We can -- and should* -- have a discussion about the value of Twitter in bringing a company's talent closer to its audience, wherever that audience may want to connect with them.
However, there is one detail within ESPN's memo of its Twitter policy (h/t: Deadspin) that bears repeating, because it is less a directive than a guiding principle for ESPN folks:
"The first and only priority is to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts, including sports news, information and content."
I agree 100 percent.
I will say that of the ESPN folks I follow, I enjoy their non-sports tweets way more than their sports tweets. (Thinking of folks like @ron_wechsler and @rfking.)
And I think that as a device to engage and connect with audience -- to humanize themselves -- the non-sports tweets do more than the sports tweets.
Will it be too bad that we won't get their instant take on certain sports news? Who says we won't? If the talent puts it on ESPN.com and it is made easy for me to access, I will still get it.
Once ESPN has a system set up to link talent tweets to ESPN's various native platforms, I think we will see a lot more use of short-form programming by folks who can add value.
When it comes to serving ESPN -- which, true to the core brand value, really means "serving fans" -- I think ESPN is best-served when its folks use, test and embrace all platforms to reach fans, especially the emerging ones. For the moment, that might not include discussion of sports on that platform; I will guarantee you that it will inevitably -- perhaps quickly -- include sports.
I hope that all the ESPN folks who enjoy Twitter will continue to use the platform. The platform isn't going away. (More platforms will emerge.) The audience isn't going away.
And we still want to hear from the ESPN folks we follow -- whether it is about sports, not about sports or about sports, eventually.
Why? Because the back-half of ESPN's guiding vision "to serve fans..." is "...wherever and however they want to be served."
* -- Think Don Ohlmeyer has a Twitter account? Think he has ever used Twitter? Consumed Twitter? Heard of Twitter? I volunteer to be the new ESPN Ombudsman's sherpa in digital media.
UPDATE: CNBC's Darren Rovell has a very good take on this. Middle of the column.
UPDATE: ESPN.com Editor-in-Chief Rob King has a must-read (even last word) on all of this. His points are dead on: ESPN has already been a leader among media companies in integrating Twitter. That will only grow, helped by a framework that every media company needs.