2011 Belonged To Twitter, So Does the Future of Sports Media

Published on: December 29, 2011 | Written by: Clay Travis

Every morning starts the same way for me, I roll over and check Twitter on my iPhone.

I check Twitter before I check my email, my text messages, or even get out of bed. My wife has even threatened to start her own Twitter account to remind me to take out the trash. I read all the news from the 170 or so people I follow and then I read every single thing y'all send my way. (Every morning for 786 consecutive days an Alabama fan has accused me of being gay).

Put simply, I'm addicted to Twitter.

If I could only consume one media product, Twitter would be my pick. Over any newspaper, over any single television station, over any book, magazine, website, radio station, or other media product you can name.

Basically, if I was stranded on a desert island and had a solar powered Twitter feed with working Internet service for that feed, I don't think I'd be that lonely.

Yet, amazingly, only about 12% of y'all are even on Twitter so far. Go sign up now. And I preach this every time I talk about Twitter, just use my feed as a template for who to follow if Twitter seems too confusing.

Twitter is a media game-changer, the Cam Newton of Internet companies, and I'm going to tell you why.

1. Twitter empowers the individual.

The reason I started OKTC was because you can't rely on big media companies anymore. FanHouse was chugging along with only positive reports. At the Auburn-Oregon BCS title game FanHouse sent four writers to Arizona.

One week after we came back from the game, the company didn't exist anymore.

I already had a good sense that the name on the front of the jersey didn't matter anymore, but this confirmed it for me. Every single writer in America has to be a perpetual free agent. You have to worry about you. No company cares about you. No company really cares about the work that you do. Your editors might care, and your co-workers might care, but in the grand scheme of things a multi-billion dollar company sees just about every writer as a fungible quantity. You can and will be replaced.   

That's scary to many writers because the simple truth is the vast majority of writers wouldn't bring an audience with them if they moved from site to site or paper to paper.

But Twitter gives you an opportunity to do just that.

People respond to individuals on Twitter, they don't respond to companies.

Twitter is every writer's best friend. If you write, you'd better Tweet too.

Or you won't be writing that long.

2. I don't go to websites anymore, I go to writer's articles.

Maybe I'm alone in this, but I can't even remember the last time I went to CBSSports.com's front page, or ESPN.com's front page, or Yahoo's front page to see what the news of the day is. I already know it from my Twitter feed.

And I follow the writers that I read and click directly to their articles.

My Twitter loyalty now is to the name on the back of the jersey, not the name on the front of the jersey.

I don't care who employs you or what website you write for or where you used to write or how long you've been doing what you do, if you're writing consistently good articles I'll find you. (Or the people I follow will).

That's incredibly empowering for individual writers. If you write consistently smart or funny pieces, people will find your work. Back in 2004 when I started writing online, it was a struggle to get the word out about new articles. Social media didn't exist so you relied on the old social media circles -- emailed links from one friend to another. Now sharing content is easier than it has ever been before. 

Here's a big prediction for the future: Twitter is going to lead to more writers going it alone. 

If people are following you and reading you, what benefit is being an employee of a major site really providing? Credentialing? Over the next five years your Twitter followers will become your credential. Already, if I was a league, I'd set a number, say 20,000 Twitter followers. If you have those the baseline expectation would be that your audience is big enough to be credentialed at a game. Newsflash, 20,000 people aren't reading the work of 99% of credentialed sports media. (You'd also need to look at the number you follow. If you follow 10,000 people and 12,000 "people" follow you those are mostly Twitter bots. No one is actually responding to what you write. Honestly, if you follow more than about 500 people on Twitter you're probably following too many people to actually get much benefit from Twitter.)  

Legitimacy? The smartest SID's and league officials already know who the guys and gals that set the storyline are. Your Twitter feed is your legitimacy. If people are choosing to follow what you say then what you say has an impact.

It's pretty simple.

The more successful the writer, the less the number of readers he gets from his association with a "name brand" site. If peole are only reading you because of where you work, you're probably not very good at what you do.  

3. News breaks on Twitter.

Remember way back in the distant past of 2007 when the "breaking news" banner on ESPN was a big deal?

Play a game this winter. See when news breaks on Twitter and watch how long it takes for ESPN to "break" the news on television. There's at least a half-hour delay.

That's a massive amount of time these days. (It also makes you question the source that claims to be "breaking" the news. It's easy to break news when it's already broken).

If you're relying on the television to bring you news, you're a lemming.

From Osama bin Laden being killed to the new coach at UCLA, I find out first about the news from my Twitter feed.

If you were on Twitter, so would you.

4. Every individual is a network now.

On Twitter we're all executives in charge of our own entertainment options and we're all editors formatting our own constantly updating news feed. 

Back in the day, reporters used to gather around the incredibly expensive AP wire to know the news as it broke, now every single one of us has that option. Twitter is our free AP wire.  

You choose the individuals and stories that are compelling to you and wait for them to pop up on your feed. I'm going to build on this going forward, but as Twitter becomes more and more popular, other media will need to recognize that consumers expect more control over their entertainment options.

Why should a cable programmer, for instance, get to pick my cable stations, when I can pick all the media I want to consume on Twitter?

5. Twitter search is going to replace Google as the go-to search destination for real-time news.

It already has for me.

Google really needs to buy Twitter and integrate a new "real-time" section into its search function. Because right now Google real-time searches are worthless.

Try to find something that just happened on Google or YouTube that isn't a major story yet.

Say, for instance, Bobby Petrino cursing Les Miles during the CBS broadcast.

It's virtually impossible for several hours on Google.

On Twitter it takes ten seconds of key-word search.

Since Google's entire business plan is predicated on search, Twitter represents a clear and present danger to Google's hegemony.

Put it this way, if I could, I would buy as much stock in Twitter as I could afford right now.

The next five years will be owned by Twitter.

6. You guys are my eyes and ears and mobile communication is easy on Twitter.

Facebook has verged closer and closer to MySpace with each passing year. Every time I log on to Facebook now, I feel like I did when I was on MySpace. Like there's too many bells and whistles to tell what the hell is going on. If I was just using Facebook to keep tabs on my friends and family that would be one thing, but I'd rather use it for information gathering since there's no point in having 5,000 "friends" to keep up with babies and birthdays.

If I know you, chances are I don't care much about your birthday. If I don't know you at all, there is a 1 billion percent chance I don't care about your birthday.

Plus, I can only have 5,000 friends on Facebook. That means over a thousand people think I'm a jerk because I won't confirm them as "friends" right now.  And it's comparatively difficult for me to keep tabs on Facebook messages from y'all.

I have to maneuver between different screens if you send me a message, I have to take a long link and shorten it, taking news from Facebook or email and putting it on Twitter so people actually see it is time-consuming and difficult.

Not so with Twitter links and messages that y'all send me. First, I'm not the gatekeeper of "friendom"-- if you want to follow what I have to say all you have to do is click follow. Second, if you message me I can instantly redistribute your content to everyone who follows me with one click. 

All while being mobile from my iPhone. 

Right now Twitter owns mobile. 

Absolutely owns it. 

And mobile is the future.

Facebook ought to be nervous about Twitter as well because Twitter is Facebook for people with an IQ over 100.   

7. The monetization of Twitter is coming.

And the ways that will happen will be fascinating.

Did you know that every time Erin Andrews Tweets out a photo of something over 50,000 people click on it?

That's more people than will read 99.999 percent of the articles ever written on the Internet.

Just from that picture.

Why isn't she monetizing every picture? Why isn't every Tweet photo she posts sponsored by the phone she took it with or a particular photo app?

There are tens of billions of dollars of Twitter revenue coming. Now that the audience is here unlocking those revenue streams will be easy.

With advertisers working harder and harder to reach young, affluent men and women who skip commericals on DVRs, and don't read print media, where are all those dollars headed?

Lots of them will end up on Twitter.  

8. The company isn't king on Twitter, the individual is.

Confession: I would have never started OKTC without Twitter.

Because I know when I left CBS for Deadspin, some of y'all got lost along the way. And then when I left Deadspin for FanHouse, more got lost along the way.

It was frustrating to build up an audience back in those days and then not have the ability to reach out to that audience and let them know where you are.

But with Twitter, y'all will be wherever I go.

So I don't have to worry about readers finding me anymore.

That's why I would encourage every individual out there to make sure they own their own Twitter feed. You'd be surprised how many people don't. You'd be surprised how many companies will be filing lawsuits like this one to reclaim a Twitter account. 

And now here comes an analogy that you were never expecting.

My son watches "Toy Story 3," conservatively, fourteen thousand times a day. What's more, he walks around quoting the movie all the time. His favorite part of the movie -- SPOILER!-- is a scene where Buzz, Woody and the crew of toys are all tossed into a garbage pile.

Just before they're tossed in a large purple teddy bear named Lots-O says this:

"We're all just trash, waiting to be thrown away, that's all a toy (writer) really is."

Listening to him over and over it eventually hit me, Lots-O's pessimistic view is similar to that of many writers and editors in today's media age. They've curled up in the fetal position in hopes of surviving nuclear winter. They're all Lots-O's convinced of their own obsolescence.

But Twitter is the individual writer's salvation. 

Produce great, original content and you'll be rewarded. 

If you can't do that, then you should probably find a new job. 

For those willing to seize the future, Twitter is the greatest ally of individual writers since the typewriter.