Sunday, January 11, 2009

ESPN Dumps Direct NASCAR Link On Website Front Page


Things are certainly getting interesting where the new ESPN.com homepage is concerned. The redesigned version of this top sports website has caused quite a backlash across the Internet.

Where TDP is concerned, one change really stands out. The company that telecasts the entire Nationwide Series, the final 17 Sprint Cup races and offers the only daily NASCAR show on TV has eliminated NASCAR as a direct link on the frontpage of their website.

ESPN.com users no longer see the word NASCAR on the front page and have to click on the "All Sports" tab to open a menu box and then find the sport. Poker and High School sports are also on the same menu. The curious part of this switch is that the National Hockey League remains as a direct link while NASCAR does not.

When you load the new ESPN.com front page, you suddenly find yourself immersed in a commercial environment that puts your ability to navigate on hold until all the advertising is complete.

Here is an excerpt from Venture Beat that talks about the specifics:

ESPN launched its new site design today and all I can say is “wow.” And it’s not a good “wow,” it’s a horrified “wow.” I can’t separate those advertisements from the content, and so I’ll never visit this site again.

It’s sad, because ESPN does have great content when it comes to sports. In fact, I don’t think it’s any stretch to say that it has the best content out there. But with this redesign it’s crossed a line that I expect other sites may try to cross as advertising revenues dip in the weak economy.

First of all, when you load up espn.com, you’re greeted with a huge overlay that includes not just a giant static ad, but also a video that auto-plays! It was annoying enough when ESPN had a little video in the corner that played when you loaded the site previously, but at least with that you could see other content too. Now you’re forced to sit through this overlay or click out of it. It doesn’t run every time you visit the site, but more than enough to make it so I won’t go back.

Secondly, the site itself is still just a giant ad disguised as a sports site. I’m looking at the site right now and I can’t tell if I’m at a site about sports or the website about the Ford F-150. I hope I don’t accidentally click anywhere because I must have a 50 percent chance of hitting one of these ads.


You can read the entire Venture Beat article by clicking here.

Mr. Siegler goes on to talk about content issues. Other than the opinions offered by the ESPN writers, most of the other sports information, including NASCAR news, is available from a wide variety of Internet sources. This puts the ESPN NASCAR writers in a tough situation where getting new Internet readers is concerned.

Arriving at the NASCAR page, the positive change in the ESPN redesign is apparent. The NASCAR videos do not auto-play when the user arrives, so folks do not have to continually grab the volume controls. The page itself has gone minimalist.

Two of the key elements on the front page are from the ESPN-owned Jayski.com website. A podcast that has a great quick play feature uses Jayski's business partner Mark Garrow as the announcer for an informative update on the NASCAR happenings.

The direct link to Jayski.com has been moved to the right-hand column and continues to feature headlines from that site. It is unfortunate that when a user clicks on an ESPN.com NASCAR story, the Jayski link does not travel to the next page.

It should be interesting to see if once again the ESPN TV coverage of NASCAR, including the daily NASCAR Now program, can go through a third season without ever mentioning the ESPN-owned Jayski.com on the air.

This culture clash between North Carolina and Connecticut continues to be very strange, with many NASCAR fans going to Jayski for information long before ESPN returned to the sport. Integrating Jayski into the NASCAR Now program for 2009 would be a tremendously smart move for the "New England gang."

From the NASCAR page on ESPN.com, it appears that David Newton, Terry Blount, Marty Smith, Ed Hinton and Ryan McGee will be the ones providing the reporting and opinion for this season. Each is featured with their own section and archives.

The ESPN.com direct link to NASCAR used to be the small tip of the NASCAR news and information iceberg that was visible above the water to everyone. Now, it has sunk just below the surface.

That first click makes all the difference in the Internet business. Getting mainstream stick-and-ball sports fans to read about NASCAR was greatly influenced by that one little word that used to be on the website's front page.

Yahoo! Sports matches ESPN.com in head-to-head users, often trading the "unique visitors" lead on a monthly basis. Yahoo! continues to make a NASCAR direct link available on the sports front page.

With millions of sports fans of all types surfing over to ESPN.com every day, losing NASCAR as a "one click" in these troubled times is not a very positive step for the sport.

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36 comments:

Vicky D said...

JD, I always felt espn.com and even nascar.com websites were too "busy" for me. This new espn site looks even busier. I guess I'll stick to Daly Planet for my nascar info. Thanks.

Phathead said...

You know the part that ticks me off even more? They have Soccer on the main page as a direct link.
Soccer! I understand that it is the most popular sport in the world, but ESPN.com is an American sports website and Soccer is far, far down the totem pole. The fact that they list that instead of the second largest spectator sport in the nation is despicable. I'll just have to start going to SI.com instead now.

Kyle said...

I actually like the general idea of the ESPN.com homepage. But, let's face it, There is no reason for ESPN to do it if they aren't going to make every bit of money they can. its business. Now, the splash page thing will eventually go away, and it only pops up the first time you visit it.

I actually love the new website design. I mean there is only three ads. That's the normal across most websites. I think they need to use the sub nav. more effectively, and put as many sports as they can in there.

But, fans can sign up for an ESPN.com account, and customize the "My Headlines" Tab to display the latest news for just NASCAR, their favorite driver or team, or general sport. I think ESPN.com went in the right direction with this site. I don't have any auto-play video on the frontpage, I can grab the latest headlines across the sports world. Now, for people that are just interested in NASCAR, they aren't going to like it. But I watch many sports, college football, NFL, NHL, MLB, college Basketball, and NASCAR. It appears ESPN.com roughly covers 30 sports on their website, they can't fit each one on the front page because it will take forever to load. But, they can and should stick NASCAR up there with the MLB, NHL, NFL, etc. in the Sub Nav. bar.

But, I think this would be something NASCAR.com should look like.

Sophia said...

Didn't even bother to go there...I went there maybe 3 times last season? for Dale Jr and Hornaday interviews.

I just do not have the energy for some of these sites either...I have come to loathe and detest the word "revamp" and "Upgrade" as i am dealing with a horrible revamp to a site I work on and frequent (UNrelated to sports)

Just another slap to NASCAR from it's proud "NASCAR Partner" isn't it? BSPN the BS never ends.

Anonymous said...

Kyle, many very good points. I too like the new ESPN.com. I love NASCAR, but follow other sports as well. I like the scores up at the top, where with one click I can get all the NFL, of NCAA scores. As has been mentioned, you can customize your site.

Another part I like is the section of "Today on ESPN". Great not to have to go to a tv guide and have it in the front page.

I'm not sure why many in the public think that everything should be free. I'd rather have a Wendy's commercial than to have to pay for this site. Having worked for an organization that has a web site, I know the millions and millions of dollars it costs to have/maintain a site of this size.

3bud said...

I used to just automatically go to Jayski, now I pretty much click my short cut to TDP first thing then Jayski.NASCAR.com is way to cluttered for me,so I have a short cut to TrackPass to avoid that mess. ESPN has not been a site I go to regularly because well it's ESPN.If I found something that would lead me there that's about the only time. Now if it is as bad as NASCAR.com I just won't bother. Looks to me like ESPN and NASCAR are definitely not on the same page. Bad Pun intended.

Nan S said...

Thank you that the auto-play is gone. I rarely went to ESPN because I found that so annoying. If there's less clutter, great.

So, I have to pull down a tab to see racing and tennis. No big deal. I'm sure the site design was based on which sports got the most hits.

Phathead said...

Honestly the only portion of ESPN.com I read are the Page 2 articles because... well they're not typical ESPN material.

bevo said...

Just a thought here but maybe the direct links are for in-season sports. Once NASCAR fires up they'll probably put a direct link for it.

The amazing thing to me is despite the push to promote ESPN360 there is no link for it on the homepage, it's a submenu on the video tab.

Anonymous said...

Everything in business is about numbers. Many on this site have said they NEVER go to ESPN.com. Well, why would ESPN waste space on a not so popular destination?

Complaining is not what works. If there are milions of hits, then ESPN will make changes. It seems like howling at the moon to say ESPN should have a direct NASCAR link, and in the next breath say you never visit ESPN.com

Lisa Hogan said...

When ESPN got the new TV contract, I went to the website and bookmarked the NASCAR page.

By the middle of last season, I only visited the NASCAR page once a week to see if Marty Smith had a new article.

I am interested in other sports. I get the news I'm interested in at other websites. Usually, Yahoo.

Gymmie said...

I only went to the old BSPN site if JD or a reader posted a linky to there.

I guess they took off the video as I didn't have any autoplay nor see any video.

I don't understand why they decided to "hide" NA$CAR. But I'm not surprised since they didn't cover it during the season to begin with and "hid" anything that was actual racing behind full screen interviews and other prepackaged crap.

Gymmie said...

@bevo--possibly, but Pre-Season Thunder starts Monday...and there should be a lot of "catch up" news to cover in addition to the testing news. It's odd a week before everything starts up (yes I know it'll be quiet for another week or so leading up to SpeedWeeks) that they would "hide" it.

@Lisa--it would be nice if they'd have a set up like SPEED does where you can subscribe to an author and they'll email you when they have new content. Provided you can find them in the first place to sign up. Luckily mine had all been on the first page so I just clicked their article and signed up that way. Looks like the closest they have is the RSS feed.

Sophia said...

Gymmie

Can you please explain how I can get Robin Miller's stuff emailed to me...not interested in the others. Excuse the thread drift JD but I'd love to know the answer to this...bread crumbs to leave a trail don't work on the Internet.

Guess espn.com's real story and how they deal with NASCAR will show on Daytona weeks....if Ed Hinton has an article, I hope to hear about it :)

Gymmie said...

Yup, just pull up one of his articles and there's an "author alert" click that box and it'll send you an email with a link when he posts a new article :). I enabled my email for my blogger profile if you want to email off site :)

majorshouse said...

At least they got rid of that nasty auto play junk and as a blind computer user, that stuff always got in the way of my screen reader and made things really hard to navigate. I will have to and visit the site and see if it is more user friendly than it was and that was the main reason I hardly went there.

Anon E. Moose said...

I only go to ESPN.com from Jayski links. Do you hear that, ESPN? Go ahead and overhaul Jayski and load it up with all that garbage. Watch your click-throughs plummet. I learned many years ago what a fubar some people can make of a website. Speedtv's adobe flash carousel is a good example. Do you hear that Speedtv? Sensory overload does not translate into more unique visits! And these people think this Web 2.0 stuff is a welcome event. Go figure. Our local newspaper's website remains static until ALL ads and links load-no matter how long that takes-before scrolling becomes active. Maybe this is something ESPN can incorporate into their website. And add the Pluck feature from a dialup server in Bangalore. Oh well, if they build it we will come, right?

Anonymous said...

Do what I do. I never go to espn.com, I still use the rpm.espn.com and it takes me right to the NASCAR section. RPM.ESPN.COM is way back from the NASCAR ESPN Days in 2000.

Tom said...

This goes back to the whole offseason TV coverage, but I honestly do not believe ESPN is in NASCAR for the "long haul" Sure they have years left in their contract, but by doing little things that leaves race coverage out of the mix, they effectivly "devalue" the property, and should renewal or a chance to renegotiate, you can rest assured they will only offer very small numbers, if at all.

Tom
Inverness, FL

Anonymous said...

I just visited the ESPN website for the first time, ever. Thanks for bringing attention to it, because it has far far less advertising then either Jayski.com or that horrible website know as Nascar.com.. Long time Nascar fan here, and it is sad to see Nascar treated as a second rate sport, but Nascar has done that to themselves with races like the Indy race this year.. Now, off to watch football. According to ESPN.com there is actually an early game today.

Anonymous said...

Gee, I didn't notice the changes on the ESPN site...

Oh, maybe that's because I've never gone there and have no intentions of visiting even once.

I always check Jayski, just as I always check your site, JD. And I noticed that Jayski has finally done away with all the stuff that was directly before the news links on his Cup page. Much, much better!

Any chance ESPN will dump Jayski too? As you can tell, less ESPN is better for me!

Daly Planet Editor said...

Just a reminder, the NASCAR.com website is run by the Turner Interactive Group out of Atlanta, GA.

They are a sister company to Turner Network Television (TNT), the network that broadcasts six Sprint Cup races during the summer.

Turner pays a hefty fee to NASCAR for the right to operate that site as a third party and controls the writers, content and format.

This agreement, which has many more years to go on the current contract, prohibits NASCAR itself from operating any online business that could interact with fans, provide long-form iTV programs or update the news directly from the NASCAR media staff.

This is the key reason that fans cannot watch TV programs from The NASCAR Media Group online after they have finished airing on cable or broadcast TV networks.

NMG cannot put that content on the Internet. Since it is up to the cable TV companies to capture any content they want to offer as free on-demand viewing, NMG literally has no ability to get NASCAR shows to the fans other than SPEED or ESPN.

Talk about a tough situation.

JD

Anonymous said...

I thought I was missing it and really had to search for the link to Nascar. Glad to know it wasn't me and it isn't there - well not glad.

Thanks for bringing many things to light, at least we know Speed can hear you from time to time and make changes to their credit.

Keep them honest JD

Ryan said...

This is really your biggest concern? Are you so damn lazy you can't go to All Sports and then click on it there? Dear God.

Have you ever considered it's maybe because the NHL is in season while NASCAR is not? Although your criticism of ESPN is amusing to me.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Ryan,

What we are noting is a change on one of the largest sports Internet sites in the world.

Being removed as a direct link, even if the sport is not actively racing, is a big decision.

This is even more interesting because ESPN is heavily invested in NASCAR to the tune over over one billion dollars.

Perhaps, that might be a bit of an incentive to keep the sport healthy and available to even the casual sports fan who surfs over to the ESPN.com website.

If rotating the major sports in North America on and off the front page was the new procedure, the Major League Baseball link would be gone as well.

I don't really see a spot where NASCAR will suddenly just pop-up on the front page come February.

Thanks for the comment,

JD

Newracefan said...

I like the new Nascar/ESPN page and that is what I have Bookmarked so I hadn't even seen the new ESPN page until today. I really like that Hinton and Marty have their own link since they are the only ones I read along with Ryan McGee. The site itself looks pretty good and I didn't get a video autoplay but then I always have the sound off to save me the surprise factor. I am very disappoined that the NASCAR link is buried and I noticed the baseball link is still there an I'm pretty sure they haven't even started spring training yet so not sure even when the season starts we'll get it back.

HarpAmy/Amy in FL said...

I don't go to the ESPN website unless I am hunting a tv time and that may happen a couple of times a year. Even though, I don't go there, I love the picture that you have at the head of this column. As a huge Gator fan (and Nascar and Michael Waltrip fan as well), I love seeing Urban Meyer's pic there as he is the National Championship winning head coach.

GO GATORS, LOVE YOU GUYS!!!! Sorry, guys, I am just so happy right now. I also love Tim Tebow.

I do hope that ESPN can get their act together, though, about Nascar and what they want. It would be a shame if they are in a huge part responsible for the demise of Nascar or serious decline.

I just wish that Fox would get a national centralized cable sports network and broadcast all the races and coverage for football as well. They could easily compete with ESPN and show them how it is done. JMHO.

Anonymous said...

If rotating the major sports in North America on and off the front page was the new procedure, the Major League Baseball link would be gone as well

The problem is NASCAR is not a major sport, MLB is. Only NFL, MLB, and NBA deserve year round, off-season treatment.

Daly Planet Editor said...

Thanks for the emails asking about total users numbers for ESPN and Yahoo!

In November of 2008, Yahoo! Sports had 25.38 million unique users. ESPN was second with 21.6 million.

Unique users is the real number of individuals who access a site, it excludes the repeat viewing. That total number of every time a user accessed the site is called pageviews.

Now you can perhaps see why a suttle change on a website of this size can directly affect traffic to a destination.

Thanks again,

JD

Anonymous said...

I think the reason ESPN moved NASCAR under "all sports" is because of the traffic or should I say "non-traffic" that NASCAR hits generate. There is no room for 30 sports on the banner, so you go where your viewers want to go.

It's just like this site being on Jayski. It helps with traffic, but Jayski has no obligation to do it just because it would help TDP. (By the way, Jayski was the way I found this site.)

I does not matter what people say, ESPN has the numbers and with those numbers they generate traffic and therefore sponsors who pay the big bucks. Let's face it, 5 million hits to NFL is far better than 10,000 NASCAR hits.

I'm a USA Today fan, and to this day, they still don't have a NASCAR site.

Gymmie said...

@Ryan--what JD said. And as I pointed out above Preseason Thunder starts on Monday and what I gather this "change" was made on/about the 5th, a week before things get started up again. Yes we'll be "down" about a week before SpeedWeeks start. But it's odd (if the linky was still there from Mid-Nov through 1/5) that they'd take it down just as things are about to get started again. Unless JD or another reader posts a linky to a story, I never go there so it's no biggie to me. But considering how they've treated the sport in their coverage, other shows (treat it like a joke instead of a real sport) I'm not surprised they'd "hide" the NA$CAR link.

Anonymous said...

I'm so surprised how many people here are now upset about the ESPN site. I made a comment on TDP on 1-5-09 @2:36pm. Only one person made a comment about it (Richard from NC).

I wonder why?

GinaV24 said...

Since I can't remember the last time I visited the ESPN website, I almost feel silly commenting on it, but I do think that taking a direct link for NASCAR off the webpage is significant. I usually check Jayski and scan the information and then come and read JD's column. NASCAR.com has been a mess for several years -- TNT did a horrible job with that "redesign". So, I think that this is another ESPN slap IMO, but it won't affect me personally since I don't ever use ESPN for anything that I can find anywhere else.

Lou said...

just a note. I kind of agree with newracefan. I also bookmark the nascar site(webpage). and until recently i did not notice the main page. I had no reason to go there. I just clicked my bookmark and bam , yep at the nascar page. So I guess I miss all the fluff. And I do not miss that one bit. And unless I have a reason to check the main page, I do not use it.

Anonymous said...

Jayski is my homepage. If I ever want information on a driver and can't find it at Jayski or other trusted race-related site, I use a search engine.

Even though the Internet was supposed to make things easier, websites like ESPN's only create frustration and headaches for me. I simply do not have time for websites like this.

Anonymous said...

If you are a sport's fan, you will love the new ESPN site. It has so much, and each sport site has improved.

I like ESPN, the Magazine, and today they have a great article on PE and Richard. That's not the only good article, but most on this site don't care about other sports.