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Sports Illustrated

"The article, first published on the SI.com iPad application late Tuesday night..."

This cracks me up: ESPN (who has been criticized for not generously citing sources in the past) ran a front page article on UCLA's troubled basketball team. In citing the source as Sports Illustrated, ESPN strangely noted: "The article, first published on the SI.com iPad application late Tuesday night..."

I find it fascinating:

1. this was called out by ESPN ... why?

2. Sports Illustrated published the article to the iPad before the website... and both before the magazine. It clearly was an attempt to push the iPad app / subscription... which seems to be working (#1 in Sports over last week) but doesn't seem nearly as strategic as launching the article on SI.com.

Sports Illustrated, Jim Tressel and Not Taking Advantage of Virality.

I write a lot about "in the river" marketing - which is all about leveraging the power of existing, engaged traffic to deliver relevant, actionable messaging / marketing / promotions. You can see lots of examples of in the river marketing done well here.

Here is an example of the contrary.

Yesterday's huge news was Sports Illustrated's investigation of Jim Tressel and his subsequent resignation. The article went viral and filled my Twitter feed, Facebook stream and email inbox. But Sports Illusrated (SI) didn't take advantage of the immense traffic - this was clearly an opportunity to facilitate sharing and drive downloads / purchases of their new paid mobile applications.

This is the mobile experience when you arrive at the article:

Notice the line: "To purchase a digital version of the magazine, go here." First, that language is unappetizing; but more importantly, "go here" isn't clickable.

For some reason, when you view the article within Twitter mobile, it looks much better and the word "here" is clickable and red:

But when you click it, you arrive at a promotional screen that is not mobile aware and therefore not actionable. It should prompt you to download their application or, if you have the app, purchase the magazine version.

In summary: most sites dream of the opportunity to be flooded with traffic. Prepare in advance and make sure that your experience / funnel is primed to take advantage of the flood.... after all, they only happens once in a blue moon.

SoBe Lifewater Spills Zero Calorie Drinks Over SportsIllustrated.com

Aggressive ad campaign by SoBe Lifewater on SportsIllustrated.com that takes over almost all of the visible screen... but it is clever and unique enough that I can stomach the takeover (at least once or twice). The ad is meant to promote the upcoming Sports Illustrated Swimsuit magazine with a: - integrated campaign of the swimsuit model holding a SoBe Lifewater - a rich video preview of the 2010 swimsuit magazine - a promotion of the upcoming website launch (models, videos, photographs, etc) - a promotion for the Lifewater Facebook sweepstakes: http://www.facebook.com/sobe ... oh yeah, there is a new drink to promote: SoBe's new zero calorie flavors that are spilling over the screen (and the videos, photos, etc). There is so much going on in the campaign that it is both interesting / exciting and overwhelming. That said - and despite the commotion - the two major takeaways are clear: SoBe's branding and the upcoming swimsuit magazine. If you make it through the messaging, you might also get to the a third takeaway: SoBe's zero calorie drinks are supposedly "slimming".

Sports Illustrated & Smart Water follow the ESPN & Apple Route

I regularly write about trends in online advertising and the aggressive roles that Apple and ESPN in particular have taken with innovative, rich-media units.

It seems as though rich take overs are occurring in two primary locations - in part because the cost of development and implementation is far greater than traditional units: - big destination sites with very large audiences (like Yahoo) - targeted verticals with more measured audiences (ESPN and Wall Street Journal)

Today, Sports Illustrated took over their homepage with a very aggressive, unique unit by Smart Water that featured Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. Not only is unit very targeted (product and personality) but it is specifically crafted for Sports Illustrated (size, the SI.com header is integrated, and so forth). While these ads are highly engaging and attractive - they come at a few costs. First (and mentioned above), they are clearly more difficult to build and implement - but therefore demand high CPMs.

Second, the ad types have diminishing returns over time. For instance, the audience's interest is captured because it is a unique treatment (and therefore not seen as a regular annoyance). If these units appeared on the majority of pageviews, the audience reaction would be much different.

tom-brady

Sports Illustrated Moves Fantasy Football onto Facebook; Tries to Catch Up

Like it or not, fantasy football is important. According to the New York Times, 15.5 million people play fantasy football each year - about 86% of which are are male and 63% are under age 40. It's also become a $2 billion industry.

So when Sports Illustrated (SI.com) moved their fantasy football to Facebook, two things became apparent:

1) Sports Illustrated isn't the leader in fantasy football and is trying to aggressively catch up 2) Facebook has become completely mainstream and, for the big brands, an avenue for user acquisition (important to note that fantasy football is comprised heavily of adult males as well - so SI is using Facebook to acquire users outside of high school / college)

Sports Illustrated, according to TheBigLead and Comscore, was the ninth most visited sports network on the web... and in fantasy football, Yahoo, ESPN and CBS are the clear leaders. Here are the stats from the last month:

1. Yahoo Sports: 22,752,000 uniques 2. ESPN: 20,601,000 uniques 3. Fox Sports: 15,105,000 uniques 4. MLB.com: 11,917,000 uniques 5. AOL Sports: 10,632,000 uniques 6. WWE: 6,759,000 uniques 7. NBA: 5,740,000 uniques 8. NFL Internet Group: 5,624,000 uniques 9. Sports Illustrated Sites: 4,492,000 uniques 10. NASCAR.com: 3,528,000

Fantasy sports are critical for the major sports networks because they are remarkably sticky, have high switching costs and attract clusters of users. So for Sports Illustrated to run their fantasy offering offsite is very surprising a clear sign (to me) that they are conceded the fantasy game - hoping to win a new market via Facebook's huge audience. It's an interesting effort and perhaps not overly risky considering their position in the market... But unlike CBS's smash hit with the Final Four / Facebook integration, this doesn't seem to have a clear proposition to get users back to SI.com.

Meanwhile, this seems like a big win for Facebook - just as the CBS / March Madness relationship was.

Notice the Facebook promotion atop the story headline

The Application's front door

The Front Page Effect – Why I’d Rather Be on Techmeme than Digg, Mixx, etc

On Friday, I had my first Techmeme ‘headline’ and it offered the chance to compare what I refer to as “The Front Page Effect” – what happens when your website / article appears on the homepage of social news sites. Based on my experiences and what data I have available on my websites, I am going to include the following sites: - Digg - Techmeme - Hacker News (YCombinator) - StumbleUpon - Daily Aggregators (for my purpose, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks) - Top Blog Mentions (in other words, having a major blog link to you in a prominent way. For my purpose, Deadspin) - Second Tier Social News like Reddit, Mixx, etc

My conclusion will likely surprise you… as it surprised me until yesterday. So here it is: I’d rather have my article hit the front page of Techmeme than any other social site. And here’s why:

Traffic (Absolute & Velocity) If you are after traffic – and for some websites and companies it’s the most important factor – there is no question that Digg is the most impactful. Hitting the front page of Digg can deliver up to 50,000 uniques within 24 hours… which is incredible. In fact, the traffic comes so quickly that it often causes a “Digg Effect” – either bringing a website to crawl or collapse. Digg delivers 25,000-50,000 uniques (depending on the article and category) – but it also delivers a 1:1 visit / pageview ratio… meaning that bounce rate is essentially 100%.

After Digg, the most powerful traffic driver is being linked from either a daily aggregator or a prominent blog. As examples, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Links drives 10-20,000 uniques and Deadspin can drive 5,000. Traffic comes steadily for 24 hours and then disappears into what the archives of content… in other words, don’t expect residual traffic.

Techmeme and HackNews deliver consistent streams of traffic. Techmeme drove 2,500 uniques to the featured post on Friday and having the top post on Hacker News will bring ~1,000 uniques. Visits coming from both sites seem to be longer than traffic arriving from Digg (1pv/visit) and blogs (1-2pv/visit).

It’s tough to know whether you are ‘featured’ on StumbleUpon. A very popular page on StumbleUpon will generate strong traffic – but it’s unpredictable and consequently arrives in spurts. It’s also very tough to measure.

No offense to Mixx and Reddit (and I quite like Mixx) – but the traffic really isn’t significant.

Comparison: Traffic Volume Delivered Over First 8 Hours

Reader Engagement

If you are after pageviews, Digg is the most powerful lever you can pull … but multiples. But, it is not great at driving user engagement on your site (comments, emails, backlinks, etc). Digg users are used to interacting on Digg.com – often discussing the article with Digg’s community. This effect also exists with links from prominent blogs or inclusion in daily aggregators: users are finding your site through other locations and communities that they are already interacting on. Users will commonly return to those destinations for discussion.

The highest level of engagement comes from Techmeme and Hacker News – both of which deliver very high quality interaction… in high quantities. The resulting comments and emails are very intelligent and relevant. If you are writing for traffic, focus on Digg. If you are looking to build a community or drive conversation on your blog – try Hacker News and Techmeme. Revenue

In general, you won’t get rich from a front page mention unless you are selling CPM ads. Of course, you can value the traffic in other ways (brand, site growth, etc) – but if your ads are on a per-click or per-lead basis, your eCPMs will fall dramatically. As an example, Digg will deliver 25-50,000 incremental pageviews… but the overwhelming result is a pageview and, after reading the content, an exit. This is consistent with traffic from major blogs, aggregators, etc – and my hypothesis again is that the user mindset is to consume and return to their original destination. eCPMs will not fall dramatically though because the traffic is not as significant.

Meanwhile, I was very surprised that CPMs and advertising revenues went after the Techmeme link. eCPMs increased by 5x and I had my highest revenue day ever for this blog… Two hypotheses (and they are just that):

1) if Techmeme delivers more engaged users (per my earlier point), they are likely to be more valuable 2) Techmeme delivers higher ‘value’ users in that they are heavily tech

SEO Impact This blog has been around for just a few months and it’s already a pagerank 5. I attribute a good portion of that to Digg, Techmeme and Hacker News – which are all highly valued by Google and deliver additional blog links, etc… creating a virtuous SEO cycle. (I also attribute a good portion to my SEO background!)

I have no way of accurately ranking the SEO value of these sites – but Digg and Techmeme are powerful. Hacker News is as well. The others are less prominent and not as optimized for search.

Brand It’s also important to consider the ‘brand’ impact of making the frontpage. I would argue that appearing on the front door of any of these premier sites is good for establishing a brand / name… after all, the NYTimes and TechCrunch are regulars on both Digg and TechCrunch. If you are in technology, Techmeme brings credibility and suggests that your article is beyond just interesting – its important. Links from top blogs bring credibility in that respective vertical… also important in building a brand.

So here’s the one line summary (with enough punctuation to make it capably lengthy):

An appearance on Techmeme’s homepage (or other vertical-specific hubs) delivers 1/15th of the traffic that Digg.com can; however, that traffic is more qualified and more engaged – and therefore more valuable.

*Update* After posting this article, it's gone to frontpage of Hacker News (which has a surprisingly high volume of traffic for Sunday morning). As you consider the impact of social media on your content and websites - it's important to remember that you need to be able to measure the results. Here is a screenshot of SlimStat (a plugin I use for Wordpress) - but you can analyze your logs, use Google Analytics, Mint, etc. Everyone's data will be different and the critical part is knowing what works for your site and your readers.

Also, I had a couple people ask me if this means that I no longer like Digg and let me be clear: I love Digg. I use it routinely as a reader and publisher (probably too much). It has become one of my core navigational start-points for the web.

*Update 2* Techcrunch has posted about the top 100 bloggers based on Techmeme

Buzz Bissinger, Will Leitch and the New Media of Content

Two nights ago, Bob Costas hosted Buzz Bissinger (author of Friday Night Lights), Will Leitch (founder of the web's largest sports blog, DeadSpin) and Braylon Edwards (starting wide receiver on the Cleveland Browns) on his talk show Bob Costas Now. The debate became an immediate internet sensation... which is probably shocking to stubborn-minded people like Buzz and pretty obvious to web savvy leaders like Will. Once Costas leads with the blogs vs. journalism question, Buzz Bissinger goes wild:

As the founder of beRecruited (a site and service based on user-generated content), I clearly have strong feelings about this:

1. I have met and interacted with Will Leitch on a few occasions. He is smart, articulate and has built a readership larger than most journalists can dream of.

2. You might not enjoy DeadSpin's content - but Will's blog is read nearly 1,000,000 times a day. The market has spoken.

3. More proof that the market has demanded this new media: PerezHilton has a greater readership than People Magazine - the top read magazine year after year. Old Media has followed with constant streams of news and debate. For sports, SportsCenter rolls on ESPN for 6 hours while ESPN2's First Take features (very enjoyable) debate on yesterday's topics. E!, TMZ, Access Hollywood and a dozen other shows do the same things for pop culture. Old Media has moved to constant streams: their own blogs, podcasts, radio, etc.

4A. More proof (again): beRecruited is home to one of the web's largest sports blogs, SportsWrap, which has been read more than 10,000,000 times in the last six months. Look at the server logs (a fascinating part of blogging) and you will notice that people arrive on SportsWrap seeking new breaking news, commentary, and very particular (often strange) tidbits of information. In the last 120 seconds on SportsWrap, users came from Google looking for the following (and this just a small slice of the data):

Candace Parker Tattoo akin ayodele traded to the Miami Dolphins Best Air Jordans Lemans Crash Peyton Manning going insane on the sidelines Mark Jackson Knicks Coach High school football highlihts Paul Pierce fined Atlanta Hawks scorekeeper Maria

4B. Why the market demands this media: once-a-week publications like Sports Illustrated now serve a different purpose than news-breaking sources. SI is the pinnacle of sports reading and I continue to be a subscriber... despite having not found once piece of 'breaking' news in the last few years (it's always already broken and available). I read SI for the writing and commentary - I get my news through other sources: the web, mobile, podcasts, radio, etc. Here is a great example.

Dr. Z (one of the great NFL writers) published his NFL Draft Preview last week in SI. This used to be *the* way to prepare for the draft. Dr. Z is one of the most connected NFL gurus, but has to publish the article days before the draft begins. His results weren't pretty:

- 1 correct pick in the top 10 - 4 correct picks in the top 31 (first round) - predicted 5 wide receivers would go in the first round... not a single WR was picked

I am not critiquing Dr. Z. Rather, I am demonstrating that this new media that Buzz despises has value. We correctly predicted the top 6 picks in the NFL draft on SportsWrap and InGameNow. Does that make us smarter than Dr. Z? Absolutely not. But it does demonstrate the power of constant connectivity.

5. Buzz and Costas clearly don't understand how blogs work. Their attacks on Will were predicated on comments and commenters. Community is unique to blogs and, in my opinion, one of the major reasons that new media content has grown so quickly. An article on DeadSpin might only be a couple hundred words - but the dialog can go on with hundreds of comments and is fascinating. Sometimes its intelligent. Sometimes it's crass. But they are comments, not Op Eds.

6. Braylon Edwards comments on the panel also bugged me. First, like it or not, this isn't the 1960s. Athletes make $10,000,000s - and a good deal of that contract inflation is due to increased media, promotion, awareness, etc... the web plays a major part there. Second, technology is everywhere. Be aware of it. Matt Leinart is a very rich celebrity athlete (and he revels in his celebrity). He should be more than aware that people have cameras and access to publish content... he should consider this before publicly doing beer bongs with herds of females. People should think about this before publishing photos to their own MySpace and Facebook profiles.

7. Another example of why Bob Costas and Buzz Bissinger don't get it: for two smart people, they failed to get their message through effectively and caused massive backlash. Even if you agree with their sentiment (and you're more than welcome to do so) - they didn't deliver the argument well and probably caused a greater divide than existed previously. Bissinger has become an internet celebrity for all the wrong reasons: he surged to the top 10 google searches, had his wikipedia page vandalized throughout the day (hysterical stuff too) and has become the model for old-world thought 'leadership'.

An excerpt from his new Wikipedia entry, which sadly seems very accurate:

H. G. "Buzz" Bissinger (born November 1, 1954, in New York City) is a pompous windbag. He is also an American journalist.

Most recently Bissinger appeared on an HBO's Bob Costas On The Record to discuss the evergrowing sports media landscape. Bissinger then proceeded to make an ass out of himself and lose all credibility what so ever. His journalist tag has now been revoked.