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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