by Kevin Allman
By now Saints fans and Twitter aficionados have heard the news: Advance Publications, the New York-based parent company of The Times-Picayune, was paying certain New Orleans Saints players to use their personal Twitter accounts to pimp the T-P's new Saints forum page. Like all things Advance, the new Saints forum takes good content and puts it in an ugly, hard-to-navigate wrapper — but rather than sink some cash into redeveloping a website that's been a mistake for more than a decade, Advance thought it could drum up some interest in the page by getting Drew Brees, Jon Vilma, Lance Moore, Tracy Porter and Pierre Thomas to endorse it.
The Times-Picayune had no say in this matter, as Jaquetta White makes clear in a very good, painful, honest story that doesn't pull punches when it discusses this breach of journalistic ethics. The marketing foolery is being discussed over at Poynter's Medianews, as well as Big Lead Sports.
1. Journalistic ethics aside: This is an act by a bunch of out-of-town beancounters who don't care about cheapening the very real relationship between the Saints and their fans.
2. The timing on this couldn't be worse for morale at 3800 Howard, as the paper is concluding its most recent round of staff buyouts this month, and employees are waiting to see who's staying, who's going ... and who's going to have to take on the extra work.
3. It's also a slap in the face to the sports department that built the very section Advance is cheapening. The T-P has good writers and editors, with no phony prima donnas or lazybones phoning it in.
4. Will it affect the sports department's coverage? Certainly not. Truth is, the Saints organization isn't fond of the media in general, regardless of whether the coverage is good or bad; it's impossible to imagine Jeff Duncan, John DeShazier, Mike Triplett or anyone else there feeling pressured to turn into a bunch of fanboys or pull their editorial punches based on this one stupid deal.
5. No one's talked about the players' role in this, but they can't be getting rich from 140-letter dispatches urging their fans to read nola.com. (Certainly Advance can't be paying as well as Vicks VapoRub.) So: is it a deal cut by the Saints organization itself? And who exactly has access to the individual Saints' Twitter accounts?
6. White's story says that the tweets were supposed to be marked #sponsor or #spon (?) to show they were bought and paid for. But these are football players, not journalists, so of course they don't always remember to follow the rules:
7. Saints players endorsing a corporate website is kind of a kick in the teeth to some of the homegrown, fan-driven Saints websites and forums, such as Who Dat Zone and Canal Street Chronicles. Would be nice if they could throw the little guys a little Twitter love, gratis.
8. Why stop there? Why not pay the Junior League of New Orleans and the members of the Boston Club to tweet about Nell Nolan's column? Us sports-lovin' Who Dats love us some fantasy debutante leagues, after all.
9. The new Saints forum page is described as "a new home for Saints news and community interaction. The new page greatly enhances the tools you need to read about your Saints and talk with the rest of the Who Dat Nation." One: New Orleanians don't need "tools" to read about the Saints. Two: Most of the other newspaper chains in the country have finally figured out people go to their websites to read the paper, not to replicate the Facebook experience. But Advance Publications is still trying to sell "community," not journalism.
10. And — confidential to Advance Publications: if you're hell-bent on doing this, the least you could do is get the goddamn little helmets right. Red??? We're not Kansas City.