I don’t remember when I stopped defaulting to ESPN.com for my sports news, but it has probably been a decade. My default is Yahoo Sports, and I haven’t looked back. I know I’d stopped visiting ESPN.com almost altogether once they made the site so multimedia heavy – how am I supposed to be clandestinely reading about sports at work when videos are automatically starting?
Recently on OKTC, Clay Travis wrote about how Yahoo Sports became ESPN’s biggest competitor (HT: Tom Dienhart). It’s an article that’s well worth reading (I don’t agree that it’s ESPN’s biggest competitor, but I do think it’s ESPN.com‘s biggest). Some of his points are right on the money, but he missed one that I’ll get to below.
On this, he is 100% correct. The reason Yahoo is in the position its in today is because of Fantasy sports. All that traffic that Travis talked about? It comes from Fantasy. I’d like to believe that it’s people checking the ladder at Yahoo’s Aussie Rules page, but that’s not the case. [after living in Australia, I can attest, this is one of the best sites for AFL updates]
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The stories are good (and I do like fellow UMass-alumnus Dan Wetzel), but there are good writers on SI.com and [sorry] ESPN.com too. Yahoo keeps pace here, but is not a leader. Travis rightly notes that because Yahoo doesn’t have broadcast deals or other such interests, it can maintain independence, which does give them an edge in reporting.
Where Yahoo is a leader is in their investigative reporting. How did this happen? How did Yahoo Sports uncover some of the biggest stories, especially in college sports (e.g., Reggie Bush, UNC, etc)? There is stellar investigative journalism going on over there, and I’m glad that the guys writing the checks are backing expensive work that takes months or years to develop.
Travis also mentions the sport blogs, which are strong. I’ve already made it known that Matt Hinton is one of the best out there, and the other blogs are enjoyable to read too (e.g., Dirty Tackle, Big League Stew). And I agree that buying Rivals.com was a great move.
What I think Travis missed was Yahoo’s site simplicity. It is very easy to get the information you want. The site is light weight and streamlined, more HTML than Flash. Sure, there are some design changes that I’d make, but I still prefer it to ESPN. When I just want a score, it’s fastest to go to Yahoo… and then while I’m there I’ll check recruiting, read a blog post, etc. Maybe I’m wrong here, and people would prefer glitz, but I’m too utilitarian. I’m also not as sold as Travis is that radio is the key for the future, but good luck to them.
Keep up the good work, Yahoo.