Based on the past week, we’ve officially reached a tipping point in internet-based sports media. The Lebron James dunk video, ESPN ignoring Ben Roethlisberger’s sex assault complaint and the Erin Andrews peephole fiasco are the top sports stories of the week, and those pieces were all initially generated on the web and subsequently picked up by non-ESPN main media.
(Mere Reporting Or Dig At Competitor ESPN?)
A year ago, or even six months ago, the main sports media, along with ESPN, would have completely ignored blog coverage on such topics. So does that mean the non-ESPN main sports media is embracing sports blogs in order to fight off the seemingly inevitable ESPN creep? Based on the above three, blog-generated stories, which are now officially mainstream, it sure looks like it.
The blog-MSM marriage seemed to start right around when ESPN barged into the Chicago market with ESPNChicago.com - something I addressed earlier this week. In three months, traffic to ESPN’s local web coverage of Chicago sports blew away the websites of the Tribune and Sun-Times. ESPN has since announced plans to start local sports coverage on the web in L.A., Dallas and New York.
So I’m not so sure that it’s a coincidence that suddenly main media sites are using blog-generated news like the Ben Roethlisberger case and Erin Andrews video against the building’s penthouse tenant - ESPN.
I’ve always wondered what would officially usher sports blogs into the mainstream, and it looks like we have our answer: ESPN’s overreach into local markets has likely prompted the remaining main sports media players to use the blogs as cover to fight back against Bristol.
The best example of this? The Erin Andrews video coverage.
First off, if Andrews’ attorney had not made a public statement about the peephole videos, the main media would more than likely have not picked up the story. But it’s clear the entire reason for the news release was Andrews knew the power of sports blogs, and that the videos would go viral anyway. So she went on the record through her lawyer.
I understand that not all media is using the Andrews video against ESPN, after all, it’s a titillating story that’s perfect for lechers like O’Reilly. But you’d be naive to think that main sports outlets aren’t drilling down on the story in order to turn the screw on ESPN.
Example: TBL notes this Tweet from highly-respected USA TODAY columnist Christine Brennan:
On the Erin Andrews situation, a quick thought for those who have asked: There are hundreds of women covering sports in this country who haven’t had this happen to them. I wish it didn’t happen to Erin, but I also would suggest to her if she asked (and she hasn’t) that she rely on her talent and brains and not succumb to the lowest common denominator in sports media by playing to the frat house.
Do I detect more than a little tinge of bitterness over Andrews’ ESPN-wrought popularity?
The non-ESPN media has also, and justifiably, covered the Ben Roethlisberger sexual assault case. But that case probably wouldn’t have gotten enormo mainstream coverage if the blog PRO FOOTBALL TALK hadn’t called out ESPN for not covering the civil complaint. More telling though has been the laughable, hypocritical pile-on by main media over ESPN’s cautious approach.
And finally, we all know about the Lebron James video, which enjoyed buzz created by Foxsports.com and subsequent blogger pickups, with ESPN left in the dust.
It’s gotten to the point this week where when you watch ESPN, you now are asking yourself: What am I missing?
That’s precisely the point. ESPN’s myriad MSM competitors are fighting back - with blogs as a good portion of their ammo. That development means that ESPN will more and more have to recognize the veracity of information disseminated by blogs - since it knows that if it doesn’t, the rest of the main media will blow up certain stories presented by blogs.
In other words, we’re witnessing a historical shift in sports coverage, and for the first time ESPN is getting lapped.
We’ll see if it lasts.