Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Two Ends of the Spectrum

I'm very supportive of our fans, and try to go out of the way to help them. However, when you get helpdesk emails like this:

Request Description:I am presently using Windows Vista
Business. When I try to acquire the audio feed, I keep having a problem
with my internet explorer crashing and closing. I am using 230kbps dial
up with my Alltel mobile phone. Could you please assist me with this
issue: I am presently missing the OU/AR game... !!!

Well, it's certainly ambitious to try to take any level of streaming content, even audio, by tethering to a cell phone. Not saying you can't do it -- I've tethered many a day to update the website or surf content. Let's just say 230K might be hitting the phone (maybe) at one point, but I'd highly doubt you're going to maintain that with the type of consistency needed.

I'll applaud the desire to stay connected.

Streaming media -- audio, video or data -- is the greatest challenge you will face. No matter how much tech support you line up behind the effort, it is always vulnerable to gremlins. This is the internet at its highest low. By that, I mean very few people go on-line when they are happy; once again my concept that commentary on-line for the vast majority is an essentially negative medium.

Want to check your self-esteem? Read the tickets for your schools' website for a week, or maybe just one day when you're having a streaming event.

I don't necessarily fault the passion (even the frustration and anger), but it has given me a different perspective when I get mad with some other provider. Next time you get torqued, remember, there is a human, not a computer, on the other side of the browser.

On the other side, there is the growing number of content providers that are enabled by our continuing lowering of the technology level. Dan Gilmoor spoke to this future in which all the fans have 3G connectivity with HD phone cams to not only blog or twitter, but to stream our events.

Last night's OU game had generated its share of iPhone picks of the facility, and several blog-like diaries. At least one had to get a pretty good platform into the stands, or one heck of a thumb set. This will be a growing trend, and if they are university students or staff, they'll have access to the facility wireless and the potential to send their blog work out in real time.

We need to begin to prepare more and more for these two extremes -- servicing our fan's digital consumption needs and managing our fan's digital creation desires.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Speak the Heresy

I learned long ago in graduate school, it's plagiarism to steal from one; it's research to steal from many. Another great bromide I've promoted here is to see the public relations future, watch the current political races.

Submitted for your approval for the umpteenth time this year -- the Obama internet machine glimpses the one-to-many future. The fund raising. The FRIEND raising. Here's another story about some of the inner works by Jose Antonio Vargas from the Washington Post. The payoff quote:

Now, because of technology in general and the Internet in particular, politics has become something tangible. Politics is right here. You touch it; it's in your laptop and on your cellphone. You control it, by forwarding an e-mail about a candidate, donating money or creating a group. Politics is personal. Politics is viral. Politics is individual.

Search and replace "politics" for "college athletics."

Here's the killer detail: More than 90 folks on the internet staff. That's 10 less than 100. That's about 90 times the number of dedicated internet personnel in most athletic departments. It's 45 times the number at Arkansas.

One more line from Vargas.

It also means using the Internet to invite people into the process, giving them something to work for, offering them a stake in victory or defeat.

Tell me friends, does he speak for politics or [Your Team Name Here]?

As you read the story, there is a very important detail about the Obama internet machine; it was organic to the organization, embedded in every operation from communications to fund raising. You cannot overlook this point.

The next wave of successful internet isn't outsourced. It isn't sold off to some conglomerate. It's managed and directed by people who know the landscape, who know the local players, who are integrated within the wider community of the institution. As sure as astro-turfing shows up, so will those who claim they can ride in and immediately begin to reap Obama-like rewards.

No, that starts with natives who know the countryside. People who understand the brand and live the culture. Hmm, now what office best embodies that . . . .

Friday, December 26, 2008

SID Simulator

OK, how much can you get out of Hell's Kitchen as a video game?
My wife hasn't put down the Wii remote (even bypassing her beloved Price is Right new Wii game -- which is also pretty cool). The tart nasty is right there from Gordon Ramsey's faint praise and snide commentary. But the adrenalin rush of balancing the front of house with back of house and the strangely tense feeling you get from the stock Ramsey cliches (COME ON, PLEASE; You DONKEY!).
Want to get a good feel of what its like in the SID office on a late October weekend with home soccer, road streaming volleyball, a football game and the start of basketball season -- jump in on the middle levels working five tops and the back kitchen with three pots and an oven.
I need you to really, seriously, up your game, says Gordon.

Yeah, And He Likes to Hear Himself Talk

Took time this morning to answer some survey questions for a student at Baldwin-Wallace on a senior thesis. A lot of the subjects covered here in the blog, most notably Fan First.
Couple of the questions got me thinking a little after the hour and a half (he seemed a bit surprised that I'd take that much time on Boxing Day -- well, there's no games today).
The first one -- did I feel it was necessary to see a story in the newspaper to have considered it successful? I think the yes answer wasn't the one anticipated, but it is that it remains important to have a story covered by the area's dominant news brand. That it appears in dead trees or on-line isn't the key; it is that the local legacy agenda-setter of news deemed it worth. That remains important.
The second -- what did I see different about the media today? As you might suspect, this is where things got long-winded but I think a generational mind-set shift is in play. Boomers and Gen-X'ers still cling to the Watergate-era impartial journalist model. Being a fan of the Ben Bradlee school takes you right there.
But if you were born in the 1990s, Bradlee and the Washington Post was something that was forced on you in a movie watching assignment in mass comm class. The way you grew up consuming news was from the Crossfire school -- two polarized commentators duking it out. Whole networks are programmed this way today. Doesn't matter whether you're a Fox, CNN or MSNBC follower -- the formula is the same from 7 eastern to 10 eastern, conflict journalism.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

All The President's Commentary

Saving my anniversary copy of All The President's Men for later, I sit up with the features and commentary disk. Throughout the pieces, the lions of the era -- Ben Bradlee, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Linda Ellerbe -- opine how today it could never happen.
They point out how much it takes in manpower and money to support investigative efforts. How if faced by the right-wing machine of talk radio and the Republican White Houses today how they doubted a media institution like the Washington Post could stand up against the corporate pressure.
I'm sitting here -- granted with a lot of cough syrup -- amazed at the lack of faith displayed.
Two key thoughts come to mind. First, a legacy media company does have assets that can be threatened. But they also have lawyers, reputation and numbers to resist. The New York Times certainly didn't back off when the Bush administration put the pressure on over the WMD stories.
Second, and more important, the blog and cloud have advantages that Woodward and Bernstein could not imagine. What exactly is a government or corporate entity going to do to a committed blogger? It's asymetrical warfare. The institution has the assets and reputation -- both is could lose. What's the blogger got? A computer? A rented apartment?
The cloud of bloggers can't be hit directly. It's like the Resistance Movement. Knock out one investigator, he's already shared his info with five others who can pick up the trail. Just ask Dan Rather, it grows like a virus.
Still, it was funny to watch the legends say it can't happen again. Tres pompous.

On the Holiday Reading List

Our good friend and citizen media savant Dan Gillmor brings to our attention a new report from the Berkman Center on the new media called Media Re:public.

There's is much to read and digest in this report, and that will wait for days off [HA!] during the holiday break. There is one highlight for now, and it is a new breakdown that the authors propose regarding the different flavors of media:

Legacy Media -- They began in the pre-Internet era, and while may be very active players, remain non-native. A great term rather than "traditional" or "main stream."

Web-Native Media -- Better than "new media" -- or as one colleague said, if you're in charge of new media, does that mean I'm in charge of the old media -- or "advanced media" -- another comment being, so if MLB had an advanced media division, does that mean the rest of public relations in backward -- and it speaks to the nature of the beast: these are media born on-line that exist for first distribution on-line. When the creators of and write books, they don't become legacy -- their content was created for original distribution on-line.

Participatory Media -- To me, this is the best term; better than my own catchy B&B (boards and blogs). These are, using the Jay Rosen phrase "people formerly known as the audience," the interactives, and an intersting point is made -- we had these before and we called them letters to the editor, CATV access and radio call-in shows.

I like the way they related to the past -- another constant theme that there are indeed constant themes. Scale and speed are the real change factors, not the internet itself.

Dan also weighs in on the GateHouse v. NYT dispute on copyright.

Merry Christmas

Nothing like the gleeful squeal of children getting just what they wanted for Christmas. An iPhone for the oldest, a digital camera for the youngest.
So three old classic movies for me -- and a hellacious chest cold. Somewhat of a twisted family tradition; I can recall the Christmas' without either illness for family catastrophe on my two hands.
But I digress. I haven't seen one of my all-time favorite movies in years.
None of other than the greatest John Wayne documentary of all time.
Uh, that would be Hellfighters, thank you.
As a child, I was obsessed with the Red Adair legend, and rewatching the movie (unremastered on DVD and while wide screen, quite rastered) with an adult's eyes I can see why. No less than three holidays (a New Year's, a Christmas and a wedding) get trashed by the call out to put out a oil rig fire. Hmm, paging Dr. Freud.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Not so Happy Holidays

Not to harsh your mellow for the holidays, but if you have missed Facebookgate while wrapping presents or getting ready for time off, the must-read quick synopsis of the event comes from The Chronicle.

The highlights: A company called College Prowler created dozens of Class of 2013 groups on official Facebook sites associated with universities. Potential members of the incoming freshman class joined up. That's where things get dark.

Did College Prowler create the fake groups, based on fake college students at the school for access, just to promote their new "free" service?

Unlikely. Remember, anything that is free on-line eventually has a cost. Like, oh let's say, your personal data?

That's one of the reasons now surfacing for the scam. College Prowler now has all sorts of great data.

The other is that College Prowler may have been a Trojan horse to get data and help launch a new Facebook competitor.

Either way, it serves as a reminder for our student-athletes -- give up your personal data to ANY website at your own risk.

Warm Thoughts on Web Feedback

Listening to Leo Laporte on his final TWIT of the 2008 year, the crew had several comments about the feedback they see and receive on "back channels" -- that is, chat rooms. They had several comments about the "yelping" of America.

When a little time presents itself, I'll share the following with Laporte.

Leo -- the reality of sports media is the essentially negative nature of the internet. Fans don't take the time to come to a chat room when they are happy. When they're happy, they celebrate among themselves. When they're upset, they are motivated to do some, to complain. Whether we like it or not, the internet is an essentially negative medium.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Where Does Publicity End and Copyright Begin?

Pondering after a story that was clearly a website-only "mechanical" was picked up by a local newspaper word-for-word as if we had sent that story out as a publicity release.

On the one hand, we want our media outlets to help promote events.

On the other, the reality is on some level, our web sites compete for the attention of consumers.

The issue is as fresh as the news. Just this week, two media groups -- New York Times and Huffington Post -- found themselves sued by bloggers for copyright infringement. (Click here for GateHouse against NYT; here for Huffington's troubles.)

I do not have the answer here -- and would be interested in some of the reader's feedback.

Certainly, when we write press releases that we send to our media outlets, we intend on them to be used verbatim. We don't ask for credit, but many outlets do that to differentiate between staff written and externally written copy.

This question relates to when we write something that is only for our site -- the term I use is a "mechanical." The only reason the short blurb existed was to create a vehicle to hang links to a game -- tickets, video, live stats, etc. It was a promo that only turned on within 24 hours of the event. My surprise when that appears in the paper.

This incident is truly insignificant, but it gets me wondering. As we begin to create more and more original content for our websites -- live blogs, in-house columns -- and some of that belongs to premium services -- not as much for us, but I know it is at other schools -- where is the line between publicity and copyright?

Judging from this week's national news, I don't think this is going away.

Monday, December 22, 2008

New Fav MLS, and New Media

I'm intrigued with the Seattle Sounders, who will play 2009 season for MLS. I like the minority owner, Drew Carey (yeah, that guy), and the way he's bringing some of the interesting angles like the Barcelona FC tradition of fan stakes in the ownership. Liking the keeper, Kasey Keller. Liking the manager hire, picking off my man from the Crew. Liking the rumor of Theirry Henry as a potential designated player pick-up. I know they may have my son's allegiance thanks to the sponsor -- XBox 360. OK, that is a bit sexier than Gliddeon, who sponsors my Columbus Crew.

But here's an interesting angle that I picked up in surfing around to catch up on the Sounders -- the interactive of the team showing off the new stripe is a YouTube video. It's not from KING, or any of the other big name TV stations in Seattle. It's from the Seattle Times, closing with a credit for the video editor.

Video editor? At a newspaper? Yeah, welcome to the Brave New World that is the post-modern media.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Chronicle article athletics adminstrators must read

Perfect follow-on to the last entry -- pointing out a great story that is the lead article on the Dec. 19 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Libby Sandler's last story in her series on athletic recruiting is a survey of 300 athletes about the recruiting process. This is a great starting point, and one that I have desperately wanted the NCAA, CoSIDA, NACDA, somebody of authority to authorize -- but in much greater detail.

We don't know spit about the recruiting process, particularly when it relates to publicity materials and their impact. It's because all we have are the anecdotal and self-reinforcing impressions of a few recruiting battles won or lost. (Hint to the academic world: this is one of those survey projects I want to undertake, but I doubt the NCAA would clear since i'd obviously benefit from the knowledge in fine-tuning our own recruiting approach).

Among the questions posed by Sandler that should open a lot of eyes: 97% of the respondents said that how the institution, athletic department and students showed interest in their sport swayed their decision. 50% said extremely; 47% said moderately important. Want to succeed in the "minor" sports? Have a department that gives a flip, and the better athletes will come.

Another one -- 42% said the reputation of the head coach was extremely important in their decision; 46% moderately. That one for all the folks concerned about coaching salaries, or thinking that great facilities sign athletes. People sign people, not buildings. (The counter point: you're not going to get a Nobel laureate without a first-class research facility; why would anyone expect a top-flight coach to work in a run-down stadium or arena?).

The survey results show a huge amount of work left to perform -- how accurate were those two 90-plus positive results?

There's one in the prose that should raise the eyebrows of everyone:

"The survey also showed that as recruiting spreads to ever-younger athletes, the recruits are making greater numbers of unofficial visits to campus before their senior year."

The implication -- all those restrictions on contact before the start of the junior year, and materials restrictions before the senior year -- are preventing institutions from being effective.

Nevertheless, our national organizations are obsessed with limits on printing, limits on content, limits on methods of communication. This study begs -- screams -- the question: has anyone asked the prospects how they are interacting with the schools, with the coaches, with each other.

Hey, I know that answer: No.

Anti-Intellectualism Toward Athletics

Read carefully the headline before proceeding. I find more and more an attitude toward collegiate athletics that reflects a pretty strong bias (thus the "toward" rather than "in"). Granted, my recent encounters are personal, but I was surprised at how open, how "honest" some academics have been.

I'm beginning to understand just how truly platypus it is to have a doctorate in a "hard" liberal arts field (in my case, history) and engage in a career in athletics. Certainly, there are plenty of academicians who have their PhDs, but live in the administrative world. They're deans, and technical specialists -- like registrars, student life, media relations -- that never touch a classroom, or teach the occasional single class.

But no one questions their credentials to their face.

When we bemoan the decline of the media as the centering point of society -- that we only seek the news that reinforces our own previously established opinions -- is that some new trend brought about by the physically fracturing, virtually uniting nature of the internet?

Perhaps it is more a reflection of ourselves than we want to admit. To that end, we expect "ah-thu-leah-tix" be a bunch of dumb jocks; the assumption is you can't be very bright. I mean, really; if you were, you'd be in [fill in the blank].

That may be in part because we in athletics don't take the time to cross over; to illustrate the intelligence side of the sport; to demand it from our athletes and ourselves.

To that end, I'd urge any professor to ask to see the playbook for their college or university football team; the scouting report for their basketball team's next opponent. We ask those young people to memorize and internalize those mounds of information. The difference between the winners and losers is often as much the mental acumen as it is the physicality. (Of course, this would beg the counter point of -- they can master cover-two, why not hikous?)

One of my students at the area junior college where I teach history as an adjunct came up to me about halfway through the course. He wanted to let me know how much he enjoyed the course, how much he now understood the parts of history we had covered and that he was curious what other courses I taught so he could sign up.

"You know, I was afraid you wouldn't be very good when you said you worked in athletics."

I smiled and admitted, yes, when you've come from a high school where good old Coach was sent down the hall to teach American history as his academic assignment, that can be the case. And I thanked him for his compliments.

That reaction is one I've become accustomed to -- I have to prove to the students, be it the history ones at the community college or the journalism ones here at UA, that I really can teach, really do know the subject and really aren't in this room trying to make a little extra money on the side.

Little more disappointing when your peers have the same approach.

So, as we head into the holidays, my New Year's wish is that perhaps both sides of the equation will do a little more to tamp down the anti-intellectualism toward sports. In return for a little more respect from the academic side, we need to demand and promote more the "student" in student-athlete.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On Shoe Throwing

Couple of random thoughts while hoping the stat computer will reboot . . .

Iraqi journalist throws shoes at President of United States. Segments of world see it as apropos protest move. President says no big deal, and it's the price of democracy.

Consider these angles:

First, the shoes were also thrown toward an Iraqi leader. What happens if that leader was Saddam Hussein? Pretty sure it never happens out of fear of the repercussions, and if it does, said journalist gets more than broken ribs in the hustling out of the building. Pretty sure he gets . Maybe some of his family, too.

Second, is it a sign of growing Iraqi freedom that a dissident could throw shoes, or just a growing lack of respect for those in power. See, the flip side of saying that the action is part of a free country is the understanding that someone thinks you're "weak" enough that they won't die for throwing the shoe.

Last, what in the world does it have to do with college athletics? How often do your fans throw things at players, officials, etc.? Usually happens when they are really, really mad.

I digress with a true story. Fan at an NCAA tournament game throws shoe onto the court. Event security heads up into the section where the shoe came from. This should be a pretty easy collar -- look for the kid with one shoe. Crafty, these students. The whole group had discarded one shoe. Game management can't easily find the offender, but smiles on the inside. He'll wait them out. Why? 'Cause it was snowing outside, and there was no way the whole group would go outside in the cold with just one shoe.

Back to the subject at hand. Today, the fan base is more than willing to throw shoes. And at least three of the seven words George Carlin said you couldn't use on television. In the past three days, I've answered extremely scatological screeds over streaming video. I'm not doubting the end users were having problems, but more times than not, they are not on the provider side.

Perhaps I'm early in this academic year to make this prediction, but I might have the logic winner of the complaint email. We and our video stream "suck" (his word, not mine) because we can't get the Windows Media files to play on his high-end Mac (clue one -- you need Flip-for-Mac to watch WMF on any Mac). Here was the payoff pitch -- ESPN can figure this out, why can't you?

Lemme parse that for a moment. ESPN spends millions of dollars -- I mean tens of millions -- on backbone, infrastructure and technology. They reap millions of dollars -- the same tens, thereof -- from advertising. This in turn allows them to have a very, very nice free product -- free to the end user, I might add. AT&T and Verison are paying a pretty penny to "give" you ESPN 360. NBC sunk a similar chunk into Silverlight for the Beijing Olympics. And it was beautiful; hugely successful.

Folks -- It's $9.95 a month. We've got two people on the stream itself. We've got a pretty robust distribution system. And, routinely around 250-300 viewers each men's basketball game; about 450-500 on PPV football. Next month, we'll do 100-200 on gymnastics. Out of that, we get about five percent with trouble. We can help some. Our service provider helps others.

This is not an exact science, and while we're pumping out a lot of content, we're not a network operation. A lot of that content, I might add, that wasn't available before.

It's not perfect. It's getting better as the technology spreads out to more people. It will be the future. Reminds me of hooking together manual phone couplers in the late 1980s to create a radio "network" from a bank of phones in our offices. Today, it works a lot smoother with ISDN and satellites -- but you know what, it can still break and go out.

I know -- fans are passionate. And they're prone to throw shoes when they're upset. We'll just keep ducking.

Monday, December 15, 2008

E-Mail Primer

A great story in this week's Chron -- E-Mails Are Forever.

The money quote is this tip:

Compose every e-mail message as if the entire world will read it. While you may well be engaging in a "private" exchange with a colleague or supervisor, e-mail is by definition a public forum. Be cautious and thoughtful about what you commit to writing and how you phrase your messages. If an issue is especially delicate or controversial, pick up the phone.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Memo to the Old School

Just a follow-up message for those still believing we still control the fate of our brands during times of crisis, and for those who may still hold on to the belief that Arkansas fans, in particular, are hopped up on Cheetos dust nut cases for the events of 2007 and 2008.

Submitted for your approval: one robtigeralum and his brand new channel on YouTube.

Yes, I watched it. Yes, it had all the appearances of a one-off set-up. Yes, there's exactly one "disgruntled" fan greeting the Auburn athletic director at the airport.

But also, yes, as of 4:21 CST today, there have been 38,443 views of this video.

In 20 hours.

May we parse this a bit further, referencing in particular the recent unpleasantness here. To achieve this video required: A) tracking of the movements of the Auburn university plane [haven't checked yet, but wonder if they've taken it "private" to prevent similar events in the future], B) one man with a heck of an agenda is using YouTube video to go after athletic officials, C) there's considerable heat on the Auburn B&B over the whole process.

All three were noted as evidence of how over-the-top the Arkansas fan base was. Hmm. How about, ahead of the curve, instead.

To my friends and colleagues, we fight the future at our own peril. More to the point, to quote Rockhound (the Steve Buscemi character) from that seminal work, Armageddon:

It's time to embrace the horror.

There are two choices here. Wait for the meteor to hit your world or go out and meet it as soon as its detected.

Do I have the answers? No. Absolutely no. And just to be clear, NO.

This is not to point fingers at Auburn, where I have several close friends. This is a fill-in-the-blank with the name of the day situation. I am highly confident that a search would turn up similar videos/manifestos/flash animations for every one of the major Division I jobs, and for several that aren't open but some part of the fan base has decided it should be open.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Boyer Lectures

As previously mentioned, the Australian Broadcast Company sponsors an annual lecture series with a prominent Australian. This year, Rupert Murdoch was the speaker. There is much more in the actual lectures than the previous news reports highlighted. You can get the entire series either from the ABC's website, or from iTunes.

A drive for car service gave me time to take in all six -- I highly recommend them, but in particular, the second and third lectures.

Murdoch has a couple of particular insights I haven't seen covered. First, he points to the value of Matt Drudge's news judgment as the key to his website. Drudge serves as a city editor might have in the past, and his ability to glean from other sources and post his results is his particular genius. The way Murdoch explains it, then plays it against the dying age of the old-school editor "who determined what was and was not news".

The second is an expansion of this first -- that news organizations must evolve into "news brands." The reputation of the NYT is in its, well, reputation. If the Times backs a story, puts the stamp of its brand upon it, it adds a certain level of value over the same story from a one-man blog-shop.

Once again, it's value-added content people -- it's content that shall be the coin of the realm. As Murdoch titled his fourth lecture -- Fortune Favours the Smart.

Murdoch's other lectures get into very interesting details about the value of human capital, the need for education and the competitive impact of the rising world-wide middle class.

He also has some suggestions for the future of journalism education that should be taken straight to heart.

As a side note, we hear plenty about the BBC, but let me take a moment in praise of ABC. This is also the home of Gruen Transfer, which was a 10-episode show about the advertising industry that was part Meet the Press, part Daily Show.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Creative Destruction

A good conversation today with a group of journalism professors got me thinking about the future of the business and this catch phrase going around in the business world: "creative destruction."

Sometimes, it just doesn't make sense to keep printing newspapers. Or magazines.

That doesn't mean the need for well-formed, cogent messages is gone. It just takes on a new form or uses a new transmission method.

Cross pollinating that thought with last week's TWIT podcast, some of the great innovations happen in times of troubled economic times. Sure, the crazy financing or venture capital dries up, but creative people will continue to be creative. And the tools to publish are cheaper than ever.

The Tribune company might be bankrupt, and the NYT is taking out a second on its building. It does not mean the end of journalism. It means a new beginning is here.

In their time, Life, Look and the Saturday Evening Post were dominant. Once upon a time, CBS mattered. All they did was replace a penny press who came before them; and a pamphleteer before that.

Today, a journalist must be a writer, an editor and a publisher; a scribe, a recorder and a shooter. One person can repurpose the entire event: video tape and post the sound blast in its entirity, condense it to sound bites for a podcast and write commentary that refers back to the primary source -- the tape itself.

Hmm -- sounds a little like judge, jury and executioner. Well, that's where the journalism school comes in, now doesn't it, to provide the grounding as well as the advanced techniques.

More later.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Calling a Time Out

Two days off for myself during the University's final exam break. A chance to catch up on home projects -- the first real days off since the transition started in earnest back in April. Use them or loose them, in University system.

Out of town part of this time -- but before heading out the door -- a passing nod to the stupidity of the governor of Illinois.

Let's put aside the fact you've been under investigation. How about the thought that as a public official, everything you say (or your wife says) may be recorded -- or at least copies requested when it is email.

Or, as a public official, did you think by avoiding email and using the phone you'd be OK/

Saturday, December 06, 2008


What to do when you have made a mistake with on-line content? The reaction of far too many is to scrub it -- delete the story, delete the link, etc. -- rather than post an update or an correction. Exposing these, of course, is the stock in trade of Regret the Error.

I highly recommend this post at Craig Silverman's website to illustrate the need for updating rather than scrubbing.

The gist -- in a highly linked, increasingly transparent world, an organization does itself no good by attempting to hide mistakes. Or, as Silverman says:

This is an example of why scrubbing is such an unethical and fundamentally unprofessional practice. On the web, you can’t just pretend that a mistake never happened. It’s already been cached, blogged, linked… Wales Online and especially the Press Association have to make an effort to spread the correct information. That’s journalism.

Please taken in the whole thread, including an update no less.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Facebook Faux Pas for Adults

If you are the prime speech writer for a presidential candidate, it's not a good idea to fondle a cardboard cutout of the opponent. Even worse to post those party pics anywhere on-line. Such is the dilemma of Barack Obama's chief wunderkind, Jon Favreau. The 27-year-old made the mistake, and it's been found by the mainstream media.

Al Kamen of the Washington Post has a very good column about the whole event, and points out something more significant than just the run of the mill photo gone bad. Kamen points out the two questions on the Obama team vetting form that relate, notably question 41:

"Please provide the URL address of any websites that feature you in either a personal or professional capacity (e.g. Facebook, My Space, etc.)"

Read more here

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Many A Truth Told in Jest

Chris Wyrick, one of our senior associates, is fond of that line as one of his touchstones.

The new episode of Mayne Street -- Hotel -- is the epitome of the saying. In one comedy bit, you get the full impact of the digital world, how it effects celebrity.

"This is a sad commentary on your generation," Mayne deadpans.

I'd make this required viewing in the next go-round of media training and social networking awareness.

I've noted how Mayne Street shows the Long Tail way to content -- and the detail work within this episode is magic. Stop frame on the faux websites that have dug up the past of Kenny's make believe producer and ESPN executive.

Monday, December 01, 2008


Every once in a while someone will inquire about a presentation or handout I've created. Email in and I'll share.

That said, starting Dec. 1, I'm formalizing a consultancy for new media, brand assessment and media training.

If you want your message to get through, call Rowan.

Web presence to follow on Jan. 1.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Is the Fund-Raising Pyramid Dead?

There isn't a foundation director in the world that doesn't believe in the pyramid. The highest return comes from the small number of top donors. Therefore, investing five, six, seven visits into a top of the pyramid donor is the routine. Working that payoff of six and seven figures is where the vast majority of fundraising time is spent.

Barak Obama may have pulled the foundation from under the pyramid. One does not raise the hundreds of millions his campaign banked by focusing on the top of the pyramid. No, not unlike the reality of his tax plan, you can't harvest that kind of bank from a few; to get there you need to get some from the many.

As time moves on, the papers and studies will begin to filter out on how Obama created his virtual on-line ATM among the less than $2,000 donors.

We as an industry have built an athletic economic system on the backs of the major donors, the networks and the PSL gift for seating priority.

The first school that figures out the way to tap the tens of thousands of members of their Mascot Nations for Obama-like contributions will become the new leader in that athletic arms race.

When they do it, they'll learn they can live without the soul-selling deals with outside entities.

At the same time, they will become dependent upon keeping the fan base happy. That kind of democracy can be a good and bad thing.

The Hanging Coconut of Death

A photo that I could not resist. In the ripping winds today, this is the image of certain death.


Because statistically speaking, more people world wide are killed by falling coconuts than are killed by shark attack.

Keep your head on a swivel today in the Bahamas.

One to One is One to Many

I spend a lot of time these days in my new role of directing our new media emailing angry fans. It takes up a lot of time and emotional energy, but over the course of the past three months I’ve become convinced it is crucial to the athletic department.

More than one person has asked why in the world do you “waste” your time with “those people.” It is an outgrowth of my interaction with “those people” who also spend their days and nights on message boards.

Critics think I’m spending too much time doing “retail” work; that our time is best served reaching larger audiences.

Respectfully, I’ll counter that I am doing “wholesale” because today’s one-to-one work in reality is one-to-many.

This is one of the great keys to turning your messaging from a speech into a conversation. Thanks to the growing strength of word of mouth, reaching out to solve the problems of individual fans pays huge dividends.

I am as guilty as anyone of thinking I am talking to a computer when I get upset at a retailer or other supplier. Fans will say some of the most violent, demanding things when they think that they are A) anonymous or B) not talking to humans. They are quite surprised that an assistant athletic director is taking the time to respond.

There are some important rules to this work:

First, you need to respond quickly. Complaint anger can grow exponentially over time.

Second, listen. Inside that rant is a problem, one that you probably need to fix.

Third, apologize and offer solutions. Outside of coaching issues, they don’t take the time to go off on you if nothing wasn’t wrong.

Fourth, acknowledge their opinions. No matter how bad, it is their opinion. It’s OK to have that opinion, but perhaps the opinion is not well informed. Does this person have all the facts?

Fifth, be transparent. With the exception of private schools and certain team/academic/FERPA issues, it does you no good to act like what you know cannot be shared. Fans can be forgiving, but only when you are respectful of them and are willing to bring them in.

Last of all, sometimes you can’t solve their problems. This becomes an agree to disagree situation, but you ignore their feelings at your own risk.

From personal experience, taking the time to win over an upset fan who has given up on the streaming plan at the school, or is upset about an error on the website, pays dividends. Fans want to be loyal. Even more so, they want to be connected. Hold them at arm’s length at your own peril. Sooner or later, you will need them to step up for the program. If you have ignored them, they will not rally to your cause.

Farewell to the Bahamas

Not exactly the view from my window, but the pounding surf outside the room. The wind kicked up last night and howled through the windows and doors of the hotel. Big storms rolling north -- hey, just in time to fly into them.

Back in Fayetteville, the radar has that distinctive soft feathered look of snow. As we leave Our Lucaya, 25 mph winds gusting the tropical storm level.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

If I Was King for a Day

Reflecting on the announcement of PC Mag from print to a 100% on-line entity this week . . .

Create recruiting guides for every sport, none longer than 64 pages. They would be magazines with a high-gloss, fashion look because frankly, they are sales pieces for the program to parents.

Convert press guides into PDF almanacs with a high index content and XML searchable databases.

Put all the work that once went into those 208-page hybrids into new media content, focusing on personality and real-time streaming.

Build community through transparent message boards -- by transparent I mean confirmed real identity -- that along with real-time media would support the data store of the traditional HTML website.

Instead, I'll spend this weekend creating a printing calendar for next year's media guides.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sam Adams School of Communication

Organizing groups of insiders who can carry the message of the athletic department into the social media appears creepy, if not down right controlling, to many. These folks break down into two groups – those who do not want visible ties to message management and those who do not feel it necessary to engage those people on the boards.

I will argue that it’s not only proper, it’s American.

You mean you’ve forgotten Samuel Adams? The colonial governments needing to get word out to supporters and potential recruits required an alternate means of spreading information. The crown printers were not about to issue the news favorable to the insurgents. Thus, Committees of Correspondence were formed on an ad hoc basis until Adams formalized the system.

The Committees would carefully repeat the news of the day and mail it on to the next member for local dissemination, either by word of mouth or by circulation of the letter itself.

Sound familiar? How different were the Town Cryers used by the Obama campaign? Not one bit.

There are several groups waiting for the athletic department to utilize. Existing booster groups – tipoff clubs or swatters clubs – are a great source. Scholarship donors or foundation members are another important group. The network need not be formal – it can be as simple as a short list of trusted fans that can be informed of events.

Not everyone can employ the technique, and it has to be understood by the leadership. They must be comfortable enabling others to speak for the department. The ones that understand the control of the brand exists within the fan base rather than within a marketing or media relations office will be the administrators most willing to engage.

Never Forget It's All About the "E"

An interesting article in today's Austin American-Statesman about the power that ESPN wields as a schedule maker. The point of the piece is how ESPN has gone beyond the concept of "made games" to bring together power teams for televised games. The Worldwide Leader now has "made tournaments."

One of the money quotes, from the director of the Great Alaksa Shootout, who is no longer a part of the family:

"I think what happened in 2006 was a law of unintended consequence," Cobb said. "The rule change wasn't meant to empower ESPN, the 600-pound gorilla, but that's what happened.

"ESPN creates events. ESPN can write a check to bring in some little guys like Presbyterian or Prairie View for the big guys to feast on early and then set up great matchups. We used to be televised by ESPN. All of a sudden the vendor becomes the competitor, and I'm afraid the writing is on the wall for us."

Read the whole story here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

You Betcha We Took the Phones

One of the few upsides to being stuck off from family on Thanksgiving is you have time to catch up on work and on TV. A replay of an interview with Sarah Palin provided this nugget. When Todd brought the family down to the lower 48 to catch up with mom for the announcement in Ohio that she was the VP candidate, he took away the kids cell phones. The story he told them was they were going to surprise mom at an anniversary dinner, and he couldn't risk them letting the secret out.

What he really knew is he couldn't risk the kids texting friends in Alaska that hey, we're all flying off together to surprise mom somewhere.


Same reason why every coaching departure in America is news within no less that 15 minutes. The kids text friends. They text more friends. It gets in the social media. And just like that, the regular media knows what's happening.

Gotta hand it to someone in that camp -- at least for one moment, the knew how to enforce message discipline.

Happy Thanksgiving

To all my brothers and sisters scattered across the world -- from Maui to here in the Bahamas -- stuck away from home on Thanksgiving with basketball teams, have a good day.

On the travel side of this blog, one of the good things is off-shore, the sodas are made with real sugar. Tastes like your childhood before high fructose corn syrup.

It is also very quiet, and it's obvious that people are not traveling like they have on Thanksgivings past.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Take Note Kids: The Adults have Digital Troubles

More proof of one of my favorite lines: digital assets, once posted, are incredibly portable.

Seems that the Shermans of nearby Bella Vista have some troubles. Wifey Tina had sent some nudes to her husband Phillips' cell phone. OK, a little spousal spice. No facebooking here.

Well, be careful where you leave your cell phone. Phillip left his phone at a local fast food resturant, and someone found the phone -- and the pics -- and posted them.

We know about these events as the Shermans have sued the company. Read more from one of our local papers.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Is Blogging Dead?

Wired seems to think so. So do a lot of the on-line technocrati. Given that the top of the Google and other search engines are -- as Wired puts it -- on-line magazines rather than bloggers, I'm not so sure.

Twitter is the new blogging, and private email lists the new twitter. We are cycling through vehicles, not messaging.

The two items that seem constant -- people want the information they want, and they want it delivered to them. The vehicles seem irrelevant.

What I do see as a dying venue is the web site. My anecdotal evidence tells me they are reference material, not news sources. It is consistent with communication theory -- we trust those we know the best, and those are usually those closest to ourselves or think like ourselves. Mass communication began with a tribal elder spreading the word by mouth. Now it's a board operator spreading the word by text.

The future isn't better web site design and layout.

The future is better content and the willingness to interact with our fan base.

My constant drum beat to colleagues and coworkers over time has been to watch the magazine racks for layout -- they are paid to be the cutting edge -- and study the politicos for messaging -- they only succeed when they reach the people. Barack Obama is pushing for more transparency in government by putting on-line huge amounts of government documents. One of his few bills in Congress was to create a "google" of government contracts. Why contracts?

Because he crowd-sourcing them.

Notice, the idea wasn't to ask the people what we thought of legislation. Not to get folks looking into the national security apparatus. Not to pour over the pork-barrel earmarks of Congressmen. It was to look through government contracts. The president elect has targeted those recipients of government contracts for the microscopic inspection of thousands of motivated Americans to find the errors, the waste, the corruption.

This should tell us several things. Not unlike bloated Congressional legislation that is often voted upon without being fully vetted, much less read all the way to the end, there is a ton of stuff buried in these contracts (EULA, hello!) that while it is created by bureaucrats, the bureaucrats charged with oversight can't keep up. Like a short-staffed Gannett newsroom, let's get the people to do our work.

This means the peasants are at the gates, pitch forks and torches in hand. Be careful what you unleash in the power of the people. It is highly likely they will do the job you asked them to do, and that can lead to unintended consequences -- perhaps for the people who started the process themselves. Mr. Obama, meet Mssr. Robespierre.

It may also lead to something more important: a more engaged electorate. Here's the thing about working in the sausage factory. You know what's in that stuff, and either you don't eat it or you make darn sure you buy the brats that are rat and sawdust free.

What does that mean for college athletics? Well, fans aren't going to like that schools are spending as much as they spend on some things. At the same time, they might begin to understand why their tickets cost what they cost and begin to make choices. No, we want X-program to be good, and we will support success. No, we're tired to spending money down that rat hole and stop supporting non-productive coaches/teams/programs.

Regardless, for public universities, there is a new day just on the horizon. We have always lived in glass houses -- FOIA, sunshine laws, public funding accountability. The shades are about to open, and standing outside the windows are thousands of folks, ready to look in.

The ones that flourish in this future are the ones who can function effectively while being watched by everyone. The spin, as O'Reilly might say, stops here.

Hmm. Guess I went more than 140 characters.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Dark Lord Speaks

Love him or hate him, Rupert Murdoch speaks the truth:

"My summary of the way some of the established media has responded to the internet is this: it's not newspapers that might become obsolete. It's some of the editors, reporters, and proprietors who are forgetting a newspaper's most precious asset: the bond with its readers."

And, that's just the start. Murdoch was participating in a lecture series for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. That blurb came from Coop's Corner on CNET, which gives a fine summary of the speech here. For those that want more details from ABC, this is a press release on the Boyer Lectures. The first three lectures of the six-talk series is currently on iTunes (search Boyer Lecture).

Speaking of ABC, did anyone else catch Gruen Transfer via iTunes last year? Perhaps one of the best 10-episode run on the subject of the advertising community.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Last Time We Checked, They Paid You to Check

Last week, MSNBC was forced to issue a retraction after being hoaxed by an internet blogger. John McCain advisor Martin Eisenstadt came forward to admit he was the source on a Fox News story regarding Sarah Palin, and MSNBC and several other major outlet blogs (LA Times, notably) bit on the Eisenstadt claim.

Eisenstadt, a senior fellow at the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy, said he was the source of the story that in debate prep, Palin said that Africa was a country.

Just a few problems with the story. There is no Harding Institute. There's not even a Martin Eisenstadt. It was all the creative invention of a pair of filmmakers, and they played the traditional media for the LOLs. The Times went with the rumor, thinking it was viable because it was passed along to the news desk via email from a friend. MSNBC quickly said they were sorry that the story had not been "properly vetted".

This might be a little less egregious if it was a one-off. Regretably for MSNBC, this was Eisenstadt's third political hoax of the year.

It was one of those earlier stories that the Associated Press had the quote of the day, this time from Mother Jones' Jonathan Stein.

"My only consolation is that if I had as much time on my hands as he clearly does, I probably would have figured this out and saved myself a fair amount of embarrassment."

Um. Gee. Aren't you guys the professionals -- as in the people that are PAID to figure these things out? And you were had by a bunch of "amateurs"?

Is it any shock that more and more people believe the established media less and less?

That is, unless that quote from Stein was too good to be true and I've been had by the other great trend. We spend less and less time seeking out opinions that don't reinforce our own, and more and more time

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I am Reminded of the Three Rules

Before Dan Rather lost his mind -- and his job -- he wrote in his book, The Camera Never Blinks, that he expected the sources he respected to give him one of three answers:

I know, and I can tell
I don't know
I know, and I can't tell

Every source in the world, by Rather's estimation, fits into these three categories.

I was reminded of this by one of my students from last semester, that this was one of the items that really stuck with them. Good.

Our friends at Awful Announcing bring Mr. Rather back to mind with this entry about ESPN rejoining the BCS bidding war. A story written by ESPN on its own website resulted in ESPN saying that it had no further comment.

How exactly can the worldwide leader fit into the Rather system? I leave it to the readers to decide.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Niche Future is Here

Kenny Mayne is a unique talent, and ESPN has found the perfect niche vehicle for his humor with Mayne Street. Think SNL for sports.

The difference is its all digital. Shot for web. Aired by web. Sponsors, embeded and by the side in a traditional web presentation.

How much was the sponsorship? Probably not much. Low cost, low investment. But, I'll be willing to bet the return for Vicks NyQuil against traditional expenditure will be extremely high. It's Long Tail niche.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Duxford Mystery

I've been cleaning up some old files, and this picture I took at the American Museum at the Duxford complex. No one at the facility had any clue about the background of this B-29. Its markings were Korean War -- not Second World War -- and obviously the pilot had an Arkansas connection. The commander didn't just pick the Razorback logo, accurate to the 1950s, and the tag line.

I'm posting the image here in hope of someone who knows about the crew could get in contact with me.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Stop Me If This Sounds Familiar

The thing I find most interesting about The Long Tail is how much it reinforces the positions I've presented to the SEC Spring Meeting or CoSIDA. One of those points at the 2007 SEC was to understand the fact that we as SIDs are outnumbered. That's a pleasant way of saying surrounded.

From Chris Anderson's book:

Once, the power of newspapers came from their command over their tools of production. As the saying went, “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” But starting in the early 1990s, news started coming on screens, not just smudgy pages. And suddenly, anyone with a laptop and an Internet connection had the power of the press.

I've also used the Dan Rather analogy -- he was the most traditional, and taken down by those that were derisively called the Pajamaistas. Anderson quotes Richard Posner:

“Bloggers can specialize in particular topics to an extent that few journalists employed by media companies can. . . . A newspaper will not hire a journalist for his knowledge of old typewriters, but plenty of people in the blogosphere have the esoteric knowledge, and it was they who brought down Dan Rather.”

It's validating stuff, but more important, with a major author like Anderson saying it, perhaps others will begin to listen.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Long Tail Notes to Chill the Traditionalist

As promised, some notes and quotes from Chris Anderson's The Long Tail. This book has been around for a while, but the more I talk about it with athletics colleagues I understand that it has not penetrated our world. I highly recommend getting a copy -- it's been reissued in trade paper this fall.

Three quotes from the final chapter, which is about the radical change in marketing and PR that is upon our profession.

Where does this leave PR? The usual role of sending press releases to traditional media will probably continue as long as there is traditional media.

Blogging is all about authenticity and the individual voice, not paid spin.

Fundamentally social media is a peer-to-peer medium; bloggers would rather hear from someone doing something cool than from the paid professional representative of that person.

These passages are near and dear both to my heart and my experience. Especially the second quote. If you choose to blog, you must find your own voice. In sports, this really isn't that hard to understand. The heart of the sports section was the commentary of the editor's column. It is that value-added insight that separates a game story from an explanation of the game.

Jerry Springer; Media Savant

Tonight, Jerry Springer had the best explanation of the election I have heard from any pundant. On Hannity and Combs, the three were discussing the meaning of Obama earning two-thirds of the vote from those under 30. Springer pointed out is wasn’t just a youth vote. Obama is the first new media president. As surely as Kennedy would not be elected without television, Obama does not succeed without the employment of the internet on all levels – fund raising, reaching out through new media, touching a new electorate with their type of message.

I would extend that analogy further to include Franklin Roosevelt never gets elected without radio, and the way that he mastered the use of the medium to put forth his message. Perhaps even as far back as the Penny press and Grover Cleveland; Lincoln and the age of the great orators.

Future always belongs to the one who masters the medium of the moment.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Just When You Thought Facebook Was Going Away

Mack Brown dismisses Buck Burnette, the back-up center for the Texas Longhorns, after Burnette makes a really stupid post on his Facebook about Barak Obama's election. I'll leave it for Deadspin to provide the quote and link.

Kudos to Coach Brown for his action. Immediate dismissal from the team. The First Amendment crowd can cry that this is a violation of Mr. Burnette's ability to express himself. That perhaps is was simply satire.

No. Mr. Burnette represented the Longhorns in a public way. He is, for all intents, a public figure. His fate becomes no different than John Rocker. The difference is Mr. Burnette cannot blame the media for misquoting him.

Something I stressed to my student-athlete in the past -- when you run a Facebook/MySpace/SNW page, you have become the media. You have complete responsibility for what appears there. And, accept the liabilities.

It is a shame for Mr. Burnette. He's a college student, and college should be a time for stupidity. I mean that in the best of intentions -- people experiment, people learn who they are, people need the forgiveness that we should have for the learning.

Back in the day, we called them youthful indiscretions.

Today, they become near-felonious offenses.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Line of the Day

From TWIT, an expression of how Google sees the lack of advertising as more important than picking up a few more bucks via an extra ad.

"Google sees this as investing in the user experience"

Yes. This is why Facebook's interface is so loved, but not so often imitated. The TWIT crew continued to infer that Google is making more through less advertising, then driving partner sites to have more advertising. People go to one of the partner sites, see more ads and conclude, gee, I'd really like to use Google to search because it's less cluttered.

I get the very real sense we need to spend more time investing in our user experience across the board -- websites, new media products, in-game presentations -- and have a resulting better presentation of brand.

Or, as I've more clunkily said in the past, no one likes the Vegas strip on their desktop.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Long Tail of Athletics

Chris Anderson's book, The Long Tail, was recently reissued in paperback with an additional chapter and some revisions. I regret not having seen this business book earlier, but at the same time glad that during the last year I had not.

I say this to prod others to go get a copy and read it (it's a quick read, and well written). The editor of Wired magazine, many of his conclusions have been my own independently arrived at theories of where we are headed as an industry.

The Long Tail refers to the growing ability in the digital marketplace of profit to be obtained from inventory or information once considered unworthy of reaching the shelf in the physical business world. He also speaks to the ability of things out at the end of the Long Tail effecting brand.

In other words -- it all matters. It matters what the minor sports or doing (and how they are covered). It matters that those bloggers are defining who we are.

The most stunning chapter for our field relates to the Chevy SUV experiment where they encouraged people to make their own commercials. I vividly recall how the Madison Avenue-ites clucked at Chevy for being stupid enough to let the public use their website against them. To make anti-SUV ads. To poke fun at the brand. And to let it all stay on line. What clueless idiots.

Get the book. Read what really happened to Chevy's SUV sales numbers.

Anderson hits some of my favorites (and he's a much better writer), but really hones in about the change from Speech to Conversation with your fans regarding the brand; that we no longer control our brand -- our fans do (see the Dell Sucks section).

More to come over the next few weeks from the book. In the meantime, it's in almost any Barnes or Borders, pretty sure its at also.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Importance of Metrics

So, who does your clipping these days? All the SID types remember clipping -- cutting out those actual literal articles and filing them away. In the digital shift, clippings start to have less and less meaning to the majority in our field.

That's all the more reason to clip more.

Tracking and measuring the success of placement of messages -- oh, sorry, press releases -- is crucial to the ability of the office to do two things. First and regrettably foremost in these Excel-spread sheet driven times, it proves the worth of the enterprise. X-number of inches can be translated into monetary value.

What should be more important is gauging the effectiveness of the operation, and it is more important the further down the Long Tail of sports publicity we move. Anyone can generate voluminous copy for a major sport at a major college. Except where pro sport franchises are sucking the oxygen out of the mass media, how many inches D-I football gets isn't the issue. How many inches is the soccer team pulling at the same time; the D-III football team, etc.

Certainly there are other metrics -- click through on websites, as a prime example -- but for the publicity office this remains an important one. If the inches are declining, what are the factors? Smaller news hole? Sport attendance also dropping, indicating a decline in fan base? Here is where the SID can shine, because if they can buck those trends, they have proof of their effectiveness.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Was It Watergate Bad?

Back when I was at Northeast Louisiana, my GA was taking a readings course for his communications master's. He recalled the less-than-stellar effort of one of his classmates on a review, which ended with her proclamation that the scenario covered by her book "was bad; it was Watergate bad."

Ever since in our circle of friends, when we speak of the clueless and their errors, it's always referenced that the event was "bad, Watergate bad."

Submitted for your approval today, one Isiah Thomas. He has, indeed, been bad, Watergate bad.

Just ask the chief of police in Harrison regarding Thomas' quite incredible statement that she was the person who had difficulties. That the 47-year-old male transported from his house to the hospital for an al overdose wasn't necessarily the former coach of the New York Knicks.

Thomas told the New York Post that he wasn't the one treated for the sleeping pills problem, and inferred without directly saying it that it may have been his 17-year-old.

The money quote from police chief David Hall:

"These people should learn something from Richard Nixon -- it's not the crime, it's the cover up."

The Thomas family is sticking with their story, as Isiah's son is also saying it was his sister that needed treatment, not his dad. To this the Hall replied:

"My cops know the difference between a 47-year-old balck male and a young black female."

On the one hand, I'd ask the media to consider their impact on the family by gleefully engaging in a Schneidenfreud contest at the expense of the Thomas family.

But Isiah. Really. That was bad. Watergate bad. Both literally and figuratively.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Latest in Free Video

As the 20th century world continues to try and limit the expansion of streaming, this just in -- want to beat the system for your home team's video stream? Hook up a deal with someone off shore, rig up the slingbox to a Dazzle unit, push stream through a proxy to the off-shore and then tell all your buddies about the free video.

Or, by shorter name,

Are we really surprised? Free television beget pay cable; over time pay cable became standard thanks to advertising and cable systems wanting to hold off satellite. Now various pirates around the world are making those ever-so-portable digital assets, well, portable.

The networks have finally figured it out. The streaming is free (to the end user; of course it's advertising supported) for Hulu and many of the major sports teams.

This is just the more advanced, less cease-and-desistable, version of using the home state billing and zip code to fool systems (or proxy servers to beat IP checking).

The college sports world will fight to keep its blackouts and protections. And the ones that will get hurt are the ones with U.S. addresses. Kind of like the reward Real got for trying to play by the rules with the movie industry over copying DVDs to hard drives. They're injuncted, but all those off-shore DVD rippers that will never pay royalty dollar one continue to roll.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Losers on Both Side of a Digital Divide

Sarah Palin's hacket is charged for breaking into her Yahoo account. The son of a Tennessee legislator is paying the price for compromising the privacy of a public official.

Unfortunately for the governor of Alaska, Palin is now getting reprimanded for using a personal email account for doing public business.

Readers here will know that's a no-no -- proven already in the LSU women's basketball situation as administrators tried to loop around their ".edu" known FOI'able accounts.

Turns out the state of Alaska takes a very dim view to not doing the public's business on the public's email system. Learned today also that the state of California (Brown's Law) is even more of a stickler under a combo of FOI and open meetings.

Let's repeat again: Don't expect to keep your private email private if you use it at work, even for private functions. Why? Because you are using state computers, state routers, state connectivity. I continue to be amazed at colleagues -- here and at other schools -- that insist on using a Yahoo or GMail account to read ALL their email. Good luck separating out your personal business from that account you are forwarding your ".edu" official business to.

So the world has this hacktivist from Tennessee to thank for revealing the Palinista email circle. So, you betcha, he's gonna pay some fines; but gosh darn it, the illegal activity revealed another illegal activity.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

You Didn't Just Say That

Moments ago, the talent for ESPN's telecast of Clemson-Georgia Tech:

DAVE PASCH: It seemed like the players had a lot to do with this because Terry Don Philips was allowing them. The Athletic Director was allowing their voices to be heard.

ANDRE WARE: Which should never be the situation in a the case in this. You’ve got to gather everybody up, and you go to the coaches. If it does indeed come down to this kind of situation. Kids should never be speaking out about changes that are made from the top. It should never happen.

DAVE PASCH: With all the different kinds of media we have out there. Players’ comments. You’re in a small town like Clemson, South Carolina, where anything the players say is going to get printed and talked about ad nausium.

Whoa. Wait a minute. Let's parse that shameless shot at TDP.

First, God Forbid an athletic director that talks to student-athletes. Last time I checked, the job in college sports has dramatically changed from being autocratic to being inclusive. That's the reality.

Second, and the most ridiculous, it was the fault of the athletes that live in lil' old country towns like Clemson?

How about this small town paper -- ESPN? No problem in this pre-Bowden departure game story of Wake quoting the Clemson quarterback's vent.

And of course, who missed Tiger QB Cullen Harper's quote when Bowden resigned:

"It's what he deserved," Harper said. "Dabo Swinney is a fine man and will do an excellent job."

What small down paper carried that quote prominently -- why even in a big text pull quote box in it's front-page story. That would be E-SPN.

And how did ESPN get that quote? Harper texted it in to ESPN reporter Joe Schad. He realized later that was ill-advised, but did manage to dig himself a little deeper with a blog on Sporting News. Oh, those darn internets and texting.

Never forget what the first letter stands for: Entertainment.

If the ESPN crew wants to say that Harper's comments were in bad taste, sure. That they were self-serving as he had been benched by Bowden, sure. But these are the days of Web 2.0, and people want their opinions heard.

Does Harper need a little media training? Oh Yes. But Pasch and Ware might want to understand that their own company was that small town that printed the words of the players.

UPDATE: The talent crew in the closing minutes of Miami-Duke are picking up the mantle. The payoff line -- a kid shouldn't say someone deserves firing because there are children involved, other coaches and families involved -- and that Harper should not have spoken out.

Care to guess what network? Yep, ESPNU.

While we're piling on the "kid" for speaking out, why is no one getting on the "adult" reporter who didn't take into consideration that perhaps a young person was making a mistake with his text message?

Friday, October 17, 2008

On the Wall

Or maybe Twitterish -- at soccer, waiting for kickoff.

Great discussion today with colleagues at another major college about a project regarding the reaction of SIDs to the new media.

Proofing through 192 pages on-line will leave you a little blurry.

More coherent comments tomorrow. Meanwhile, The Long Tail is the book on the nightstand. Huge. Again, more later.

Time to set the streamer and get ready for futbol.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I'm Back

Lord. Anyone who's been through the wringer can relate to facing down 192 pages of media guide.

But, it's over for the 20th time here at Arkansas; the 24th in a row on women's basketball.

So, what did I miss? I did take a moment to drop a note about the faux death of Steve Jobs. My good friend Dan Gillmor once again has the best, succinct take on the event. His blog entry recalls how the techniques were used and misused.

Leo Laporte on This Week in Tech (OK, it was last week's This Week) had several of the key details, most notably that the first-post anonymous blogger used a proxy to make his now infamous rumor post.

As I noted, it's not the citizen journalist that was wrong, it was how horribly bad traditional media can't handle when it tries embrace Web 2.0. A modicum of checking would have revealed the obvious attempt to mask tracking.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Not the Way to Reintroduce a Coach

Again, light posting here as we wade through printing deadlines, but this couldn't wait. It's from the English Premier League as Newcastle United announces the return of Joe Kinnear to the league as a manager. Let's just say that one might want a better relaunch, and it takes any tirade by an American coach. By one estimate, 51 bleepable words in the rant, and Kinnear settles some scores with individual writers.

I warn you right now, this is not anywhere close to PG-13. Depending on your connection, it may not be viewable and could be considered NSFW. The F-word is prominent.

It's horrible, yet you can't look away . . . .

Newcastle's Joe Kinner: "I have had a million pages of crap written about me."

Friday, October 03, 2008

Failure to Administer

Citizen journalism gets down right dangerous when established media groups use it as a replacement for trained staff, or as a primary source for short-staffed situations. CNN got a very hard lesson in that with today's rumored Steve Jobs heart attack. Silcon Alley Insider has the best recap on this on their page.

It reveals the danger of no governor journalism -- the person making the post was a first-time poster to the iReport part of CNN. Even the most basic rule of thumb is not let a person go full post on the first time.

Bit chilling that according to web sources, not only has "johntw" and his post disappeared, his profile claims this iReporter has not uploaded any iReport stories. That's Soviet-style revisionism at its finest.

Expect investigations, not unlike those by the FBI and Secret Service into the hacking of Sarah Palin's email. This time it will be the SEC (not the athletic league, the government regulators), and you know they will have the IP for johntw by lunchtime.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gonna Be Scarce

It's almost October, and that time for the fun and games known as women's basketball press guide season. So the posts will be few and far between the next three weeks.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Um, Where to Begin?

Mike Masterson turns his attention this Saturday to the eeeeee-villllll that is the blogosphere in his op-ed column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. We get the usual set of new media hater cliches ("pajama-clad pundits," "Internet rumors," "accuse-anything Internet").

I've known Mike for a while -- since back when he was the editor at the NW Arkansas Times -- and there's probably much more to this than meets the eye on the column. It comes for me at a very bad time to counter, but in time, I think will get a written rejoiner.

His premise is the heart of the series I work with on the side at KUAF, "We're History," where Kyle Kellams and I dissect the presentism that runs rampant in the media.

One of the money quotes in Mike's column:
"Sad to say, calculated rumors, shaded truth and outright lies have become commonplace in what 20 years ago was the primary marketplace of reported facts."

Um. Gee. About 25 years ago, I was still working in a newsroom. Guess what, there was plenty of calculated rumors and shaded truth to go around about one Edwin Edwards, high-times Gov of the great state of Louisiana. Some of them started by Eddie himself. Remember when he famously quipped that he couldn't lose unless he was caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy?

The difference? Anyone can publish the rumors today.

There's more in this, and with deadlines looming I'll let this ride for now with just one small counterpoint.

Does Mike forget that a little over 100 years ago, that great bastion of journalistic principle, William Randolph Hearst, was trying to foment a war with Spain? How about those upstanding politicos of the party newspapers in the 1800s? Too old? Yesterday's freak-show drug addict becomes today's sage -- Hunter S. Thompson did call for Hubert Humphrey to be castrated and said things of Richard Nixon that, well, remain scatological even in the 21st century.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Shouldn't Be News, But It Is

For a couple of years, I've preached the risks of college athletes in the public domain -- and the threat the simple cell phone camera. Travel columnist Robert Smith in one of our local newspapers regales the readers with stories of the quick use of cell cameras to the Arkansas attorney general's office to build evidence against gougers after the hurricanes.

The AG asked folks to take before and after snaps of gas prices, and he got over 1,000 text messages with attachments plus another 1,500 emails.

The duh, I mean, money quote:

"The effort shows the value of the technology as a watchdog tool."

And, I might add, a not so subtle reminder to Matt Lienart.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Scary Things

While waiting for my iPod to sync . . .

A look at the world of news outside sports that should scare the bejezus out of some fans and some adminstrators.

First up, the hacking of Sarah Palin's email account. Very cute. Done with anonymizer software. Posted with screen names. Ha, ha, ha, says the blogger. Until the FBI arrives. Guess what? Within 24 hours, the cyber division had a person of interest, knew exactly what computer was used through what local ISP to perform the hack, post the data and brag about the reveal.

What have I told my friends in the blogosphere over and over (and my colleagues who often try to dip their toes in anonymously) ? There is no such thing as anonymous, just degrees of secrecy.

That said, next up is the hot new product for trying to Hack Sarah Palin (sounds like a teen movie title, doesn't it?). The Iron Key is a USB device with advanced encryption, a secure browser and claims to be able to allow users the ability to surf anonymously. Either this $75 USB key is one heck of a ripoff for a 1 GB of storage, or a huge threat to everyone that must deal with the public with transparency.

Last of all, the rise of hacktivism -- which is what the person or persons who went into Palin's email would call themselves. Bill O'Reilly's website got hacked, and personal data of the users of the site were revealed. There's much more on this from ZDNet, but it reminds those of us in the public sector of the data we need to protect, and the lengths to which the upset will go to achieve their ends.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Google Rules: Just Ask UAL

Another item that flew past -- no pun intended -- last week was the re-emergence of an almost six-year old story about United Airlines' bankruptcy. It went to the top of Google's news crawler and cause the markets to flip out. UAL's stock crashed on the mistaken belief that the major airline was going into bankruptcy again.

Unfortunately, it was just a stick in the Google cache -- mistakenly posted as new news. Even though it came down after 13 minutes, UAL stock went down almost a billion.

How did it happen, and how can it impact you in the college sports world? Consider what the impact would be to your school if old NCAA investigation stories happen to pop up right before the dark period for coaches heading into signing day?

There's a great primer on how it happened and what it means on the Association of College and Research Libraries website today:

Information is Power -- Even When it's Wrong

Amy Fry wrote the entry, and the whole thing is required reading. However, my money quote is this:

If any one of you has been underestimating the role of Google in the information food chain, STOP.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Waiting For Downloads

A moment for more thoughts on the future of the {YOUR MASCOT NAME HERE} Channel. The ability to project one's brand belongs to those who retain rights, and when yielding rights, does so in a way that maintain as much control as possible while trading that for A) filthy lucre; B) better distribution tools.

Case in point: ESPN360.

Look, I'm not the only person in the world who's 17-year-old son has an overwhelming desire to watch one out-of-market team whenever, however. And I'm not the only person who took the time to build a cheap (less than $350) but screaming fast, tuned for video lunchbox computer who's only purpose in its digital life is to drive a plasma screen HDTV.

Open weekend courtesy of Hurricane Ike allowed some quality tuning and tweaking time with the box, and by the end of Saturday night, the games we were watching were of no less quality than the old over-the-air analog signals I grew up with. To have the access was well worth the trade in quality. More important -- the price? Well, thank heaven I switched to a certain global monolith that provides internet access AND free ESPN360.

In the space of the last six months, the entire landscape in college sports broadcasting has changed. And no, it's not just because Will went over the wall from spin.

The Olympics have shown that IPTV is now a reality. That the consumer does want his MTV. And his syncro diving. And he wants it now; unless now is five hours from now when he gets off work and for him, time stands still.

CBS is streaming the SEC. NBC will stream the NFL. MLB and NBA will stream locally (which, when you think about it is absurd -- the people who want it are ex-patriots living in other markets -- perhaps it won't take 25 years before Sunday Ticket gets reinvented on-line).

Back to the school's channel. I've been surprised by the amount of ferocious shelling we've taken the past two weeks from folks who want Razorback football streamed. Other schools do it, why don't you? On the surface, a legit question. The main reason -- no offense to others -- but our games are monetized with contractual value. Even when NBC "gives away" NFL streaming, it's still commercially supported and while free to the consumer is not free by any means.

Thus, smaller schools and less popular sports can continue to give away video streaming because it has not gained the popularity yet to have serious commercial value. That is no slap to those others, in fact, it should be an encouragement.

NCAA men's basketball did not become anything important until ESPN, then CBS, took the flyer to run every game and create a sensation. Ask any aspiring band, you make the MP3s, you put them on the podsafe network and you hope that by building popularity someday you get paid.

The same is true for college sports. Women's basketball, softball, baseball and other emerging sports have a real future on-line, but only if schools are attentive to the hoovering contracts of the content providers. While picking up the fully-commercial properties of football and in some areas men's basketball, they seek to lock up other sports or entire schools and conferences. The goal is to create excess inventory to float against advertising sale, or simply to put content on the shelf as an exclusive.

Here's where schools must insist on the A & the B. If you want to take it all, you must pay a price that will counter-balance the recruiting blow that unavailable (or subscriber based) content inflicts. Think about it. This is a national recruiting market. If proud parents know they can remain virtually linked to the kids -- streaming video, a quality website, solid communications avenues -- they'll let them go anywhere. The schools where that isn't available are at a disadvantage. That's where the B comes in -- if they don't insist, don't give away any more rights than necessary.

Or one day, you discover you can't stream you own stuff outside your own state.

Friday, September 12, 2008

More Streams Join the Fray

First, it was NBC with the Olympics. Then MLB and the NBA joined in with local streaming. Last week, CBS announced it would provide free live streams of its SEC game of the week.

Michael Hiestand has a great review of this in Wednesday's USA TODAY. He repeats the argument taken as conventional wisdom -- free streaming of content available concurrently through advertising support on television only widens the audience.

The payoff quote:

And networks are being convinced online simulcast won't cannibalize the big bucks tied up in TV, figuring you'll watch online only if you can't get to a TV set, or you'll log on as you watch TV.

Sounds familiar to this space.

Live Blog Impacts

Some things we attempt on faith, and creating a game-day live-blog for your primary sports on first blush seem like a leap into unproven territory. Is it worth the time? What happens when things go bad for your team? Will fans find it useful?

Several schools go before us, notably our colleagues at Wisconsin, with highly successful game-day blogs. Our began with a somewhat quiet launch -- no promotion, just a part of the game-day fan instruction page and a link from the front page.

Week One -- the football blog was the No. 3 story in unique viewers, second only to the post-game story and an extremely popular story on the release of the new uniforms. There were some questions about the efficacy of doing the blog, particularly when some unfortunate computer issues led to interruption of live stats. Why waste time blogging while the live stats are dead?

Two quick answers emerge. First, the live blog allows fans to jump across to a stream of information that is agile and able to get through FTP and connection issues. So it plugs the gap. The second reason is far more important.

Right along with encouraging two-way conversation with fans -- which, quite frankly a game-day blog is not about -- the most important thing a website can provide is value-added content. Here is the true value of the live blog. Yes, stat-heads like myself enjoy reading the stats and seeing the play-by-play transaction. What fans want are description, interpretation.

One of our coaches on the road told me how convenient it was to keep up with the game in an airport on his mobile device. A fan that was hearing impaired, thrilled to be able to read color commentary that was never available before. Another long-time follower of the website, keeping the stat viewer and the blog open, as he described it, getting his play-by-play (the raw stats) and his color (the blog).

Week two saw the number jump three times -- the game-day blog in 24 hours became the No. 1 story on the site, with the post-game story at number two. Both of our non-conference games, not exactly traffic drivers, now set the stage for a big number with our first SEC game in two weeks.

For the media relations office, again, why range off into the land of bloggers? It's about content, and the ability of the institution to bring an official account of the event for its fans. How different is this from radio play-by-play? The beauty of the blog is the ability to interject other details that perhaps radio or TV can't, or no longer will, relay. The reaction of the crowd to plays, the songs of the halftime band set, the names of the captains, the little side notes.

We'll open up a little more in two weeks, looking to add more fan-based details. I did get my first tailgating photos, which one managed to be added to the blog. With any luck in the pregame portion, we'll add more of those kind of interactions. Perhaps not to the extent just yet of some of the pro venues and some colleges that are encouraging the use of camera phones to send in fan shots during the game, but we're working on getting there.

Twitter -- coming in the near future.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

And You Were Thinking What?

More tales from the Dark Facebook side: Kutztown University senior Adam LaDuca is forced to resign as the head of the Pennsylvania College Republicans because of an ill-advised description of Barack Obama. We'll not repeat the line, but here's a shock -- "a comment he later said he regretted."

OK, let's concede the future will be filled with soon-to-be middle-aged politicians who will be haunted (and forgiven due to the ubiquitousness of the medium) by stupid jokes and statements of their youth.

Still, how many more examples do you need to get the idea: post nothing you wouldn't expect to be read by your worst enemy, your current or future employer, your current or future spouse/partner.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Plenty of Labor Day

Sorry about the pace of posts here; it's been packing and moving time for the realignments at Arkansas. So on this Labor Day, it was moving day. With any luck, the pace will return later. Until then, for the rest of you, enjoy your day off.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

All The News Fit to Browse

Peggy Drexler gives us a chilling take on the mind-set of the American journalism consumer with her McClatchy-Tribune distributed column. The gist of the Cornell psychology professor's column is that the cloud that is the media provides everything to the reader -- but not in the best of ways. It becomes incredibly easy to tune into the news that you want, rather than at times the news that you might need. Pointing to the political situation, it is easy to descend into a worm hole of reinforcing coverage to one's preconceived notions. Think Barack Obama is getting poor treatment because of race; there's a blog for that. Think Hillary Clinton is getting the shaft on gender; plenty of news coverage there. Think John McCain's getting the short end of opinion; lots of that too.

Where Drexler goes with this is a bit difficult to accept. The point is this new "mob" of media is bad, and that somehow we may be at fault. Can't agree. America's journalistic past was once dominated by the "party" press; newspapers funded by and supporting particular political groups or points of view. This is as old as our free press. The difference is the ease with which it may be started, and the low barrier to entry. From her column:

How can we blame The Media for stepping out of bounds when the lines have been washed awy like sidewalk calk in a rainstorm?

Better to say that the rain -- in the form of new technology -- has removed the artificial lines created by the professional media.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I Could Not Say It Better

This post dates to late July, and came out as a part of a news feed in early August. For those trying to understand the end of the sports journalism world as we know it, this blog entry at From the Bleachers says it all.

Titled "Exodus," it chronicles the departure from ink-and-paper some of the key sports journalists and their re-emergence (and some would say re-invigoration) in the all-digital world.

One of the focus points is Tony Barnhart. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist -- and past-president of the Football Writer's Association -- is more active, timely and relevant in his on-line work for the AJC blog. Not in the FTB blog, but this was most evident as Barnhart broke details about the two huge SEC TV deals, telling many of us in the schools more about what was happening than we were picking up through official sources.

Postscript: If you didn't believe in the end of the world, not two weeks after his blog entry that focused on Barnhart -- the venerable columnist takes a "voluntary" buyout to leave the AJC.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Media is Not a Zero-Sum Game

My favorite icon of mediathink to bash is the zero-sum game. If you allow choice, it will dilute the product. If you provide what is seen as competitive content, it will destroy the share and ratings. If we chose this method of delivery, we must exclude all others.

The new media is a firehose, and guess what NBC is now learning? The same lesson CBS figured out during the NCAA Final Four. Interestingly enough, more is actually . . . more.

This just in from NBC Universal: ratings are going up. Up for the traditional network broadcast window. Up for the ancillary network delivery. And astronomically up through new media.

This space has been harshly critical of NBC's handling of past Olympics as they sought to bring in more views by taking the sports out and putting the human interest in. Someone caught the clue that after Athens that A) the sappy, super-saccharine soap-opera approach was neither bringing in the female demo they were touting in 1996 and 2000 (no one wants to watch the whole event, just the highlights); and B) those darn internets were providing the spoiler role to time-delayed sports.

Since the internet genie wasn't going back in the bottle, NBC has embraced the horror and gone uber-geek. Their play is paying dividends. According to AP, NBC Universal has reported 1.7 million video streams off USA's frog-squashing int he 400 relay alone; plus another 1.5 emailed to friends of the same.


It's not supply and demand; it's creating demand. You can watch almost anything, at any time. TiVo, meet Silverlight. NBC figured out that given the choice, fans will opt for their HD TVs and the Nielson book over their computers or phones. But for those that need that option, instead of shutting out the other content vehicles, NBC is now seeing a half-million phone downloads the first two days. Small, yes. Fantastically beyond estimates? Oh hell yes.

And the money quote:

NBC Universal worried in past Olympics years that its decision to air much of the events on cable outlets like CNBC, MSNBC and USA would siphon interest from prime-time, which is still where the network earns the bulk of its advertising revenue. But the opposite proved to be true and, this year, the same thing has happened with the digital content, said Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics.

The takeaway lesson for college sports? Don't restrict yourself based on the old-network paradigms of zero-sum gain. Exclusive partners within a medium? Certainly. But don't let one medium exclude the other. Fan choice for interaction is driven by circumstance. Most would rather buy a ticket and be there. If not, they'll watch TV. If not, they'll watch streaming video. If not, they'll take audio by phone. And so on.

And every one of those modes serves a different audience, with a different price point. It can all generate both interest and profit.

However, somewhere, out there, the 21st century embodiment of H.L. Mencken's Puritan waits to lock down new media based on the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might not watch the TV.