Monday, 8 August 2016

Why The IOC Social Media Clampdown Is Bad for the Olympics - Anurag Harsh

The opening line on the top left hand corner of the International Olympic Committee's ("IOC") website reads "The IOC is committed to building a better world through sport"

It was thus interesting that the IOC enacted unilateral prohibitions on media that undercuts their mainstream news sources. This despite estimates that of the three billion people who tuned into the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro yesterday, 85% were anticipated to be on a “second screen.”

It’s yet another example of how out of touch legacy organizations are and of how the digital and physical worlds are progressively overlapping.
The IOC Tries to Prevent Real-Time Sharing

Four years ago a record-breaking 15 million fans downloaded the official London Olympics app. At that point, the shift to mobile was underway as 60% of traffic to the official London Olympics website came from a mobile device. Now, the official app for the Rio games is expected to double the numbers of previous Olympics to 30 million downloads.

Of all the changes brought about by the digital revolution, the most salient one is that in the past four years we have all become broadcasters. Viewers crave unedited, unbiased and authentic opinions or insights in real-time. And more and more avenues crop up to give us what we want.

So where does that leave traditional media sources?


Consider that NBC paid $1.23 billion USD for the 2016 Summer Olympics. In part this helps us understand why the IOC (International Olympics Committee) is attempting to lockdown rather than embrace real-time sharing. Even press guidelines are strict, prohibiting GIF and meme sharing.

I suspect the IOC is protecting their business deals and sponsors who have paid a king’s ransom for broadcasting rights. But they are swimming against the tide. Sharing GIFs on social media, blogging, and tweeting are all cornerstones of modern media and a linchpin of digital life.

Additionally, the use of Olympic Material transformed into graphic animated formats such as animated GIFs (i.e. GIFV), GFY, WebM, or short video formats such as Vines and others, is expressly prohibited. IOC

What’s worse, this attitude is dangerously out of touch with audiences across the globe. Memes and animated GIFs ensure the longevity of a topic. These tropes keep conversations going well past the actual occurrence. The IOC would be wise to harness this power as opposed to squelching it.

It’s a tragic paradox that many businesses are desperately trying to master the art of creating highly shareable social media clips while the old guard is concentrating on locking it down. The Olympic Games are highly shareable in and of themselves. By enacting a moratorium on sharing and even going as far as to restrict the use of terms such as, "summer", "gold", "games", "effort", "victory", "Rio" and "2016" in relation to the games, they are damaging business, not benefitting it. Anyway, the Internet will have the last laugh.

Yet Another Organization that Fails to Transform


IOC's social media clampdown is further evidence that many organizations and businesses are still foolishly clinging to business models of the past. The Olympic journey from London to Rio has taken four years, and our world has changed dramatically in this short space of time.

For the Olympic Games to remain relevant to online audiences that view and share what they see across myriad devices, the IOC must embrace sharing rather than restrict users.

The Olympic motto is "Faster, Higher, Stronger." Maybe the IOC should practice what they preach.

Anurag Harsh
Founding Executive Ziff Davis, World's Largest Tech, Gaming & Men's Lifestyle Publisher | Author & Columnist

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