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Baseball is dying on Twitter, you guys

Mar 12, 2014, 12:06 PM EDT

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A story about Twitter engagement with televised sports shows that (a) half of all Twitter comments about TV shows are sports-related; but (b) baseball lags the other sports:

One league that should be somewhat concerned, however, is Major League Baseball.

In addition to the fourth-worst television ratings in history, the 2013 World Series failed to crack the top 10 in Twitter engagement. That’s troubling given the matchup between teams from major media markets in Boston and St. Louis that have especially engaged and long-standing fanbases, in addition to the nationally compelling “Boston Strong” storyline following the Boston Marathon bombing.

Setting aside the questionable metrics regarding and overall utility of “Twitter engagement,” the same flaws that infect every story about baseball and TV rankings infect this one as well: a failure to appreciate baseball’s hyper-local focus and fan bases and the disperse nature of baseball as a televised event compared to things like football. Baseball is on every day, with as many as 15 games playing. It’s championship is spread out over a week.  Football is a one day a week event for the most part and its big event is the Super Bowl. It’s old territory we’ve discussed around here many, many times.

My experience with baseball on Twitter — which at this point is pretty damn extensive — is that there are extremely strong groups of users centered around specific teams. These groups are generally referred to by team names, actually: “Yankees Twitter,” “Red Sox Twitter,” etc., describing that fan base. Every beat writer is intimately familiar with team-based Twitter communities. Often because they are extremely vocal, sometimes hostile, but undoubtedly passionate. They follow games closely and “engage” I would say, even if I’m not 100% sure what Nielsen means by that term.

Put more broadly: I see no shortage of Twitter engagement in baseball. It tends to drive an awful lot of baseball coverage, marketing and everything else. I am skeptical, however, if whoever is measuring that stuff understands how baseball and baseball fandom work. If they don’t, they certainly wouldn’t be alone in that respect.

  1. phillyupperdecker - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    The only problem with Twitter and baseball is that my MLB.TV app on my XBOX360 lags behind live and Twitter is always a few pitches ahead.

    • El Bravo - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:10 PM

      Get an Xbox One and step up your game.

  2. rje49 - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    What is this Twitter of which you speak?

    • sdelmonte - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:16 PM

      It’s some sort of fish, maybe. Or a floor wax. I don’t know, either.

    • brianincbus - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:39 PM

      I believe it’s an old wooden ship, from the civil war era.

    • proudlycanadian - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:48 PM

      The twit who wrote that analysis needs to get off his or her smart phone and get a real life.

    • rbj1 - Mar 12, 2014 at 1:17 PM

      Dunno. I think it’s something violent street protesters use to overthrow authoritarian governments.

      Me, I just comment at Bronx Banter.

    • stlouis1baseball - Mar 12, 2014 at 4:04 PM

      It’s what I used to do immediately after my Mother hit me with the metal end of a fly swatter.

    • themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 12, 2014 at 6:07 PM

      You are all wrong. Its a system of communication based on carrier pigeons. Hence the term “twitter”. Duh.

    • billyboots - Mar 13, 2014 at 12:04 PM

      ..who is John Caffney and the Beaver Brown Band, thank you very much, I’ll take Animal Sounds for $800 please..

  3. halladaysbiceps - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:14 PM

    You are not correct. No one is tweeting baseball right now besides the people that get paid to write about the sport. I see it. Twitter is being dominated by the NFL and entertainment. I don’t like it, but this is fact. Baseball isn’t dying on twitter. It never dominated to die to begin with.

    • tc4306 - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:45 PM

      Could this be because many football fans can use their entire vocabulary
      twice and not exceed 140 characters?

      • halladaysbiceps - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:50 PM

        It’s possible. You raise a salient point.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 12, 2014 at 1:10 PM

        Also, maybe if baseball players were easier to catfish…

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 12, 2014 at 1:30 PM

        Baseball people can spell, and know that the second person singular is not “u” and only use “words” like ‘cuz’ when it is appropriately ironic.

        None of the above fit Twitter culture.

    • themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 12, 2014 at 6:10 PM

      I do not twitter. And I am at least as passionate about my team as you are about yours. Twitter and baseball do not necessarily go together, that’s all. Besides, with this free blog to bust each other’s chops on, who needs twitter? At least I get to spell properly and not sound like an inane boob like so many of the twitter conversations I’ve seen depicted here do.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 12, 2014 at 6:28 PM

        I like it. Some of us had a good time today making fun of some dumb media statements. I follow some players so I can see what they’re up to. It’s an easy way to get breaking news updates on the go, if you’re interested. Some people don’t send out tweets; they just follow people for news or jokes or whatever. It’s nice because you don’t have to put all your personal business out there.

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 13, 2014 at 8:06 AM

        If only I had any personal business to put anywhere. All that people would find out about me is that i’m old and boring and I like baseball. All the more reason to stay away from twitter, then

      • billyboots - Mar 13, 2014 at 12:06 PM

        I have twatted before, but I am not a fan.

  4. campcouch - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:15 PM

    They should let the bullpen tweet the shenanigans going on in there during a game.

    • baberuthslegs - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:18 PM

      Shenanigans… love it!!!

    • ch0psuey - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:19 PM

      I like that idea. “Carlos Marmol now has 5 sunflower seeds on his hat, working on 6 – #CubsPen”

  5. ch0psuey - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    I’m trying to keep the Twitter-baseball thing going….. even if I only have 11 Followers…

  6. georgewashingtonsghost - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:18 PM

    Please pardon my ignorance, but how exactly do you follow a baseball game on twitter? Is there a game feed that gives you the play by play or is it something more informal (i.e.just try to find someone who is watching the game and tweeting the plays?) I know I sound extremely old and out of touch, but I’d love to have another avenue to “watch” baseball so any guidance is greatly appreciated.

    • halladaysbiceps - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:24 PM

      You are correct. Just watch the games like I do. I use twitter to vent or talk about the games with other fans. In Philly right now, even the hardcore fans aren’t tweeting any baseball. It’s all NFL, all the time. I try to strike up baseball conversation, but no one will have any of it. They don’t care.

      • NatsLady - Mar 12, 2014 at 4:03 PM

        I wouldn’t tweet either, if I were a Filly fan. Lookin’ pretty bad this season, they are….

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:35 PM

      Please pardon my ignorance, but how exactly do you follow a baseball game on twitter?

      You can follow people whose job it is to report on the teams, like local reporters. Or follow the bot accounts like “@DidBJUptonJustStrikeOut”.

      However, these metrics are asking how many people are discussing the sport. NFL FA just started so a lot of people are talking about it, while MLB is just in spring training. Also, as Craig mentions, MLB tends to be a regional sport where most casual fans don’t care about what other teams are doing.

      • largebill - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:55 PM

        You can also go to the hashtag (#) for your team #Indians #Orioles, etc and you can see all the comments being made about your team. Obviously, not a lot of regular comments during off season, but since I check on the #Indians and the #Browns I can attest that there is a lot more football talk than baseball chatter on twitter. Also, learning a lot more than I’d like about the complaints of people living in India since they use the #Indians hashtag to discuss a lot of stuff.

    • dadawg77 - Mar 12, 2014 at 1:39 PM

      You won’t find much play by play, but beat writers will usually tweet about big at bats and the general flow of the game. Than again this is really based on White Sox beat writers, if that isn’t your team than I am not sure.

      One thing if they are talking about tweeting during the game, baseball isn’t an event that football is. Baseball tweets seem to more after the game and what teams need to do to improve than play x.

    • stlouis1baseball - Mar 12, 2014 at 4:07 PM

      Don’t sweat it George. Personally, I have no idea who it is done.
      Considering I am NOT a ghost…it speaks worse of me!

  7. djandujar - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    Twitter is for sissies.

    • halladaysbiceps - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:37 PM

      Thanks. I am a sissy.

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 12, 2014 at 6:11 PM

        I thought you were an internet tough guy?

    • sportsdrenched - Mar 12, 2014 at 2:14 PM

      So, Justin Verlander is a sissy?

      • stlouis1baseball - Mar 12, 2014 at 4:09 PM

        Heck yes he’s a sissy. Have you ever noticed how he walks? Legs all out in front of his torso leading the way. Disturbing.

  8. spudchukar - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    Twitter away all you want, just don’t bother asking me what just happened on the field when you were too busy tweeting.

    • historiophiliac - Mar 12, 2014 at 1:10 PM

      Play reviews are long enough you can definitely fire off one about your outrage in time. Also, if you hate a player’s walk up music, you have time to tweet that before the pitch. If Big Papi’s at the plate, you can make a sammich AND tweet a pic of it before he’s done. There’s time when the teams take the field, etc. Basically, if you have time to answer your husband when he asks where his shoes/keys/wallet is while you’re watching, you have time to send a tweet about the game too.

      • spudchukar - Mar 12, 2014 at 1:26 PM

        Sorry Historio, but you make the classic mistake of casual fans versus the attentive ones. The idea that there is nothing going on between pitches and ABs is common, but grossly misguided.
        I could give you a litany of examples, and on request will be happy to accommodate.

        Between innings, and during commercials, Twitter away, but if you choose to do so between ABs and pitches you are missing a lot of clues as to what will happen when you look up from the device of your choosing.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 12, 2014 at 1:29 PM

        While I appreciate you telling me how to Watch the Right Way, we are talking about casual fans watching and tweeting about it. Have a nice day.

      • spudchukar - Mar 12, 2014 at 1:33 PM

        Nobody was “telling” you anything. What constructive criticism is disdained. I would imagine you correct, or advise even your most brilliant students when the time comes.

        I appreciate all fans, casual and otherwise. It was in response to your statement that there was plenty of time to Tweet, between pitches. I merely pointed out that there is an enormous amount of activity is occurring while you are distracted by the device of your choice. You choose, makes no difference to me, but my guess is your students would be better off if they paid attention to their instructors suggestions.

      • Reflex - Mar 12, 2014 at 2:35 PM

        Were I at an actual game I would agree with you Spud, but on tv? The actions they show on tv are rarely the ‘downtime’ activities that actually would tell an informed fan anything. I get shots of people spitting, grabbing their crotches, announcers who think they should be on camera, panning crowd shots, views over the wall of the city skyline, up close views of hitters faces. What I don’t get are the views of the signals from the base coaches, the dugout, or other relay systems, I rarely get a good view of the defensive shift, and only sometimes is the camera in place in time to see the sign from the catcher to the pitcher.

        Basically Historio is correct. When watching a game, even a hardcore fan has plenty of time to tweet or in some cases make a sandwich without missing anything.

      • spudchukar - Mar 12, 2014 at 4:32 PM

        Nah, most of what you pan occurs between innings, and sometimes between hitters. Seldom does the camera move off pitcher/batter/catcher between pitches, where the most substantial nuanced information comes. I agree TV could do much better, but there is still plenty to see between pitches, and sometimes even between hitters, particularly when the hitter is stepping into the box.

      • Reflex - Mar 13, 2014 at 12:47 AM

        Apparently you have your own custom cameras set up. You are viewing a very different experience than the one that is on my tv. I’m envious of your setup.

        Also, don’t tell people how to enjoy the game. Or think that you are other people’s ‘instructor’ on it. People are free to enjoy it how they see fit. Not watching the parts you think they should watch does not automatically make them casual fans. I get told all the time that I’m not a ‘real fan’ because I don’t have a rooting interest. Its a BS argument. I just like a good game of ball and don’t care much who is playing. By the same token, someone using twitter between hitters is potentially just as hardcore as you sitting their with your special setup seeing all the stuff that rarely seems to be shown on my screen.

        Also, schooling Historio is out of bounds. She’s as hardcore as they come. Get over the fact that some people watch differently than you. And their enjoyment is just as valid as yours.

  9. bitlrc - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:39 PM

    In this edition of HBT, Craig dismisses a study based on empirical evidence because it conflicts with his anecdotal experiences.

    Coming soon, Craig derides every major sports writer in the country who attempts to make an argument about the value of Player X based on anything less than advanced statistical data.

    • jkcalhoun - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:51 PM

      Huh? Craig is commenting on a Bloomberg story making an assertion without justification that baseball’s lagging “Twitter engagement” is “troubling”.

      If baseball is troubled, I’d like to be troubled too. All the way to the bank.

      The story goes on to point out that MLB is “ahead of the curve when it comes to sports and technology.” If I were writing the article, writing that very sentence would compel me to ask myself the question of whether baseball fans have sufficient means to be electronically engaged apart from Twitter, of whether the Twitter numbers are less relevant than the article to that point assumes.

      Does the Bloomberg writer ask himself that question? He does not. Perhaps because if he did, he’d be troubled by the realization that he doesn’t really have a story.

      • jkcalhoun - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:53 PM

        Sorry, apparently I should have written “ask herself the question” and “She does not” etc. I didn’t check the byline until after I posted. Mea culpa.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 12, 2014 at 1:13 PM

        Thank you for the correction.

      • paperlions - Mar 12, 2014 at 1:21 PM

        Exactly.

        All you have to do is look at the ever growing profits in baseball to know that twitter action is not correlated to popularity, profit, fan interest, or the willingness of fans to spend money on baseball.

      • dadawg77 - Mar 12, 2014 at 1:46 PM

        If a lack of Twitter engagement is caused by baseball being less popular with younger generations than it could be a symptom of major long term problem. But that is about it.

  10. tc4306 - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    More “baseball is dying” nonsense.
    Quoting national ratings numbers for a regional sport is idiotic.
    The World Series will never be the Super Bowl.
    For a better read on the health of baseball, check attendance,
    player salaries and regional television deals.

    • Patrick - Mar 12, 2014 at 1:32 PM

      Yup, total nonsense. The author conflates activity on Twitter with the overall health of the sport. She never really supports how increased Twitter activity leads to more revenue for the sport.

      However, Twitter probably sees this as a problem. If they want to push ads to more people (and they have to given their insane IPO) then they would want more involvement from Twitter users during the baseball games. Or, they need to figure out how baseball fans use Twitter, cater to their usage patterns, and stop hoping that they will turn up en masse on Twitter during the playoffs.

  11. karlkolchak - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    This is because watching baseball takes something most twitter-twits do not possess–an attention span.

    And get those kids off my lawn.

  12. indaburg - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    Twitter and baseball demographics don’t appear to overlap much. The average Twitter user is young–the average user is about 37 years old and female. Baseball, as has been extensively covered on HBT and other sites, is a sport with an aging fan base. I believe the average of the WS viewer last year was 54 years old. It would make sense that baseball is not hugely popular on Twitter.

    • historiophiliac - Mar 12, 2014 at 1:20 PM

      That makes me wonder if there is a disconnect between MLB and female viewers. Aside from the pink bat thing, is MLB doing something to encourage female participation? Women watch baseball. Is there a reason they don’t tweet about it? I think those are questions to ask — instead of just assuming it’s a dying sport.

  13. kalinedrive - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    I am sorry. All these years I have been watching baseball for my own entertainment and, aside from occasional text messages with my brothers, I have not felt the need to share my thoughts with the twitterverse. Do I have to turn in my fan card, or can I redeem myself by tweeting about every game with hashtags? #MLB #Tigers #Cabrera #MVP #Verlander #CYA #TweetEverything #TwitterRules

    • stlouis1baseball - Mar 12, 2014 at 4:14 PM

      Great post Al.
      Just for the record, this one was my favorite…
      “#TweetEverything.” With “#CYA” being a distant 2nd.

  14. Bar None - Mar 12, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    3 million people attended baseball games at Wrigley last year. Less than 1 million attended home games of the Seahawks and they won the Super Bowl and had home field advantage through the playoffs (that means 2 preseason games, 8 regular season games, and 2 playoff games for a total of 12) so I have a hard time comparing TV viewing of the NFL to MLB. I’m a Cubs fan, I would say at least 40% of their games are televised between 1-4pm during work week. That automatically eliminates me from watching them. So using the Neilson stats, I obviously care less about the Cubs than I do the Packers, the NFL team I root for, whose games were all on Sunday, holidays, or Thursday/Monday evening. Dumb argument from non-baseball fans.

  15. Bar None - Mar 12, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    Plus we baseball fans can make fun of Craig. Florio has no sense of humor.

  16. shanabartels - Mar 12, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    Are they under the impression that “engagement” requires hashtags or something? I don’t follow any idiots who still use hashtags. That’s so 2009. But we talk about baseball all the time.

    • Bar None - Mar 12, 2014 at 2:29 PM

      hashtag – are you serious?

  17. sportsdrenched - Mar 12, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    I’d be much more inclined to take the results at face value if they did the study in the spring, as opposed to the fall when half the fanbases had checked out. I would like to see how the Twitter engangement of a full MLB Schedule in May or June compares to an NFL Sunday.

    As for Twitter itself. It’s a tool like anything else, and you can make it do whatever you want. With a few exceptions I use twitter to talk to, and interact with other like minded sports fans. My Twitter TL has a lot of baseball because I follow a lot of baseball people. It’s another way to engange into whatever you’re interested in. And you can turn it on or off whenever you want.

  18. lanflfan - Mar 12, 2014 at 4:01 PM

    Baseball is good, I wish Twitter would die.

  19. askewqueue - Mar 12, 2014 at 11:37 PM

    First, the quote inserted concerns the World Series, not major league baseball. Is baseball dying on Twitter? Hell if I know, but I’m pretty sure measuring activity from the World Series is a pretty horrible way to determine if it is or not. Did it have the Boston Strong storyline going for it? That might have given it a slight bump, but my guess is that although the marathon tragedy made plenty of folks fans of the city of Boston, few were going to change their views about Boston’s sports teams because of it. And there simply wasn’t any novelty at having the Cardinals and Red Sox in the World Series. For someone that might be a casual to intermittently engaged viewer, these two teams were about as noncompelling a matchup as any (or at least until the networks and league office can figure out how to get the Yankees and Red Sox in the World Series against each other).

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