Friday, August 26, 2011

ESPN's Social Media Policy May Assist Its Competitors

ESPN has been at the cutting edge of sports coverage since its launch on September 7, 1979. Its slogan is "The Worldwide Leader in Sports". As a longtime ESPN customer, I have always been interested in the wide variety of programming that ESPN has to offer. From its news to its original series to its game telecasts, ESPN does an excellent job of covering the world of sports.

ESPN first created a Social Media Policy for its employees in August 2009. The network's initial policy was heavily criticized and within hours of it becoming public ESPN publicly explained the policy. Within the last couple of days, ESPN has has updated its Social Media Policy or as it is officially called, its "Social Networking For Talent and Reporters" Policy.

The new policy's first two guidelines make sense: "Think before you [sic] tweet" and "Think before you retweet". However, the third guideline, "Do not break news on Twitter", demonstrates an utter lack of understanding of the Social Media Age. In addition, this guideline does not make sense because it further states, "In most cases, you [sic] tweet will also appear on". Since ESPN Talent and/or Reporters' Twitter feeds will be on it makes no sense to tell them they can't break news on their Twitter feeds. I understand the desire to drive as much traffic as possible onto ESPN or to keep the Nielsen Ratings or figures as high as possible which may increase advertising dollars. However, this policy will only harm its ability to compete in the fast changing digital landscape.

During the last several years, many major news stories have been reported first on Twitter. Some of these stories include: the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, the 2009 Hudson River plane crash, and the death of Osama Bin Laden. During the NFL lockout earlier this year, sports reporters regularly posted breaking news updates on Twitter and then followed them up by more in depth articles at a later time.

Therefore, unless ESPN eliminates its "Do not break news on Twitter" guideline, ESPN's reporters will risk other news outlets breaking news before ESPN has the ability to do so. The leaders of ESPN may want to rethink their new policy because as it stands it only hurts its ability to compete in the Social Media Age.

To learn how your organization may create a Social Media Policy that does not harm your brand or bottom line you may contact me at

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