Although I think about this all the time, I got set off on this ironically by something on Twitter. Bill Simmons offered to have the head of MLB’s advanced media on his podcast to explain their “media strategy”. This was after MLBAM apparently removed a video of a NESN reporter choking on a sandwich for some reason or another.
I’ve gripped about this quite often. MLB has had the worst internet presence and social media strategy in sports for years now. Most egregiously, they’re the only sport that has forbidden any highlights from appearing on Youtube whatsoever. So while I can watch highlights of the 2000 Masters, see an entire replay of the last drive of the 2008 super bowl or watch the 4th quarter of game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals, I can’t watch Derek Jeter pass Lou Gehrig as the all time Yankee hits leader or Barry Bonds break the homerun record. The NBA has allowed Youtube content for years now and it leads to excellent ideas like Sebastian Pruiti’s, who breaks down and diagrams NBA plays every night and then shares them on his blog the next day. MLB is kind enough to allow fans with grainy cell phone videos to remain on Youtube though, so there’s always that. Hey, anytime you can make it as difficult as possible for the fans of your sport to enjoy seminal moments from its history, you gotta do that, right?
For me, this goes beyond their ridiculous internet strategy. And no, I’m not even going to get into the inanity of the blackout restrictions that everyone detests. Anyone remember suffering through the beginning of MLB.TV? As someone who hasn’t regularly lived in the New York area since 2004, I’ve been witness to how painful the birth of that product was. It took a few years for them to iron out the kinks. Baseball does deserve credit for blazing the path on broadcasting games on the internet. It was one of the first major sports to do so. The product wasn’t particularly well handled though, especially considering that HD NCAA games were broadcasted, for free, seamlessly on the internet years ago. The same is true with several major golf and tennis tournaments including the Masters. Even ESPN3 has run relatively smoothly from its launch.
I’ve said plenty of times that I think Bud Selig is the worst sports commissioner. From the way young players are utilized and marketed to his stubborn refusal to adopt a real instant replay system, Bud seems trenchantly stuck in the past. The NBA gets a lot of praise for having a great social media strategy and I think they deserve it. Here’s a great quote from their social media director:
“NBA Digital’s mantra is to provide fans with the content they want, when and where they want it, so we always start by asking: how will this enhance the fan’s experience, what are their needs? Where do they want content? Once we answer those questions we can determine our plan.”
Or how about this one from their vice president of marketing:
“Our fans are active on multiple social media networks and we want to continue to communicate with them directly and provide them with NBA content in their favorite spaces.”
Wouldn’t that be nice to hear from anyone involved with running baseball? A byproduct of their aggressive social media policy is the fact that they lead the sports league in Twitter followers, Facebook followers and Youtube subscribers. Considering that the NBA is usually pegged as the 3rd most popular sport in the US behind baseball, that’s not as easily dismissible as it once was. Two years ago they were streaming the all-star game live from TNT’s website, connecting it to Facebook feeds and Twitter users. Twitter recorded more than 185,000 tweets per minute during game 7 of the NBA Finals this past year. The NBA was actually paying to have trending twitter topics during last summer’s free agency. Instead of having a sponsored topic like, NBA Free Agency, they piggy backed all of the major free agent names, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Amare Stoudemire etc to drum up additional page views and attention. (The NBA’s media strategy is a much discussed topic- here’s a good primer).
My whole point here is that there’s plenty more MLB could be doing in order to push the sport. Again, I want it to grow as should everyone else. Wouldn’t it be great to have something like this for one of MLB’s best players? (I recommend reading about the mosiac and how it was integrated during the NBA’s all-star weekend, another event which the NBA is leading the field with). This even relates back to the post I had about the declining rate of youth baseball players. Young kids interested in the NBA’s history don’t have to read a book about it- they can Youtube hundreds of different Michael Jordan or Larry Bird highlight films (that are all user generated by the way). Try finding some decent Ken Griffey Jr. highlights on the internet.
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