Saturday, August 26, 2017

Warning: Mind Blown Due to Information Overload!

When we had our son, I learned that for an infant, more brain development occurs in the first year of life than will occur in all remaining years of life combined. Imagine if you took child brain development and reversed it so as a human grew, development occurred exponentially faster, rather than slower. This is essentially analogous to Moore's Law related to information development and storage. Moore, a founder of Intel, put forth that every 18 months, the amount of hardware technology increases two-fold, due to the exponential growth of data aggregated and stored. So unlike the infant brain, the peak of information development is not even within sight. That does not bode well for me.
The BBC (2015) conducted a review of the future of news and its impact on the organization. In line with last week's blog conversation about the changing role of traditional media, it is evident the lines on media content origination have blurred. As the article noted, due to this change, sorting and evaluating information is not nearly as easy as it once was. 

Compare the days of the American Revolution when Thomas Paine's Common Sense publication helped shape the future independence of the United States, to the state of today's media information. Clay Shirky's (2012) TED talk outlined how as the number of media outlets increases, so does the amount of argument. You need only open a news app or go old school and flip on a television news broadcast to substantiate this claim. 

This revolution of information, its collection, access and analysis is changing the future. Media convergence, or the joining of outlets across platforms seems to be fostering a horizontalization of media consumption, causing concern for monopolistic approaches, in turn limiting information. Inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee (2010), commented the decentralization and universality of the web is its advantage, and content control by social outlets and search engines could pose a threat to consumer information. In simple terms, large organizations are gobbling up smaller ones, disseminating information across multiple platforms, and controlling what you and I consume.

In a paradigm shift for controlled content and the back-end code that makes it, the open source software movement has created a collaborative effort for development of software content (Shirky, 2012). Think of it like the massive expansion of a social network. 
Social Network Theory Depiction
Social network theory is based upon networks of individuals, or actors, working in an interrelated fashion. This concept creates a illustration of open source software development across the globe where content code is public and editable, such as in the GitHub repositories. 

I read an article on Forbes (Marr, 2015) this week spouting statistics about the growth of big data. Fifty billion smart devices will be connected by 2020, a trillion photos were be taken and billions shared online in 2015...the list went on an on. But to me, some of these statistics include so many zeros and commas, with the decimal so far to the right, I cannot wrap my head around the meaning. I feel as naive as Dr. Evil's famous "one million dollars" ransom price for his stolen warhead in Austin Powers. 


What does all this information mean? I will try to parse it down in a way that makes sense to me, examining how it relates to emerging media and the sport industry.

Information overload is an understatement. The same Forbes article from 2015 (Marr, 2015) mentioned above also stated that as of its publication, less than 0.05% of data is analyzed. That means information to shape our very ways of living is likely out there, untouched. 

On a global scope, imagine the good that could be achieved in the world when analysis of the appropriate information underpins our behavior. According to the BBC report (2015), 60% of the world does not have access to internet connectivity, yet by 2025 there will be one trillion connected devices and 8.1 billion people in the world. Those who are connected to the internet will average 10 devices each. With Moore's Law in effect, cost of information storage and collection continues to drop. The potential is astounding. 

Let's take a look at how the flood of information impacts sport. Remember back in 2003 when Michael Lewis' Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, based upon the philosophy of Oakland Athletics' General Manager Billy Beane shook the sports statistics industry? It prompted the successful movie of the same title starring Brad Pitt and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The premise was that the existing metrics for player evaluation were archaic. Information was analyzed in a new way, yielding unprecedented success of the players on the team previously deemed marginal at best. The movie illustrated a microcosm of how information can change sport. 
Scene from Moneyball
Much like the global information boom, application in sport is wide-reaching. The sport industry is not solely based upon the plethora of competition statistics. Areas where big data is already matriculating sport strategy include those of utilizing sport in underdeveloped countries for development and peace, also called SFD or SDP. For instance, a women's recreational soccer league in an African nation teaching sport and life skills. 

Sport intersects the private sector through corporate social responsibility efforts (CRS) in which organizations implement initiatives to positively impact the broader community or cause. An example of CRS includes TOMS brand shoes donating a pair of shoes for every pair sold. In sport, a notable example is the National Football League's partnership with the United Way, or a Major League Baseball franchise partnering with a local parks and recreation department to build new youth baseball fields.

While it is one thing for sport organizations to engage in genuine efforts in SFD and CSR, the information boom should also be used as a catalyst to address issues at the core of sport. For example, the NFL has been plagued by negative press about the impact of concussions on athletes, and the potential long-term brain damage that results. A recent report  asserted that of 202 former football players analyzed by a renown neurosurgeon, 87% had symptoms of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain condition caused by multiple hits to the head (Zirin, 2017). While these findings underlay a massive public relations crisis looming over the NFL and the sport as a whole, the information resulting from extensive data collections, also presented an opportunity for the leaders of the sport to address the concussion issue in swift, proactive fashion. Unfortunately, that did not happened. 

The NCAA has come under fire for the apparent the lack of preservation of student athlete amateur status. From "one-and-done" college basketball superstars and big money industry drivers, to scandals plaguing top athletics departments, the perception of collegiate sport has changed drastically from its simplistic origins. See Wolverton's (2009) analysis in the Chronicle of Higher Education for more...and this data is long-since outdated.

But, is it fair to say the buck stops at the organizational level in sport? It is never that easy.  

Sports are market driven, just the same as other industries. If advertisers were not confident in their ability to use sport as an outlet through which to reach their target market, the dynamics would be different. It is us, as individuals who drive the market. We drive record consumption of NFL games, buy jersey's of one-and-done first round NBA draft picks and engage in sports books regardless of impact. While I am not saying sport consumption is wrong, I am saying that as consumers, we are contributing to the very root of our frustrations with sport, often without realizing it. 
Two notable "one and done" college basketball players

Like in sport, cumulative behavior patterns have an impact. This is the same reason new media sources such as the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed have emerged. Shifts in consumer demand have altered the media market. These organizations analyzed the information, saw a gap, and filled it. 

The information era reminds me of one of the final scenes in Finding Nemo where the school of fish are stuck in a fishing net. The fish were in chaos until Nemo and his father convinced them to work together to swim away from the surface, eventually breaking the net and freeing the school. Right now there are fish - the emerging data - coming and going in every direction. It is how the data will be used that will determine its impact on the world and our every day life. I imagine skill-sets sought for employees will continue to shift toward the ability to understand, synthesize and strategize based upon the information. Opportunity for innovation and collaboration are limitless. We are inundated by information at warp speed...are you making the most of it?

This is Stoll on Sports. Thanks for stopping by and remember what Henry Ford once said: "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't - you're right." Let that fuel our fire for information innovation. 

BBC. (2015). The Future of News. Retrieved from 01_15futureofnews.pdf

Shirky, C. (June 2012). How the internet will (one day) transform government. Retrieved from

Wolverton, B. (May 2009). Commercialization of college sports may have ‘crossed the line,’ report says. The Chronicle on Higher Education. Retrieved from

Berners-Lee, T. (2010). Long live the web. Scientific America. Retrieved from

Marr, B. (2015). Big data: 20 mind-boggling facts everyone must read. Forbes. Retrieved from

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The End of the End, or Just the Beginning?

You made it past the introduction, and that’s saying something! As I mentioned in my first post, The Catchy Alliteration Drew You In, the first few weeks of Stoll on Sports will center on topics assigned in my strategic communication and emerging media class, with a splash of flavor from sports and business in general. This brings me to our first class topic: Is traditional news media dying?

Trying to keep up on media outlets, their relevancy (and accuracy) can be akin to swimming upstream. While tried and true traditionalists likely of certain demographics still consume media – particularly  news media – in large part via hard copy newspapers, radio broadcasts and television nightly news reports, even many of them are transitioning their consumption behaviors in today’s digital age. According to the Pew Research Center, 68% of adults consumed media via social media in 2016 (Gottfried & Shearer, 2016) and the American Press Institute (2014) noted trends shifting away from set times of consumption to repeated consumption throughout the day.

And those pesky millennials? They have completely rocked the boat in terms of consumption behaviors, opening the door for competition to enter the marketplace such as the Huffington Post, the Skimm and Buzzfeed.

With smartphones, everyone can be a source. I recall working in professional golf and we actually had a “Tech Check” volunteer committee whose sole job was to collect the cell phones and cameras of every patron entering the course, put them in little numbered Ziploc bags and not allow patrons to access them until they left the course for the day. Now, I realize there is something to controlling noise in the sport of golf (golfers tend to be quite finicky about a Def Leopard ringtone going off in the middle of their back swing), but this little practice also controlled the information seeping out to the public as well.

Think about today’s sports environment. Remember just a short year ago when the Cubs were playing the Indians in an epic Game 7 of the World Series? Cameras panned to just about every person in the stadium holding up their phone in anticipation of capturing the final out, ending the Cubbies fateful curse.
Cubs Game 7 Victory

How about the platform of blogging, which by your very nature of reading these words proves you are savvy in this arena. In 2011’s landmark case, Obsidian Finance Group v. Crystal Cox, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled that the same First Amendment rights of those who are members of the institutional press protect bloggers, despite lack of employment by traditional press entities (Meyer, 2014). In other words, without any training or credentials, the law of the land considers bloggers journalists.

This is just one example of a major shift in the foundation of the news industry. A number of our class reading assignments alluded to the traditional media’s slow response, even to a reactive level, of the digital era, ultimately fueling the debate as to the lifespan of traditional media. One article went as far as to call the newspaper industry executives “paralyzed” by industry changes (Warren, 2016).

According to The Verge computers are now generating news stories (Miller, 2015), eliminating jobs in an effort to cut costs. Hundreds of newspapers have implemented paywalls to access content in an effort to subsidize decreasing circulation revenue. “Cable cutters” as those cancelling their traditional cable packages are called, are on the rise, lowering the commissions stations receive from cable providers for a place on the subscription lineup. All these trends have a cumulative effect. Instead of scraping for a piece of the uniformly sized pie, traditional media are now desperately trying to hold onto their piece of a different shaped and sized pie. 

In the sports world, the good news is fans do still watch sports events live. In many circumstances, if you don’t watch an event live, the spoilers are all over social media, ruining one's attempt to DVR in an effort to skip the commercials. Attendance at high profile (and even lower profile) sports events is becoming elitist with rising ticket, concessions, parking and travel costs, spawning enhancements for in-home watching experiences. This trend has sparked a vertical integration of sports events whereby league or franchise ownership does not only own the in-venue experience, but also the media and digital consumption outlets for in-home consumption. For an example, look no further than the partnership between ESPN and the Southeastern Conference (SEC) establishing the SEC Network.


Perhaps you are like me and thought, “Yep, traditional media is history.” I’m not necessarily arguing that traditional media is past the point of no return; in fact, some reports show advertising on digital platforms has not completely obliterated traditional media outlets as commonly assumed (Media Buyers, 2016). Nevertheless, a closer examination points toward an impending massive revolution for the way we view media.

While current media outlets are concerned about maximizing paywalls, providing on-demand content and changing the user interfaces of their products, are these steps really addressing the core of the issue? I’m reminded of the music industry in the early 2000’s when we had to buy an entire CD to listen to the one song we wanted. The music industry sat on its laurels while a computer company came into a space it didn’t own with a nifty little gadget called an iPod that allowed us to select specific songs we wanted to jam out to in our beat up sedans on the way to the high school football game. Thus launching a complete disruption in the music industry, as we knew it. For more details on this type of disruption, I encourage you to check out Simon Sinek’s TED Talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action or read his book entitled Start with Why.  
Simon Sinek

Should it make our heads tilt to the side to know that Jeff Bezos from Amazon, John Henry and Warren Buffet – all billionaires – have acquired The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and numerous regional newspapers, respectively in recent years (Vinton, 2016)? Does this assure the preservation of the newspaper industry? My guess is not as we know it. However, do these individuals have the resources to cause a tidal wave of change in the industry, in a way my simple mind cannot event fathom? You bet. 

Enter disruption. Just like Apple with the music industry or Southwest in the airline industry. Fundamentally altering the way an industry exists rather than adjusting existing parts here or there. This would be as if a NASCAR driver pulled into pit road and rather than more fuel and tightening the left side, they rolled out a driving machine the likes of which no one had ever laid eyes on before.
Pit Road Craziness

People want more control, faster service, the ability to pick and choose features, and much, much more. Standard. In the grand scheme, these are minor tweaks to existing services. The question for traditional media is: How will the future look when all of these desires are exceeded in a delivery fashion beyond what we can comprehend?

In the world of sports, we are seeing glimmers of what the future holds. It’s no secret ESPN has been rattled over recent years (Boudway & Chafkin, 2017). For the first time ever, Twitter live streamed the NFL’s Thursday night games last season. That’s right, a social media platform based on succinct communication streamed three hour NFL games! Let that sink in. And, the streaming was such a success, the NFL put the games out for bid this season, and guess who won the streaming rights. None other than Amazon, which will be streaming all 10 games globally on Amazon Prime for the small fee of $50 million. Oh yeah, and if you are interested in purchasing a :30s ad during the streaming, that will only set you back $2.8 million (Fortune, 2017).

Traditional media as we know it may not be dying, but is certainly prime for a massive revolution. As the signs are indicating, there is evidence this revolution is already underway. This phenomenon is spilling into sports as well.

I’m reminded of a scene from one of my favorite Christmas movies, A Christmas Story, when Ralphie was listening intently to his weekly radio broadcast of “Little Orphan Annie” trying to solve his puzzle for chocolate Ovaltine. Now, flash forward to our world of instant information and access via smartphone and stretch your mind to think what media consumption may look like in another five years, let alone 50. My hypothesis is traditional media will be unrecognizable in its current forms. 

Feel free to let me know your thoughts. This has been Stoll on Sports

Until next time, remember, it's not happy people who are thankful, it's thankful people who are happy.


American Press Institute. (March 2014). How Americans get their news. Retrieved from

Boudway, I. & Chafkin, M. (March 2017). ESPN has seen the future of TV and they’re not really into it. Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved from

Fortune. (June 2017). Here’s how much Amazon plans to charge for NFL Thursday Night Football ad packages. Retrieved from

Gottfried, J. & Shearer, E. (May 2016). News use across social media platforms. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from

Media Buyers. (May 2016). Digital media trends place traditional media in a new light. Retrieved from

Meyer, R. (January 2014). U.S. court: Bloggers are journalists. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Miller, R. (January 2015). AP’s ‘robot journalists’ are writing their own stories now. The Verge. Retrieved from

Vinton, K. (June 2016). These 15 billionaires own America’s news media companies. Forbes. Retrieved from

Warren, J. (January 2016). Newspaper bosses ‘paralyzed’ by change, clueless about paid content, says Steve Brill. Poynter. Retrieved from

Friday, August 18, 2017

The catchy alliteration drew you in...

I wonder, are you like me? Are you emerged in a world of information and messages changing so rapidly it easily makes your head spin? Are you showing up every day putting your best effort in for a cause or organization you are passionate about just hoping the ship is pointed in the right direction? As professionals, we strive to make sense of it all in order to inform our strategies, objectives and tactics to make our organizations (and personal lives!) efficient and productive. We all want to feel like we have a grasp on current trends and best practices. But lets face it, this simple mission often seems like a herculean task! 

On a hunch, I'm guessing that description does not just apply to me. If you shook your head in agreement to any of the opening paragraph above, then you're in the right place. Join me and engage in the supportive community of Stoll on Sportswhere I will share insights and perspectives on the state of sports (specifically sport tourism) and other topics of interest on a weekly basis all the while "keeping it real" as my college interns say. In other words, I vow to take risks, not be afraid to fail, and most importantly, grow from even the hardest lessons learned. The context of these postings may be framed in sport tourism, but my intent is that you will find their application appropriate for any industry, in addition to life in general. 

While my current day job is overseeing a non-profit sport tourism organization, the Greater Grand Junction Sports Commission, I was privileged to cut my teeth in sport management at a variety of levels in more capacities that you'll care to know about. From high school sports, to working in the PGA of America's Championship department for the 2008 Ryder Cup, coaching, to now starting a sport tourism non-profit from the point of a crazy little idea in my head and a blank sheet of paper, I've acquired a pretty darn diverse industry background and will draw on these experiences throughout this blog in an effort to share and learn with you.  
2008 Ryder Cup Team USA Victory Celebration

Thus, the development of Stoll on Sports (

We'll kick things off the first few weeks exploring strategic communications and emerging media. Sounds fancy, doesn't it? Well, don't be alarmed. These topics will help us provide context through which sport products (events, news, brands, sponsorships, etc.) are marketed, consumed and covered by casual to "die-hard" sports participants and spectators. 

On this topic, I unapologetically note my allegiance to Ohio State Buckeye football and Louisville basketball (yes, I know, UofL's current status warrants a dedicated strategic communication blog on what NOT to do!). If these team affiliations offend you, it's been nice meeting you! But in all seriousness, I do hope you will stick around.

So while sport may be "fun and games" it is also a multi-billion dollar industry and a core component in the sense of identity here in the United States and in other nations around the world. In fact, Forbes estimates the size of the sport industry will grow to a whopping $73.5B by 2019. That's "billion" with a "B"! Without further ado, let's dive in and get started.

Thanks for joining me for the weekly adventure that awaits at Stoll on Sports!