USA Today's 'For the Win' shows social shares are the new pageviews

The media coverage surrounding the Boston bombings and the manhunt that ensued has been written about by everyone, with many noting the event was a seminal moment in the evolution of journalism. For me, listening in to police scanners and tracking others on Twitter as the Camden police chased down who we eventually learned to be Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev for a full half hour before national news channels cut in was added to the long list of events that made me think that those individuals who don't follow news through social media are getting a drastically different and infinitely inferior view of what's going on.

A common theme runs through all the analysis on what this means for journalism: reporting news is now a collaborative process, and news agencies need to do more with what's being put out there socially and connect those who aren't connected. We saw it start during the coverage, with an example of that being MSNBC pulling witness-turned-Twitter-celebrity-reporter Andrew Kitzenberg on the air via Skype.

So what does this have to do with USA Today's latest sports venture, For The Win? Well, they're doing the same thing, but with softer, sports-oriented content: connecting those who are less social with socially-popular content.

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Why independent premium a la carte content could be a big part of journalism's future

Cable is awful. Quality content is scarce. The ads are obnoxious. And it costs a fortune if you're only using it to watch sports that you can't online because of blackouts. Oh and if you're not using it watch sports? God, you are getting ripped off.

For these reasons and more, most experts believe the traditional television model will soon die, to be replaced by an unbundled a la carte offering. While these same people portray written content—particularly print media—with the same dire tone, I rarely hear the a la carte premium model that will supposedly save television referenced as a solution for print. "Niche," sure. But they're not quite the same thing.

As an example of the a la carte premium model I'm referencing, Andrew Sullivan decided to free his blog, The Dish, from the umbrella of The Daily Beast. He's asking pre-subscribers for a minimum of $19.99 per month, but left the price box open so readers can pay more if they feel the site's worth it to them.

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The essentiality of citizen journalism

Since the rise and growing acceptance of what we now call "citizen journalism," there's been some level of resentment between traditional journalists and what they see as a faceless technology-armed mob devoid of proper training and ethics. It is somewhat fair; whether right or wrong, journalists see this mob as the primary culprit in gutting the industry of jobs. The responding rally, by most, has been "Don't you understand? You need us."

That was the message put out from Leonard Pitts, nationally-syndicated columnist and winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, following news that the New Orleans Times-Picayune would be conducting massive layoffs and moving to a three-days-a-week format. Before we get any further, I want to state that I do not disagree with the points he makes, but only intend to elaborate on why many look to citizen journalism as an alternative—and it isn't because it's free.

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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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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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Fake Twitter account Ken Rosenthai gets scoop on Cliff Lee to Phillies

As we've seen with many incidents in the past, it doesn't take a lot to in today's age to get a rumor rolling. A little more than a year ago, social media fueled a completely false Bret Bielema to Notre Dame story, only after Twitter exploded at every mention of Bob Stoops. This year, it's baseball's turn to completely lose its mind because of Twitter.

Now, one would think we'd all become a bit more sophisticated, capable of detecting what's real or what's fake. We, at the very least, should know better—we shouldn't get carried away because a single sourceless entity says something is so. Well, that's not the case. Now we're getting thrown off by single letters. 

Most in-tune baseball fans know that Ken Rosenthal is a legitmate reporter. He writes for FoxSports.com and, usually, is somewone we can trust. As a result, when we see something like that image above, or the same text come across on Tweetdeck or some other program, we'll trust it.

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Four ideas for Golden State Warriors' 'Tweedia Day'

Social media is hip. There's no way around it. Like watered down beer and ironic NBA jerseys, social media is in right now. As a result, everyone wants—er, has— to take a stab at it. Now, there's two different approaches from here: attempting to understand social media and harness the influence it brings or developing a random assortment of offerings guided more by buzzwords than actual strategy. I'm hoping the Golden State Warriors' idea to include bloggers, podcasters and others in their media day is more the former than the latter.

Details:

The forward-thinking franchise put out a call today for active social media participants -- bloggers, vloggers, microbloggers, podcasters, Facebook users, web writers, and online photo journalists -- to submit an application on the Warriors' website "for a chance to represent their fans, followers and readers at Media Day, which has traditionally been an event closed to the general public."

Consistent with the standards of its referenced namesake, the Tweedia Day application asks fans to state why they should be included in the Warriors 2010 Media Day in 140 characters or less, with no avail of Twitlonger. According to the release, selected social journalists will "attend Warriors Media Day on Monday, September 27, and take part in the festivities right alongside traditional media members, while covering the events on their new and social media platform(s) of choice."

Definitely a good idea. Now, how do they follow through?

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ESPN pulls LeBron James Vegas party story. Why?

Just how much sway does Team LeBron hold at ESPN? That's a question worth asking after a recent story by LA reporter Arash Markazi detailing LeBron's Vegas partying was pulled from The Worldwide Leader's site post-publication.

In the article, Markazi (who obviously has the greatest job in sports) shadows LeBron during parts of a three day party marathon for which he reportedely received six figures for 'hosting'. The article, which can be seen in Google Docs form, was updated as recently as 6:40am ET before being pulled from the site. People are wondering why, and rightfully so.

First off, pulling the article in the first place was incredibly stupid. Once the article is published, there's no point in removing it. This has no effect on whether or not it will be read. Once an article is released to 'teh interwebs', it's out there. So, that leads to the repercussions. Here are two points that aren't really raised by this development, but more-so are established themes underscored by ESPN's actions.

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BBC News to journalists: learn social media or leave

We're getting beyond the point where it is acceptable for journalists and newspapers to sit on the side and just dip their legs into the icy public pool that is social media. Finally, we're starting to see publications fully embrace it, and not simply as a kitschy gimmick to prove to readers that they're down with the times.

Peter Horrocks took over last week as the new director of BBC Global News and he's determined to change things. From The Guardian's PDA Digital Content Blog:

"This isn't just a kind of fad from someone who's an enthusiast of technology. I'm afraid you're not doing your job if you can't do those things. It's not discretionary", he is quoted as saying in the BBC in-house weekly Ariel. [...]

"If you don't like it, if you think that level of change or that different way of working isn't right for me, then go and do something else, because it's going to happen. You're not going to be able to stop it."

Exactly. Check out the entire post and full Q&A for a bit more.

It's time for newspapers—and sports sections in particular—to adopt a similar approach. This isn't simply about the ability to report either, especially in sports. As much as any subject, readers look to build some kind of connection with the sportswriters they read on a daily basis. Social media has already shown a remarkable ability to foster relationships when used appropriately. For example, if Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelley had used Twitter to further explain a backhanded apology to Erik Bedard, it's possible I'd see where he was coming from. Probably not, but the possibility exists.

Social media is something journalists need to know. And not to simply use for the sake of using, but learn and take advantage of. The more newspapers adopt such a strict policy, the better.

Why opting out of Google News is a terrible idea in the era of social media

I would kill to be Mark Cuban. Billions of dollars and a professional sports team, of course I would. And you know what? I'd probably act exactly the same. I'd sit at the end of my team's bench, yell at referees, buy my guys everything they wanted and when he offseason came, I'd be rumored to be involved in the acquisition of other teams. But even more than all of that, I'd use my wealth as a pulpit to express my views on any topic I have an opinion on. Mark Cuban seems particularly fond of that, and his recent view that Google News is a vampire has drawn out the opinions of just about everyone.

For a second, let's disregard the fact that Mark Cuban is calling out Google News while investing in its competitors and instead focus on the fact that there are some major flaws in what he's saying. Cuban's argument revolves around the idea that being indexed on Google News can do major damage to a newspaper's brand equity. In the world we live in, the opposite is more true: not being indexed would damage a paper's brand. But before moving onto that, here's a summary of Cuban's argument:

When that newspaper allows itself to be included in Google News it becomes a de facto endorsement of Google News as an acceptable and probably preferable “discovery destination” . The branding message to the consumer is “I dont need to go to the newspaper homepage. Everything the newspaper has  is referenced  here in Google News. So if there is something of interest to me from the local paper, Google News will send me to their site.  I don’t need to go to both sites any longer. I can just go to Google News.

Thats not good for the publication brand and business. They just lost their position as a trusted source where real people make decisions on what content they think their readers will want to discover – to an algorithm.

He goes on to say that having your story listed as 'one of x thousand sources' is never, under any circumstance, a good thing for a paper's brand. 

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AOL Seed an opportunity for sportswriters? Not yet.

With everyone dying to find the next successful revenue model for journalism—assuming it even exists—many have taken an interest in AOL Seed. Seed takes aim at 'crowdsourcing' journalism by giving publishers a forum to post stories and freelance journalists an opportunity to claim and write those stories for compensation. The thing is, it doesn't take a great deal of journalistic expertise, if any, to write the stories Seed is looking for.

As an example, Seed's most recent and ambitious project includes profiling all 2,000 bands playing at SXSW. The details

  • Each assignment/profile is worth $50.
  • The format will be a 1,000 word Q&A
  • Said format will be based on a template, with Seed providing some of the questions
  • Finished bios will be used to populate Spinner.com, AOL's music site
  • Posts will be edited and approved by the teams at AOL/Spinner

Now, where exactly does this fit in for sports? It's hard to imagine a format where you'd need that type of content, possibly a situation like the NCAA Tournament. But many sites are already doing profiles of each team, with Deadspin even coming to mind. Those don't involve firsthand reporting (talking to the coaches, players, etc.) but I don't imagine a template-based series with predetermined questions would be all that interesting to a majority of readers. However, this isn't to say all content is templated, but it's not all that much better either.

Just to see what was available, I signed up for seed and went to their recommended sports opportunities. At the moment, there are two opportunities: a $100 story on going to the 2010 WWE Royal Rumble for the first time and another titled "Investigate the World of Broomball!" for $75. Not interested.

So, based on this, I decided to check out who was using the Seed-produced sports content. Based on their own publisher portfolio, it looks as though only AOL-owned sports entities have used the service. Makes sense at the moment but this isn't ideal.

So yes, this could be a good idea and if you're interested in writing on other subjects you could make some money right now, but for sportswriters Seed still has a long ways to go.

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.

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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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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TMZ Sports will affect all levels of sports blogosphere

Anyone can question the journalistic ethics and subject matter of TMZ. They can do so quite easily. However, it's almost imposible to argue that TMZ hasn't done an exceptional job of thorougly covering the stories they do, almost to a fault. TMZ hustles in every sense of the word. And I don't mean that as a cliche, they bust their ass to get stories and at times beat out other outlets by digging into the deep pockets of Time Warner to pay sources more for images and information. That's a hustle.

I've seen a few posts arguing the impact this new venture by TMZ—a site operating the same as its gossip blog parent, but focused on sports—with some claiming it'll make a dent in ESPN's monopoly on sports coverage while others think it will have next to no impact at all. Dan Shanoff and Brooks Melchior fall on either side of this.

I agree with Brooks, this is big because of its impact on the sports blogosphere.

The sports media monopoly created by ESPN hath wrought a perfect storm for TMZSports.com to not only succeed, but to turn the industry upside down. Because not only will TMZSports.com itself quickly break into the mainstream, but its prominence will cause previously myopotic sports media consumers to suddenly consider a sports blogosphere that has been, to this point, largely ignored on an astonishing scale.

He goes on to state that the new publication could be an "industry game changer that could somewhat destabilize ESPN’s complete dominance over the field." Important, but let's look at the impact it'll have on the sports blogosphere.

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