On Monday, a panel of media-types, old media types, will gather for an event by the great organization, the San Francisco Chapter Of Women In Sports And Events, to talk about the coverage of the Olympics.
Since there’s not one person on the panel who represents New Media, their evaluation will likely be limited to comments about Ryan Seacrest – the easy go-to-whipping boy whenever this issue is raised. Or if it’s not Ryan, then it’s how cute some athlete was or stuff like that. Or if it’s not that, someone will say that NBC’s Ratings were up 12 percent over 2008.
Ok, when that stat comes up, that’s the time you should cry in protest. Why? Because between 2008 and 2012 the US Population increased from 302 million to 310 million – that’s 8 million more people and over that time we had a large growth of the same 18-year-old new voters that also are web and mobile savvy and more likely to watch the Olympics and tweet about it. So NBC should have expected more than the 12 percent they got. That they didn’t get it was because they didn’t deliberately use social media to amplify the noise that was being created, and to a point where it actually drives ratings increases early on during the games. Remember, the games started off slow – thanks to that God-awful handling of the tape delay of the Opening Ceremony, and didn’t get traction until the following five days in.
Had NBC not tape delayed the event, it could have used social media to drive ratings, and carry through the weekend. But not only did they not do that, NBC didn’t even put the damn thing on live stream. (But if you’re a bit of a code-freak, like me, you could have installed your own live stream video via the BBC.)
The hard truth is, NBC’s Olympics coverage was totally horrible. And it was so because it failed to fuse together all types of media into one seamless operation that’s all-access and easy to use. There’s no excuse for the errors NBC committed during and before the London Olympics Games, except that they just went on ahead and patted themselves on the back, when they should have been flogged in a public gathering. Here are the problems:
1) A hard-to-use Live Stream system. There’s a rule in website design that you should be not more than two clicks away from your point A to point B. On the NBC Olympics Website, you were several steps away – I calculated seven at best – because you had to go through several prompts where the system would ask you to type in your cable account info. If you didn’t have premium cable service, you could not get in. But here’s the kicker: even if you did, and got into the system, there was a 50 percent chance the website’s cookies would operate incorrectly and kick you right out again. How do I know? Because it happened to me. What NBC should have done is simply offered a sponsorship that was on a per-view basis and junked the cable idea. Plus, they should have had YouTube with a larger role so that I would immediately see the Olympics webcast when I went to the site. In other words, make it easy.
2) A total lack of vloggers and bloggers around London giving us daily updates from inside parties and events. This was really bad. What was done at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver was to engage local bloggers, giving them all-party-access passes. There was a London blog, but it wasn’t full of fresh daily content, and I had zero idea of where the hot parties were. Plus, NBC didn’t use micro-vlog platforms like Tout, so people around the World could make video commentary of what they saw that then wound up on the NBC website. How do I know? Because I used Tout during the Olympics.
3) Awful failure to update their website. When Gabby Douglas went on her Gold Medal run, did NBC have a photo of her on the website? No. They had her teammate Jordyn Wieber, who had failed to qualify, and that was before her own comeback started. In fact, NBC so ignored Gabby, Twitter was ablaze with accusations of racism. It took NBC three straight days to correct the problem. This was my blast at the time:
4) Major Women’s Sporting Events on NBC’s new, and not well-exposed, cable channel, not on prime-time or live stream. This was something that sent me through the roof. I could not get the Women’s Soccer Games on NBC 11 – I had to go to a bar that had the NBC Sports Channel – the new 24-hour channel that NBC forgot to tell people existed until they learned that what they wanted to see was on it. That was bad. Millions of middle-to-low-income families with girls who play soccer were robbed of a chance to see Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, and Hope Solo bring home the Gold for Team USA Women’s Soccer. When Mitt Romney talked about how the 47 Percent didn’t matter to him, he might as well have been speaking for NBC.
So those are the issues for me. I could have added more, but then I might as well write a book.