And the results are in! For the past semester, I have been tracking ESPN’s website, which can be viewed here. The following are some of the best (and worst) aspects of espn.com, starting with the bad news first.
1. The site’s layout is too cluttered at times.
Yes, advertisements are one of the main sources of income for a website, but the number of ads scattered within articles can be a deterrent keeping people from reading an article in its entirety. There is also, as pictured above, a lot crammed on to espn.com’s homepage. There are subcategories within categories on the site’s homepage that contain videos, ads, game scores and articles.
Although putting all of this information right next to or on top of each other makes it easier for readers to access information without having to scroll very far or click through many tabs, it can be easy to lose track of or just skip over important information. This brings me to the second issue I found while tracking ESPN.
2. Is it a story with visuals or maybe eye-catching interactive graphics? Or is the story just a block of text? You won’t be able to tell from the outside.
Despite every article displayed on espn.com following the same format-a headline paired with a still image pertaining to the topic being discussed- there are plenty of articles that contain videos, photos or interactive graphics. The issue here is not that there is not enough of this type of content, the issue is that this content is not displayed on the site in a way that signals to readers what they can expect when they click on that article.
3. ESPN: the source for all breaking news in sports
Whether it’s a score update or news that the Bruins finally beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in game seven, ESPN’s multiple social media accounts, as well as espn.com, have audiences covered.
4. Speaking of a social media presence, ESPN sure has one.
Snapchat, multiple Twitter accounts, Instagram, Facebook, a SportsCenter show on Snapchat and a built-in widget on the Safari homepage of every single are just some of the many ways ESPN reaches its audience. The site has developed a following across virtually every mainstream social media platform, gathering thousands of shares on its material.
5. Looking toward the future, don’t hide behind a facade.
Despite the success ESPN has on social media, espn.com needs a bit of a facelift. Declutter the site’s layout, and don’t hide visually interesting articles behind static images that are not even in the article. The site has the content for both the avid sports fan as well as the person that only watches the Super Bowl maybe once every other year. espn.com just needs to learn how to flaunt what it’s got a little bit more.
In a 2016 piece, ESPN gave readers a look into the 2016 NBA Finals matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors by using data visualization to compare the teams’ stats.
First and foremost, the article uses color to successfully differentiate the two teams’ statistics. The Cavaliers’ statistics are indicated by the color red, while the Warriors’ statistics are indicated by the color blue.
The article uses a variety of interactive charts to compare data on aspects of both teams’ play, such as points per play,
percentiles by play,
playoff usage, playoff defense, play-by-play win probability, number of players acquired via trade, draft and free agency, as well as various other factors such as turnover percentage.
When scrolling over these charts, they give readers the specific numerical value for each statistic, including the rank as well as its corresponding percentage.
The charts and colors chosen for this article allow readers to immediately see the differences in the teams’ play, putting all of the information they would need in one interactive space. The data helps to illustrate the point that the author was trying to make, which was that, through using what ESPN calls its Basketball Power Index, the Warriors had a higher percent chance of winning the NBA championship in 2016 based on their team statistics. After all, probability is all about the numbers.
On Wednesday afternoon, former Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Boston University community health sciences professor Michael Siegel joined BU’s Initiative on Cities to discuss firearm violence and police shootings in the United States.
Professor Siegel is known for his research on firearm violence in the United States, which goes in-depth about how racism plays a role in the amount of gun violence per state.
Mayor Hodges is known for her work with the police force and community to reform police force policy in Minneapolis following the fatal shootings of Jamar Clark and Justine Diamond.
The following Twitter Moment includes live coverage of this event.
While Siegel’s research does not reach down to the city level, he has stated that the research is still strong enough to indicate that there is a strong relationship between racism and rates of gun violence in a community.
After discussing the priorities she had for her community and how she worked with both the police force and community as a whole to reach them, Mayor Hodges left the room with parting advice she says she often tells the undergraduates she works with: always know the budget of the organization you work with. She stated it’s always important to know where the money is flowing because it will indicate the values of an organization.
ESPN is the hub for all things March Madness. Each year, millions tune in to watch the spectacle unfold and to make brackets in hopes of winning ESPN’s bracket challenge.
To keep viewers updated on all of the Madness, ESPN utilizes a heavy online presence through its website as well as its apps.
As always, espn.com keeps live score updates posted at the top of the webpage, making the scores easily accessible without having to search for the site’s NCAAM tab.
A lot of news regarding March Madness is broken on ESPN’s apps. The ESPN app allows users to receive push notifications sent to their phone to stay up-to-date on the latest news. The app’s homepage also includes a news tab where the top headlines are displayed.
A lot of news regarding March Madness is delivered via ESPN’s Tournament Challenge app. The app is the home of ESPN’s March Madness bracket challenge. Within the app, users can create and track brackets that are entered in the challenge. The app gives users the option to be notified both when something happens to their bracket and when there is news regarding the tournament. Once again, these appear on a user’s phone as a push notification.
Although these sources are predominantly used by ESPN to deliver breaking news regarding the NCAA tournament, they also share news on their Twitter and Instagram pages as well as their Snapchat.
In November 2017, ESPN debuted SportsCenter on Snapchat to help keep up with the trend of quick, instant news. Hosting the show, which airs twice daily on weekdays and once daily on weekends, is sports personality Katie Nolan.
The addition of SportsCenter on Snapchat came amid the hundreds of layoffs ESPN has been making to its staff. One of the major reasons for these layoffs is a decrease in the number of viewers ESPN receives.
To keep up with younger audiences and the increasingly short attention spans of audiences in 2018, ESPN turned to Snapchat, where their SportsCenter show has proven to be successful for the company.
The content being produced on the SportsCenter Snapchat show is catered more toward younger generations, and Nolan says their content is delivered accordingly, such as by using slang that is popular among these groups.
SportsCenter receives millions of views a day, and the show is run similarly to the SportsCenter you would see on TV. What is the difference? The information is delivered in short clips-think more “hot takes”- and it is all on your phone, making it much easier to watch the highlights of the day on the go.
In March 2017, ESPN used still images to capture the story of athlete Chris Paynter’s experience at the Special Olympics World Games in Austria. The story was not centered around his performance at the games, but around the day trip he took to Salzburg, Austria, where his favorite movie, “The Sound of Music,” was filmed.
The headline, which reads “Photos: Chris Paynter saw a few of his favorite things in Austria,” and the header image, which shows an excited Paynter with his parents, draw the reader in first. It is the images themselves that create an effective, cohesive story. Each image is preceded by an act and scene number, and each photograph mirrors a famous scene in “The Sound of Music.”
Part of what makes this photo story so interesting is how scenic each photograph is. Those that have watched “The Sound of Music” can place Paynter into each one of the movie scenes, and each photograph displays beautiful images of Salzburg.
The story is not confined to Paynter’s trip to Salzburg. Instead, it ties in neatly to his actual performance at the games, which resulted in a gold medal. A standout moment comes in the first image of “Act 2,” where readers finally see Paynter competing, shows him and his father embracing. The quote by Paynter underneath reads “I’m glad my legs weren’t tired from all of that walking yesterday.”
The format of the story fits with the overall design of the website, which is relatively plain with just text, images, and videos.
The story closes with an image of Paynter kissing his gold medal, bringing readers a happy and definitive ending.
An example of poor visual storytelling on espn.com is a recent NHL video where player Paul Stastny discusses his trade to the Winnipeg Jets. The clip consists of a sound bite of Stastny’s interview with images of him from his time on the Blues as well as stock images of hockey skates and a hockey arena. This video could have benefitted by better visuals because the visuals do not add anything to the storyline and the clip cycles through the same few images as Stastny talks.
In honor of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, espn.com has added a live feed resembling a Twitter timeline to its homepage. The feed not only features results of the events, it also contains snippets of information such as event rules and personal anecdotes from ESPN contributors such as anchors and reporters.
It’s no surprise that the feed looks like a Twitter timeline. The posts are generally one or two sentences long, and some of the posts include photos and videos.
In the age of needing fast information now, news sources are left to figure out not only how to keep up with social media, but they are trying to compete with them too. The format of these updates is meant to provide quick bits of information that get straight to the point.
While the updates resemble a page filled with Tweets, they still grab readers and cause them to scroll further. Behind-the-scenes looks at the games are interspersed on the page. There’s even a video of the media dining hall wall being painted by a machine. Who knew a machine could paint something so detailed? That video definitely earned another watch.
ESPN’s NFL insiders seem to think that Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles will soon be saying goodbye to the Eagles. The article discussed both whether the team should trade backup quarterback Foles, and, if so, what they should trade him for.
Just days after the Eagles’ Super Bowl LII win, three articles about trading backup quarterback Foles greeted those that visited the NFL tab on espn.com. In its own labeled section on the page, the articles discussed this same topic.
One of the articles, titled “What should Eagles do with Nick Foles? Insiders predict,”is all text, with video threads of Foles at the head of each of the two questions. What one may think will only be Foles’ post-game interview transitions into a playlist of teammates’ post-game interviews. By the time you finish reading the article, the videos will still be playing.
When it comes to its content, espn.com is very straightforward. There are not many frills, and the articles give you straightforward facts and analysis and then sends readers on their way. ESPN’s Twitter page, on the other hand, is the place for more of the “fun facts” type information, such as this tweet that reads “Even the is giving props to Nick Foles.”