Archive for June, 2008


SponsorDirect Webinar and a Radical Rule about sports fans online

I’ll be hosting a SponsorDirect Webinar with my boss, Kathleen Hessert, next Thursday (June 26th). We’ll be presenting “5 Radical Rules of Word of Mouth Marketing”. It’s really geared towards sports, but hopefully you’ll find something interesting.

One of the things I want to point out (our first “radical” rule) is something that seems obvious, but is also something that sports businesspeople seem to forget.

Fans ≠ Consumers

To be perfectly clear, fans can be consumers and consumers can obviously be fans, but when thinking about sports fans, we can’t mix up the two. To clarify a little bit more, when I talk about consumers, I’m talking about somebody who’s going to pay for what they consume. A “buyer”.

Take the WWE for example. A big part of its revenue stream is in pay-per-view events, yet I know of plenty of self-proclaimed WWE fans that have not bought a WWE PPV in years, if ever. Furthermore, how do you define a person, if he or she never actually buys any WWE merchandise, very rarely catches any of the weekly shows on cable, but keeps up with his favorite wrestlers by YouTube and fan blogs? This person would be seemingly non-existant in terms of revenue, but is obviously valuable as a fan.

Of course, everybody knows that, but it’s worth thinking about when trying to get a “fan” to actually be a “consumer”. As a fan, I might love everything about the current WWE storylines. As a consumer however, I might hate the quality of the broadcast and refuse to pay for the PPV. Or I might hate the fact that the t-shirt doesn’t fit right. Or that the replica belt feels too light.

The WWE is just an example. They actually appear to do very well in getting their fans to support their brand.

We’ll talk more about it here and on the webinar, but it surprises me every day how often the two aren’t differentiated.


Fan-Generated Media vs Consumer Generated Media vs Other Acronyms

When we’re talking to clients and partners, we use the term fan-generated media as opposed to consumer generated media or social media or user generated content. Here’s how I see the differences in terms:

User Generated Content (UGC) is content that’s supposed to be generated by an end user for use by other users of the same site (at least initially).

Consumer Generated Media (CGM), in specifically mentioning the “consumer”, refers to the idea that somebody is consuming or is planning on consuming something. Like a meal at a restaurant. Somebody posts a question to a message board and somebody else chimes in with an opinion and a link to somebody else’s review that was previously posted on a blog. All those consumers generating media, ripe for targeted marketing. 😉

Fan-Generated Media (FGM) is something we use when talking about UGC, but specifically in sports. Or really any time the content is being created by somebody with exceptionally high affinity towards a brand without actually being affiliated to the brand. For example, I’m a Padres fan and my blog is completely and absolutely biased towards the Padres. It’s targeted towards other Padres fans, but it’s open to be read and used by anybody willing to play nice.

The difference between FGM and the others is the fact that there’s nothing that’s going to change my mind about being a Padres fan. In Consumer Generated Media, there’s a feeling that the opinions of the content creators are malleable things. They can be “sold”. In FGM, the creator is already sold on at least one thing: the team or player or sport that the person is creating media about.

Social Media Marketing (SMM I guess) is messaging created by marketers in an attempt to get “viral” or to be accepted into and commented on in FGM or CGM. Note that this can be transparent or non-transparent.

Those aren’t hard and fast rules, but it helps when looking at a blog or online video or message board post to have some understanding of why the person is presenting the information in a particular way.


On Deadspin and the elements of a sports social network

Will Leitch is leaving Deadspin, which begs the question: Is Deadspin still Deadspin without Will Leitch?

Using our metrics at Buzz Manager and Sports Media Challenge, we’ve consistently ranked Deadspin as the most influential sports blog on the Internet. Anybody who pays attention to sports blogs probably could come to the same conclusion. It generates a healthy number of comments. Its community has spun off several other sports blogs. Its traffic rivals sites that have been well established. Will has (infamously) appeared in mainstream media and has earned himself a job at New York Magazine. It seems very obvious. So what do I think about when I’m figuring the same thing?

In my work lately, I’ve been breaking down online social networks into three pieces that I’ll analyze individually and as a group. The Platform, the Content and the Community. There are all kinds of ways to analyze these things, and this particular way seems to lend itself well when I’m talking to marketers and sponsorship people. We can take a quick look at the platform first and then touch on the others another time.

The Platform
When I’m looking at the platform, I’m thinking broadly and generally about the usability of the site itself. Does the site allow me to comment anonymously? Does the site allow me to comment at all? Can I write my own posts to be included on the blog? Do I have to be a registered member? Can I “follow” particular members? How does the site handle images? Hyperlinks? How many stories appear on the front page? Can I “up vote” or “down vote” content that I like or dislike?

Deadspin is one of the blogs in the Gawker network and benefits from having several succesful sites in the network. The best practices from individual Gawker blogs get carried into the others. There initially wasn’t a whole lot of dynamic jazz to the site and comments were kept to a minimum (by actually not allowing them). It was straight content. Will didn’t even really use the “jumps” and the titles of the individual posts weren’t self-explanatory. There was no such thing as a user “profile” or Digg-style up votes or down votes. Most of the functionality that’s on Deadspin today was added after the initial launch.

So the platform was somewhat weak for a social network, but the site took off anyway and fancy things were added later. I’ll write about the content a little later, but the big lesson here is this: YOUR PLATFORM IS NOT CONTENT.

You could have the weakest, most threadbare social networking platform out there, but if your content is great and/or your community is great, people will come and figure out a way to participate. On the flip side, you could have social networking tools that are just completely loaded with the latest features, streaming video, thousands of options for customizing user profiles, but if there’s no content or community, you have the online equivalent of an empty house.

To be continued in parts the second and the third…


A little bit about myself and the company I work for

I work at Sports Media Challenge. Day to day, I’ll monitor blogs and other social networks and analyze all of that stuff for other people who work in sports. That includes athletes, coaches, marketing people, sponsorship people, agency people. You name it and there’s probably a reason they need to get another opinion regarding what’s being said about them on the Internet.

I also write a couple of my own sports blogs. One is Gaslamp Ball, which is mainly about the San Diego Padres and baseball. The other is Uncommon Sportsman, which is mainly about random sports. Come say hi.

In this space however, we’ll be talking mostly about observations of the online sports world. If you work in sports, hopefully you’ll learn some strategies to make better use of social media (or fan-generated media as we like to call it). If you’re a sports blogger or a sports fan, hopefully you’ll find out a little bit more about how sports operates as a business. Comments and suggestions are always appreciated and I promise future posts will be much more conversational than this here first one.

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