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ESPN – great use of Google+ in media publishing

December 16, 2011

I just made my friend Venessa look at the ESPN website earlier which, being a non-sporting person, must have hurt her quite a bit. The thing is, Venessa is a leading authority on what it takes to build and maintain online communities – and I thought this was a great tactic to help do that. After initial response – she seems to agree.

So I avidly crawl the ESPN website every day, a remnant of my 4 years living in Los Angeles a long time ago, growing up with American sports that are not reliably covered by Australian media.

They do some things really well in terms of driving user adoption, loyalty, and capitalizing on the socialized nature of sporting news. They tend to have decent technology and willingness to try new things. I love that I can log in with my Facebook and have news tailored to me based on preferences – something that no Australian mainstream media have come close to doing (that I’m aware of – please ping me if I’m wrong).

ESPN was the first website where I did not hesitate to pay for a subscription to get past their online paywall, particularly so I could catch up with the crazy statistical musings of John Hollinger, from memory. That said, you still have a great experience and the ability to contribute to their online community if you don’t choose to go behind the paywall (big lesson there for Rupert Murdoch).

Anyway, to get to a point, I was reading today’s opinion piece about the future of the Los Angeles Clippers after they had acquired superstar Chris Paul earlier in the week.

Using the standard fare, the editors brought in 5 top analysts, asked them a bunch of questions, then posted each journalist’s answer to each. No big deal so far, but still a good read for the loyal fan. What I really liked is what they decided to do in between each question, which was to add the ‘voice of the fan’, sourced from ESPN’s Google+ page:

It’s hard-coded into the article, so I’m guessing it’s built into the website’s content management system, which would give the editor the power to select which comment appears (fair enough).

Seeing this, I was quickly prompted to follow the brand’s Google+ page and make a comment to see if I could get a run (no luck so far).

This ‘pull effect’ is a great way to build community and following because where it comes to emotive topics where every punter is a self-declared ‘expert’ (that’s you, sports fans), there’s very real way to connect with the media publisher to voice my opinion and have it included in the piece – and not included as an after-thought, like blog comments typically are.

So whenever you hear traditional media paying token homage to ‘the future of journalism’, have a think about tactics like this, which really engage the user in the actual content being produced, while still enforcing the credentials and experience of the qualified journalists.

Adding to that, my esteemed colleagues with knowledge of SEO advise me that Google+ used well will eventually (and in some cases already does) provide a boost to search discovery – so I figure it can’t hurt to have G+ user comments integrated in ESPN’s news website.

By now I’m hoping you want to check it out for yourself. Here’s the link:

http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/page/5-on-5-Clippers-111215/are-la-clippers-title-contenders

Enjoy!

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5 Comments
  1. good boost for google+

  2. As an update – here’s an article re: brands flocking to Google+ for the SEO: http://bit.ly/vAbNbq

  3. Whether that proves enough to save newspapers or even restore of some of their past grandeur, who knows. If it isn’t, they may have to resort to a drastic three-step process to survive … 1) go online entirely and eliminate the prohibitive costs of newsprint, printing and delivery … 2) go almost entirely local in news coverage, thereby creating an exclusive niche market approach that worked for the Journal … and 3) charge significantly for it while adding offshoot revenue from the online experience.

  4. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself? Plz reply back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to know wheere u got this from. thanks

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