Arizona AD Greg Byrne's Twitter announcement another sign of new reality in sports information

My favorite part of using social media as a means to track sports news is easily the ability to connect with and follow sportswriters. While the early scoops and insider commentary are excellent, I almost enjoy tracking the the life of a sportswriter just as much. Now, I'm not talking about their personal lives, just how they react to certain pieces of news.

As I segue into what the title of this post is actually referring to, I couldn't help but smirk when I caught the reacton a Seattle-area sportswriter had to news that University of Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian had named his starting quarterback for the Oregon State game via Twitter.

To be fair, that did quickly change/soften, as the news itself was probably more stress-inducing than the manner in which it was delivered.

Ultimately, it is simply something different. We're entering a new era when news and information is no longer distributed to media members to disseminate, teams are skipping the middle man and speaking directly to their fans. I wrote about this a ways back, that the mainstream media is going to get hit from a whole new angle, not just from citizen journalists but from the teams and individuals they cover.

We saw another example of this as University of  Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne announced the hiring of Rich Rodriguez as head football coach with this tweet and the following image of Byrne, Rodriguez and Rodriguez's family in what appears to be Rodriguez's home:


Now there's a number of reasons why a team, organization or executives would want to distribute this type of information through Twitter, let's start with the easy ones:

  • First off, it doesn't actually change the team/media dynamics all that much. In this case news that Rich Rodriguez would be Arizona's next coach had already been broken by Bruce Feldman and others, all we were waiting on was the official announcement. Why not do it in an original manner?
  • Even though you're not speaking directly to the media, it's going to get to them. Almost every single modern sportswriter is on Twitter and they'll relay the information to the people who follow them, either online or in print. Twitter, more than anything else, is the medium of the influencers, with bloggers and media members being some of its most active users. To get an idea of how well-circulated Byrne's tweet was, it achieved roughly 56,000 views in only seven hours.
  • It gives the fans a reason to follow them. If you're not going to use a Twitter account to offer value, and stick only to lame clichés and platitudes, why even have one? It gives fans the perception that, if you're passionate and follow them, you will reward them with inside information. Ultimately, it creates a positive relationship.
  • It makes you look hip. In every story on Byrne's hiring of Rodriguez, the writer will be sure to remark that Byrne made the announcement on Twitter. On top of that, idiots like me write about it.

There's one more reason to think about here though: as younger professionals move into new roles, they do so without the strong media ties of their predecessors. They don't owe anyone on the beat a scoop, or even the courtesy to clue them in on big news first. They're looking first to build a strong reputation and relationship with their fan base, and attempting to do that through traditional media is no longer the best way to get that done.

This is certainly not a complete process, and there is a long way to go before announcements like this are really regular occurences, let alone the primary means of communication. That said, it's clear that we're starting to see a major shift in how teams communicate with their fans. As more and more younger professionals move into prominent roles, this shift will increase its pace, and it may be hard for the mainstream media to appropriately adapt.