Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Filtered Access Produces Colorless Product

By now you're likely to have heard and/or read about ESPN's lockdown of their cavalcade of stars from social media such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. Marry that to NFL, NBA, and other pro leagues beginning to take money away for such personal expression that the leagues/teams deem outside their own personal conduct code and we look like we're beginning to see a (hopefully temporary) embargo of conversation coming from those in the sports arena.

Teams and companies do have rights to control such behavior, especially when they are doing so in representation of said teams and companies. But to lock down all traffic and communication with the very audience they attempt to reach on an hourly basis is counterproductive to that cause.

ESPN won't be able to reach me every minute of my day if they rely strictly on old media avenues (website, TV/radio, print), but they can if Ric Bucher, Mark Stein, Chris Mortensen, etc are tweeting little nuggets and links. Not only that, but the chat-like responses that Bucher has given me in the past has made me MORE likely to read his material, stay tuned for his segments, etc. Bucher never made it through to me as a consumer until I saw the kind of guy he is through Twitter. It elevated his personality with me, added some depth to who he was, and made me interested in what he had to say.

Take Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for another example. Bradley has long been perceived in the ATL as a sourpuss/negative writer, causing many to believe the long time scribe sneered at the area's sports franchises when writing, showing attention only to level his subject with rotten vegatation. But a funny thing happened in the last few months. The paper opened Mark up to the public via a 3-a-day blog habit, turned him loose to comment on the site and through Twitter, and viola! It turns out that this guy is a good cat after all and, surprise, knows a lot about what he is covering. Mark is among the few newspaper columnists who actually reply to tweets and comments and not just use Twitter exclusively to peddle their work. And, like Bucher above, this changed understanding of Bradley has inspired many people to seek out and participate in the thoughts that Bradley presents on the site, gains traffic and attention, and new readers who may have never participated if not for removing the filter of control and limiting Mark to a file photo on a website.

As for the athletes themselves, it can truly be home run or strikeout. Some athletes, like Zaza Pachulia and Dwight Howard come out looking great and becomes even more of a fan favorite through their personable personas on Twitter. Others have shown themselves in well publicized and less flattering light. Yes, teams may cringe when they see what's online, but it makes the whole experience more alive and colorful to see who these guys really are. It has given more reason to be excited about the upcoming season and personalized these players in a way that will enhance the game experience even more. There is a lot more love and appreciation for Delonte West after his lightheared KFC joint a few days ago, and there will be people who won't see West as another name on a jersey next season, they'll see a person, and along with other players that have invested with the public this offseason, that may increase enthusiasm to watch the NBA product this year.

So ESPN, the NFL, and others can attempt to limit, suppress, or even co-opt the technology for themselves, but there will be an unmeasurable impact to their cause, especially if what is trickled out to the public is a sterilized version of what was once real, vibrant, and unfiltered. It's not going to break them by any means, but they won't be getting into the mindset of this viewer as often as they would like, and therefore, they won't be able to reap the benefits from that quest.

The people aren't stupid, they know they like and want--and taking away something they want and replacing it with a washed-out version of it or even replacing it with nothing won't fly. And they leave themselves open to the corners of the space that will.


thirdfalcon said...

Not sure if you saw this or not but I think it's interesting that this came off the heels of that incident.

It's also heavily rumored that ESPN is planning to release their own twitter like site for it's writters to post on.

Bret LaGree said...

I'm sympathetic to ESPN's desire to have their writers drive traffic to the company's website but they need to move quickly to establish some way for that to happen at the speed of Twitter.

That Schlereth/Chad Johnson exchange really needed a participant to tweet
"Fuck this guy" to interest me fully.

thirdfalcon said...

it worked for shoals!

Jason Walker said...


I understand the desire to co-opt the technology for their own benefit--definitely---but you are right, if they don't, you can bet the Yahoo Sports guys are ready to gain some ground.

I missed that whole exchange with BS, so I'll have to wait for the movie--will you be directing?

Jason Walker said...


Reading it now--but this was coming whether Chad and Mark got into it or not.

Jason Mann said...

Complete agree about Bucher. He's awesome reporting on Twitter, particularly with his sideline observations during the Finals, and I'd totally never had any interest in him before. Luckily, he said, he'll be able to keep tweeting NBA content after all.