Below is a post Consulting Research Nancy Baym wrote for Online Fandom recently. Responding to a report about the propensity for sports fans to use the Internet while watching TV, Baym speculates on the relationship between media use and the intensity of watching sport.
The Biggest Online Fans are Sports Fans
The European Interactive Advertising Association recently released a study showing that sports fans are twice as likely to use the internet while watching TV than are 'average' internet users. As the report on this posted at Netimperative explains:
Over a third (36%) of all European internet users currently visit sports websites and these sports site users spend over 13 hours online each week, 10% more time than the average European and an increase of 27% since 2004.
These figures are set to ramp up as we approach a summer full of hot-to-watch events such as Euro 2008 and the Olympics.
Events such as these can act as catalysts for media change as fans adopt new habits and technology in order to follow their favourite sports.
What the article doesn't address (although the full report may address it) is why sports fans would watch tv while being online simultaneously or what it is that they are doing while online.
Throwing out a little wild speculation, my guess is that watching sports is more tension-creating than just about any other kind of fandom, creating more of a need to connect with other people as you go through it. Surely it's a fact (though I haven't seen the data) that sporting events draw more live audience members than other kinds of fan events. I know that during the NCAA tournament, even I, the world's lamest sports fan, found myself checking twitter continuously for the reactions of other KU fans to some really tense -- and then tension relieving -- moments.
But maybe it's also about the statistics and the huge wealth of background knowledge about sports that's out there which might be relevant at any given moment. "Wait, who's this guy again? Let me check."
I know there are some readers who know WAY more about sports than I. Any insights to share?
The study is also an important reminder for fandom scholars of how badly we need to take account of sports. I complain that fan researchers pay too little attention to music (which we do), but given the magnitude of sports fandom and new media, the topic deserves far more focus than it gets.
It also raises questions about the temporal elements of online fandom -- what kinds of fandom drive what kinds of internet use? What makes people need to be online at the same time? What makes people log on as soon as it's over? What makes people check in sometime in the weeks that follow? What has people logging on beforehand?