12.26.2008 08:53 AM
ESPN.com overhauls Web site

ESPN.com, one of the more popular sports Web sites (owned and operated by Walt Disney), is redesigning its primary Web site during this holiday season — with a formal reintroduction planned for Jan. 5.

About a year in the planning stages, the overhaul represents at least one significant shift in strategy: less clutter. Rather than inundate visitors with intense coverage of every major sport, the site is moving to a “less is more” philosophy. Site operators feel too much clutter is frustrating many visitors.

“If we are frustrating people, they’re not going to spend as much time as we want on the site,” John Skipper, ESPN’s executive VP for content, told “The New York Times.” “There can be a thing as too much.”

Currently, ESPN.com’s home page greets visitors with 36 links to such items as golf, racing, men’s basketball, college football, blogs, online games and podcasts. The redesign pares this list down to 19 links.

At the same time, ESPN is offering more advertising options to bolster revenue at a time when its sister cable channels are being weakened by poor advertising sales. Disney singled out soft ad sales at the channels as one reason profit growth in the company’s media networks unit slowed in the most recent quarter.

The revised ESPN.com will give advertisers eight options for displaying messages on its most heavily visited pages — up from three. Ford has signed up as the redesign’s presenting sponsor. In January, the site will introduce a new video advertising option specifically with movie studios in mind, the “Times” reported.

ESPN.com currently holds about 50 percent of the total minutes spent by Internet users watching sports video, according to Nielsen Video Census. Growing larger is ESPN’s goal, and to do that the site needs to reach beyond hardcore sports fans to people whose interest in athletics is more casual.

A less chaotic Web design is one way ESPN managers are tackling this challenge.


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