Some are saying today’s Super Bowl maybe the first true “Twitter” Super Bowl, as social media has become as important to watching sports as beer and nachos.
It’s not enough to watch the game — you have to have a conversation with everyone you know (and some you don’t) to truly experience it.
That’s where Quickish comes in. The new website, which launched in January, attempts to created a curated social media feed of all the noteworthy tweets, links, and commentary for the big sports stories of the moment. And there’s none bigger at this moment than Super Bowl XLV.
In the spirit of being quick, we spoke with founder and editor to Dan Shanoff over IM. We started with a super brief history of online sports writing:
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shanoff: I do agree with [John Kosner] that bill [simmons] is (probably) the most popular sportswriter of all time.
dash: probably the most read, right?
shanoff: oh, for sure.
dash: like, when buzz bissinger tried to call will leitch out for not reading old timey sports writers it backfired, but most people have read very little of the “greats”
shanoff: totally (although most fans in their 30s and 40s — maybe even 20s — have a true appreciation for the big writers of the moment: Reilly or P King or Dr. Z or whoever). what those old writers lacked was distribution.
dash: do you think bill “cheated” by not going the traditional route of “cub reporter, beat writer, columnist.” that seems to be what newspaper guys resent
shanoff: Not at all. But you’re right about older media folks not necessarily appreciating the career path. But when I came out of college in ’95, I wanted to be a national sportswriter, right then and there — which seemed ludicrous. The two options ended up being covering JV volleyball for a newspaper in some podunk town… or joining a start-up that wanted to publish sports content on the America Online platform to everyone in the country. It was a no-brainer.
dash: yeah, there was nowhere to even be a national columnist, besides what? Sports Illustrated?
shanoff: Then? SI, which was an impossible dream. But that was the real start of the flattening of media — for folks on the producing end as much as it was for people on the consuming end.
(BTW: Developing a style and intuitive understanding for what “works” for the AOL reader ended up being far more valuable and useful journalistic skill than working at a paper.)
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dash: so you went from AOL to Starwave [the original incarnation of ESPN.com]?
shanoff: ESPNet.SportsZone.com? what a URL, right? There are a bunch of folks still with ESPN (after Disney acquired Starwave), like Kevin Jackson, who was the founding editor of Page 2 and is the top editor for all of ESPN’s local sites. But then there is this network of alums that is crazy: Tim Armstrong, Geoff Reiss, Tom Phillips, Mike Slade, Brenda Spoonmore.
dash: that was probably the first website of any kind that became a must read for me
shanoff: But I honestly think it was the gateway drug for a lot of fans. That point came up when Rob Neyer — another Starwaver from the earliest days — left ESPN.com for SBNation this week. He was the first real full-time online national sports writer, and he had the commensurate influence with fans and future writers and the sport.
dash: yeah. someone that you would visit a website to read. then (later) ESPN put Neyer behind a paywall, and couldn’t figure out why no one would read him anymore
shanoff: That’s true. They were experimenting, but when he came back out from behind the wall — I think someone else (maybe NBCSports.com’s Craig Calcaterra) pointed this out — it was still a bit hard to find him.
dash: on the internet, when readers move on …. they almost never come back.
shanoff: I think it’s a huge challenge to create a user habit or routine about your specific brand or site or feature. That said, there is so much more “side-door” activity now than there ever was even a few years ago.
You are well-served by a link from someone’s trusted source through Facebook or Twitter. But it is just as important for a media company to consider Facebook a distribution network as it is their own site’s front page (or, as it became recently, each individual article page as its own “distributed” home page).
dash: yeah, “surfing” is sort of dead, isn’t it?
shanoff: surfing is dead — but serendipity is more important than ever.
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dash: so quickish: WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING OVER THERE?
dash: how do you envision people using it?
shanoff: There are a couple ways people are finding Quickish useful, and it all depends on your own individual priorities: Some people come back daily (or a couple times a day) looking for quick-hit takes and updates on the big stories
shanoff: And some people come when news breaks or during “live” events (like games), because they know Quickish is doing the work for them of sifting through the real-time stream finding the best analysis. It was designed to have room for both. Its biggest utility — and the most fun — is when there is something interesting happening and Quickish is filtering it all and publishing the best stuff in real-time-ish.
shanoff: So partly it’s the format — quick-hit, easy to consume. Partly it’s the frequency — constantly updated. Partly it’s the topicality — these are the things everyone is talking about. And partly it’s the notion that this isn’t an algorithm or automated system; there are editors optimising the quality of the experience. Any one of those individually is only partially useful. Put together and it feels like a compelling experience.
dash: so the super bowl is tailor made for this. football seems to be a very twitter friendly game
shanoff: totally. the response during the two rounds of NFL Playoffs when Quickish was live was awesome.
shanoff: here’s the thing: if you’re just watching the game, you’re missing an incredible wealth of things being said on the side.
dash: do you think the Super Bowl is a slightly different animal though, because for once, people actually have their friends in the room?
shanoff: Great question, and your point is spot-on: Watching the Super Bowl is inherently social — not “social media” social. Actually, physically social.
shanoff: That said, your experience watching the game is enhanced a lot by bringing in more conversation — whether that’s your Facebook friends not physically in the room with you, your Twitter feed or some experience that tries to bridge the gap between you and the massive amount of conversation out there.
shanoff: this will be my 3rd Super Bowl on Twitter, and every year it gets bigger and more interesting. I would actually argue that this is really the first “Twitter Super Bowl” — if only because it’s the first year that Twitter itself has taken such an active role in the game, with their NFL partnership.
shanoff: It’s also the first Foursquare Super Bowl — the company is going to have a worldwide check-in.
shanoff: It’s also — and this is really important — the first “iPad Super Bowl.”
shanoff: And that last one, as much as anything, has the potential to change the game-consuming experience, because it’s so much better of a second-screen when you’re watching a game than either your laptop or your phone.(This is where I say that Quickish’s UX was designed with iPad consumption in mind.)
dash: and there’s always Monday morning too. The amazing thing about the Jay Cutler story, was how it just kept going and going …..
shanoff: yeah, that was crazy. Mid-game, there was this flurry of discussion about it — particularly when the players’ Tweets started coming out . And, again, if you were just watching the TV broadcast, you would have had no idea.
shanoff: By Monday, it moved from the real-time social world to mainstream: Columnists writing on it, TV talking-heads yakking about it.
dash: that story never happens without twitter
shanoff: And, not to be shilly, but that’s where Quickish has a utility: In about 60 seconds, you can “catch up,” because the format and editorial mandate is geared to helping you keep up quickly
dash: no, i definitely went there. it was useful to me, because there are so many athletes i would never follow. their feeds are too boring. but if someone is watching and alerts me to the ONE thing they said
shanoff: exactly. you really want the equivalent of an alert when an athlete says something insane.
dash: so is there a limit to how much people can take? at what point do you need a quickish for quickish?
shanoff: To me, that’s a huge consideration, and there’s a big focus on “less is more.” I never want to get to the point where the typical user feels overwhelmed by Quickish. Yes, during a live game, the stream may be a little more hopping. But the number of people who are refreshing or checking back regularly is pretty high, so a more up-tempo pace is OK.But live games — the big ones, like the NFL Playoffs or the NBA All-Star Game — are exceptional. Mostly, the mandate is to keep it manageable and not replicate the “firehose” problem we’re trying to solve.
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dash: what’s the next level?
shanoff: On the content side, the plan is to expand into new categories beyond sports by the mid-summer (while potentially going a bit more granular in sports at the same time — sports will always be the single-best category to test online media products, so the experimentation will go there, then applied to the other categories). On the tech side, there will be a bigger push in mobile. And we’re actively working on partnerships with publishers and marketers. For having the doors open for less than four weeks, I’m really happy with where things are and the potential for where they can be in six months.
dash: it is odd how sports are unlike anything else online. to me, the most amazing thing is how weirdly open people are on twitter, when every one is SOOO guarded in the sports world. team and league PR are ruthless when it comes to access
dash: and then athletes go out and destroy all that with one text message
shanoff: exactly: look what happened with antonio cromarite and the union — he basically undermined the entire operation for a few days.
shanoff: by the way, the same thing goes in media — as has been said by a lot of people, this is a live microphone. Without hyperbole, this is no less of a platform than if you were Troy Aikman saying something on TV, every time you say something.
shanoff: And, make no mistake, there are media stars being developed entirely off their Twitter presence. The ability to produce a brilliant 140-character insight is very close to eclipsing the ability to produce a 300-word blog post or 700-word column.
dash: we’ve written about it before. how reporters don’t even wait to write up their scoops anymore
shanoff: *especially* in sports, where the “scoop of inevitable discovery” means that it’s a footrace to be “first” (as if that matters to fans).
dash: everything’s a competition!
shanoff: But the real opportunity is in adding value in your own way. a huge mistake is thinking all of this is “zero-sum.” it’s not. fans have an elastic appetite for great content. your challenge as a publisher is to earn their interest that you have something worthwhile to add, whether that’s an analyst with a good take, asking them for their perspective or whatever. There are a lot of ways to get there; the mistake is to think of it as people considering their media diet as “either-or.”
shanoff: Not knowing the entire universe of what else is out there for Sunday, I really do think that Quickish has the chance to be a really awesome experience for fans. It’s not just a live-blog or CoverItLive –. Just a simple, fast, easy-to-follow stream of the best of what’s being said in real-time-ish. It’s a simple proposition and a big promise, but I think it will make the game even more fun to follow.
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