#SMsports: Past, Present, Future

“The landscape in sports is changing. Not on the field, court, ice or track. But, it is in the area of media that is causing the greatest change.”

Two years ago, I wrote those words about athletes and social media. Looking back on it now, I am amazed at how much the landscape has changed. How much so?

Whether it’s about recruiting at Arkansas or Roddy White’s controversial tweet, social media (mainly through Twitter) has changed the sports landscape.

***

As I referred to my two-year-old article above, I’ve been writing about sports/social media topics for over two years now. Not many people were writing about it back then. Now? Do a Google search of “athletes social media” and you get this:

athletes social media   Google SearchThat’s just the first page in my Google search. And most of those were written in the past week. People are writing about sports/social media or athletes & social media like never before.

Earlier this year, USA Today began a new venture with their “For The Win” online section. “For The Win”, or FTW for short, “is the first mainstream sports media property focused exclusively on “social news,” with a steady stream of stories that fans are, or will be, talking about right now”.

USA Today isn’t alone. Other big name sports outlets, like CBS and Fox Sports,  incorporate the “viral” into their everyday stories. Those “viral” moments sometimes become the story. It’s not just what happens on the field or court of play that’s news. What happens off of it is just as important in terms of the almighty “views”.

It’s become the norm. Especially for Fox Sports.

***

When I worked on ESPN’s UNITE, we incorporated a number of different social elements into the show. Tweets, video, social highlights, social analytics – we were unique. Two Sports Emmy nominations demonstrated we were on to something. Unfortunately, nominations don’t get you far in this business and we were cancelled. But, we did things that set the standard, I believe, for other ESPN shows. And other networks as well.

Fox Sports recently announced the debut of a new show, Crowd Goes Wild, hosted by Regis Philbin. The fact that Philbin, age 82, will be hosting a sports-centered show is news in itself. What particularly intrigued me is the unique role to be held by Guyism’s, Katie Nolan. Nolan was named the “social media correspondent” for the show. As Media Bistro put it, Nolan will be ” in charge of fan interaction through social media”.

Full disclosure, I had not heard of Katie Nolan. Nolan worked at Guyism.com. I’m definitely not in Guyism’s demographic. Media Bistro called her a YouTube star. To me, Jenna Marbles is a YouTube star. Nolan’s not in her league. But, the fact that a sports show actually has a position called “social media correspondent” shows the growth of the genre in sports.

How will she be used in her role? Good question. My guess is she’ll report on hot topics of the sports day through video, GIFs and the dreaded reading-of-tweets-and-screencaps. 

Hope I’m wrong. Would love to see a social media correspondent become a “need” job in the world of sports.

***

Far bigger news today that shows the growth of social media and sports:

ESPN and Nate Silver are official. The worldwide leader in sports and the statistic-savant have joined forces. Silver made headlines during the 2012  presidential election with his accurate predictions in the past two presidential elections. He became a story himself during this past election night on social media – a star, if you will. Tweets from across the sports Twitterverse alone clued me in to who Silver was and how detailed his predictions were.

Yes, I said sports Twitterverse. Whether they were sports media or athletes, people were intrigued about what Silver was doing. Using his baseball/Sabermetrics background, and the spread of that gospel on social media, Silver changed how people view those pesky (and useless) exit-polls.

And now, Silver returns to his sports roots. He’ll continue to be engaged with politics and the Oscars on ABC, but he will expand his fivethirtyeight.com website a la Bill Simmons’ Grantland.com.

Worth noting that while Silver is on Twitter, I was unable to find an “official” Facebook or Instagram account for him. I wonder if that will change now with ESPN.

***

Two tweets came across my timeline today highlight even more the advent of social media in sports. The first one:

Media Days for college football conferences began in earnest last week. An undercurrent to football talk has been social media. From Johnny Manziel’s off-field exploits to coaches banning in-season Twitter, for good or bad, social media is ingrained into the sports-talk lexicon.

And the second one:

News broke earlier today that the Denver Broncos’, Von Miller, would be suspended for the first 4 games of the NFL season. That news came during the 8 o-clock hour this morning, PT. A few hours later, Miller responded:

I’m a big believer in athletes tackling (no pun intended) negative stories about them, head-on. Don’t let the spin get out of control. With social media, from time-to-time, we all can be quick to assume, quick to react negatively. Miller coming out to address it was a smart move.

Even smarter though, was NFLPA’s Executive Director of External Affairs, George Atallah, addressing the issue shortly after Miller did in his tweet above. Atallah would follow it up with this tweet:

Positive move on the NFLPA’s part.

My only question: In these days of social media, where the lines between sports and gossip-columns have blurred, is there really anything confidential anymore?

***

FINAL THOUGHTS: I can’t wait to see what happens these next two years in sports/social media. If anyone says they can predict it, run the other way. If I say it, permission to “virtually” slap me upside the head.

Social media itself is changing at a rapid pace. Will sports keep up? How many new platforms will be out there? Will athletes go private instead of being very public? Will they be both, with public accounts getting limited access? What new innovations will this current generation of high school and college students come up with to change the landscape even further? 

Can we handle the change?

I’m looking forward to seeing how it all transpires.

What about you?

CadChica Sports

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