The #Unofficial50 – a list of excuses, mistakes and biases

#Unofficial50 started as a bit of a laugh, an antidote to Forbes’ Sport and Money twitter list which was doing the rounds, which is bound to be American and a bit pompous and most importantly, not include me. But before too long, I found the process of getting a list together more interesting than the list itself. So here’s a critique of my own assumptions and inbuilt biases.

The mates issue
I have tried to avoid making it a list of mates, although some of the people on the list are. I’ve also tried not to include people just because I wanted to flatter them in to becoming my (Twitter) mate, which is tempting if a bit transparent. Ultimately, any list like this says more about its author than the people on it. Twitter is a fantastic echo chamber and it’s probably impossible to be completely impartial, so it’s better to hold your hand up to your own biases when you notice them.
The seductive lure of follower numbers
It’s tempting to fall for the illusion of certainty and quantifiability offered by follower numbers. But follower numbers are misleading for several reasons, not least because they fail us in the basic task of a list that seeks to highlight the people who are the most interesting to follow. For example, I think Michael Payne is more interesting than Darren Rovell. Darren is very good at what he does, it’s just that when a certain type of story breaks, I find myself waiting for Michael’s view over Darren’s. So I’ve tried to counter this market imbalance when I see it and tried not to use follower numbers as justification for rank. After all, it’s my list and any complainants can fuck right off and do their own one.
Journos v people who do stuff
Twitter is the perfect medium for journalists and many of the sports news lobby are represented in the list. There were plenty of others who coulda shoulda been in there but I wanted to balance them with people on the ground working in the business itself. I’d argue that being good on Twitter is more difficult when you have clients to offend and bosses who resent being overshadowed, or colleagues who want to be the agency thought leader and wonder why nobody is downloading their own painfully pompous white papers in to the future of digital.
Power list idiocy
There are more than enough of these around. They tend to be deeply political, advertising-led and focused on the obvious – heads of sports rights holders, governing bodies, C suite marketing and media people. Everybody knows who they are, they don’t need me to reinforce their position. Also, the vast majority are boring on Twitter. Brett Gosper is a useful exception, an example of a ‘power list’ member who gets Twitter and uses it cleverly.
Women for women’s sake
There are women on the #Unofficial50, as I’m determined to keep calling it, but not enough. The fear of tokenism is always there. There’s a PhD to be written about the representation of women in sports biz related social media channel lists, but this isn’t it.
Twitter natives
The list hopefully rewards people who use Twitter in good ways beyond news headlines, sales releases or as a straight PR channel. I’m also wary of famous people using Twitter merely to flag up a new book or product launch, let’s call this the Lord Sugar Approach (LSA). We’re all selling something on Twitter, but if it’s all your doing…
The American thing
There aren’t many Americans on the list because they tend to have their own lists which skew to their own market. A few exceptions from SBJ are allowed. Their stuff travels.
The tricky business of defining the sportbiz
The longer you work in the sports business, the more you realise it is merely the context of a series of much bigger business categories, each of which have their own media eco systems – marketing, broadcast, finance, law etc – with their own Twitter lists. So there are plenty of people I follow who have good views on the business of sport, but I had to draw a line somewhere. See also, sport specific verticals. There are people who occasionally wander in to the sport biz realm and write brilliantly on the business of golf, cricket, football, rugby, F1 etc.
People not organisations
There are plenty of places to get sport biz news and comment and our timelines are full of branded outlets big and small. But I wanted to flag up individuals not brand names. Then there are those who are both. For example, Duncan Mackay would be on here but I don’t know if @insidethegames is him or a combination account involving several people. Whereas David Owen is on here because @dodo938 is unmistakably David’s voice.
On all of the above, I’m happy to argue the toss next time you see me.