By Kristian Dyer
The stories coming from Dallas last week in the buildup to Super Bowl XLV were not the ones generated by the teams' public relations departments or coming from the traditional media outlets, they were coming from OCNN.
If you've been under a rock the past couple years, OCNN is the brainchild of Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco and Motorola, one of the companies he endorses. OCNN stands for the Ochocinco News Network — a name parody combining the receiver's name with cable news giant CNN — and is found on Twitter, where Ochocinco is constantly tweeting and providing a unique spin on traditional media coverage. OCNN, in fact, tallies among the largest followings on Twitter, giving the Bengals wideout a huge legion of devoted followers who tweet, retweet and reply to each and every one of his posts.
In fact, OCNN rivals the teams that it is covering in the numbers of followers and buzz it is creating.
A quick run of the numbers proves the power of Ochocinco and his fast-fingered typing and tweeting on his Motorola Xoom. The top players on each team in Sunday's Super Bowl with the largest Twitter followings, Steelers S Troy Polamalu with more than 136,000 followers and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers with nearly 119,000 followers, both pale compared to the OCNN's reach. All told, each tweet by Ochocinco and his partners in crime, including Jets CB Darrelle Revis, flashes upon the computer screen of more than 1.6 million followers.
In fact, OCNN's following is nearly as much as the NFL, and only two athletes are more widely followed on Twitter.
Those are numbers that put OCNN in the same category as ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports. So when Ochocinco attended commissioner Roger Goodell's Friday press conference, it wasn't just a publicity stunt by the flamboyant wide receiver — it was real reporting.
"People tend to listen to us more because we're athletes and we know the game," Ochocinco said in an exclusive interview. "It's because we're athletes and real. Former athletes know their stuff when they talk on TV, but it's all so scripted. We're drama free at OCNN. ESPN has become like TMZ."
And that leads Ochocinco to take the press pass dangling from his neck quite seriously this week. He has had access to media day and the press conferences, allowing him to connect his million-plus followers with his unique brand of reporting almost instantly. Motorola also enlisted the help of Revis over the past week leading up to the Super Bowl. Now the Jets' cornerback, whose locker is routinely mobbed when he addresses the media, has the chance to turn the tables and ask questions and provide coverage through the power of OCNN and Twitter.
Revis is far more low key than Ochocinco in the tweeting department, picking and choosing his comments to share with the world. While Ochocinco chooses to tweet dozens of times a day from his Xoom, sharing everything from a song he's listening to to his quest to find the perfect pair of jeans, Revis is selective in his thoughts tweeted.
"My approach to Twittering (sic) and those media things is to tweet what I can," Revis shared in an interview. "I don't try to tweet everything that comes to mind, I try to be selective but I want to share a different side of me when I do."
Revis was brought into this world of social media through the sponsorship of Motorola and also Ochocinco, who requested that the All-Pro corner become a reporter on the network. It's all fun and games for Revis during a week like this, when he can cover the Super Bowl and the sport he plays for OCNN. But he acknowledges it's not all tweeting on the Xoom and shooting video for posting, he also has to "get coffee for Chad and make McDonald's runs for him."
And while Revis laughs at weeks like this, last summer, Revis had to rein in his tweets during his much-publicized holdout. In a world where news is made and now published in a matter of seconds, Revis realized the power of a poorly timed or worded tweet could be devastating to his contract negotiations.
"I needed to keep quiet, I didn't want to speak based on raw emotions. People kept saying negative things about me," Revis said. "They kept saying that I got paid enough money, I didn't need to vent my emotions publicly in a situation like that."
That's the power of Twitter and having a following like OCNN, a fandom that is four times the combined following of Polamalu, Rodgers, and the Packers and Steelers official Twitter feeds. Ochocinco seems to thrive on the attention and interaction with his fans through the social media portal. It's not just an attention-driven, egocentric motive for the Bengal.
It's all about combining his free spirit with, to be perfectly honest, the Benjamins.
"I do appreciate this perspective of reporting and being involved in now making the news, I have been on the other side of this too. But I enjoy being out there and interacting with the fans in a different way, showing a different side," said Ochocinco, who even asked commissioner Roger Goodell a question about labor negotiations at Goodell's state of the NFL address the Friday before the Super Bowl. "It's all mixed in but at the end of the day, it's all about the money."
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer