ESPN slams the door on Tweeting

On Monday, Peter King of SI.com demonstrated one of the new realities of a media landscape dominated by the immediacy and simplicity of Twitter with the following paragraph regarding the Friday frenzy that emerged linking Mike Vick to the Patriots. 

“It’s a weird media world we’re in right now,” King wrote.  “My allegiance, obviously, is to SI.com, but I know if I take 10 minutes right now to dictate the item to someone on the news desk, the story will get up in 20 minutes, and we’ll probably be too late.  So I decide to throw a couple of Tweets up, the first at 4:59 saying Vick wasn’t in Foxboro, and the second that the Pats don’t want Vick and like O’Connell. Sure enough, at 5:01 p.m., Adam Schefter Tweeted that Vick wasn’t in New England either.  It’s a crazy media world.  Forgive me, Time Warner.”

Though it’s unknown whether the folks at the Sports Illustrated parent company granted King a papal dispensation for his decision to choose speed and Twitter over page views and SI.com, employees at ESPN are officially on notice.

Thou shalt not Tweet regarding professional matters.

ESPN basketball analyst (for now) Ric Bucher made the disclosure today — where else? — on his Twitter page.

“The hammer just came down, tweeps:  ESPN memo prohibiting tweeting info unless it serves ESPN,” Bucher wrote, capping it with a choice of words that conjures memories of a certain Twilight Zone cookbook.  “Kinda figured this was coming.”

And then Bucher acknowledged the distinct possibility that he has stepped into a pile of, um, trouble.  “I’m probably violating some sort of policy just by telling you,” Bucher wrote.  “In any case, stay tuned.”

Bucher also explained his understanding of the contours of the policy.  “My guess is I can still tweet about my vacation/car shopping, etc.  Which I will do, if I can.  But the informal NBA talk is prob in jeopardy.”

This policy demonstrates the concern that big media companies have regarding the extent to which their products will become undermined by Twitter feeds that cannot now — and likely never will be — monetized.  With ESPN employees like Chris Mortensen and (as of August 17) Adam Schefter posting regular NFL updates on their Twitter feeds, people might decide simply to follow them on Twitter, and to never visit ESPN’s on-air or online properties.

Frankly, we think that the different forms of media can be harmonized.  We use Twitter as different type of RSS feed, with a headline and a link sent out to anyone who chooses to follow the PFT updates.  And while we supplement the stream of story links by from time to time adding Twitter-only observations and other stuff (such as last week’s “debate” with Chad Ochocinco), the main purpose of our Twitter page is to get our links to every story onto the computer screens of as many readers as possible.

The danger for companies like ESPN is that there are more writers and personalities than there is content to push.  So, as a practical matter, the Twitter page of each ESPN on-air and/or dot-com personality can become something that a reader chooses to follow as an alternative to the stuff for which ESPN gets paid.

Thus, the new ESPN policy seems to compel ESPN employees who are posting substantive sports-related information to do so in a manner that advances the ESPN agenda of getting as many people as possible to visit ESPN.com and/or tune in to one of the many ESPN television networks, which in turn allows ESPN to make as much money as possible.

(Since I’ve owned Disney stock for ten years and counting, I fully support the new policy.)

Still, this means that there will no longer be breaking news from ESPN talent on Twitter, and that at most we’ll get teasers with links to ESPN.com stories and/or an invitation to tune in to SportsCenter for more information.

UPDATE:  Though the specific details aren’t clear, a Tuesday night tweet from Schefter confirms that things will be changing.  Have seen ESPN’s
new Twitter guidelines,” Schefter says.  “And I now have no choice.  Before I start there
Aug. 17, I must check myself into Twitter rehab.

SECOND UPDATEHere are the official ESPN social network guidelines.

THIRD AND FINAL UPDATE:  Kenny Mayne of ESPN apparently has signed off from Twitter in the wake of the policy.  “Was informed 2nd hand of Taliban-like decree against further Twitter,” Mayne said.  “I leave noting that I am a fan of Fiona Apple.”

25 responses to “ESPN slams the door on Tweeting

  1. I got a tweet from Andy Reid he said he stepped on a needle in his sons room and now the walls are talking to him, and he has the munchies but nothing new there.

  2. I never used Twitter and I’m not going too. But I think its wrong to tell your employees can and can’t talk about on their Twitter page. Don’t this violate a persons right to free speech or something. Florio needs to check in to this.

  3. The entire reason I signed up for Twitter was to promote my blog. I gain a decent amount of traffic when I post links to my content. I understand ESPN having an issue with choosing to break big news over Twitter than their site, like Peter King did, but having an interesting twitter page, will only gather more followers that will send content to ESPN when they post articles. An off hand comment from a player or a rumor might not have a place in and EPSN article, but it does have a place on twitter. If ESPN thinks Twitter is hurting them, they are so backwards that it is just a matter of time before they have some actually competition in sports media.

  4. At least Schefter isn’t tied to an ESPN contract for another 13 days and he can continue to update. I understand that ESPN wants to get people to go visit the site, but they’re the company that is always racing to get stories out first, especially in the NFL.
    The smart idea would be to allow Schefter/Mort/Bucher tweet out teases and then link to the story (i.e., News on Michael Vick and the Patriots more to come at espn.com) and then post the link when the story is finalized.
    If the WWL is so ignorant to eliminate the feeds of its top reporters, they will be missing out on a lot of viewers because I guarantee that if they just made the guys change their display names to include the 4 company letters (@adam_schefter_espn or @espnmortreport) and include the 4 company letters that web traffic would still soar.

  5. Twitter is killing sports media. To tell you the truth, I think that it’s a good thing. The news media in general has abused it’s power and can’t be trusted to faithfully report the news. If it doesn’t survive, I couldn’t care less.

  6. much as i hate to admit it florio, i think you have this one right. epsn is being foolish…or they are admitting that they offer nothing as a news source that can’t be adequately summed up in 140 characters or less.
    they fail to realize, their employees are building strong brands that will carry over. its up to them to provide underlying content that goes beyond 140.
    something like: x player signs y team, full story 620 on sportsnewsshow…this is poorly thought out, the twitter world can run around espn on this one…make them more useless…

  7. “So I decide to throw a couple of Tweets up, the first at 4:59 saying Vick wasn’t in Foxboro, and the second that the Pats don’t want Vick and like O’Connell. Sure enough, at 5:01 p.m., Adam Schefter Tweeted that Vick wasn’t in New England either. ”
    That’s really terrible grammar for a writer. Too bad this hack has a job when there are clearly more qualified people out there.
    It makes me grit my teeth every time I read “Adam Schefter Tweeted that Vick wasn’t in New England EITHER” as if he was referring to neither himself nor Vick being in New England.
    He ALSO Tweeted, Peter. ALSO. Dufus.

  8. And this is why Sports.yahoo.com gets more page views than ESPN.com! Fact!
    This “head in the sand” sort of policy will just put ESPN farther behind the rest of the media who choose to get the story out to their readers as quickly as possible.
    ESPN seems kind of like the RIAA ignoring the music downloads their customers want, while trying to hang onto CD sales. How did that work out for the record labels?
    ESPN are you reading this?

  9. Who’s in charge these days at ESPN anyway? It seems like one screwup after another on top of an increasing mega-corporate persona mixed with arrogant jagoff commentators.
    Plus I’m pretty sure they blocked me from posting messages on their blogs after I criticized their lazy and sensationalistic approach to covering stories. I didn’t get any notice, but shortly after I posted 2 or 3 comments on that topic my posts would no longer publish.
    ESPN used to be awesome when I was in HS and even college. Now? It’s a total tool shed.

  10. ESPN memo prohibiting tweeting info unless it serves ESPN
    Wow, does that sound like some corporate asshat wrote that?
    Rot in hell, ESPN.

  11. They should fix the problem instead of banning it…. Now I will just unfollow Schefter and follow someone else. Maybe Florio.

  12. ESPN has its own special place in hell. They have no appreciation of how Twitter would boost the profiles of their reporters and their brand. They charge for bullshit “premium” crap on the site (same info you get for free from them on the radio and tv) and their product is awful. CNNSI and now nbcsports.com are just better places to get news and commentary now.

  13. Schefter’s page;
    Adam_Schefter Have seen ESPN’s new Twitter guidelines. And I now have no choice. Before I start there Aug. 17, I must check myself into Twitter rehab.
    BTW is there still a policy regarding cell phone pictures?

  14. southernboi727,
    Florio doesn’t have to check on the free speec violations nonsense.
    When you work for an employer, they can control your job-related actions. Free speech doesn’t mean you have the constitutional right to say whatever you want in regards to your employment. Companies have the right to contract you to follow any guidelines they set on confidentiality and moonlighting.
    People throw around free speech too much. You have the right to say it if it is true or believed in good faith, but your boss can fire you if they don’t like it.

  15. “We use Twitter as different type of RSS feed”
    Which is pretty much why the PFT twitter feed is all but worthless. Simply using Twitter as a redundant RSS adds no value and pretty much defeats the purpose…
    You’re an attorney, Mike–did you miss the WSJ article a couple months back about what a boon Twitter was for lawyers, and how creatively they were using the platform? You’re missing an opportunity.

  16. Hooray, yet another way to see that ESPN is not about the fans, only about that profit!
    Didn’t sports reporting used to be more like “Hey let’s get this information out as quick as possible” and not so much “Hey who cares if gets this stuff out first, as long as we put it on SportsCenter and not twitter or facebook…”

  17. Screw ESPN.
    SI, FOXSports, CBS, etc. should take the opposite approach and give their people free reign on Twitter, Facebook, whatever. Besides, with all of the athletes on Twitter, we get first hand info from those who really are in the trenches.

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