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  • New Media and the Olympic Movement: Subscriber Content


    The director of media and television for the International Triathlon Union calls RSS feeds of event highlights "a great way for our fans to get the content they need in the most efficient way possible.” (Getty Images)  
    In the last few years, websites of federations, organizing committees, and other organizations have begun to release their news online using the RSS format. RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication, is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated content such as blog entries, news headlines or podcasts.

    Current users of the RSS feeds include the organizing committees for Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010, and London 2012, as well as the IOC, and the federations of wrestling, athletics, tennis, curling, and rowing.

    The International Triathlon Union has been one of the early adopters of the RSS format. The federation uses it to distribute video highlights of its events.

    “ITU has always believed in embracing new technology and our in house media team always keeps abreast of the latest technology, to see how it can enhance our user experience on,” says Brian Mahony, federation director for media and television.

    “RSS feeds for video highlights are a great way for our fans to get the content they need in the most efficient way possible.”

    “The response from our online viewers has been fantastic. We have found a large spike in our Monday traffic where many people watch the race highlights from the weekends action on a Monday morning before work. The numbers speak for themselves. Our video viewer numbers grew by over 600% in 2006, and this year the numbers are up a further 50% on last year. We expect this trend to continue.”

    E-Mail Trends for the Olympics

    While RSS feeds are a new, upcoming method of distributing news, many Olympic organizations still elect to send e-mails to their respective sport’s fans. The amount of mail varies for each group; some offer multiple notices per day, others limit the messages to weekly newsletters and press releases.

    The International Equestrian Federation currently has a subscriber list of about 2000 readers who receive news from the federation. Officials say that readers have reacted favorably to the notices.

    “The volume of news released through the internet as well as additional features (online photo catalogue from which high resolution photographs can be downloaded for use by the media) has tripled in one year,” says Malina Gueorguiev, Communications Manager for FEI.

    Website traffic has grown to 80,000 visitors per month in 2007 compared to 65,000 per month last year, she added.

    Gueorguiev adds that the federation is working to modify its website to adapt to other new media forms. “This website [] is undergoing serious upgrading and the new version will
    Website traffic for the International Equestrian Federation has shown an increase of 15,000 viewers per month from 2006 to 2007. (Getty Images)  
    be released in four stages (January 2008, April 2008, July 2008 and November 2008). The goal is to make the site the FEI's main working tool (communications and otherwise) allowing for news, pod, video casts as well as creating a flexible working platform (all registration of horses and riders done online, registration for international events directly done online, results online). IPTV is also one of our projects which is almost ready to be released.”

    New Media Plans for Beijing

    Both federations plan to increase their new media capabilities for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Mahony says that ITU will partner with NBC to offer video and audio content for “Our Beijing mini-site is in construction at the moment, and when finished will provide video profiles of the Olympic contenders, video course profiles, athlete interviews and much more.”

    FEI will also ramp up its news coverage for Beijing. “Three persons will be working full time releasing news, features, stories through the internet,” said Gueorguiev. “ will be updated several times every day and a minimum of 50 items will be released during the 13 days of competition. We are also working on a live results system with BOCOG.”

    Websites are also being created for the Olympics fan to watch Olympic sports. Many of the smaller sports in the Olympics are often ignored by television networks but still have large fan bases. World Championship Sporting Network was created
    specifically for these fans.

    “There are six core sports” said T.K. Gore, WCSN’s communications director. “We are serving the underserved. The Olympics happen for a 16 day period and then kind of disappear. What happens at the Olympics happens year round. We are trying to elevate them world wide”.

    WCSN’s website has sections for blogs, message boards, and other ways to interact with Olympic fans. But, their focus is delivering video of sports that would normally go overlooked. WCSN has already struck deals with Google and Youtube to create platforms to broadcast their work. What they have done has garnered attention from corporate sponsors.

    AT&T bought WCSN’s coverage of the gymnastics coverage so that it was able to be broadcast for free. Most of WCSN’s online video requires a paid subscription.

    Still, WCSN’s goal is to create interest in Olympic sports Gore said. And the best way to do that is through the internet.

    “The internet is crucial for creating new interest in the sports. The Internet allows us to stream events live and we are the only ones doing it right now” said Gore.

    At the National Olympic Committee Level

    National olympic committees are taking notice of the power of the internet to promote their work. The Australian Olympic Committee is currently trying to harness the power of new media to reach out to youth.

    “The IOC is asking for a greater focus on youth. They are the future of the movement and the IOC President has appealed to all NOC’s to reach out to youth. We [the AOC] believe we can best do this through new media. You must go where your target audience is situated and the youth audience is very much internet based” said Mike Tancred, the AOC’s Media Director.

    Tancred made it clear that to reach out to youth, the Olympics must use internet. He also said that more and more young people are reaching out to new media for news about the Olympics.

    “New media has not reached the point where it has surpassed the power of newspapers or standard radio or television news reporting. However we are finding that if you want to reach youth you must be on the internet,” Tancred said.

    He says that the AOC has created a department that focuses on using new media to promote Olympic ideals.

    Tancred notes that one potential headache for NOCs is the use of blogs. There was a ban on athletes blogging during the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics but Tancred feels confident this will not be in place during Beijing. The IOC said athlete’s will be able to blog during the 2008 Olympics but some issues still remain. IOC rules say that only accredited media may report on the games “in any other media capacity”.

    “We aware that blogging will create some issues for all NOCs and the IOC. We are particularly concerned about athletes using blogs to criticize fellow teammates or competitors from other countries. We are very much focused on a ‘one team’ concept and frown on athletes speaking negatively about their teammates”.

    Tomorrow, Around the Rings looks at “web 2.0”, including user generated content and social networking.

    Written by Bryant Armstrong and Ed Hula III, with reoprting by Maggie Lee and Laura Grundy.

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