SBD/November 11, 2011/Events and Attractions

SMT Conference: Media Heavy-Hitters Discuss Social Media Strategy

The '11 Sports Media & Technology conference yesterday featured the panel, “How Big Media Uses Social Media.” The participants were Managing Editor Paul Fichtenbaum, VP/Programming & Exec Producer Jeff Gerttula, Fox Sports Interactive Exec VP Jeff Husvar, ESPN Senior VP/Editorial & Print Media Rob King and Yahoo Sports Writer Adrian Wojnarowski.

King discusses ESPN's guidelines for breaking news
and how it relates to reporters' use of Twitter

Representatives of some of the media industry’s biggest brands met onstage to discuss social media strategies during the '11 Sports Media & Technology conference. King on breaking news: “We do have editorial guidelines that ask that we don’t just go to that single social media platform to break news. There’s a huge opportunity to reach our audience if we pass information first through the news desk -- both digital and television news desk -- to work together so we can get stuff out across the bottom line. Our reporters are asked to call in with info they have. Once somebody says, 'We’ve got it,' they are free to get into the fray.” Gerttula: “It’s about becoming that credible source for consumers. So it’s not just breaking news. What happens is that consumers know who those (expert) sources are so they flock to them.” Wojnarowski, who began tweeting with Yahoo prior to the '08 NBA Draft, said he went social as a way to compete against ESPN: “There’s a level of guerilla warfare in reporting. We wake up and say, ‘How can we impact (ESPN’s) TV show and take a wrecking ball to it?’ That’s our goal every day. You don’t necessarily beat them with conventional warfare, but you’ve got to be the guys hiding in the trees. So we used Twitter to start breaking draft picks and as trades were happening. That created a following and that’s how we competed against them."


On revenue opportunities in social media, Fichtenbaum: “There’s not a marketing opportunity and there’s not a sales opportunity that doesn’t have some sort of social component attached to it. It’s in every conversation.” King said ESPN has used partner media platforms to drive content and revenue. In one program it asked users to submit video highlights of themselves via YouTube: “We asked them to participate and paid it off on 'SportsCenter', so that on a Friday (on-air talent) Merril Hoge hosted a segment that would show our audience getting their 15 minutes of fame. And what comes along there is a sponsorship.”

On the game-changing nature of Twitter, Wojnarowski: “The biggest thing I think it did was brand stories in terms of who had it first. What Twitter has done is created a scoreboard so that people can’t take credit for a story you broke like they would in the past.”

On balancing promoting reporters versus news, Husvar: “Our writers are jumping out of their skin to post on Twitter. They really want to establish themselves on Twitter, which is why they have guidelines and why we try to put some structure on the way it’s used.”

Several panelists name Wojnarowski as
a must-follow on Twitter
Wojnarowski also discussed social media communication and feedback: “On Twitter you see the insecurities of people,” he said after joking about how some media members re-tweet “thanks” to a complimentary tweet in order to publicize positive feedback. Wojnarowski also recommended keeping social messaging centered on coverage. “I try to keep it focused on the league I cover. I don’t think people care during the (NBA) lockout what I’m eating or where I’m sitting.”

On who is a must-follow on Twitter, Gerttula: “In the NBA, Adrian (Wojnarowski) is certainly a must-follow. NFL, Adam Schefter. I tend to follow the people who are a source where you’re going to hear things first.” Fichtenbaum: “I following Adrian (Wojnarowski) for NBA, I follow John Clayton because I’m winning my fantasy league.” King: “There’s probably 800 people that I follow. I think the person I get the most out of is (CEO) Pete Cashmore from Mashable. I’m learning about these developing trends left and right.” Husvar: “I have an overflow of sports information, so the people that I follow kind of fall outside the sports world and really are more in the business and straight news world (such as CBS News, Wall Street Journal, etc).” Wojnarowski: “There’s a guy named Russ Bengtson who used to be editor at Slam magazine and works in the sneaker industry. He’s the funniest guy in our realm on Twitter.”
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