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2010 Olympics Business News for the Vancouver and Whistler regions of British Columbia. Plus, Alberta, the rest of Canada, Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Montana & California

OlyBLOG Features:


Crowdsourcing and Citizen Journalism

Vancouver Sun Official Olympics Booster

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Crowdsourcing and Citizen Journalism

If you expect to leverage 2010 Olympics excitement
and boost your company's visibility... plus make a profit
you need the right online communication tools.

It's not hard, or expensive. All you have to do in this era is to integrate yourself into the rapidly growing conversation and network of people and companies interested in the Olympics - and let your website do the talking. If there was ever a time to update your website, this is it.

Many company owners have expressed that they want nothing to do with the Olympics and that they see it only as political grandstanding and a money grab for big business. Well if you think this way and you ignore the 2010 Winter Games you will lose on two counts. Not only will you pay for the Games as a result of rapidly escalating taxes, and in general also pay for a higher cost of doing business in an Olympics region, if you shun the Games you will miss out on the revenue being generated by everyone who is taking a more progressive approach, many of whom could be your competitors.

Ignore it and you take a double hit.

You can't stop the Olympics, and it won't wait for you.

Everyone is talking, locally and globally, about 2010. The topics range from the human rights issues, the environment, child care, and everything in between.

For example, local businesses are worried about Olympic-related strikes and boycotts. They also have to deal with protesters, plus Olympics inflated property values and taxes, and the dirty, dusty, noisy and very costly challenges and inconveniences related to Olympic construction.

These issues undermine businesses in many Olympics regions, and Vancouver / Whistler is no exception.

By 2006, four full years before the big event, small businesses in Vancouver were either being displaced or going bankrupt as a direct result of the frenzied scramble to build Olympics facilities and infrastructure in time for 2010. Meanwhile, big companies like The Vancouver Sun newspaper, and official Olympics sponsors like RBC, Rona, and VISA were, and still are, making a financial killing simply by having their names associated with the Olympics brand. In the summer of 2007 local newspapers like The Sun finally came out of the closet and announced they are being bought and paid for by VANOC. Everyone it seems is in a 100 meter sprint for gold.

Over the last two years my online marketing agency has been inundated by companies trying to figure out how to pan some of this gold for themselves. We are so busy we now rarely publish a newsletter, and even have a hard time keeping this blog updated. Some of our clients have Olympics contracts, and some want nothing to do directly with the Games. As we move closer to 2010, costs for web development in the Vancouver and Whistler regions are skyrocketing just like Olympic-frenzied condo prices did immediately after we won the Bid. Some companies are even desperately resorting to going outside the region for web design help. As usual, there are plenty of cut rate web hacks hanging out shingles, but web marketing and development companies with experience and a good track record are becoming harder to contract as they scramble to keep up.

Regardless of whether you want to sell products directly to VANOC or their spectators, or if you simply want to figure out how to leverage Olympic momentum from the periphery as a promotional tool, if you don't have a well designed web presence it's going to be harder, if not impossible to leverage the feeding frenzy. The opportunities are varied, but the window is narrow. Keep in mind too that eventually VANOC will institute some type of online presence to showcase local companies, and when they do, you better be prepared to leverage it immediately.

Once you have an Olympics region friendly website the next thing you have to do is to position it so it works hard for your company. The newest methods are referred to as crowdsourcing and citizen journalism. Crowdsourcing and citizen journalism will do for the average company what MP3 did for music lovers. It's a twofold process that puts you directly in the driver's seat by providing you with an opportunity to associate your company with Olympics related news. We've all heard the horror stories of Olympics organizations like VANOC bullying companies that even breathe the word "Olympics." Well the days of intimidating the community in an effort to maintain a monopoly are over. Average companies and average citizens now have tools, via the internet, to engage everyone and anyone interested in all aspects of Olympics information and news.

It is completely ethical, legal, and easy to develop legitimate news stories regarding the Olympics that will subtly tie your company to the Games in your region. A good example is this blog. Every time you read it you connect me and my companies with the 2010 Olympics. There is nothing stopping your company from doing exactly the same thing, except in your case, the news you provide could be more upbeat if that is what suits your needs. You also do not have to go to the great length we do here to reach people interested in the Olympics. Your goal is not to produce and publish an Olympics related book like we did, you simply want to reach out and connect with people, and there are a growing number of tools available that make it relatively easy.

One new communication tool in particular, in fact one of the biggest independent news networks in the world, is based right here in Vancouver. It's a company called NowPublic.com. Basically, it is a crowdsource website that allows average people to report the news. The term "crowdsource," is simply an online process that allows thousands of people to get together online to report and discuss a newsworthy topic. It could be about snowboarding, politics, garbage strikes, boycotts, the BC Place roof collapsing, cost overruns, or anything in between. You choose.

If you were to simply slap the five rings and torch on your website and associate your company directly with the Games the Olympics police would soon crash through your door. However, when you do so under the auspices of reporting news, you are protected by legislation recognized in North America and most of the free world as "fair use." Mainstream newspapers, television, and websites all leverage this "fair use" strategy, and you can too.

2010 Winter Olympics & Paralympics logos

Anyone reporting about, or even critiquing the Olympics can legally place Olympic logos in appropriate places when they refer to 2010.

   Like this!




OlyBLOG.com provides Olympics related news and criticism, and as a consequence, we are legally within our rights to display Olympics logos for news identification purposes. We also take direct quotes from print publications, television, or websites and discuss them in either a news format, or simply as a form of criticism. Like any publication though, you cannot slander or libel anyone. You must know and abide by the law.

NowPublic.com and a small handful of progressive companies can easily and inexpensively (most are free) provide the infrastructure you need to reach out and touch someone. They bring you the news that your local newspaper and television companies often refuse to report because it might offend their advertisers. NowPublic.com, with a huge and growing global presence of thousands of reporters in 140 countries, was named by Time Magazine as one of the Top 50 websites for 2007. I interviewed Michael Tippet, founder of NowPublic.com, about crowdsourcing and citizen journalism for an article that was published in Wired.com. Check out these links to get a better understanding of the tools you have available today. Tippett explains quite clearly the process and tools, and why average people are interested in reporting the news.


If you don't yet have an Olympics-friendly website or a
modern day communications strategy, what are you waiting for?


Contact your web developer today!



The Vancouver Sun finally becomes an
"Official" Olympic Newspaper "Booster"

Brace Yourself for a 2010 Flash Flood of News

The Vancouver Sun newspaper has finally come out of the closet to be crowned an official Olympic newspaper sponsor/supplier, which means they are also now an "official" Olympics booster.

I've been warning readers in this blog and my book, Leverage Olympic Momentum, for the last couple of years that this large local newspaper would eventually assume this highly controversial and extremely lucrative role. The Vancouver Sun newspaper announced on June 25, 2007 that they are placing their support squarely behind the IOC and VANOC, which means that Olympics organizations are now, or soon will be, one of The Sun's primary advertisers and sources of revenue. The Sun will evolve from selling advertising to Olympic-frenzied condo marketers like Bob Rennie, to selling huge volumes of advertising to VANOC and their sponsors, which means that in a round-about-way, your tax dollars will be channeled to the Vancouver Sun.

If this doesn't make you nervous, it should.

[Since this article was published (Sept 07), the deal CanWest Global claimed they had brokered with the IOC was scrapped. Turns out that what they reported in the summer of 2007 wasn't accurate. It was not a done deal like they reported, but more a fanciful deal in the works.

Not to be deterred, The Vancouver Sun recently, April 2008, reported they now have a direct agreement with VANOC to become the official primary newspaper of the 2010 Olympics, Shortly thereafter the venerable Globe and Mail also announced they too are an official Olympics newspaper. Who do you trust now that both newspapers are in the Olympics advertorial game?
]

It's now easy to see why The Sun has always so actively boosted the Games and often primarily told the Olympic version of the Olympic story. This type of arraignment between an organization like the Olympics, which at the core is driven by profit, and a newspaper, that is also driven by profit but is supposed to remain impartial, is unethical, outdated, and should never be allowed. It creates conflict-of-interest issues that are hurtful to our community.

How and when a community receives information about their Olympic Games is critical. Olympic organizations have always relied upon local newspapers to serve their public communication needs, which as you can imagine, paints a very biased picture. The community only sees what Olympic organizations want you to see. The Cambie line is a good case in point. Granted, blogs like this now provide a more balanced and realistic view, but it is still not enough. Consumers in Olympic regions have to be extremely cautious regarding what they see, hear, and believe.

For example, don't believe newspaper writers, editors and executives when they claim they can manage the relationship fairly. They can't. The Olympic business model will not allow both parties (the community, and the IOC/VANOC) to be represented equally. The model is specifically designed to give unconditional power to Olympic organizations and their partners and sponsors. Host communities constantly suffer under this arraignment because in the past, whoever controlled the local newspaper controlled the message. Today though, thanks to the internet, and for the first time ever, our 2010 Host community has other sources for news. As a consequence, Olympic organizations are losing their grasp on the public in a way similar to how the music industry lost control of their customers at the beginning of this millennium.

It's actually a bit hard to tell exactly what The Sun's "official" title is, but for the most part, the newspaper will be responsible to promote the 2010 Olympics in partnership with a few other news publishing companies. (One in particular, Torstar, owns the Toronto Star newspaper. - [as I mentioned above though, this deal was scrapped])

I predicted and wrote long ago that the Vancouver Sun would be the local newspaper of choice and eventually win this lucrative and coveted position. It was relatively easy to predict because of how they promoted the Games so strenuously right from the beginning.

Way back in 2004, I wrote, based on what had happened in other Olympics regions, that The Vancouver Sun would eventually align with VANOC. It wasn't a hard call to make because The Sun is the only newspaper with a sizable local readership in place. The Globe and Mail has the capital and infrastructure to do the job, plus an Olympics connection through other interests, but they would have to invest heavily in the local market. I never put the Globe at the top of the list because they are a well-respected newspaper, and they would have had to compromise their standards and journalistic integrity in order to meet IOC and VANOC requirements. I couldn't see it happening. [apparently I was wrong]

It's not easy to serve two masters, and Olympic organizations demand unconditional loyalty. They promote "it's an us or them" atmosphere, which unlike the Sun, the Globe and Mail would have a hard time adopting. [seems though they have also chose to look the other way]

Using local mainstream newspapers to promote the 2010 Games flies in the face of nonpartisan news reporting, and it's reminiscent of what happened in July 2006 when another CanWest newspaper, the Victoria Times Colonist, ran into ethical problems. They fired reporter Vivian Smith for allegedly reporting too truthfully about the local tourism industry. She was fired locally, only to be rehired by parent company CanWest when they realized the firing would create a conflict-of-interest public uproar.

Newspapers are not supposed to unconditionally support their advertisers - either Olympics organizations or tourism boards. They are expected by readers to support the community, and if they don't want to do so, they should not promote themselves as community-oriented. You can read the details here ...

When a newspaper like The Vancouver Sun enters into a "for profit" agreement with Olympic organizations, it becomes difficult, and sometimes legally impossible to remain neutral and report news in a manner that keeps the community properly informed. Relationships like this create problems in all Olympics regions in the free world. Using local newspapers as Olympics sponsors is an old tradition that should have been retired long ago, but newspaper publishers negotiate great deals because even at cut rate prices they know it provides an incredible source of revenue, which is especially needed in an era when newspapers are all struggling to survive.

In some Olympics regions, Sydney, Australia for example, which is touted by Olympics organizations as "the best Games ever," a similar newspaper sponsorship arrangement caused a string of serious ethical and legal problems that saw rival local newspapers bicker openly in public about who had official access to Olympic information first.

CanWest, which owns sixteen of the forty nine newspapers involved in the 2010 newspaper consortium, holds a very sizable piece of the action, and they will have incredible influence over how Olympics related news is told in the region. It's not a good thing, because now Vancouverites will primarily only hear the Olympic side of the Olympic story. If you thought there was a lack of transparency in the past, it will only get murkier, and blogs like this will only become more popular and valuable.

Here's a list of the CanWest newspapers that will have direct access to Olympic-related information well before their rival news sources and the public. From here-on-in, any Olympic-related information that emanates from these sources can be assumed to be biased and in some cases even misleading. The following newspapers are now officially on the Olympic payroll, along with their sister companies. [Please note that this deal fell through and that now the two companies are The Vancouver Sun and the Globe and Mail]

National Post
Vancouver Sun
The Province
Victoria Times-Colonist
Alberni Valley Times
Nanaimo Daily News
Calgary Herald
Calgary Rush Hour
Edmonton Journal
Edmonton Rush Hour
Regina Leader-Post
Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
Ottawa Citizen
Windsor Star
Ottawa Rush Hour
The Gazette (Montreal)

You can also add Global Television to the list because they too are owned by CanWest. And don't forget to include the Vancouver Courier, another CanWest property. If you haven't figured it out yet, it is a perfect example of why it is dangerous to have one company monopolize the news industry. You only get one side of the story.

In past Olympic regions (Sydney 2000), the government had to step in midstream to regulate newspaper publishing companies when newspapers misinformed the community and kept critical Olympic information from surfacing in a timely manner. The newspaper sponsorship arraignment allowed local news media to run a "ticketing scam" on the public. In fact, the Australian government had to intervene twice through the courts to force newspapers to comply. CanWest, in a report about their new 2010 Olympics role stated that "their type of arrangement" was unprecedented, but the truth is, as I explained above, this type of system has been tried in the recent past, and it caused a string of negative effects in the community. [The Vancouver Sun is integral in reporting Olympic ticketing information.]

The arrangement is always lucrative for newspapers, but harmful to the Olympic Host region basically because Olympic organizations pressure their suppliers and sponsors to choose between the IOC and the community. Newspapers can't fairly represent both, and it is why this practice is so dangerous and should not be allowed. There are better and more efficient ways to communicate with the public (via the internet), but newspaper publishers would lose out economically.

In past Olympic regions, newspapers that act as suppliers and sponsors must sign an agreement guaranteeing they will defend and protect the "good" name and reputation of the Olympics, even if it is to the detriment of the community. (It's a standard corporate boilerplate clause all alliances have to agree to, and this type of control is not specific to Olympic organizations.) Once newspapers sign this agreement it's the law, and they have to comply or face legal repercussions. No one except The Vancouver Sun knows for sure, but it is highly likely that The Sun [and the GLobe and Mail] would have also had to agree to these conditions. (There's a good "freedom of information" project for The Tyee or The Straight, but good luck, because normally, information like this is impossible to attain, even through FOI applications. All three levels of our government are Olympic partners, and they literally rewrite and ram through legislation (Bill C-47) in order to protect Olympic organizations)

Now that you know the Vancouver Sun [and The Globe and Mail] are official Olympic boosters, and that they will benefit economically by promoting the 2010 Olympics, how fairly do you think they will report the news, especially news that will benefit the Games, but have a negative impact on the community?

Do you now trust newspapers more ... or less?
Read more here . . .

Excerpt from OlyBLOG 09/06

"From the Globe and Mail - October 21, 2006 - "City newspapers across the continent have witnessed their traditional readership being eroded by the Internet, a phenomenon that has thrown parts of the industry into crisis mode."

In these desperate times for newspaper companies, people do desperate things to protect their livelihood. Newspapers, more than all other media, struggle daily to remain competitive. According to Editor and Publisher, the Audit Bureau of Circulation will report at the end of this month that for the six months ending September 2006, newspapers are suffering a daily circulation decline of 2.5%, and a drop off of Sunday readership of 3%. Newspaper companies in North America are bleeding out.

As a result, sometimes they push boundaries that are completely unacceptable, and recently, lines have been blurred beyond recognition. Backroom gossip of bought loyalties increases daily. Checkbook journalism to some is an art. It is loosely defined as a company or organization that buys advertising, and then ends up with editorial coverage as well in the same publication. It happens more frequently, and can be thought of as a second cousin to advertorial. Advertorial is the controversial, but accepted process of mixing news with advertising in the same document. All genres of media do it. In its proper form, the pseudo-editorial piece is clearly identified as "advertising," and most of the time consumers recognize it. The lines have become blurred however between checkbook journalism and advertorial, and in some very unique cases, like in Olympic regions, it is almost impossible to identify. When we see it in community tabloid-style newspapers we understand the process and treat it as such, but when we see it on a broadsheet (the Vancouver Sun and Globe and Mail are broadsheets), it is harder to recognize because we assume they hold their news companies up to higher news reporting standards -- think "wolf in sheep's clothing."

Checkbook journalism doesn't necessarily mean that a company or organization cuts a check to a newspaper and then expects to be interviewed or reported about in a flattering way. It is much more surreptitious and can happen when both parties involved have an unspoken understanding that promoting a specific view is good for both of them. They don't have to get together and talk about it. They just know. It is unspoken, and this is the reason it is so hard to prove in court. It is called an "oligopoly" and it is more dangerous to a community than you can imagine.
"

Click to read more . . .

Here's what I wrote way back in June of 2005 about
the Vancouver Sun and their interest in becoming
an official Olympics newspaper sponsor.


"Most people (some media employees included) don't realize it, but in every Olympic region eventually one or two newspapers are under Olympic contract to spin the "Olympic version" of the Olympic story. In most cases the reportage is biased and referred to in the industry as "checkbook journalism." Noam Chomsky characterizes this type of media sponsorship as a "necessary illusion." Newspapers in Olympic regions pay to become sponsors just like Visa or Coca Cola, and as a result they sign agreements legally preventing them from spreading or reporting disparaging information about the Olympics. The strategy makes sense for sponsor companies like Bell, RBC, Petro-Canada or Rona (you shouldn't speak poorly of your partners even if it is true), but when this edict is foisted upon a local newspaper, conflict-of-interest questions come into play. Your mother's admonishment of, "If you can't say something good, say nothing at all" rings true in the Olympic school of journalism.

Bought newspaper publishers basically become cheerleaders with an unspoken mandate to fool gullible and naive locals. The primary function of the newspaper is to report the news … but once they swear allegiance to the Olympics their secondary utility is to provide direct access to the public so Olympic organizations can conscript volunteers and a labour force. Brace yourself for an onslaught of articles, advertisements and forms coming your way via the local newspaper."

We've been reporting about this issue since 2005, and if you'd like in-depth information regarding why this practice is so dangerous, and how it negatively impacts your livelihood and community, click here ...


Here's what I wrote in my book about this issue . . .

excerpt from "LeverageOlympicMomentum.com" published early 2006

SOCOG, the Sydney Olympic organizing committee, negotiated a deal with two local newspapers to be official sponsors in 1997. It was the first time ever that two newspapers were chosen to share the limelight. It was also agreed there would be no exclusivity given to any media outlet in relation to Olympic editorial news, in fact it was a prerequisite of the IOC. However, managing how responsibilities and information were awarded was more of a challenge than anyone imagined. The two news-publishing companies were Fairfax, and News Limited. Lenskyj [Helen] covered this controversy in great detail in her book [The Best Olympics Ever?]. If you want all the details she is the best source, but I’ll endeavor to give you an overview of how it unfolded. News Limited negotiated for the “ticket sales and torch relay,” while Fairfax won coverage regarding “school newspapers, arts festivals, and the very important volunteer recruitment program.” It seemed to be a perfect mix for the IOC and SOCOG because they could have different articles in competing newspapers every day. They bounced back and forth between papers. Even better for the Olympic organization was that the competitive arrangement between the two publishers created rivalry and spawned public outbursts that, unbelievably, like two kids bickering, both papers would report in their respective publications. In effect it created a back-story that kept the Olympics on the front page in some respect every day. As an added bonus neither paper could afford ‘not’ to report any Olympic information that was tossed their way for fear of looking like they were whining or being left out of the loop. Consequently, both companies reported everything. (hjl8)

I can just imagine Olympic organizations gleefully rubbing their hands together as they planned how to toss fuel on the fire. They must have thought they were in PR Heaven. It’s not often you can make daily newspapers bark like a dog.

As Lenskyj pointed out, the challenge came when trying to decipher what was regarded as marketing, as opposed to editorial information. Both publishers negotiated for promotional and marketing rights only. It was never the intention of SOCOG to give either party exclusive rights to editorial information, and managing it soon became a formidable undertaking. The Australian Press Council and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance soon questioned how information was distributed to each newspaper. A concerted howl was heard across the country when two of the News Limited papers received information before other media regarding the torch model and ticketing arrangements. Fairfax publishing (the rival official sponsor) stated they had a different agreement with the Olympic organization and that they “refused to buy editorial exclusives.” They felt it went against the charter of a free press and maintained they were now the only publisher that could be trusted. The line was drawn in the sand. SOCOG and both publishers scrambled to assure the public that reporting was unbiased, but for the most part it fell on deaf ears, especially when it was brought to light it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible for journalists to ignore the influence of a publisher that had invested millions to become an official sponsor. Why would they want to undermine their financial stake? It didn’t take long for third party unaccredited media agencies to bolster the position. The line in the sand was soon trampled flat in a rush to expose the charade. Regardless of the controversy, both publishers made good use of their opportunities regarding “special supplements” to mark timelines in the ramp up to the Games. (hjl9)
end of excerpt


Some of us think media should clearly state before each article that they are on the Olympic payroll, and as a result, biased. If Bell, RBC, HBC, CTV, Petro-Canada and Rona are proud enough to display the five-ring Olympic logo then media sponsors too should be compelled to do the same. If not, their reportage is less than honest and little more than propaganda. As George Orwell said, "Real journalism consists of what someone doesn't want published. All the rest is public relations."

If you want the whole story ...

Talk to us before you talk to them ...
LeverageOlympicMomentum.com - the book





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Crowdsourcing
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Inukshuk Vancouver / Whistler







Own the Podium?

The official creed (guiding principle) of the Olympics is a quote by the founding father of the modern day Games Baron de Coubertin. He said, "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

The Olympic motto consists of three Latin words Citius, Altius, Fortius, which means, "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." The 1924 motto is meant to encourage athletes to embrace the Olympic spirit and perform to the best of their individual abilities.

No where does it imply that winning the most gold medals for your country is part of the agenda. In fact it implies exactly the opposite.

The IOC maintains that it doesn't actively encourage countries to collectively win the most gold medals, but on the other hand they also don't institute anything to ensure that the Games are not turned into corporate money grabs.

In fact, IOC sponsorship and partnership business models encourage a win-at-all-costs mentality. It is the reason they have doping, fraud and bribery scandals.

The IOC invites young people to compete in the Olympics using the original Creed & Motto. But when it comes to delivering on the promise they fall incredibly short.

The Olympics today isn't as much about sport as it is about money and profit.

Priorities changed over the years and so too should their Creed & Motto.

If athletes go for the gold, and the IOC goes for the gold, and corporate sponsors go for the gold, and governments go for the gold, and considering that you will have to foot the bill for their gold, why should you be edged out of the race?

Move to the starting line.

Own the Podium?
or
Own Your Home?











Real journalism consists of
what someone doesn't want published,
all the rest is public relations."
George Orwell




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