Sports 2.0 (digitalmediabuzz)

The story below was posted on DigitalMediaBuzz.com in Sept. 2009. Story is posted here for archiving purposes only since original was lost when the site went down.

When Sports Illustrated acquired FanNation in 2007 it was a major step in leveraging itself among a number of sporting communities that had risen throghout the web.

AOL’s Fanhouse and Bleacher Report, which is an official partner of CBS Sports, are others that filtered fan interaction in recent years.

These sites, which feature blogs of well-known journalists and bloggers, offer even more than a simple read and leave interface – fans can join the conversation by commenting, creating profiles, following blogs and creating their own content.

Nowadays, these communities are the go-to news sources. Their existence takes Monday morning quarterbacking to another level. They facilitate the conversation on a stage that would otherwise be unreachable.

The popularity of this type of content has put independent SB Nation at the top of the heap.

“We take a different approach to online sports media,” says SB Nation. “We offer well over 200 (and growing quickly) distinct team and sport-specific sites, each with its own name, URL, team colors, writers and guidelines.

“In a world where media companies are slashing their editorial coverage, no one matches SB Nation’s commitment to serve fans so deeply or broadly.”

While these sites have built numerous networks of fan content, in all forms, the addition of the social aspect continues to take those networks to the next level.

Brendan Wilhide, of Sportsin140.com, feels that integreating these such features in everyday sports entertainment only adds to the value of the sport.

For instance, Major League Baseball, which developed MLBlogs and is a leader in social awareness at that level, recently added a Twitter function to its MLB.tv and Gamecast features. These features allow users to tweet, with hashtags automatically generated, and share views and opinions with everyone else taking in the game.

“I think we will see continued integration with social media during live sporting events,” Wilhide said. “I think MLB has led the charge in this regard: by integrating fan comments via Twitter right on their Web site and during live broadcasts, MLB has made the fan experience of viewing a game that much more immersive.”

Fans everywhere already use Twitter hashtags and/or Facebook statuses and comments to discuss sporting events with friends and foes in real-time, so Wilhide believes it’s only natural progression to see teams and leagues republish those messages for more access.

What drives fans in social media, however, is the fact that it can bring the athletes to their level. Following, and intereacting with, your favorite athlete on Twitter or Facebook allows each person to relate to one another.

Shaquille O’Neal has been the leader in both these regards.

“Shaq is the biggest athlete on Twitter, both in terms of ollwers and of the way he has embraced the technology to show fans a different side of the player they know already,” Wilhide said. “PGA Tour pro Stewart Cink has been another great athlete on Twitter because he interacts with his fans, takes questions and roots for his favorite teams (Atlanta teams) alongside his followers.

“Cink has become more than just a great PGA Tour pro to his fans now, he’s become a fellow Atlanta fan and that’s something fans identify with.”

Branching off the conversation Twitter has started with events, sites such as Twackle are evolving that create an “online sports hangout with the latest tweets about sports leagues, teams, athletes, events, and news in a single, easy-to-use destination.”

Twackle, the creation of Octagon Digital, has become the leading source in this area.

“You have this broad range of sports content (on Twitter),” CEO Jim DeLorenzo said. “One, we wanted to help people be able to find it. And two, once they found it, help them manage it in a better way.”

As these sites evolve, fans everywhere will continue to gain more and more control of the news and the messages sent to other fans nationwide. If you thought the media side of sports has changed too much since the blogosphere exploded, be prepared for the next wave.

Users somewhere are creating, or expanding, it now.