I chose to analyze ESPN.com, since it is a website a look at every day, but never really give much thought to as far as the layout or anything unrelated to the pure sports content is concerned. The very top and extreme right sections of the page feature links to various sections of MSN's Passport ranging from "Hotmail" to "People and Chat". An ad for the Mazda 3 is located below the Passport links, which will be given to the winner of ESPN's reality series Dream Job along with a one year contract as an anchor for SportsCenter.
More links are placed below this banner advertisement for NBA.com and NHL.com as well as ESPN's mothership station ABC, and other ESPN products from extreme sports outlet EXPN to the ESPN Shop. Next to the links for ESPN's in house products is a brief description of what is being shown on ESPN's TV networks at the present time along with upcoming shows. After that, the page contains a picture in the center, often of the day's top story followed by its lead in. Links for similar stories are below that, while other recent headlines are listed beside the pictures. Another ad for a Samsung Plasma TV is squeezed into the mix as well, which seems unusual since ESPN's High Definition Broadcasts are sponsored by Philips and Best Buy.
Aside from this quirk, there really is no wall between editorial and advertising. ESPN either creates or has some form of business link to all of the links on its home page either through partnerships, or through consistent advertising on its television networks. On the other hand, the content on the page is purely about sports, and there is no censorship of content based on who the companies in the advertising are. Within the past few weeks, the site has implemented a new form of advertising which I have found to be unavoidable. Instead of having Flash or Pop-Up ads, they now randomly show an ad that fills up the entire window the viewer is using to read the next story in.
My preconceived notion about the site is that it would be geared towards men 18-45. I have found this to be almost entirely false. Another recent ESPN addition is Page 3 which is completely based on entertainment news. The page seems to be a form of supplement to ESPN 2’s Cold Pizza, the new morning show which is designed for the more casual sports fan who can not stomach an hour of “SportsCenter”. Cold Pizza features weather, entertainment, global news, and of course sports, but presents in it in a softer sort of way. It would be more accurate to say that the site is designed simply for sports fans, because every team in all of the major sports has their own news page created by ESPN, along with statistics, message boards (with threading), and ESPN Insider, a subscription-based offer for fans to receive “exclusive” content ranging from trade rumors to additional streaming video content.
The site tends to load quickly, even in times of high traffic. Typically, the site is used for daily new clips and stories, just to give keep fans informed of the latest news. However, because of the vast array of information available, ESPN.com would be very useful in researching many aspects of sports’ history. Player and team data goes back many years, which makes in-depth reporting more feasible. For example if I am going to enter a Fantasy Baseball Draft, and need to find stats on certain players at certain fields, against certain pitchers, all of these numbers are available.
I would definitely recommend the use of this site, particularly over that of rivals CNNSI.com and FoxSports.com. The layout of ESPN’s site is much more fluid than the other two, which makes finding necessary news and information very simple.