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Taking aim at ESPN
March 17, 2008 9:46 PM   Subscribe

Sports Business Journal has a detailed look behind the buzz over "The Emperor’s New Clothes: How ESPN’s Multi-Platform Strategy Hasn’t Improved Ratings," a sharply critical PowerPoint presentation making the rounds of sports league offices and advertising buyers in recent months. A good read for folks interested in the business of sports, decreasing TV ratings for many leagues, the blurriness of the ad/news line and the difficulty of measuring eyeballs across media. [via Romenesko]
posted by mediareport (18 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Ugh: "They are angry at the networks that anonymously are distributing it"
posted by boo_radley at 9:59 PM on March 17, 2008


I'm a sports fan, but I virtually NEVER go to espn.go.com. I refuse to use sites that charge for the majority of their content. "Insider" my ass.
posted by spock at 10:13 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is at best very tangential but I know I'm going to forget it so:
"On Thursday, the magazine [Sports Illustrated] will introduce the Vault, a free site within SI.com that contains all the words Sports Illustrated has ever published and many of the images, along with video and other material, in a searchable database."
posted by peacay at 10:54 PM on March 17, 2008 [3 favorites]


Er, peacay, how is the Vault any different from say, the NYT Archive? Or any other site where the archived material and the non-archived material coexist, same site with no need for new fancy names.

Color me confused.

Oh, and I actually heard recently that Yahoo Sports has experienced a huge jump in readership---maybe at the expense of ESPN? Not sure how true this jump in users is, but I will say they have recently added more interesting sports content (even if it is Yahoo). Considering my former boss's husband was tapped to run it....naw, still can't claim any credit ;)
posted by librarylis at 11:14 PM on March 17, 2008


Here's something I never understood: Why is it still espn.go.com? I mean, Time Warner has dropped 'AOL' from its name, Lycos.com shuttered its doors 10-ish years ago, and still they insist on this "We are part of the Go.com Online Portal Experience" nonsense.
posted by ChasFile at 11:43 PM on March 17, 2008


librarylis said: "Er, peacay, how is the Vault any different from say, the NYT Archive? Or any other site where the archived material and the non-archived material coexist, same site with no need for new fancy names.

Color me confused."


Wholly different readership demographics? An upgrade to the overall SI user experience calling for a splashy promotion with separate branding? Weekly magazine versus daily newspaper? An understanding that users who are searching archives and users who are reading new content will desire different functionalities? A way to prominently differentiate between competitors, by highlighting a treasure trove of unique content? All of the above?

"Oh, and I actually heard recently that Yahoo Sports has experienced a huge jump in readership---maybe at the expense of ESPN? Not sure how true this jump in users is, but I will say they have recently added more interesting sports content (even if it is Yahoo). Considering my former boss's husband was tapped to run it....naw, still can't claim any credit ;)"

Even with the disclosure, this is pretty weak. You've got a personal acquaintance who manages a competing site (Yahoo! Sports), so you praise your friend's effort and slag on two direct competitors (SI and ESPN) in the same post, complete with "a little birdie told me Yahoo is better!" but no cite.

Color me unimpressed. A winkie emoticon doesn't negate the AstroTurf quotient.
posted by pineapple at 3:26 AM on March 18, 2008


Why is it still espn.go.com?

Because parent company Disney says so. Perhaps surprisingly, they don't really get the web.
posted by spock at 5:28 AM on March 18, 2008


Such anger on the blue today.
posted by Senator at 6:09 AM on March 18, 2008


“We have become successful by following an astoundingly simply principle: serve fans,” Skipper said.

Well, no, not anymore. They already got through to fans. So to keep growing, they had to break through to people who don't care much about sports. It's an old problem-- to reach a mass audience, you have to bring in people who prefer hype and fluff to the subject matter. ESPN and CNN are in the exact same situation. (And Fire Joe Morgan and Talking Points Memo are the reaction).

The irritation of people like me is probably not a very high price for the networks to pay, but I still don't get why some Fox Sportsish network doesn't try to aim for the niche of people who would rather learn about why teams are good than about Arena Football and "Who's Most Now!"

The executive believed that the hosts were reciting talking points provided by ESPN executives.

There is no doubt that there are talking points from ESPN executives. Watch Around the Horn and PTI back to back-- the same topics always come up. They all have to act like they care about "Dancing with the Stars" because it's on ABC; why wouldn't they have to pretend the NHL sucks (or merits zero discussion) because it's on Versus?
posted by ibmcginty at 6:28 AM on March 18, 2008


Well, PTI isnt' just a shill for Disney/ABC products (besides, Dancing usually features at least one pro-athlete, so they follow the show for that storyline); American Idol comes up almost every day on that show. But I digress...

The big problem with ESPN.com (IMO) is that their interface is terrible, and the website is terribly noisy. There's too much clutter and it makes finding anything really difficult. Plus, you generally have to click through three pages before you get to the content you want. I know that's to drive hits or ad-rates or something, but from the user's perspective it makes their site very cumbersome and unwelcome. Finally, there's just better content on the web than what they're pushing on ESPN. All they seem to be pushing on ESPN.com is the brand name, and on the web that just isn't enough.
posted by herc at 6:36 AM on March 18, 2008


Even with the disclosure, this is pretty weak.

Yahoo Sports is pretty damn good, and its readership is starting to grow.

Yahoo beat "the worldwide leader" in unique visitors in August, September, and November 2007, according to comScore Media Metrix.
posted by drezdn at 6:36 AM on March 18, 2008


I didn't mean to imply that Yahoo Sports is weak in some way -- it is the statement that Yahoo has more users (objective claim, but with no data), and has more interesting content (subjective), while also having a conflict of interest, that I find cheesy.
posted by pineapple at 6:49 AM on March 18, 2008


I'm an ESPN Outsider. It's free if you sign up now. Limited time offer since the sun will expand and devour the earth in a few million years.
posted by srboisvert at 6:54 AM on March 18, 2008


ibmcginty:"but I still don't get why some Fox Sportsish network doesn't try to aim for the niche of people who would rather learn about why teams are good than about Arena Football and 'Who's Most Now!'"

Because no one wants to watch a baseball show telling us that the Giants are better because their stadium is sponsored by Fox Partner AT&T, and the Braves suck because "lol Ted Turner sux."
posted by Cyclopsis Raptor at 7:36 AM on March 18, 2008


ibmcginty : who would rather learn about why teams are good than about Arena Football

Us Arena football fans would love to get some more prime coverage over poker and the strongest man competitions.
posted by garlic at 10:28 AM on March 18, 2008


Fair, garlic.

The Arena hype is intolerable. The games themselves are an actual sporting event, and therefore good.
posted by ibmcginty at 2:10 PM on March 18, 2008


By way of explanation, ESPN bought into the AFL. As a media company, it doesn't seem like it's the right thing to do to buy into the things that you're covering. But I'm also not a fan of all the "watch these other fine fox shows" that the NFL announcers do either.
posted by garlic at 6:08 PM on March 18, 2008


Pineapple, perhaps a bit of context for you. The disclosure was a joke (the boss was four bosses ago, it was her *husband* and I have zero tie to Yahoo. At all.).

What I should explain is that the when the former boss came back to visit about a year ago, she mentioned that Yahoo had hired her husband away from the traditional media world specifically to make Yahoo Sports better. It was at that point that I started to pay attention to Yahoo Sports, because she made the point that now they were investing in it. And that's when I started to hear more positive things about it and good things would hopefully be coming. I believe that the first good press that I heard about them vs ESPN was at Slate (or maybe not...it was some piece about Yahoo's Fantasy sports being better than expected), but I can't say for sure.

In any case, SI is a valuable brand and I'm surprised they hadn't put their past articles up long ago. I am surprised, however, that they didn't choose to integrate it but chose to separate it from the rest of the site a bit. You make some valuable points in explanation for that. I can see that as promotional reasons, but for the brand, isn't part of the appeal of SI that it's got that history? You can read about Johnny Unitas, and want to read about Johnny Unitas, at the same time as reading about March Madness UCLA versus Notre Dame or whatever.

All of this means ESPN has more competition....and thus the powerpoint.
posted by librarylis at 11:19 PM on March 18, 2008


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