Twitter as a legitimate mouthpiece

As a journalist, one of the more fascinating things to observe about Twitter’s development from a nascent fascination to an established social medium is how reporters have handled the actual Tweets that populate it.

At first, it seemed many were hesitant to quote Tweets in articles, as if the words were some kind of second-class quote not fit to print in a regular broadsheet.

This weekend’s NFL Draft, though, offered another affirmation that for many reporters, Tweets are just as good as in-person quotes:

This ESPN article based an entire article about a linebacker’s optimism in finding work in the NFL on a pair of Tweets.

This New York Daily News article — and many others like it — used a Tweet by Reggie Bush to ignite a media firestorm surrounding his future with the New Orleans Saints.

This Modesto Bee article, despite the author’s firsthand access to a player during a conference call, opens by citing a Tweet of his.

Personally, this “movement” — if you want to call it that — doesn’t really bother me. Even if Tweets aren’t literally spoken, they’re still worthy of being heard. (Well, most of them.)

And a lot of times, Tweets can show a lot more about a person’s mood or disposition than a generic, over-the-phone quote. In the Modesto Bee article above, the subject’s Tweet contains no fewer than five exclamation points. That, I think, is a pretty good indication of what he truly thinks about being drafted.

There are pitfalls to this — what if the Tweets aren’t actually being posted by the supposed person? — but I think the chances of them are so small to the point that the danger is negligible. Thoughts?

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News.me is born

What do you get when you take everything good about Twitter — how it’s completely free, the reverse chronological news stream featured, the personalization it offers — and change it into something new and more expensive?

Apparently, something called News.me, a social news aggregator for the iPad released last week by The New York Times.

The application takes information from the URL-shortening service bit.ly and Twitter itself to compile a home page of sorts that filters some of the more popular links and stories from your account.

In all, it looks like this:

Here’s the thing, though: Unlike Trove, a remarkably similar application also just released by The Washington Post, News.me requires a paid subscription. After a week-long free trial, use of the app costs $0.99 a week or $34.99 a year.

It’s not a whole lot of money, but color me skeptical nonetheless. Why would anyone pay the cost of a newspaper or magazine subscription to have their news curated and laid out in a fanciful way?

The application reportedly favors links from certain sites — such as the Times, Gawker and the Associated Press — so it’s not even a wholly organic experience. And with Twitter already existing and always improving, News.me seems needlessly redundant — not to mention expensive.

Fantasy Sports and Second Life

These guys also play Second Life.

Last Wednesday, for a sports and society course I’m taking this semester, some classmates and I traveled out to Nationals Park, where we spoke for a little bit to owner Mark Lerner. As we listened in awed silence to him describe the joys of building a baseball team almost from the ground up, visions of our own fantasy baseball (and football) experiences popped up in our mind.

That’s when it hit me … this must be what Second Life fanatics love about their game.

In both worlds — fantasy sports and Second Life — we get the chance to be something we’re not. In fantasy baseball, it’s a general manager with complete control over the direction of his or her made-up squad. In Second Life, it might be a Victoria Model-lookalike with a passion for dancing.

There are also avenues for diehards to take their fandom to a whole new level. In fantasy baseball, you can pay for premium packages that afford you more information and better decision-making tools. In Second Life, you can pay for new clothes, jewelery and whatever else your heart desires.

But the most obvious similarity is probably the one least talked about: It has a powerful social component. There are communication tools in both. There are advantages to socializing in both. And in both, it’s more fun when you actually know the people around you.

So does this mean I’ll start playing Second Life with as much zeal as I do fantasy football? No. But it is pretty interesting to note just why they’ve been so successful for so many years.

Live TV … in your pocket

This isn’t exactly “social media,” but it is digital media — and extremely cool digital media, at that — so forgive me.

Last week, ESPN launched an app for Apple mobile products that made its network available to existing subscribers from Time Warner, Verizon and Bright House Communications.

If, like me, you’re fortunate to be among that company and, like me, you have an iPhone/iPod/iPad, you too can experience the future of TV watching. Out at class and away from your TV? Whip out your iPhone, click on the “WatchESPN” app and, in a matter of seconds, you have access to ESPN’s robust buffet of live programming options. And it’s not exactly bad quality, either:

A screenshot of the device, courtesy of All Things Digital

 

As far as I can tell, this app is the first of its kind to offer mobile devices a streaming option for live TV. According to the article linked above, both Time Warner and Cablevision launched iPad apps that offer live cable programming to customers, but only within the confines of their homes.

This, however, is a game-changer. Could it herald the arrival of other network-specific apps? There seem clear advantages for a channel like NBC wanting its “30 Rock” fans to watch the show when they’re away from home as opposed to missing it entirely. After all, while the ESPN app doesn’t yet offer ads, they will be coming in a matter of months

Is this the wave of the future? And if so, just how near is a future where we’re saturated with apps like this? Comment below with your thoughts.

Twitter, and trimming the fat

It's been a while, ESPN.com homepage.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, at least publicly, is known as the eccentric, trouble-making mogul who’d rather stare down a referee courtside than lounge in comfort in his suite.

But he is an intelligent guy. You can’t make billions of dollars without having at least a smart side. And in a recent post on his blog, Cuban speculated on an interesting topic that I’m sure piqued the interests of some of the Internet’s major websites.

With the advent of Twitter, Cuban argues, sites such as ESPN.com are losing considerable user traffic:

“In the past, sports fans first stop in the search for sports news would be  ESPN.com .  Twitter changed all that. Twitter means we dont have to go to ESPN.com, we just check our twitter stream. Those people we follow always send us the updates we needed right to us. And we like it.  And if we want more information, we just clink on the links they send us.”

This wasn’t the first time I’d heard someone point out this potentially game-changing development. CNBC’s sports business reporter Darren Rovell tweeted several months ago that article-specific links on Twitter will likely significantly devalue the worth of advertising on home pages such as ESPN.com’s.

It will be interesting to see how ESPN fights back, if at all. Twitter is all about convenience, and if other competitors consistently manage to beat ESPN to the punch on linking news and updates, the sports power stands to lose a considerable chunk of change.

For those of you who use Twitter, what do you think? Have Twitter’s article-specific links lessened the frequency with which you visit a website’s home page, or even certain websites in general? Or, conversely, have they led to more visits?

A Tweet, a referee and a lawsuit

Bill Spooner would like $75,000 for that Tweet, thank you very much.

 

I mentioned this last class, but I felt it deserved the full rundown instead of an abridged summary, so here goes:

During a Jan. 24 game between the NBA’s Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves, veteran referee William Spooner called a foul against a Timberwolves player before telling the team’s coach, Kurt Rambis, he would later review the call.

Associated Press sports writer Jon Krawczynski, sitting courtside, Tweeted away: “Ref Bill Spooner told Rambis he’d ‘get it back’ after a bad call. Then he made an even worse call on Rockets. That’s NBA officiating folks.” The implied imprompriety contained within, of course, is that Spooner would make up his one bad call against the Timberwolves with another against the Rockets.

So, on March 14, Spooner sued Krawczynski in federal court for defamation, asking for $75,000 in damages and a court order to remove the statement from Krawczynski’s log of Tweets. In the lawsuit, Krawczynski claims that the message led to a disciplinary investigation by the NBA and damaged his professional reputation among referees.

This doesn’t seem like a battle Spooner will win anytime soon, though. He’s already got one strike against him, and it’s from the organization that’s purportedly representing him — the NBA.

Tim Frank, the NBA’s senior vice president for basketball communications, said the league investigated the tweet and “found it to be without substance, and informed Mr. Spooner that we considered the matter closed.”

It will be interesting to see if Spooner is able to triumph in any legislative battles here. As addressed in this TH Online article, there are a number of obstacles preventing online comments from being successfully litigated. If Spooner can win, it may be a watershed moment for that branch of law.

Do you think we’ll see a day when Tweets and Facebook posts will be regularly — and successfully — struck down in court? Let me know below.

Twitter popularity doesn’t always make sense

The inimitable Shaquille O'Neal.

Perhaps in the wake of crazy man/actor Charlie Sheen’s meteoric rise through the Twitterverse, Yahoo! Sports compiled a list of the top 10 most popular athletes on Twitter (determined by the number of followers one has).

The rundown:

1. Shaquille O’Neal
2. Kaka
3. Serena Williams
4. Cristiano Ronaldo
5. Dwight Howard
6. Paul Pierce
7. Chad Ochocinco
8. Reggie Bush
9. LeBron James
10. Nick Swisher

At first glance, the list doesn’t make sense. Where’s Terrell Owens? Tiger Woods? Kobe Bryant?

But when you examine it further, the breakdown isn’t altogether too surprising. A couple of Twitter truisms help to explain the popularity.

1. Success is essential

Every one of these athletes is a near-perennial All-Star. Accordingly, every one of these athletes is a popular and well-known name in sports circles. So when sports fans look to follow certain athletes on Twitter, it’s not surprising that they choose people like Reggie Bush over former Terp and current Los Angeles Laker guard Steve Blake. (Sorry, Steve.)

2. It helps to be good-looking

Kaka, Serena Williams and Reggie Bush aren’t just established names in sports bars worldwide. They’re also fixtures in tabloids. Their well-groomed faces are plastered across the walls of admiring fans across the country. Their high-profile relationships are of a very significant public interest. So while Terrell Owens might be a better player than Reggie Bush, Bush’s dalliance with socialite Kim Kardashian certainly didn’t hurt his Twitter popularity.

3. Randomness rules

A disbelieving shake of the head can be a pretty normal reaction to some of the things seen on Twitter. Nonsensical trending topics take hold out of nowhere, while users take full advantage of their relative anonymity to unleash unbelievable tirades. In other words, randomness is the norm. So I guess it’s not all too surprising to see Nick Swisher, a good but far from remarkable player for the New York Yankees, on this list. Or see that Paul Pierce has more followers than perhaps basketball’s grandest icon, LeBron James. Or that two soccer players occupy some of the highest spots on Twitter, a U.S.-based company.

Fully explaining Twitter, I assure you, is beyond my level of expertise.