Sunday, October 2, 2011

Social Media Smackdown

It seems that this part of the racing season really brings out the crisis mode behavior from the NASCAR on ESPN management team. The target of the most recent effort to maintain total control is the actual TV crew.

Basically, ESPN is upset that some members of the working television crew continue to communicate on social media like Twitter and Facebook during the live telecasts. So, the new policy effective immediately is that no TV crew member can use social media when ESPN is on the air with live NASCAR coverage of any kind.

This does not apply to the on-air personalities, the NASCAR Now reporters or any of the ESPN writers assigned to the NASCAR beat. That group already works under an existing set of social media guidelines which we will review.

This latest move is a crackdown on the information being passed along by some of the over one hundred crew members operating the TV equipment and doing the duties required to actually make NASCAR television.

ESPN has a very strict social media policy. That is essentially why you will never see ESPN personalities engaged in extended Twitter or Facebook discussions or confrontations with fans or media members on various issues. ESPN's desire is to coordinate breaking news, updates on existing stories and ongoing controversial topics in advance.

ESPN's original social media guidelines were reported on TDP back in August of 2009. At that time, the focus was on those who were "producing content" for the company.

Here is ESPN's original social media policy:

ESPN regards social networks such as message boards, conversation pages and other forms of social networking such as Facebook and Twitter as important new forms of content. As such, we expect to hold all talent who participate in social networking to the same standards we hold for interaction with our audiences across TV, radio and our digital platforms.

This applies to all ESPN Talent, anchors, play by play, hosts, analysts, commentators, reporters and writers who participate in any form of personal social networking that contain sports related content.

The memo went on to detail the following items:

Personal websites and blogs that contain sports content are not permitted.

Prior to engaging in any form of social networking dealing with sports, you must receive permission from the supervisor as appointed by your department head.

Steer clear of engaging in dialogue that defends your work against those who challenge it and do not engage in media criticism or disparage colleagues or competitors.

Be mindful that all posted content is subject to review in accordance with ESPN's employee policies and editorial guidelines.

This latest move to ban any social media activity by NASCAR television crew members is an extension of those original guidelines. It also points to ESPN's continuing struggle to deal with the reality of what social media is intended to produce.

Jennifer Van Grove from the social media information website offered these words after reviewing the original ESPN policy when it was first published.

"Today is a landmark day for social media, but for all the wrong reasons," said Van Grove. "It would appear that the network is showing poor judgment and exposing to the world the fact that they have no idea that social media is all about relationship building."

What NASCAR fans have been asking ESPN for since 2007 is simply that, a relationship. Instead, they got the suit and tie formality of the Worldwide Leader in Sports. It's very clear that approach fell as flat as a pancake with the NASCAR fan base.

Meanwhile the two other Sprint Cup Series TV networks, FOX and TNT, have embraced social media and made a huge effort to include it in NASCAR TV offerings. 64 year-old Darrell Waltrip carries his iPad into the FOX TV booth and regularly updates himself on what fans are discussing and the questions they want answered.

Over on TNT, Kyle Petty is a longtime Twitter veteran who keeps a continually running conversation with fans going from the pre-race show until long after the network signs-off with the live telecast. Petty is the social media king of NASCAR.

One key reason TV crew members from ESPN began to establish relationships with fans is because ESPN's NASCAR telecasts lacked so much vital basic information that the fans were screaming. It was the crew members, the working media at the track and even NASCAR itself that stepped up to the challenge of filling-in the ESPN information gaps. Make no mistake, in previous years those gaps were huge.

This season, even with the knowledgeable Allen Bestwick at the helm, there is still no social media producer in the NASCAR on ESPN TV booth. No one to feed the on-air talent the instant information tweeted by race teams, NASCAR and other media members in real time.

In ESPN's multi-hour rain delays there is no on-air Twitter interaction with fans. Instead, we get Carl Edwards leading an endless parade of drivers to the Infield Pit Studio. During the races, no questions tweeted to the TV team are ever answered. It's a shame.

On Saturday afternoon ESPN2 will telecast the Nationwide Series race from Dover, DE. There will be the normal interaction between the NASCAR media, officials and fans on Twitter as the race begins.

It's just unfortunate that fans will have a lot less of a behind-the-scenes perspective now that the one hundred or so smart phones of the hard-working TV crew members will be firmly in their pockets and turned off.

We welcome your comments on this topic. To add your opinion, just click on the comments button below. Thank you for stopping by.


HarpAmy/Amy in FL said...

I think that it is a shame that they've done that. I know that some of the crew that I follow on Twitter has made me feel like I was right there with her behind-the-scenes and that was cool. I loved that. I did tweet to an ESPN guy my displeasure.

I love the interaction on Twitter that especially SPEED has with us even during the races and other shows. I also see Fox embracing it and even TNT to an extent.

ESPN has been really improving their products for NASCAR in the past few seasons and it's a shame to blackout the tv crews from social media during broadcasts. I also don't like that they don't re-air Nascar Now and have moved it to early to mid afternoon.

Thanks, JD, for a place to voice our opinions.

Brusimm said...

It's definitely fascinating that they've clamped down on what could be considered a 'grass-roots' fan interaction with the team over on ESPN. It seems that at some corner or another, there's always something they're doing that puts distance between ABC/ESPN and the fans who wish for just a little more personality that what they get from the cold glass/plastic of their TV or computer monitor.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the camara crew and other members should be more focoused in the race then tweeting people, some people just cant multitask

PhoenixHotZonie said...

ESPN 3 streamed the NHRA Maple Grove 1st qualifying round today. John Kernan, Dave Rieff & Lewis Bloom(StatGuy) talked of their tweets from viewers. They interjected several viewer tweets/questions into the broadcast stream effectively and timely.

However, I can see where tweets could interfere with reporting the action and story of the event itself. Do I need a flatscreen, computer desktop/laptop, cellphone, ipad, android, radio, teletype, ticker tape, drums to get the info of an event? Do I gotta follow every reporter twit account to get info? Come on.

Obvious I'm not twitter friendly. Yet, I found interesting the interaction as I said above.

ESPN I really enjoyed your NHRA stream today. As Paul Page & Mike Dunn with Joe Amato said to John Force(with his booth impromptu) "We're Live Live". Stream More More Friday Qualifying. I'm out.

terri said...

Why does ESPN continue to shoot themselves in the foot?

Darcie said...

I guess I'm just not understanding all this. Is this a brand new policy or something they've tossed out only to NASCAR? The reason I ask is, whenever you watch any ESPN program, such as First Take, all they do is talk Twitter. Skip Bayless, Jay Crawford and all the rest talk non stop about their Tweets and even encourage viewers to Tweet their thoughts. Their college and pro analysts Tweet constantly, even during broadcasts. So, what's the problem? I might understand not wanting camera operators, directors and other technical staff to Tweet when their minds should be on the job at hand, but everyone else? ESPN has become far too controlling.

Anonymous said...

The celebrities (talent) are allowed to tweet. The working class people are barred from tweeting when they are on the clock, because they have no talent. Correct?

AncientRacer said...

Policies like this one are abslolutely guaranteed to be impacted by the "Law of the Balloon"; one well known to observers of all forms (governmental and non-governmental) of social engineering.

The Law states: "When a balloon is squeezed in one place it pops out in another."

I have found this law to be especially valid in the case of "muzzle" policies. The people "muzzled" resent it and look for work-arounds; the people deprived of information due to the "muzzling" believe they are missing out on the "good stuff" and hunt harder for it, develop new sources and even MORE information get out than before.

The effect of the efforts of both groups eventually causes the policy to fail.


The Professor said...

Gee, {{nostalgic sigh}}, remember when ESPN used to be the worldwide LEADER instead of the worldwide BLOCKER? It's a social media world now, and they're losing currency because they're not leveraging their position in that world. Bad decision, ESPN.

Roland said...

Im going to do something that goes against everything I believe in. I support ESPN on this one.

If I had a company I wouldnt want my employees tweeting while on the clock. I dont follow any behind the scenes ESPN people, because I simply do not care. I dont need to know how Marty's hair is today or what satellite they are pointed at for todays race.

Allowing the on screen and media members to continue tweeting is good, cause those are the only people most of us follow. So its a win win. ESPN gets their employees to practice time management, and us fans still get tweets from the people we want tweets from.

This isnt a question of whos more important. Its a question of who is more visible on screen and online. Joe Schmo, the production truck intern, or Allen Bestwick? The on air talent and media members are the faces of ESPN. Its part of their job to tweet. The intern in the production trucks job doesnt involve tweeting.

Anonymous said...

I for one have an opposing view. In any situation there has to be an adult in charge. With a sport inhabited by so many unprofessional figures, I commend ESPN for drawing a line in the sand. Social media can be a good source of information, but all too often it is used as a melting pot of misinformation which does more harm than good.

Using Waltrip and Petty as an example, I daresay people like this already clutter the airwaves with claptrap that fans are better without. There have to be limits when nonprofessionals act unprofessionally. Without boundaries there is chaos. We have enough chaos in Nascar as it is.

Mike in Pittsburgh said...

If they would just show us the race on TV we wouldn't need to follow a radio broadcast 10 different web pages and 100 twitter feeds just to figure out whats going on.

ESPN is just mad because somehow they think this is losing them money.

Steve L. said...

It's now hard for me to watch a race without having my computer at my side because Twitter has SO much more 'to-the-minute' information that we don't see or hear on TV. I'm getting more info from Twitter than I am from watching the coverage on TV. That's a BIG shame!

It all stems from these announcers calling the races from a TV monitor. They could just as well call a race sitting back at their hotel rooms in their underwear sipping on a cold one.

Toss the monitors, stand up and get closer to the window and call what you see on the track!

No, they can't do it that way because they're too busy looking at stats, numbers, up-coming pro-mo's, commercials, and all the other junk that clutters up a race!

Let these guys Tweet them current information and building stories so they can keep us informed on TV! Stop thinking that every viewer is new to the sport, we know our NASCAR. If we are new, we'll learn it the way we have for 50 years, by watching, reading, and now, Tweeting...

w17scott said...

Mr Editor -
Would not discussion on the virtues or lack thereof of social media be moot if ESPN were doing it's job of presenting a race as it occurs? Rather, ESPN chooses to adhere to a rigidly scripted presentation ...ergo, presenting NASCAR from ESzpn's warped and self-promoting point of view. Sadly, another source of accurate information hits the trash bin. Pushing this 53-yr plus fan further away from a sport he grew up with.

Daly Planet Editor said...


Just so we are square. None of the TV crew members tweeting avoided doing assigned work to do so.

Information being passed to fans included pit road violations, wave arounds, lucky dog and cars out of race.

Fans often did not know how their driver changed significantly on the scoring ticker because TV never updated that story. They asked the crew.

Tweets also included weather, pictures of pre-race events not shown on TV and smashed-up cars out of the race.

This is the same type of info now being provided by the NASCAR working media from both the infield and press box.

It was just easier to deal with the TV crew members who were actually there on scene when all of this was happening.

Lots of TV jobs do not require constant hands-on work during the entire ten to twelve hour day.

Just to we are on the same page.



jerry said...

ESPN really is nazi-like on many levels, must be the disney influence.

Bill said...

Roland and SteveL - Thank you both. I agree wholeheartedly, and couldn't have said it better myself.

I agree the tv coverage is rotten, but if it were better, none of this other stuff would be necessary during the race. With there being so little to watch on the broadcast, I get bored, and end up spending way too much time checking online stats, invariably missing the portions of the feed that actually showed good racing.

I want to be able to turn off my computer while the race is on, but can't as all the networks now assume everyone is getting all the background information they can possibly stomach via these social outlets, and have practically stopped reporting it on air. A "vicious circle" I guess you could call it.

I guess it is here to stay, and that's really sad. What's next? In-race tweets from the drivers? I can see it now: As it is nearly impossible to type with those gloves on, the drivers will find some company who will make a lightweight keyboard with huge keys that the teams can mount in the car.

saltsburgtrojanfan said...

Why are we not surprised JD. ESPN is trying to show us we will do things the way we want to do it and if you don't like it don't watch us. ESPN was so beloved in the 80s and 90s that fans at the track put signs on the fence and cars saying We love ESPN and Extreme Speed Pure NASCAR. Now they are reviled by every NASCAR fan and that is a shame.

Daly Planet Editor said...


You know technology marches forward. Nothing different about this information being made available except the fact that ESPN can't figure out what to do with it.

When I worked at ESPN, we manually typed in the scoring for NASCAR races before commercial break. Computer interfaces with TV graphics made that a thing of the past.

IMHO there is nothing wrong with social media. It's technology enabling more information to flow. What's different is that TNT and FOX have integrated it into the telecasts and ESPN has not.

If you have seen the new Google and Apple TV's then you know just how integrated your ability to interact with media will soon be.


Newracefan said...

This saddens me greatly. I got a lot of information through Twitter that will now be absent. Just not a real smart move on their part as far as I'm concerned. I get do not embarress us or yourself but instead of cutting them off, use it to your advantage. I follow rainout races via twitter and will also use it to keep track of another when I'm on a cruise. Guess it just got harder

Bill said...

For someone who has always been riding along the leading edge of technology, I sound like a fuddy-duddy. Someone who spent a few years working for a video production house has now been employed in IT for a decade and a half.

I've been waiting for these fads to either disappear, or settle in and become useful tools. I tend to be cautious of anything that is suddenly "all the rage" with teenage girls, especially when it comes to internet apps.

Being in corporate IT for all these years has increased my level of concern, knowing the potential dangers of these largely untested apps popping up on hundreds of thousands of computers, and mostly in the hands of youths, either unaware or unconcerned with the risks.

However, I should realize that these apps have been around for a while now, and I also know that the systems controlling these apps are far more secure than they were at the beginning, but old habits die hard, I guess!

This dates me, but I remember being in high school when the CB radio craze hit, and I have likened Twitter to the CB radio of the 2000s. CBs are far from dead, but they aren't in too many teenagers’ hands anymore.

Perhaps Twitter will settle in and become as valuable to some as the CB still is to truckers, and I may be right there with you folks, twitting my brains out!

Steve L. said...

I love it Bill, CB's and Twitter! Now that's a different way to look at it. I was there too and remember the CB craze. LMAO!! 'Breaker - Breaker, come in Twitterville'...ha

Debbie said...

This crackdown on Twitter and social media with ESPN is because it doesn't fit in to their script. They don't waiver from the script in any circumstance..that is the ESPN way.

Anonymous said...

Please tell me why ESPN should allow members of its production crew to be "playing" on their computer or smart phone during a multi-million dollar broadcast when they should be paying attention to their job? ESPN Is running a business and it is paying the crew good money to bring us the best pictures and audio possible.

Anonymous said...

I don't care for twitter/tweets,just find it another waste of time.If the networks/camera operators/infield/pit /garage/booth reporters were just doing a proper job,none of this would be necessary.JMO.

Lou said...

although I do not tweet much on twitter, I still read it during the race. It is just a shame, because I have recieved wonderful pics and information that have have helped me enjoy my nascar experience from some espn employees from sunrise to sunset. Since I live 14 miles from the Dover track, I will be there from 0800 til dark tailgating and enjoying the race.

Maybe JD I can send you some pics again.

enjoy the race all on tv


And to Red we got the track tour this race

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with ESPN's policies. They have the right to control their public image. You can not ignore the countless cases where people send out a tweet that they end up regretting shortly there after, causing a huge public uproar.

Something like this happening can have a big negative effect on ESPN.

Daly Planet Editor said...

So wave around cars, lucky dogs and who has pit road penalties are going to cause an uproar?

The TV crew was sending information about the race to fans that ESPN was not getting out over the air.

ESPN already has a policy for on air personalities that I reviewed in the column.


Anonymous said...

Here is a novel concept: do the work you were paid to do and stop posting to your PERSONAL twitter account when on the clock.

These are not official ESPN twitter accounts. They are the PERSONAL accounts of people on the air. They shouldn't be tweeting, they should be doing their job.

What good does it do, for example, if an ESPN announcer posts a really juicy piece of NASCAR news on their twitter during a race? Answer: nothing. That is info that should go out on the air.

The idea that someone is earning a big TV salary way above the national average income, and is buried in their phone tweeting while being paid to broadcast is ludicrous.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Did you read the previous post? Just asking.

Orkin Says said...

espn should concern intself with
folks in the booth. Cleaning house
comes to mind.

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.