Sochi media and social media: A perfect fit

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Posted: Monday, February 10, 2014 10:13 am | Updated: 11:14 am, Mon Feb 10, 2014.

SOCHI, Russia – Sex or smartphone? If you had to give up one, which would it be?

Well, in a recent survey of your average Americans, 20 percent said they couldn’t go without sex.

One would guess the number would be lower for the phone, right?

Guess again. Some 26 percent said uh-uh, I’m keeping the phone. Love will have to wait.

By extension, 28 percent said they couldn’t do without the Internet, a number which tells me that the phenomenon known as “social media’’ has reached an alltime popularity zenith.

So why should the Winter Olympics journalism landscape be any different?

A quick stroll through the section cordoned off for the media giants on Monday showed the usual names – New York Times, Associated Press, USA Today and Sports Illustrated.

And mixing it up with the big boys?

Yahoo! That’s who.

Yep, while the mainstream monsters still have a big chunk of the prestige around here, Yahoo! and the like are growing powers.

For one thing, they’re all about the “now’’ and with a nine-hour time difference back to the U.S., that’s huge. People don’t want to wait until television primetime to get their images and news, they want them this minute.

In fact, some probably would be willing to give up a roll in the sack just to get the latest update on Sochi’s toilet troubles.

I stopped by Yahoo! (is it necessary to keep using that exclamation point for every reference?) Sports studios here at the Main Media Center to get an inside take on the whole thing.

So is this really Social Media Olympics I? There was a presence at Vancouver in 2010 and London in 2012, but now it seems like the Twitter people are close to the top of the slalom mountain here at Sochi.

“Everyone was waiting for the Games to begin, and then all the issues they (the Olympics) were having,’’ Yahoo! Sports deputy director Joe Lago tells me. “The hotels, things like that, the oddities of whatever event you’re at, that’s perfect for social media because it just goes viral.’’

Now, more than ever, the general public has access to its favorite athletes (and vice versa) by way of interactive methods provided by social media.

That’s all part of the process. And when something goes off the tracks, everyone hears about it. We all have to see a crash, right?

“It’s the wacky stuff that trends,’’ Lago says. “Unfortunately, the lack of preparation for these Games lent itself to that.

“All of our writers on Twitter are very active on that. We’re not the only media organization here that’s active on social media but maybe we have the worst media hotels, I don’t know.’’

Between their studio in Sochi and their U.S. “war room’’ in Santa Monica, Calif., the Yahoo! Sports folks are never off the air.

Pretty soon, this format will be “mainstream’’ and non-social media institutions could be dinosaurs.

“We’re aware of the traditional ways of covering events like this,’’ Lago says. “If you’re still doing that, you’re behind the curve.’’

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