Let the Live Blog be live
We here at Golf.com love our live blog. It's informative, interactive and, we hope, entertaining and fun. We have regulars who praise us and regulars who berate us, making fun of our writing styles and haircuts. Sometimes we have so many readers we can't keep up with the comments. Other times, it's crickets in there.
The top brass at the PGA Tour hates our live blog. They always have. For years they've sent threatening e-mails asking us to cease and desist, but we've always been able to keep going because our bloggers have worked off tournament grounds, primarily in our offices in midtown Manhattan.
But on Thursday, the Tour escalated things with the following e-mail, sent by Ty Votaw, executive vice president of communications for the Tour:
"As you know, our media regulations prohibit the use of real-time, play-by-play transmission in digital outlets. In order to enforce these regulations, beginning this year, we will revoke the on-site credentials of all journalists affiliated with outlets that post play-by-play coverage, whether those posts are originating from tournament site or otherwise."
Ty, don't you understand we're on your side? We love the PGA Tour, and so do our readers. Why don't you love us back? How does our interacting with readers while watching your broadcast on TV hurt your product and partners? And really, you're going to revoke the PGA Tour credentials for everyone who works for Golf.com, Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine just because one of our staffers told a few thousand readers that Tiger Woods missed left with his approach on No. 6? These three outlets of the Sports Illustrated Golf Group dedicate huge resources to writing about and promoting your Tour and your players. Does it really make sense to banish the lot of us because we want to tell our readers what's happening in your tournaments?
Look, we get where the Tour is coming from. The official broadcast partners pay big bucks for the rights to live tournament coverage, and the Tour wants to protect this valuable product. PGATour.com has Live@ streaming video and Shot Tracker and their own live blogs (see that, more promotion!). The Tour also announced earlier this week that it will be live-streaming its weekend broadcasts on PGATour.com and CBSSports.com, and the executives from the Tour and CBS want people to tune in. But it's unrealistic to think they can force people to only tune in to officially sanctioned options for real-time updates.
As proud as we are of our coverage, we realize that our live blog is a second screen, a complementary form of coverage that primarily serves to enhance the viewing experience of hardcore fans. Those who want to banter while they watch TV or an online stream may tune into our blog or check Twitter to get updates and see what our writers think, but few choose us exclusively.
Yes, some readers might get all of their updates from us because they can't get to a TV or they'd prefer to read our typing instead of checking the data on Shot Tracker, but are we really a threat to live video coverage?
The majority of superfans who seek out our live blog are watching TV and online streams, monitoring Shot Tracker, messaging their friends, reading other live blogs, checking their stocks, reading their e-mail and trying like hell to make their bosses think they're working. Heck, we're watching TV and online streams and Shot Tracker and checking e-mail and trying to figure out what we're going to have for dinner. It's a multi-screen world, and there's no use fighting it.
How could it hurt the PGA Tour's product to have us engaging fans over their tournament, or to have our reporters Tweeting about the live action? On course or off, we're fostering the dedication of the Tour's most obsessive fans, the people who aren't satisfied to find out what happened at the end of the day or even after every hole. They want to know immediately how much Bo Van Pelt has left for birdie, and we aim to please.
By trying so hard to protect their product, the Tour is actually limiting it. Shutting up live bloggers and tweeters is not silencing the competition, it's cutting off an incredibly powerful free publicity machine.
I dare say that the suits in Ponta Vedra are free-market types, so they should understand that all this competition is good for business. No matter how great our live blog is, we're still blogging about their product, and our "live" coverage is still no substitute for watching the shots on TV. Trying to stifle that coverage doesn't do anyone any good.