Sunday, August 9, 2009
The NASCAR Twit Has Hit The Fan
Some NASCAR fans are madder at ESPN than David Reutimann at Denny Hamlin. If possible, they would like to pull a David Stremme and spin ESPN at full speed down the backstretch like Robby Gordon.
The reason is as simple to understand as these now infamous words. "You are not permitted to report, speculate, discuss or give any opinions on sports related topics or personalities on your personal platforms."
This is the harshest quote from ESPN's new social media guidelines that went into effect on Tuesday. The word "you" pertains to any ESPN reporter, anchor, writer or anyone else who might have been engaging in direct contact with actual sports fans. The words "personal platforms" are directly aimed at Twitter.
We joked when ESPN was bought by Disney that all employees were now cast members. What was funny then is not funny now. ESPN is trying to say that any two-sentence Tweet on any sports topic by any employee at any time belongs to them and it better not be sent without direct permission of a supervisor...or else.
Tweeting is called "microblogging." Each Tweet of 140 characters or less gets across one single thought. These Tweets often come with a website link, picture or video attached. It is easy, convenient and instant. Those are three things that ESPN.com has never been.
There is a big difference for NASCAR fans between instantly getting breaking news updates, exclusive pictures and Internet links on Twitter and logging onto ESPN.com's NASCAR page to see if anything has been updated.
The bottom line is that Twitter hurled ESPN.com into the Internet Stone Age.
Over at the AOL Fanhouse, Will Brinson offers these comments on ESPN's new Twitter policy:
From the sense of breaking news, as well as engaging readers/viewers, well, it's not so smart. Twitter has become a tremendous source of information for every news outlet to bring in new fans, to interact with current consumers and to break news. Implementing such a policy in such a rapid and stringent manner seems short-sighted.
The real crime for NASCAR fans is that ESPN has no technology to replace Twitter. Information relayed directly to fans from ESPN's NASCAR reporters and personalities is gone at what may be the most critical time of the season for the sport.
Does ESPN know what it meant to a fan to have Marty Smith, Ryan McGee, Mike Massaro or Allen Bestwick respond directly to a question, issue or compliment? Twitter allowed a very personal door to be opened to the reporters who normally were only seen on ESPN.com, NASCAR Now or one of the ESPN TV networks.
As you might imagine, NASCAR teams, drivers, officials and fans flocked to Twitter and made NASCAR one of the largest sports blocks on the service. So, ultimately the information will still flow, the pictures will appear and the stories will emerge.
The only ironic thing is that none of those Tweets will direct NASCAR fans to ESPN websites or TV programs. Now that ESPN has left the Twitter building, there are plenty of companies ready to step right in. Ultimately, this may go down as one of the most poorly-timed decisions in ESPN history.
Judging from TDP email, the only thing many NASCAR fans know is that they will miss the ESPN Twitter presence and the ability to directly interact with the ESPN personalities they have grown to know and respect.
We will watch ESPN's NASCAR Twitter messaging on Saturday and update this column as the day progresses. In the meantime, please feel free to offer your opinion on this topic. Just click on the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thanks for stopping by The Daly Planet.