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Tencer's Blog: Talking Twitter

Dan Tencer blogs about social media's new world of quick-access information

Friday, 20.01.2012 / 4:20 PM / Blogs
By Dan Tencer
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Tencer\'s Blog: Talking Twitter
Dan Tencer's 12,755 Twitter followers are privy to easily-accessible insider information, 24/7. News doesn't sleep, and neither does Dan.
I'm a huge fan of social media. I don't get much out of celebrity tweets or trending hashtags that people think are funny, but it's a tremendous resource for breaking news and extensive coverage of whatever topics I'm interested in. For fans of the NHL, following accounts like Bob Mckenzie or Nick Kypreos will, more often than not these days, allow you to get the scoop before radio, television, blogs and newspapers. Even for me personally, if I have a tidbit of Oilers or NHL news to pass along, it will have a pretty good chance at hitting my Twitter feed before I'm able to use it on CHED or the Oilers Radio Network. Why? The race to be first and to have as many people as possible know it.

That's what it's about, really. In theory, Bob McKenzie breaking a story on his Twitter account dilutes the product that TSN is putting on the air. I absolutely watch less TSN now than I did 5 years ago, because I don't need to. If Bob or Darren Dreger or whoever have a trade to break, they'll do it on Twitter. I don't need to wait for the intermission of a Capitals vs. Canadiens game to get the latest from the biggest sources in the game, so I don't. The problem for a guy like Bob is that information flows so quickly these days that he can't afford to wait. If he had a scoop and sat on it for half an hour, the chances are pretty good he'd end up getting beat to the punch. That's where Twitter comes in. If you have a piece of information, you can feed it to the entire world instantly.

Personal branding becomes huge. If you have the best info, everybody knows it. If you've always got it first, you'll always be the guy getting "re-tweeted" by everyone else, and eventually you'll build a massive following. At that point, you start tweeting links to podcasts or blogs or articles on your web site, and that's where hopefully a little bit of revenue generation comes into play. The web traffic for my content at the 630 CHED web site is considerably more significant than it was pre-Twitter and, while TSN is obviously light years ahead in this realm, I'd imagine they'd be able to attribute similar gains to articles tweeted out by McKenzie or Dreger.

For less instant forms of media, newspapers being the best example, there must be virtually no emphasis left at this point on getting the story first, but rather telling the story better. The thing that it's important to realize for everyone involved in our business is that while people appreciate those who break the story, they'll spend far more time consuming coverage of said story. The breaking news is an instant, but the analysis and followup is extensive. If you win the latter battle, you're in great shape, even if you're always chasing the scoop.

Back to Twitter. For all of the fans and everyone in the business, it is a wonderful resource and is obviously a part of the web-based future of media. My feed is an aggregate of all of the top NHL sources, beat writers, players and so on that allows me to get every single piece of information from every single team in a heartbeat. Except that there's a lot of content that turns out to be false.

Whether it's "Taylor Hall done for the season" or "Dany Heatley is an Edmonton Oiler 100% confirmed" or "Ales Hemsky traded to Detroit" the list goes on and on and on. In the race to be first, corners are often cut. The best in the game aren't often wrong, and that's why they're the best in the game. But, for the rest of us, it allows a single misinformed tweet to kickstart a frenzy. Anybody know who Josh Rimer is? Me either. That's not a shot, I'm sure he does great work for SiriusXM and their great Home Ice Channel, but he's not somebody I'd consider to have an inside track on the Edmonton Oilers. Yet, on Wednesday, Rimer's tweet about Taylor Hall started a firestorm. Guys like me, who cover the team every day, were forced to pull out our phones and send BBM messages to Oilers brass to follow up.

One such message that I sent out searching for information as to the validity of Rimer's claim was met, in part, with "hahahahahaha" in the return message. A similar response was crafted when I was in Jasper in October, with the team, literally feet from the management group, when a series of tweets from Toronto broadcaster Greg Brady ignited a "story" about Kevin Lowe taking over again as team GM. Josh and Greg, to use two examples, may not be Oilers insiders by any stretch, but they are respected members of the broadcast media. They aren't Eklund or TreenasOil. That said, in Josh's case, I don't think SiriusXM radio was running with the Taylor Hall "scoop". I could be wrong, but I think that ended up being isolated to Twitter.

And that's where the responsibility comes in. If I tweet something about the Oilers or the NHL or whatever, you can be darn sure that 630 CHED will be soon reporting the same thing. I feel absolutely as accountable for what I tweet as I do for what I put on the airwaves of the most listened to radio station in Edmonton. It strikes me that this is the standard for most, but not all, who tweet. For some reason, Twitter often seems to be a dumping ground for hearsay or guesswork that wouldn't stand a chance of making it into the pages of a newspaper or into the lead stories of a newscast.

The other problem with the overflow of information is that impostors are constantly coming out of the woodwork. The Ales Hemsky trade rumour from earlier in the week was from an account trying to disguise itself as Nick Kypreos from Sportsnet. It worked, vaulting dozens of tweets and e-mails my way asking for confirmation and a quick Twitter search found that Edmonton radio station K97 and morning host Terry Evans were, at least temporarily, duped by the information.

Twitter is a wonderful way to interact with people that share common interests and a fantastic, and fast, way to get the latest and greatest information. It is, however, to be dealt with cautiously, as mistakes are far easier to make when you can send a message to the world on a whim from the keypad of your phone. Impostors and internet all stars who take shots from behind the anonymity of their keyboard are also nuisances, but so it goes in the world of interactive media.

You can listen to Dan on Inside Sports weeknights from 6 to 9 on 630 CHED. Follow Dan on Twitter | @dantencer

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