SEC says no to social media

August 17, 2009 1 Comment

Stopped by Mashable for my morning tech fix and had to roll my eyes at the SEC (Southeastern Conference).

According to the St. Petersburg Times, the SEC is expected to release a final version of its new media policy today. And from what I’m gathering from online chatter, fans are hoping for some major revisions.

A version released earlier this month said this:

“Ticketed fans can’t produce or disseminate (or aid in producing or disseminating) any material or information about the Event, including, but not limited to, any account, description, picture, video, audio, reproduction or other information concerning the Event.”

Of course, social media giants are freaking out that they won’t be able to tweet from the sidelines. I’m more concerned about the ability of fans to capture the memories. I’ll admit it – I don’t like football. But some of my favorite memories from college were captured by a camera or cell phone inside the football stadium on game day.

The Times article says that tweets and fan photos aren’t the concern. The wording is meant to safeguard against the future because a few years down the road, phones may be able to stream high quality video, which could detract from the ESPN/CBS audience.

For those of us in new media, it shows a close-minded attitude. Instead of finding a way to work with new technologies, the SEC is banning what it may not understand and has no ability to control.

Plus, there is the issue of enforcement. I remember going to a Bob Dylan concert a few years and trekking back to my car after I was told I couldn’t bring in my camera. But, as phones turned into cameras, the music world wised up and banned “professional” cameras. It’s hard enough to control unauthorized drinking, angry fights and people sneaking into the wrong seating area. Can you imagine the security force it would take to enforce this policy at a football game?

A post on bleacherreport.com contends the Big Ten is taking the opposite approach by openly encouraging discussion and dissemination through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. But, putting hours of old game footage on Hulu isn’t exactly the same as allowing fans to produce their own content. The conferences have millions, and sometimes billions of dollars on the line, and anything that threatens exclusivity will threaten those agreements.

Realistically, none of us truly know what the future holds for technology. But, it’s fairly clear that the idea of exclusivity is quickly becoming outdated. Obviously, if I’m watching a game online, I’m going to choose a well-produced high quality stream over grainy cell phone video. But, if that phone was the only camera to catch a major fight in the stands that sent some guy to the hospital, I’m probably heading over to YouTube or Facebook to watch it.

It’s about more than sporting events. For major corporations, and even news outlets, how do you protect your brand when you can’t always protect how it is represented online? So far, there’s no perfect solution. People will talk about you online, with or without your blessing. But, by being involved in the process, hopefully it becomes more like a conversation and less like a comment box.

There’s been a lot of ideas in this post – so let me sum it up. Social media can be scary because we can’t control it. But, it’s so important that you can’t ignore it. We should be working to find a way for it to work inside the framework of our rules and agreements, instead of just saying no.

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