Friday, September 12, 2008

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.


Christopher Byrne said...

Interestingly, the content of the blog seems to violate the restrictions put on the media by NCAA rules.

How did you get around this? Or do the rules only apply to championships?

Bill Smith said...

Actually, the content does not violate any restrictions, because no restrictions apply to the host institution at its own regular season events.

If it were a NCAA event, that would be different.

Nor does it violate the SEC rule -- the institution is allowed to produce its own content.

The value to the rights holder is the ability to produce content. The NCAA is not bound by its own blog rules in its official blog; that's why it's the official blog.

Think of it this way: ESPN is not limited to only three minutes of video when it is airing Monday Night Football because ESPN owns the right to air the whole event. Any credentialed media would violate that exclusive agreement if they produced their own live TV event.

Christopher Byrne said...

That the schools can do what they want is a given. Whether it is a double standard or not is a different story, because by the time you type the entry and post, the rights holders have already broadcast it. I posted my thoughts over on our site.

Bill Smith said...

Chris -- I'll post something for you at your site, but there is no double standard.

The logic here seems pretty clear -- it is the same reason that Fox Sports can't roll up to the stadium on the day ESPN is producing a video rights production and expect to be able to do the game on their network.

If anything, we are applying the same rights standard to our data that we do to audio and video representations of our events.

Far more problematic -- how do all those other websites on the internet get "live" stats from various universities that protect and do not share their data streams.

Christopher Byrne said...

That is a good question. Can you give some examples of the sites doing this? It is definitely worth asking them!

On the double-standard, I guess we will have to agree to disagree:-).

Bill Smith said...

Very well, not to be arch, but there isn't a double standard; it's a violation of rights holders if an outside entity does it.

Live blog relates closely to live stats. The Supreme Court and copyright law have upheld the copyright of "performance art" on live productions -- be it radio play-by-play, television broadcast, theater production or in this case a sporting event.

The same law that says you can't bring your own video camera and produce your version of the event because it is in a semi-public place -- which from the stands in a paid seat it is not fully public -- gives that same protection to the creation of accounts of the event in real time. We have reserved that right to ourselves.