Social Networking Sites: Good for Fans, Bad for Media?

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IJanuary 11, 2010

TOULOUSE, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 13:  A French Fan takes a picture on his phone of the teams ahead of the international match between France and South Africa at Stade Municipal on November 13, 2009 in Toulouse, France.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Warren Little/Getty Images

When Facebook was first created, it was intended to bring together college students to discuss classes and events on their own campuses.

Years later, it is one of the biggest social networking sites in the world, where you can build a fictional farm, join groups dedicated to wearing different colored socks, get updates on your favorite television shows, sports teams or players, and find out who is doing what and where they are doing it.

On the heels of Facebook came Twitter, a site that began as a “what are you up to” place to talk, allowing you only 140 characters to tell everyone what is on your mind.

Soon thereafter, the popularity of these sites, which came to be known as “social networking sites,” were growing so fast no one could keep up. Positions were created in companies just to maintain the Twitter and Facebook pages and keep their employees, fans, and followers up-to-date with events or just general information.

For fans this was a great thing. With Twitter feeds that can be sent right to their phones and Facebook mobile applications, they can never be without information on how their team is doing, even getting live play-by-play action feeds.

NASCAR fans have been treated to “tweet-ups,” where fans mingle with members of the media—and sometimes surprise guests, such as the president of NASCAR—which were all scheduled via Twitter.

The Detroit Red Wings created a Twitter suite at The Joe, where fans could come and tweet their thoughts. One day, Steve Yzerman popped in to send a tweet out and visit with the fans.

What does this mean for the media?

Longtime NASCAR publication NASCAR Scene recently announced it will cease publication and merge with the NASCAR magazine, NASCAR Illustrated.

But what about other publications? ESPN Magazine, Hockey News, even Sports Illustrated.

If fans can get all of their information online—forgetting about Facebook and Twitter, all of these magazines have online counterparts—where does that leave the written word in printed form?

I'll take this even one step further, just for argument's sake (not that I necessarily believe this will ever happen).

With Twitter, teams give live play-by-play action. I know who has led a lap, who scored the last touchdown, which ref made a bad call, and how many mph the last pitch was.

Does that mean announcers may disappear one day, too?

I hope not! I still tear up every time I hear Al Michael's “Do you believe in miracles?” line and look forward to my weekly “Boogity, boogity, boogity” from Darrell Waltrip before NASCAR races. I can't imagine what the sports world would be without colorful announcers.

Even sports shows themselves can be impacted.

This morning, Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids (surprised?). I was sitting on my computer when my Twitter feed was going nuts. It went from two new tweets to four to seven within seconds.

I knew something was going on so I clicked on the alert box which opened up the new tweets. From all my different sports sources, I was told (in 140 characters or less...) what happened. Then within a half hour, his interview schedule for the evening was coming through.

I never once had to turn on my television.

Back to the positive side, the fans are getting a lot out of these sites.

Twitter allows them a sneak peak into the world of their favorite athletes and, for those who can't afford to go to the game or are too busy to watch it on TV, lets them know what's happening at the game in real time.

Facebook helps take it one step further. Some athletes write “notes” to their fans about what they're up to, opinions on current going-ons, and post their own photos from events. Citizen bloggers have even been able to land interviews by using Facebook as their outlet.

Hopefully there is a way to bring together the printed word and social networking sites that will benefit both the media and the fans.

It would be a shame to see more publications close down and more writers lose their jobs. With fans still attending games and races, there is definitely a need for coverage!