The 24 hour period on Wednesday and Thursday of this week saw something that most people would have never predicted six, eight…well weeks ago. That March Madness and Linsanity could take a back seat in the beginning of spring to…Tim Tebow and the New York Jets. In less than 12 hours the NFL again rose up and showed the power it has in popular culture, first with the announcements of the suspensions brought down on the New Orleans Saints, and then through the Tim Tebow trade, untrade, negotiation and finally move to New York. The debate will rage on for months, but the medium of how the story carried out showed again how social media, without brands, without large dollars, took over the conversation, broke news, broke news again, led controversy and sent everyone scurrying for their smart phones.
Now the entire day was not ruled by the latest way to get news out. The NFL stuck with the traditional. Large scale statements and press releases, a formal media availability, q and a and much much followup for their decisions against the Saints staff and the organization. Well planned, thought out and effectively messaged.
Then the medium and the conversation changed. The Record newspaper on Thursday provided a very interesting
“Anatomy Of The Deal” that eventually brought the mercurial Broncos quarterback east to Gotham. It showed very clearly that the first line of information changed from the NFL’s stance in the morning to a media and public conscious team just a few hours later. At 12:50, the timeline shows, the Jets announce an agreement on a trade with Denver…not on their website or on radio or through a press release or conference call. It was on twitter. Then at 1:03 the Jets contact their media members that they have reached an agreement with the Broncos…via text message. The next piece of news comes from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that there is a hangup because of contract language…again on twitter. 5:18 Schefter, one of sports’ most well connected media members…reports…again on twitter…that the Jacksonville Jaguars are again in the mix. While many other pundits are friending, monitoring and following every player, coach and media member connected with everyone from Florida to Broadway. While players like Antonio Cromartie vilified his team and others chimed in with opinion…officially…nothing. The Broncos official twitter feed? crickets. Finally at 8:47…Schefter again tweets that the trade is done.
Also in a world where news does not hold, the Jets finalize the deal, rally their parties and hold an extensive conference call…not a tweet up…late into the night, at a time when back in the day deadlines would have passed (they no longer really exist)…answering questions with all interested parties. In the postmortem and debate that will continue to rage on, the social media using Jets post 23 tweets, retweets or statements from press conferences, positive statements from players…one tweet saying an unauthorized tweet was posted…to continue to manage their message. GM Mike Tannenbaum, coach Rex Ryan, Tebow himself all use the traditional airwaves to tell their story lest it be lost in the fast moving public opinion of the day.
Now one thing is for sure. Nothing will really be settled until games are played in the fall. Debate will rage on but in a bottom line game, results are what count, and results are what will heal any wounds, tweets, or feelings. What is really interesting in the announcement was the choice of medium not just once, but almost every time news broke in the story. The Jets started the fire on twitter…a very short, sometimes effective to get a message out, if that message is not complicated. The debate then raged back and forth until the clearer news, and the traditional official statement, was released by both parties involved. Throughout the debate there was no use of TV or radio to communicate the first message from a news source…it came from social media and the spin went from there. Whether that is a healthy or consistent way to break news in today’s 24/7 world is probably a matter of style and circumstance.
The Jets choose to use the medium more to communicate hard news and speak directly to their fans, and to the media, than most, and it will be interesting to see if others follow. Years ago the Toronto Maple Leafs were vilified for being the first team to break a trade on their website. Now such a move would be considered quaint.
Regardless in what was a headline grabbing news cycle for the NFL, the mix of traditional news sourcing (which the league used) and a more helter skelter new age approach used by the Jets showed how diverse breaking coverage can be. Which is more effective? That’s probably a debate still to be settled, if ever. Or until the next medium of choice takes hold.