It’s harder than it looks.
Los Angeles Times columnist James Rainey takes a gander at ESPN’s foray into the city’s sports market and comes up with some telling observation. Namely, in the words of one unnamed “insider,” the network expected more than the 2.7 million unique visitors to its Los Angeles-branded site.
Additionally, local sites in Boston, New York, Dallas, and Chicago are struggling to gain a foothold.
The Worldwide Leader has stiff competition, not just from local newspapers, radio, and television, but also from other national outlets such as SBNation.com and Bleacherreport.com. These properties, designed for the Internet, are smaller and quicker than ESPN. They can adjust to trends in reporting and, more importantly, Web design faster. As Rainey points out, “The experience verified a truism of Internet journalism – that scoops and brilliant writing can be nice but that user convenience often wins the day.” (Granted, he’s using that point to argue ESPN’s iPhone apps will help gain traction, but the argument works against the slow-moving company as well.)
Local markets are a growth market in the sports world. But ultimately, it’s hard to see ESPN keeping up the experiment long enough to succeed. They have bigger issues on their plate.