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.