Weird. Wild. Overwhelming. Sensory overload. Food trucks. Everything you have heard about SXSW in Austin, Texas, is true. I had the chance to attend for the first time and even serve on a panel as part of SXSports with colleagues Kurt Kamperman from the U.S. Tennis Association, Jeff Price from the PGA of America and USA TODAY columnist Christine Brennan as the moderator.
USA TODAY and others have done a great job of identifying various hot trends in tech, music and film from SXSW (or “South By” for short), but I wanted to share observations primarily through a sports organization lens. Below were the top trends I saw that impact USA Swimming and/or the sports industry:
Social Video – The trendy SXSW topic is instant video sharing, and the Meerkat app in particular. Think of it as the love child of YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat. Any phone can create an instant webcast of someone’s day at the park, a conference speaker, staff meeting or sports event. Meerkat won SXSW with its buzz, but Twitter will be launching a similar app called Periscope soon also. Grab your phone, download the app, start recording, send an invitation to your followers on Twitter and you are an instant broadcaster. The same way that WordPress or Tumblr removed the barrier to publishing, Meerkat and Periscope remove the barrier to broadcasting. This will be a major topic for sports leagues and properties.
It’s All About Me – USA Swimming like many organizations has multiple digital audiences (ex. coaches, athletes, volunteers, fans) so why do we treat them the same and give them the same content? Personalization tools for online and mobile are more prevalent and help direct specific content or program info to the right audiences. It also helps direct people to the right programs. With more social channels than ever, it’s become more important to deliver the right content to the right audience vs. the fire hose approach.
There is No Off-Season – Every sport now has a 12-month calendar and no off-season when it comes to fan engagement. The NFL is the best example of this by creating properties around the Draft, the Scouting Combine and more. These events diversify the content calendar and keep them relevant. That also means more clutter to breakthrough, but no property is settling for promotion during their traditional seasons any more.
South Bites – Creating “snackable” content has the potential to be a cringe-worthy buzz word, but the concept is simple. Take one piece of content, such as a presentation and adapt it to different mediums. For example, a presentation before an audience in a conference room could be webcast live on Meerkat, then archived on YouTube, video highlights would then be shared on Facebook, text transcripts created for the web, sound bites will become text for Twitter, a short clip produced for Vine, pictures posted on Instagram and so on. That doesn’t include the infographic you produce to plug into some of the platforms. You get the idea.
Diversity is a Team Sport – As I sat in a presentation from Pandora and Twitter talking about the lack of diversity in the tech industry, it was déjà vu of the same conversations in sports. We use all the same terms, such as “we need to reflect America.” Different industry. Same issue. The most insightful comment came from the head of diversity at Twitter when she said that diversity needs to be a team sport vs. being isolated in the organization.
Blurred Lines – What we know now as “advertorial” is euphemistically now called “combining content and commerce.” It’s really the same thing, but one is a pariah and the other is the future of cool. Outlets such as Thrillist or Buzzfeed are blurring the lines of journalism, and being unapologetic in the process. And Millennial readers don’t care! The “church and state” lines that used to separate sales & editorial are ceasing to exist.
Geek is the New Cool – Data analytics, measurement and knowing your customers is becoming a competitive advantage. Thrillist views itself as a data company vs. a content company and they can deliver extremely targeted and specific demos to advertisers. Knowing their readers is their differentiator. They feel advertisers want a certain audience delivered vs. buying a specific media outlet and those with ad networks to deliver that audience will win. Knowing your traffic is no longer good enough. Now you need to know demos, behavior, preferences and even sentiment to your brand.
Sports Docs – The documentary business is alive and well, especially sports documentaries. For the SXSW Film Festival that began as I was leaving, the largest genre was sports documentaries. Documentaries on space travel and food followed behind.
Virtual Reality – I had the chance to test a virtual reality service along with Christine Brennan of USA TODAY. Putting on the goggles placed us in the huddle of a football game and allowed us to see the play develop and receivers open up holes against the defense as well as 360-degree view of the stadium. This will see rapid growth from major leagues and properties in player development and fan engagement. For players, imagine being the 4th string quarterback but still be able to get “reps” on reading defenses. For properties, it’s a double-edged sword for fans as “feeling like you are there” could hurt ticket sales and the experience of actually “being there.”
Moving Screen – In tech-speak, the TV or PC has always been considered the “first screen” and then mobile is the “second screen.” Some leaders such as MLB Advanced Media are starting to refer to the mobile device as the first screen as more users consume content on the go. This also reinforced the need for mobile and responsive site and app designs. However, even the biggest media companies agree to focus on the story first and then platform, second.
Noticeably Absent – I searched the SXSW schedule app every way I could think of and there wasn’t one session on the future of print or magazines. The only physical newspapers I saw included the free Austin American Statesman special section, the free samples in my hotel lobby and the New York Times display in the trade show area to sell subscriptions.
Anti-Social – Despite being a tech-focused crowd and a mobile-first audience, marketing experts shared that in-person and face-to-face interactions still drive 2/3 of word of mouth effectiveness on purchase vs. social media. Score one for the terrestrial world.
Also, if you want a lighter look at SXSW, visit my Lessons & Confessions of a First-Time SXSW Attendee blog!
What trends did you see?