Several years ago, ESPN.com took a gamble. Editors in Bristol, Conn., went all in on the bet that sports fans would come to their site not only to read prominent columnists and find out the latest sports scores, but also to follow bloggers (many of whom weren’t household names) who covered a range of sports.
The payback has been big. The NFL and college football blog sites in particular have attracted loyal fan bases who regularly comment on posts and provide feedback to bloggers — the content of which is featured in “mailbags.”
ESPN.com continues to expand its blog network, which covers nearly every major sport. In many cases, bloggers cover an entire sport, such as racing or poker. In other cases bloggers cover specific divisions or conferences within a sport — such as the NFC South blog or the Big Ten Blog (full disclosure: the Big Ten blogger is a close friend). Therein lies the beauty of ESPN.com’s strategy. Sports fans love reading about their teams. But they also love reading about their team’s rivals. By dividing blogs in popular sports such as pro and college football into conferences or divisions, ESPN.com is packaging sports in a new way by covering teams within leagues in a similar way. Fans can see how their team stacks up against their common opponents.
ESPN.com blogs are also notable for their variety of content. Take the College Football Nation blog, which combines player features, breaking news stories, videos, rankings and interviews. Bloggers often post 10 or more times per day in season and continue to post new content in the offseason.
ESPN.com’s packaging of its blogs is top notch. The blog landing page is well designed and executed. Users can see the latest posts from each blog and switch from sport to sport. The look and feel is similar to TweetDeck, which curates Twitter posts.
ESPN.com bloggers understand the mantra “do what you do best and link to the rest.” There’s plenty of original content, packaged alongside links pages that point to top articles around the web.
In short, ESPN.com has found success through its blogs by packaging content in a novel way and following many web best practices: Post often, be conversational and link as much as possible.