If a huge NBA story is being broken, chances are Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports is scooping the competition. Chances are he breaks the news on Twitter as well, dropping what is widely known as a “Woj Bomb.”

Wednesday afternoon, Wojnarowski flew above the competition yet again. He went “bombs away” with his report that Scott Brooks had been fired as the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

When an NBA title contender with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook fires its coach, that rates as a huge story in the sports world. Yet, what happened soon after Wojnarowski’s tweet rates as a significant media story, one which demands a lot of attention, and not just for websites or publications that cover sports.

Adi Joseph, NBA editor for The Sporting News, performed a Google search on Brooks and screengrabbed something quite eye-popping:

Some might not see what the big deal is, but if you look closely, Google attributed the “Woj Bomb” to Twitter.com, and not to Yahoo!

That’s a very big deal, for reasons obvious and not-so-obvious.

In early February, Twitter and Google agreed to a deal which would lead to this kind of cross-attribution. A report with commentary from February 5 can be found at Mashable, and other commentaries exist around the web, such as this one at Advertising Age. 

It’s worth noting that in the story from Mashable, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is quoted as saying it would take “several months” for Google search results to emerge in line with the Google-Twitter deal. This media bomb tucked inside a Woj Bomb certainly rates as one of the first prominent examples.

First, let’s deal with the obvious reason why this is a very consequential media story.

As Joseph himself said in follow-up comments to his screengrab, this is going to lead outlets such as Yahoo! to have their reporters post stories at their home sites before tweeting out a scoop. If Woj Bombs are going to appear at Yahoo! to the extent that his instant-scoop tweets are withheld for several minutes, the instantaneous nature of Twitter as a breaking-news source will certainly be eroded. Twitter will still be that source for plenty of outlets intent on getting the story up first, but one can see plenty of news organizations pulling back. They don’t want their breaking stories (and the pageviews therein) to be attributed to “Twitter.com.” They want sole and primary attribution, and rightly so.

As Joseph himself said, Yahoo! is paying Wojnarowski, not Twitter.

You can imagine how this will affect the upcoming NFL Draft if ESPN thinks Google will attribute an Adam Schefter scoop to Twitter and not ESPN… or if CBS Sports thinks a Jason La Canfora report will also be identified as breaking news from Twitter.

Carry all of this over to any live national story — and the situation becomes a million times more complicated than anything dealing with the sports world. News organizations and websites use Twitter as a valuable tool to gain referral traffic back to their sites, where they can recoup web traffic and advertising dollars. If the links on those stories go to Twitter and not to the outlet that has the actual story, that’s obviously a seismic development. t’s something news organizations must thoroughly evaluate.

The not-as-obvious reasons why this is a hugely significant story are mostly based in the reality that the media landscape is changing with such blinding speed. Anyone who has worked in the larger media ecosystem for any appreciable length of time knows that the speed of technology and the complexity of the industry in response to said technology are so advanced that the ethics involved in primary attribution (and hosts of other issues) are being formulated on the fly. It is hard for ethicists… and lawyers… and courts… and laws themselves to keep up with all sorts of unforeseen changes to the ways in which the news is reported, attributed and sourced.

We are well acquainted with the term “Pandora’s Box.” This Twitter attribution for a Yahoo! Sports report could very well be known in journalistic and academic circles as “Wojnarowski’s Box” 10 or 15 years from now.

It really could be that significant, making this the biggest Woj Bomb of them all.

About Matt Zemek

| CFB writer since 2001 |

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