World Cup in Japan: 4-0 to Twitter

This was an article I wrote in July 2010 for Richard Smart and Rick Martin’s trial website Tokyo Digital Journalism. The site has been relegated to obscurity, but I thought some folk might be interested in reading this story from the dawn of the Twitter age, when all seemed bright for microblogging. It still stands up, though the figure of 30,000 Twitter hits a second was in fact more like 3,000 in Japan, but I think the result would have remained the same. The referee’s decision is always final, after all.

In Japan, Twitter blew the print media away at the the World Cup. Now, before you get your vuvuzelas in a twist, let me make one thing clear: This is not a comprehensive round-up of the pros and cons of new media vs old media and the World Cup. Frankly, I don’t have the time or patience for that. No, this is instead a highly partial account of how I experienced the World Cup. But I’m not alone.

Team sheets: Old Media v. The Twitterati

Old Media: The veteran professionals. We’re talking newspaper, television and radio journos. They may be long in the tooth, but they are, well, veteran pros – reliable, knowledgeable and skillful, right?

The Twitterati: The unpaid, frequently unwashed, hoi poloi. Some have got blogs, but most just stutter three-letter words, and little else. Amateurs.

On paper, this should be a whitewash for the pros, right? After all, they have just as much ability to get on Twitter and blog and do their iPhone apps and whatnot. And be oh-so-professional too. I mean, c’mon even The Daily Yomiuri’s reporter in South Africa was on Twitter. He had old media access and new media tools. Game over before it began, right? Er, not exactly.

Eyes on the ball

I get two papers in my household – the Japan Times and the Yomiuri Shimbun If we accept the oft-quoted but ne’er substatiated figure of 10 million readers for the Yomiuri Shimbun, and add the loose change of the JT’s 30,000 circulation, that’s a formidable audience. Just a minute. Twitter had 30,000 tweets a second at times. That’s the entire circulation of the JT in one second. Or the Yomiuri’s in 5 minutes, 33 seconds. Hmmm.

1-0 to Twitter.

Deadlines: Fatal in Japan

Pity the print boys and girls, they’d lost before a ball was kicked. Thanks to the iron law of time difference, the late games kicked off at 3.30am. Sure, a third of the early group games were on the TV at an ideal 8.30pm slot. But from the group stage on, games kicked off at 11pm or 3.30am. Way past the bedtime of the Japan Times. And even the world’s best-selling newspaper, The Yomiuri, could only just get the 11pm game result in. So what was the approach of the Japan Times? Run match reports two days later. Twitter? The results and comments were instant. Timeliness is close to godliness.

2-0 to Twitter.

Who do you trust?

Now this field has to favour the old media. I must admit even I, avid consumer of footy that I am, couldn’t manage to stay up for many 3.30am games. So, where did I go for a match report first thing in the morning? The Daily Telegraph iPhone app. Old media shoots… but doesn’t score. The shot is weak and bobbles off somewhere near the corner flag. Huh? How could old media scuff this one? Well, I only wanted the score. I tried reading the match reports on the app, but they were so hopelessly parochial, they were next to useless. If a team wasn’t playing England, the app wasn’t interested. But I was. So, off to Twitter I went where I have followers from Holland, New Zealand, Australia, America, you name it.

And I could talk to them and swap insults, jokes and insights. It was a New Zealand fan who turned me on to video streaming that enabled me to watch the Kiwis draw with Italy – a game that wasn’t being shown on TV. Did any newspaper, TV or radio station give me this info? No.

3-0 to Twitter.

Quality coverage

Oh, this has got to be with the pros. They are the experts and even if their coverage is parochial they know what’s what. OK, Paul the Octopus was a TV invention, but I never saw him on TV. I heard about him first on Twitter, three days before I read about it in the Japan Times. Oh, sorry, this bit is supposed to be about quality. You mean like AP reports on the British Army sergeant justifying his officious officiating of the final? Sepp Blatter hailing the World Cup as a great success? Boooooring. There’s a reason why these stories didn’t become viral hits.

Wait, what of the the old media showing the new media boys how to do it? Remember the Yomiuri reporter with a twitter feed? Surely he could beat the amateurs? Nope.I think the problem here is he was saving his best stuff for his (out of date) newspaper story, so sends his live (dull) observations to Twitter. Compare the last ten tweets from his “professional” feed (ie he got paid for this) which ended as soon as Japan was eliminated versus b) my “amateur” feed which covered the final. Question: Which does the better journalistic service of capturing the essence of the World Cup?:-

The Yomiuri’s Professional Feed

#DYSoccer retreats from #S.Africa today. Hope game tweets were somewhat entertaining. Keep following us @ Cheers
11:24 AM Jul 2nd via web

#Cardozo goes, #PAR wins 5-3
1:41 AM Jun 30th via web

Valdez 4-2 for #PAR. #Honda up
1:40 AM Jun 30th via web
Off bar, 3-2 #PAR!
1:39 AM Jun 30th via web

Riveros good, 3-2 #PAR. #Komano up
1:39 AM Jun 30th via web
Good! 2-2
1:38 AM Jun 30th via web

#Barrios good, 2-1. #Hasebe up
1:37 AM Jun 30th via web
Good! 1-0 #PAR. #Endo up for #JPN
1:36 AM Jun 30th via web

#Kawashima faces the moment of his career. #PAR wins cointoss, to shoot 1st. #Barreto steps up
1:35 AM Jun 30th via web
1:29 AM Jun 30th via web

#Riveros booked for handling w/3min left now
1:26 AM Jun 30th via web
#Endo booked for late tackle. He will also miss next match–if there is one
1:22 AM Jun 30th via web

1st 15 min up, changing sides. #Tamada last sub for #JPN, #Okubo out
1:13 AM Jun 30th via web

#PAR getting forward now, #JPN must be wary of counterattack
1:08 AM Jun 30th via web
#Honda lines up freekick from 25m, fires wide right
1:07 AM Jun 30th via web

#PAR w/3rd change, #Cardozo for #Santa Cruz
1:01 AM Jun 30th via web

The extra 30 min has begun
12:59 AM Jun 30th via web

My Amateur Feed

Let’s be honest: The better psychic animal won.

6:03 AM Jul 12th via Twitter for iPhone

Bloody hell, surprised I haven’t been yellow carded.
6:00 AM Jul 12th via Twitter for iPhone

Sorry, not offside. Saved us all from pens.
5:57 AM Jul 12th via Twitter for iPhone

Offside ref!!!!!!
5:55 AM Jul 12th via Twitter for iPhone

Didn’t appreciate Spanish asking ref to card Dutch defender. Sportsmanship fail.
5:49 AM Jul 12th via Twitter for iPhone

@crimeficreader Youve got it easy. At least this is in your time zone. I’ve been up since 3.30am.
5:48 AM Jul 12th via Twitter for iPhone in reply to crimeficreader

Start executing random players until someone scores.
5:43 AM Jul 12th via Twitter for iPhone

@crimeficreader Come to think of it, they are always like this. USA 94 was even more of a slog.
5:42 AM Jul 12th via Twitter for iPhone in reply to crimeficreader

Iniesta is Spanish for “no left foot”
5:37 AM Jul 12th via TweetDeck
Retweeted by you and 1 other

@robertodevido Robben is Navaho for “Dances Round Pointlessly”
5:39 AM Jul 12th via Twitter for iPhone in reply to robertodevido

OK, the first feed told you the score, and my feed didn’t. But everyone was watching the game and tweeting at the same time. We all knew the score and who was stepping up to fluff a penalty or whatever. What I wanted to hear and provide was the banter you’d get of actually being there.

The amatuers of Twitter delivered this, the pros didn’t.


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