Last time around, I conducted an interview with 5 sportspeople and you seemed to like it. So, we decided to keep these interviews rolling. And what better way to get some real information about anything then by asking the people involved in what you want to know.
This time we talked to 5 sports writers from all over the world – Canada, Croatia, Slovenia, Spain and UK/Australia. We wanted to find out how the evolution of social media influenced their work as sports writers.
Let me introduce to you today’s starting lineup:
1. Daniel Zakrzewski, Copy Editor at BarDown/Audience Relations at TSN Canada,
2. Bernard Jurišić, Sports Columnist at Sportske Novosti (Sports News – leading sports newspaper in Croatia), only news writer in Croatia with a verified Facebook page,
3. Luka Maselj, once a Journalist, now Project Manager at S.V. – RSA d. o. o.,
4. Juan Jimenez Salvado, Sports Writer and AS.com co-editor,
5. Ante Jukić, Digital Content Curator/Producer, Touchsky Media, responsible for their football coverage, focused on Africa and Africans playing in Europe.
Now that you know who you’ll be dealing with, let’s move on to our questions.
Twitter is faster then any other media out there
Which social networks are you active on? Which one is your favorite and why? What do you use it for?
Daniel: I would say I’m pretty much active on all of the major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, etc,). For personal use, Instagram is something I would say I interact with the most for my own entertainment, but for work I’d say it’s pretty even. My job requires a thorough understanding of all of these platforms, as they all serve their own unique purposes.
Bernard: I use Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is by far the most popular social network in Croatia so it is logical that I am most focused on it. I use social networks to gather information, but also to showcase my articles and opinions and interact with readers.
Luka: Although I have a profile on several niche ones, I am most active on are the most well-known ones: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. I had to choose my favorite, I’d go with Twitter. Today, when everything is moving so fast, you can use it to be up-to-date at any time and (almost) any place. It’s faster than any other media and it helps me follow the latest things out there.
Juan: My favorite is Twitter. It is an information tool for me and it allows me to be informed quickly. Besides, if you are able to know which source you can trust, it can help you a lot. Twitter is filled up with profiles of journalists who can really help you learn new things.
Ante: Although I have Facebook and Instagram, they’re more for personal reasons and I’m barely active on the former. On the other hand, I’m almost constantly on Twitter. As has always been the case with it, you can tailor your updates and feed merely by the people/agencies/entities you follow. In this respect, it’s brilliant. I receive news that’s relevant and important to me, and as a consequence, have been able to usefully network in a professional environment, and meet like-minded people personally.
Club policies make sports writers jobs difficult
What are the positives and negatives of social media for you as a sports writer? From a perspective of getting information about the players, clubs, coaches, etc. Some clubs, like for example FC Barcelona, have a strict social media policy for its players. Is it harder now to get a pre or post game statements from players/coach?
Daniel: I don’t see a negative. Athletes are more accessible than ever before, and they now have numerous outlets to aid in expressing themselves. Sure, there’s a certain element of moderation that exists through PR teams, but that’s how it’s always been, even before social media. To put it in short, Barcelona may very well be strict with what their players share, but that hasn’t stopped me from seeing many glimpses into Neymar’s day on Instagram. All social media does is provide new platforms.
Bernard: For people who work in media, social networks are not only a bonus, but an absolute necessity. On the positive side information are at your fingertips, but the negative is that social networks have enabled a bypass between fans and clubs / stars at the expense of newspapers and journalists. This is exactly the main reason why people who work in the media should not ignore or underestimate social networks, but find a way to make the best use of it for their needs. Therefore, the journalistic work has become even more challenging because in the crowd of information available to the readers you have to find a way to be both interesting and credible.
Luka: When I was still as journalist, these things didn’t really exist. But the positives are pretty similar in my new area of expertise (sports marketing and sponsorship): if you know how to identify the best possible sources, you can access a lot more of (valuable) information. It’s also surely easier for sports writers now, but at the same time, you have a lot more trouble if you want to go in depth – not settling for the most obvious things. The quality of obtained information is poorer, as the players, clubs and other people and sports properties use these channels as some kind of “media officer”. I think media education of all people involved in the business of sport is extremely important, as nowadays it’s getting more and more important to be successful off the field too.
Juan: The most important is that you know how use social media. If you do, it’s all positives. Getting various information about official accounts of clubs, coaches and players is not easy. Players such as Neymar use their official accounts in their spare time or to show some photos. Fans want to see behind the scene content.
Ante: In a match-day environment for a sports writer, Twitter’s important. You can quickly find squad information, match updates, and now with the greater incorporation of Vine, it’s almost like having instant highlights. In many cases however, the same news gets regurgitated due to laziness, whatever the issue, and that in itself can become a story. Understandably, in some respects, clubs have to protect their players from this. After fining Alen Halilović in February, for posting on Instagram from the treatment table, Barcelona effectively brought themselves into such a predicament. On one hand, clubs make media access to their players and staff difficult, but on the other, they are responsible for protecting their interests, at both an administrative and commercial level.
Content on players’/clubs’ official accounts is generic
Do you follow a large number of teams and players to stay up-to-date with news? How often do you check for their statuses, tweets, photos, etc?
Daniel: Again, while my job is directly tied to me following athletes and seeking out these sorts of things each and every day, I was definitely doing this before on my own. In my own free time, I’d say I naturally gravitate towards these pieces of content numerous times throughout the day.
Bernard: Honestly – no. Information that is of interest to me and of which I try to build a story generally are not found in the official announcements or PR statuses of clubs or athletes. Information released through official channels or profiles is generally not completely objective because it is in service of the promotion of whoever publishes them. So, more often I follow journalists and reporters who perceive the facts from all angles, not just the PR perspective. Unfortunately, there are very few journalists in Croatia that recognize this way of communication and interaction with both colleagues and readers.
Luka: Since I am not a journalist anymore, I don’t follow that many teams or players – mostly those I support or find interesting to follow – while the concept is the same nevertheless. I try to follow as much relevant sports marketing and sponsorship sources as possible. I tend to learn who is worth checking up regularly – because of overall relevancy or personal interest. What’s very important is the approach of these sources in terms of depth or relevance and directness of communication. It’s not always easy, but most of the time it’s pretty obvious whose comments (especially with individuals) on social media are actually comments on a certain matter and who only wrote something for the sake of public relations or commercial interest.
Juan: Yes, I search for information on social media for my work, but for me the most important is to follow what is published in the newspaper, or aired on TV or radio. These channels are much better sources.
Ante: I mainly follow league/federation accounts and other news agencies to keep up to date with player developments. In Australian coverage of football, there’s almost nothing outside of the A-League and English Premier League. So if one wanted to follow Australians plying their trade in other leagues, one would have to follow niche Twitter accounts such as Germanroo and OSAussies. Although one of my favorite accounts on Twitter is a team account, being the Atlanta Hawks, I don’t exactly follow a large number of teams and players. This is mainly due to the point raised previously, partly due to restrictions placed on players, the content is largely generic.
Social media presence is a must for professional athletes
From your perspective how important is social media activity for professional athletes? Do you think that it is a big disadvantage for an athlete if he/she is not active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram?
Daniel: I think it’s all dependent on how you use it. While some athletes can help create appeal and help attract positive attention to themselves through the use of social media, others do the exact opposite. I suppose you could go with the old adage that all publicity is good publicity, which is true, but you can certainly turn yourself into a villain as quickly as you can turn yourself into a favorite through social media. Only “disadvantage” I see is a missed opportunity to brand yourself and strengthen your persona with fans. Best example of an athlete using social media in a fun, unexpected way is Tom Brady. On the field he’s super serious, but whoever is running his FB page has built him to be one of the most fun off the field athletes, portraying a great sense of humor and humility. People love that, and his social media interactions only serve to improve his widespread image.
Bernard: In my opinion – to be a successful athlete, and not to recognize the importance of interaction with the public is a big mistake. Not all athletes have talent for social media interaction, not all of them can be interesting and attractive to the masses, but everyone should be aware that result is not the only way to reach sponsors. Sometimes, unfortunately, it is not even the most important.
Luka: I think that being a great athlete is still what matters the most and Lionel Messi is a great example. As we’ve heard at #sporto2014, he doesn’t really care about social media, yet he is still the overall biggest earner in football. But social (media) skills are becoming more and more important these days as sport is becoming more and more a part of the entertainment industry. I can see the most exposed clubs in the world rather choosing someone that’s (social) media savvy on the expense of someone who is equally good on the field, but lacks the mentioned skills. That’s why I think it is important for athletes to have off- the-field education as well.
Juan: In this days, absolutely. If you are not active on social networks, you are a ‘nobody’. This is a communication era, more than never. People want and need athletes to show them what are they doing, what are they thinking, how they spend their free time. Athletes need to make themselves a brand. That is the time we live in now.
Ante: Matt Moore wrote an interesting piece for CBS Sports in early March, on the 20th anniversary of Michael Jordan’s return to the NBA, predicting how he might have announced it in today’s world. Jordan would most likely have announced the now famous ‘I’m back’ on Twitter instead of faxing it through his agent. He’d have consequently ‘broken the internet’. Cristiano Ronaldo has almost 35 million followers on Twitter alone, with LeBron James near 20 million. Although genuine interaction in these instances are rare and some might not personally handle their social media accounts, in terms of branding and marketability, it’d be almost negligent not be active on social media today.
Social media are a great way to attract sponsors
What is a perception of social media among athletes in your country? Do athletes find social media activities as a must have” or is it still “just for friends and kidding around”? What would you say, how aware are athletes in your country about the power of social media communication?
Daniel: I would say North American athletes are very aware of the power of social media, for all of the reasons I mentioned above plus the fact it allows them to release their personal opinions and statements much quicker (a necessity in today’s insta-culture). At the same time athletes are human beings just like us. They latch on to trends just the same, and that includes an increase in the use of social media, not just for business, but for fun, too. Social media is whatever you want it to be. It’s as serious, goofy or informative as you make it to be. No different for athletes.
Bernard: Many Croatian athletes are still not aware of the power that social networks have today. Croatian market is pretty small, local sporting events are not too interesting and followed, so it is hard to create stars inside such a small market. Most of them realize and use potentials of social networks only when they break through the Croatian borders and become relevant and recognizable to the wider market.
Luka: I think there’s a bit of both in Slovenia, with – logically – young athletes embracing social media much easier and in a much smoother way than those who have not grown up with these networks and other modern form of communication. I think athletes should realize that their social media channels are a part of their public identification, so in any case they should not use them as a place for “fooling around”. If they don’t want to share their life with the public in this way that’s OK. However, athletes competing in individual sports, that are often overlooked by mass media, have a great opportunity to stand out by using social media. They can use these networks as their PR/promotional channel. In the world where they also rely a lot on the support of sponsors, they should see that these kinds of activities are an investment in their career.
Juan: I’ll answer this by giving an example. Handball is followed in Spain but not that much. In the World Championship in Qatar last January, their players (Cañellas, Pérez de Vargas, etc) posted Instagram and Twitter photos. Many fans followed them and the whole country watched their games on TV. Social media is now such an important tool for gathering information and a hobby in this country. Examples from players such as Neymar or Lebron have been important. I must say this again, if you are not active on social media you are a ‘nobody’…
Ante: In Australia, it’s dictated by the nature of the sporting market, arguably the world’s most competitive. In turn, the popularity of the country’s most recognizable athletes abroad isn’t necessarily reflected at home. This is considering the fact Australian rules football, rugby and cricket enjoy an overwhelming majority in media coverage and popularity. Two of the five highest salaried Australian athletes in 2014 (per Business Review Weekly), Jason Day and Marcos Ambrose, have less than 100k followers on Twitter, for example. Social media is used primarily for social purposes in Australia.
We can help you become a digital champion!
Sports writers all agree that social media, in general, is a necessity for all people in the business of sport. Sometime, it can get difficult to get an interview or just a simple statement, due to a number of clubs having media policies. However, sports writers learned to deal with this problem. They also noted the importance of athletes’ presence on social media, as it can be a great communication channel, and a way to connect with numerous fans. If athletes are not certain about their abilities to maintain social media accounts, companies such as Overtime can educate them, or even run digital communication for them. Just contact us!
PHOTO: Daniel Oines