Is ESPN doing the right thing by cracking down on Twitter?

@Kevin | Strategy

There has been a lot of talk about the new ESPN corporate policy on cracking down on Twitter and what their on air talent can produce to share with the masses. In some of the comments on these posts I have seen people throw out the typical “well these conversations are happening whether they like it or not” or “another company that doesn’t get it” or other typical things when a company puts in a restrictive policy when it comes to social media. These comments couldn’t be more wrong.

When it comes to social media being used by a semi traditional news company ESPN has displayed that they very clearly “get it” and I think they are making the right move to a point. They were one of the first major companies to see the emergence of blogs and sign talented, popular, and local bloggers to their company. ESPN has been a major user of video and has deployed it well. Additionally they have continually strived to make their site more social by creating profiles, customization, and other staples that you see on most social networks. Their shows have successfully integrated Twitter to grab the voice of the fan and the company has openly embraced most of the technology available.

Right now you have multiple ESPN reporters and personalities tweeting, which is fine. Now the content of the tweets and how they represent the company is another discussion for another day (which is partially what ESPN is cracking down on), what I want to focus on is the breaking news element. For example the other day Peter King from Sports Illustrated talked about tweeting a response to a rumor that Michael Vick had been trying out with the Patriots. A few minutes later he saw Adam Schefter, newly signed to ESPN from the NFL Network, tweet a report about it.

It’s a weird media world we’re in right now. My allegiance, obviously, is to, but I know if I take 10 minutes right now to dictate the item to someone on the news desk, the story will get up in 20 minutes, and we’ll probably be too late. So I decide to throw a couple of Tweets up, the first at 4:59 saying Vick wasn’t in Foxboro, and the second that the Pats don’t want Vick and like O’Connell. Sure enough, at 5:01 p.m., Adam Schefter Tweeted that Vick wasn’t in New England either. It’s a crazy media world. Forgive me, Time Warner.

Basically we have been seeing these stories break on Twitter before they have gotten to their networks or larger outlets and ESPN really want to grab that content for themselves.

ESPN has been talking about a mechanism that will update their Twitter properties and Facebook properties with breaking news that these ESPN personalities are putting out there on their personal accounts. Perhaps they should have went with some type of aggregation strategy instead of cracking down on the personal accounts but I get why ESPN is doing this. It is quality content that they are paying these individual people to procure for their platforms, having these nuggets of news go out on their personal account is a loss for the company and something they can be leveraging for themselves.

While I might not agree on HOW they are doing these I get WHY they are doing it.