MLS embracing Social Media

Major League Soccer has kicked off its season last weekend with it its new broadcasting deal with partner NBC. You might have missed the broadcasts because it seems that people are missing NBC Sports a good deal these days leading to very bad ratings.

NBC’s woes might not go away soon due to the fact that the MLS has not yet broken through as a ratings driver. Its troubles in this area are varied, and it has at different times come under fire for everything from when it starts to its trading window. A good look at some of the issues can be found in these transcripts from Eric Wynalda.

Yet if you attend a match the energy is great. Fans are knowledgeable and attendance is growing. So what more can be done? Well using social media and other tools to keep the sport in front of fans is one step, and one that the league is taking.

It conducted a Twitter-based contest last weekend called #FirstKick for fans attending their teams opening match. The rules were pretty simply and any fan with access to Twitter that attended a match could participate. All you needed to do was tweet a photo of you or your friends from a match to win.

The tweet needed a @MLS twitter handle; it needed the #FirstKisk hashtag, proof that you were actually at the game in the photos such as stadium, player, promo or sign visible in your photo and last a link to your photo available on public domain, ex. Twitpic, Lockerz, Yfrog, Photobucket, Flickr, etc.

Submissions were accepted from Saturday, March 10 at 6 PM EST and ends on Monday, March 12 at 11:59 PM EST, so there is still time to send your photo in! There will be a winner draw at random for each day.

Fans that are traveling, or have games that are not broadcast can watch the action via MLS Live, which the league has revamped for the current season. The program, which does have blackout rules, allows fans to watch games via computer, iPad or iPhone, Roku and can be integrated with Apple TV for broadcast as well. Cost for a season is $59.99 and the free preview unfortunately ends on March 12.

The league has the obligatory Facebook page that also has the ability to keep fans in touch with what is going on in games and the league as a whole. I was surprised to find two friends that I did not know were fans not only subscribed to the page but also wrote about the sport in blogs and posts elsewhere. I guess when you have 325,000 likes that is inevitable (the league not me). I did not check Myspace.

I feel that the aggressive use of outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as revamping and increasing its online presence is vital to the success of MLS. The league has a number of soccer only stadiums that show off its product very well. But it is obvious that television alone will not get the message out.

Even as sports powerhouses Fox Sports and ESPN continue to turn up the presence of soccer in their sports programming, MLS often seems to be missing in the mix. Fox captured the World Cup broadcasts in 2018 and 2022 and has increased its broadcasting of soccer matches, just not US MLS. ESPN, after losing the World Cup to Fox has still increased its broadcasting and online efforts with things such as broadcasting the UEFA European Championships and upgrading its online presence.

MLS has been expanding and has seen strong attendance in the new towns like Portland where its games last season were sold out. However television viewership has been flat and this does not bode well for the sport. According to the Big Lead last weekend, MLS averaged 291,000 viewers on ESPN and ESPN2 last season and 70,000 viewers on FOX Soccer. That is just sad.

The league, which is kicking off its 17th season, does not have to worry about out of control salaries for players due to a hard cap, but this is a disadvantage because it will be hard to lure top talent from around the world or to keep talent that hears the siren call of a big payday. Glowing television viewership can change that, but it will take all of its tools, on-line, mobile and broadcast, to achieve this dream.

Gannett Increasing Digital Sports Focus: Teams with MLB

Gannett is seeking to leverage the digital media explosion by translating it into solid revenue via a diversified approach that will cover everything from customized content to an enhanced position in sports.

The publisher, possibly best known for its flagship paper USA Today, said that it expects to reach between $75 million and 100 million in revenue from digital services division and that it expects to see strong revenue growth going forward, reaching an estimated $275 million to $350 million by 2015.

Company executives speaking at its annual Analyst Day have bullish vision for revenue growth and one of the components of that growth will be its sports USA Today Sports Media Group, which it will try and drive into becoming a top five sports media companies in the country with over $300 million in annual revenue by 2015.

Acquisitions and partnerships part of sports push

It has already taken a solid step in this direction with the announcement of a co-development deal with MLB Advanced Media, the interactive media and Internet branch of Major League Baseball today announced a joint venture to develop and produce new content and products for sports fans across all digital and mobile platforms.

It has already worked to enhance its digital sports position with the purchase of Fantasy Sports Ventures (FSV), an umbrella organization that features a number of on-line sports sites including, and and The Big Lead. The deal, which was announced, last month was for an undisclosed sum.

It gives Gannett instant relevance in the on-line advertising space, an area that it has straggled in, according to the Wall Street Journal. USA Today has been battling players such as Yahoo Sports and, which have significantly larger audiences.

FSV is the 5th largest online sports property with an average of 18.4 million unique visitors monthly, USA Today is ninth with 10 million unique visitors. Executives said that they will continue to look at additional acquisitions but has no plans currently for any large purchases.

Additionally it plans to do a major re-launch of its entire desktop, mobile and tablet products across the company within the next two years, starting with USA Today.

Friday Grab Bag: Apple pays $50 million for Chomp

Apple buys app search engine company
Apple has purchased Chomp, a startup that has developed technology that enables users to search the iOS App Store in unique ways including searching for features that are not listed in any other search category.

The app has a very wide range of features including checking on what apps your Facebook and Twitter friends have reviewed. It also lists a free app of the day and shows which apps are currently trending

Apple paid $50 million for the company but has given no clear direction as to what it intends to do with the technology that it has acquired. The company recently noted that it has already had 25 billion apps downloaded from the store.

Nike takes a second step with Nike +
Mike has made another move into digital sports with a pair of products, the Nike+ Basketball and the Nike+Training, both of which are shoes. The Nike+Basketball is designed to provide digital feedback about a players game including how high a player jumped, how fast they are and how hard they play. The first shows will be the Nike Hyperdunk+.

The second is the Nike+Training will be a line of shows that also feature a training program that has a series of workouts designed to improve performance. The first shows in this lineup will be the Lunar Hyper Workout+ for Women and the Lunar TR 1+ for men.

The shoes use a new sensor technology from the company called Nike+ Pressure Sensor built into each shoe. The sensor collects data and then wirelessly transmits data to their phone. Additionally Nike has started shipping its NikeFuel Band.

Microsoft files antitrust claim against Motorola with the EU
Microsoft has filed a complaint with the antitrust regulators in the European Union claiming that Motorola and Google are seeking to block sales of Microsoft products by seeking unfair terms for licensing their technology.

The complaint is very similar to the one that Apple filed last week and comes at a time when the EU has already said that it is quite willing to look at not only present but past patent licensing efforts by Motorola.

Microsoft said that Motorola is attempting to block sales of Windows PCs, our Xbox game console and other products by refusing patents. I imagine this is a good time to be a patent lawyer.

The Ryan Braun story keeps getting better
Braun, the MLB MVP winner from last season was found to have huge amounts of testosterone in his body according to two tests, and he has not disputed this. The issue was with the chain of custody and that his sample was not handled properly. Of course it also does not mean that he is guilty since he was acquitted by MLB.

The flame wars have been a lot of fun, here is one with a good deal of common sense as well- more so that the author of the piece had. And just for fun here is a second, in case you did not get enough the first time.

Apple wins on a different front
Apple’s dispute with a Chinese company over the name iPad looked to prevent the company from selling the devices in the world’s largest market but a court in Shanghai has ruled in Apple’s favor. Proview Technology had been arguing that Apple infringed on its trademark rights.

The Shanghai Pudong New Area People’s Court ruled against Proview saying that there was a lack of evidence that iPad sales would be a trademark violation. It said there was no law or regulation that would prohibit Apple from selling iPads and terminated the litigation of the case.

Fun with Amazon
I recently received a survey request from Amazon saying it was part of the company’s ongoing effort to provide better services and support. It was supposed to take between 10-15 minutes. Looking for any excuse not to work I decided to give it a stab.

I only managed to get to about question 6. When I said that I was unlikely to buy an e-reader in the next six months or whatever the question was exactly, it terminated the survey and said that I did not fit the customer profile they were looking for. Now that is good customer service, saving me 9-14 minutes!

Teddy bear gone bad
A truly frightening gift for a baseball fan- or any fan for that matter. But pretty funny if real.

How Should Sports Sites Make Money? A Great Post and a Great Line

Since Mobile Sports Report ran a story and picture of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition this week (after all, it is a big story that the issue is available online), the whole discussion about how to drive traffic to sports sites and how online news sites make money off advertising got moved to a new level with this post from Outkick the Coverage. Read it if you are in the sports marketing biz. I think the ideas contained are radical, but deserve consideration.

I was pointed toward the article from another post over at The Big Lead that was talking about how the Boston Courant makes money because it doesn’t have a website. FYI, a guy named Dave Price, who I don’t know personally but went to school at Colorado the same time I did, does the same thing at a local daily near here in Palo Alto — no online stories to protect print ads.

You can debate if that is a realistic long-term strategy, but — I loved the line at the end of the Big Lead post by Ty Duffy, so I’ll quote it below:

This story highlights a basic fact: no one has figured out how to monetize the Internet effectively. For typed words to stand alone, media must cross two fundamental barriers. First, we need a better metric to sell to advertisers than straight pageviews, before we all burn out and/or introduce Softcore Saturdays. Second, traditional media must find some way to make a non-invasive paid subscription model work.

“Softcore Saturdays,” I love it. Of course I should also mention that on the same page as Duffy’s post there is a link to the poll. So maybe softcore Saturday is already almost here.

Friday Grab Bag: Digitized Swimsuit Issue-Where do I sign up?

Ford to show at Mobile World Congress

At the Mobile World Congress there will no doubt be an array of interesting products and technologies introduced, and there will be at list one show first- Ford plans to launch a car at the show. The B-MAX to be exact.

Ford has one of the keynote speeches at the show and it has been revealed that it will take the wraps off of the car that has what it calls Easy Access Door System, but it claims that as yet unrevealed technology in the car is what it will be touting at the show.

ESPN to increase soccer coverage?
After ESPN lost in its bid to broadcast the upcoming 2018 and 2022 World Cups it seemed that all of the progress the network had made in its coverage of soccer would all go down the drain. However the Big Lead reports that in an interview with the World Wide Leader major changes are in the works to improve its coverage.

It reported that after this summer’s European Championships there will be a major effort to massively overhaul ESPN’s presence online. It currently has two separate sites that cover the sport so simply consolidating them would be a positive step forwards.

BlackBerry takes a hit as Government agency moves to rivals
Research in Motion, reeling from a bad year just got more unpleasant news as the U.S. Government’s General Service Administration, its primary procurement agency, has started issuing smartphones that run both the Android and Apple iOS operating systems.

Until recently RIM’s BlackBerry had been the only option available from the GSA. However it is not all dire news as the BlackBerry is still the most widely used device among the RSA’s 17,000 employees and currently the rivals’ only account for approximately 5% in a trial program that is just now starting. However once the camel’s nose is in the tent watch out for the rest of the beast.

Apple seeking blood from a stone?
Apple has asked a bankruptcy court for permission to sue Kodak for infringement. That is just the tip of the iceberg according to Cnet, which reports that Apple is also seeking to file a patent infringement claim with the International Trade Commission and plans to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Manhattan.

Apple is already a two time loser in regards to taking Kodak in front of the ITC, which has ruled that Kodak did not infringe on Apple’s patents. Kodak has returned fire and last month filed a suit against Apple saying it violated some of Kodak’s patents.

Apple wins round in Germany vs Motorola
Apple has won a major round in its ongoing patent disputes with Motorola Mobility when the Munich I Regional Court ruled in favor in regards to patent # EP1964022. Not familiar with that one, are you? Well it has to do with unlocking a device using a gesture on an unlock image.

Apple will now have the opportunity to defend the side and lock patent as Motorola has already appealed the decision. The court looked at three different implementations of the technology and Apple won on two, losing on the third, which is used by Xoom tablets.

Apple is also asserting the same patent against Samsung sop expect to hear more about this issue going forward.

Looking for a more digital Sports Illustrated? It is here.
One of the coming of age items for high school students was squirreling away the annual Sports Illustrated Swim Suit issue before the parental units could confiscate it. Well now you can view it, and all of the magazines content, in a growing array of digital formats.

The latest is available for iPads, with horizontal and vertical views available as well as for the iPhone for the Apple fans and then it’s also available for Android smartphone and tablet users. All for the low, low price of $6.99.

However there is also a range of video options as well including much that is exclusive to the tablet market. Then a user could simply also head over to for additional video, as well as YouTube and Facebook.

Google fixes Wallet Security Hole
Your digital pocket can no longer be picked, according to Google, which has issued a fix for the security flaw that was reported in its Google Wallet. While there are still threats to the security, the simply method that required almost no hacking skill has been resolved.

Along with putting in a fix for the security gap Google has made some additional enhancements to the Wallet, head over to Pocketnow for a run down.

Camping stove boils water and charges smartphones
Looking forward to the backpacking season but worried that your smartphone’s battery will not handle three days in the great outdoors? Well BioLite has just the tool for you, a stove that burns wood for cooking and can also generate electricity.

The CampStove does both by using the thermal energy created when a fire is kindled in it to run a thermoelectric module that is built into the side of the stove. The module runs a fan that blows air onto the fire to improve combustion but also has excess energy available.

That energy can be used to charge small electronics devices such as a mobile phone, a GPS or lights. Of course if you backpack with back to nature types the stove might not help you stave off attack from your friends for using your phone.

Friday Grab Bag: Who Could Hate ESPN?

SEC Championship to be streamed live at CBS Sports
Once again the SEC has two of the top teams in the country locked in a battle, this time with #1 LSU vs #14 Georgia in the fight for the SEC title. The game will once again also be a top on-line offering from CBSSports.Com as it continues to raise its streaming sports profile.

Take your pick?

The game will be broadcast on Saturday at 4 pm ET and pits the Eastern Division Champions Georgia against the Western Division winner LSU at the Georgia Dome. It will be streamed live over and CBS Sports Mobile.

CBS plans to start its game coverage an hour earlier and there will be a special tailgate program starting at 1 pm ET. There will also be the usual” 5th Quarter with Gary Danielson” after the game for an interactive post game program.

However interest in the game may not be what past championships have garnered. The Big Lead points out that with LSU a lock for the BCS title game win or lose sales for tickets has been less than stellar and that prices are dropping as fast as the point spread is increasing. I guess fans want to save their money for the expected trip to a bowl game.

Is your smartphone following your every move?
With the revelation that 140 million smartphones have a software component installed that records every keystroke that you make. The program, called Carrier IQ records and sends each keystroke as it is made and sends the information to the company.

Carrier IQ said that it is using the information as a diagnostic tool that will help it gain insight into issues such as why certain calls are dropped. Researcher Trevor Eckhart, who unveiled the issue, shows that it records browsing history, SMS logs and location data as well as keystrokes.

There are some claims that the technology violates Federal wiretapping laws. Well the good news is that congress is getting involved and I am sure that they will have the users’ best interest in mind when they inquire into this issue.

Is Craig James the most hated man at ESPN?
This seems to be the point of a recent Bleacher Report piece that states that he is strongly despised by a significant portion of the sports world. I must have missed this hatred, although I have to say I am not a fan, no one has ever come up to me and said they despise him like they do for say Joe Buck (I know he does not work for ESPN).

Anyway the article goes on to say America wants him fired and that “A vocal population of college football concludes James is a self-aggrandizing liar of the worst kind, who uses sophistry to get what he wants like we use paper towels to dry our hands.” Wow!

The bulk of the trouble seems to have arisen from his role in the Mike Leach ouster at Texas Tech and his inane votes in the BCS poll that alters the standings for both good and bad teams.

There appear to be several different pushes to get him fired and now at least some are trying to target advertisers to force ESPN’s hand. I think that if the revelations in Bruce Feldman’s book did not harm him at the WWL, and in fact drove out possible its best college football writer then nothing will.

New startup fund-Bye Bye Silicon Valley!
A new startup fund called the Revolution Growth Fund has been established by industry veterans Steve Case, Ted Leonsis and Donn Davis has been formed with a $450 million in initial funds. It is taking a different slant than many funds which mine Silicon Valley for potential startups.

Instead it will seek to find investment candidates on the East Coast. “We will generally focus on investments in the Eastern United States. We believe there are great entrepreneurs building great companies all over the country, so we will focus our attention outside of Silicon Valley,” according to a note posted on the Revolution Growth web page. The three founders are the three largest investors and there are an additional 24 limited partners.

The ideal company will be one that are consumer focused and are looking to disrupt large industries. The fund expects to be an investor in companies that have already had some venture funding and are now looking to take the proverbial hockey stick upturn. Initial investments are expected in the $20-$25 million range.

Tide turning for Samsung in patent wars?
Samsung won a patent victory of sorts in Australia where the Federal Court overturned a lower court ruling that said Samsung had copied Apple’s iPad and iPhone. This moves the company closer to selling its Galaxy tablets in that country.
However it is not entirely a get out of jail free card as it has been reported that Apple will in its turn appeal, this time to the High Court in an effort to get the overturning overturned. So at least in the near term the injunction against selling the products remains in force.

Make you (NFL Pro Bowl) Vote Count!
The voting closes following the December 19th following the Monday Night Football game between the Pittsburg Steelers and the San Francisco 49ers. You can go here to vote and also try and get tickets to the game, which would make a nice break in a Hawaiian vacation.

Currently Aaron Rodgers if the top vote getter and I saw somewhere that Tim Tebow was 4th among AFC starting quarterbacks. I hope he gets voted in just for all of the gnashing of teeth from sportswriters across the nation!