AOL Sports Gets Blown Out, Fanhouse Takes Over

Interesting move today as AOL has decided to junk “AOL Sports” in favor of calling the online portal’s entire sports area “Fanhouse“. From Eric Fisher of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL:

AOL Fanhouse Fantasy Girls

(Fanhouse Fantasy Comes True: Goodbye AOL Sports!)

AOL Sports today will relaunch a new site design, completing a previously announced transition to Fanhouse.com in which the AOL moniker will be removed. The shift is part of a broader corporate strategy in which AOL moves away from an Internet portal to become an online publisher of content sites. AOL Senior VP Marty Moe said, “We’re retiring the AOL brand, and we’re not a sports portal. This is about providing content with our own voice. Our competition is now any publisher and less directly the Yahoos and MSNs of the world.”

When everyone went crazy over “AOL Fanhouse” hiring Jay Mariotti, I didn’t get it, because Mariotti’s initial pieces were published at “AOL Sports”, not featured in the Fanhouse area. Now, I suppose, the initial announcement and reax make a little more sense.

New AOL Fanhouse Logo

(Quiz: New Logo For Fanhouse Or 2012 Winter Olympics in Sochi?)

AOL’s move is a nod to  just how much power the sports blog format, independent or otherwise, wields.

AOL’s Fanhouse is an indirect descendant of this blog, DEADSPIN, PRO FOOTBALL TALK, THE BIG LEAD, WITH LEATHER, and others. And now, by adopting Fanhouse as its overarching sports brand, AOL is acknowledging the success of the concept. The move also is a feather in the cap of Jamie Mottram, who came up with the Fanhouse concept. Mottram now runs Yahoo’s sports blogs, but it should be noted that he was truly the architect of Fanhouse and deserves most of the credit for its success.

Meanwhile Mottram has now built a powerhouse over at Yahoo Sports, and you wonder how long it will be before Yahoo Sports goes the way of AOL Sports. Mottram has assembled some mind-numbing talent in the blog area there, and now the front page of Yahoo.com is linking those sports blogs directly - in many cases skipping over the staid sports coverage of Yahoo Sports.

I’ve been saying for some time that sports blogs are rapidly changing the face of sports journalism. Web visitors now want breaking news, something they haven’t seen before, coupled with clever writing and sometimes witty images. The days of compartmentalizing straight sports opinion pieces and breaking news are rapidly coming to a close. That’s why I thought AOL hiring Jay Mariotti was a little self-defeating. Does anyone besides AOL execs think Mariotti is going to be a needle-mover there? Is it really worth it to pay him well into six figures, when the days of his sort of opinion-based, rabble-rousing are petering out?

Yes, Yahoo Sports and ESPN.com still have mammoth audiences, and I’m not suggesting either will make a radical change like AOL overnight. But the Fanhouse revelation today is certainly a sign that sports blogs like SbB are here to stay. And this is only the beginning.