29
Jul 14

The N.F.L.’s Puzzling Use of Longform Content

puzzled

When it comes to attention spans and major sports, the National Football League has to lead the way when it comes to which fans have the shortest attention spans.

It’s well-documented that a football game has only 11 minutes of real action on the field. The rest of the time is spent in huddles, celebrating touchdowns, and cutting to commercial break. The average fan doesn’t have to commit to non-stop action the same way a fan of hockey and soccer might. Football is the one sport designed around the bathroom break.

That’s why it’s a bit surprising two N.F.L. teams have made the foray into the already crowded world of longform content marketing.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers recently published a piece on new coach Lovie Smith, titled “The First 100 Days.”

The piece, which chronicles the first hundred day’s of Smith’s tenure as head coach, clocks in at — holy shit — more than 31,000 words. While I’m sure it’s super-interesting to know what time he wakes up at in the morning, nobody is going to take the time to sit down and read that tome. (Thankfully, SB Nation broke it down for us.)

If the Buccaneers were shooting to provide an in-depth look at their new coach, they succeeded. But if they wanted people to read it, all accounts indicate a failure in reaching that goal.

The San Francisco 49ers, on the other hand, have an entire section of their website devoted to long reads.

Their new content, which tells the story-behind-the-story of the building of their new stadium, checks in at a more palpable 4,500 words. Plus, the text is broken up with Vines, photo galleries, and an infographic that rank the size of every N.F.L. team’s stadium video board, providing the reader with ample opportunities to pause and grab a drink from the kitchen.

It’s the best content that incorporates other elements of storytelling, and the 49ers have done that.

But here’s a the real question: Why?

Content marketing was created as a way for companies to tell their stories on their own, without having to use a third party. It might be less respectable on a company’s website than it would be the front page of the local paper, but it has become a serviceable workaround for a lot of businesses.

The N.F.L., however, does not need this Plan B. The league has never been more popular. And none of the teams in the league want for coverage.

But with concussions and domestic violence issues taking up quite a bit of “print” this offseason, perhaps this is how these mega-brands are trying to control the message.

A quick search of other teams’ websites does not uncover similar types of content. But the Detroit Lions, for instance, just hired a multimedia journalist. So maybe this is something other teams are exploring.

Either way, companies shouldn’t get into the content game for the sake of getting into the content game. And that includes professional sports teams.

You need a solid plan in place before you execute. Throwing thousands of words on a page shouldn’t be the goal.

If you’re writing for the sake of writing, with no desire to reach a specific audience, you’re probably doing it wrong.


01
Jul 14

An Open Letter to Social Media Managers

delete

So you want to write a clever tweet about the World Cup that will expose your brand to hundreds, if not thousands, of potential new customers.

Great.

But before you do, know this: there are people on Twitter whose sole goal in life is to be one of the first to call you out for tweeting content that could be viewed as insensitive or inaccurate.

As of this writing, companies the likes of Delta Airlines and KLM have already issued apologies for pushing tweets that would be considered stupid at best, and insensitive to entire cultures, at worst.

And, to think, somebody in a high position looked at those tweets and said it was okay to click “Tweet.”

(For the sake of the people low on the social totem pole, I hope somebody above them approved their idea. There is nothing worse than issuing something publicly that you forgot to get approval for.)

Nothing excites the Twitter lynch mob more than publicly shaming your brand as soon as the tweet shows up in their feed.

You remember when Chrysler’s Twitter account posted a tweet that contained the F-word, right?

People practically fell over themselves to be the first to feign outrage that a real company could tweet something so vulgar (even if it was 100 percent true.)

There was a mad dash to be the first to re-tweet the tweet; to show the social universe just how concerned they are about how brands conduct themselves on Twitter, even though it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

Maybe that user would even gain ten more followers. But for sure they would live on in infamy and gain immediate Internet fame for being the first to call attention to it.

Unfortunately, this is what you’ll have to deal with, so you’ll rack your brain trying to come up with something clever, only to see it become sanitized as it goes through the approval process, ultimately becoming something so vanilla that it couldn’t possibly offend anyone.

And therein lies the rub: Why spend all of that time going through approvals if your brand is just going to become lost among a sea of related tweets?

In this case, unless your brand has a real connection to soccer or sport, don’t waste your time trying to keep up with the Joneses.

At best, you’ll gain a few re-tweets. At worse, you’ll be ridiculed.

It’s not worth your time.


07
May 14

We Owe It To Our Kids To Give Them Experiences

wanderlust

My wife and I and the kids are getting on a plane in a few days for a quick vacation to Texas. It will be the first time my daughters have flown on an airplane. They’re excited. So are Mom and Dad. But we are also a bit nervous about how they will behave for two-and-a-half hours.

I was 12 when I flew on an airplane for the first time. My parents took my brother and I to Disney World for vacation. [Editor's Note: I flew to Virginia when I was two. That doesn't count because I don't remember it.] The highlight was waking up early to watch the space shuttle take off in the distance. And getting Mickey Mouse’s autograph, of course.

I didn’t fly on an airplane again until I was 19 when my Dad took me to Wrigley Field to see a baseball game. I took another flight to Chicago a year later, then my wife and I flew to Mexico on our honeymoon in 2006.

And, that was it. Four flights in 26 years. Hardly a frequent flier, was I.

So, when I had to take my first business trip to Denver, I was a bit nervous. I was by myself, 30,000 feet in the air, flying to an unfamiliar city for the day.

On the way there, we hit a rough stretch of air over Nebraska that caused the plane to plummet hundreds of feet in a few seconds. That was not supposed to happen. When the pilot told the flight crew to take their seats, this inexperienced traveler broke out into a cold sweat. We made it to Denver, but I had a death grip on the arms of my seat the entire way home.

From that day on, I was terrified of flying. Whenever I was sent out of town for work, I spent the days before the trip in a mild panic, which only got worse as I drove to the airport. I always forced myself to board the plane, but I never much enjoyed it.

As someone who has dealt with anxiety for the better part of his life, I understand what it’s like to not enjoy doing something because I’m afraid of what might happen. It’s the very definition of anxiety.

I’ve grown to enjoy flying (or at least not hating it) because it allows me to see different parts of country and take awesome Instagram pictures. This would not be possible had I chosen a different career that offered less travel, got a doctor’s note prohibiting me from getting on an aircraft, or turned down opportunities with friends to travel to see games in different baseball stadiums.

Overcoming travel anxiety has led to experiences.

As a parent, the last thing I want my kids to encounter is anxiety that cripples their wanderlust. I want to give them experiences. I want them to fly on an airplane early, at an age when they can remember it. I want flying to be no-big-deal to them. I don’t want them to put off adventures because they have to board a plane to get there.

In an age where kids can’t sit still for five minutes because we’ve programmed them that way, giving them an opportunity to do something that goes beyond iPads and iPhones is a good thing.

We can show them there’s more to be seen than just what’s inside their comfort zones.

And, who knows, maybe we’ll help them become better people in the process.


05
May 14

Clemson’s New In-House Media Model Threatens Journalistic Transparency

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[Editor's Note: If you've found this blog from the link on The Clemson Insider, please note that I am not a journalist. These are just my views on the possible ramifications of the university creating this media model.]

I’m a big proponent of journalism and its importance in our world.

Without investigative reporters working tirelessly to uncover the stories that need to be brought into the public record, scumbags like Jerry Sandusky would still be walking among young boys, and slimy coaches like Jim Tressel would still be patrolling the sideline at The Shoe.

That’s why news out of Clemson is a bit unsettling.

According to Dan Wolken, college football reporter for USA Today, Clemson University will build their own in-house media department to replace coverage of the university that has, until now, emanated from traditional media.

Here’s a quote from the memo:

“It will always be of importance to treat the media professionally and provide them with the tools to do their jobs,” read the memo. “However, it is not the singular focus, nor even foremost priority of our department.”

With all of the reporting capabilities the university has at their disposal, Clemson will no longer have to rely on outsiders to report the news. They can just do it themselves.

Toward the end of the post, we get to the real reason for the university bringing everything in-house:

Controlling the message was critical.

In an era when everyone with a blog (ahem) and a follower considers themselves a reporter, Clemson decided they are just going to report on themselves and take the idea of controlling their message to the extreme.

Now, Clemson fans will be served up big helpings of coverage of their teams that should only be viewed through orange and purple colored glasses, because what’s in it for the university to report anything negative?

If media are paying to cover the events (which sounds like a possibility) they certainly won’t risk their access by investing something that sounds fishy. And their bosses will be hard-pressed to let them get their hands dirty if it could compromise the relationship.

Eventually, I can see it get to the point where reporters will just give up and acquiesce to the demands of the university.

If Clemson’s media bet works, and powers-that-be determine more money can be made from this strategy, than they’re going to set a precedent for the rest of college athletics.

For the big-money schools, an impeccable reputation is the one thing that every action they undertake serves to feed. If they’ve found a way to ensure it, other schools will quickly the recipe.

Colleges will become dictatorships, of sorts: only releasing the information that has been neatly polished to shine in the most positive light.

It will be nothing but good tidings and joy, neatly packaged for immediate fan consumption.

The star quarterback who had a run-in with police?

Ain’t nobody got time for that.


02
May 14

That’s What He Read – May 2, 2014

heread

 

Well so much for that blogging commitment, right?

My only excuse is that I was traveling for work, so I didn’t have a lot of time to put my pen to paper and flesh out some of the ideas I’ve got kicking around in my head.

The upside is that I got to spend a few days in Washington D.C., although it was pretty wet. But as a father of two little girls, I got an entire evening to myself. It’s one of the perks of business travel.

I hope your week went well.

_____

It’s been said by those of us in the communications industry that numbers are the enemy. But that couldn’t be further (farther? I never know) from the truth. There is a renewed focus on making data work for us. Now we just need to find the right story to tell to accompany it.

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It’s well-documented (at least in my head) how much I despise Facebook. A big part of that is because of the inanity that we see every day as we scroll through our feed. I was never a big user of MySpace, but it’s starting to resemble that failed social site, but now with new and improved quizzes. Thankfully, a researcher at the University of Colorado Denver has figured out the posts that turn us off. Maybe if we can ignore those, we won’t hate Facebook quite so much.

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I’ve always wanted to run my own journalistic endeavor. But that’s probably never going to happen. Maybe that’s why I’m drawn to this idea of content creation. I mean, in a sense, if you’re running a content enterprise for a company or client, you need to act like a publisher.

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The world is warming. And it’s unlikely we’re going to find the silver bullet that turns this trend around. What we have to do is get away from this hero mentality that someone’s going to swoop in and fix the problem, and learn to survive in this new climate. The faster we realize this, the faster we might adapt and learn to live with what we’ve got.

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What did you read this week?