RIP Fanhouse--would be smart for teams to scoop these writers up

For those of you who didn't know, today marks the last day of existence for AOL Fanhouse as AOL is now outsourcing its sports coverage to Sporting News.

For those of you who don't have any experience with the site (unlikely), it was AOL's sports flagship, offering a wealth of content from a team that grew to 100 writers. For those of us who read the site consistently over the years, today is a weird day. I go so far as to say Fanhouse was my favorite sports site but it's been in my browser bookmark bar since 2005, matched only in that run by Yahoo! Sports, ESPN and GMail. Watching Fanhouse go after it spent the better part of a decade in my rotation of sites I'd randomly check in on whenever bored is just a bit weird.

News came this weekend that only four, four, of Fanhouse's roughly 100-person staff will be retained by Sporting News. While it's sad to see so many writers unsure what to do next, I'm excited to see the projects they'll start, with Sam Amick's NBAConfidential.com being one example. While other writers will latch on elsewhere, I hope some make their way in-house, as team-side bloggers. For any team looking for that type of thing, or even looking to fill a Digital Media Coordinator-type role, I can't help think that these guys would perfect for that.

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How to know if the "social media expert" who started following you on Twitter is full of it

Imagine for a moment you've just arrived at one of those goofy social media networking functions. It's probably around 6:00pm and you're a bit confused as you enter the lobby of a suave downtown hotel but you'd prefer not to ask the younger girl working at reception to point you in the direction of the auxiliary conference room holding all the nerds. So instead you follow a guy in thick frames, sports coat and t-shirt to the right spot, where you write your name and Twitter handle on a sticker before dropping your business card in a fishbowl for the off-chance to win an iPad. Onward.

The free food and open bar are what pulled you in but, while there, you figure you might as well see if there's any other people interested in sports marketing. So what do you do?

You start yelling as loud as you can, of course.
HEY. DOES ANYONE HERE LIKE SPORTS STUFF? WHO WOULD LIKE TO LISTEN TO THINGS I HAVE TO SAY? WOULD EVERYONE WHO LIKES THE THINGS I LIKE PLEASE LISTEN TO THE THINGS I AM SAYING? IN SPEAKING TO ALL OF YOU I WILL MAKE LOOSE AND SCATTERED EYE CONTACT SO YOU BELIEVE I AM LISTENING TO WHAT YOU ARE SAYING. You randomly start pointing at individuals. YOU, I WANT YOU TO LISTEN. HEY. LISTEN. I LIKE THE SPORTS AND YOU LIKE THE SPORTS. I CAN TALK ABOUT IT.

Oh, hold up? You wouldn't act like that? You say no one would set out to network and connect with individuals by randomly shouting at various people loosely interested in the things you are without any personal knowledge of who they are or what they do? You think spitting information at people you don't know while not paying any attention to what they're saying is a bad idea?

Then why do so many idiots take that approach on Twitter? Because that's exactly what using "follower management" software is like.

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Mainstream sports journalism to get hit by social media on a whole new front

About four or five years ago, as the decline of print media became obvious and imminent, everyone was quick to point the finger at online outlets. We were all anxious to note the rise of blogs conveniently correlated with the decline of traditional print media. It only made sense; people jumped at the opportunity to read content with a depth and style that had previously never existed.

From there, we saw advertising dollars (both classifieds and other channels) shrink significantly while the reporting staffs dwindled in accordance. Now though, it seems as though we arrived at a good resting point. There's a wealth of phenomenal commentary from the sports blogosphere while the print staffs at sports outlets are filtered to the point where a majority of the reporters remaining are very strong.

While this era has been nice (can 9-18 months even count as an era?), we may see the traditional media outlets that remain get hit hard once again by social media. This time it won't come from fellow writers producing more content, but instead from the very sources they cover.

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Are reporters' relationships with sources ruining sports journalism?

A couple weeks ago I was out with a buddy playing some shuffleboard and also randomly discussing why sources like general managers and coaches wouldn't just divulge information through social media as opposed to texting a sportswriter (odd, I know). He reminded me that it isn't that these sources don't have the means to release this information on their own. They simply owe it to the reporters they choose to inform.

It wasn't that I was unaware such practice takes place, it's simply one of those truths you choose to block out from time to time. We (maybe just I) like to think of sportswriters as tireless hard-nosed reporters, working into the late hours of the night to uncover whatever facts they can. Instead, they're sometimes just some smart-ass pawns.

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All sports teams and leagues should allow embedding of online video

It seems as though every time I venture onto a NBA or NFL team's official site, I'm shocked by the amount of video content I find. I don't know why I should be; with the number of interviews, behind-the-scenes access and other stuff, that's probably about the amount of content I'd have up there if I were somehow running the show. But still, I'm shocked. 

The probable reason: I don't expect to find all this video because I simply don't come to official team sites to get my news. There's too much other stuff going on there. I'll come to team sites to buy tickets, check the schedule, see what promotions are going on and maybe even peruse through the team store, but will not go straight there for my news. Team websites, for most purposes, are overt marketing material. I'm not going to dig through that for my news.

The solution, as mentioned, is allowing users to take team or league videos and drop them in whatever site I would like.

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Three types of sports content I'd enjoy seeing on Facebook--and other observations

There's been a bit of buzz this week spurned by the UFC's decision to air a fight on Facebook and the ensuing coverage of this development in FastCompany. As someone who's a huge fan of airing live events online, and especially for free, I find it odd that I feel like some of the excitement on this is a bit unwarranted.

As background, here's the lede for that FastCompany article, written by Gregory Ferenstein.

In a move that may break television’s sleeper hold on sports events, the Ultimate Fighting Championship will exclusively live-stream an anticipated fight on Facebook, available to anyone who “likes” their fan page. This is the first time a major sporting event has offered exclusive content through the social networking king, and, if successful, could make Facebook center stage for the Super Bowls and World Cups of the future.

Following up on that, he later speaks with the much-respected sports and social media whiz Amy Martin of Digital Royalty; the excerpt:

Martin, who works with a broad sports portfolio of social media successes, from Shaq to the LA Kings, tells Fast Company that so-called "like-gating" is "absolutely" the future of live sporting events. "We don’t have a network today that reaches the same global audience that Facebook does ... We’re taking the content to where fans want to be and where they’re spending their day."

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Mike McCarthy to show Packers fan-created YouTube video prior to Super Bowl XLV

Today is a big day. I'm a Packers fan and today we are playing in a Super Bowl. The last time this happened, I was 11 years old and John Elway helicoptered his way to a first down inside the 5-yard line that would seal a victory. Despite watching them win a title the previous year, I was crushed. I had to hide from sports coverage for weeks and when it did manage to jump out at me, I hoped it'd reveal that somehow on account of a technicality (Maybe all the Broncos were all on steroids...? Please? Anything?) the Packers would be awarded the Super Bowl. The only other pro team I followed at the time was the Chicago Bulls. I didn't know any better, I figured my teams only won titles and their best players were always named MVP.

It's been since those Bulls that any professional team of mine has played for a championship. As a result, I've been consuming any piece of Packers media I can find this week. That includes the following video put together by Michael Neelson of Madison and Austin-based Storyfirst Media.

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U-Dub displays creativity and hustle on National Signing Day

Out of context, the accompanying image is pretty lame. It's a fax machine, and someone holding a piece of paper it had just spat out. On college football's National Signing Day the fax machine becomes just a little bit more exciting. When that image of a fax machine is actually a live stream, and watching it print out a document is accompanied by University of Washington head football coach Steve Sarkisian announcing on his Twitter feed that's it's a letter of intent from highly touted Seattle-area wide receiver Kasen Williams, then that lame antiquated piece technology becomes pretty damn cool.

This idea actually started last year, with the University of Alabama copying the innovation and adding a girl in a mini skirt. When arguably the most prestigious program in the history of college football steals your idea, you're doing something right.

Seeing what the Huskies had done, I reached out to good friend and UW Assistant Director of Communications Jeremy Cothran to get a feel for where this idea came from and the approach to social media inside the program. Here's his response, which came via email:

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Why ATDHE, in its current state, can be good for sports teams and leagues

ATDHE.net was shut down earlier this week as their domain name was seized as part of a Homeland Securities investigation. What streaming live sports has anything to do with defending the safety of the United States of America, I have no idea; but while the ferries I take at least once a week have no security whatsoever for walk-on passengers, we have a special agent chasing down those who aren't committing copyright infringement, just spreading it. Here's the image now in place on the old domain, while the site is back in place on a different domain.

A month ago I sung the praises of ATDHE for sports fans. Being completely honest, I went a bit too far. Sports fans absolutely cannot get by on using sites like ATDHE alone. And, for sports teams and leagues, this in-between ground where fans can check out games from time to time, but not get by on the service by itself, it is absolutely perfect.

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