I've written quite a few articles about companies who have trouble dealing with the way social media has changed conversation. Big, old school companies and organizations who are used to "controlling the message" tend to have a hard time letting go of that control. Unfortunately for them, social media is pushing the conversation forward whether they want it to or not. That's why I was surprised, but really not surprised at the NCAA's new blogging policies.

Earlier this month, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) released it's new policies for how and when credentialed journalists may blog about their sporting events.

The NCAA Blogging Policy actually made me laugh out loud. It honestly reminded me of the sites that used to try and make up rules about how you could link to them, as if they had any ability to force you to follow those rules.

Take a gander at some of the "requirements" for credentialed journalists who wants to live blog a sporting event.

Any blog representing an NCAA championship must submit the appropriate link to ncaasports.com Blog Central. In return, all media entities entering a blog must post the ncaasports.com logo/link on their site.

They even break down how many blog posts are "permitted" during each time period of a sport. For example:

Football: 3 times per quarter, once at half time
Soccer: 5 times per half, once at half time
Wrestling: 10 times per session

I had to laugh when I saw that my own NCAA sport of Rifle even made the list. Apparently, a credentialed journalist can blog up to ten times during the course of a single rifle match. (That's generous if you realize there are only four "sets" of targets, but skimpy when you realize a rifle match runs six hours.) I've competed in dozens of NCAA rifle events. Believe me, no one wants to live blog them.

I make that last point because it's important to realize just how silly all of this is. It's true that the NCAA has every right to set the policies they want credentialed press to follow. Of course they'll likely shoot themselves in the foot if they do it. All someone has to do is buy a ticket to the game, enter as a private citizen and do their blogging that way.

It's a perfect example of companies trying desperately to retain control of "the message" as it spreads through social media sites. What the NCAA is really doing is handicapping the folks with the best access. They're really not going to stop people from live blogging.

Mike Masnick at TechDirt points out the lack of thought in this decision:

Limiting live blogging only hurts the sport. The people who follow live blogs are the really passionate fans -- the ones who love the game the most. They follow the live blogs not as a substitute for watching the game on TV or attending in person -- but because they cannot view the games that way and/or they want to feel the camaraderie of discussing the event with other passionate fans. Cutting off the ability of a reporter to feed info to these fans simply makes no sense. It's hurting your most passionate fans for no good reason whatsoever.

Masnick is spot on. No sports fan in their right mind is going to skip the game on TV and read about it on a blog instead. On the other hand, fans who aren't able to pick the game up on TV because they live in another coverage zone or aren't near a TV set can keep up with the action via a blog. Let's also not discount the really hard core fans who will join the conversation of a live blog while watching the game on TV.

In fact, a commenter on the TechDirt post points to a live blog of a Yankee's game that has amassed more than 1800 responses.

While I understand what the NCAA is trying to do here, they're going about it the wrong way. Live blogging can only help the NCAA gain more coverage of their sporting events. It can only serve to make passionate fans even more passionate.

Social media is about conversation. It's going to happen whether you want it to or not, so why not empower people in a positive way to help make sure the conversation focuses on your offerings instead of your lame and outdated policies?

January 10, 2008

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


"Not getting it" is one thing but thinking you get it can be dangerous. Old business does not even live in the same decade as new business and will probably be stuck where they are until the old geezers running the show dies off.

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