How Twitter Is Changing Sports

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How Twitter Is Changing Sports
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for the NHL)

There is little doubt that the social networking site Twitter has made a rapid ascent in popularity. However, not all the news is good. Sixty percent of new users do not return.

Among the 40 percent that do return, many are probably sports fans, sports journalists, sports teams, sports websites, and sports blogs. There is a very healthy community of sports tweeters.

Take a look at the numbers: There are 579 NBA twitter users on the popular WeFollow directory and 365 NFL, 252 MLB, 192 NHL, and 6566 categorized as sports. There are also 311 MMA twitter users. And these numbers only constitute users who have added their user name to the directory.

Sports and Twitter are a perfect match. In a landscape that thrives on speed, something as immediate as Twitter is perfect. The service may not be able to replace the content that can be provided in a blog or online news outlet, but it can supplement it.

The headline is what the consumers eat first, and headlines fit perfectly in 140 characters or less along with a shortened link.

NFL teams announced draft picks before the NFL did in April. Journalists break news on Twitter before they have a chance to write a blog or article about it. Sports teams make announcements before they send press releases to media companies.

If you haven't already started using Twitter, you are late. Even the secretive and mysterious Oakland Raiders have created an account and are actively using Twitter. Bleacher Report has a twitter page.

The newspaper is nearly dead, but the rules haven't changed. Content is still king; now we just have a lot more choice about what to consume. I find myself reading more content from other twitter users than from very good writers that do not use the network, so there is some lag in content versus speed.

We now consume content directly from players and coaches. We also get content directly from teams like we only could before by visiting official websites. Breaking sports news is faster than ever before.

The landscape is changing quickly. Journalists are being pressured to start twitter accounts if they haven't already, as even sports agents are using twitter.

Twitter also has a direct message feature. Will players and coaches start using it to leak news to prominent journalists? Has it happened already?

Newspapers started printing box scores and stories about our favorite teams in the late 1800s. Radio began broadcasting play-by-play of those same games in the 1920s. TV took the next step by allowing us to watch what we were missing, and we now know how important television is for sports. In many ways, broadcast determined what succeeded, as sports that weren't fun to watch didn't rise in popularity. Football owes its present dominance to the rise of TV.

Then there was the Internet. The Internet did a lot to change the speed at which media operated and became our first direct connection to the teams themselves. Now the Web has ruined the newspaper industry, and from it Twitter has risen to the forefront of sports. Twitter's real-time content has taken online speed to the next level.

Where does sports media goes from here? You can't get much faster than real-time, but the progression will continue. Journalism will become a citizen-run enterprise. Reputations are still vitally important, which is why journalists are able to establish large following quickly. But as traditional journalists become a piece of history, citizen journalists will fill the void by providing good (and bad) content.

That is where Bleacher Report comes in. Bleacher Report may be where these citizen journalists are born. So I will keep writing.

I'll also continue to use Twitter. Follow me, acrosstic, my blog raidersblog, and of course, BleacherReport!

For a good, incomplete list of sports tweeters go to sportsin140.com.

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