London Olympics Creates Online Social Hub for Athletes and Fans to Mingle

If you are looking to follow your favorite athletes at this year’s Summer Olympics, the governing body has just set up a system that will enable you to do just that with both famous and those that hope to soon to be famous.

The International Olympics Committee has set up a site called the Olympics Athlete Hub, an effort that hopes to enable fans to make connections with the athletes that are participating in this year’s games as well as past performers.

What the hub does is simply aggregate the Twitter and Facebook feeds of the athletes and provide a single unified spot that brings them all together. A quick look over at the page shows that currently three of the five players are American NBA players.

Once you sign up you can search the athlete directory by athlete name, country, sport, discipline or event. There already 1,000 athletes in the hub and this will grow as qualifying for events is ongoing and as athletes qualify they will be added. There are also former Olympiads such as Mark Spitz, Nadia Comaneci, Edwin Moses, Yelena Isinbaeva, and Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, who pass along tips on training.

Users of the service can post photos and also win prizes for liking athletes on Facebook and following them on Twitter, and the site is expected to roll out a number of additional award programs leading up to the games, including one that can send the winner to the games.. During the games the site will feature a section that will feature real-time chats with athletes that will take place from within the Athletes’ Village.

It really seems that the Olympics as an organization truly understand the advantages of social media as well as the reach and power that a major on-line presence brings. With its broadcast partners making all events online and highlights that can be followed on YouTube it is certainly much easier to follow the contests easier than possibly any other sporting event in the world.

The PGA’s Strange Baby Steps Toward Social Media

Since golf in general has a reputation for being stuck up, it’s perhaps no surprise that when it comes to social media the PGA is still taking baby steps when compared to other sports. I mean — in an era where the NBA has fans selecting the dunk contest winners via text message and Twitter, the PGA has a place where fans can leave messages online… for the PGA to somehow bring them to golfers.

Don’t understand what I am talking about? Look at this page, which I found by following the PGA on Twitter… and see if you think it’s about three years behind the interactivity of the times. As far as I can tell, the PGA thinks that fans may want to “congratulate” Hunter Mahan by leaving a message on some random web page — or as the PGA site says, “Leave a note below and we’ll deliver it to him.”

Umm… OK? As far as I can tell this is about as non-social as social media gets. I mean — why not have the winner do a quick Twitter chat, where he can respond to fans in real time? And they can get recognition for themselves via their Twitter handles, which after all is part of the social media game — to be recognized?

This sort of idea — you put a message here, somewhere safe, and we’ll carry it past the ropes to our winner — pretty much reflects golf’s baby steps toward real fan interaction. The online video for the World Golf match play was a perfect example of that tenor — it was a straight network-broadcast type feed, no place for fan tweets or any outside commentary. You get the feeling sometimes that golf wants to keep its game bottled up as much as it can. But I don’t think that method is going to win in the long run. Golf will need to either open up, or it will become less appealing to a fan base that is rapidly growing accustomed to having closer, more intimate access to its heroes.

2012 London Olympics has Social Media, Blogging and Internet Guidelines

If you are not headed to the London 2012 Olympic Games and are would like to hear directly from the athletes rather that watch hours of canned filler from the networks the International Olympic Committee is way ahead of you.

It has published a set of guidelines that it wants followed for the use of social media but the nice thing about the guidelines is that the Olympics also specifically says that it actively encourages athletes and other accredited persons to take part in using social media to post, blog and tweet their experiences.

The rules appear to make a good deal of sense and follow a few basic lines of reasoning. Show consideration to others, don’t sell what you are relaying or push other third party products (that is our job) and don’t pretend you are a reporter if you are not accredited.

An interesting rule is no using the Olympic symbol of five interlaced rings. You can use the word Olympics, that is a relief, but not when where it would be associated with third party products. You may also not use the word “Olympic” or “Olympics” it in a domain name, unless previously approved by the IOC in advance. The IOC does encourage people to link their blogs and other platforms with the Olympics Movement’s official site or to the official London Games site.

They ask that they be in first person, diary type entries and not as a journalist. They ask that there be no obscenities or vulgarities. Do not promote brands, products or services Photos and images from the residential area of the Olympic Village are allowed but you need the permission of the person or persons in the image prior to posting. Shoot, no walk of shame photos!

You can post photos but cannot commercialize or sell them. Any audio/video in an Olympic venue is prohibited from being posted. Registered media may use the social platforms for real reporting and may publish photos.

The impact of blogging, tweeters and others has been changing sports for some time, but some major sports have been very reluctant to embrace the technologies, and probably just as much the people. Professional journalists, and it seems to me particularly those in the sports field, tend to refer to bloggers in a derogatory manner.

To see how fear things have come in just a short while just look at a few years ago. In 2010 Major League Baseball prohibited the writers from writing about anything non-baseball related and basically asked players not to tweet. I guess they did not want fans to more closely relate to the players and the people that write about them. Most major US sports prohibit tweeting for a period before and after a game, which can make sense, but some teams prohibit it a great deal longer. In college sports some teams ban it altogether.

I think this is a great move and may force broadcasters, at least in the US, to show more sports and less talking heads. I have watched less and less of the Olympics over the years because I was forced to watch hours of ‘up close and personals’ about athletes in order to get to watch an event.

Times have always been dodgy about exactly when an event will be broadcast in order to lure a viewer in. Tape delays just do not cut it when I know the results. Now a smart broadcaster can not only show an event but put the twitter feed up from the participates directly after an event.

ESPN’s NFL32 Turns to Social Media for Topics With ‘Facebook Faceoff’

ESPN will enable Fans to determine some discussion topics

ESPN, Looking to increase the level of interactivity with its and the NFL’s fans, has developed a segment in one of its new NFL programs, NFL32, that will allow fans to submit questions via Facebook — questions that will hopefully help the ESPN show create feisty debate in a segment called Facebook Faceoff.

NFL32 is designed to be a yearlong one-hour show that features ESPN’s Suzy Kolber and Chris Mortenson as hosts and includes a variety of the network’s other NFL analysts. It uses a free-flowing format that the company touts as being highly interactive.

Now the show is taking interactivity to a new level by soliciting input from members of its Facebook friends. On its Facebook page NFL32 has posted the following:

Want to help stir things up on our NFL32 panel? Thursday we debut a new segment called “Facebook Faceoff”. Submit topics you want to see us debate on TV, and we’ll see which ones cause the biggest differences of opinion.

I have to say I like this plan on many levels. It helps bring broadcasting out of its shell and enable it to more directly interact with fans. I often turn on a sports program and find that it just seems to be a regurgitation of what I have heard on every other sports program. While there is always the danger that ESPN will select issues that cater to this mindset, at least there is a chance that it will open new avenues of conversation.

Broadcast sports programming often seems to talk down to sports fans. On the other hand I find on a variety of sites around the Internet where fans who can intelligently talk about issues that go much deeper than Brady vs. Tebow but about the impact of losing an offensive line coach or the lack of blocking issues from a tight end.

I doubt that the new show will dig down to this level of detail since those topics are not controversial, but it does open the door to more fan interactivity on sports shows. In the past it seemed that the only interaction that ESPN and others had was the annoying Twitter feed at the bottom of the page. If I want to read a Twitter feed my TV is not the place I want to do so.

A quick look at some of the first topics offered for “Facebook Faceoff” include Tebow, Raiders and Tebow, coaching changes in Chicago (Paul did you submit that?) and should the Lions draft another cornerback or a left tackle. Not earth shattering but it is a start.

Just the start for social media
It seems that networks and even news sites are starting to embrace social media and the ability to interact instantaneously with fans. The growth and popularity of Twitter, especially among athletes is just one example.

ESPN struck Twitter gold earlier this week with its hour mostly devoted to Tim Tebow. The show was the most popular on Twitter during its broadcast and was picked up and rerun on several sites. We expect that ESPN will use that program as a template in the future to boost ratings during off-peak viewing times.

Another use of social; media is CBS Sports live “5th Quarter with Gary Danielson” chat which has been running after SEC football games. You do hear regional baseball broadcasts that also will answer select Twitter questions but it always seems canned. Maybe we will start seeing a segment in pregame and postgame shows that enables fans to directly interact with either athletes or the broadcasters as they talk with the athletes.

Friday Grab Bag: HP is Back!

ViewSonic offers low cost Android tablet
Looking for a low cost tablet? Well ViewSonic wants you to know that it is now in the game with its ViewPad 7e Android tablet. The 7-inch display uses an older version of Android and not the more recent Honeycomb version of the OS but it does have a $200 price tag and includes a 1GHz ARM A8 processor, dual cameras and 4GB storage with a microSD card slot for expansion.

Dodgers blame beating victim
I know that blame the victim is a standard tactic in legal matters but do the Dodgers really believe that they can convince any rational person that Bryan Stow, beaten into a coma at Opening Day at Dodgers Stadium was responsible? It sure looks as if they are going to as part of the owners’ battle with MLB. It couldn’t be the funding siphoned from the team to support the owners’ expensive lifestyle, could it?

ESPN teams with Nokia for sports fans
ESPN has teamed with smartphone developer Nokia to offer a mobile sports technology for the fan on the go. Called the ESPN Hub and slated for release in 2012 it has been specifically designed for the latest generation of Nokia smartphones that run Microsoft Windows operating system. The ESPN Hub will have a different look from other ESPN products and the company claims that it will help make navigation of content smoother and more intuitive. Hopefully this will turn out better than the Mobile ESPN effort from a few years ago.

HP- We are back! Will not leave the hardware business after all.

Hewlett-Packard back in the hardware business, gee we hardly missed you. The company has made an about turn and has decided that it will not spin off its personal computer unit after all. The decision was made by CEO Meg Whitman. The move reverses the proposal put forward by Whitman’s predecessor, ousted CEO Leo Apotheker who announced the move as part of a corporate overhaul. AT the time the company was smarting over the poor sales of its tablet computer, the TouchPad. It now looks like future tablets are in store for the company, but may use the Microsoft OS.

iPad 3 to sport new connectors?
Rumor du jour: C|Net is reporting the possibility that Apple will launch an iPad3 in March and that it might have connector issues. The site, citing another site, reports that it will have a redesigned dock connector that uses the same number of pins as the old one but in a different, and smaller, configuration. The screen is expected to remain the same size and there is now word if it will stay at the current resolution level or move to the Retina Display technology already in use in other Apple products.

Can teams be a bit too touchy about Twitter?
The recent tempest in a teapot comes from Boston where New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski felt obligated to apologize for appearing in photos with BiBi Jones, an adult film star who then posted them on Twitter. It was taken during a bye week and he is free to do as he feels. I wonder how long it will be before Puritan in Chief Roger Goodell issues a ruling on what players can do in their free time?

Friday Grab Bag: No More MRIs on Twitter for Arian Foster

Just a quick roundup of some Mobile Sports-related topics today, including Arian Foster telling Jim Rome that he probably isn’t going to put any more MRI photos on Twitter anytime soon.

AT&T Adds Wi-Fi to Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota:

While we will have a longer feature coming up soon about AT&T’s push to bring Wi-Fi to more stadiums we didn’t want to pass up the news of Ma Bell adding enhanced Wi-Fi access to the Xcel Energy Center, home of hockey’s Minnesota Wild. Among the features added by AT&T are on-site access to video replays and the ability to order food from your seat. What more does a fan want? Like we said, stay tuned for a longer feature on AT&T’s Wi-Fi stadium strategy.

Is Twitter Video the Next Big Thing?

Twitter pros already know how to put photos on the web for instant sharing, but what about video clips? According to GigaOM a company called Keek has just raised $5.5 million to help build out its short-video messaging service. Get ready for a lot of “Dude, we’re here at the game!” posts soon.