This isn’t actually fully revisited. I started writing this about a week ago and then have had extremely limited internet access. Given that, I thought I would post what I have so far and finish the rest later.
Online Activity in the Wake of the Melbourne Storm Controversy Revisited (incomplete)
On April 22, 2010, the news of salary cap violations on the part of the Melbourne Storm broke online in such publications as the Fox Sports, on television including ABC news and on multiple social networks including Facebook and Twitter. By April 23, the news was available in various print publications including The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald. During the news coverage, NRL fans learned that the team had been fined $1.8 million, stripped of two premiereships and were not eligible to earn points towards 2010’s premiership. (“Melbourne storm stripped,” 2010) The team was being punished for salary cap violations over the past five years, where the total cap violation in that period was $1.7 million with $400,000 of that total cap violation occurring in 2009. (“Melbourne storm stripped,” 2010)
The consensus at the time in the media was that this would hurt the team in terms of maintaining a fan base. In the three-week period after the news broke, this did not appear to be the case: The team maintained or grew its online fan community. In addition, there was more fan interactions in the Melbourne Storm fan community than there had been prior to the controversy. This defied conventional wisdom. The numbers deserve a followup to determine if the Melbourne Storm managed to capture short-term interest and translate it into long-term, season long, interest in the club.
This article will revisit numbers from May to determine how successful the club was. Specifically, interest patterns as expressed on networks like 43things, bebo, Facebook, LiveJournal and its clones, Twitter, Wikia, Wikiedia, Yahoo!Groups and YouTube. The article will prove that as the season progressed, interest in the Melbourne Storm declined relative to other teams in the National Rugby League.
In the May analysis, a goal setting site called 43things was looked at. The site has a small group of Australians on it who have set professional sport related goals.
On April 1, 2010, the site was searched for any goals that connected to the Melbourne Storm. Only one goal related to the Melbourne Storm was found. It is “Go to a Melbourne Storm Game.” (1) Two people, erynne and mmcpharlane, had listed this as a goal they were working towards completing. When checked again on May 10 and October 24, no one had added any additional goals related to the Melbourne Storm. The two individuals who had listed “Go to a Melbourne Storm Game” remained the same.
During much of the 1990s, mailing lists were one of the most popular tools for fans to use in order to communicate with each other. The creation of mailing lists became much easier when sites like egroups, coollists, topica, Yahoo!Groups and Google groups were created. In some corners of Australian sport fandom, mailing lists have played an important role in helping fans support their interest in clubs.
At one point, there was a semi-active community for the Melbourne Storm community on Yahoo!Groups. (2) When Melbourne Storm Yahoo!Groups were looked at in May, the controversy had no effect on the groups: No new content was posted on these lists. Only one (3) had new content posted between May and October; this new content was a generic newsletter that is sent out to several other NRL related lists and was not published specifically for this list. (4) There is no long tail effect of the club’s fan community on Yahoo!Groups as the community has long since moved on and the controversy didn’t activate a community that has largely been inactive since 2001.
YouTube is the largest video site online. It is also the second biggest search engine online. (Hill, 2008) It is a popular site for sport fans; several teams around the world for different sports capitalize on this by having their own official accounts including the Chicago Red Stars (5), Real Madrid (6), and Perth Glory (7). Beyond the presence of official team accounts, fans upload many videos. Fan videos can be music videos, news clips, and video blogs. The frequency of uploads is one way to determine interest in a club.
When the original analysis was completed in May, it did not include YouTube data. Data was only gathered in June and October, several months after the controversy went down. In addition, the total upload data gathered only included a few teams: Brisbane Broncos, Canberra Raiders, Gold Coast Titans, Melbourne Storm, Parramatta Eels, and Wests Tigers. Despite the lack of pre-controversy data, interesting post controversy numbers were discovered.
|YouTube Video Search Results by Date and Keyword|
|Team||Keyword||16-Jun-10||21-Jun-10||24-Oct-10||Difference: 16-Jun to 24-Oct||Difference: 21-Jun to 24-Oct|
|Brisbane Broncos||“Brisbane Broncos”||509||
|Melbourne Storm||“Melbourne Storm”||910||925||889||-21||-36|
|Parramatta Eels||“Timana Tahu”||36||36||
|Wests Tigers||“Wests Tigers”||390||404||464||74||60|
|Gold Coast Titans||“Gold Coast Titans”||260||302||42|
|Brisbane Broncos||“Darren Lockyer”||198||187||187||-11|
When compared to all other teams, the Melbourne Storm were the only team where the number of videos mentioning them decreased. The two players looked at both faced losses in the total number of videos that mentioned them. Like the Storm, both of these players were involved in a major controversy during the season.
There are likely three reasons that could be attributed to the decline in videos. The first is that YouTube removed the videos because of copyright issues. This is plausible and if it is the case, it may not be the fault of the Storm as many of the copyright disputes on YouTube involve the background music. Given the lack of discussion in the NRL community about YouTube crackdowns in terms of NRL content or music, this reason just seems unlikely. The second reason is the creators may have deleted their content and their videos. This feels more plausible. Many people delete their online content when they are job hunting, because they are embarrassed by it or because of privacy concerns. The third reason is that the uploader no longer likes the team: They do not want to be associated with them or embarrassed by their previous support of them. This reason seems the most plausible. In the context of the Melbourne Storm, it fits given the patterns with the individual rugby league players who endured major controversies. In actuality, the reduction in videos is probably a combination of the second and third reasons. If true, it suggests that controversies lead to a reduction in user-uploaded content and the deletion of existing material: The YouTube audience for the team contracts.
Hill, J. (2008, October 16). YouTube surpasses Yahoo as world’s #2 search engine. TG Daily. Retrieved October 24, 2010, from http://www.tgdaily.com/trendwatch-features/39777-youtube-surpasses-yahoo-as-world%E2%80%99s-2-search-engine
Melbourne storm stripped of two premierships for salary cap breach. (2010, April 22). Fox Sports, Retrieved from http://www.foxsports.com.au/story/0,8659,27022196-5018866,00.html
1. The page for the goal can be found at http://www.43things.com/things/view/2535563/go-to-a-melbourne-storm-game .
2.Yahoo!Groups is the most popular mailing list host. Archives are also available for these lists.
The list was http://au.groups.yahoo.com/group/MelbourneStorm .
3.While these e-mails were generic to the National Rugby League and might be considered spam if they were posted on a list with a more active administrator, a few did mention the Melbourne Storm. A few even referenced the controversy. Because of the nature of the posts, these few posts were not counted.
4.The Chicago Red Stars official YouTube can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/ChicagoRedStars .
5.Real Madrid’s official YouTube account can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/realmadridcf .
6.Perth Glory’s official YouTube account can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/PerthGloryTV .