iMedia Interview with Peter Robert Casey

In my four-part blog series about how new media is changing the world of sports, I interviewed professionals in the field to get their perspective.

In part two, I spoke to Peter Robert Casey, an independent Tweeter with more than 55,000 followers and currently among the Top 10 most-followed basketball-related users on the popular micro-blogging site. This past September, St. John’s University hired him to be what is believed to be the first primarily Twitter-based blogger to earn a sport at press row.

Along with his screen name, twitter.com/peter_r_casey, Casey’s clever and consistent self-promotion through LinkedIn, Facebook and his blog were the platforms in which he branded himself as an expert of basketball–something he is truly passionate about.

In only 10 months on Twitter, he’s amassed a following of 55,253 users while following himself 46,985 accounts.

I had an email exchange with Peter Robert Casey regarding his new position at St. John’s along with his feelings on the future of social media. Here is what he had to say:

iMedia Confluence: What are your thoughts on the ever-changing world of sports journalism? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the profession?

Peter Robert Casey: The platforms for delivering news have changed, and anyone with a mobile phone or flip cam can break a story. However, at the end of the day, trained sports journalists have the advantage of knowing ‘how’ to report. The journalists that can adapt to leveraging emerging media will be the most effective. I’m very optimistic about the future of the profession. We’re in a period of transformational change; sports journalists should embrace it!

iMC: What are your feelings on people getting their news from blogs vs traditional news outlets?

PRC: Bloggers have less incentive to be objective, so there is of course a compromise. At the same time, who doesn’t think traditional media isn’t partial these days? I think it’s great that we have a choice, and that large media companies no longer control the message. There are great blogs out there, and there are terrible blogs out there. As consumers of news and information, we need to be smart about which outlets we’re giving our time and attention to.

iMC: What drew you to Twitter? Did you do anything specific to gain such a large following?

PRC: I started using Twitter just over one year ago (October 26, 2008). I almost wrote it off immediately, until I checked Google Analytics and saw that 17% of my blog’s traffic was derived from the micro-blogging platform. It was obvious, then, that Twitter was more than a futile communications tool to let the world know what you’re eating for lunch.

The pure number of followers on Twitter is not that important. It’s really all about having followers that share the same passion as you and that like to participate in the conversation. I’m sure I gain more from the people I follow than they do from following me. There’s a lot of bright people on Twitter, inside and outside of basketball.

iMC: What are your expectations for the upcoming seasons in your new roles with St. Johns? Do you expect other schools to  follow suit? What can you cover that a typical beat reporter can’t?

PRC: I expect it to be a fun-filled learning experience. I’m not sure how many schools will follow suit and credential tweeters right away, but I do expect more and more bloggers to appear on press row. If you look at the traffic of InsideHoops.com, HoopsHype, Hoopsworld, and CollegeHoops.Net, these blogs are drawing a lot of eyeballs from their target audience. ESPN even absorbed Henry Abbott’s TrueHoop blog a few years ago. Credentialing individual Twitter users as independent media outlets will be a case study. I hope it does open doors. To answer your last question, there’s nothing that I can cover that a beat reporter can’t; I’m just focusing on real-time coverage via Twitter with a 140-character limitation. That’s all.

iMC: What are your feelings on many professional leagues and even the NCAA putting limits on the use of Twitter by players/coaches/media etc.

PRC: Game time is game time. As a GM, Team President, or Coach, I would also expect that my players are focused on the task at hand, whether it’s practice or a game, and not using electronic mobile devices to send out messages to fans. There have always been team rules; the NCAA and professional leagues are just adapting to how rapid and accessible the tools have become.

iMC: What are your feelings on athletes using Twitter as a marketing tool? (tweeting about certain products, etc)

PRC: In-stream Twitter advertising can be transparent if an athlete practices disclosure. However do I think it’s authentic? Not really. Twitter, and other social media in my opinion, are about building personal brand equity. If an athlete does that well, their endorsements will sell. Sponsored tweets convey the message that an athlete cares more about lining their pockets than providing value to their community.

iMC: Do you think micro-blogging is just a fad or a communications tool that will be around for a long time?

PRC: It’s here to stay. Whether Twitter is the leading service or not depends on how the medium evolves as an entity. Micro-blogging is the perfect solution for waning attention spans.

iMC: Do you have any predictions on what is next on the horizon as far as sports and social media?

PRC: I believe we’re going to see more and more athletes not only participating in the space, but dominating it. Professional athletes are entertainers, and naturally know how to draw an audience. Shaq and Ocho Cinco are crushing it on the web. USTREAM will continue to gain traction as fans want to take a live peak into their favorite athletes’ lives.

iMC

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