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Early Thoughts on ESPN New York

By Mike Silva ~ April 2nd, 2010. Filed under: Mike Silva, Sports Media Commentary.

Had a chance to navigate ESPN New York early this morning and wanted to share some first impressions. Before I do that, here is the inaugural staff at the site:

Andrew Marchand (General)
Ian O’ Connor (Columnist)
Wally Matthews (Yankees)
Adam Rubin (Mets)
Kieran Darcy (College Sports)

Johnette Howard
Jane McManus
Rob Parker
Shaun Powell

Each of the ESPN “bloggers” will comment on New York sports.

First, looking at the site, it’s basically the ESPN web format with just New York stories, scores, and video. I found out recently that ESPN has an advantage over other outlets, including Regional Sports Networks, in distributing game highlight video. That should be a home run in terms of traffic. You will also be able to watch a local ESPN NY Sportscenter, chat with personalities, and interact with the site in what they call “Fan Engagement Tools.” The first one is a NY Sports Census that determines your team loyalty based on geography. I am interested to see if the town is evenly split between the Mets and Yankees fans, as I suspect, unlike the scientific polls.

Adding the “radio” link to the top of the site is huge for ESPN. I encourage fans, even the WFAN loyalist, to start listening to podcasts and online streams of ESPN Radio. Jody McDonald and Brandon Tierney will be teaming up starting Monday at 1pm. I believe this show could make some inroads against Francesa in the 25 -35 crowd. ESPN needs to use the web to build their radio personalities. I understand they already have the brand name, but they need to localize it to connect with the New York audience.

It’s way too early to praise or criticize the site. From a conceptual standpoint this is a home run idea. We have learned in the age of new media that general sports coverage does not quench the thirst of the hardcore fan. They want more news, opinion, and rumors than ever before. They want a subject matter expert, not someone who generally knows a “dash of everything” about sports (see Mike Francesa). Will ESPN NY accomplish this? Right now I have some reservations.

There is no doubt this is a talented group of writers ESPN brought on board, just read their resumes and you will see what I am talking about. O’ Connor, Matthews, and Rubin each have a recent New York following. Rubin very well may be the smartest and hardest working beat reporter in New York history. No, I am not exaggerating, not many reporters would spend their free time learning about the Mets organization like Rubin. He brings a corporate America 24/7 relentless work ethic to the position. You will see this on full display with his coverage of the Mets. Read his early responses on Twitter and you will see what I mean. Across town, Wallace Matthews is more known for his relentless criticisms of the New York Mets, but he needs to develop a connection with the Yankees fan in his new position. Although I agree with his inaugural column regarding the Bombers, he needs to balance out his trademark negativity in this position. Constant shock value negativity will ultimately lose the fan base.

The rest of the stable is more general sports writing and blogging. That’s ok, but each will have to support their resumes with interesting content the fans will enjoy, respect, and want to read more. This can’t be your father’s newspaper journalism from the world of academia. No, I don’t mean snark (leave that to the morning show at WFAN), but an individual personality that distinguishes each writer. Right now, based on history, I see six of one, half dozen of another, with the staff. This doesn’t mean it will be bad content, just nothing different from the newspapers. With the access ESPN provides, each has an advantage to provide analysis and build their personal brand.

Right now there is no dedicated columnist to the Jets, Giants, Knicks, Islanders, and Rangers. I am sure that will change in the coming months, if not, this will just be a Mets/Yankees site, something I am sure ESPN doesn’t want. I already have some ideas as to who I would like to see in those positions, but that is for another time.

Although ESPN is in position to put the “final nail” in the newspaper business, they will find out that personalities like Joel Sherman, Ken Davidoff, Kevin Kernan, and Chad Jennings all have followings at their respective papers. I was hoping to see some of those individuals today when I brought up the website. Right now I see hard core Yankees fans going to LoHud, before ESPN New York, for their Yankees news and opinions because of the connection those guys have built with their audience.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so none of what I see is unexpected. They have an opportunity and the only question is will they seize it? Or will ESPN fall into “corporate mode” and manage this site based on what they think it should be and not what the medium has become. They have the chance to cut the legs of two stables with this site: newspapers and WFAN, who is begging the competition to knock them down. This site can do it if run properly.

To succinctly describe my first impression: good first day, great idea, but miles to go before the hype becomes a reality.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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4 Responses to Early Thoughts on ESPN New York

  1. Shamik

    I was thinking, if all the media outlets in the NYC area got together and did a draft of reporters/columnists/bloggers etc, who would be the first pick?

  2. MetsKnicksRutgers

    Sham — Personally i’d take Ted Berg with the number 1 pick when it comes to paid positions and not guys from Amazin Avenue, or Metsdradamus.

  3. Shamik

    My personal top 5: (no particular order)
    Ted Berg
    Matt Cerrone
    Patrick Flood
    Adam Rubin
    Howard Megdal

  4. jimmy

    1050 could kill if they got rid of Colin…had they not been so pigheaded they might have still had Max right after the morning drive leading into BT then right into Kay….no need to change the dial all day

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