Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tweet This

The first time TigerBlog read USA Today, he was astonished by the fact that almost all of the stories were so short.

Other than the big cover story of the day, all of the stories were only a few paragraphs. The ones on the front page didn't even jump - TB loves throwing around the newspaper talk - to an inside page, something TB had never seen before.

As it turns out, USA Today was ahead of its time. In fact, it was in many ways (and probably unknowingly) the bridge between traditional writing and Twitter.

For centuries, writing was a complex undertaking, and it wasn't meant for the masses. Even after the democratization of public education, especially in this country, writing still meant novels of hundreds of pages or magazine or newspaper stories of considerable depth.

Today? Anyone can be a writer, especially on Twitter, where 140 character entries are all you get. According to Wikipedia, there are approximately 350,000,000 Tweets per day.

To put that in some perspective, the first few paragraphs of TigerBlog so far are 727 characters.

TigerBlog recently read a story about how "The Great Gatsby" had been rewritten to make it easier for readers. To TB, who first read the book back in 10th grade and has loved it ever since, it immediately called up one of Pete Carril's best quotes: "when you lower your standards, they turn around and attack you."

Apparently, the Women's World Cup final this past Sunday broke two impressive records.

First, there was the Twitter record, with 7,196 Tweets per second during the game, breaking the records recently set after the death of Bin Laden and the marriage of those two kids in England.

The other record? ESPN's telecast of the final for the women drew a 7.4 rating, the highest ever for a soccer game on ESPN. In fact, it was nearly double the 4.0 rating of the previous high, for the U.S.-Algeria game in the men's World Cup last summer.

The ratings amaze TB, since, like many who ended up being captivated by it all, TB didn't even realize the Women's World Cup was about to begin until shortly before it did.

What answers the question of why the ratings were twice those of the men's game against Algeria? Is it because the U.S. was in the final, and the American public will blindly watch anything American on that level? Was it the drama from the game against Brazil that helped build the audience for the rest of the tournament? Was it the fact that it was tailor-made for today's audience, with a natural heroine (Abby Wambach) and an attractive leading woman (Hope Solo)?

TigerBlog's theory is that it was something akin to watching Michael Phelps in the Olympics. It was big as it happened, but once it ended, women's soccer - like swimming - goes back to the back burner until four years from now, if the magic can be recaptured.

The Twitter aspect is much more interesting to TB, at least from the perspective of what it actually means for the future.

It used to be that newspapers would be the go-between for quotes from athletes and coaches - and anyone else - to the people who wanted to hear what those people had to say. Today, athletes and coaches simply Tweet.

What does this mean for Princeton and its Twitter effort, twitter.com/putigers?

Will Princeton reach a time where its athletes and coaches are providing their own alternative to goprincetontigers.com? Yes, some of the teams already have Twitter accounts, but it's still very rudimentary.

And, for that matter, will twitter.com/putigers eventually eclipse goprincetontigers.com? Is that what the real audience is?

TigerBlog has known for years that people don't want to read in-depth game stories as much as they want to read about the next thing that's going to happen. In many ways, box scores - and even headlines - are more than good enough for providing the information about the last contest.

So should Princeton do what Miami did once, when Miami suspended its actual website for a day and provided information only through its social networking sites?

To this point, Princeton's Twitter efforts have been something of an afterthought.

For TB, maybe the Women's World Cup is trying to say something about how to do business around here.

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