“The users want donuts but you have to give the broccoli to keep them coming back. If all they eat is donuts, they’ll wither away so you have to give them a balanced meal,” Paul Grant, Deputy Editor of ESPN.com recently told a group of young journalists at a press event.
The 47-year-old Toronto native is charged with managing content on one of the largest sports new sites online. On his site, he must curate a mixture of breaking news and updates within the world of professional sports. In addition, ESPN is also competing with the news published by the various professional sports’ networks.
“We’re influenced by them but we don’t try to replicate [it],” Grant said.
He further acknowledged the difficulty in providing an interesting spin on the trade and injury reports that often fill the news cycle.
“You’re the instant gratification generation. How you get news is different than how I got news,” Grant said.
Grant understands the reputation ESPN has as one of the top sporting brands in America and how it drives viewers to ESPN.com but knows that it’s his job to keep viewers coming back.
“If nothing happens in the week, we still have new and fresh content,” Grant said. “[It’s a] Good Mix of News, good mix of features.”
Part of keeping up with viewing trends is looking at the trends themselves and knowing when to publish the most important information. Grant cites 9:00 a.m. in each time zone to be the most popular time to check ESPN.com in the morning and noon for the most popular time throughout the day. In understanding these trends, Grant and his writers can curate the news at the time that has the highest traffic.
Another major part of ESPN’s different take on sports reporting is their platform Grantland, the “brainchild” of Boston blogger Bill Simmons. Grant finds Grantland to be an important part of ESPN because of its differences.
“It’s the antithesis of what we do,” Grant said.
Grantland was able to develop because Bill Simmons “outgrew ESPN” so the top editors used this platform as a way to keep him interested. Grant finds Grantland to complement ESPN.com well because it’s a different way of looking at sports reporting.
“Bill Simmons writes like he’s talking,” Grant said.
He thinks Simmons’ writing style makes him stand out and believes that the social media age is the perfect way to try new ways of writing, whether through online news, newspapers, or blogging.
Grant attributes ESPN’s success to a combination of “institutional arrogance” and adaptability. They’re not afraid to step outside the norm to cater to all sports fans, not just he 51% of men who view their site. The ability to change allows for the flexibility and freedom to take ESPN.com