September 22, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Empowerment vs. Entitlement

Empowerment vs. Entitlement

Social media opens the doors for many to be empowered to share news and views with others.  Where once these conversations would have taken place over the dinner table or at the water cooler, now the influence of each individual becomes magnified as more people are able to consume their content.  A delicate balance must be achieved, however, to ensure that this actual empowerment does not become a feeling of entitlement.

We all must remember that there’s a huge difference between what is and what ought to be.  Simply because we have this newfound sense of power through information distribution does not mean that we have an absolute right to do anything we want.  For instance, much has been said about attempts by the NCAA to restrict live blogging of collegiate sporting events.  Josh Catone of ReadWriteWeb laments the “War Against Live Blogging” and complains, “how much unnecessary pain will bloggers have to endure because of institutions that just don’t get it?”  He quotes the lawyer for a blogger ejected from the press box of a game for live blogging: “Once a player hits a home run, that’s a fact. It’s on TV. Everybody sees it. [The NCAA] can’t copyright that fact. The blog wasn’t a simulcast or a recreation of the game. It was an analysis.”

And they’re both precisely wrong.  Bloggers are not forced to “endure” anything because institutions “don’t get it.”  The NCAA puts on events for which people needed passes or tickets to attend.  As part of that process, the sponsor of an event has every right to determine how that content is used.  The terms of the ticket or pass clearly give that right to the event organizers.  Should these sporting or other events permit live blogging?  Perhaps, but nobody has a right to live blog.  (As I have noted before, I have live blogged events myself and have not ever been asked to stop; were I asked, I would do so immediately because it is not up to me to decide the policy.)

A similar sense of entitlement seems to be coming over many when it comes to the topic of who owns data online.  Specifically, the battle lines this week have been drawn between Robert Scoble and Facebook.  For his part, Scoble admits to running a screen-scraping script prohibited by Facebook’s Terms of Service.  The social networking company shut off his account as a result of this activity.  Again, we can debate the merits of the decision, which many have, but some go so far as to say it isn’t Facebook’s information to control. 

The Wall Street Journal’s Kara Swisher, for whom I have much respect and appreciation, gets it precisely wrong when she writes:

THE INFORMATION ON FACEBOOK IS THEIRS AND NOT FACEBOOK’S.

Sorry for the caps, but I wanted to be as clear as I could: All that information on Facebook is Robert Scoble’s. So, he should-even if he agreed to give away his rights to move it to use the service in the first place (he had no other choice if he wanted to join)-be allowed to move it wherever he wants.

Swisher glosses over the fact that Robert had the right to choose whether to use Facebook or not.  The terms clearly stated what rights the user does and does not have.  As many have noted, other social networking services do not have as stringent Terms of Use, and he was free to use those.  Obviously, he found that the benefits of Facebook over the other services outweighed such considerations. 

And that’s really the point, isn’t it?  We all have choices. All of the individuals I have mentioned here are smart, thoughtful people entitled to their own opinions.  In the case of both examples I have cited, I’m not trying to say that Facebook or the NCAA shouldn’t reconsider their policies.  But ultimately, we all must be careful not to take our social media empowerment and attempt to convert it into a social media entitlement.

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About The Author

Chip Griffin is the Founder of CustomScoop. He writes and speaks frequently about data-driven public relations. You can follow him on Twitter at @ChipGriffin.

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12 Comments

  1. tdefren@shiftcomm.com'
    Todd Defren

    You make a good point. I wonder if another socnet could make Data Portaibility/Ownership part of a compelling differentiator, to take on FB? At some point all this bad PR for FB will result in a backlash, and someone else will benefit.

  2. chipgriffin@gmail.com'
    Chip Griffin

    I think it takes more than data portability to be a viable competitor. It will be difficult to recreate the critical mass that Facebook has achieved, though it certainly can be done. I just wonder how many people are willing to vote with their feet over this issue. I don’t think the vast majority of people are as concerned with privacy and data ownership as the bleeding edge crowd.

  3. davef@davefleet.com'
    Dave Fleet

    Great post Chip, and very true. Regardless of whether or not NCAA or FB’s policies are flawed, attendees/users agree to abide by those policies. The ability to say whatever you want doesn’t equal the right to get whatever you want.
    If the organizations realize the policies are flawed, they should of course reconsider them. Failure to do that, as Todd says, leaves the door open for others to compete against that weakness.

  4. chipgriffin@gmail.com'
    Chip Griffin

    Dave, the only thing I would add, though, is that we must also consider that the policies may not be flawed. It may well be that either or both of these policies (or countless others I could have cited) are actually in the best interest of the company, even if some users/customers/media are offended.
    Ultimately, if people want to take something or blog something, it means there is value there, presumably. So to argue that you are not taking value from NCAA/FB would be ludicrous. The question, then, becomes whether or not the NCCA/FB feel they are facing a net gain/loss of value. It’s not an exact science, but one that companies and consumers must both make every day.

  5. brian@future-works.com'
    Brian Solis

    Chip, you bring up some great points. Here’s a different view…
    What if throughout history, important new movements were consistently thwarted by policies and never challenged?
    As I’ve said over and over again, it it weren’t for pushing back, we couldn’t move things forward – regardless of the TOS.

  6. chipgriffin@gmail.com'
    Chip Griffin

    Brian, by all means, push back. I’m just saying folks should argue for a change and explain why — including making the case as to why it is in the company’s interest to do so. That approach would surely be more effective than expressing indignation and proclaiming a right to do it.

  7. geoff@livingstonbuzz.com'
    Geoff Livingston

    Totally disagree with you Chip. THis is a big mistake on the NCAA’s part, and it surounds protecting their media partners. Instead of serving their fans who pay for the tickets and read/watch their media partners. They have cut off their noses to spite their faces.
    The issue of entitlement is an appropriate one. It’s also a free country. People are free not to buy the product anymore. And sooner or later one of these leagues will realize it’s in their interest to cater to their content-generating fans. That’s when a competitive advantage will be struck, and what was a “entitlement” will become normal.
    In my own work with a MLB team, they are very aware of the blogging fans, and actually want to engage them directly. They see direct communications as an advantage.

  8. brian@future-works.com'
    Brian Solis

    I think they are making those points and have been explaining the benefits to businesses for quite sometime. Scoble, Canter, and many others have definitely led the charge for as far back as I can remember…just something to think about. This isn’t new. What is new, is that pushing back is finally gaining traction.
    🙂

  9. chipgriffin@gmail.com'
    Chip Griffin

    Geoff, the problem the NCAA likely foresees isn’t today when a handful of amateur bloggers are live blogging, but what happens when the audience grows? The NCAA derives about 85 percent of its revenue from the sale of media rights.
    If people are allowed to create content without paying a licensing fee and that causes the big media companies to negotiate lower payments, then the NCAA loses significant revenue. There’s a limit to how many tickets can be sold, so it isn’t as if you can argue that more ticket sales will result — and in any case not enough to offset 85 percent of their current revenue stream.
    This isn’t to say that perhaps there are other revenue models the NCAA could explore in the future, but this is certainly a serious consideration for the NCAA.

  10. rob@awakenedvoice.com'
    Rob Safuto

    Bravo Mr. Griffin. My feelings go beyond the issue of respecting terms of service with a service such as Facebook. Do we have personal terms of service with our ‘friends’ on social networks?
    Consider the fact that Mr. Scoble authorized Plaxo to scrape people’s email addresses into the Plaxo database. Given Plaxo’s sketchy history with spam I would want the chance to give permission before my personal data was mined by Plaxo. How will Plaxo use that data?
    I’m not down with this wild west approach to handling other people’s personal information on social networks. Hence my activity on these networks is down considerably in recent months.

  11. dhaslam@topazpartners.com'
    Doug Haslam

    The sports metaphor is apt and I agree with Geoff on the NCAA, that they are cutting off their nose to spit their face. This reminds me of the 1920’s (no I wasn’t there), when this newfangled thing called radio came out, baseball clubs banned broadcasts of home games because they thought if the game were on the radio for free, no one would come to the ballpark. Of course now they have reversed course and embraced radio– and TV– as promotional arms of the game. Blogging — yes, even live-blogging– can serve the same purpose if they let it. Sometimes setting information free a little bit can send it back to you tenfold.
    As far as the entitlement; yes, if you break the rules you break the rules. But Scoble has in effect done (let’s forget for a moment he was test-driving some software for Plaxo) is commit an act of civil disobedience, just like we learned in our civics classes.
    We can expect to be punished for breaking rules– don’t want to go to ‘Nam? Dodge the draft and go to jail, right? But if enough people agree, the policy will change. Certainly the anti-war movement affected government policy in the Vietnam era. That’s the dilemma Facebook finds itself in; will enough people grouse, or move to a different service (not easy but not that hard) to make Facebook rethink their policy? Maybe.
    Will enough people demand live-blogging accounts at games that the media responsible will twist the NCAA’s arms, convince them it’s a win-win, and let it happen? Maybe.
    Both situations will be interesting to watch

  12. geoff@livingstonbuzz.com'
    Geoff Livingston

    I see your point, Chip., but market reality already shows that happening. ABC dumped Monday Night Football for profitability reasons, and the NHL sat on its network sword. This is before the rise of social media.
    I’m not saying traditioanl media will go away — far from it. There’s a point in time for all of this — regardless of sports,politics, etc. — coming soon where people will say, “Yay, nice blog post. Time to go read the real report in the paper.”
    At the same time, social media numbers continue to increase, and teams can’t afford to ignore this. But a sports team and league’s ultimate buyer is not even networks, but fans, and even more importantly, corporate seat holders. Communicating to constituents through both traditional and new media makes sense to me.
    And as to the media companies, they are tthere to serve the same people. It may be they are a little out of touch and are now being forced to do a better job. The Washington Post wrote a fascinating article on how the sports media now use blogs as primary sources for story ideas: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/31/AR2007123102194.html

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