The New Media. Nuisance Nutters or Yacht Racing’s Best Friends?

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There was a time when sports writing was the domain of a particular kind of hack. They divided into two categories; journalists with subject knowledge who can tell a story and construct an argument and ex-players or participants who have learnt journalism to give insight from someone who has been there.

The ‘Internet’ and particularly the advent of blogs and more recently ‘microblogs’ has seen a new kind of commentator gain large followings.

The instantaneous feedback that such writers provide PR teams and promoters is something that was only previously available to the most well funded brands.

Before we bring this to the world of yacht racing, let’s look at an episode that happened yesterday when a tennis match being broadcast by the BBC ran over and stopped the national broadcaster showing an advertised game between Wales and the New Zealand All Blacks. The BBC commentator said that the channel would stick with the Tennis until it ended, despite the BBC having 4 channels plus “red-button technology” at their disposal.

In the past, a couple of incensed fans would write to the Beeb and complain, but in a world of Twitter, hundreds of upset fans vented their anger immediately.

In the bubble of Yacht racing, there might not be as many pundits as rugby or tennis, but there is an emerging spectrum of non-traditional voices that provide a valuable feedback loop for promoters and rights holders.

Modestly, I would include this site in that mix, alongside voices like thedailysail and Valencia Sailing. These sites occasionally break stories, but for the main work with the ‘industry’.

Then there are the more maverick commentators. Recently Magnus Wheatley has re-started his self styled ‘hand grenade’ journalism based Rule 69 blog with a mix of rumour and vitriol, but keen watchers of Twitter might also have noticed a string of opinionated views from an more enigmatic character.

Antipodeon has caught the attention of a couple of PR people and no other than the Chairman of OC Thirdpole Mark Turner with her forthright feedback of sailing programs on UK TV.

It would be easy to ignore this new, empowered part of the media landscape, but that would be a mistake. Many of these ‘fringe’ pundits have a significant following that is growing.

From my point of view it has been interesting to see how different people in the world of yacht racing have responded to – some have ignored it, some have fought it, some have begrudgingly realised that we are not going away and some have reached out and worked with us.

It’s not surprising to imagine that those in the last category have benefited more from the relationship than those who still wish we would go away.

For operators like the Volvo Ocean Race, World Match Racing Tour and OC Group, getting honest feedback is more valuable than listening to people tell them what they want to hear. It might cause the occasional wince, but in the end it leads to a better product – that’s why anyone interested in creating a sailing offer for the ‘facebook generation’ should take note of the musings of fans like Antipodeon.