01."
Even though CountySportsZone.com officially launched during the fall of 2012, Caplan began thinking about it in 2006.
It all started with Doug Parker, who was a coach and worked for the Howard County school system. When Parker died the following year from pancreatic cancer, Caplan said, the Web site idea got put on the shelf for a few years.
"The technology was just not there yet," Caplan said. "Traditional high school Web sites have tried to do too much and failed. We have no traditional reporting or video. Our site is mobile. People can see it on a smart phone. We're trying to do this accurately, with as few peoples' hands on it as possible."
Now, Caplan is working with Parker's son, Doug S. Parker, a recent computer and Internet-technology graduate of Towson University.
Doug S. Parker is the main IT guy behind the project, and he has spent time developing a digital system to record games' scores when he's not busy working for a major area defense contractor.
Ed Waldman, a former sports and business reporter at The Baltimore Sun who handles the administrative side of the operation, joined those two. He recently left his business-editor post with the Daily Record and is now working with Caplan full time.
Also collaborating on the new site are Scott Newman from Bloomberg News and Jackie McNamara, an attorney and writer.
After Beta testing last spring at Columbia's Wilde Lake High, the score-reporting-system Web site was officially launched this fall.
"Our idea was to provide high school sports scores -- both junior varsity and varsity -- in real time," Caplan said. "We needed to see if the concept was feasible. The plan was to sell it as a community service and get linked to and from Howard County school Web sites."
With the aid of Mike Williams, who oversees sports scheduling for Howard County schools, CountySportsZone.com has met that goal.
"We don't use traditional reporters," Caplan said. "We try to get three or four sources at each game -- maybe the coach, or maybe a parent of a player -- and they can post the scores, and those sources don't necessarily have to attend every game."
But if a reporter doesn't post a score quickly, the system automatically sends out a text-message reminder.
Caplan is a 25-year veteran of Howard County marketing and advertising. After graduating from the University of Maryland, he moved to Howard County, where he took a teaching position in the public school system. He received his master's degree from what was then Loyola College in 1978.
In 1981, Caplan became sports director for Laurel's WLMD radio (now a Spanish-language outlet) and did a local cable TV sports show. In 1984, he joined a Baltimore publishing company. In 1989, a division of the publishing company was sold and Caplan founded the Caplan Group, a full-service advertising and public-relations firm based in Ellicott City.
Thus far, Caplan has lined up 10 Howard County sponsors for County-SportsZone.com, which is an advertising-supported Web site. He said he planned to expand the services throughout central Maryland and the Baltimore area in the near future, with the addition of a sports photo blog. He said the site had attracted 23,000 unique visitors since its launch.
"It's a niche," Caplan said. "No one is doing what we do. We treat all sports the same. A JV girls' basketball game is as important as a varsity football playoff game. If it's your kid playing in that JV game, you can understand our reasoning."
Caplan is currently working to merge a Howard County school running Web site into his system, because he said there was a huge interest in cross country. The schools are not charged for the service.
"We need the cooperation of the school system," Caplan said. "We need to be able to link to their Web sites. We need the names of their coaches and their phone numbers. So far, this has exceeded our wildest expectations."
Issue 180: December 2012