The Bristol glasnost continues. Sports Business Journal is reporting ESPN will launch a new blog March 30, ESPNFrontRow.com, to cover itself. The ESPN PR department will run the site. It will feature about three posts a day, responding “directly” to controversies or, absent any strife, linking to behind the scenes videos. It’s not an attempt to bypass the Poynter Institute and ESPN will still answer Richard Deitsch’s phone calls.
Sports fans care more about sports, but in the ubiquitous content era fans spend far more time engaging with sports media than they do watching the sports. ESPN is the undoubted hegemon in that world. NFL fans spend more time with Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen than players on the field. Just like athletes things ESPN personalities do, rightly or wrongly, interest people. It’s largely why our site and Deadspin succeed.
Opacity breeds conspiracy theories and portrays ESPN as a faceless entity. See FIFA. Engagement – whether through a site, through twitter or with those who may be critical – helps expose the more measured reality: ESPN is undoubtedly a corporate entity, but it’s mostly decent people doing mostly decent things most of the time. People learn more about ESPN. ESPN learns more about its audience. Does “Who’s Now?” happen in 2011?
How well the site works ultimately depends on how it treats “the consumer.” The audience for this site would be discerning. If it’s truly direct, earnest and intelligent it will be taken seriously. If it’s naked PR obfuscation it will be disregarded as such.
The site will allow comments, which could present an interesting dilemma about filtering. Do comments need to be approved? Do they allow them and filter after the fact? Will constitutes too critical when the subject matter is yourself? Opening the floodgates, as they do on the main site, would drown out anything resembling meaningful discourse, though that would solve any conundrums by blunting the overall impact.