The NCAA announced on December 23rd that five Ohio State players, including QB Terrelle Pryor, sold championship rings, game jerseys, and other memorabilia in addition to getting free or discounted tattoos. The punishment handed down was suspension for the first five games of next year, however, all five will be able to play in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas. For the pure mind-boggling hypocrisy of this action, Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated has nailed it far more eloquently and effectively than I could.
I’m officially calling for all conferences associated with Division I-A football and basketball to put the NCAA out of business. The NCAA, as Mandel points out, seems to be making up rules as it goes. Pryor and his teammates get a five game suspension, while Auburn QB Cam Newton gets nothing for shopping himself to potential schools. Make no mistake, I have zero problem with what the OSU players did. They earned those rings, those jerseys would have zero value if not for their performances while wearing them. They should be able to sell those since they, you know. FREAKING OWN THEM. Cam Newton did nothing more than what each of us does in a job hunt; he tried to get as much as he could for his services.
The level of corruption (for lack of a better term) exists in the NCAA for one reason. It is attached to the idea that student-athletes should not receive compensation for the work they do. Think about it. We’ll use the University of Iowa as an example, since that’s my favorite team. If Ricky Stanzi, Adrian Clayborn, Marvin McNutt, Matt Gatens, Cully Payne, Eric May, and other athletes didn’t perform, or there was no athletics teams associated with the University of Iowa, I’d probably not own as much Iowa paraphernalia as I do. The point is this. Without the athletes, the schools, and by proxy, NCAA, wouldn’t be making the money they do.
Here’s my proposal.
The six BCS conferences, plus the mid-major conferences eligible for bowl games in football, and all additional conferences eligible for the NCAA Tournament each March should tell the NCAA to shove it, and leave. That sounds a bit drastic, but this solves a lot of problems. The new organization formed by the schools no longer has to pretend that athletes shouldn’t be paid for the work they do for the school, simply because they’re in college. Secondly, it can set firm and clear rules as to what constitutes a violation, worthy of a suspension. Thirdly, all the money that goes to the NCAA currently from bowl games (bowl games and a CFB playoff system are a completely different post.) and the TV rights to the Tournament are now split between all the schools. Revenue goes up, the rules are now clear and simple to understand, and there is no middle man. Every college above the Division II level will automatically bring in more cash, Each school can now clearly tell its athletes what is permissible and what is not.
The NCAA is no longer an organization with any amount of appreciable credibility in my mind. It’s eerily similar to King Henry VIII in his later years; a shadow of its youthful, idealistic self, only concerned with building its power and legacy. Doing away with the NCAA hurts no one except a few high level executives who don’t really care about the student-athletes they collect their billions of dollars from. Pretty sure I can live with that going away.
Full disclosure. I hate paywalls, generally speaking. If a news organization makes me pay for access to the basic facts gathered from public sources, I don’t frequent its site. I feel a paywall is not the answer to saving news reporting. That’s another post though. I want to be upfront with you, dear reader.
As much as I may not like paywalls, they are coming. The New York Times will begin charging for its content next month. The question in my mind, is which audience is worth paying more attention to. The audience who views the X-number of articles the Times allows them each month for free, or the audience that pays the flat, monthly fee for access?
At first glance, the audience that pays for information would seem the one most likely to give more attention to since it is spending money already. The question is, how BIG is that audience? A relevant case study is the London Times vs. the Guardian. Based on this report in July, putting up a paywall drives massive amounts of traffic away from your site. No matter how loyal an audience you have, if it isn’t going to sustain you, or your client, why pour a ton of effort into researching it?
Make no mistake, I’m not saying you SHOULDN’T pay attention to that audience, but immediately dismissing the other, non-paying audience, could be a huge mistake. Those who will begin turning away from the New York Times for information, know that same information, generally speaking, is available elsewhere online, for free. So what do we know about this audience? First glance might say they’re cheap (they are. Trust me. I’m one of them). However, I’d argue that more than cheap, they’re savvy consumers. These could potentially be more engaging consumers as they want to participate with the website, having a say in how the news is reported.
The first group may have that same quality, but I believe it will be smaller and less engaged with your site. As marketers and public relations practitioners, we should be most concerned about the audience that WANTS to be engaged with. To me, a paywall makes your audience passive. A website without a paywall, in my opinion, will possess an engaged audience that responds to messages. Good or bad, I want to deal with an audience who will DO something, rather than just sit in front of its computer screen and do nothing.
There’s a lot of conjecture, opinion and assumptions in this post. In no way am I saying a person who ponies up for a paywall is a zombie, incapable of interacting with anyone online. The more I think about it, I simply think that those most willing to engage with a publication online are those unwilling to pay for the opportunity to do so. If you disagree, think of it this way. If you were to pay a small fee, say, a penny, for every tweet you send, would your level of interaction increase, decrease, or remain the same? For me, I know it would decrease. Let me have it in the comments.
Generally speaking, this week and next are, by and large, the most unproductive weeks of the year. I know this because when I was a reporter, it was nearly impossible to get anyone on the phone. I’d even go down to offices, convinced they were dodging me, to find the office locked up, lights off.
Everyone needs a break. We all need to shut the computer off, put the ringer on mute, and spend some quality time with our friends and family. The world is not going to end if you don’t accomplish as much as you typically do over the next two weeks, I promise. I mean, the world COULD end, but it won’t be because you’re unproductive. Unless you’re this guy I suppose.
My main point is that many of us feel guilty when we take time off. Think about how often you see someone tweeting, hoping they can be productive while on vacation, or on a quick day trip somewhere fun. The best part about being human is when we’re taking our time off. I guard my downtime jealously. I think that comes from growing up on a farm in Iowa. Growing up, I worked my tail off, especially during the summer, from the time I got out of bed until it was time for supper. But when we were done, we were done. Work stays out in the field, or out in the barn, or wherever it is taking place.
I’d offer that same mindset and advice to you (which you OBVIOUSLY want since you are reading this). 98% of the year, work your tail off. But that 2%, be it weekends, holidays or vacations, is YOURS. Not your clients, not your boss’s, not your employee’s. It is yours. Spend it doing what you want to do.
Have a Merry Christmas everyone.
CNN allegedly reported via Twitter Thursday afternoon that beloved actor Morgan Freeman had died. This came as a surprise to Mr. Freeman, who was (and is) still very much alive. Apparently, a user, whom I’ll not link to nor name in this space, thought it would be funny to attribute a retweet to CNN saying Freeman had died. Popeater did a great job at explaining what happened here. Rumors quickly spread that CNN had deleted the offending tweet, which CNN had never actually sent out. That has been confirmed by numerous outlets.
The only thing CNN did wrong in this situation was not updating their investigation into the hoax. Updates letting users know what was being uncovered about the hoax, in real time, would have done much to quell the rumors. And frankly, if those rumors were true, I would have stuck with what I tweeted about the situation last night:
So how can you prevent someone from hijacking your brand on Twitter and putting, in this case, false words in your mouth?
What you can do is constantly monitor what people are saying about you. Use a service like TweetDeck to get real time updates about your brand. Use Google Alerts to keep an eye on the conversation happening around the Internet about you and your brand. That might be the biggest mistake many brands make; thinking a conversation isn’t take place already. You or I could be the target of a hoax at any moment. The only thing to do is to continue building your reputation, so you have some capital to spend when that crisis occurs. I’ll give you the same advice “Mad Eye” Moody would give. Constant Vigilance. Once you’ve detected the problem, be proactive about proving it was a hoax.
Last week, several notable celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Ryan Seacrest, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, and many others died a “digital death” to help raise money for Keys’ Keep A Child Alive Foundation. The premise was for these, and other, celebrities to go silent on various social media sites, specifically Twitter, until $1 million was raised for the foundation. Others have covered the relative failure of the campaign, such as Shonali Burke. Check out her take here (disclosure, Shonali is a friend and someone I look up to in the PR world).
The one angle I’ve not seen covered is how the PR teams of these people could all fail so miserably in not seeing the inherent flaws in the campaign. I’m sure none of them would say the campaign was a failure. It reached its $1 million goal on Monday, which is admirable. However, it did not have the splash anyone intended it to have. From not realizing “killing” the celebs off first would create a “meh” response, to allowing donations of no less than $10, every facet of this campaign was bumbled.
Whether it was not having the courage to tell their clients this was ill-conceived idea, or simply employing a “yes man/woman” tactic, they don’t deserve to keep their jobs. With as much potential this campaign had, it could have been a huge success; raised $1 million so quickly the goal was raised to $2 million.
A PR pro’s job isn’t always to generate headlines, conduct crisis communications, promote the latest happening or anything like that. It’s to be a strong advocate for your client, which sometimes means telling them the idea they think is fantastic is a huge stink bomb waiting to be lit. The customer (or client in this case) is NOT always right. And they need to be saved from themselves on certain occasions. You’ll retain many more clients this way than by being a bobblehead and constantly nodding yes. Do your job. Protect your client from all threats. Foreign (crisis) and domestic (homegrown bad ideas).