Raptors, Ovechkin & Technology Oh My

Ok, so when I say this, I want to make it clear that I am not in anyway comparing sports to the tragedy of September 11. So for those who are going to go there, just stop.

I remember the time when a major news event happened when I used to stay up until 11:35 to see what Ted Koppel was going to say on Nightline. I knew Koppel would have the best guests and that was the way to get the best info. Fast forward x number of years to that dreaded day in September. There was no longer a need to wait up for nightline. CNN, MSNBC and whomever else covered the events of the day around the clock. The way we ingested and demanded news certainly has changed. Twitter has moved things to the news on demand realm.

The world of sports is no different. We used to have to wait for the morning paper to arrive (or for us to arrive at the subway station) to pick up the papers to get the facts and opinions we needed. Even as late as the last year we had to wait for the opinions from our favorite (or favorite to hate) to get memorialized in ink. Locally speaking, that has finally changed.

Consider that tonight at 10:01 Steve Simmons tweeted “Bryan Colangelo says – If you want to blame somebody for the Raptors, blame me – Read my column in Tuesday’s Sun …”

Or, you can read it now online at 10:02.

Dave Feschuk’s excellent opinion piece on the Raptors season was posted just moments before Simmons piece. Bruce Arthur’s Chris Bosh article that was in Monday’s paper similarly appeared Sunday night.

Point your browser over to search.twitter.com and enter the words Ovechkin suspended. You will find that before the suspension was made “public” by the league the Washington Post tweeted it, then published it and then the entire hockey world followed. Damien Cox first tweeted the news (a retweet of the Washington Post author Tarik El-Bashir post) and a little while later tweeted again that his opinion piece was now available on the Toronto Star’s website.

Thanks to twitter, RSS readers and feeds and incredible wesbites like Kuklas Korner the ability of fans to keep up to date in near real time is spectacular. For those of you who read this site on a regular basis are aware, I constantly say the NHL should buy twitter- I think it was made for the league. (yes I am saying it tongue in cheek). Consider that while the technology eyes are on SXSW this week, Twitter, during it’s presentation talked about, the little league that could:

“Twitter CEO Evan Williams showed off new technology Monday that lets content partners cleanly pull Twitter links and streams onto their Web site through JavaScript, instead of an API, but keep hush on advertising plans…..
…..Some features demonstrated by Williams at SXSW already exist. The National Hockey League (NHL) has been using a similar technology for months. In fact, the league attributes the technology to keeping fans glued to its site during the recent NHL draft picks.”

Don’t believe me yet…. Remember that little hockey game a few weeks ago between Canada and the USA?:

“Between 2:29 and 2:54 p.m. Pacific time, more than 3.5 million status updates were posted, which is twice the pace of the rest of the day.”

Back when I started this blog, the Globe and Mail was the leader in this new age era. They used to update their site nightly around 10 or 11pm with their feature stories for the next day. They, and the National Post left the Sun and Star behind. Now it appears that the tables have been turned. The Toronto Star has fully embraced the technology era. Their website, at least in the sports section is ever evolving. Not only do their writer write, they blog, live blog and tweet. The National Post and as evidenced by tonight’s Simmons column, Toronto Sun are slightly behind the Star. The Globe and Mail seems to have changed tactics, delaying the articles by their columnists a tad.

It’s funny that the Roy MacGregor writes a column this week that contains this gem:

“When newspapers start confusing “hits” with “circulation,” there is an undeniable danger to journalism.”

MacGregor is a legend. I am not sure there is a more well respected sports writer in the country. However, it says here that his column is off base.

“If, as increasingly appears to be the case in the uncertain world of Web publishing, traffic is what matters most – and may one day be the basis for figuring out how finally to make money out of Web content – then it only stands to reason that those working in the business will chase traffic harder than stories.

Why, given that traffic often increases when celebrity is involved, would a journalist risk a low-traffic day by introducing readers to someone they do not already know – regardless of how important that person’s story might be? ”

Is this any different in the electronic world as it was in the paper world?

I mean all that has really changed is that things are much more trackable. Do you think that what sells is different today then it was before? Rush Limbaugh didn’t need to track hits to know what would light up his switchboard did he? Al Strachan, John Robertson didn’t have the benefit of analytics to tell them what to write. I mean do we really need to watch Don Cherry to hear what he is going to say? Simmons Sunday column hasn’t changed one bit since the advent of the most modern technologies.

“An American friend who now does a daily blog for a major U.S. newspaper says he came to realize there were certain tricks to Web journalism that did not apply during his many years as a hard-copy reporter.

The key to increased traffic, he says, lies in striking the hot buttons almost immediately – if possible, right in the headline.

If you can get as high up as possible those magic names and phrases that incite the American public – Sarah Palin, the Clintons, Tiger Woods, global warming, anything to do with sex – then the thousands upon thousands who have signed up for alerts on anything to do with Ms. Palin, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Woods, climate change, sex will come flooding to your page.”

None of that is new. What’s new is that idiots like me now, if we are willing to take the time can publish our own opinions. What has changed is the reach. Mr. MacGregor’s friend the blogger hard copy days never got beamed out to the world. With the exception of a few publications, very few stories in local papers ever got national let alone international attention. The pallet has changed and the audience size has changed, the game hasn’t. How many articles in tomorrow’s papers will be good news stories? Do we watch adoringly at the smooth pace of traffic along the 400 northbound on a Friday evening? No, we rubberneck at the poor guy who has wrapped his car around a pole. All the same things sell. The difference is that clicks and hits have replaced the physical sale of a tangible piece of paper. People used to buy the paper for what they could expect to find inside. We knew what our certain reporters were going to say on a subject and we were prepared to pay for it. Now we point our browser to our favourite outlets and we pay by having our eyeballs scan leaderboards and skyscrapers on a page.

So, no matter your poison, you can now have access to it sooner. That’s a good thing. Even better, there are more people writing on subjects we care about every day who never had a voice now do. I have 92 feeds in my rss reader. The vast majority are blogs. Of those, almost all are written by people who never before had a voice. Those who write for clicks will find that eventually the cream rises to the top and the quick buck will in fact end. The good writers, professional or blogger will survive and remain relevant.

As for me, my brain is in about 4 different time zones right now, as Tomas Kaberle says, I need a maintenance day.



Bruce Arthur’s Bosh story is here
Dave Feschuk’s Raptors story is here
Steve Simmons’ Toronto Raptors story is here
Roy MacGregor’s technology/journalism article is here

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