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ESPN's weblogs suck

May 16, 2005 at 05:22 PM
espn-blogs.gif

Om Malik says ESPN's blog strategy is dumb because they're offered as a premium service and are only available to ESPN Insiders, but I think their new weblogs suck for a totally different reason.

First off, let me say I think the content ESPN's writers are providing in these weblogs is quite excellent, which is why the way they're implemented disappoints me so much. It's well written and entertaining info that you can't really get anywhere else, even on ESPN. Eric Karabell's fantasy weblog is particularly good, great (almost) daily opinions on who you should start, trade for, or pick up for your fantasy team.

But this is the crux of the problem, much of the content is time-sensitive information and they don't offer any way to keep up with when the weblog has been updated. I complained about their lack of RSS feeds when I first found the Fantasy Games Blog back in March. (ESPN offers feeds for each writer, but no Insider content shows up in them.) If you have a site that is updated on a regular basis and has time-sensitive information, than you have to let me know when itís been updated or else it's useless. Iím not going to run through all of my bookmarks and check in on each of their five weblogs every couple of hours, so by the time I read the latest updates itís already old news that I can probably find someplace else for free. Despite really enjoying the content of Karabell's blog, before I saw Malik's post I had long since forgotten about it.

My other big issue is their idea of feedback that appears to allow you to comment on each entry. But you click on it and all it does is link you to a generic email form where you can contact the writer and never get any response. Some sort of commenting system would be a great opportunity for them to create some interactivity and community and theyíre whiffing big time. Comment spam is an enormous problem in every weblog system, but in this case it would be pretty easily moderated. The content requires a paid account and I don't think the poker/viagra/diet pills spamming jerks are going to be signing up for too many of those anytime soon. A commenting system with writer interaction would be a huge selling point for me when it comes time to renew my Insider account in a couple of months. Right now, other than the free ESPN The Magazine subscription I don't get that much value out of my $25 per year.

I think overall the ESPN blogs are just a case of a big media outlet latching onto a buzz word without really getting into the concept. The only thing that makes these blogs different from any of their other articles is that more than one might appear on a page. Right now, ESPN's blogs are still a couple of important features away from being a very cool service.

Posted in Web/Tech | 5 Comments | Add yours

Comments and TrackBacks

1 kareem said...

Brian-
I worked on Insider for 7 months (in fact I'm still doing some work on it as I transition to a new role), and I wholeheartedly agree with your critique about missing features on our Insider blogs. The idea was to launch without some key features (ones which I believed we should--and will eventually--have), see what kind of feedback we got, and modify accordingly.

Like most big-media companies, we're dipping a toe in the blogging water. I can say two things: first, that we are paying attention. And second, when a big company moves, it tends to move in a major way.

Kareem

Posted on May 18, 2005 at 01:14 PM

2 From reemer.com...

My response to Om Malik's criticism of ESPN's blogs:Our blogs are encouraging the spirit of opennessĖthereís nowhere else on our site where writers like Karabell, Ford, etc. express themselves as frequently or candidly as on their blogs. You are insinu...

Posted on May 19, 2005 at 10:20 PM

3 Brian said...

Thanks for the input Kareem. I actually got an email from a VP at ESPN that mentioned that ya'll are still working on adding features and improving the blogs. He specifically mentioned that authenticated RSS feeds would be available soon.

I think publishing short excerpts in the RSS would be even better than authenticated feeds, that way anyone could subscribe to them and see how great the content is. Sort of a teaser to hook people and make them sign up to see the full content.

Posted on May 20, 2005 at 11:59 AM

4 kareem said...

Hi Brian,

I agree. We want to offer authenticated feeds as an additional service to our customers. I think that one of the real values of RSS to a publisher is capturing so-called 'mindshare'. Putting teaser content out there is a great way to do so, especially when midshare = dollars (in the case of Insider).

Posted on May 20, 2005 at 03:56 PM

5 kendrick said...

I think publishing short excerpts in the RSS would be even better than authenticated feeds, that way anyone could subscribe to them and see how great the content is.
Exactly. Authenticated RSS feeds would be a complete pain in the ass on both the publishing and consuming end. Especially since I remain skeptical that full article text would be published in an authenticated feed. I don't mind clicking through to the full article on the Insider page and supplying my uname/passwd, but I can't be troubled to remember to check a website 10 times a day for content that should be pushed out to me in the first place.

Don't overcomplicate this, ESPN!

Posted on July 14, 2005 at 11:15 PM