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.

35 comments:

Snafam said...

ESPN Who? Who are they? Are they the least bit relevant...NOW? The last 24 hours would say they are not the least bit important.

ESPN does have a right to monitor what is being said by their PAID representatives. However, they need to realize they are not only missing the boat, but they second boat is already sinking!

Start paddling, ESPN!

Anonymous said...

Don't you always wonder how the people charged with making these (absurd) decisions rose to their positions of power in the first place?

Bruce Simmons said...

ESPN: Always trying to dominate via control. Let's remove all personality and let ESPN, who can't seem to cover NASCAR, well, cover NASCAR, without any insight or help from their insightful staff, who, might actually show them up.

That's fine. The world of CITIZEN JOURNALISTS will step in and save the day!!!

Sigh. I'm tired.

Bruce
NASCAR Bits & Pieces

Daly Planet Editor said...

Bruce, great comment. Makes no sense to me what is happening when there is not another system to replace it. The good content is just lost because now it is never created.

Snafam, when I worked at ESPN we used to joke that we were the ultimate middlemen. We took content from leagues and bought it, sold TV ads to turn a profit and then charged the cable TV viewer just to watch it.

Now, your question really comes front and center. Ultimately, if ESPN is not careful, they will push themsleves into obscurity as we go back to the NASCAR's of the world for info we no longer get from ESPN.

What a very weird technology week. I hope the racing is good at least!

JD

Charlie said...

I am a fan of Nascar and watch the races on Tv. In my opinion Espn does the worse job of all the groups broadcasting a race. TNT is better, FOX is better.
I thought Espn was starting to gain a bit more audience with the use of Twitter. People enjoyed interacting with people from Espn. Now that is gone. When Espn decided to stop Twitter it just gave me another reason to say they do the worse job.
Espn maybe a big mega sports group but I will be watching them less.

Dannyboy said...

When Twitter first appeared I thought, "Oh boy, another trendy social networking site. I'm already done with Myspace - even though I use it in my business - and here's yet another way to waste time." Boy was I wrong.

This situation reminds me of the Chris Long era at SPEED: everything that was working was no longer relevant or useful, it had to be changed for change's sake.

I'm pretty sure they now have higher numbers than they did back then, at least overall, but I'm just as sure that the core fans left in droves. All because a "suit" thought he knew better.

I read the interview with the ESPN VP who made this decision. It's all very proper, nicely worded and very politically correct. And just like a professor in college who can give you the square root of the speed of light divided by Pi, but can't tie his own shoes, he's just flat clueless.

P.S. YES! Great Grand Am race on SPEED. They concentrated on the battle for 4th and left the leaders alone for whole segments. Result: we got huge entertainment.

Danny

Kahnefan98 said...

I just don't understand would shoot themselves in the foot like this. Personally I will miss Marty Smith replying to his fans' questions or opinions, mine included

storkjrc said...

TDP- Long time reader, first time commenter.

Seriously, like others I think of most social network sites as timewasters. Twitter, especially with relevance to Nascar was the exception. I found the content from the Espn reps both entertaining and informative. The worldwide leader in sports is anything but, when it comes to motorsports.

rob

Jojaye said...

Agreed Snafam! ESPN who where huh?

What a really bad idea - at just the right time!

They have no idea that they are not the only source of info, not even the best, or fastest anymore. The VP who was interviewed is a typical company man, the kind who is clueless yet has a position of power and protects his fiefdom. Must have been mentored by Mr. Hill.

And they refuse to give us decent race coverage.

allisong said...

I gather from these comments that people are under the impression that ESPN has disappeared from Twitter altogether. If so, why am I still seeing posts from Marty Smith and Ryan McGee? They are still posting, and replying, and interacting with the fans. So, the big deal is ..... ?

Rockin Rich said...

So, with all this back & forth discussion, how is it that Ryan McGee keeps Tweeting/Twittering/whatever? How is he able to continue when the others aren't?

Is it that ESPN is part of his ID,and that his Tweets are "approved by a supervisor"?

Just looks a little incongruent to me.

Anonymous said...

Here is what I say to the fans: GET OVER IT.

Your racing experience is not significantly diminished by the absence of media tweeters! In fact, six months ago I am betting you had never even heard of Twitter.

There are plenty of other tweeters out there - many with great info - that you can find. So stop your whining about not being able to read Marty Smith tweet that he "Just got to the track, hot day today." Your lives and fan experience are not in any way lessened by missing out on this drivel.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Allisong,

I have no idea how you would get that conclusion. We have been very specific, including using the actual quotes from the policy about what can and cannot be included in Tweets from ESPN staff.

No one at any time said the non-sports related content has been ended.

Rich,

The policy is continuing to trickle down and be defined. The in-house staff has already come to a standstill. My sense is that the non-ESPN based reporters will be working to sort things out over the weekend. That's why we are watching the traffic and I put Ryan's posts in my post of the day spotlight.

Anon 10:19AM,

That outburst might have made you feel better, but anytime quality information and reporting is removed from a sport, it suffers.

As I said in my column, it should be interesting to see who steps-in and tries to fill this info void.

JD

Anonymous said...

That outburst might have made you feel better, but anytime quality information and reporting is removed from a sport, it suffers.

There is no quality information that is being removed that is not available elsewhere. On those rare occasions when a useful tweet makes it through the endless stream-of-consciousness BS, it is always available elsewhere.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 11:19AM,

When one of the ESPN reporters references something that just happened with them, someone who just spoke with them or sends an exclusive picture they took, where else would that info exist?

This is at the heart of the issue on this topic. It is exclusive and personal information that has gone missing, we can always get the stats and results from NASCAR.

JD

jone1981 said...

I can't imagine ESPN is so stupid it doesn't realize the implications of its actions. That said, why should ESPN essentially be paying for the unique access these reporters and personality these reporters enjoy, and then see the consumer's ignore ESPN tv or ESPN.com and just read twitter feeds. Sure, most fans would be doing both, but it doesn't ad anything to ESPN's value to have any attention directed away. I think it makes them look worse from a public standpoint to pull this move, but what are we going to do, boycott the races on ESPN?

Newracefan said...

Every time ESPN takes a step forward in my opinion of them it quickly becomes 2 steps back. I actually use Titter, it' informative, it's fun, and it's easy. I liked the idea that I was getting to talk (so to speak) directly to Marty and others. The way TNT and Kyle Petty used Twitter during their races was fantastic you could see how a Tweet from JD or one of the Planeteers was directly answered on the race broadcast, heck Kyle even direct messaged me back about a question I had. ESPN will probably try and fix this eventually with some official type of Twitterer, too late you blew it big time. I get why Marty left Nascar.com for ESPN but I bet that tie is getting tighter and tighter, hopefully it doesn't strangle him. I guess Ryan, Marty and the other Nascar ESPN guys would risk their employment with, what in ESPN's opinion was an inappropriate Tweet, it's just sad.

boyd said...

This is just the latest snafu for ESPN covering NASCAR. But I have faith that they will change the policy, just like they have mastered NASCAR coverage.
It may take three or four years, but they will get it right.
It's amazing that they can take a fun guy like Marty Smith and completely make him robotic and vanilla.
Oh, and tomorrow be sure to tune in to the radio for your racing enjoyment!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Just got a heads-up that Outside the Lines on ESPN Sunday morning at 9AM will have a feature on athletes and Twitter.

I hope ESPN dicusses the new Twitter policy that the company put into place this week as well.

JD

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

When one of the ESPN reporters references something that just happened with them, someone who just spoke with them or sends an exclusive picture they took, where else would that info exist?

You are confusing voyeurism and the desire to know as much as possible with news. This ain't news. It's filler. It may be enjoyable to you, but it's filler.

dara2K said...

I will miss Marty Smith's tweets for ESPN. ESPN is missing out on a great marketing device, not to say free publicity for their own productions! As a fan I have found ESPN's fan interaction online defective, unfriendly to users and ineffective at drawing me in as a fan. Wake Up ESPN!! Get with the program. Let Marty tweet! thanks

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 12:30PM,

Marty Smith telling us he interviewed Kyle Busch and it will be on SportsCenter is voyeurism?

This is a technology tool being used by smart reporters to inform and direct NASCAR fans to content the reporters created.

Kyle Petty and TNT used it so effectively it became a centerpiece of the NASCAR on TNT coverage.

Voyeurism? I'm going to remember that one.

JD

Jon said...

Do you remember being a sports and racing fan before the invention of ESPN in 1979? I sure do. 10 minutes if lucky of local sports from your local network affiliate. Despite the negative feelings about racing, ESPN has revolutionized the business of sports broadcasting. But the key word is business. The public in general is incorrect when they think that a network (or racing league) makes their money by making them (the fans/viewers) happy. It makes money leveraging ratings and advertisers against cable and satellite companies. Viewers are needed but they don't need to be happy ... they just need to keep watching (as you are all doing).

However, considering how bad a lot of people that post here HATE ESPN, why don't you all have the guts to band together along with every other hater of the current NASCAR TV coverage and boycott races until changes are made, adversely affecting the businesses of both NASCAR and ESPN! Hell, if there are so many unhappy people surely there are enough to fund your own racing league and your own network to treat it properly. If ESPN doesn't make you happy ... do something instead of the incessant whining.

And if you think Twitter is so huge, keep in mind what happened to MySpace and AOL ... twitter will be gone within a year, replaced by something different and better.

Thank you for your consideration and time.

Daly Planet Editor said...

anon 12:55PM,

I don't know where you have been for the past three seasons. TDP was started to follow the progress of the new NASCAR TV partners when the current multi-billion dollar TV contract began in 2007.

No one had any idea what would happen. Fox continued their Hollywood Hotel act and style of personality driven coverage. TNT floundered and then found Kyle Petty and Larry McReynolds to set things straight.

ESPN came out of the gate and fell flat on their faces. No one was more surprised then me that ESPN tried to introduce Brent Musburger, Chris Fowler and Suzie Kolber as NASCAR TV personalities.

It was clear from the start that ESPN believed it was the show and that NASCAR was just the underlying content going on in the background.

Since that time, ESPN has struggled to get credibility in the sport and has made major changes.

This blog has been right smack dab in the middle of the action where not only ESPN, but also the other NASCAR TV partners are concerned.

By giving a voice to the group that the NASCAR TV partners hate to acknowledge, the fans, there has been a way to track the issues and the opinions of the actual NASCAR consumers.

While many areas of ESPN's NASCAR operations are now outstanding, the event coverage continues to struggle with fake storylines and scripted coverage that any sports fan can see is ridiculous.

Fans have suffered through music videos, celebrity interviews, ignorant announcers and the total lack of respect for the sport by ESPN on the air.

In the first season, several drivers were outspoken about just how bad the ESPN reporters were in the garage area. It was a mess.

Now that a bridge has finally been established between ESPN and the fans using Twitter, the fact that the new social media guidelines end any sports related discussions is huge.

I appreciate your opinion and hope you can understand what we have been doing here for the past three seasons.

JD

Anonymous said...

JD, I'm sure ESPN is trying to develop some feature for its SportsNation that is similar to Twitter. They probably think they can stream all their info there, put up fantasy stats, and charge people $9.99 a month to follow it, figuring that since they're paying, they'll just stay on that site and "forget" about Twitter. It hasn't happened with anything else on Insider and SportsNation, and it's not likely to happen now--Twitter fans are too used to comparing feeds from various sources, including fellow fans (& this site). ESPN has made the problem worse by not having that solution ready before it pulled its employees off Twitter. By the time they get their "solution" up and running, they will have missed the boat, since Twitter is becoming more established as a news source every day. And then they have no way to quickly update their website with breaking news--they're often an hour or more behind when news breaks on Twitter. So they have made a major management error, compounded it by being stubborn about it, and will now reap the whirlwind they have sown.

GinaV24 said...

Personally I like Jones1981's thought -- "what are we going to do boycott ESPN's coverage?" Why not? Since I have to use my computer and prefer the radio broadcast for PXP what am I really missing by NOT watching ESPN's race broadcast? Jerry Punch's silence or the director who can't follow the racing action? Hmmm,it's a thought, isn't it folks? Back OT, I started following NASCAR on twitter based on JD's recommendation and have found it a useful tool for that purpose. I can't say I spend much time posting my own "running stream of conciousness" on it though, but as far as being connected, as we were when TNT was doing the broadcasts, well, it was great and I enjoyed it. I did like hearing from Marty Smith and Ryan McG about upcoming info for the races since I don't watch ESPN unless I have to since I don't follow stick and ball sports that much. The only reason I look at ESPN is because NASCAR is shown -- well, ESPN can continue to go "corporate" if they like, but they just gave me one less reason to watch them.

Anonymous said...

Marty Smith telling us he interviewed Kyle Busch and it will be on SportsCenter is voyeurism?

No, but it isn't news. It's a commercial. They've got you begging for commercials. Sad.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Begging for commercials....not quite as good as the voyeurism comment, but good to know you still don't get it.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Anon 2:36PM,

If you read the links in our original Twitter stories, they are trying to develop modules that will publish content on all the ESPN platforms and the social media networks simultaneously.

Should be out later in the fall, which is why I was bent out of shape they did not delay this change until 2010.

Trust me, NASCAR was not even in their mind when the change was made. It was ALL about college and pro football, which has been a huge headach for ESPN where Twitter is concerned.

You can Google around for info on that topic, it's pretty interesting.

JD

Sophia said...

One person's news is another person's minutia.

That's Twitter in a nutshell.

If you follow the right peeps, especially in your area, you can keep up with news/weather/sports/food/music/photography/charities. Heck you can share last minute recipes or learn how to give subQ's to a pet.

Heck I wrote some name of a sports person and some Twitter SPELL CHECK person started following me within minutes, lol. Now that was scary but I digress. you can block any followers at any time and follow any or stop at anytime.

Drudge Report had several articles the day Twitter was down, as did other news sites. So it's huge.

I keep hearing Myspace is dying out.... their music player issue has been a headache for a long time and the adds, and spam problems. I just check on it sometimes for a local band I help promote but I've NEVER been a fan of the Myspace deal. Convoluted to change/edit.

Facebook not so easy for music and if you guys think Twitter is minutia, have you tried Facebook? Ugh, I gave up after 2 weeks. Friends of friends of friends info showing up telling me "off to see a movie" ?

Streams of consciousness have been quite telling in a race car driver Tweeting after NOT making a race or making a race..or worried about a fellow driver.

I love hearing news as it happens as JD alluded to earlier.

Just like this blog for getting info during races that other commenters get from other circles.

The Twit has hit the fan.

Now that's funny, JD.:)

Richard in N.C. said...

When users are constantly migrating from existing to new information sources, it does seem illogical for EESPN to cut off a channel that might encourage users back to its existing cable and internet sites - but then to compensate they can always try to increase carry charges to cable companies. I am reminded again of the arrogance of CNN 10 or so years ago when it was THE cable news channel.

I do wonder what the average time is to get a tweet approved by a superior?

Palmetto said...

I have no use for Twitter. That said, I think it's rather foolish to ban a communication that tens of thousands of fans DO have a use for.

Twitter-style microblogging software is available all over the Internet, much of it open source and free to use. If the network is worried about unedited comments or losing its content without compensation, ESPN should add microblogging functionality to its own website. It should allow its employees to continue using Twitter until it has a replacement. It's not that hard to set up.

allisong said...

JD, RE: your response to my post of earlier this morning, I'm not the one with the impression that all tweets from ESPN were banned. I was referring to the other posters. For example, dara2K at 12:39 "I will miss Marty Smith's tweets for ESPN"..."Let Marty tweet!"... Kahnefan98 at 3:34 "I will miss Marty Smith replying to his fans' questions.." among others.

You have frequently pointed out the multiple sources of information for the NASCAR fan. If breaking news happens, I'll hear about it from either the internet or SIRIUS, on my timetable. Will it upset me that I wasn't instantly informed via a tweet from ESPN or whoever? Nope, not at all.

So, to the people who enjoy the tweets about the daily minutae of Marty's life, those will obviously continue. So the argument about ESPN folks losing the personal touch with their fans doesn't really hold water.

Anonymous said...

The folks running ESPN acheived their lofy positions through the Peter Principal.

This could also create an interesting conflict with the boys from Daytona as they're wanting folks to be twits or to twit or whatever it is. Using social networking tools via the internet, etc.

I guess the ESPN reporters can't twit or whatever it is their their spouses or significant other or children because it might be an opinion of ESPN.

Big Brother is watching!