A New Model for Sport’s Media – Blogs with Balls (SXSW Review)

Image adapted from Design Mind

Remember the “story” that broke on Twitter announcing Magic Johnson was buying the Jacksonville Jaguars? Well, Darren Rovell, Sports Business Reporter at CNBC remembers it well. Not long ago, someone claiming to be affiliated with ESPN radio broke the news via Twitter. Darren immediately picked up the phone and called Jaguars owner, Wayne Weaver, asking if it was true. And of course it wasn’t. Twitter and sports reporting have become the equivalent to dating rumors of the Mean Girls variety – it’s becoming increasingly hard to tell a factual report from a rumor.

Thanks to the invention of mobile apps and social networks like Twitter, virtually anyone can be a sport’s reporter these days. Blogging and podcasting have been the gateway for anyone to portray him or herself as a legitimate source and there are success stories everywhere. But hidden behind a computer and not in front of a network television camera, you start to question whether these reports come from a reputable source or a geek simply trying to see how viral their reports can get. Think of the network of journalists and bloggers like America; there are some bad cities out there that give all of us a bad name.

Blogs with Balls was one of the most interesting and relevant panels at SxSWi, the interactive conference that ended last week in Austin. With big names like AJ Daulerio (Editor-in-chief, Gawker Media), Spencer Hall (Contributor, SB Nation), Jemele Hill (Columnist and Television Analyst, EPSN), Dan Shanoff (Founder, Quickish Media), and Darren Rovell on the panel, we got an inside look on how sport’s media has changed and continues to do so.

There used to be a velvet rope in the sport’s world that 99% of us had to stand behind. We didn’t have the credentials or glossy business cards with a big network name on it to get us into the locker rooms or press boxes or onto the fields. We waited for breaking news and information and were at the discretion of teams and credentialed journalists to get us that info.

For aspiring writers, broadcasters and sport’s industry experts, this new way of breaking news (i.e. Twitter, blogs, podcasts) is exciting. Now we are all allowed to partake in the news from the very beginning and are no longer held to simply offering analysis on “old news” after it’s already been reported.

In no particular order, here are some highlights from the panel:

-       Working for ESPN (or any big platform) shouldn’t be your dream – being a good journalist should.

-       The online explosion of blogging/podcasting has opened the doors for many. Along with opening those doors, it’s also encouraged some of the better-known journalists to be smarter writers. “You can’t be outdone by a nobody” – Jemele Hill.

-       Find your writing niche and stick with it. Bill Simmons is a great example – he doesn’t write what he doesn’t care about. He is passionate about this work and this passion allows him to connect with his community.

-       Try to grow your audience, but keep your core audience. Don’t alienate the audience that has been loyal to you since day one. Take time to grow it without losing that core. Don’t be a one-hit wonder like 98 degrees. Stay in it for the long haul and try to be more like the Rolling Stones.

-       Credentialing is not the be-all end-all. Write from a fan’s perspective. Remember, fans can be anywhere – not just inside a stadium or locker room. Credentialing is no longer the litmus test of who is or isn’t a legitimate journalist or news source.

-       Fast and First. It’s important to be the first to break a story, but it’s more important to get the story right. If you don’t have all the info, sit tight and wait. Otherwise, you’re just perpetuating the sharing of bad media and we all feel the effects of it. Don’t be one of those bad American cities.

Twitter and how it’s changing the sport’s world on every level was a huge part of the discussion. Follow the panelists: Darren – @darrenrovell, Jemele – @jemelehill, Spencer – @edsbs, AJ – @AJDaulerio, Dan – @danshanoff (and of course you can follow me @jaymelamm)