New media include a variety of communication platforms, most of them Internet-based. They range from traditional Web sites and social networking Web sites (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, MySpace) to sport Web logs (i.e., blogs) and e-commerce systems. As of 2009 more than 1.7 billion people worldwide were using the Internet (Internet World Stats, 2010). Many of these users go online to access sports information. Sport Web sites such as ESPN.com, SportsLine.com, FoxSports.com, Sports.Yahoo.com, NBCSports.com, SI.com, SportingNews.com, and NFL.com frequently draw heavy traffic. Growth in recent years has been significant. The percentage of the North American population using the Internet was over 74% in 2009, a number that has grown by 134% since 2000 (Internet World Stats, 2010).
The emergence of new media has already had a profound effect on how many sport communication professionals practice their profession, and it seems certain that more changes are on the way. One advantage that many sport organizations have already realized through the Internet is the ability to disseminate messages to a mass audience quickly and inexpensively without having to go through the mass media. Only a few years ago, sport media relations professionals were completely reliant on the mass media to convey messages that originated with the sport organization through news releases. If the media did not use the releases, the information simply was not available to the public. Now, sport public relations practitioners can post that information on organizational Web sites where interested parties can access it at their convenience. Or the public relations professionals can use a distribution list to e-mail the information to interested parties who have previously provided their addresses to the organization. These options offer a level of message control previously unattainable in the field.
Additionally, the Internet provides a forum for a two-way flow of communication with the public. Many sport organizations are only now beginning to take advantage of this opportunity. Some sport managers are doing some simple but important things. For example, a number of prominent sport figures are now using blogs and microblogs (e.g., Twitter) to share information with the public. Others periodically set up chat sessions in which they answer questions and respond to comments from audience members.
Of course, new technology also has a way of making things more complicated, and sport communication professionals are finding this to be true too. Media relations specialists in particular are dealing with a couple of challenging issues. First, the specialists are receiving more requests from bloggers for media credentials to events and interview access to players and coaches. Another issue that they are facing is the growing amount of noncredible information (e.g., false rumors about a sport organization) and unauthorized credible information appearing on the Internet. These issues, and others, will call on sport public relations professionals to adjust their strategies as new technologies continue to develop.
Given the growing prevalence of technology in the field, one additional concern has begun to receive attention in recent years. Some sport communication professionals have become so reliant on technology that they may underuse the direct communication skills necessary to be effective (Battenfield & Kent, 2007). Although the ability to develop message content for online distribution is a powerful communication tool, informal interactions in the workplace and telephone conversations with members of important publics remain essential for effective sport communication.