New Publication: The Olympic Movement, New Media and the Monitization of Open Media

Ages ago (I’m talking summer 2010), I wrote something with my PhD Supervisor Prof Andy Miah on the Olympic Movement’s New Media revolution and the monitization/exploitation and intellectual properties of open/citizen media around media events of this scale. It was published in the Handbook of Olympic Studies and a few weeks ago I received an actual, physical copy of the book. My name in print. Wow.

In the essence of open media, here is an extract – but you know what to do if you want to read the full thing.

Historically, the journalists at the non-accredited media centres (NAMCs) have been professional journalists who are not part of the rights-paying community. Yet, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games was the first Olympiad to have a substantial and independent social media or online media representation, with a number of alternative media centres and platforms acknowledged and formalised prior to the event. Indeed, Olympic Review cited Vancouver 2010 as ‘The First Social Media Olympics’.16 Yet, while the IOC’s articulation of this status focused on the user-generated content from IOC-controlled Facebook, Flickr and Twitter sites, a lot more was happening on the ground in Vancouver that describes a differ- ent population of social media contributors. The various new media centres in the city that were mentioned earlier included W2 Media and Culture House, a community media centre situated in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, one of Canada’s poorest postcodes; True North Media House (TNMH), a fully online media centre, allowing participants to print their own media pass and to publish and distribute information using their own websites and social net- works; and the Vancouver Media Co-operative, a mostly anti-Olympic campaign which distributed information about protests across the city. Much like the non- accredited media centres, the citizen reporters who registered with these media spaces emerged with the intention of covering alternative messages, which were not just about the Olympic sport, but the broader festival at large. Moreover, the 2010 Games provided an increased focus on digital content generated and distributed by the interface of informal networks of creative workers and online activists from within the host city, some without the aforementioned physical base and communications conducted via free web platforms.

The Olympic online media – bloggers, for example – and independent social media centres (such as W2 and TNMH) are fast becoming an integral part of the Olympic media landscape. Yet, their messages may not always correspond with those of officialdom, thus presenting a challenge to what may be seen as the Olympic media. Thus, one of the central questions about their work that concerns us here is whether the output of such alternative media is likely to be integrated within the official program. However, perhaps a more radical consideration is whether their existence will jeopardise the financial base of the Olympic movement and its relationship with the media, its core financial stake- holder. After all, if an Olympic fan with a high-specification camera can shoot the same quality of images as a professional photographer in the press section of an opening ceremony, the currency of the latter’s work – and thus the incen- tive to pay for the privileged access – is diminished. In turn, without the right to maintain exclusivity over such reporting opportunities, media organisations will not be incentivised to pay large amounts of money to have such access.

The non-accredited and independent media centres of the Olympic Games arise at a time when the capacity of user-created digital broadcasting and reporting has become a mainstream, mass participation culture.17 Already, Web 2.0 start-up organisations have become dominant forces in media content distribution, with such web platforms as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr indicat- ing just a few of the major players who’ve managed to sustain viable business models on the back of user-created content.18 The low cost of entry to the self- publishing realm of blogging, image and video hosting and short and mobile message sharing has blurred the boundaries between the media producers and the media consumers.19 As access to content creation, content distribution and content consumption becomes predominantly free to those who have access to the internet, the landscape of media production shifts towards one in which media audiences become part of the entire process, giving rise to a potentially new power relationship between broadcasters, journalists and the audience.20 Although questions remain about whether the new communities of reporters are beginning to occupy the privileged position of traditional media,21 our focus returns to scrutinising the IOC’s enthusiasm to harness new media com- munications to promote the ideals of Olympism and, in particular, find a way of monetising the Olympic digital assets. 

Reference: Miah, A. & Jones, J. (2012) The Olympic Movement’s New Media Revolution: Monetization, Open Media & Intellectual Property, In: Wagg, S. & Lenskyj, H. Handbook of Olympic Studies, Palgrave.