|07-16-2007, 05:49 PM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Papers Face NFL's 45-Second Rule
The NFL is imposing new restrictions on the media coverage it gets from 3rd parties. I attached the article from the Wall Street Journal, so if you do not have a subscription you can read it.
I am trying to figure out what this means to us football fans. I am not sure it is a good thing. I guess the NFL has the right, like any other organization, to control its message. Yet, as a fan I cannot help but being dissappointed about the restrictions. To a certain degree, I think the the NFL has greatly benefited from free media coverage over the years, but has now started to bite back.
I would be interested in hearing some thoughts.
Papers Face NFL's 45-Second Rule
Blogs Aren't Papers' Only Competitors:
Sports Leagues Are Now Publishing, Too
July 16, 2007
So pro football now has a 45-second rule. As my print colleague Adam Thompson writes1, media Web sites reporting on NFL players and coaches are now limited to 45 seconds per day of audio and video shot on NFL property. That includes the team facilities where reporters spend much of the six days between games watching coaches hold forth, interviewing players and reporting on the doings of the practice fields.
That's not 45 seconds per subject -- it's total. Interview a quarterback, two running backs, a wide receiver and throw in the coach's comments and you've got about nine seconds for each of them. After 24 hours the audio and video have to come down. And segments have to link back to NFL.com and team sites.
Frank Hawkins, the NFL's senior vice president of business affairs, notes that credential rules dating back to 1995 forbid "game information" (which included interviews) from being put online, with an exception for TV stations simulcasting online. He says the NFL didn't begin focusing on the issue until a couple of years ago, when Web video began to mature, and crafted the current policy in response to a newspaper's request.
The 45-second policy, he says, is "technically a liberalization of what had been in effect before then," though he adds that "I realize it's not universally perceived as liberalization."
Indeed it isn't. Sports reporters have protested, and two journalists' groups -- the Associated Press Sports Editors and the American Society of Newspaper Editors -- have been working with the NFL in an attempt to liberalize (or, if you prefer, further liberalize) the policy. So far, their efforts have resulted in such helpful clarifications as the 45 seconds not including the interviewer's questions.
NEWSPAPERS' SIDE OF THE STORY
The APSE discusses the 45-second rule here2. Read the ASNE's letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell here3. For two other interesting takes on this issue, read posts from Open the Dialogue4 and the Citizen Media Law Project5.
REAL TIME FORUM
How has the Web changed your access to news? Is there such a thing as too many sources of information? Join me in the Real Time forum7.While the editors have tried patience, Houston Chronicle blogger John McClain has tried satire: a funny guerrilla video8 demonstrating -- with the help of the Houston Texans' owner and players -- just how restrictive the rule is. On his blog, Mr. McClain explains what set him off was a failed attempt to help Texans head coach Gary Kubiak promote a charity event.
"We ran a couple of inches about it in the Chronicle," Mr. McLain wrote. "We wanted to run a video with him talking about it, which would have reached a different audience. I asked the Texans to ask the league if having Kubiak on camera talking about the charity event would count toward the 45 seconds. The Texans said the NFL said yes. That's when I decided to do the spoof of the rule."
The policy seems ridiculous: Wouldn't a sports league want as much coverage as it could get? But it's too simple to dismiss this as a case of lawyers gone rabid. It's much more than that -- an example of two old digital trends (disintermediation and the online world's anyone-can-publish promise) colliding in a way Web revolutionaries probably didn't see coming.
Self-publishing has been a rallying cry since the Web's earliest days, and has birthed countless Web pages, blogs, MySpace profiles and YouTube productions, as well as bringing a DIY liveliness back into professional writing and video. At the same time, disintermediation -- or "eliminating the middleman," to be straightforward about it -- has simplified all sorts of transactions by letting consumers skip distributors, agents and others and deal directly with producers and suppliers. In these days of social networking and distributed content, disintermediation and Web publishing may seem hopelessly Web 1.0. But the sea change they ushered in continues to remake industries, and today's whizzy Webbery is built on their foundations.
Sports coverage has felt the pressures of Web publishing and disintermediation. Newspapers, in particular, are working to adopt Web-publishing innovations while struggling to maintain their role as middlemen. Papers now increasingly supplement their print offerings with daily blogs and audio and video: Today's beat writer isn't just working the phones, conducting interviews in the locker room and writing up game stories for various editions -- he or she may also be blogging, posting audio of interviews and doing video segments.
To Mr. Hawkins, part of the problem is that print journalists have to adapt to more-restrictive policies on video that have been around for some time. (For instance, for regularly scheduled programs broadcasters are limited to six minutes of game footage on Game Day.)
"This is all driven by what had been a pure print medium now becoming more like a TV station," he says, adding: "TV stations are used to working within the constraints of rules like these because of the nature of their medium. Newspapers really aren't, and so when you impose rules on a newspaper that's moving into the multimedia space, it's perceived a lot differently."
And Mr. Hawkins offers a simpler reason he thinks papers will adjust: "Let's be honest about it: Watching a press conference with a typical NFL coach -- not Denny Green blowing up and not [Bill] Parcells -- is pretty damn boring." (The reference is to a tirade by former Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green last fall -- one that NFL spokesman Greg Aiello notes -- correctly9 -- was "certainly less than 45 seconds.")
When newspapers ponder their newfound competition, they tend to think of blogs -- the bogeyman is a basement-dwelling blogger publishing in his skivvies. (This is a caricature, but never mind that for now.) Sports blogs have succeeded by offering free-wheeling conversation, building fan communities, and discarding the "no cheering in the pressbox" rule of sports journalism. (Full disclosure: As I've written before, I'm one of those sports bloggers10. And I do publish from my basement, come to think of it.)
Sports bloggers, of course, are middlemen themselves, often building on the work of the newspaper beat reporters. And that's a lesson about disintermediation: For all the hype around the buzzword, the Web created more middlemen than it eliminated, whether they're Web retailers competing with brick-and-mortar stores to do the same job better (Amazon.com, FreshDirect), empires built around good search (Google) or the work of individual enthusiasts filtering news and information in any number of arenas. The Web hasn't eliminated middlemen so much as it's forced them to justify their place in the supply chain.
But the NFL is a different kind of competition. It's not another middleman, but a content producer asking a basic question: Why should we give our content away when we don't have to?
It's an increasingly common question. These days, papers jockey for position not just with bloggers and news aggregators, but with the very subjects they cover. Companies, organizations and political candidates have their own Web sites, reached as easily as a newspaper's. In such a world, the only surprise would be if athletes, sports teams and leagues were different. Web rhetoric champions regular folks taking up publishing, but those tools work just as well for powerful entities. The challenge for newspapers posed by "anyone can publish" is just that -- anyone can publish.
In trying to persuade the NFL to change the 45-second rule, the ASNE reminded its officials "of the historic role newspapers have played in developing a fan base for the teams." But "historic" is the key word here. Media sites need NFL footage -- or at least they think they do. But does the NFL still need the media sites? Why not herd fans to team and league Web sites, where the NFL can then show them ads and try to sell them things?
"We want and are going to have a lot of independent news coverage of the NFL," says Mr. Aiello, adding: "But we also have to protect our own business interests, including our Web sites. How to balance that? Where do we draw the line?"
Probably in a place the newspapers don't like. Today's NFL isn't exactly lacking in fan interest. And it has a tradition of maintaining strict control over its image and its content -- for instance, NFL.com is the only authorized online source of game footage. And it's aggressively working to provide that content itself, whether it's through the NFL Network or its Web sites. Moreover, NFL teams have six days between games in which the bulk of the news emerges from facilities that they control. (Which is why such policies are perfectly legal.)
There isn't much newspapers can do by way of protest. Given all the other sources for NFL news, a boycott would hurt papers far more than the NFL. Granted, sometimes the league will want maximum exposure -- for a story about players helping their communities or a coach's charity, for instance. If newspaper Web sites have been sidelined by the league's own media policy, why should they help out? Then there's the question of whether the always image-conscious NFL can cover itself -- will fans get unbiased news from team sites in good times and bad?
The NFL says it will keep re-examining its policy. Like everything else, this is an experiment whose outcome can't be known. But I suspect that newspapers will adjust -- and maybe find they're better off.
Web sites are free to post as much video as they wish of their own reporters speaking, and there's no limit on speaking to coaches and players away from team facilities. On the News-Tribune's Seahawks Insider blog11, Mike Sando imagines how these new rules may play out. In taking greater control of content, he notes, NFL teams will have less control over newspapers covering them, as those papers now have an incentive to seek out players and coaches away from the usual public-relations protocol.
"Newspaper Web sites should seize this as an opportunity to further distinguish their content from league content," Mr. Sando writes, adding: "The new Web policy encourages independent media Web sites to think for themselves. As the league monopolizes the stories it wants told, others will presumably focus harder on what is left. That is not necessarily a bad thing."
I agree. Posting a complete press conference is something anyone with a server and permission can do. But perceptive analysis of a game, team or player isn't so easy to deliver. With the right people, newspapers can do that -- and in doing so, reclaim their position as a valued middleman between team and fans by doing something that can't be replaced. The NFL's policy strikes me as overreaching, and it's a shame for football fans to miss out on the work of clever reporters like Mr. McClain, who've taken to a new medium and made it fun. But that same cleverness and sense of fun that makes reporters like him watchable also makes it likely that they'll adjust, and stay watchable.
And there's something else at work. As a devout Mets fan, most days I read eight newspaper sites, three Mets blogs, ESPN.com -- and the team's own site. After decades of competing with their print rivals, newspapers are still acting like they live in an "or" world, in which someone who buys their paper on the newsstand might not buy their rival's. But on the Web, news is increasingly an "and" world, in which people interested in a subject devour as much information about it as they can, from as many sources as they find useful. There's a place for newspapers in that world, and even competition from the NFL can't take it away.
|07-16-2007, 06:08 PM||#2|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Jul 2006
It's nothing but bad news for the NFL fan. This league does a lot of things right, more than any other league, but this and the fact they give directv a monopoly on airing games are awful.
|07-16-2007, 06:13 PM||#3|
For The Glory Of The City
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Kansas City
KC Star was hit pretty hard by this. They had good video coverage at times.
|07-16-2007, 06:18 PM||#4|
Producer of Nonsense
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Sun and Beachville
It wouldn't be bad if the NFL sites had a good collection of videos. Often times, especially post game interviews, you might see some of em on the team site 2 or 3 days later whereas the news channels had em on there almost instantly. We'll see how this turns out. I don't really care who's site I watch things on as long as they're good and they're timely.
|07-16-2007, 07:03 PM||#7|
Don't Argue With Me
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Austin, TX
Instead of choosing open questions then reporters should ask yes/no questions. Or they can pre-interview the player or coach off-camera then rephrase the question into a yes/no question so they can have the interviewee on camera affirming what he just said such as:
"Demetrious, your were telling us off-camera just now that you think the coach is a jerk and if you want to stay out all night and party, it should be okay as long as it doesn't affect your play on the field, is that correct?"
"And you said smoking some weed while you're out all night is cool as long as you still show up to play on Sundays, is that right?"
"Yeah, I said dat."
"Thank you for your time, Demetrious."
So, then you've conducted an interview and spent only about 5 seconds quoting the player. Just do that crap for awhile and we'll see if the NFL changes their tune.
|07-16-2007, 07:06 PM||#8|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: colorado springs, co