Timeout Tuesday: GoPro Signs ‘Kelly F*cking Slater’ — Many More Hours of Video Consumption Ahead

Over the last year or so, we’ve noticed that when we’re out skiing it’s not uncommon to see more and more people with the little boxy GoPro camera mounted on their helmets. But news from last week of GoPro signing 11-time surfing champion Kelly Slater to its team of athletes speaks to a bigger agenda for the cool-cam company: Hell, it’s already on its way to becoming a new media powerhouse of its own.

You want social, user-contributed content? GoPro’s got that in spades, using user-submitted videos in its national broadcast commercials. Those home-spun efforts trail the professional athlete/professional production videos GoPro puts out on its own, usually with some cool new music to boot. The company also gives away a bunch of GoPro gear every day. Is this the new way to sports media or what? I mean, I like SportsCenter as much as the next guy, but I could lose hours watching stuff like this:

And a million and a half people so far have watched the GoPro video of Holly Beck diving alongside a whale shark, and probably not just because she’s wearing a bikini while doing so:

Oh yeah and GoPro also earlier this year signed snowboarder Shaun White to its team of cool athletes. This isn’t something that’s going to happen, it’s already here. Call Slater a late jumper on the bandwagon. But we’re looking forward to wasting plenty of time watching him on the waves.

Callaway Readies Re-Launch of GPS Golf Course Device, and Golf Social Media Site

After an initial launch that was scrubbed due to technical glitches, golf manufacturer Callaway is readying a May 30 debut of its Upro MX+ GPS course-guide device, as well as a revamped social media site where golfers can trade reviews, scores and conversation about golf courses the world over.

We haven’t had a chance to play with the Upro MX+ yet, but the $249 device looks like it could be an instant contender in the course-info-device marketplace. Here’s the promo blurb from the Callaway website, which also has some other details about the device’s ability to basically tell you where you’re at and how far it is to the green, no matter where you are playing since it comes pre-loaded with info on some 25,000 courses. Ah, the wonders of memory!

ProMode provides a realistic view of the course using actual aerial photography (not renderings) with precise yardage to hazards and key points selected using AnyPoint Technology. In this mode you can pan the entire hole with the swipe of a finger and zoom in and out to see more or less detail, allowing you to make better decisions and play with confidence.

What’s even more potentially interesting than the device itself is Callaway’s Uexplore site, which has been on-again off-again with the hiccup in the Upro launch. What Uexplore is designed to do is allow golfers to record scores and reviews of courses, with the idea that such user-generated content could mushroom into a big conversation about golf with Callaway at the middle. Of course, this idea has been somewhat of the Holy Grail for the golf business roughly since about the invention of the browser. The innerwebs, unfortunately, are filled with ghost towns of “user course reviews” that never got off the ground for probably the simple reason being that most people don’t really want to sit down and write about their rounds after they’re done.

But if the Upro offers golfers an easy way to track scores while they play and then lets them upload the info directly to the site, it could be the potential solution to tapping into the great wealth of knowledge currently locked into golfers’ minds. More as we hear more from Callaway, which we are betting we will with the U.S. Open coming up soon.

Sunday Sermon: Can Athlete Sites Learn to ‘Feed the Beast’ with Content?

One of the recurring themes we are running into here at Mobile Sports Report is the content startup that wants to bring athletes and fans closer together. It’s a great shared idea, since up-close, personal views, thoughts and slices from top atheletes’ lives are what really drive the new connected fan. More than Twitter, more than Facebook is what these new sites promise. Sounds good and fun.

To me, the real question is not whether some of these sites can get launched, noticed and subscribed to. The big test comes a month or two down the line, after the initial fun and excitement wears off and you wake up to realize you now own a creation that demands constant attention, and new red meat in its bowl each dawn. In the editorial business we call it “feeding the beast.” If you don’t have fresh, new content on a daily basis, readers quickly notice and tune you out. For the athlete sites, I think feeding the beast will become the biggest hurdle to success.

I got to thinking about the Beast when I was talking to the founders of the new athlete/fan site JockTalk last week. Former baseball big leaguer Shawn Green and his entrepreneur partner Brendon Kensel were extremely enthusiastic about their yet-to-launch site, talking about all the ways they were going to use social media and the web to bring athletes and fans closer together, and to bring exposure and excitement to important related activities, like athlete charity efforts. I’ll be excited to see how it all works when the company comes out of beta, hopefully soon.

I was impressed by the lineup of star athletes JockTalk has signed up — but immediately knew that based on the company’s proposed business model where athletes will be compensated based on how much they participate — that the list of very active athletes is probably going to quickly get shorter. The problem with running a content site of any type is that you need good, fresh stuff in a neverending stream. Even for people who write for a living and like to write, it’s hard to wake up every day and be creative. The hunger of the beast is never ending and many times you just give up. That’s why so many blogs or Facebook pages start out with a lot of activity and then one day just stop. Real life intervenes, or work, or family. And that fun content creation stuff falls by the side.

For athlete sites it might not be as stressful generating “news” — fans might be interested in just a report of how long it took a sports star to drive to work, or what they did at their workout. But athletes have two other things working against them becoming great, consistent content creators: the fact that they (probably) already are set financially thanks to their work contracts; and the fact that if they are a star they may spend an inordinate amount of time giving interviews, TV shots, etc., eating up the time that they might be using to create their own content. Who wants to go write about a game when you’ve just spent an hour with reporters dissecting every play? Hard to imagine that happening regularly.

Doing a blog on JockTalk might seem like a lot of fun — at first. Some athletes seem to be a natural at the whole social media-interaction thing, so maybe there will be enough of them to keep the JockTalk arena hopping with conversation. One reason we like the Gridiron Grunts idea so much has to do with its ease of interaction: Since Grunts is right now all voice-based, an athlete just needs to pick up his phone, connect with the app and leave a voice message with his thought of the day, or the week. That’s a good low barrier to entry that should help keep the Gridiron Grunts beast fed.

But without the write-or-starve mentality that drives a lot of professional writers or the true undying passion and lots of idle free time that drives lots of sports fanatics, top athletes at some point really don’t need to become constant content creators, so my guess is that it’s going to be a big challenge to keep them engaged. There is already a developing backlash against athletes (and other celebrities) who use associates or assistants to write their tweets and Facebook posts. The greater Internet audience is actually pretty savvy and can pick these fake efforts up in no time at all. So I don’t think a surrogate strategy will suffice. You’re going to need the stuff from the horse’s mouth. Which is what all these new sites say they will deliver.

I like the idea behind efforts like JockTalk, and hope that it and others like it succeed in bringing fans closer to all the athletes out there, and not just the top stars who are on SportsCenter every night. Certainly the technology and the expansion of always-on access makes it possible in a way that wasn’t available even a few years ago.

But feeding the beast is something that technology hasn’t really yet figured out an easy answer to. Maybe that’s because there is no easy way out, other than to deliver your best effort, either via writing, talking or video clips. For athlete sites to succeed, the beast will need to be fed. It will be interesting to see if this hunger is something the startups understand.

JockTalk Gets Pub, Plans to Enter Crowded Sports Social Network Field

Since we haven’t yet talked to the folks behind JockTalk it’s hard to surmise exactly how their proposed sports social media network is going to be better than anything out there today. We read some of the stories, we get the basic idea — create a space for athletes and fans to hang out, and monetize on the traffic — but so far we have seen nothing in any of the stories in the media rounds the company has made that sets JockTalk apart from the crowd.

The idea that athletes should find a better place to monetize their social media presence other than just Twitter or Facebook isn’t exactly new. Here at MSR we have been closely tracking three such efforts, including PlayUp (which regularly hosts pro player “hangout” rooms online), Viva Vision and Gridiron Grunts. The leaders of Viva Vision, ex-NFLers Joe Tafoya and Kerry Carter, have been especially vocal about seeking to help individual players build their own online interaction centers, either for profit, charity or exposure. The Viva team is working on a prototype app for Dallas Mavericks star Jason Terry that is comprehensive, with lots of multimedia hooks and commerce opportunities.

And the Gridiron Grunts team, led by ex-NFLers Jeb Terry and Ryan Nece, already have an extensive crew of “grunters” contributing in a unique fashion, by simply calling in their takes on their phones so that fans can listen in a like fashion.

If JockTalk is able to create some kind of top-athlete commons that attracts a lot of traffic, it might be able to grab some space in the market. But from a fan standpoint when it comes to aggregation we like the approach taken by Bleacher Report, which curates the best content from anywhere on the web and presents it segregated by teams, which is how we think most fans still follow sports. So good luck to JockTalk, which we are excited to see. But do note that this game has already started.

YouTube Sponsorships an Opportunity for Sports Advertisers

Google’s move to further monetize its YouTube platform via the introduction of channel sponsorships for advertisers seeking select markets should be a great boon for sports teams as it will continue the evolution of the video sharing site into an established network for sports fans.

It seems like a no-brainer for companies that are developing products, sports related or not, that target the demographics that follow sports. It is obvious from recent events such as ESPN expanding its NFL coverage year round that football interest is now high all year. For New Balance or Under Armour grabbing a channel can mean a huge number of views at a fraction of the cost of an ad during an actual NFL game.

The use of YouTube as a de facto network is increasing and to be able to tack your name onto a channel can be a coup, especially if a rival is paying for the exclusive rights to the sports to a league that is related to that channel.

The basics of the program are simply. It will offer channel sponsorships to advertisers who can use display, overlay and pre-roll ads in the targeted markets. This enables them to have a very targeted approach for their efforts, and dollars, according to an article in Ad Week

Ad Age breaks down what the costs will be, and mentions a number of the types of channels that will be getting sponsorships, as well as some of the initial sponsors that have signed on. It claims that so far only minor deals in the $5 million to $10 million range have been signed, but that they are expected to reach $62 million for what it sees as premium content.

So far it has a few sponsors including Unilever, Toyota, and more interesting to sports fans is GM, which has signed on to sponsor Red Bull’s action sports channels, among others. It looks like YouTube will only place a percentage of the ads in a sponsored channel and the rest will be spread around its various channels.

Expect to see a growth in channels in an area like sports as YouTube appears to be breaking the major verticals down into smaller subcategories in order to maximize its ability to sell sponsorships. It is already offering a package of sports channels for $40 million with Music and pop culture being offered at $62 million apiece, per year.

This strikes me as smart thinking for a range of issues. Fans are increasingly filming short bits from events and the ability to see different angles than that which are broadcast is always interesting. Already using YouTube to follow a team or sport, you will probably be able to get push alerts in the future about new video from the sponsors when they are posted rather than constantly checking in to see what is new.

New Jim Rome Show on CBS: Perfect for Embedding

David Letterman has Jim Rome on as a guest earlier this week.

After watching the debut of Jim Rome’s new TV show on CBSSports.net I made the comment that the structure of the show seemed perfect for Internet viewing — it was several short-form segments that seemed tailor made for sharing and embedding. And since Rome is already a king of social media it was my further guess that CBS would quickly make Rome’s stuff available to any Internet site that wanted to share it.

Like, say, this one.

The show is only three days old but CBSSports.net already has the show-ending “burns” under the title “Rome Wants” available for embedding and sharing. And why not, since they are forcing you to watch a 30-second pre-roll commercial. Small price to pay, we say. Here’s Thursday’s clip:

Of course us clones who follow Rome know that his radio interviews and shticks are often longer than what he can do in the short space that a half-hour TV show allows, so for radio show fans there is always the Rome Jungle Insider option that gets you podcast downloads and other goodies for $6.95 a month. But with an appearance on Dave’s show to help promo the new show and probably some cameo spots at big CBS events later this year it’s clear Rome’s star is on the rise. And his social media savvy will help him on the climb.