Social Media FEAR Results In Twitter Ban from ESPN

You’ve heard me discuss social media FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) before and it occurs to continue at aespn-bans-twitter rapid pace.  The latest example is ESPN.

ESPN recently banned its broadcasters/on-air talent from Tweeting about sports.  That’s like asking Tony Hawk to turn in his skateboard and become an accountant.  It’s a S’more without a marshmallow.  The reason this decision is surprising is that ESPN has not only been a leader in sports (their tagline) but a leader of innovation as well.

ESPN is a smart company so my guess is their decision must be based on money.  Let me go through a hypothetical thought process.  If on-air talent like Bill Simmons and Scott Van Pelt are Tweeting the sports news as it happens then there may be the notion that ESPN followers will be less likely to read ESPN Magazine, visit, watch Sports Center, download podcasts, etc.  These are the properties where ESPN makes money – they don’t make money off Tweets.

However, this is perhaps where the thinking is flawed.  Case in point: When I Tweet something that people find of interest on Twitter what happens?  I probably get more followers so my future capacity to have impact increases.  This is a positive thing.  The other event that generally happens is that the traffic to this increases, not decreases.  A Tweet for this article could have been along the lines of ESPN thinking flawed in ban of Twitter.  If you want more information I’m not going to post 700 words on Twitter, you need to come to this blog for the full story.  The same holds true for ESPN:  Having dinner with Tiger Woods.  Didn’t, know he doesn’t eat red meat on Thursdays.  These type of Tweets increase ESPN’s followers not only for Twitter, but for all their properties which in the end equals more money.

But alas, I was mistaken, the reason for the ban wasn’t money at all, at least according to this great interview of ESPN’s Rob King on Sports Business Daily:

SBD: Is there a concern that you were sending too much traffic to Twitter at the expense of ESPN?
King: No. The audiences are very different. That did not come up at all in any of our conversations.

I’m surprised that how Twitter affects ESPN’s revenue line didn’t come up during this important conversation.  That would have been topic #1 if I were an executive.  However, the reason appeared to be more of a legal one:

SBD: Let me ask that another way. What’s out there that made you raise an eyebrow?
King: I can think of cases in which folks have re-tweeted breaking news that turned out not to be true. Some day somebody’s going to get sued somewhere for re-tweeting something that is false. That’s part of a great IQ test that represents the introduction to social media. That’s just from a journalistic perspective, one that has to be taught and managed very carefully. I don’t know which media company is going to run into it. But some day, somebody’s probably going to find themselves in a court of law. That was in no way a line of thought that drove this conversation. But if you’re asking me, personally, sometimes I see folks re-tweeting stuff that is essentially breaking news without really a sense of the sourcing. It runs counter to the journalistic training that folks ingrained in me.

So, in the end, it appears the reason for the Twitter ban was just as I FEARed.

Another great article on the subject can be found at Mediaite

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2 responses to “Social Media FEAR Results In Twitter Ban from ESPN

  1. Great article. I can’t speak specifically about ESPN, but a lot of traditional media outlets still do not like to use their secondary platforms as a means to break or share news. For them, the issues instant publishing creates do not yet outweigh the benefits, monetary or otherwise.

  2. ESPN has been sucking lately… lets start with that…. But then onto the topic.

    We all know that the news on Twitter are just tweets. We want to know more after we read a tweet, as you pointed out, it drives us to the main sites to read more.

    Big companies like ESPN in this case really need to come down to reality. If someone re-tweets something that isn’t true, its *their* problem. ESPN needs to just make sure their correspondents are getting the most up to date information. Who was it that said that you can’t have all the facts at any given time when it comes to making a decision?

    Their logic is lame and I think its just a cover up to the real reason, finances. I think that money is a big player in these decisions and they just won’t admit it.

    And really, I feel strongly that anyone that “bans” tweeting (besides the armed forces), just doesn’t “get it” people fear what they don’t understand and most people still don’t get twitter.

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