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The Mighty MLB Has Struck Out With Social Media

Friday, September 18, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 10:19 AM, under , , ,

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
Viral videos playing everywhere, and marketers hearts delight,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy on YouTube - the mighty MLB has struck out.

Major League Baseball was handed a hanging fastball curveball this week. Broadcast cameras caught the most sincere father and daughter moment imaginable when Philadelphia Phillies fan Steve Monforto caught his first foul ball (bare-handed no less) and handed it to his three year-old daughter. Then the TV world and surrounding fans watched in "horror" as she threw it away. Dad laughed and hugged his daughter.

You could not have scripted a better feel good moment and copies of the video went viral almost immediately. Who wouldn't want to share a moment like this?

The answer would be Major League Baseball, through its MLB Advanced Media division. Yesterday we embedded a video story from MSNBC, only to find a few minutes later that it had been taken down:

Screen shot of YouTube MLB Advanced Media Takedown Notice

A friend posted this comment on Facebook yesterday:

No way! That's a GREAT free promotional item for MLB!!! And they're killing it off??? How stupid is that??? I mean, a wonderful father/daughter scene at a baseball game to get that idea to more fathers out there for FREE and they ax it? Dumb.

There is no better way to express reaction to what MLB has done in this case.

Yes, the protection of intellectual property is a big issue in the online world. Generation Y has grown up thinking things should be free and open. But we all know that does not pay the bills.

But sharing content through social media is not giving away your ownership rights. If nothing else, it actually builds up the brand. It makes no sense to restrict the viralization of videos like this in order to drive traffic to your own web site. In fact it is counterproductive, and the buzz generated when the heavy hand drops the hammer does more to hurt your brand.

Virtually everybody in the world, with the exception of Major League Baseball and the National Football League, gets it. ESPN gets it. CBS Sports gets it, Fox Sports gets it. Social networking and sharing is key to surviving and thriving in the age of new media and social networking.

When you lock things down, people react. They stop linking to your sites. They know that providing free links should involve some kind of quid pro quo, Even worse, people start pirating content. This is not to say that this is moral or ethical, it just is what it is.

If sports leagues do make content available for sharing and embedding, people will share the content because everybody wins. Web site owners get traffic, the rights owners get free publicity, and traffic does get driven to the content owners' web sites. When it comes down to protecting their intellectual property, it actually gets easier for content owners because people will embed rather than download and steal.

So the question for Major League Baseball is simple. Would you rather join the wave and win or just continue to try to go upstream without a paddle?

Meanwhile, they might want to watch this video on social networking from YouTube that is going viral:

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