What the iPad means for sportswriters and sports fans: not much right now


The big day has come and gone with the landscape of print media staying exactly the same. Shocking, huh? While others focus on how the iPad has been a colossal letdown to all of humanity, I'll choose to focus on the segment of that audience who is interested in sports.

I'm bummed. I had big expectations for how this could affect the daily life of a sports fanatic like myself. While some of those expecations were a bit unrealistic and others may even be met, I—like almost everyone else—come away from the announcement disappointed.

To be fair, the iPad does do some things that make it a valuable device, but are those really all that great? Let's look at what the device can do and where those abilities fall a bit short.

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Every stadium and arena should have free WiFi

Finding WiFi where one was otherwise not expecting it is one of the simple joys in life. This should not occur at any major sports venue, where wireless internet should be standard for everyone. Now, why should that be the case?

Every iPhone-using sports fan with an addiction to social media has been through it. You take a fantastic picture capturing a great moment, like the one above, and when you go to push it out over Twitter, Facebook or the like it takes forever because everyone else has the same idea. At times, texts won't even get out. Thanks AT&T.

The solution is free WiFi. The reasons to have it far outweigh any possible arguments against it.

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Survey: majority of journalists use social media for researching stories

As if there wasn't enough proof, another survey points to the fact that social media is becoming an even more pervasive part of how journalists covering news. According to a post on the Columbia Journalism Review, most journalists are using social media tools like blogs and Twitter when researching their stories.

Among the journalists surveyed by Cision, a media analysis firm, and George Washington University’s Program in Strategic Public Relations: 89 percent said they use blogs for story research, 65 percent use social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), and 52 percent use microblogging services like Twitter.

It's no longer an us-versus-them thing. Journalists don't need to avoid or ignore those who use social media to put out content out of fear lending them any amount of credence to the so-called competition. 

Something to point out: the numbers for sports reporters are probably even higher. Think about the amount of discussion on sports taking place in social media. If you're covering sports in a major city there's much more discussion on blogs and Twitter revolving around your subject than if you were tabbed with the cops and courts beat.

The key when using social media is striking an important balance in using and citing it. Grabbing random tweets off the web and using them as quotes in a story—something even CNN has been prone to do—is stupid and comes off lazy and using social media for the sake of using social media.

On the other side of things, if you steal someone's funny quip off of Twitter and use as the lede in your story or grab an idea from someone's blog post without linking to it that's plagiarism.

Social media should be used to get a feel for the audience, to hear what people are or were discussing and find out what they want to know more about. It's a valuable tool that can be used in some capacity for almost any story, but when it is, it should be used appropriately.

NBA League Pass Mobile: a review

Before I launch into this, let me say the fact that technology like this even exists blows my mind. NBA games are being broadcast from arenas all over the country to my phone. Live. Maybe I'm more impressed than other sports fans but I've told almost everyone I cross paths with about this straight-out-of-2035 technology. I know, I know, it's been around since the beginning of the season. But this weekend it was free.

There's two reasons I decided to give this app (I'm on an iPhone) a try now. One is that I live on the West coast (Seattle) so if I do anything between work and home (the gym) I miss all of the East coast games. Sure, I can catch the recorded version but they show me the score as I pick the game and it's just not the same.. The second reason is that this app had previously been $40 and I already own League Pass Broadband. I couldn't justify spending $180 on NBA games. This weekend it was free and afterwards will be just $20.

While this app, and the concept, are for the most part amazing, there are a few flaws worth noting.

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Twitter: where taking cheap shots at athletes happens

Ever go to a live sporting event, yell at someone on the opposing team, have them turn back and look at you then have no idea what to do next? Yeah, this was a little bit like that. It's a weird world where 'criticizing' a well-known athlete and having them see it no longer takes a column in the local newspaper or a show on TV. Thomas was a good sport about it, I think. He's lashed out a bit on Twitter about writers in the past but took this in stride and with a sense of humor. Best of luck to him and the Huskies.

Twitter kills 'Suggested Users' list, now has A-list sports section

Twitter has finally ridded itself of the oft-critiziced 'Suggested Users' list, instead going a bit more user-friendly route and breaking A-list Twitter users up into categories. One of those categories: sports.

The new way of doing things is certainly significantly better than what it used to be, where some suggested users would be RSS feeds in Twitter form, but for it to be useful to everyone it still has a little ways to go.

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Seesmic Look has major potential for sports fans

I've always advocated the use of Twitter for commentary during a sporting event. I'm sure there are others who don't agree but I think beat writers and bloggers provide a deeper and more entertaining level of analysis than the jocks/talking heads who use volume, not reason, to make a stronger point. But Twitter is still foreign to most people and even those who are on it may not use it with a great amount of depth.

The more you put into Twitter by creating groups and running searches on teams, games and players, the more you get out of it. Well, some people don't want to put that much effort into it. Seesmic Look enters stage right.

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Manchester United setting a poor example for professional sports in social media

Manchester United of the English Premier Leage, quite possibly the most popular professional sports team in the world, has unilaterally banned its players from maintaining any kind of presence on social networking sites. The motives behind such a move and the team's prominence throughout the world could set a dangerous and stupid example for other professional sports teams.

The organization has already gone as far as having three players remove their Twitter accounts while the Facebook content of three others has been pulled. The article speculates that one of the reasons the team has done this is that, besides not wanting athletes to give out confidential information on the club, the team really wants the team's fans to visit their own online entities instead of those of their players, especially when they're located on third-party sites like Twitter and Facebook. This makes no sense.

While the article is only speculation, it would be extremely unwise to assume that the team's fans will go to their content. If you can, you go to them, especially when your players are doing it for you. Because this is so unintelligent, I have to assume that it's only half the reason as the organization likely wants to avoid any potential controversy caused by athletes communicating directly with fans.

We've seen this in other leagues. The NBA has already lost great NBA personalities Gilbert Arenas and Brandon Jennings from Twitter. Jennings' departure was more self imposed although I'm sure he was wary of causing any uproar with incidents like one where he got into an online argument with a fake Jordan Farmar account. While it wasn't admitted publicly, I'm sure Arena's exit was league-forced.

Whichever reason Man U is going with for banning players from social media, it's wrong. As a fan, you have to hope this decision has no bearing on those of other professional teams, both in the EPL and elsewhere.

New York Times style pay wall could work in sports sections

Pay walls are nothing new to sports journalism. Since as long as I can remember, ESPN.com has always offered its Insider section. It certainly doesn't only apply to the big guys. As a Packers fan, I've seen and been annoyed by one on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. While I frequent each of these sites, I've never even considered going beyond the pay wall. The New York Times plans to offer something a little different, a model that could make sense for sports sections and other newspapers looking to earn revenue beyond what they are getting from advertising.

The Times plans to go with a metered strategy, where readers will be allowed to read a certain number of free articles before being asked to subscribe. Here's some reasoning behind going with that over a traditional pay wall:

But with the painful declines in advertising brought on by last year's financial crisis, the argument pushed by Keller and others — that online advertising might never grow big enough to sustain the paper's high-cost, ambitious journalism — gained more weight. The view was that the Times needed to make the leap to some form of paid content and it needed to do it now. The trick would be to build a source of real revenue through online subscriptions while still being able to sell significant online advertising. The appeal of the metered model is that it charges high-volume readers while allowing casual browsers to sample articles for free, thus preserving some of the Times' online reach.

While I'm not advocating the use of a pay wall, I think there's a few reasons a metered strategy could work for sports sections if they choose to go that route.

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Will social media lead to less access for sports reporters?

Social media has given fans a completely new level of access to the lives and thoughts of many professional athletes. As I write this, I can see that Kevin Durant and a few teammates are spending part of their off day at the Mall of America. This isn't something a reporter could use in a postgame article but we've already seen athletes use Twitter to share their thoughts from the locker room and other technology could make the content even more rich. One has to wonder, even skeptically, if reporters will be eliminated as a middleman and athletes will be capable of communicating with athletes directly.

Brian Gleason of PR In Sports has a great post on the subject. In it, he compares Bill Simmons' views on the subject and those gathered from an interview with NBA public relations expert Terry Lyons.

First, Simmons:

Fast-forward to the Twitter era. Access for reporters and writers has dwindled faster than A-Rod's pectorals. With newspapers dying and the Internet not yet subject to the same libel scrutiny, journalism is getting nastier and more detached -- fewer stories broken, infinitely more snark. That will cause stars to weave even stronger cocoons, and the chasm between us will keep growing.

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Citizen journalism on display after Kiffin firing. Class? Not so much

We've seen citizen journalism succeeding and providing unprecedented coverage in chaotic situations before, be it the Iranian hostage crisis or the 2008 earthquake in China. When looking at these incidents, and the most recent tragedy in Haiti, our problems seem a bit smaller in comparison. Yeah, some people tend to overreact.

The reaction coming out of the University of Tennessee after Lane Kiffin split for USC was just a bit ridiculous. It was chaos, and Tennessee basketball player Renaldo Woolridge was one of the citizen journalists covering it.

One excerpt:

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Super Bowl a sign sponsors shifting away from traditional advertising

It's been known for some time that sponsors are looking to be more careful—and creative—with their advertising dollars. This year's Super Bowl appears to be a big real-life example of that as many past advertisers are choosing not to produce an ad for this game. This story has been discussed a bit over the past few weeks but The Boston Globe has a good article summarizing the trend today.

The most interesting point: Pepsi, was the biggest advertiser in 2009, and other companies are looking online instead. When the cost of one 30-second Super Bowl ad ranges from $2.5-3 million and then production can cost up to a million more, it's easy to see why advertisers are looking to other more engaging outlets.

The aforementioned Globe article has a bit more insight on what Pepsi has planned along with indications the web is a better investment for advertisers.

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Gilbert Arenas takes PR into his own hands on Twitter

At first, Gilbert Arenas didn't get it. He didn't understand Twitter at all. He refused to use the service until he had 1,000,000 followers. Then, all hell broke lose as he was accused of pulling a gun on a teammate in the locker room over a gambling debt. Getting out in front of that from a public relations standpoint is a virtual impossibility. That hasn't stopped Gilbert Arenas from trying.

As Will Leitch points out, Arenas is changing how athletes deal with crisis and how we view Twitter:

In the past, if a player were accused of pulling a gun on a teammate in the locker room, he would deny the story and then issue "no comments" the rest of the way. Today? They take to the Twitter. Newly minted twitterer Gilbert Arenas exploded this weekend, blasting Peter Vecsey and Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski, telling bad racial jokes and, at one crazy moment, listing all the directors of failed 1995 cinema experiment Four Rooms.

Arenas is flying the face of traditional public relations. He isn't he eliminating any and all exposure (Tiger) or going with the usual denial/no comment (almost everyone implicated in a steroids scandal). He's going for more exposure, more controversy. Now, is this a horrible idea that should never be a attempted or a new school of thought that's worth considering?

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The Apple tablet and how I'd use it as a sports fan

January 2010 appears to be the month of 'The Tablet' as online journalism and tech chatter shifts from summarizing the 'aughts' to speculating what Apple's rumored tablet could mean for this year and beyond.

Some claim it will save print journalism while others struggle to see where it will fit in amongst the smartphones and laptops. I have to say I fall somewhere in-between. Apple's tablet certainly has the potential to be a game-changing device but do I really need one? Not quite yet but it isn't impossible to imagine a time when Apple tablets become very prominent, not only as an e-reader or some other kind of middle device, but one that could compete with traditional laptops.

It's hard to get an exact feel for what the tablet could be capable of with most speculation revolving mostly around the hardware. However, The Wonderfactory and Time, Inc. put together a great video showing what Sports Illustrated could be like on a tablet.

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