Can You Put Limits on Social Media Coverage?

One of the most intriguing and disruptive elements of the social media revolution is that the creation of social media can happen anywhere, at anytime. For instance, I recently researched, wrote and published a Catching Flack post while riding in the back seat of a taxi headed to San Diego airport. You can blog from an iPhone or other PDA with a decent web browser. I blogged on a laptop with a wireless broadband card. You can post photos and videos to the web directly from your phone. At any time.

All of this makes managing social media relations, frankly, a nightmare. Where do you draw the line? Is line drawing even possible or desirable? What are the ramifications of having social media coverage of anything at anytime?

Furthermore, we are just at the dawn of the social media era. With Internet connectivity beginning to blanket our world via WiFi and 3G wireless, and with cameras, phones and computers always getting smaller, cheaper and more powerful, we will likely look back on this time and laugh. Control social media? Attempt to place artificial limits? Act like it doesn't exist? Ha! We'll just be living with it, and working around it if need be.

But for now, some institutions are trying to hold back the tide. Take, for example, the NCAA. A couple of weeks ago, the NCAA issued some close-to-laughable guidelines on when and how often "credentialed" media could blog.

Credentialed media may post as follows for these sports (there were similar guidelines for other sports):

-- Soccer: Five times per half; one at halftime

-- Volleyball: Three per Competition; one in between Competitions

-- Football: Three per quarter; one at halftime

-- Ice Hockey: Three per period â€" one in between (includes overtime)

-- Basketball: Five times per half; one at halftime; two times per overtime period

-- Baseball and Softball: one every inning (includes extra innings)

-- Women's Water Polo: Three per quarter â€" one at halftime

And what about all the non-credentialed media in the audience -- the guy snapping pictures with his cellphone or jotting down blog entries on his iPhone? What are the rules for them? Does the NCAA think that burly security guards roaming the aisles will solve that problem?

Actually, I sympathize with the NCAA on this, to some extent. They are going to a lot of trouble to create events and generate revenues from them. Some of the revenues come from TV networks (though I doubt they have a network contract for women's water polo). How are they supposed to create some sense of exclusivity if large chunks of their events are freely available on the Internet?

On the other hand, they can't fight the future. And that's the whole point. This policy falls into the category of "I wish it would go away" rule-making, instead of "How can we incorporate social media in a way that expands our audience?" Why not encourage bloggers, vbloggers, and so on to post pictures and descriptions of, say, women's water polo? Don't you think that's most likely to have a positive long-term impact on interest in that sport?

I'd be curious to know what the Chinese and the IOC are planning in terms of a social media policy for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I'll have to look into it and report back to you. Should be interesting.

NCAAsports.comP.S. From the the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em dept.": the NCAA's rules include this proviso: "Any blog
representing an NCAA championship must submit the appropriate link to Blog Central. In
return, all media entities entering a blog must post the logo/link on their site." And here's a link to the NCAA's own page of blogs.